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There is a reason the Cleveland Browns have been to the playoffs one time since re-joining the NFL in 1999 and only twice since '89. And it’s the same reason any team wins or loses games in the modern NFL.
The Browns lost their third consecutive game on Sunday, falling to 3-5 after briefing leading the AFC North a few weeks ago. Jason Campbell got his first career start for Cleveland, making him the third different starting quarterback in 2013 already.
Campbell got the start because both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer have gotten injured this year. Which means, since 1999 Cleveland has started 20 different quarterbacks. Over that time the Browns have won 76 games, lost 156, posted two winning seasons and are now on their sixth head coach.
Three of those 20 quarterbacks were first-round picks and fans in America’s Comeback City should expect a fourth in May. The 2014 NFL quarterback class might be the deepest and most versatile group the league has seen in decades and the Browns own two first-round picks. Veteran pocket passers like AJ McCarron and Derek Carr fit the pro-style systems perfectly. Dynamic senior gunslingers like Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd have the ability to stay in the pocket but can also move around if needed. And explosive underclass dual-threats like Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Braxton Miller and Brett Hundley might actually be the most coveted of the bunch.
Regardless of who Cleveland wants, it makes no sense for the Browns not to go early on a QB in the draft — especially, in the modern rookie salary cap era. But Manziel might be the best fit. He has the attitude and makeup to succeed anywhere in the country, but it takes a special persona to win in a town like Cleveland. He is tough as nails, is the most entertaining player in the college game and would instantly help boost ticket sales. Sure, there are questions marks surrounding his ability to be an accurate NFL passer, but he definitely moves the needle in a big way. Which is something that has been missing under center in Cleveland since Bernie Kosar left town.
How badly do the Browns need a star quarterback? Take a look at who Cleveland has had throwing passes since 1999:
* - First-round pick
Some stats to consider:
• Brian Hoyer is the only starting Browns quarterback since 1999 with a winning record. He was 3-0 this year before getting hurt.
• In just 19 starts, Brandon Weeden is third amongst Browns quarterbacks with 4,539 yards, behind only Tim Couch and Derek Anderson during that span.
• Four players have only one career start for the Browns. Spergon Wynn, Bruce Gradkowski, Thaddeus Lewis and Jason Campbell. They have combined for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Campbell will get his second start on Sunday.
• Seven of the 20 QBs to start for Cleveland since 1999 failed to win a single game. Two others won only one game.
• Only four Cleveland quarterbacks have completed more than 60 percent of their passes (the league average is 61 percent): Kelly Holcomb, Thaddeus Lewis, Charlie Frye and Jake Delhomme.
• The Green Bay Packers have started three quarterbacks since 1992. Brett Favre (253 games started), Aaron Rodgers (85) and Matt Flynn (1).
The college football season enters November with a less-than-stellar week of games, but hosts Braden Gall and David Fox try to make the best of it.
On this week’s podcast:
• Reviewing wins by Oregon and Stanford, setting up a major Thursday meeting next week. Fox and Gall explain why Oregon’s defense is perpetually overlooked.
• Breaking down the heartbreak at Missouri and why the Tigers are no longer an SEC East frontrunner despite behind ahead in the standings.
• The Minnesota loss may be another referendum on the tenure of Bo Pelini at Nebraska. We outline what he’s achieved and what he hasn’t and if it’s time for Nebraska to make a change.
• In this week’s games, why Michigan may be in for a world of hurt against Michigan State and why Texas Tech is still more impressive after a loss than Oklahoma State has been all season.
• And finally, in the big game this week, why Duke Johnson may be the only hope for Miami in Tallahassee.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
Matt Kenseth was predictably able to overcome the hurdles in front of him last week, the Chase’s seventh round, at Martinsville. Now, his ballyhooed two-man NASCAR points battle with Jimmie Johnson heads to Texas Motor Speedway at a draw. For Kenseth, the intermediate racetrack is a sight for sore eyes; however, he’ll have to contend with Johnson, who isn’t getting near enough credit for his own Texas driving acumen.
Johnson is the defending winner of the Texas Chase race and had he not encountered some retention problems on restarts in the most recent Sprint Cup Series event there, held in April, he’d be heading into this weekend’s tie-breaking slugfest as the favorite among the two championship combatants.
-7 Johnson’s net loss of seven positions on seven restarts in the spring helped keep him from the lead pack.
The No. 48 car didn’t lead a lap — it’s usually a good sign when not leading is a rarity — there in April en route to a sixth-place finish. It wasn’t a bad points day, but I’m guessing Johnson isn’t aiming for satisfactory results amid a heated title battle.
If Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus can replicate last year’s setup in this race (the No. 48 ranked first in average green-flag speed, leading to 168 laps led and a dramatic win) and enjoy some late-race restart luck (Johnson retained position 100 percent of the time from the preferred groove on restarts in the final 10 percent of races during the 26-race regular season), then the five-time champs will be, once again, extremely difficult to defeat.
Kenseth isn’t a slouch, though.
11 for 11 In all 11 races of the CoT/Gen-6 era at Texas, Kenseth has finished inside the top 20.
At first glance, that seems like an easy feat, but Kenseth is the only driver in the series to have accomplished it. Of course, he is far better than a 20th-place finish. He ranks second in Production in Equal Equipment Ratings (PEER) at Texas in that time frame and saw a run of top-5 finishes limited to five straight with his 12th-place result in the spring race, despite ranking in the top four for average running position (6.7) and average green-flag speed in the race.
5.5 Greg Biffle’s average finish across the last 10 Texas races is a series-best 5.5.
Even in lean Roush Fenway Racing years, Biffle is a bad hombre in the Lone Star State. The 1.5-mile quad oval is inarguably his best track; he ranks first in the series in PEER and led the second-most laps (452, trailing only Kyle Busch’s 487) in that span. To date, a late-race surge from 23rd to ninth and a confrontation with Johnson — all at Martinsville — have been the only noise he has made in the Chase. Sunday’s event is statistically the best chance he has to capitalize on his inclusion in this year’s playoff.
306 The suspension of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 car broke on lap 306 during the spring race at Texas, while Gordon was running in the top three.
An Internet search for “Jeff Gordon + Texas” would likely yield video clips of his 2010 fight on the backstretch with Jeff Burton. It makes sense that it would. Ranked 13th in PEER, Gordon isn’t necessarily a standout in Fort Worth, but he is capable of high-level performance. Despite his 18.6-place average finish over the last three races there, he managed to rank inside the top 10 for average running position (eighth, eighth and third) in each outing.
0.714 Kasey Kahne’s replacement-level Chase PEER of 0.714 is the worst among all Chasers.
Kahne’s sleepy playoff has included three finishes of 27th or lower, anchoring down a 20.3-place average finish. It has been the Chase from hell for a driver who won twice during the 26-race regular season. The closest he came to looking like himself was a 138-laps led, runner-up performance at Charlotte. Unfortunately for Kahne and the No. 5 team, his past Charlotte success — he ranks first in PEER there — doesn’t translate to its sister track in Texas. Kahne ranks 19th in PEER at Texas, with just two top-5 finishes, and five finishes of 19th or worse, in his last 10 starts there. With championship aspirations derailed, Kahne will be merely trying to hang on for the ride on Sunday.
+16 Austin Dillon is currently projected to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship by a 16-point margin over top challenger Sam Hornish.
Dillon won’t have the only cowboy hat at the Texas track this weekend, but he does stand out in this regard; based on past relevant averages, he is slated to gain eight points on Hornish in the next three races after making up ground at Charlotte (he finished second), previously an unkind track to the future Richard Childress Racing Cup Series driver. If Dillon holds course without winning a race, he will become the first driver to claim the Nationwide title without winning a race in his title-winning season in the series’ 32-year history.
David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 29.
• October's almost over, so here's a nice rundown of the lovely ladies of sport for the month, including Katherine Webb (pictured).
• Golden Tate almost salvaged an unwatchable Monday Night game with the most epic taunt we've seen in a while, one that almost turned an uncontested touchdown into a contested one. Of course, the pearl-clutchers took to Twitter to scold him for it.
• Big Papi is carrying the Red Sox. They haven't trailed since his dugout pep talk. Oh, and he's 11-for-15 in the Series.
• Greg Schiano has a brilliant plan to salvage the Bucs' season: He's going to use Darrelle Revis, the game's best cover corner, in man coverage. Suck on that, haters.
• Yesterday, we brought you Baby Andy Reid and Kid Kliff Kingsbury. Here's a whole gallery of kids dressed as coaches. Love the Dana Holgorsen.
• The New York Rangers' Twitter feed had an unfortunate misspelling last night. Comes with a language warning, so you know it's bad.
• Rob Gronkowski's life is a bit of a cartoon already, so no surprise that he and his bros are pitching an animated show about their family.
• We're only 100 days out from the Sochi Olympics, and the U.S. team is wracked by injuries. The good news is, Lindsey Vonn's on a media blitz to talk about her Olympic hopes. Last night, she was on Letterman, where she revealed that Tiger sucks at skiing, and she made a hole-in-one in her first round of 18 holes.
• A Halloween week treat: Ranking The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" episodes.
• It's good to be the King: Go behind the scenes of Golf Digest's cover shoot with Arnold Palmer and Kate Upton.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET today. The Minnesota Vikings are 1-6 and seemingly headed nowhere. Should the team seriously consider trading its franchise running back and the reigning league MVP? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross weigh in with their thoughts.
First, let me state for the record, that Adrian Peterson is the best running back I have ever watched or covered professionally in a decade of being in the business. He is the most physically gifted runner to come out of high school since Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson in the 80s. He is great. But the question about his future in Minneapolis is one that the Vikings brass should be asking themselves after falling to 1-6 on the season Sunday night. There are more than a few good reasons why Minnesota should trade their star tailback.
Peterson is due over $60 million in salary from 2014 to the end of his contract following the 2017 season. He hits the Vikings salary cap with over $14 million in each of the next four seasons, so taking that contract off the books opens up a tremendous amount of space to rebuild a roster. He plays the most destructive position on the field, has an extremely violent running style and a history of serious injury. All-Day Peterson, who will be 29 years old at the start of the '14 season, never comes out of the game and has touched the ball 21.8 times per game for his career — over 2,000 touches in seven seasons. Should that continue, he'd be nearing 4,000 career touches by the end of his contract. Only three players have ever topped 4,000 touches in a career: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Curtis Martin. Needless to say, his best years are likely behind him.
Lastly, his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Browns just got a first-round pick for Trent Richardson, a guy who is very talented but has averaged 3.4 yards per carry for his career. If T-Rich is worth a first-rounder, albeit a lower pick, what would A.D. be worth? Two firsts? A first and a second? Three No. 2s? Peterson is a huge cap hit, plays a devalued and high-risk position, has already used up a lot of his career tread and won't ever be worth as much on the open market as he is right now.
I would hate it for the people of Minnesota, but Vikings fans know all too well what can happen to a team that trades away a star tailback for small boatload of draft picks. The Cowboys acquired three first-round picks, three second-round picks and three Super Bowl championships for Herschel Walker in 1989.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
To borrow a phrase from a wildly successful musician who recently entered the sports agency business, Minnesota has close to 99 problems but Adrian Peterson isn’t one of them. And while he clearly represents the best trading chip the Vikings possess, there is just no way the team will get a proper return for the reigning NFL MVP and the league’s top running back.
In 1989, Minnesota traded for Dallas’ Herschel Walker, one of the top running backs in the game at that time. The cost for the Vikings was high — five players and six draft picks. The Cowboys turned those draft picks into the likes of Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s while Walker played just three seasons for the Vikings, helping them get to the playoffs just once.
While Peterson (28) is around the same age as Walker (27) when he was traded and is considerably more accomplished, there is no way the Vikings can even hope for that same type of return, not in the current NFL. The Indianapolis Colts got Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a 2014 first-round pick in September. Richardson may not compare to Peterson in terms of production, but he is six years younger, a factor that has become even more important when it comes to running backs.
If anything, Peterson could be among the last of what is becoming an endangered species — the workhorse running back. More and more teams are either employing a running back-by-committee approach in their backfield or moving on to the “next” guy as soon as the current one starts showing signs of slowing down. Case in point, no running backs were taken in the first round of April’s draft for the first time since 1963.
There’s no denying that Peterson is worthy of a Walker-esque haul in a trade. He’s the best running back in the NFL and one of the best to ever play the position. But there is no team that will give the Vikings that many players and picks, not in this new era of the rookie salary cap. To put it simply, Peterson is an once-in-a-lifetime player and it would take a historic trade to validate getting rid of him. Like the one Minnesota did 24 years ago. Sorry Vikings fans, I don’t see history repeating.
— Mark Ross
Similar to last week, fantasy owners figure to have their work cut out for them with six teams on bye in Week 9. No Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants and San Francisco means a lot of fantasy firepower is already on the bench. Add to that several other key players who aren’t expected to play and it looks like the waiver wire/free agent pool will be a popular destination yet again this week.
The players listed in Athlon Sports’ weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Teams on bye in Week 9: Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants, San Francisco
Week 8 Recap: Andy Dalton continued his hot streak, throwing for 325 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in the Bengals’ rout of the Jets. Dalton now has 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions over his last three games. Next up is a Thursday night visit to Miami.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith is not known for being a big-time fantasy producer, but he’s actually top 15 at his position for the season and has more yards passing than Andrew Luck and Cam Newton and more total touchdowns (10) than Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III. The main reason a guy like Smith would be appealing this week is because of the matchup with the Bills’ 26th-ranked defense and the fact that the likes of Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Manning are all on bye, while Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Sam Bradford are injured.
Other possible bye-week replacement QBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Terrelle Pryor, OAK vs. Philadelphia; Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at New England; Joe Flacco, BAL at Cleveland; Ryan Tannehill, MIA vs. Cincinnati (Thurs.); and Jason Campbell, CLE vs. Baltimore
Week 8 Recap: Mike James produced 64 total yards in his first career NFL start in the Buccaneers’ loss to the Panthers on Thursday night. James should continue to get the majority of the backfield touches, although Doug Martin (shoulder) is expected to return at some point. Chris Ivory carried the ball just six times for 11 yards in the Jets’ blowout loss to the Bengals. Roy Helu Jr. got a total of six touches against Denver and finished with only 25 total yards. Jacquizz Rodgers carried the ball just twice and had two receptions as Steven Jackson returned and the Falcons’ running game managed a total of 27 yards rushing in the loss to the Cardinals.
Andre Brown, New York Giants
The Giants are on bye this week, but Brown is expected to return in Week 10. He has been on injured reserve since breaking his leg in the final preseason game. Brown was expected to play a big role in the Giants’ backfield entering this season and as long as he’s healthy, there’s no reason to expect that to change. Especially since the current cast of characters is made up of retreads Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis, neither of which were even with the Giants to start the season. Jacobs has missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury, while Hillis is averaging less than three yards per carry in two games with the G-Men. David Wilson (neck) is still out due to a neck injury, so there’s not much competition keeping Brown from seeing the same number of touches that allowed him to generate 5.3 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last season.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are another team on bye this week, but anytime a rookie running back piles up 154 yards rushing, he deserves mention. That is especially true for Ellington, since 1) he’s available in nearly half of Yahoo! leagues and 2) there’s no reason to expect his opportunities to decrease from here. While Ellington may not get 20+ carries a game, his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, along with his explosiveness and big-play ability (see his 80-yard TD sprint against Atlanta), should provide enough opportunities for consistent flex production, at minimum.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
Greene has played in just two games and has a total of five carries in them, but the Titans brought him in do more than just spell starter Chris Johnson. Greene has two 1,000-yard seasons with the Jets on his resume and was envisioned as the Titans’ short-yardage and goal-line back when he signed with the team. Coming off of the bye, Greene should be as healthy as he’s been prior to getting hurt in Week 1. It’s speculative, but it’s possible that Greene works his way back into fantasy consideration, especially should Johnson (3.2 ypc) continue to struggle. If anything, CJ owners should definitely consider adding Greene as his handcuff.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
This is another speculative play, but Stewart’s case is a little different in that he has previously been “the man” for Carolina. Stewart was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before the start of the season, as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery. He finally returned to practice last week and said he plans on playing this week. One thing that could be in his factor is that DeAngelo Williams, the current starter, bruised his quadriceps in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay. Williams should be fine for this week, especially with the extra rest that comes from playing on Thursday, and there’s no reason to expect Stewart to get a ton of carries should he get on the field Sunday against Atlanta. Still, Stewart needs to be on your radar, especially if you have Williams on your roster, as the Panthers’ backfield is about to get a little more crowded.
Other possible bye-week replacement RBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Joseph Randle, DAL vs. Minnesota; Pierre Thomas, NO at New York Jets; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); Mike Tolbert, CAR vs. Atlanta; Daniel Thomas, MIA vs. Cincinnati (Thurs.); Donald Brown, IND at Houston; and James Starks, GB vs. Chicago (Mon.)
Week 8 Recap: If not for Calvin Johnson’s near-record-breaking performance against Dallas, Marvin Jones would have been the top fantasy scorer at his position this week. Jones outscored the Jets by himself as he caught eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns in the 49-9 cakewalk. In that same game, Jeremy Kerley recorded just three catches for 27 yards. Sidney Rice was targeted three times on Monday night against Seattle before leaving with a knee injury of some sort. Darrius Heyward-Bey was on bye but he will get his chance at replacing an injured Reggie Wayne starting Sunday in Houston.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
McCluster is very hard to trust, but what can’t be ignored is that he has led the Chiefs in receiving in each of the past two games. Dwayne Bowe has been a disappointment and is now dealing with a groin injury, while Donnie Avery has cooled off considerably following his hot start. So it looks like, at least for the time being, that Alex Smith (see above) has turned his attention to McCluster. There’s no way to tell if he’ll see 10 targets against the Bills, but with so many productive wide receivers already on bye this week, McCluster may be worth a flyer.
David Nelson, New York Jets
After playing for the Bills the past three seasons, Nelson signed with the Browns before getting cut late in the preseason. He then joined the Jets in early October and has posted 15 receptions in his first four games. He has gone for 80 yards receiving in each of the last two and has seen a total of 19 targets during this time. Nelson and Geno Smith are already working well together and this could develop into an even more productive pairing as the season progresses.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
Two weeks ago, Sanders had just one catch for seven yards in the win over Baltimore. Outside of that, he’s caught at least three passes for 39 yards receiving in every game. He’s topped 70 yards three times and has two touchdown catches over his last three outings. Sanders is the type of No. 2 wideout that could provide valuable depth for a fantasy team, especially in a week like this with six teams on bye.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
The rookie from Oklahoma has seen more than five targets and caught more than three passes just once this season, but he has three touchdown receptions in his last two games and his averaging 25.2 yards per grab. Stills has caught six balls from Drew Brees over the last two contests for 193 yards and three scores. Even with Lance Moore making his way back from a hand injury, Stills has shown he can be a valuable deep threat for a potent Saints passing attack that really doesn’t have one right now.
Other possible bye-week replacement WRs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Brian Hartline, MIA vs. Cincinnati; Brandon LaFell, CAR vs. Atlanta; Donnie Avery, KC at Buffalo; Rod Streater, OAK vs. Philadelphia; Lance Moore, NO at New York Jets; and Timothy Wright*, TB at Seattle
Week 8 Recap: Jordan Reed led all receivers in Sunday’s Washington-Denver matchup with eight catches for 90 yards. Andrew Quarless caught both of his targets in his first start in place of an injured Jermichael Finley for, but they went for just 13 yards.
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
Owen Daniels will be out until at least Week 14 with a broken leg, leaving the starting tight end job in Houston all to Graham. He was productive when he was sharing snaps with Daniels, catching 17 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and those looks should only go up from here. He got eight targets from Case Keenum in his first start two weeks ago, so establishing a rapport with the new quarterback doesn’t seem to be an issue either. Graham is available in more than 75 percent of all Yahoo! leagues and a pretty strong case can be made starting him in 12-team leagues and deeper this week.
Other possible bye-week replacement TEs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Heath Miller, PIT at New England; Coby Fleener, IND at Houston; Jermaine Gresham, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); Timothy Wright*, TB at Seattle; Tyler Eifert, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); and Delanie Walker, TEN at St. Louis
Week 8 Recap: The New York Jets defense gave up 37 points, had one sack and one takeaway (INT) in a 49-9 shellacking at the hands of Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Colts have been suggested before, but since they are coming off of their bye, a reminder seemed in order. Indy’s DST has gotten at least one sack in every game and have only one game without a takeaway. In their last game against Denver, the Colts sacked Peyton Manning four times, one of them for a safety, and also collected three takeaways (2 INTs, 1 FR) in the win over the Broncos. The real reason the Colts are being mentioned again, however, is an upcoming schedule that begins with a Houston offense that has Case Keenum making his second career start, followed by a visit from St. Louis, who has backup quarterback Kellen Clemens under center. There are also two games with Tennessee and one more with Houston and Jacksonville on tap before the end of the season. If anything, the Colts would be a nice DST to have handy as a matchup option in certain weeks.
Other possible bye-week replacement DSTs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
New Orleans at New York Jets; Dallas vs. Minnesota; Tennessee at St. Louis; Baltimore at Cleveland
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.
*Timothy Wright of Tampa Bay is both WR and TE eligible in Yahoo! leagues.
After a flurry of activity in late September/early October, the college football coach carousel has been quiet in the last few weeks. But is a period of calm signaling a busy offseason? It’s not out of the question.
Texas’ Mack Brown ranked No. 1 in the hot seat rankings just a few weeks ago, but the Longhorns have rallied with four consecutive victories. Although Texas has made some improvement, the schedule is going to get tougher, including a date at Baylor in the regular season finale.
Charlie Weis didn’t inherit a roster full of talent at Kansas, but the Jayhawks haven’t made much progress in his two seasons. The Jayhawks have lost 25 Big 12 games in a row and appear unlikely to win a conference matchup in 2013.
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini rebounded from a non-conference loss against UCLA with three consecutive victories, and the pressure on the program was on the way down. But a loss at Minnesota has Pelini back under the spotlight, as the Cornhuskers are 6-2 and have yet to play the toughest portion of their schedule.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Indiana's Kevin Wilson – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-7||Eagles have eight-game losing streak.|
|2||Mike London||2-6||Schedule only getting tougher for Cavaliers.|
|3||Charlie Weis||2-5||Jayhawks have lost 25 Big 12 games in a row.|
|4||Bo Pelini||5-2||Will Pelini coach at Nebraska in 2014?|
|5||Norm Chow||0-7||Warriors have lost four in a row by 10 points or less.|
|6||Dana Holgorsen||3-5||WVU rebuilding, but missing bowl would not sit well.|
|7||Charley Molnar||1-7||Minutemen have won just two games under Molnar.|
|8||Ron Turner||1-6||Panthers headed for dismal 1-11 season.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-5||Easy upcoming schedule could help save Enos' job.|
|10||Tim Beckman||3-4||Fighting Illini have lost 17 straight Big Ten games.|
|11||Doc Holliday||4-3||Season finale against ECU will decide C-USA East.|
|12||Todd Monken||0-7||USM has lost 55-14 in back-to-back weeks.|
|13||Mack Brown||5-2||Pressure has cooled with four consecutive victories.|
|15||P.J. Fleck||1-8||Finally broke into the win column.|
|16||Matt Rhule||1-7||Freshman QB P.J. Walker continues to impress.|
|17||Garrick McGee||2-5||Blazers just 5-14 in two years under McGee.|
|19||Doug Martin||1-7||Barely avoided bad loss against Abilene Christian.|
|20||June Jones||3-4||Can the Mustangs rally for a bowl?|
|22||Randy Edsall||5-3||Bye week should help Terps' regroup.|
|23||Carl Pelini||2-6||Forced to resign this week.|
|24||Bill Blankenship||2-5||Golden Hurricane in danger of missing bowl.|
|25||Kevin Wilson||3-4||Can the Hoosiers find answers on defense?|
|26||Dave Christensen||4-4||Loss to SJSU hampers Wyoming's bowl hopes.|
|27||Bobby Hauck||5-3||Win over Nevada was program's first since 2004.|
|31||Terry Bowden||2-7||Zips improving, but still a ways off.|
|34||Bobby Petrino||4-4||4-4 record a disappointment for WKU.|
|35||Kyle Flood||4-3||Scarlet Knights struggling with turnovers.|
|39||Jeff Quinn||6-2||Favorable schedule, but Bulls have won six in a row.|
|40||Tony Levine||6-1||Quite a turnaround for Levine and Houston in 2013.|
|53||Jim McElwain||4-4||McElwain has Rams moving in the right direction.|
|57||Bret Bielema||3-5||Bielema vs. Malzahn should be interesting this week.|
|58||Willie Taggart||2-5||Taggart searching for answers on offense.|
|59||Mark Stoops||1-6||UK playing hard for Stoops.|
|61||Dennis Franchoine||5-3||Bobcats one win away from bowl eligibility.|
|65||Dan McCarney||5-3||Quietly doing a good job in third season.|
|82||Curtis Johnson||6-2||Johnson in mix for national coach of the year.|
|85||Todd Berry||4-4||QB Kolton Browning back in the lineup.|
|90||Mark Helfrich||8-0||Strong showing in second half for Helfrich.|
|106||David Cutcliffe||6-2||Should make bowl for second consecutive season.|
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know from Week 9
ACC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
After a loss to UCLA in early September, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini started to feel the temperature on his seat increase by a few degrees. However, the Cornhuskers rebounded by winning three games – albeit against overmatched opponents – and had some momentum going into a road date at Minnesota.
But any momentum Nebraska had was lost on Saturday, as the Cornhuskers lost 34-23 to the Golden Gophers.
The Cornhuskers have problems on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Taylor Martinez now has a hip pointer and is questionable to play in Week 10. If Martinez doesn’t start, freshman Tommy Armstrong will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
While the offense is a concern, the defense is a bigger issue for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are allowing 5.8 yards per play and have allowed 20 or more points in four games.
Pelini is feeling the heat once again after losing to Minnesota. Even at 5-2, Pelini can’t be too confident about his job status, especially with a brutal November slate that features games against Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan.
Will Bo Pelini Coach at Nebraska in 2014?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After losing to Minnesota, Bo Pelini is coaching for his job in the final month of the season. Under Pelini, Nebraska has won at least nine games in every season but doesn’t have a BCS bowl appearance and has just one top-15 finish (2009) in the final Associated Press poll. And the defense – Pelini’s strong suit – ranks ninth in the Big Ten in yards allowed. It’s fair to wonder if the expectations in Lincoln are a tad too high, especially as the program transitions to the Big Ten. However, this is Nebraska and championships are expected. The Cornhuskers could be without quarterback Taylor Martinez this Saturday against Northwestern, and the schedule won’t get easier with games against Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to close out the year. None of those five games are guaranteed victories for Nebraska. Even though Pelini seems to be losing ground, I think he will be back for another year in 2014. However, that’s banking on the Cornhuskers getting to eight or nine wins in 2013. And if Pelini returns next year, expect him to be on a short leash in terms of job security.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d imagine the only way Bo Pelini remains at Nebraska is if the Cornhuskers win the Big Ten and reach the Rose Bowl. That’s still a possibility, of course. The Huskers still have games to play against Michigan and Michigan State for the division, and 7-1 in the Legends would be a pretty big feat. But the reality is that things look pretty dire for Pelini. The program has plateaued, and part of that plateau the last five seasons has included ranked Nebraska teams losing to unranked opponents. The defense, supposedly Pelini’s strong suit, isn’t getting any better, and the Huskers are looking at a new quarterback in 2014. Pelini has put the program on steadier footing since the Bill Callahan era, but there’s no momentum left. If Pelini is still the coach in 2014 and he doesn’t have a Big Ten title, it’s going to be awfully difficult for him to recruit or keep the support of people outside the program. Nebraska may not want to look for a coach when USC and potentially Texas are open, but the Huskers may have no choice.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Needless to say, the next five weeks are critical for Bo Pelini's future at Nebraska. Best case scenario, the Huskers win four of the final five games, finish 9-3, clinch the Legends Division title and get crushed in the Big Ten title game by Ohio State. That would give Pelini his fourth division crown, an 0-4 record in conference title games and a sixth consecutive season with at least four losses. That might be the BEST case scenario for a team that just got run (literally) out of the building by Minnesota. That situation would offer one of the more unique coaching resumes ever constructed: Four division crowns and 24 losses in six seasons. Frankly, that is difficult to do and it would mean a major decision has to be made in Lincoln. However, odds are the much-maligned Nebraska defense costs the Huskers more than just one game the rest of the way, and Pelini misses out on the Big Ten title game altogether. That’s not good news for a coach who already has a tenuous relationship with his fanbase, administration and media. It feels like both parties might be benefit from an amicable divorce.
Make no mistake, Saturday's road loss to Minnesota did Pelini no favors, but Nebraska still is very much in the hunt for the Legends Division title. That was the Cornhuskers' first conference setback with games against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa left. If Big Red runs the table then guess who's going to Indianapolis? I know this may seem far-fetched right now, but the only two road games are in Ann Arbor and State College. The rest, including the pivotal meeting with the Spartans in the middle of November, are at home. At worst, Nebraska looks to have a reasonable shot at nine wins, either before or including the bowl game, which is what Pelini has done ever since he took over in 2008. I know that Husker fans have lofty expectations, and Pelini has had his share of inexplicable losses, head-shaking moments and stuck his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion. However, the bottom line is he is 54-22 overall and 31-12 in conference play as Nebraska's head coach. Does it really make sense to fire someone who has won more than 70 percent of his games? Can you guarantee me that this program will be better off in 2014 with someone other than Pelini? You would certainly be hard-pressed to find someone as colorful, that's for sure.
With nine weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear.
The second release of the BCS standings saw an expected change, as Oregon passed Florida State for the No. 2 spot. The Ducks have the edge in strength of schedule for the second half of the season, which should help Mark Helfrich’s team hold onto the No. 2 position over the Seminoles – assuming both teams win out.
The SEC’s East Division continues to be a nightmare to sort out. Missouri lost to South Carolina, which puts the Gamecocks back in the mix for the division crown. And the bowl bids for the SEC will be a battle, especially to be the team that replaces Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina all have a case to be projected for that spot, but a slight edge goes to the Aggies for now.
With the Big 12 likely short on bowl-eligible teams, a spot should open for Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Fighting Irish do not have a guaranteed bowl spot for 2013, but the Fighting Irish won’t be left out of the postseason.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with one month to go in the season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 9 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first nine weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, TCU, NC State and Boston College from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Toledo, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 9 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colorado State vs. USC|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Bowling Green vs. UNLV|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Boise State vs. Arizona|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. N'Western|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||SDSU vs. North Carolina*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||Marshall vs. Maryland|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||K-State vs. Indiana|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. Notre Dame*|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. Duke|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Clemson|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Okla. State vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. Utah State|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ga. Tech vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Texas|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. Vanderbilt|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Va. Tech vs. Oregon State|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. E. Carolina|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. Auburn|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Iowa|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Minnesota|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan vs. Missouri|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Mich. State vs. S. Carolina|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Texas A&M vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Florida State vs. Wisconsin|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Florida vs. Cincinnati|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ball State vs. Troy|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know from Week 9
ACC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
The Chiefs continue to do things that no other team in NFL history has ever done. A wide receiver had one of the most dominant days in league history. Historic quarterbacks continue to shine (and win). Another signal-caller appears to be growing into championship form. All while one first-year coach is struggling to find someone to run his offense.
Here are the most important, interesting, historic and bizarre statistics from Week 8 of the NFL:
329: Calvin Johnson's receiving yards
Megatron is widely regarded as the most talented wide receiver in the game today. After watching him bring in a career-high 14 receptions for 329 yards in a thrilling comeback win over Dallas, it’s hard to make a case for anyone else. He fell just seven yards shy of topping the NFL single-game record set by Flipper Anderson in 1989 (336). He is now one of just five players who have ever topped 300 yards receiving in a single game. Anderson, Johnson and three other household names: Stephone Paige, 309, 1985; Jim Benton, 303, 1945; Cloyce Box, 302, 1950. Johnson had more receiving yards on Sunday than 16 other teams had total offense in Week 8. For the record, Charles Rogers, another wide receiver Detroit took with the second overall pick of the NFL Draft (2003), had 440 career receiving yards for the Lions in three seasons.
2-54: Record of NFL teams with a minus-4 turnover margin
It wasn’t just Johnson who set records in the Lions 31-30 victory over Dallas. The Lions turned the ball over four times without forcing a single turnover, becoming just the second team in NFL history to win a game with a minus-4 turnover margin. Fifty-five times an NFL team had posted a minus-4 turnover margin prior to Detroit’s win against the Cowboys. Only the "perfect" Patriots of 2007 were able to post a victory in that situation, beating the 1-14 Dolphins 28-7 two days before Christmas.
93: Terrelle Pryor's NFL-record longest TD run by a QB
On the first snap of the game, Pryor pulled the ball away from Darren McFadden on a zone-read and sprinted around the right end 93 yards for a record-setting touchdown run. It was the longest scoring scramble by a QB in NFL history. It topped Bo Jackson’s 92-yard run for the longest in Raiders history as well. More importantly, Oakland won the game 21-18 and have moved to 3-4 on the season — one game behind the wild card-leading and AFC West divisional foe San Diego. Pryor finished with 106 yards rushing on nine carries, giving him his second 100-yard rushing effort on the season. According to Elias, he is just the fourth QB since 1970 to have multiple 100-yard rushing games in the same season (Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Bobby Douglass).
60%: 8-0 teams that make it to the Super Bowl
The Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Cleveland Browns 23-17 to move to 8-0 on the season. Andy Reid’s bunch became the 20th team during the Super Bowl era to start with eight straight wins and the first after having the worst record in the league the year before. All 20 of those teams made the playoffs and 12 of the 20 (60 percent) made it to the Super Bowl. Eight of those 12 went on to win the Lombardi Trophy. The Chiefs became just the fourth team since 1970 to allow 17 points or fewer in each of the first eight games and quarterback Alex Smith became the first QB over that span to win his first eight games to start a season with a new team.
343: Career TD passes thrown by Drew Brees and Tom Brady
The Saints quarterback threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns in a convincing 35-17 win over Buffalo at home this weekend. It was an NFL-record eighth game for Brees with at least five touchdown passes. The Patriots quarterback threw for just 116 yards and one score but New England also won a key divisional game 27-17 over Miami after outscoring the Dolphins 24-0 in the second half. Both quarterbacks now have 343 career passing touchdowns, as both passed Fran Tarkenton (342) for fourth all-time in NFL history. Brees turns 35 in January and Brady just turned 36 in August, so this will be an interesting battle to track over the next few seasons. Each is 77 away from third all-time (Dan Marino, 420).
344.7: Andy Dalton average yards passing over his last three games
After the first five games of the season, the Bengals were 3-2 and Dalton was averaging just 243 yards passing per game with five TDs and five INTs. Over his last three games, however, Dalton has looked like a championship quarterback. He threw for 325 yards and five scores in the dismantling of the Jets on Sunday, giving Cincy a four-game winning streak and a commanding 2.5-game lead in the AFC North. The Bengals quarterback has topped 300 yards in three straight games, is averaging more than 100 yards per game (344.7) and has thrown 11 touchdowns against only two interceptions during that span. The last three games were just Dalton’s sixth, seventh and eighth 300-yard games of his career.
141.4: Packers' yards rushing per game
The Packers have dealt with major injuries in their receiving corps as Aaron Rodgers is without Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley for the time being. Mike McCarthy has turned to, of all things, the power running game to save the day. The Packers ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the breezy win over the Vikings on Sunday night. Green Bay is now fourth in the NFL at 141.4 yards rushing per game. It is by far the most productive a running game as Rodgers has had in his career. The Packers have never been ranked better than 14th in the NFL in rushing or averaged more than 117.8 yards per game during Rodgers six seasons as the starter. To the right is a look at the Packers' rushing attack with Rodgers under center.
109: Cordarrelle Patterson’s record-tying longest play in NFL history
The explosive rookie wide receiver for the Vikings took the opening kickoff against the Packers 109 yards for a touchdown Sunday night. It tied for the longest play in NFL history and they both happened in the Metrodome, which will be torn down following this season. As a member of the Chargers, Antonio Cromartie returned a missed Vikings field goal 109 yards for a touchdown in 2007. The 109-yarder topped 108-yard returns by Jacoby Jones (2012) and Randall Cobb (2011) as the longest kickoff return in NFL history.
239: Eagles' yards per game of total offense over the last two
Through six games, Chip Kelly’s offense was setting NFL records for offensive production in terms of yards. The Eagles were 3-3 and were posting 451.7 yards per game on offense. After totaling just 200 yards of offense, Phily lost to a Giants team that didn’t score a touchdown and was 0-6 not six days ago. It totaled just 278 in last week’s loss to the Cowboys at home. That’s 10 total points, 478 total yards and two home NFC East divisional losses. Kelly’s quarterback issues are obvious as his three options have combined for five interceptions and no touchdown passes in the last two games.
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 9.
The NBA season is about to tip off, which means it’s almost time for fantasy basketball. To win a championship, you’ve got to hit the draft big boards hard, fast break the waiver wire-to-wire and have the ball bounce your way. But in order to cut down the nets with the title for best fantasy basketball team name, all you need is an off-color joke, pop-culture spin or old-school reference. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2013-14:
Pass the Rock to Lamar
Sprichst Du Dirk?
Lala’s Honey Nut Cheerios
Grand Theft Rondo
LeBron Police Escort
LeBron’s Mom’s Boyfriend
Da Real Lambo
LBJ > MJ
99 Problems, LeBron Ain’t 1
Ninjas in Paris
South Beach Talent
Heir to Jack Nicholson
Pau Gasol Neck-beards
Kobe German Knees
Kobe Blood-Spin Moves
Kobe Wan Kenobi
R.I.P. Lob City
Blake’s Love Triangle Offense
Blake’s Baby Mama Drama
J.J. Redick Prenups
Metta World War 3
Metta World Peace Pipe
Rose Before Hoes
Duck Dynasty Rose
MJ > LBJ
Jay-Z’s My Agent
Sheed’s My Coach
Shaq’s My Coach
Craig Sager Style
Joakim Noah’s Arc
Pippen Ain’t Easy
WTF is Mike Wearing?
Let's Get Tropical
Popovich In-game Interviews
Adam Silver’s My Homeboy
David Stern Boo-birds
Van Gundy’s Combover
Kidd’s Old Men
Hold the Mayo
Shot of Jamison
Westbrook Geek Chic
Lil Wayne’s OKC Seats
Ibaka Flocka Flame
JaVale McGee Moments
K. Love and Special Sauce
Basin City Blues
Hickory High Hoosiers
White Men Can Jump
Denzel Got Game
8 Points, 9 Seconds
Malice at the Palace
Shawn Kemp’s Kids
Chris Mullin YMCA League
That’s the Inside Stuff!
Riggin’ for Wiggins
This preview and more on VCU and the Atlantic 10 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 18 VCU Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-9 (12-4 Atlantic 10)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Shaka Smart (111-17 at VCU)
Atlantic 10 projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
This season, Smart adds a weapon he’s not had since coming to VCU four seasons ago — depth. The Rams can legitimately go 10-to-11 players deep this season, a boon to their physically demanding havoc style that led the nation in turnover percentage and steal percentage last year.
“We’ve got about five guys, maybe six, that can potentially play minutes at point guard spot,” says Smart. “It’s not necessarily that we have point guards as much as we have point guard options. Terrance (Shannon) gives us low-post options, too. The good thing is that we have juniors and seniors that have been a part of a lot of winning.”
Shannon, a 6-8, 240-pound workhorse who transferred to VCU from Florida State for his final college season. Shannon “gets it,” according to Smart, and was FSU’s third-leading scorer (8.9 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.5 rpg) last season before injuring his neck.
Shannon will take some of the physical play away from 6-9 Juvonte Reddic, a second-team All-A-10 performer. Reddic is a silky-smooth scorer who appears on most NBA Draft boards. In fact, Reddic was invited to the prestigious Amare Stoudemire Skills Camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy. Reddic put up 16 points and 13 rebounds against Duke’s Mason Plumlee and had seven double-doubles in a 10-game stretch during the middle of the conference season.
“He can be dominating when he brings it,” says Smart, “and we’ve been working on Juvonte bringing it every night. To his credit, he’s done a phenomenal job with it over his career, but we want more.”
Treveon Graham played the 4 spot in Smart’s four-guard offense and is a threat all over the court. Graham is a 36.6 percent 3-point shooter but earned the nickname Freight Train for his ability to drive straight to the rim and absorb contact to score or get to the foul line. Graham is a pure scorer who averaged more than 15 points per game last season and also earned second-team All-A-10 honors.
Jarred Guest is a wiry 6-8, and his length is nightmarish for opponents trying to beat the press. Guest snared more offensive rebounds (45) than defensive rebounds (43).
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
There is no doubt that the meat of this team resides in its backcourt, and Smart has a cadre quick and athletic guards. Finding minutes for his options may be the coach’s biggest issue.
Senior Rob Brandenberg and junior Briante Weber are the incumbents. Brandenberg is a slasher of the highest magnitude and one of the best in the nation at turning the corner at the elbow. He’s also changed his shot to become a weapon from beyond the arc. Smart notes that Brandenberg had an outstanding summer.
Weber is the embodiment of havoc. He led the nation in steal percentage in both of his first two seasons and nabbed 10 thefts against NCAA Cinderella Florida Gulf Coast. The point guard spot will be Weber’s to lose.
Both will be pushed hard by newcomers Jordan Burgess and Doug Brooks. Smart makes no bones about the impact Burgess can make. “He was the toughest player on the team last year,” Smart says of the redshirt freshman.
Sharpshooting Melvin Johnson may hold the biggest key to VCU’s success because Smart has to replace Troy Daniels and his school-record 124 3-pointers. Billed as a dead-eye shooter, Johnson displayed more of a mid-range game in his freshman season. Johnson has that New York guard savvy and can score in a seemingly unlimited number of ways.
Mo Alie Cox redshirted last season but is a muscled 6’6 and carries a 7’3” wingspan. Jordan Burgess is another redshirt who would have seen plenty of minutes last season had he been playing. Doug Brooks has all the trappings of another Briante Weber on defense, and he can shoot the basketball. Point guard JeQuan Lewis will be thrown on the court to see how he fares. Antravious Simmons needs to reshape his body, but he could find his way onto the court.
Factoid: 17. VCU was 17–0 last season when senior Rob Brandenberg scored 11 or more points.
Point guard is the big question mark, although Smart is not fazed. “We have this conversation every two years,” says the coach. “Who replaces Eric (Maynor)? Who replaces Joey (Rodriguez)? The point guard position more than anything is getting into the offense and spearheading the defense.”
Toughness is a word the VCU coaches are also using. With Shannon and Burgess, VCU figures to be a much tougher team. Perhaps that’s the missing ingredient for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The talent is certainly there.
*Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Tennessee and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 17 Tennessee Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-13 (11-7 SEC)
Postseason: NIT first round
Coach: Cuonzo Martin (39-28 at Tennessee)
SEC projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Still itching the burn of back-to-back NIT appearances, Tennessee third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin states the obvious for 2013-14.
“(The NCAA Tournament) is very important,” Martin says. “You have the personnel to be there, so you should be there. That part should be understood. It’s a given.”
Martin is 39–28 and 21–13 in SEC play since coming to Tennessee from Missouri State. He’s notched nine top-25 wins and is the only coach other than Kentucky’s John Calipari to have beaten every league team over the last two-year span. The one thing he hasn’t done at Tennessee, however, is coach in the NCAA Tournament.
This conversation begins with Jeronne Maymon’s left knee, shifts to Jarnell Stokes’ production and ends with a question of depth.
Both Maymon and Martin have said the former Marquette transfer will be 100 percent for 2013-14. That was said last offseason, however, and his surgically repaired knee never fully healed. At his peak, Maymon is one of the SEC’s top inside presences, proven when he averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 2011-12. Even if he’s ready to go when the Vols open the season, it will likely take time for Jeronne Maymon to look like Jeronne Maymon.
No one wants that process to progress more than Stokes. The 6-8, 260-pound fire hydrant continually complained last season about battling double-teams. After in-season adjustments, Stokes averaged 13.1 points and 10.7 rebounds in SEC play. He flirted with the NBA Draft, but questions surrounding his scoring ability, athleticism and motor brought him back.
The lone true reserve frontcourt player is 6-10, 280-pound junior college transfer Rawane Ndiaye. Sophomore Derek Reese, a long and lean wing, will see some time at the 4, along with undersized banger Quinton Chievous and freshman A.J. Davis.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Former point guard Trae Golden is gone and no one seems fazed. The two-year starter announced his transfer from UT in the summer and was eventually replaced on the roster by Memphis transfer Antonio Barton.
Whereas Golden was a score-first guard and a defensive liability, Barton is a pass-first leader and a gritty defender. The latter is a far better fit for Tennessee.
Barton averaged 5.6 points and 1.1 assists in 16.7 minutes per game last season and left the Tigers amicably after Joe Jackson decided to return for his junior year. At Tennessee, Barton will be asked to initiate Martin’s motion offense, defend like a hound dog and hit timely 3-pointers.
If he does, the scoring door will swing open for first-team All-SEC shooting guard Jordan McRae, versatile wing Josh Richardson and smooth shooting freshman Robert Hubbs.
McRae’s senior campaign is worthy of attention. The gangly 6-6 scorer staged an impromptu SEC Player of the Year campaign after coming off the bench in 10 of the season’s first 11 games. He started the rest of the way and led the Vols in scoring (15.7 ppg), minutes played (33.6 mpg), 3-pointers made (60) and 3-point percentage (.355).
Though a capable scorer from mid-range and off the bounce, Richardson is relied on for defense. He drew the toughest defensive assignment last year. Hubbs comes with hype and will be expected to add a scoring spark for the Vols. Armani Moore took over point guard duties midway through last season as a freshman, helping UT win eight of its final nine regular-season games. He’ll split backup minutes with incoming freshman Darius Thompson.
Robert Hubbs, a 6-6 shooting guard , is a gifted scorer with range beyond the 3-point line. He’s joined by fellow incoming guards Darius Thompson and Antonio Barton, a Memphis transfer. Barton will likely start from Day 1, backed up by Thompson. A.J. Davis, the son of NBA veteran Antonio Davis, isn’t as physically imposing as his father, but is athletically gifted at 6-9, 208 pounds. Junior college transfer Rawane Ndiaye will be a reserve center.
Factoid: 37.7. Jordan McRae averaged an SEC-high 37.7 minutes per game in conference action last season. Though he flourished, averaging 19.2 points in league play, coach Cuonzo Martin wants a more manageable workload for his star shooting guard in 2013-14.
As much as Tennessee has coming back in 2013-14 is as much as it will lose come 2014-15. McRae, Maymon and Barton are all seniors and Stokes is eyeing the 2014 NBA Draft. If Martin is going to lead the Vols to their first NCAA Tournament since Bruce Pearl’s departure, this is the year.
“They want to be an NCAA Tournament team,” Martin says. “They’re hungry. They’ve been attacking offseason workouts.”
With Kentucky projected to be a top-5 team, Tennessee should hang with Florida for next-best in the SEC. All the pieces are there. Much of how far the Vols go hinges on Maymon’s knee and Barton’s play at the point.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
25. Wichita State
There was a time when Jeff Gordon couldn’t walk from his car into the local supermarket without getting booed. In fact, I’m surprised there wasn’t a Matt Schaub-like incident, this season’s quarterback scapegoat from the NFL’s Houston Texans who was threatened by hooligans at his home. Such was life for NASCAR’s dominant driver of the 1990s, his metro, New York-style life and team a stark contrast from main rival, good ol’ boy Intimidator Dale Earnhardt. “Old school” Southern roots met “new school” Fortune 500 money — and no one could seem to stand it once the fancy suits and rainbow sponsorship of DuPont won out.
But age, along with stripping success, has its way of making even the most hated superstar human. Sunday, as Gordon signed autographs for fans in the stands after his 88th career Cup victory, it was clear that years of spite had been replaced by sentimentality. Here they were, putting in overtime after appreciating one of the top-5 drivers in NASCAR history drive masterfully to the front, once more, before their very eyes. It’s just the seventh victory for Gordon in the last six years; there once was a time he’d grab 13 in a single season. Even the little kids sticking around had an inkling that, at age 42, the ghost of Father Time has inched ever closer for Gordon.
There’s no telling how much longer “Wonder Boy” will continue to drive now that he’s “Wonder Gray,” fully settled as a multi-millionaire with a wife and two loving kids. Gordon seems to think it’ll be age 45, maybe 50, before he hangs it up. The success of Chase Elliott in the Truck Series while employed by Hendrick Motorsports — along with long-term contracts signed by Gordon’s three teammates – make you think otherwise. My personal feel, if there’s no injury, is that come 2015 … 2016 at the latest … one of the sport’s all-time greats will transition from the driver’s seat to the rocking chair.
So yes, Sunday’s win at Martinsville deserved the standing ovation it got. I remember Darrell Waltrip’s final win, at Darlington in ’92, during a three-win season where he finished top 10 in points. Richard Petty’s final victory, a scorching July in Daytona back in 1984 also came during a year of moderate success. The fall, when it comes for these record-setting athletes, comes quicker than you ever realize at the time. 88 wins and counting for Gordon … so everyone hopes. Because you never know at this point in a career whether a trip to Victory Lane is the last.
“Through the Gears” we go …
FIRST GEAR: Gordon’s return to relevance
The No. 24 team’s return to the top after nearly a year-long absence isn’t one of those “built in a day” type of stories. It’s a big surprise that Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson are even still together considering their Chase near-miss. Consider 2005, Gordon’s lone championship miss. Crew chief Robbie Loomis got the axe. You’d have to think, with the pressure revolving around the sport’s most successful active driver, a change was at least discussed after Richmond’s surprising near-miss.
“What happened there, it changes your perspective a little bit,” said Gustafson. “It is a special chance to compete for a championship at this level, and you don't know how many of those you're going to get. And for me, when we didn't have it for a couple days, that was one of the most terrible feelings in the world.”
Luckily for them NASCAR changed course, which leaves their participation paired with an asterisk. But as the 13th team in the Chase field, Gustafson, Gordon and company have since made the most of the opportunity. It’s a surge the duo claim started with a heart-to-heart after Loudon in July in which a 10th-place finish felt like 35th.
“It kind of was a bonding moment for us,” said Gordon, who claimed the running theme was to stay positive in the midst of bad luck, Gen-6 growing pains and others running circles around them. “It smacked (me) around a little bit to where I was like, ‘You know what, I've got to go and work as hard as I can, give these guys everything I've got because they're working their butts off, and let's pull it together.’”
The results have been steady since. Gordon’s drive to the front at Martinsville, in fact, was the perfect example of late-race chemistry many thought would be automatic with this duo. With no finish worse than 15th over the course of the postseason they’re now up to third in points, 27 behind the two championship leaders in Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Is that close enough to make a run? We’re not sure yet. But the way in which this 10-race playoff has unfolded, Gordon is now front and center in everyone’s mind for the first time in quite awhile.
SECOND GEAR: Kenseth’s surprising shift to offense I admit it; on Friday on FOX Sports 1, I counted Kenseth out of the Chase, to everyone’s surprise. I still feel I had good reason to; the last three weeks, this team’s battled ill-handling cars to the point it had to make major chassis adjustments in-race at Talladega. Talladega! Let’s face it, typically your grandmother can drive there at 200 mph without complaining about the car getting loose.
So Kenseth’s punch back at Martinsville, one week after losing the point lead, was as unexpected as it was gutsy. In the first 13 years of his career, he’d led only 169 laps at the short track (and 90 had come this spring). What happened Sunday? He led a race-high 202, at one of his worst tracks while forcing Jimmie Johnson to the ropes. That’s right; crew chief Chad Knaus made a mid-race pit stop for tires on the No. 48 in part because their rival was seemingly in position to outpoint him.
Kenseth did exactly that, and would have won without a shocking, 77-lap green-flag stint to the checkered flag in a race where there were 17 cautions. The long-run setup was never there for the No. 20, but the driver held on for second on a day that, on paper, he should have been sitting 20th.
“Gosh, for how Martinsville has been for me, how could you not be pleased,” he said, with Johnson’s fifth-place finish bringing their Chase war back to a virtual tie. “I really felt like if we came out of here in the lead, or tied or close to it, I really felt like we got what it takes to race in the last three races.”
In my view, Kenseth certainly does. It was the race of the Chase — enough to swing momentum towards the No. 20 team, king of the intermediates, heading to a 1.5-mile oval in Texas. You think I’m going to make the same mistake twice?
THIRD GEAR: A few shot in the arm
For those not in title contention, there’s still a lot to race for. Sunday showcased a few names we haven’t seen near the front in awhile, but who need to end 2013 on a high note. There was Clint Bowyer, still winless and reeling from his role in “Spingate.” Leading 60 laps — his most since Richmond — it looked like he might even win the race for a bit before fading to a third-place finish. Easily his best run of the Chase, he now has an outside shot at ending the year inside the top 5 in series points.
For Denny Hamlin, it’s a slow build back towards the success we’ve been accustomed to seeing. The No. 11 team now has two top-10 finishes in the last three races after a strong seventh at one of his home state tracks. With heavy damage from an early wreck, the car looked more like a junkyard piece than one capable of contending. The fact he and crew chief Darian Grubb could work around it, keeping their FedEx Toyota near the front, showcases a rebuilding chemistry that will in all likelihood keep them together come 2014.
Other strong performances Sunday included Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick, 13th and 17th respectively, two open-wheelers still searching for NASCAR consistency. At least Patrick will get another shot; Montoya, with three races left is going all-out for that first victory on an oval track before leaving the Cup Series. The stats say he probably won’t get it, but he’ll be worth watching with nothing to lose over the next three weeks.
FOURTH GEAR: Temper, temper …Martinsville produced a Bristol-like series of temper tantrums this weekend. Saturday was the setup, with Kevin Harvick tearing to shreds car owner Richard Childress’ grandsons on national television following a Truck Series race. That was, of course, after a wreck with Ty Dillon that ended with contact on pit road, an orange sledgehammer being thrown at Harvick by a crewman and thousands of dollars’ worth of mangled sheet metal.
Sunday, those 17 caution flags brought out the anger in seemingly everyone. Greg Biffle jerked Jimmie Johnson aside following an on-camera interview and cussed the championship contender out for contact he felt loosened his rear bumper. Jeff Burton spent the day trying to run up to Carl Edwards so he could spin him out. Kasey Kahne’s radio was filled with ugly chatter about Landon Cassill. And so it goes … the beauty of NASCAR’s smallest speedway is that it leaves everyone emotional. And, whether they admit it or not, stock car racing fans eat up the drama like breakfast cereal.
For the record, the feud that bears watching is Harvick vs. Childress. Their title chances seemingly toast, Harvick issued an apology on Sunday but it clearly was not aimed at said car owner or grandsons. Will a random engine failure happen to the No. 29 the final three weeks? Someone better go to Hallmark and buy a really nice card for their employer.
Highly-touted Kyle Larson now has two Cup starts and two DNFs after his engine blew at Martinsville. Both Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, his employer who prepared the car, and sponsor Target were hoping the driver would collect far more experience for next year’s rookie bid. Don’t be surprised if you see him pop up again before the season is out. … Ken Schrader, a short-track legend and former Hendrick Motorsports driver, will retire from Cup racing next month at Homestead driving the underfunded No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford. Schrader, now 58, has 762 career starts and four career wins in the series. However, the last victory came in 1991 and he hasn’t had a full-time ride since ’06. … Could Mark Martin be joining Schrader on the retirement train? As I’ve mentioned before, rumors keep growing the 54-year-old will step back and be a consultant following the 2013 season and his stint at Stewart-Haas Racing that have done nothing to quiet things down. Involved in a wreck Sunday, running smack into Kurt Busch’s No. 78, Martin scored his second finish outside the top 35 in the last three weeks. Without a top-5 finish since February’s Daytona 500, he’s poised for his worst season on paper, full or part-time, since returning to the Cup Series in 1988. … A Truck Series win by Darrell Wallace Jr., the first in NASCAR’s top three series by an African-American since 1963, couldn’t have come at a better time. What no one wants you to talk about is that Kyle Busch Motorsports — Wallace’s employer — just laid off 10 employees and sponsorship is questionable for 2014. Who knows if Wallace will have a full-time ride without KBM? Luckily, the victory should ensure some type of spot for him within a JGR-backed development ride next season.
Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Whether it’s their given name or a nickname, these athletes and sports figures fit right in on Halloween.
College football coach (Iowa Wesleyan 1989-91, Valdosta State 1992-96, Kentucky 1997-2000, Southeastern Louisiana 2003-04, New Mexico State 2005-08, McMurry 2009-12, SMU 2013)
Mumme (pronounced mummy) has been a college football head coach for more than 20 years and has more than 130 wins on his resume. For all his success, however, he is best known for his four seasons at Kentucky, where he went 20-26 overall and only 10-22 in SEC play. Mumme’s tenure with the Wildcats was (ahem) wrapped up at the end of the 2000 season with an eight-game losing streak and an investigation into NCAA rules violations related to illegally paying recruits. After taking a break from coaching, Mumme returned to the profession in 2003 and currently is serving as an assistant coach/passing game coordinator at SMU.
PGA golfer (2002-present)
Weekley’s given name is Thomas Brent, but everyone knows him by his nickname, Boo. This nickname came from Yogi Bear’s sidekick, Boo Boo, and not from trying to scare people, which is fitting given Weekley’s colorful personality on and off the golf course. It was on full display during the 2008 Ryder Cup when he rode his driver like it was a horse down the fairway during Singles play. Weekley and the rest of the U.S. team certainly put a fright into the European team at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., as the underdog Americans won back the Ryder Cup with a convincing five-point victory. Weekley picked up his third career PGA Tour victory in May when he won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial by one stroke over Matt Kuchar.
NFL (Cincinnati Bengals 1984-92, ’97; New York Jets 1993-95; Arizona Cardinals 1996)
A quarterback for 14 years in the NFL, Norman Julius, better known as Boomer, finished his career with 37,920 passing yards and 247 touchdown passes. His best season came in 1998, when he was the league’s MVP and led the Bengals to a spot in Super Bowl XXIII. He and his teammates came up short in that game against San Francisco, but Esiason will always be loved in Cincinnati, where he spent 10 seasons. The same cannot necessarily be said in New York, at least as it relates to his playing career. Esiason heard many a boo from the home crowd during his 15-27 run as the Jets’ starting quarterback from 1993-95. Esiason has remained in the game as a television and radio analyst and he also co-hosts a morning radio show on WFAN Radio in New York.
Red Grange, “The Galloping Ghost”
NFL (Chicago Bears 1925, ’29-’34; New York Yankees 1926-27)
Harold Edward, better known as “Red,” first made a name for himself and earned his spectral nickname when he starred as a halfback at Illinois. While noted sportswriter Grantland Rice was the first to record Grange’s collegiate exploits in prose, it was his colleague, Warren Brown, who then wrote for the Chicago American, who dubbed Grange “The Galloping Ghost.” Grange went on to play10 seasons in the NFL, most of them with the Chicago Bears, who later retired his number. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
MLB (Philadelphia Athletics 1954, Kansas City Athletics 1955-56, Pittsburgh Pirates 1956)
His given name was Forrest Vandergrift, but for some unknown reason he went by Spook during his brief baseball career. A second baseman, Jacobs hit .247 in 188 career games and never hit a home run.
Jerry Adair, “Casper the Friendly Ghost”
MLB (Baltimore Orioles 1958-66, Chicago White Sox 1966-67, Boston Red Sox 1967-68, Kansas City Royals 1969-70)
Adair’s major league career lasted 13 seasons, in large part due to his glove and ability to deliver in the clutch. He played most of his career for the Orioles and was a .254 hitter with 57 career home runs. He finished with a career .981 fielding percentage as he played all four infield positions (primarily second base and shortstop) at some point during his time in the majors.
NFL (Dallas Cowboys 1998-2003, Cleveland Browns 2003-04, Denver Broncos 2005-06, Cincinnati Bengals 2007)
MLB (Florida Marlins 1995, Detroit Tigers 1995-97, Milwaukee Brewers 1998-99, Colorado Rockies 2000-01, Arizona Diamondbacks 2002-03, Seattle Mariners 2004, Boston Red Sox 2004-05, New York Yankees 2006-07, Chicago White Sox 2007)
Michael Dewayne Myers terrorized quarterbacks as a defensive end in the NFL for six seasons collecting 15.5 sacks, while Michael Stanley Myers lasted 13 seasons in baseball as a left-handed relief pitcher. Myers didn’t exactly slash his was through major league batters, as he played for nine different teams in his career. His major league totals include a 25-24 record, 4.29 ERA, 256 walks and 429 strikeouts in 541 2/3 career innings pitched.
John Candelaria, “Candy Man”
MLB (Pittsburgh Pirates 1975-85, ’93; California Angels 1985-87; New York Mets 1987; New York Yankees 1988-89; Montreal Expos 1989; Minnesota Twins 1990; Toronto Blue Jays 1990; Los Angeles Dodgers 1991-92)
Candelaria was a left-handed pitcher who won 177 games during his 19-year major league career. The “Candy Man” finished with a respectable 3.33 career ERA over his 2,525 2/3 innings pitched. He was at his sweetest in 1977 when he went 20-5 with a National League-leading 2.34 ERA. He made his only All-Star Game that season and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting.
Vladimir Guerrero, “Vlad the Impaler”
MLB (1996-2003 Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels 2004, Los Angeles Angels 2005-09, Texas Rangers 2010, Baltimore Orioles 2011)
For 16 years Guerrero struck fear into the hearts and minds of major league pitchers because of his tendency to swing at whatever they threw at him, regardless of where it was located. A career .318 hitter who was named AL MVP in 2004, Guerrero finished many of his at-bats holding his wooden stake after driving it right through the pitcher’s heart with yet another monster home run or game-winning hit.
George Wolfman & Cedric Wolfman
Minor league catcher 1934-35; Minor league pitcher 1954-56
Neither of these guys got a chance to howl on the major-league level, although I bet they were a lot of fun on nights with a full moon.
MLB (New York Giants 1905)
Best known for his inclusion in the iconic movie, “Field of Dreams,” Archibald Wright, better known as “Moonlight” was in fact a real major leaguer. The outfielder’s career in the big leagues lasted all of one game, actually one inning, with the New York Giants 1905 when he was 27. He spent seven seasons in the minors, including his last in professional baseball in 1908. After his baseball dreams came to an end, he worked as a doctor in Chisholm, Minn., for 50 years before passing away in 1965 at the age of 85.
NFL (Houston Oilers 1984-93, Minnesota Vikings 1994-96, Seattle Seahawks 1997-98, Kansas City Chiefs 1999-2000)
After going undrafted out of college, Moon started his professional football career playing for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos. Six seasons later, Moon migrated from north of the border to Houston where he started his NFL career with the Oilers. Moon played 10 seasons for the Oilers, setting numerous franchise records, before moving on to the Vikings, Seahawks and ending his career with the Chiefs in 2000. Moon’s No. 1 jersey was retired by the Oliers (now Tennessee Titans) and he finished his NFL career with 49,325 yards passing and 291 touchdown passes. In 2006, Moon became the first modern African-American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2001).
Jose Bautista, “Joey Bats”
MLB (Baltimore Orioles 2004, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2004, Kansas City Royals 2004, Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-08, Toronto Blue Jays 2008-present)
Bautista bounced around with four different teams in his first season in the majors before finding a home in Pittsburgh. However, it’s been the past three seasons in Toronto that Bautista has made a name for himself and earned his nickname for the damage he’s done with his Louisville Slugger. In 2010-11, Bautista truly drove opposing pitchers batty as he hit a combined 97 home runs, drove in 227 runs, scored 214 and walked 232 times. He was named to the American League All-Star team and finished in the top four of the AL MVP voting each of these seasons. Injuries have derailed him in each of the past two seasons, causing him to miss a combined 114 games. He still made the AL All-Star team in both 2012 and '13, as he managed to hit a total of 55 home runs and drive in 138 in 210 total games played.
Torii Hunter, “Spider-Man”
MLB (Minnesota Twins, 1997-2007, Los Angeles Angels 2008-12, Detroit Tigers 2013)
The recipient of nine straight Gold Gloves from 2001-10, Hunter has an established reputation for his defense, most notably the art of robbing the home run. First with the Twins, then the Angels, Hunter earned his nickname for his adept ability at climbing the outfield wall or timing his leap just perfectly to snag what seemed like a certain home run. Many a batter has experienced the agony of defeat as they watched the baseball that seemed ticketed to go over the fence get ensnared in the web of Hunter’s glove instead. Hunter signed with Detroit as a free agent prior to the start of the 2013 season, and turned out to be a valuable addition as the Tigers won 93 games and their third straight AL Central title. Hunter hit .304 with 90 runs scored for his new team and also was named to his fifth All-Star team.
Formula 1 driver 1950, ’52-‘54
Webb’s racing career lasted all of four races, in which he never finished higher than 19th. Tony Stewart may have made the move famous, but it would have been something to see Webb climb the fence after reaching Victory Lane, no?
PGA golfer (2008-present)
The professional golfer’s given name is James Frederick Webb, but whatever you choose to call him, you have to include major champion in that title. Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco with a final score of one-over par. Simpson also played in his first Ryder Cup last year, as one of four rookies on the U.S. team that fell victim to a historic comeback by the European team. Earlier this month, Simpson earned his fourth career PGA Tour victory by claiming the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open title by a commanding six strokes.
MLB (Arizona Diamondbacks 2003-09)
Shoulder injuries have short-circuited his pitching career, but Webb was at his best from 2005-08. He won 70 games during that four-year span, including 22 in 2008. He spun the best season of his career in 2006 as he went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and was awarded the NL Cy Young Award. He finished second in the voting the next two seasons, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009.
NBA (1985-91, ’95-‘96 Atlanta Hawks; Sacramento Kings 1991-95; Minnesota Timberwolves 1996; Orlando Magic 1998)
Anthony Jerome, better known as “Spud,” stands all of 5’7, but he never let his lack of size limit his impact on a basketball court. After playing at NC State for Jim Valvano, Webb was drafted in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He never played for the Pistons and ended up spending the first six seasons of his NBA careeer with the Atlanta Hawks. Webb will forever be remembered for winning the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend as he surprised everyone in defeating defending champion and Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins for the title. Webb remains one of only two participants under six feet tall (Nate Robinson, who is 5’9 won it in 2006) to win the slam dunk competition. Webb’s NBA career lasted 12 seasons and he is documented as the third-shortest player in NBA history.
When Texas Tech and Kansas State meet on Nov. 9, the Red Raiders will be wearing an alternate jersey, which was created to bring awareness for the Lone Survivor Foundation. The foundation helps wounded service members and their families with various areas of support.
The Red Raiders’ jerseys from the matchup on Nov. 9 will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Lone Survivor Foundation.
This is a sharp look for Texas Tech for a great cause:
World Series – Game 5
Boston at St. Louis
8:07 ET Fox
Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)
Two crazy endings in Games 3 and 4 knotted the Series at two games each for Boston and St. Louis. The Cardinals have one more shot at home before ending the series back in Boston. Much like Game 4 was a critical game for the Red Sox, it’s almost as if Game 5 is a must-win for St. Louis. Going back to Boston down a game would be a tough predicament, to say the least. The rematch of Game 1 starters Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright promises more pitching dominance. Lester was terrific in Game 1, and St. Louis continues to struggle against lefthanders. Wainwright was not in top form in Game 1, but his teammates let him down at the plate, and especially in the field. Expect him to bounce back.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must play a clean game behind Lester, but more importantly get to Wainwright early. Allowing the Redbirds’ ace to settle in will spell trouble. He led the majors in innings this season and has proven he can go the distance and seems to get stronger in the late innings. Also, an early lead will keep the sea of red in the stands quieter.
Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals must figure out a way to get David Ortiz out. The big man is batting .727 with four walks in this series and has made a few loud outs. The Redbirds’ plan of pitching around him had been working until Jonny Gomes’ three-run shot last night after a four-pitch walk to Ortiz. St. Louis has yet to have an explosive offensive game in this series. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are the hitters that need to ignite this offense tonight. In Game 1, the Red Sox took a lot of pitches, especially the first time through the order against Wainwright. They swung and missed just eight times against the St. Louis ace. Wainwright must adjust and not allow his pitch count to run up too quickly.
Red Sox to Watch
Ortiz continues to torment the Cardinals. They’ve thrown soft stuff, hard stuff, lefties, righties and nothing has worked. Whoever hits in front and behind Big Papi must continue to foil the Cardinals’ plan of pitching around Ortiz. Presumably, that would be Dustin Pedroia in front and Gomes, once again, behind Ortiz.
Cardinals to Watch
The Cardinals were aggressive in Game 1, and didn’t have but one five-pitch at-bat the first time through the order. But Holliday and Yadier Molina had some a good at-bats off Lester, so expect the Cardinals’ attack to begin with Beltran — who had just one plate appearance — and Holliday and Molina. Both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal got a day of rest yesterday, so Matheny may ask the two of them to get the final nine outs.
Ortiz is batting .727 in the series while his teammates are scuffling at .138…The Red Sox have to be more opportunistic offensively scoring 18 runs on just 24 hits…The Cardinals have 32 hits, but managed just 12 runs…Left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales is the only Boston player yet to see action in the series. Backup catcher Tony Cruz and pitchers Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica have yet to get in a game for St. Louis…Holliday has three of the Cardinals’ seven extra-base hits. Ortiz owns three of Boston’s eight…Ortiz now owns a .436 batting average in 12 career World Series games with eight extra-base hits and 13 RBIs. The average is best all-time among players with as many as 50 plate appearances…Ortiz has made just three outs in the four games, one of which he was robbed of a grand slam by Beltran, who turned the out into a sac fly.
Houston is off to a 6-1 in the second year under coach Tony Levine, and the Cougars’ only loss is a one-point defeat to BYU. Levine's team also has momentum after a 49-14 blowout victory at Rutgers last week.
The Cougars have a key American Athletic Conference game on Halloween night, and Levine unveiled new uniforms for the Thursday matchup.
But in the spirit of Halloween, Levine had a nice trick planned for his players. Check out this video from the jersey unveiling and the photo just below of the actual jerseys:
Rutgers will have a new helmet for Saturday’s game against Temple, as coach Kyle Flood unveiled a new look to support the relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and the helmet features the Rutgers “R” logo on the state of New Jersey.
This is the second tribute Rutgers has done this year to promote the relief efforts. In the spring game, Rutgers wore these special jerseys and helmets.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 28.
• It's Halloween week, and the cheerleaders of the NFL are ready.
• For the first time, a World Series game ended on a pickoff, as pinch-runner Kolten Wong failed to get back to first, leaving Carlos Beltran with the bat in his hands. That's just Wong, amirite?
• Of course, that was only the second bizarre ending of this series. Joe Pos compares the two for overall weirdness.
• Dez Bryant spent yesterday catching touchdowns and flipping out on the sidelines. He called his sideline behavior "passion." I call it "childish" and "distracting." Guy can play, though.
• The source of much of Bryant's frustration yesterday was Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who even faked himself out on the winning touchdown.
• The NBA is about to elbow its way into the spotlight like it's Metta World Peace. Here are some storylines to brush up on to get NBA-ready.
• Speaking of the NBA, Serge Ibaka dressed up like Prince Akeem from "Coming to America." Nice attention to detail.
• While we're on the subject of Halloween costumes, this kid scored big-time with his Kliff Kingsbury.
• Then there's this: Move over, Baby Mark Mangino. Say hello to Baby Andy Reid.
• Since it's Halloween week, here are some funny GIFs of people getting the poop scared out of them.
• Connor Shaw won the weekend in college football. Here's what you might have missed in the SEC.
• Terrelle Pryor erased Bo Jackson from the Raiders record books and set a QB record with a 93-yard scamper against the Steelers. Kid's got wheels. Enjoy.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Week 8 of NFL action concludes tonight with a matchup of NFC West teams when the Seattle Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Pete Carroll has his Seahawks, at 6-1, off to the best start in franchise history. The numbers have been impressive. The Seahawks are second in the NFL in rushing offense, fifth in rushing defense and second in passing defense.
On the other hand the Rams have struggled to run the football and stop the run, with 29th and 30th overall rankings, respectively. Things didn't get any better for St. Louis last week against Carolina with starting quarterback Sam Bradford suffering a torn ACL. This doesn't bode well for a Rams organization that is 2-14 against the Seahawks since 2005. This will be the 31st overall meeting between the two teams, with Seattle leading the series 18-12.
3 Things to Watch
No Sam Bradford
In the wake of Bradford's season-ending ACL injury, the Rams will turn to backup Kellen Clemens. St. Louis doesn't appear to be very confident in Clemens, who started three games for an injured Bradford in 2011, as reports have it that the Rams reached out to the 44-year-old Brett Favre. Rejected by Favre, the Rams signed Brady Quinn and Austin Davis to serve as Clemens' backups. While many have been critical of Bradford's play, the former Oklahoma Sooner was playing well this season. Through seven games Bradford was completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,687 yards with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In fact, in his last three games Bradford had thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception. Clemens benefits from the fact that he is in his seventh season working with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who held the same role with the Jets from 2006-11. Even so, Seattle defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are licking their chops as they look to pad their interception totals.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Rams' run defense
The Rams have the 30th-ranked rush defense, allowing 126 yards per game. The Seahawks own the NFL's second-best rushing attack, averaging 154 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch has amassed over 575 rushing yards, which ranked him second in the NFL entering Week 8. The Rams have faced top-level backs in recent weeks in Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and DeAngelo Williams. Jones-Drew was held to 70 yards rushing, Williams to 40 yards, but Foster ripped off 141 yards on the ground while Gore slashed the Rams for 153 yards. Last year, Lynch averaged 25 carries and 101 yards rushing in two games against the Rams. Lynch can help the Seahawks control the clock and open up passing lanes for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Rams' Pass Rush
The Rams have a trio of talented pass-rushers on their defensive line. Former first-rounders Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn have combined for 13 of the Rams' 18 sacks this year. Behind a struggling offensive line that's missing injured tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung, Wilson has already been sacked 20 times. Only Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden and Ben Roethlisberger had been dropped more entering Week 8. Without Okung, a Pro Bowl left tackle, the quick Quinn should be able to take advantage. Quinn, who already has seven sacks this year, will be matched up against Pat McQuistan, whose lack of athleticism and foot speed will be problematic against the dynamic Quinn.
Key Player for Seattle: Russell Wilson, QB
Wilson has been tremendous in his sophomore campaign. He's thrown for 1,500 yards and rushed for 300 yards in just seven games. Wilson is coming off of a game against Arizona in which he posted a 122.1 passer rating and three touchdown passes, both of which are season highs. As he appears to get more comfortable behind a patchwork offensive line, look for Wilson's production to continue to improve as the season progresses.
Key Player for St. Louis: Zac Stacy, RB
With Bradford out for the rest of the year, the Rams' offense will turn to its rookie running back. Stacy is averaging better that four yards per carry; however, the Rams are the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown this year. Things will not be easy for the former Vanderbilt Commodore, as the Seahawks' rushing defense is allowing less than 92 yards per game.
I really like the St. Louis defense. They create great pressure off of the edge, James Laurinaitis has been a tackling machine in the middle and the corner combination of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins is as tough as it comes in the NFL. The problem? The Rams' offense. This problem becomes even more of an issue with the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford. Kellen Clemens has been a mediocre quarterback his entire NFL career and I don't expect anything different. The Rams offense will struggle to put up any points on the stingy Seahawks defense. Expect Rams fans to be heading to the exits early to watch their Cardinals try and beat the Red Sox in Game 5 of the World Series.
Seattle 27, St. Louis 6
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.
The ACC was short on intriguing matchups for Week 9. Florida State suffered no letdown from its win against Clemson, dominating NC State for a 49-17 victory. The Tigers got back into the win column with a 40-27 win at Maryland.
Miami needed another late comeback, this time against Wake Forest. The Hurricanes trailed 14-3 to the Demon Deacons but rallied behind running back Duke Johnson.
Duke didn’t do much on offense, but it was enough to upset Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The loss against the Blue Devils isn’t too damaging to the Hokies, as the November showdown against Miami will decide the Coastal Division.
Also in ACC action, Georgia Tech beat Virginia 35-25, and North Carolina defeated Boston College 34-10.
Pittsburgh suffered a loss at Navy, which dropped the Panthers to 4-3 overall.
ACC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
|1||1||Florida State (7-0, 5-0): No letdown here. After a big win at Clemson, it was easy to think the Seminoles might not follow up last week’s victory with the same effort against NC State. Florida State quickly erased any doubts, as the offense scored 35 points in the first quarter and cruised to a 49-17 victory. While NC State scored 17 points in the second half, the bigger takeaway for coach Jimbo Fisher was the valuable snaps for his backups. Quarterback Jameis Winston continued to make his case for the Heisman, throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns on 16 completions. Barring a huge turnaround by Florida, Florida State’s last ranked opponent until the ACC Championship will be Miami next Saturday. Next Week: Miami|
|2||2||Clemson (7-1, 5-1): The final score may have been a little closer than some expected, but Clemson erased a few of the bad feelings from last week’s 51-14 loss to Florida State with a 40-27 victory at Maryland. The Tigers’ committed three turnovers, which allowed the Terrapins to hang around. But quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 304 yards and one score, while running back Roderick McDowell delivered his best performance of the year with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 30 attempts. The defense allowed a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter but held Maryland out of the endzone again until just under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Clemson still has a chance to make a BCS bowl as an at-large selection. However, the Tigers’ likely need to go 11-1 for that to happen, which means they need to win at South Carolina in the regular season finale. Next Week: at Virginia|
|3||3||Miami (7-0, 3-0): With Florida State up next, the Hurricanes may have looked past Wake Forest. Whether it was a case of overlooking the Demon Deacons or not, Saturday’s performance didn’t inspire much confidence that Miami can win at Tallahassee next week. Quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 191 yards, but the difference maker was running back Duke Johnson, who rushed for 168 yards and two scores. For the second consecutive game, Miami scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining. Next Week: at Florida State|
|4||4||Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2): Despite five turnovers, the Yellow Jackets scored a 10-point victory at Virginia to earn their fifth win of the season. Georgia Tech’s offense recorded 507 yards, gashing the Cavaliers for 7.6 yards per carry. Virginia recorded 32 first downs, but the Yellow Jackets held the Cavaliers to just 4.8 yards per play. Safety Jemea Thomas was a bright spot for Georgia Tech’s defense, recording 15 stops and two pass breakups. After losing three consecutive games, the Yellow Jackets have won two in a row and host Pittsburgh next Saturday in a key game for positioning within the Coastal Division. Next Week: Pittsburgh|
|5||8||Duke (6-2, 2-2): It wasn’t pretty, but style points matter little for Duke coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils upset Virginia Tech 13-10, earning their first win in Blacksburg. Also, the victory was Duke’s sixth of the season, which should ensure this team is back in a bowl game. The stat sheet was a one-sided affair in favor of the Hokies. The Blue Devils didn’t convert a third down, and quarterback Anthony Boone failed to complete a pass in the second half. However, Duke simply found a way to win, with its defense stepping up in the final two quarters for the second week in a row. The Blue Devils have a bye to regroup, and with the way Cutcliffe’s team is playing, it could easily win any of their final four games. Next Week: Bye Week|
|6||4||Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1): It’s hard to envision a loss when you hold a team to just 198 yards and force four turnovers. But that’s what transpired in Blacksburg on Saturday, as Virginia Tech lost 13-10 to Duke. The Hokies easily outgained the Blue Devils (387 to 198) and didn’t allow a third-down conversion, but it wasn’t enough to win. Duke’s four turnovers resulted in only two field goal attempts by Virginia Tech, and the Hokies struggled to get any production from their running backs. Quarterback Logan Thomas tossed four picks, including one with less than five minutes to go, which sealed the victory for Duke. Although the loss is a setback for Virginia Tech, this team remains alive in the Coastal Division – assuming it doesn’t lose next week at Boston College. Next Week: at Boston College|
|7||6||Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-2): With a second-half schedule that features Miami, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, the Panthers have very little room for error after losing to Navy on Saturday afternoon. Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 5.2 yards per play, but the rushing attack was largely held in check (3.6 ypc, 135 overall yards), while quarterback Tom Savage didn’t connect on a pass longer than 28 yards. The defense forced four three-and-outs in the first three quarters, but Navy’s final three drives resulted in 17 points and each spanned longer than 10 plays. The only good news for Pittsburgh is playing the Midshipmen will prepare this team for next week’s matchup against Georgia Tech. Next Week: at Georgia Tech|
|8||11||North Carolina (2-5, 1-3): A disappointing start to the season has cooled some of the momentum on coach Larry Fedora’s tenure, but the Tar Heels took out some of their early-season frustration with a 34-10 victory against Boston College on Saturday. The win over the Eagles was North Carolina’s first in conference play in 2013. A struggling run defense allowed Boston College running back Andre Williams to rush for 172 yards. However, the Tar Heels held the Eagles’ passing attack to just 59 yards. A bright spot for North Carolina’s offense was backup quarterback Marquise Williams, who threw for one touchdown and ran for 55 yards and one score. Next Week: at NC State|
|9||7||Boston College (3-4, 1-3): After starting 2-1, the Eagles have dropped four out of their last five games. A tough schedule has contributed to the recent struggles, as there’s no shame in losing at USC, Clemson and North Carolina, along with a home defeat to Florida State. As expected, Boston College was able to run on North Carolina (202 yards), but the passing attack struggled. Quarterback Chase Retting threw for only 57 yards on 20 attempts. The Eagles’ defense limited the Tar Heels to 5.4 yards per play, but despite four sacks, was unable to force a turnover. After next week’s game against Virginia Tech, the schedule lightens in the final four games, which should allow Boston College to get bowl eligible. Next Week: Virginia Tech|
|10||9||Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3): The Demon Deacons had their two-game winning streak snapped with a last-minute loss at Miami. Behind a steady diet of short passes from quarterback Tanner Price, Wake Forest jumped out to a 14-3 lead. However, Miami rallied in the second half, scoring two touchdowns in the final five minutes to win 24-21. Although the Demon Deacons lost, it’s clear Jim Grobe and his coaching staff have made the right adjustments after a sluggish 1-2 start. Wake Forest needs two wins to get bowl eligible and with Syracuse, Duke and Vanderbilt left, this team will have a chance to get to six wins. Next Week: at Syracuse|
|11||10||Maryland (5-3, 1-3): The Terrapins’ midseason slide continued with a 40-27 loss to Clemson. Injuries have taken a toll on both sides of the ball for Maryland, and it clearly showed on Saturday. Backup quarterback Caleb Rowe threw for 282 yards but completed just 19 of 45 passes. The defense did a good job of holding the Tigers to field goals in the first half. However, Clemson pulled away in the second half, with quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Roderick McDowell leading the way. Considering all of the injuries that Maryland has suffered, next Saturday's bye week is timely and should allow this team to regroup for its final four games. Next Week: Bye Week|
|12||12||Syracuse (3-4, 1-2): The Orange had a bye in Week 9 and return to action on Nov. 2 against Wake Forest. Syracuse needs three wins to get bowl eligible, and three home games will give coach Scott Shafer a chance to earn a postseason trip in his first season. The Orange play Wake Forest on Saturday and finish the season with back-to-back home games against Pittsburgh and Boston College. Next Week: Wake Forest|
|13||14||NC State (3-4, 0-4): As expected, the Wolfpack were simply outmanned against Florida State. The Seminoles didn’t suffer any letdown after beating Clemson a week ago, gashing NC State for 35 points in the first quarter. The Wolfpack were able to score 17 points on the Seminoles’ backups in the second half, and quarterback Brandon Mitchell made his return to the lineup. The senior missed five games due to a foot injury and showed some rust in the loss to Florida State (17 of 33, 128 yards). Although the loss in Tallahassee wasn’t pretty, NC State has a favorable schedule in the final month of the season and still has a shot at bowl eligibility. Next Week: North Carolina|
|14||13||Virginia (2-6, 0-4): The Cavaliers’ miserable season continued with a 35-25 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday. Virginia’s defense forced five turnovers, but the offense was unable to score any points off the Yellow Jackets’ mistakes. Quarterback David Watford threw for 376 yards and two scores. However, the rushing attack went nowhere, as running back Kevin Parks managed just 54 yards and one touchdown on 13 attempts. After five consecutive losses, the heat on coach Mike London is starting to build. Although London got a vote of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage, it’s tough to imagine he can survive if the final record is 2-10. Next Week: Clemson|
ACC Week 9 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
For the second week in a row with the game in doubt, Miami turned to its ground attack to earn the victory. And the Hurricanes’ running backs and offensive line delivered once again, as the Miami scored with less than a minute remaining to beat Wake Forest 24-21. Running back Duke Johnson was the difference in the game for the Hurricanes, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 30 rushes. And it was a gutty performance from the sophomore, as he appeared to be less than 100 percent in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes will need a similar performance from Johnson in next week’s huge showdown against Florida State.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
Brown and fellow linebacker David Helton anchored Duke’s strong defensive effort against Virginia Tech. Brown recorded 14 stops, which ranked second on the team behind Helton’s 19. One of Brown’s tackles for a loss, but his biggest contribution was an interception with less than five minutes remaining, which sealed the victory for Duke. Brown ranks third on the team with 61 stops this season and has recorded 5.5 tackles for a loss. The junior missed 2012 due to injury but has been a key contributor for Duke’s defense in 2013.
Coordinator of the Week: Jim Knowles, Duke
The Blue Devils’ defense had some help from a sluggish Virginia Tech offense, but for the second week in a row, Duke’s defense has stepped up when it mattered. The Blue Devils didn’t allow a point in the second half of last Saturday’s victory over Virginia and held the Hokies to just 55 yards in the fourth quarter, which was just enough for Duke to score a 13-10 win in Blacksburg. The Blue Devils forced four interceptions off Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and generated four tackles for a loss. Duke has held its last three opponents to five yards or less per play, and only one team in the last three games against the Blue Devils has scored more than 10 points. Knowles has pushed the right buttons this season, and the key stops on defense are a key reason why Duke is 6-2.
Team of the Week: Duke
Despite four turnovers, 198 yards of offense and zero third-down conversions, Duke defeated Virginia Tech 13-10. Saturday’s win in Blacksburg was the first in school history, and the Blue Devils are bowl eligible for the second straight year. Duke’s defense has taken a lot of criticism over the last few years, but this unit has delivered with the game on the line in back-to-back weeks. The Blue Devils did not allow a point in the second half of last Saturday’s win against Virginia, and this unit held Virginia Tech to just 24 yards on its final two drives to secure the win. It wasn’t pretty, but the victory in Blacksburg shows how far Duke has progressed under David Cutcliffe. After going 6-18 from 2010-11, the Blue Devils are 12-9 in their last 21 games. And Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech was the program’s first on the road over a ranked team since 1971.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
A tip of the cap needs to go to Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller, who recorded three picks in Saturday’s loss to Duke. However, this award should take permanent residence in Tallahassee this season. Winston did most of his damage in the first half against NC State and finished with 16 completions for 292 yards and three scores. The freshman tossed just two passes in the second half against the Wolfpack and has at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games.
• Clemson running back Roderick McDowell rushed for 161 yards on 30 carries against Maryland. The 100-yard effort was his first since the season opener.
• In Saturday’s win at Virginia Tech, Duke did not convert a third down or complete a pass in the second half.
• Wake Forest freshman safety Ryan Janvion led the defense with 14 tackles in Saturday’s loss to Miami.
• Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand recorded 23 tackles in Saturday’s loss against Clemson.
• After missing five games due to a foot injury, quarterback Brandon Mitchell returned to the lineup for NC State. Mitchell completed 17 of 32 passes for 128 yards.
• Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street caught nine passes against Navy, giving him 186 career receptions. Street’s 186 career receptions are a school record.
• Freshman linebacker E.J. Levenberry led Florida State with eight tackles.
• Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins set a single-game school record with 14 catches in Saturday’s win over Maryland.
• Georgia Tech had three players – Zach Laskey, Robert Godhigh and David Sims – rush for 100 yards against Virginia.
• Florida State has averaged at least seven yards per play in every game this year.
• Duke did not complete a pass in the second half in Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Virginia Tech.
• Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro has three consecutive games of at least 10 catches.
• Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 17 points on Navy’s final three possessions, which was just enough for the Midshipmen to score a 24-21 upset.
• Virginia receivers Darius Jennings and Tim Smith became the first duo in school history to catch at least 10 passes in the same contest.
Alabama is the top ranked team in the nation and obviously the No. 1 team in the SEC. The Crimson Tide disposed of Tennessee 45-10 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Missouri was the biggest move in the power rankings — in the wrong direction. The Tigers fell from No. 2 to No. 6 after losing at home to South Carolina.
SEC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
|1||1||Alabama (8-0, 5-0): Alabama beat Tennessee for the seventh straight time — and did so with remarkable ease. The Crimson Tide led 21-0 after one quarter and 35-0 at the half en route to the 45-10 win over the visiting Volunteers. AJ McCarron, as usual, was efficient throwing the ball, completing 19-of-27 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Kevin Norwood caught six passes for a career-high 112 yards to lead the Tide’s underrated crop of receivers. Alabama has allowed 10 points or less in all but one game this season. Next Week: Bye|
|2||3||LSU (7-2, 3-2): LSU stepped out of SEC play to host Furman on Saturday night. The Paladins made it interesting for a while — they trailed 20-16 at the half — but were overwhelmed in the final two quarters of a 48-16 loss. The Tigers rolled up 672 yards of offense, with 300-plus through the air and on the ground. Tailbacks Jeremy Hill and Terrence McGee were unstoppable, combining for 251 yards and four touchdowns on only 21 carries. Furman, coached by longtime Vanderbilt assistant Bruce Fowler, managed only 198 yards. Next Week: Bye|
|3||4||Auburn (7-1, 3-1): The Tigers cruised to a 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic in their final non-conference game of the season. Quarterback Nick Marshall was sidelined with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter, forcing the Tigers to turn to Jeremy Johnson, a true freshman who has started one game this season. Johnson was sharp, completing 10-of-16 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Cameron Artis-Payne led a productive Auburn ground attack with 93 yards on 13 carries. Next Week: at Arkansas|
|4||6||Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2): Kevin Sumlin was “hopeful’ that his star quarterback, bothered by a shoulder injury, would be available to play against Vanderbilt. Johnny Manziel said there was never any doubt. The 2012 Heisman Trophy Winner threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns to lead Texas A&M to a 56-24 win. Manziel was extremely sharp early, leading the Aggies on touchdown drives of 75, 66, 80 and 39 yards as they raced out to a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter. Texas A&M committed four turnovers — the most this season — but still won the game with relative ease. The Aggies’ defense, which entered the day ranked 120th in the nation, gave up a season-low 330 yards. Next Week: UTEP|
|5||5||South Carolina (6-2, 4-2): The Gamecocks are back in the SEC East title chase after rallying to beat Missouri 27-24 in double-overtime on the road. Connor Shaw was the hero for Carolina, coming off the bench in the third quarter and throwing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. The Gamecocks won despite netting only 75 rushing yards on 35 attempts. South Carolina is now only one game behind Mizzou in the loss column, and the Gamecocks own the tie-breaker between the two teams. Next Week: Mississippi State|
|6||2||Missouri (7-1, 3-1): Missouri is 7-1 overall and alone in first place in the SEC East. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Tigers blew a golden opportunity to all but wrap up the division title by blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to South Carolina on Saturday night. Maty Mauk, in his second career start, only completed 10-of-25 passes but those 10 completions went for 249 yards — thanks in part to a 96-yard catch-and-run by L’Damian Washington in the second quarter. The Mizzou defense did a great job against the run, holding South Carolina to 75 yards on 35 carries for a 2.1-yard average. However, the Gamecocks passed for 423 yards on 35 completions, including some huge throws from Shaw in the second half. Next: Tennessee|
|7||7||Georgia (4-3, 3-2): The Bulldogs used the week off to get healthy — both physically and mentally — following their loss at Vanderbilt. Georgia hopes to have star tailback Todd Gurley back in the lineup. The All-American has missed three straight games due a high-ankle sprain. Next Week: vs. Florida|
Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3): After a grueling three-week stretch that featured trips to Alabama and Auburn and a home game with Texas A&M, the Rebels stepped out of SEC play and cruised past Idaho 59-14 in Oxford. Ole Miss outgained Idaho 572-to-253 with a balanced attack that produced 280 yards passing and 292 yards rushing. Sophomore tailback I’Tavius Mathers led the way with 138 yards on 14 carries. Next Week: Bye
|9||9||Florida (4-3, 3-2): The Gators had a bye to regroup after their troubling 36-17 loss at Missouri two weeks ago. Will Muschamp’s team, which has dealt with a slew of key injuries on both sides of the ball, heads to Jacksonville next week to take on rival Georgia. The Gators have lost two straight in the series for the first time since the late 1980s. Next Week: vs. Georgia.|
|10||10||Tennessee (4-4, 1-3): Tennessee’s hopes for an upset in Tuscaloosa ended well before halftime. The Vols trailed No. 1 Alabama 28-0 after four possessions and never threatened the rest of the way. The big story for Tennessee was the debut of true freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs. The staff was hoping to redshirt both true freshman — Dobbs and Riley Ferguson — but Butch Jones was forced to go to the bullpen when Justin Worley went down with a hand injury late in the first half. Dobbs made his debut in the third quarter and threw for 75 yards on 12 attempts. Tennessee has lost 10 straight SEC road games, dating back to November 2010. Next Week: at Missouri|
|11||11||Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-4): You might think that holding Johnny Manziel to a career-low 11 yards rushing would have been a positive development for the Vanderbilt defense. You would be wrong. Led by an extremely efficient passing attack — three A&M quarterbacks combined to throw for 377 yards and average 8.2 yards per attempt — Texas A&M rolled up 556 yards of offense in a 56-24 win over the Dores in College Station. Vanderbilt trailed 28-0 early in the second quarter but scored 17 straight points to cut the deficit to 11 points at the half. The fun ended on the first play of the third quarter when Howard Matthews stepped in front of a Patton Robinette pass and returned the ball 26 yards for a score. Robinette, making his first start, completed 15-of-28 passes for 215 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Next Week: Bye|
|12||12||Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2): It was a struggle, but Mississippi State picked up its first SEC win of the season, holding on to beat Kentucky 28-22 in Starkville on Thursday night. The Bulldogs dominated the game statistically — outgaining UK 447-to-325 — but needed a defensive stop in the last minute to preserve the win. Sophomore Dak Prescott, back as the starter at quarterback after giving way to Tyler Russell the previous week, threw for 268 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. State converted 10-of-18 on third down, did not commit a turnover and scored a touchdown on all three of its trips to the red zone. Next Week:|
|13||13||Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2): It was a struggle, but Mississippi State picked up its first SEC win of the season, holding on to beat Kentucky 28-22 in Starkville on Thursday night. The Bulldogs dominated the game statistically — outgaining UK 447-to-325 — but needed a defensive stop in the last minute to preserve the win. Sophomore Dak Prescott, back as the starter at quarterback after giving way to Tyler Russell the previous week, threw for 268 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. State converted 10-of-18 on third down, did not commit a turnover and scored a touchdown on all three of its trips to the red zone. Next Week:|
|14||14||Kentucky (1-6, 0-4): Kentucky put itself in position to record its first SEC win the of the season, but the Wildcats’ final drive stalled at the Mississippi State 29-yard line when Maxwell Smith’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete. The result was a 28-22 loss in Starkville — the Cats’ 12th-straight defeat in SEC play. With Jalen Whitlow slowed by an ankle injury, Smith got the start at quarterback. The sophomore did not throw an interception but threw for only 160 yards on 34 attempts. Whitlow played sparingly, completing his only passing attempt (for five yards) and rushing for 12 yards on four attempts. Raymond Sanders rushed for a season-high 86 yards on 15 carries. Next Week: Alabama State|
SEC Week 9 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Shaw, nursing a knee injury, came off the bench in the third quarter with his team trailing 17-0. About two hours later, the Gamecocks walked off the turf at Faurot Field with an improbable 27-24 win in double-overtime. Shaw was the man most responsible for Carolina’s season-saving win. The senior completed 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns — despite not playing the entire first half. The Gamecocks tied the game when Shaw connected with Nick Jones on a 2-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in regulation and sent the game into a second overtime when Shaw found Bruce Ellington for a TD on 4th-and-goal from the 15.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Quarles, one of the more underrated players in the SEC, was disruptive in the middle of the South Carolina defensive line. The junior from Hodges, S.C., recorded six tackles, including three for a loss (and two sacks) in the Gamecocks’ double-overtime win over Missouri. Quarles leads South Carolina with 10.0 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks — five more than his more famous teammate, Jadeveon Clowney.
Team of the Week: South Carolina
South Carolina kept its SEC East title hopes alive with an improbable comeback win at Missouri. The Gamecocks, who entered the day two games behind Mizzou in the loss column, rallied from 17-0 down in the fourth quarter and eventually won the game in the second overtime when MU’s Andrew Baggett missed a 24-yard field goal. South Carolina is now 4-2 in league play with games remaining at home against Mississippi State and Florida. Missouri, now 3-1, still has to play Tennessee and Texas A&M at home and Ole Miss and Kentucky on the road. Florida and Georgia both have two losses as well.
Coordinator of the Week: Mark Snyder, Texas A&M
The SEC’s worst defense — at least statistically — had its best day of the season on Saturday afternoon. Texas A&M, which had allowed an average of 532.0 yards in SEC action, limited Vanderbilt to 329 yards and only 4.3 yards per play. The Commodores were playing with a redshirt freshman quarterback (Patton Robinette) making his first start, but this was still an impressive performance by the Aggies’ defense. A&M had allowed at least 250 yards rushing in every SEC game this season — including 379 in the loss to Auburn two weeks ago — but held Vanderbilt to 95 on 44 attempts.
Freshman of the Week: Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
Johnson, a true freshman from Montgomery, Ala., was forced into action when Nick Marshall went down with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter. Johnson responded, completing 10-of-16 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic. Johnson connected with Sammie Coates for a 36-yard TD on his first play of the game and then found Coates again for a 67-yard score later in the second quarter.
• Johnny Manziel, playing through a shoulder injury, had career-lows in rushing yards (11) and rushing attempts (four) — and two of his attempts came on sacks. Prior to Saturday, Manziel’s fewest carries and yards both game in the 2013 season-opener against Rice, when he had 19 yards on six attempts in one half of action.
• Alabama has not allowed more than two touchdowns to an SEC team not named Texas A&M in the regular season since the 2010 Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. In the last two regular seasons, Alabama has given up 71 points in two games against Texas A&M and a total of 78 points in its other 11 SEC games.
• Missouri let a late lead slip away, but the Tigers continue to get solid play from their defensive line. Mizzou held South Carolina to only 75 yards rushing on 35 attempts for a 2.1-yard average. Mike Davis, who entered the day as the SEC’s leading rusher, was held to a season-low 51 yards on 19 carries. His previous low was 77 yards on 17 carries against Vanderbilt.
• It’s a small consolation for Tennessee — which lost 45-10 at Alabama — but the Vols had to be pleased with the play of tailbacks Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane. The two combined for 90 yards on 19 carries (a 4.7-yard average) against the SEC’s top rushing defense. Neal leads the team with 763 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
• Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood had the first 100-yard game of his career on Saturday afternoon. The senior caught a season-high six passes for 112 yards in Bama’s win over Tennessee.