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Rivalry week delivered on excitement but only one major alteration in the playoff race.
Mississippi State is out (we assume) after losing the Egg Bowl. Championship week, though, may go a long way to clinching that final spot — or more depending on upsets.
The selection committee has said since Day One that conference championships will factor into their decisions, but to what degree isn’t certain. There’s no rubric that awards points for league champions.
We may find out this week how much a conference championship is worth. Or a share of a conference title. Or none in the event of upsets of Alabama, Oregon or Florida State in a conference title game.
The Week Ahead: Dec. 5-6
All times Eastern
Listen to the Week 14 recap podcast:
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
MAC championship in Detroit
When and where: Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... a rematch of last year’s title game wraps up an otherwise quiet year of MACtion. The MAC has lacked star power and hasn’t has a ranked team all year. Still, we should applaud the two teams playing for the title. Drew Hare isn’t Jordan Lynch, but he’s been an efficient dual threat quarterback for an NIU team on the fringes of consideration for a major bowl game. With back-to-back losses entering this week, Bowling Green hasn’t been the overwhelming favorite Athlon projected, but first-year coach Dino Babers has his team in the league title game despite losing his starting quarterback, Matt Johnson, in the first game of the season.
Vegas says: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2
Arizona vs. Oregon
Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara
When and where: Friday, 9 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... Oregon has a Pac-12 title, a playoff spot and a potential Heisman on the line against a team that’s had the Ducks’ number. Oregon is 22-3 the last two seasons and two of those losses are to Arizona, including the Ducks’ only loss this season. In the first meeting this season, Oregon’s offensive line was in shambles, so the Ducks are looking to prove that was the problem back on Oct. 2. Arizona, though, is out to prove its win over Oregon and some of its close calls (Cal, Washington) are no fluke. With games against three ranked teams to round out the season, Arizona could also find itself a playoff contender with the right breaks. And lastly, this game could feature the Heisman winner (Marcus Mariota) vs. the national defensive player of the year (Scooby Wright).
Vegas says: Oregon by 13 1/2
Iowa State at TCU
When and where: Saturday, noon, ABC
We’re watching because... stranger things have happened, but not many. This Iowa State team isn’t the same as the one that spoiled Oklahoma State’s bid at a national title game. The Cyclones are winless in the Big 12, but we’re still keeping one eye on TCU in its finale.
Vegas says: TCU by 33
Louisiana Tech at Marshall
Conference USA championship
When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN2
We’re watching because... these two teams combined to score 142 points last week. Also, we haven’t taken the time to properly acknowledge the wild season Louisiana Tech has had. Second-year coach Skip Holtz has turned Louisiana Tech from 4-8 to 8-4 with a C-USA West division title yet still found time to lose to Northwestern State and Old Dominion.
Vegas says: Marshall by 12 1/2
Alabama vs. Missouri
SEC championship in Atlanta
When and where: Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Missouri won’t be a pushover as Alabama tries to seal the No. 1 seed in the playoff. The Tigers pulled away from Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second half and then located their run game just in time to defeat the hottest team in the SEC in Arkansas last week. Worth noting: Missouri leads the SEC in sacks while Alabama allows the fewest sacks in the league thanks in part to Blake Sims’ ability to move around.
Vegas says: Alabama by 14
Kansas State at Baylor
When and where: Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... Baylor is looking for one last statement to get into the playoff. While most of the playoff contenders are simply looking to hold serve, Baylor has a chance to push its way past TCU and into the top four against a top 15 Kansas State team. The Bears will be watching Bryce Petty closely after their start quarterback sustained a “mild concussion” against Texas Tech. Baylor’s defense may be just as much of a concern after giving up four long touchdown drives in the final 16:38 against the Red Raiders.
Vegas says: Baylor by 8 1/2
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
ACC championship in Charlotte
When and where: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Georgia Tech may be the team best-suited to capitalize on Florida State’s uneven play this season. The Seminoles have been pedestrian against the run this season (seventh in the ACC in yards per play) and now prepare for the Georgia Tech option. Jameis Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season, and now he’ll face a team that is second only to Louisville in the ACC in picks. And if Florida State needs to make yet another second-half comeback, Georgia Tech may be able to limit possessions. The Yellow Jackets are allowing the fifth-fewest plays per game this season (63.6).
Vegas says: Florida State by 3 1/2
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Big Ten championship in Indianapolis
When and where: Saturday, 8:17 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... the season-ending injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett has made Ohio State the mystery team in the playoff conversation. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin to win the Big Ten, will the selection committee give the Buckeyes a vote of confidence? Suffice to say, much of Ohio State’s outlook depends on new starting quarterback Cardale Jones. Issue No. 1 for Ohio State, though, is containing Melvin Gordon.
Vegas says: Wisconsin by 4
Fresno State at Boise State
Mountain West championship
When and where: Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Boise State is likely one win away from playing in a major bowl game. The Broncos are 10-2, but this is hardly the same Boise State team that challenged for BCS games. Consider this: Two top-10 Boise State teams played in the MAACO Bowl and this unranked, two-loss Broncos team may end up in the Fiesta Bowl if it can dispatch a 6-6 Fresno State team.
Vegas says: Boise State by 19 1/2
When it comes to reborn players, Gerald Green is near the top of the genre. The 28-year-old was selected No. 18 overall, straight out of high school in Houston, by the Boston Celtics. He followed that with a six-team stretch that saw him struggle to find minutes or a defined NBA role. The extreme, eye-popping athleticism that got him into the league without any NCAA action appeared to be languishing by the 2012-13 season, when he played a reserve role with the Indiana Pacers and averaged less than 12 minutes per game in their playoff run.
Things have been different with the Phoenix Suns, though. Under the leadership of head coach Jeff Hornacek — last year’s runner up for Coach of the Year honors — Green’s springy style has blossomed. Watch as he creates one of our early season’s chief highlights last night, ooping it to himself for an emphatic finish against the Orlando Magic:
Green is now an indispensable rotation player for his team, running all over the floor in the Suns’ uptempo system and liberally shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip. He pairs with tiny dynamo Isaiah Thomas to make the Suns’ second unit nearly as devastating as their turbo-charged starters, led by the two-headed guard monster that is Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Green’s memorable flourish, this time, unfortunately came in a Phoenix loss. The Suns dropped the game 93-90 to the young, feisty Magic, who were led by the combined 39 points and 18 rebounds of Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. The Suns also got a chance to say hello to an old ally — Channing Frye, a floor-stretching big man who provided invaluable veteran resolve to last year’s 48-win Suns squad, which narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs.
— John Wilmes
Bo Pelini is out as the Nebraska head coach.
Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light debate the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coaching vacancy in an Athlon Sports roundtable.
How good is the Nebraska job? Where does it rank nationally? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Is this still an elite job?
Are expectation levels too high in Lincoln or is it fair to compete for national championships on a regular basis at Nebraska?
Who are the coaches with Nebraska ties and are any of them worthy candidates? Who among them would be interested in the job? Is Craig Bohl qualified?
Who are the top Mid-Major (Group of 5) head coaches who are viable candidates? Is Jim McElwain heading to Florida or in the mix at Nebraska? Are Justin Fuente, Matt Wells or Troy Calhoun good fits?
Who are the top coordinators: Pat Narduzzi or Scott Frost? Is Frost ready? Would Narduzzi be a home run?
Would any current Power 5 coaches be interested in the job? Would Jerry Kill, David Cutcliffe, Steve Addazio, Mark Richt or Kyle Whittingham have any interest?
And finally, our hosts give their top three dream candidates and predictions for the job. They do not necessarily overlap. Each panelist makes a bold prediction as to who will be the next head football coach at Nebraska.
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox breakdown all of the action from Thanksgiving Weekend. Championship games are set in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12. Ohio State is dealing with a huge injury, the ACC wins the rivalry series with the SEC, Nebraska makes a coaching change and the Pac-12 South race ends in dramatic fashion. We debate it all and offer our playoff predictions on this week's edition of the Cover 2 Podcast.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of football. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 13 of the NFL season.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt became the first player with 10+ sacks (10.5) and 3+ touchdowns (4) in a single season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Watt is the first NFL player with at least three offensive touchdowns (three receiving) and two or more touchdowns on takeaways (one interception return, one fumble return) in a season since Joe Golding of the Boston Yanks in 1948. Watt is the only player in NFL history with three touchdown catches, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble recovery-touchdown in the same season.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers extended his NFL record streaks to 360 consecutive passes and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception in the Packers' 26-21 win against New England. His last interception at home came on Dec. 2, 2012.
The game was also the first time Rodgers and New England quarterback Tom Brady faced one another. It is only the second time in NFL history that a pair of quarterbacks with at least 200 touchdown passes started against one another for the first time. The other instance was December 14, 1974, between Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Fran Tarkenton.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes without an interception in the Saints’ 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. Brees has seven career games with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history.
Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win against Washington. The Colts are the first team to score at least six touchdowns of 30 yards or more in the same game since Washington (seven) did so on November 27, 1966, against the New York Giants.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and eclipsed 4,000 yards (4,011) for the season. He joins Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons. Luck has a career-high 34 touchdown passes and joins Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only players in franchise history with 30+ touchdown passes in a season.
Minnesota scored two touchdowns on blocked punts in a 31-13 win over Carolina. Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Everson Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Vikings are the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half.
Jacksonville's 25-24 win over the New York Giants included a 21-point comeback that was the largest in the franchise's history. It also marked the fourth time in 2014 a team won after trailing by at least 21, which is tied for the most of any season in NFL history. Blake Bortles became the third rookie starting quarterback to help his team overcome a deficit of at least 21 points to win since at least 1970, joining Matthew Stafford (November 22, 2009) and Vince Young (November 26, 2006).
St. Louis rookie running back Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards with two touchdowns and had 47 receiving yards with one touchdown in the Rams’ 52-0 win over Oakland. Mason, who had rushing touchdowns of 89- and 8-yards and a 35-yard touchdown reception, is the fourth player in NFL history with an 85+ yard TD run and a 35+ yard TD catch in the same game. The other three to accomplish the feat are Jim Spavital (November 5, 1950), Joey Galloway (November 12, 1995), and Chris Johnson (September 20, 2009).
St. Louis' 38 points at halftime were the most the Rams had in any full game since Week 12 of last season. The 38-point deficit at the half was the largest in Raiders history. They went on to suffer their second-largest shutout in franchise history behind a 55-0 loss to the Houston Oilers in 1962.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 yards in the Seahawks' win against San Francisco, marking the fourth regular-season game in which he has run for 100 yards against the 49ers in the last five years. All other players in the league combined have had only five 100-yard rushing games against San Francisco over that five-year span. Lynch also ran for 109 yards in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco in January.
Kansas City, which lost 29-16 to the visiting Denver Broncos, still does not have a receiving touchdown by a wide receiver this season, while every other team in the league has at least five.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won eight straight regular-season starts against Kansas City, tying the mark held by Craig Morton when he was with the Giants and Broncos (1974, 1977-79).
Philadelphia remains the only unbeaten team on Thanksgiving of teams playing at least five such games. The Eagles moved to 6-0 with their win at Dallas.
Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson became the fastest NFL player to reach 10,000 receiving yards when he did so in his 115th career game, passing St. Louis' Torry Holt. Megatron had 11 catches for 146 yards and two scores in the win over Chicago.
Johnson also broke Cloyce Box's record for the most touchdown catches on Thanksgiving (7) in NFL history with his two against Chicago. Box played for the Lions from 1949-54.
Chicago's 13 rushing yards in the loss to Detroit tied the Bears' fewest since the 1970 merger. The Bears also had 13 rushing yards against Green Bay in 2011. It was the fewest ever for a team in a Thanksgiving game.
The Miami Dolphins look to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt when they take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Dolphins (6-5) need a win to not only keep pace with the AFC East-leading Patriots (9-3), but also to join the pack of five teams sitting at 7-5 jockeying for one of the Wild Card spots. The Jets (2-9) are really just playing for pride and draft positioning from here out.
This is the first of two meetings this month between these longtime divisional rivals, as they will close things out Dec. 28 in Miami. Because New York’s game against Buffalo last week had to be moved to Monday night due to the snowstorm, the Jets will become just the fourth team in history to play consecutive games on a Monday. This could be a good sign of things to come for Rex Ryan’s beleaguered team, as Miami has lost five straight Monday night games. Then again, perhaps not since the Dolphins’ last Monday night win was against, that’s right, the Jets back in Week 5 of the 2009 season.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -7
|Miami 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs SD||W 37 - 0||Recap|
|11/9||@ DET||L 16 - 20||Recap|
|11/13||vs BUF||W 22 - 9||Recap|
|11/23||@ DEN||L 36 - 39||Recap|
|12/1||@ NYJ||W 16 - 13||Recap|
|12/7||vs BAL||L 13 - 28||Recap|
|12/14||@ NE||L 13 - 41||Recap|
|12/21||vs MIN||W 37 - 35||Recap|
Miami’s Key to Victory: Play Four Quarters
It may sound cliché to remind an NFL team that a game lasts 60 minutes, but these Dolphins have had their problems in the fourth quarter. In each of Miami’s past three losses, the Dolphins coughed up late leads and two of these were in road games. In Week 6, Aaron Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown pass with just three seconds left to cap Green Bay’s 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback in Miami. About a month later in Detroit, it was the Lions’ Matthew Stafford snatching victory from the Dolphins’ hands, by way of a game-winning touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining. But perhaps the cruelest blow came last week in Denver. Miami entered the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a 28-17 lead after outplaying the defending AFC champions on their own turf for the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately Peyton Manning and unheralded running back C.J. Anderson owned the final period, as the Broncos scored 22 unanswered points and wound up winning 39-36. It should be pointed out that the Packers, Lions and Broncos are by far better teams than tonight’s opponent. But the Dolphins can’t afford to treat any team, including the 2-9 Jets, lightly, as they need to win just to keep pace with the pack of Wild Card-contending teams. And as Miami is well aware by now, sometimes it’s not how you start that’s most important. It’s how you finish.
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ KC||L 10 - 24||Recap|
|11/9||vs PIT||W 20 - 13||Recap|
|11/24||@ BUF||L 3 - 38||Recap|
|12/1||vs MIA||L 13 - 16||Recap|
|12/7||@ MIN||L 24 - 30||Recap|
|12/14||@ TEN||W 16 - 11||Recap|
|12/21||vs NE||L 16 - 17||Recap|
|12/28||@ MIA||W 37 - 24||Recap|
New York’s Key to Victory: Run, Run, Run
No matter how you slice it, the situation looks bleak for the Jets. Rex Ryan is a lame-duck head coach and because of injury, he has to turn the offense back over to the quarterback (Geno Smith) he benched four games ago. The Jets were embarrassed on this same stage a week ago and it’s really hard to find any aspect of the team to have a ton of confidence in. For example, even though the defense is ranked among the top 10 in total (324.8 ypg) and rushing (86.2 ypg) defense, New York is 28th in scoring (27.5 ppg) defense. An inefficient and turnover-prone offense can be assigned some of the blame here, which brings us back to the quarterback. The reason Smith was benched in the first quarter of the Jets’ Week 8 43-23 home loss to the Bills was that he had thrown more interceptions (three) than completions (two). For the season, Smith has more turnovers (12) than touchdowns (8), which is why it would behoove New York to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. That means a healthy dose of Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and maybe even wide receiver Percy Harvn coming out of the backfield. The Jets are averaging 136.5 yards rushing per game, which places them near the top of the league. On the other hand, one consistent theme in Miami’s losses has been its struggles stopping the run. Overall, the Dolphins are giving up an average of 104.1 yards rushing per game. However, in their five losses that number jumps to 134.4, including the 201 they surrendered to the Broncos last week. Given the discrepancy between New York’s rushing and passing production, the return of a benched quarterback and a potential weak spot in Miami’s defense, it’s pretty clear that the Jets would be wise to take the air out of the ball tonight and take their chances.
Miami needs to bounce back from another fourth-quarter collapse and get a win on the road to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt. New York is in the thick of the race for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft and has to settle for playing the role of spoiler the rest of the way. The Jets are a mess on offense and will be missing one of their best defensive linemen (Muhammad Wilkerson) tonight. Because of last week’s tough loss to the Broncos, I don’t expect the Dolphins to take the Jets lightly. These two teams are no strangers to this stage, as this will be their 13th time playing on Monday night. New York leads these matchups 7-5 and Miami hasn’t won a Monday night game in more than five years, but I think both of these streaks come to end tonight against an overmatched Jets team.
Prediction: Miami 27, New York 17
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 1:
• Johnny Football had an eventful day: a fumble for a Bills TD, but also a rushing touchdown.
• Tom Brady let his feelings be known as the clock wound down on the Packers' win over New England. Hey, at least the guy still cares after all these years.
• Alabama fell behind against Auburn, but Nacho Guy wasn't worried.
• Gerald Green threw himself a sweet alley-oop.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s race back into playoff contention began in earnest over the weekend, as Russell Westbrook returned from a hand injury to lead his team to a dominant, morale-boosting 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks. Westbrook controlled the game thoroughly in every moment he was in it, tallying 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t close. Russ’s emphatic dunk early on said pretty clearly that the Thunder are a frightening foe once again:
Reigning MVP Kevin Durant was still watching from the sidelines, excitedly cheering on his Thunder and looking like he badly wanted to join them. Durant’s been practicing with the team, so it’s only a matter of weeks before he returns. It’s a fun time to be an OKC fan: The team suffered greatly without its stars — going just 4-10 — but it’s still early enough for their hole to be manageable. A mere five-game deficit in the standings separates them from the conference’s eighth playoff seed.
Over in the Eastern Conference, Westbrook’s buddy Derrick Rose found rhythm with his Chicago Bulls. Behind the All-Star level play of Jimmy Butler and the out-of-hibernation mania of Joakim Noah, Rose and the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets over the weekend to finish their annual circus road trip with a 4-3 mark despite a litany of injuries to key players.
The Bulls now sit near the top of the Eastern Conference, where there may be a vacancy soon. During a 106-102 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Toronto Raptors lost shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who suffered a torn tendon in his left groin, as reported by ESPN and AP. The Raptors currently lead the East with a 13-3 record, but having DeRozan (arguably their best player) out for an indefinite period of time will make it hard for them to keep pace.
— John Wilmes
College basketball coaches often shrug at the way conference realignment has relegated their sport to an afterthought, but it’s had at least one benefit to the game.
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge already was one of the most interesting events of the basketball year. Now it’s even better.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame joined on the ACC side a year ago. Louisville is in this season for the ACC. Maryland has moved over to the Big Ten at the same time Nebraska has become surprisingly relevant on the national stage.
The result is a slew of important on-campus non-conference games this week, a welcome sight after watching Thanksgiving tournaments in empty gyms or hotel ballrooms.
Yet the most important game of the bunch though comes from charter members of each league when Duke faces Wisconsin in Madison in a game that could end up a Final Four or national title rematch.
Michigan State at Notre Dame
7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Michigan State needs more from veteran Branden Dawson, who hasn’t scored in double figures since a Nov. 21 win over Loyola (Ill.). He’s shooting 7-of-22 from the field in his last three games. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is getting exactly what it needs in the return of Jerian Grant. The senior guard has picked up where he left off in last year’s shortened season. Grant is averaging 18.7 points and seven rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor.
Virginia Tech at Penn State
7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Buzz Williams is learning just how much of a challenge he has in turning around Virginia Tech, which has already dropped games to Appalachian State and Northern Iowa. The Hokies will have a challenge in stopping Penn State guard D.J. Newbill, who has averaged 28 points in his last five games.
Iowa at North Carolina
7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Tar Heels and Hawkeyes have two of the more challenging non-conference schedules in the country. Iowa has already dropped games to Texas and Syracuse at Madison Square Garden (and faces Iowa State on Dec. 12). North Carolina bounced back from a loss to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis to beat UCLA and Florida (the Heels will visit Kentucky and face Ohio State on a neutral court before Christmas). North Carolina’s Marcus Paige will try to bounce back from a 8-of-24 performance from 3-point range in the converted ballroom down in Atlantis. This game, though, could be a battle of the bigs between Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson of North Carolin and Adam Woodbury, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff of Iowa.
Virginia at Maryland
9:15 p.m., ESPN2
Maryland is off to a 6-0 start, including a win over Iowa State, in a critical year for coach Mark Turgeon. Virginia, though, is as stifling on the defensive end as ever. The Cavaliers are allowing 43.6 points per game and haven’t allowed more than 56 in a game all year. And, yes, we are less than nine months removed from Maryland’s last game against Virginia, the Terrapins’ final game as a member of the ACC.
Georgia Tech at Northwestern
9:15 p.m., ESPNU
Both teams figure to be bottom feeders in their respective conferences. This game won’t do much to counter that opinion.
Duke at Wisconsin
9:30 p.m., ESPN
The headline game of the challenge is a top-four matchup between two teams with national championship aspirations. Duke has been great so far this season, but the young Blue Devils will have a major test against a Final Four-tested Badgers team that can match them at each position. One of the key matchups will be between the two All-America centers in Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky. Both have contrasting styles, Okafor with his post game and Kaminksy with his outside shooting. Also keep an eye on wing Justise Winslow, who has in some ways matched Okafor’s start to the season, against Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.
Athlon Staff Picks
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Nathan Rush|
|Nebraska at Florida State||Nebraska||Florida State||Nebraska||Florida State|
|Rutgers at Clemson||Clemson||Clemson||Clemson||Rutgers|
|Pittsburgh at Indiana||Pitt||Pitt||Pitt||Pitt|
|Minnesota at Wake Forest||Minnesota||Minnesota||Minnesota||Minnesota|
|Syracuse at Michigan||Michigan||Michigan||Michigan||Michigan|
|Illinois at Miami||Miami||Miami||Miami||Miami|
|NC State at Purdue||NC State||Purdue||Purdue||NC State|
|Ohio State at Louisville||Louisville||Ohio State||Louisville||Louisville|
|Michigan State at Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Michigan State||Michigan State||Michigan State|
|Virginia Tech at Penn State||Penn State||Penn State||Penn State||Penn State|
|Iowa at North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina|
|Virginia at Maryland||Virginia||Virginia||Virginia||Virginia|
|Georgia Tech at Northwestern||Northwestern||Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech||Northwestern|
|Duke at Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Duke|
|Final tally||ACC 9-5||Tie 7-7||Tie 7-7||ACC 8-6|
It does not matter which division you put them in, as the Wisconsin Badgers just have a knack for playing for the Big Ten championship game. In the four years the Big Ten has held an organized championship game, Wisconsin will be making their third appearance in Indianapolis this week. Perhaps it is time to respect Wisconsin as one of the top programs in the conference - if we have not done so already.
When the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams and opened the doors to a conference championship, many were quick to suggest the game would be dominated on a regular basis by Ohio State and Michigan. Perhaps this will be true over a longer period of time, but Michigan has yet to play in the game and Ohio State is making just its second appearance in part due to one year of a postseason ban. The Buckeyes came up short in their first Big Ten championship game trip a season ago, losing to Michigan State. Now, without quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes must find a way to slow down a red-hot Wisconsin running game, with their own Heisman candidate running back Melvin Gordon leading the devastating charge.
For Wisconsin, this is an opportunity to proclaim once more to be the team to beat in the Big Ten. Though the Badgers have seen plenty of success in the Big Ten over the last few years, the state of the Big Ten continues to be measured on a national scale based heavily on the status of Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin had a chance to change that slightly with a season-opening game against LSU, but the Badgers saw that win in Houston slip away in the second half. Now is a time for some redemption with a third Big Ten title in four years.
As it turns out, Wisconsin is being shown some respect heading to the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only have the Badgers climbed the rankings enough to hang just outside the top ten in the major polls, but Wisconsin has been tabbed the betting favorite heading to the Big Ten title game. The injury to J.T. Barrett carries some influence in that betting line for sure, but Wisconsin will issue no apologies for that situation.
Winning an outright championship was a rarity in the Big Ten until the introduction of the Big Ten championship game. No school other than Ohio State or Michigan has ever won three outright conference championships in a four-year span. Minnesota did it when the Big Ten was known as the Western Conference with just nine members (Michigan State had not joined the conference yet and Chicago was in its final days as a conference member). If it happened before the Allies claimed victory in World War II, it does not count for much in today’s game. Perhaps the Badgers are looking to establish dominance in the new era of the conference.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Running backs made a strong return to prominence in the 2014 college football season, and no other conference saw running backs take the spotlight the way the Big Ten did. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah entered the season as two of the most recognized running backs in the country, and more than lived up to the hype. With Gordon and Abdullah in the conference, it was easy to overlook the work done by Indiana running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman may be the nation’s most overlooked running back.
Two running backs rushed for 2,000 yards this season. Gordon at Wisconsin you already know. The Badgers running back leads the nation with 2,260 yards and he has a shot at the single-season rushing record with a Big Ten championship game and bowl game still to play. The other 2,000-yard rusher this season is Indiana’s Coleman, and his rushing total may be even more impressive.
Indiana’s offense was dealt a blow with various injuries this season, which put the pressure to keep the offense doing anything squarely on the shoulder pads of Coleman. He was up to the task, running for 100 yards in all but one game this season. He rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State and 132 yards against Michigan State. Though the Hoosiers were unable to string together enough wins to go to a bowl game, it was not for a lack of effort from Coleman. He just needed more of a supporting cast or a defense to get to the postseason.
Those who watch Big Ten football may be much more familiar with Coleman, but in a year that seemed to be heavy on running back depth in the Big Ten, missing out on hapless Indiana and their running back star must have been common for the casual college football fan. The Big Ten will see Gordon fly to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and Nebraska’s Abdullah is a household name. The Big Ten also saw Jeremy Langford be a big piece of top 10 Michigan State’s offense all season long. Minnesota’s David Cobb also had an impact for a Gophers team making a push for a division title. Coleman’s biggest flaw was playing on a losing team, which is often the case for talented players most people may not know much about.
If Coleman returns to the Hoosiers in 2015, he will no longer be flying under the radar. Running backs may have had a strong season in college football, but the importance of the running back has taken a hit in the NFL Draft. Maybe that will be enough to keep Coleman in Bloomington for another year. If so, then Kevin Wilson’s offense will have a valuable piece to work with in 2015.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
California ran into a brick wall on its path to the postseason in 2014, but the program appears to be in solid hands with head coach Sonny Dykes.
Cal ended its 2014 season sitting on five wins, one win shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. The first season under Dykes may have looked like a mistake with just one win to celebrate in 2013, but Dykes has shown Cal has potential to compete in the Pac-12 using his coaching style and system. It just took some time for that to become a reality.
The difference one season under Dykes made was undeniable. In his first season at Cal, the Bears ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring with just 23.0 points per game in 2013. That matched the 2012 scoring average of Cal, but the win total went down in the process as Dykes took over. No team in the Pac-12 improved its average scoring output in 2014. The Bears finished the season ranked second in scoring average, behind only Oregon, with an average of 38.3 points per game.
As expected, Dykes has used the passing game to lead his program. When Dykes took over, the Bears improved from ninth to third in the Pac-12 in passing offense, adding about 121 passing yards per game in 2013 compared to 2012. This season the Bears added even more to the passing game with 346.0 passing yards per game. Only Washington State and Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense had more passing yards per game. Cal may not be running the ball as much as it did before Dykes was named the head coach, but the running game did improve this season compared to 2013. The Bears rushed for nearly 150 yards per game this season, up from 123.7 ypg in 2013. More importantly, California more than doubled its rushing touchdown total in 2014, going from just 10 in 2013 to 22 in 2014.
Next season, Cal should be in line for a bowl trip if everything continues to develop the way it has this season. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff will return an experienced junior with nearly 4,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in 2014. Leading receivers Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs could all be back as targets next season as well. Throw in a potential senior running back in Daniel Lasco, with his 1,115 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and the ingredients of a healthy and potent offense are in place. There will be a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line, but Dykes is going to have an offense that will be ready to take the next step in 2015. If the defense can start to improve the way the offense has, getting to six wins should easily be within reach next season.
Cal’s defense allowed a Pac-12 worst 39.8 points per game in 2014. With four losses decided by one score, Cal does not need to be Stanford on defense to get back to the postseason. Trimming just five points from two losses would have resulted in two more wins. Cal is close to being a bowl team, and this is the first step. At Cal, the focus will not be on winning a Pac-12 title, or even a Pac-12 North title, but a step in the right direction. Dykes is leading Cal in the right direction.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
NC State added about a touchdown per game to its scoring average. At the same time, it trimmed three points off its defensive scoring average. The result? An increase of four wins and a bowl trip in Dave Doeren’s second season in Raleigh.
Year two under Doeren got off to a solid start, although it took advantage of a weak non-conference schedule. The Wolfpack picked up wins out of the gate against Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian. A 4-0 start is always nice, regardless of the competition, but it was not until a home date with Florida State in late September we got a true glimpse of the potential NC State would come to show off this season. NC State caught Florida State sleeping in Raleigh, but as so many teams have found out this season, putting Florida State to sleep for good is an incredibly difficult task. NC State showed plenty of firepower, but Florida State had just a little bit more in a 56-41 decision.
It looked as though NC State had already hit a wall. A week after the wild setback against the Seminoles, the Wolfpack were shutout on the road at Clemson, 41-0. Two more double-digit losses in ACC play to Boston College and Louisville appeared to drop NC State back to some reality that Doeren had plenty of work to still do. As it turned out, that is when NC State did get to work.
NC State forced three turnovers in a road win at Syracuse. Another setback against ACC Coastal champion Georgia Tech followed, but NC State finished on quite the high note in the regular season. The Wolfpack blew away Wake Forest to clinch bowl eligibility, and wrapped up the regular season with another in-state blowout victory against North Carolina, 35-7. Any time a North Carolina school can go undefeated against in-state opponents, it is a cause for celebration.
There is no question Doeren is leading NC State down a positive path, although there is much work to be done before making any plans to challenge Florida State, Clemson and perhaps Louisville for the Atlantic Division. Ending the season with a bowl victory would be nice, but the focus on 2015 should already begin.
NC State will lose a bunch of talent from the starting offense, and perhaps more if some juniors leave with a year of eligibility remaining. The defense will look to fill a bunch of holes as well. Playing in a bowl game can help give new faces some extra reps to prepare for the future, and that should not be overlooked. NC State looks to be heading to a rebuilding year, but it does not have to be if Doeren’s Wolfpack make the most of extra bowl practices and the bowl game.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Very few players have been scrutinized as much as Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace in the past few seasons.
The opinion of Dr. Bo Wallace — the nickname given to him by his cult-like followers on the Twitterverse — fluctuated from “Good Bo” to “Bad Bo” seemingly with every pass.
Wallace had some issues early in the fall — he threw three interceptions in a Week 1 win over Boise State — but there was far more good than bad in the first half of the season. In fact, Wallace did not throw a pick in his first four SEC games, all wins by Ole Miss.
Then, as the scheduled toughened up a bit and injuries began to mount on the Rebel offense, Wallace’s production dipped. He did throw for 339 yards with no interceptions in a narrow loss to Auburn, but he managed only 176 yards at LSU and threw two costly INTs in the end zone in a stunning 30–0 loss at Arkansas last week.
Wallace and the Rebels, once ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, limped — figuratively and literally — into the final regular-season game of the season riding a three-game SEC losing streak. Ole Miss was only a slight underdog, but you would be hard-pressed to find many outside of Oxford who were forecasting a Rebel victory.
Well, Wallace, who has made a career of defying the odds, led his team to an improbable 31–17 win over Mississippi State that gave Ole Miss its first winning SEC season since 2008. The quarterback who couldn’t land an SEC offer coming out of Pulaski, Tenn., threw for 296 yards on a bad ankle to deliver arguably the most satisfying win of the Hugh Freeze era. Sure, beating Alabama was nice, but knocking rival Mississippi State out of the CFB Playoff picture was a great way to walk off the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium or the final time.
“I knew this game would define my legacy,” said Wallace, who somehow flirted with the 300-yard mark despite completing only 13 passes. “I had to win this game to be remembered like I want. ... I hope they’ll remember as a guy who gave his all ever single game and won a lot of games.”
There’s one simple stat that tells the story of Alabama’s 55–44 Iron Bowl victory. And at first glance, it appears that Auburn did quite well executing its offense in the red zone. After, all the Tigers scored on seven of their eight trips inside the Alabama 20-yard line. But five of those seven scores ended in field goals, including four of fewer than 25 yards. Auburn had seven possessions that went 60 yards or more — an amazing feat against the Alabama defense — but only two of those seven ended with a touchdown.
“I think the name of the game really was that when we got in the red zone, we had to kick field goals,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We kicked five of them and didn’t score our touchdowns. We had enough yards to score a whole bunch of points and that was probably the name of the game.”
Alabama, on the other hand, converted its opportunities into touchdowns, finding the end zone on all five of its trips into the red zone.
The Tide was especially efficient in the second half; after Alabama’s first drive of the third quarter ended with a Blake Sims interception — his third of the game — it proceeded to score a touchdown on its final five possessions of the game. A 36–27 deficit gradually turned into a 55–36 lead.
“We started making some plays on offense can got the momentum of the game back,” coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama’s outstanding execution in the second half resulted in some gaudy final stats. Despite running only 61 plays — the second-fewest of the season — the Tide accumulated 539 yards of offense and averaged 8.84 yards per play, the most against an SEC opponent since they went for 9.1 in a 52–7 win at Ole Miss in 2011.
Nebraska fired coach Bo Pelini after the Cornhuskers closed the 2014 regular season with a 9-3 record. Pelini’s record in Lincoln was an impressive 67-27, but the program never took the next step under his watch. Nebraska won at least nine games in each of Pelini’s seven seasons and had four finishes in the final Associated Press poll. However, the Cornhuskers never played in one of college football’s premier bowl games or won a conference title.
Nebraska is one of the top 25 jobs in college football, but there are also drawbacks to coaching in Lincoln. The state does not produce enough in-state talent to win a national championship, which means the coaching staff has to recruit Texas and surrounding areas for talent.
Even though this job may not be as elite as some would suggest, Nebraska has all of the necessary resources to win a Big Ten title – and it’s the best program in the Big Ten West Division.
13 Candidates to Replace Bo Pelini at Nebraska
Steve Addazio, Head Coach, Boston College
Addazio has quickly emerged as one of the top coaches in the ACC over the last two years. Boston College is 14-11 under Addazio’s watch and has finished .500 in league play in both seasons. Prior to Addazio’s arrival, the Eagles went 6-18 from 2011-12 and missed out on bowl appearances in both years. Making Addazio’s two years in Chestnut Hill even more impressive is his ability to win with the available talent and mesh with graduate transfers (quarterback Tyler Murphy), while the program reloads and builds an identity through recruiting. Addazio’s style of play (run-first mentality and toughness) would translate well in Lincoln. Prior to taking over at Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and served as an assistant at Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Podcast: Who should be Nebraska's next head coach?
Craig Bohl, Head Coach, Wyoming
To borrow a term from another Big Ten program, Bohl seems to be a “Nebraska man.” He’s a Lincoln native, played under Tom Osborne from 1977-79 and worked on the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff from 1995-02. Bohl was hired as North Dakota State’s head coach in 2003, and he led the Bison until 2013 when he was hired at Wyoming. Bohl’s record with the Bison was a stellar 104-32 and included three consecutive FCS Championships from 2011-13. Bohl led Wyoming to a 4-8 mark in 2014.
Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun currently coaches at his alma mater (Air Force), so it’s not a guarantee that he wants to leave for another job. Calhoun is 58-44 in eight seasons with the Falcons and guided the program to six consecutive bowl appearances from 2007-12. Air Force missed out on a bowl and went 2-10 in 2013, which was Calhoun’s worst season with the program. However, the Falcons rebounded to 9-3 and could reach 10 victories if they win a bowl game. And considering Nebraska’s history with the option offense, Calhoun’s ties to that style of play would be attractive to the fanbase. Calhoun also has stops on his resume from stints in the NFL (Houston and Denver) and in college with Ohio and Wake Forest.
Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz is coming off a successful debut at Georgia Southern, as the Eagles finished 9-3 in their first season on the FBS level. Barring an appeal that’s approved by the NCAA, Georgia Southern won’t be eligible for a bowl game, but a 9-3 record with a Sun Belt title is an impressive debut from Fritz. Prior to Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-14 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. The Kansas native could be in the mix for the opening with the Jayhawks after the program fired coach Charlie Weis earlier this year.
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
As a former Nebraska quarterback, Frost is already a popular name in the search to replace Bo Pelini. Frost is only 39 years old, and a younger coach could spark energy into a program that is looking to move back into the national title mix on a yearly basis. The Lincoln native doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but he spent one season as a graduate assistant at Nebraska (2002), a year in the same capacity with Kansas State (2006) and two seasons at Northern Iowa from 2007-08. Frost was hired by former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to tutor the wide receivers in 2009, and he served in that capacity until the start of the 2013 season. Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator after Kelly left for the NFL, and the Ducks’ offense continues to be one of the best in the nation under his watch. Oregon averaged 45.5 points per game in 2013 and has a 45.9 mark entering the Pac-12 Championship.
Justin Fuente, Head Coach, Memphis
Fuente inherited a mess after the failed Larry Porter era at Memphis. But in just three years, the Tigers went from 4-8 to winning a share of the American Athletic Conference title in 2014. Fuente’s record at Memphis is just 16-20, but the program has clearly made progress under his watch and finished 9-3 in its second season playing in the American Athletic Conference. The Oklahoma native is no stranger to coaching in the Midwest, as he spent five years under Gary Patterson at TCU and worked from 2001-06 at Illinois State.
Mike Gundy, Head Coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy is 82-44 since taking over as Oklahoma State’s head coach in 2005. Considering he works at his alma mater, Gundy isn’t necessarily looking to leave Stillwater, but reports have indicated there could be friction between the head coach and athletic director Mike Holder. Under Gundy’s direction, the Cowboys have played in eight consecutive bowl games and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. Gundy’s name also popped up in connection with the opening at Florida.
Mark Hudspeth, Head Coach, UL Lafayette
Hudspeth has been successful at two different head coaching stops, including a 35-16 mark with UL Lafayette over the last four years. The Ragin’ Cajuns are also poised to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance after an 8-4 mark in 2014. Prior to taking over at ULL, Hudspeth worked as an assistant at Mississippi State for two seasons (2009-10) and worked for seven years as the head coach at North Alabama (66-21). Hudspeth also has stops in his career at Navy, Delta State and Central Arkansas. Hudspeth is due for a promotion to run a Power 5 job, but his background suggests he would be more interested in SEC openings.
Jerry Kill, Head Coach, Minnesota
Nebraska fans are certainly familiar with Kill after Minnesota claimed back-to-back victories against the Cornhuskers in 2013-14. The Kansas native has a good job at Minnesota, but it’s much easier to win at a higher level at Nebraska. Kill wouldn’t necessarily be the most exciting hire for a program that wants to return to national prominence. However, there’s no doubt Kill knows how to win games. He went 38-14 in five years at Saginaw Valley State, 55-32 in seven seasons at Southern Illinois, 23-16 at Northern Illinois and is 25-25 in four years with the Golden Gophers. Kill’s career record is 152-98, and he has elevated the Minnesota program over the last two seasons.
Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Colorado State
McElwain is one of the rising stars in college football’s coaching ranks. In three years with Colorado State, McElwain is 22-16 and has the Rams poised to earn back-to-back bowl appearances. Colorado State is also 15-3 in McElwain’s last 18 games, which includes wins over Power 5 opponents in Boston College, Washington State and Colorado. Prior to taking the top spot in Fort Collins, McElwain served as an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008-11, coordinated Fresno State’s offense in 2007 and worked with the Raiders in 2006. He also has stops as an assistant at Michigan State, Louisville, Eastern Washington and Montana State. McElwain is primed to eventually move up the coaching ranks, but there’s a potential issue with his buyout. All signs point to McElwain’s buyout at Colorado State checking in at a hefty $7.5 million this year.
Joe Moglia, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Moglia might be a better fit in the longshot category, but he’s an intriguing name to remember in coaching searches this offseason. The former Ameritrade CEO spent two years as a volunteer assistant at Nebraska (2009-10) and was hired as Coastal Carolina’s coach after a four-game stint with the Omaha Nighthawks. In three years with the Chanticleers, Moglia’s record is 31-9 and has guided the program to three consecutive FCS playoff appearances.
Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State
Would Nebraska venture into the defensive assistant ranks once again for a coach? If so, Narduzzi would be a home-run hire for athletic director Shawn Eichorst. The Connecticut native reportedly turned down the UConn job last year, but it’s only a matter of time before he runs his own program. Narduzzi has coordinated some of the nation’s top defenses at Michigan State, including the 2013 season when the Spartans led the nation by holding opponents to four yards per play. Prior to coordinating Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi called the defensive signals at Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) and has stops as an assistant at Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.
Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach
Schiano sat out the 2014 season after he was fired after two years as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Despite the failed stint in the NFL, Schiano is expected to get back in the mix for college jobs, as he recorded a 68-67 record at Rutgers, which included six bowl appearances over his final seven years. Schiano’s record with the Scarlet Knights was just one win over .500, but he inherited a program that won only nine games in the four years prior to his arrival.
Other Names to Watch/Longshots
Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst has ties to Wisconsin from a stint under Barry Alvarez in the program’s athletic department from 2006-11. Eichorst and Aranda didn’t work together at Wisconsin, but it’s probably a safe bet Eichorst has kept a close watch on the Badgers over the last few years. Aranda helped to coordinate a defense that led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed per game (16.8) in 2014. A rising star in the coaching ranks but likely a year or two away from taking a head coaching job.
Al Golden, Head Coach, Miami
Golden has ties to athletic director Shawn Eichorst, as they worked together in Miami from 2011-12. However, Golden could be a tough sell in Lincoln after a 28-21 start to his tenure in Coral Gables. Additionally, the Hurricanes are coming off a 6-6 record and went 3-5 in a mediocre Coastal Division.
Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers
All signs point to Harbaugh coaching somewhere other than San Francisco in 2015. Will it be Michigan, the Raiders or the Jets? Hard to see Harbaugh going to Nebraska, but he’s a name to watch in all coaching searches this offseason.
Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense ranked as the best in the Big Ten by averaging 44.1 points per game. Herman and coach Urban Meyer were instrumental in the development of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and will have to do the same for Cardale Jones after Barrett’s injury against Michigan. Herman has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International. Expect Herman to get a look for openings outside of the Power 5 leagues.
Jim Tressel, Former Ohio State Head Coach
Tressel has been out of coaching since he resigned at Ohio State after the 2010 season. While the end of his tenure with the Buckeyes was rocky with NCAA problems, Tressel is a proven winner with a 241-79 career record. Is he ready to get back into coaching? Or is Tressel comfortable serving in an administration role at Youngstown State?
Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson
Venables is familiar with Nebraska from his time as a player and coach at Kansas State. And Venables has emerged as one of the nation’s highest-paid defensive coordinators and has guided Clemson’s defense to finishes inside of the top three in the ACC in scoring defense over the last three seasons.
Nebraska has fired coach Bo Pelini. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst will hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss Pelini's firing and what's next for the program. Pelini will not coach Nebraska in a bowl game.
Pelini went 67-27 in seven full years with the Cornhuskers and won at least nine games in each season.
However, the expectations are high at Nebraska. Pelini never won a conference championship and never led the program to one of college football’s top bowl games.
Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has dismissed Head Football Coach Bo Pelini effective immediately. Press conference 1pm.— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) November 30, 2014
Coach Pelini served our University admirably for seven years and led our football program’s transition to the Big Ten Conference. -Eichorst— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) November 30, 2014
A potential Super Bowl XLIX preview pits Tom Brady’s New England Patriots (9-2) against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers (8-3) this afternoon on CBS in the first matchup between these two QB legends. Rodgers has been nearly unstoppable at Lambeau Field this season, where he has thrown for 1,413 yards, 18 TDs and zero INTs on his way to a perfect 5–0 record. Most Packers fans would like to forget Tom Brady’s first and only trip to Title Town, when he threw four TDs in a 35–0 shutout victory in 2006.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Green Bay -3
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs DEN||W 43 - 21||Recap|
|11/16||@ IND||W 42 - 20||Recap|
|11/23||vs DET||W 34 - 9||Recap|
|11/30||@ GB||L 21 - 26||Recap|
|12/7||@ SD||W 23 - 14||Recap|
|12/14||vs MIA||W 41 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ NYJ||W 17 - 16||Recap|
|12/28||vs BUF||L 9 - 17||Recap|
New England’s Key to Victory: Piercing the Lambeau Mystique
The Patriots are walking into a true hornet’s nest on Sunday. Lambeau Field may provide the best home-field advantage in the NFL. This season, Green Bay is 5–0 on the tundra, outscoring those five opponents 219–85 — an average score of 44–17. In their last two home games, the Packers have shown no mercy, dispatching Chicago 55–14 (after building a 42–0 halftime lead) and Philadelphia 53–20 (after holding a 30–6 halftime advantage). Clearly, it’s incumbent upon the Patriots to weather the early storm. In their last loss, a 41–14 Week 4 blowout at the hands of the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Patriots fell behind 27–0 in the third quarter. A similar start against the Packers will be a death knell for the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak.
|Green Bay 2014 Schedule|
|11/9||vs CHI||W 55 - 14||Recap|
|11/16||vs PHI||W 53 - 20||Recap|
|11/23||@ MIN||W 24 - 21||Recap|
|11/30||vs NE||W 26 - 21||Recap|
|12/8||vs ATL||W 43 - 37||Recap|
|12/14||@ BUF||L 13 - 21||Recap|
|12/21||@ TB||W 20 - 3||Recap|
|12/28||vs DET||W 30 - 20||Recap|
Green Bay’s Key to Victory: Disrupting Brady’s Rhythm
The last time the Packers played an elite quarterback, Drew Brees carved up the Green Bay defense in a 21-point Saints win. If Tom Brady gets in a similar groove, it will be a long afternoon for the Packers. After four interception-free games in a row, Brady has tossed four picks in the last three games, giving the Packers a glimmer of hope that they can get him off his game. “When you're playing against these quarterbacks like Brady, it's like having a coach on the field," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Kind of like what Aaron does where he calls a lot of the game and has the flexibility to change things on the field. You have to be on top of your game in terms of the alignments, the disguise, those pre-snap reads. So, hopefully you don't let them get into a rhythm, because he's as good as there is.”
Two of the hottest teams in the NFL provide the main course for a Thanksgiving weekend feast. It’s worth noting, though, that New England has navigated a tougher schedule and can claim Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis among its victims. If the Patriots’ cobbled-together running game can find room to run against Green Bay’s 30th-ranked rush defense, the P-men should run their winning streak to eight.
Prediction: New England 27, Green Bay 24
The Kansas City Chiefs will try and tighten up the AFC West race when they host the Denver Broncos tonight on NBC. The Chiefs (7-4) trail the Broncos (8-3) by a game in the win column, but two in divisional play (1-2 vs. 3-0), so a victory tonight would only add to the intrigue over the last month of the regular season.
Denver has defeated Kansas City five straight times and a win in Arrowhead Stadium would definitely put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for a fourth straight AFC West crown. Each of the last two meetings between these teams has been decided by a touchdown. Denver beat Kansas City 24-17 at home back in Week 2.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Denver -2.5
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ NE||L 21 - 43||Recap|
|11/9||@ OAK||W 41 - 17||Recap|
|11/16||@ STL||L 7 - 22||Recap|
|11/23||vs MIA||W 39 - 36||Recap|
|11/30||@ KC||W 29 - 16||Recap|
|12/7||vs BUF||W 24 - 17||Recap|
|12/14||@ SD||W 22 - 10||Recap|
|12/22||@ CIN||L 28 - 37||Recap|
Denver’s Key to Victory: Keep Charles in Check
The Broncos’ defense has done a good job against the run all season. Denver enters this game ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. Ironically, the most yards the Broncos have given up on the ground this season were to the Chiefs, who rushed for 133 in Week 2. In that game it wasn’t Jamaal Charles who did the damage though, as he departed early with an ankle injury. Instead it was Charles’ backup, Knile Davis, who finished with 79 yards on 22 carries (3.6 ypc) and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns. Alex Smith added 42 yards on five carries, as the Chiefs outrushed the Broncos 133 to 88. Charles wound up missing just one game and has re-established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous running backs. Since Kansas City’s bye in Week 6 Charles has averaged 96.2 yards rushing per game. He’s also scored eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving) in these six games. Denver’s defense is pretty banged up, especially at linebacker, but its focus does not change – contain Charles. Even with one game missed because of injury, Charles has accounted for more than a quarter (962 total yards) of Kansas City’s total offense (3,593). Limit Charles and you have taken a big piece away from the Chiefs’ attack.
|Kansas City 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs NYJ||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|11/9||@ BUF||W 17 - 13||Recap|
|11/16||vs SEA||W 24 - 20||Recap|
|11/20||@ OAK||L 20 - 24||Recap|
|11/30||vs DEN||L 16 - 29||Recap|
|12/7||@ ARI||L 14 - 17||Recap|
|12/14||vs OAK||W 31 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ PIT||L 12 - 20||Recap|
Kansas City’s Key to Victory: Force Peyton to Pass
Make Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play quarterback, throw the football? At first it probably sounds like crazy talk, but hear me out. As prolific and potent Denver’s passing attack is, the Broncos are a better team when they are balanced on offense. Against Seattle, New England and St. Louis, Manning averaged an impressive 364.7 yards passing per game – and lost all three. Turnovers (5 INTs) obviously played a role, but another common thread was Denver’s inability to run the ball, averaging a measly 35.7 yards rushing per game. Contrast that to last week when C.J. Anderson ran for 167 of the Broncos’ season-high 201 yards, which helped fuel Denver’s comeback (trailed 28-17 with 2:11 left in the third quarter) win against Miami at home. A consistent running game only makes the Broncos’ aerial attack more dangerous, as it opens up play-action and usually results in coverage mismatches Manning can exploit. When you force Manning to throw, it allows defenses to focus on pass coverage and applying pressure. Case in point, despite all of the passing yards against the Seahawks, Patriots and Rams, Manning’s completion rate was 62 percent for those three games and Denver managed just 16 points per game. Compare that to a 72 percent completion rate and 35.5 points per game in the Broncos’ eight wins. As strange as it sounds, the Chiefs’ best strategy tonight may be to focus on shutting down Anderson, a second-year undrafted free agent, and instead take their chances against the five-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. It’s a strategy that has worked for other teams, so why not Kansas City?
If Kansas City hadn’t lost to Oakland last week, tonight’s game would be a battle for first place in the AFC West. As it stands now, the Chiefs must beat the Broncos at home or the division title could basically be decided. Denver has yet to lose in divisional play (3-0), while Kansas City is just 1-2. By sweeping the Chiefs, the Broncos can essentially eliminate Andy Reid’s team from title contention. What’s more, Kansas City hasn’t beaten Denver since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos in 2012. Some of the games have been close, but it’s been a continuation of the dominance Manning has had against the Chiefs since coming into the NFL. Manning is 12-1 against Kansas City in his career, including 2-0 in the playoffs when he was in Indianapolis. Manning aside, I just don’t think the Chiefs have enough firepower of their own to overcome Denver’s rejuvenated running game or a defense that excels in the same department. Manning won’t have to carry the team in this one, as a well-rounded effort extends the Broncos’ winning streak against the Chiefs to six.
Prediction: Denver 27, Kansas City 20
Alabama is known for its elite defenses under coach Nick Saban, but in order to win the Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn and keep its national title hopes alive, the Crimson Tide leaned on the offense and receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper earned Athlon Sports Week 14 Player of the Week honors by catching 13 passes for 224 yards and three scores in a 55-44 shootout victory over Auburn. The junior caught 13 of quarterback Blake Sims’ 20 completions, as the Tigers’ secondary simply had no answer for the receiver that should win the Biletnikoff Award in December.
Cooper and quarterback Blake Sims guided Alabama back from a 26-20 halftime deficit in the highest-scoring game in Iron Bowl history. The Sims-Cooper connection helped to power an offense that averaged 8.8 yards per play and scored on each of its final five drives of the second half.
Cooper caught two of his touchdowns after halftime, including a 75-yard bomb from Sims to cut Auburn’s lead to 36-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Iron Bowl totals – 13 catches for 224 yards and three scores – each tied a season-high for Cooper.
Cooper heads into the SEC Championship with 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdown catches.
Defensive Player of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Wright continued to state his case as the best defensive player in college football this season with a huge performance in the win over Arizona State. The sophomore helped the Wildcats clinch the Pac-12 South title by leading the team with 13 tackles (five for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Wright’s forced fumble came on Arizona State’s third offensive play from scrimmage, which was returned by Anthony Lopez to give Arizona an early 7-0 lead. Wright heads into the Pac-12 Championship with 139 total tackles, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss
The Rebels reclaimed in-state bragging rights and the Egg Bowl trophy after a 31-17 victory over Mississippi State in Oxford. The offense generated 532 yards, but the defense – and coordinator Dave Wommack – deserves accolades for holding Mississippi State to just 17 points and 5.3 yards per play. The 17 points scored by the Bulldogs tied a season-low, and the 5.3 yards per play mark was the second-lowest total recorded by coach Dan Mullen’s team in 2014. Mississippi State’s offense accumulated 445 total yards, but Wommack’s defense stepped up when it mattered. The Rebels stopped two drives on downs and limited the Bulldogs to just one red zone conversion score on three opportunities. Ole Miss also recorded three sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Wommack’s defense also refused to allow Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott any room on the ground, limiting the junior to 48 yards on 24 attempts. Injuries took a toll on the Ole Miss defense in 2014, but the Rebels stood tall against their in-state rival.
Freshman of the Week: Kyle Bolin, QB, Louisville
Bolin became an unlikely hero in Louisville’s 44-40 victory over Kentucky. After a knee injury sidelined starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, Bolin entered the game in the second quarter and jumpstarted the offense. The redshirt freshman from Lexington attempted just seven passes prior to Saturday’s game but showed poise against Kentucky’s pass rush and helped to guide coach Bobby Petrino’s team back from a 13-0 deficit to a huge victory in the rivalry matchup. Bolin completed 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards and three scores, with all three of his touchdown tosses traveling at least 33 yards.
Not only is Arian Foster expected to return today, he also has a very appealing matchup for Week 13. While Foster is the indisputable workhorse for Houston, the backfield situations for Minnesota and Tampa Bay are slightly more complicated, and not nearly as palatable fantasy-wise.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Probable – Shoulder
Mathews missed seven games because of a MCL sprain, but returned two weeks ago and has rushed for 175 yards in the past two games. He put up 105 last week against the Rams, but also left at one point because of a shoulder injury. The good news is that he did return to that game and was a full practice participant this week. He is Probable, and you must start Mathews, but just keep in mind that the Ravens are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
Probable – Groin
After missing the past two games because of a groin injury, it looks like Foster will finally get back on the field today. He was still limited in practice on Friday, but Foster is listed as Probable, which is defined as a “virtual certainty” to play. Head coach Bill O’Brien also has said he expects Foster to play. As frustrating as it’s been to own Foster this season, at least he’s picking a good time to get back out there. The Titans are last in the NFL in rushing defense (145.4 ypg) and have given up 13 TDs on the ground. Foster is a must-start and his return means Alfred Blue’s days of fantasy relevancy are probably over.
Charles Sims, RBs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Probable – Ankle
Sims is the only Buccaneer back on the injury report this week, as Doug Martin has been removed. Sims was limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, but got in a full session on Friday and is listed as Probable. Even though it looks like Sims and Martin are good to go for today, I’m not sure I would trust either in my starting lineup. For one, both will at least share the touches and last week that breakdown was 12 for Martin and eight for Sims. Those 20 touches, however, produced a total of 64 yards and no touchdowns. The only thing that appears clear with this backfield at this point is that Bobby Rainey is pretty much a non-factor. As far as Sims and Martin go, if you want to take a chance on either, you go right ahead but I hope it’s as nothing more than a desperation flex option.
Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, RBs, Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers
Probable – Concussion; Doubftul – Back
Looks like the Vikings will be down one man in their backfield, but it will be a different face this week. Asiata is listed as Probable and expected to return today after missing last week because of a concussion. McKinnon, however, is Doubtful as his back injury has gotten progressively worse. He was not able to practice at all this week and with the recent addition of Ben Tate, there’s no reason for the Vikings to take any chances with their third-round pick. In fact, McKinnon himself said on Friday that he was not going to play. Even without McKinnon, there could be three mouths to feed today against the Panthers with Asiata, Tate and second-year back Joe Banyard likely to see touches. How the touches will get distributed is anyone’s guess, but this has all the makings of a dreaded RBBC and is a situation I would avoid at all costs.
A generous Atlanta defense may be just what Arizona needs to get its top running back going in Week 13. Elsewhere, New Orleans’ backfield should be well stocked this week, Denver’s has become more of a one-man show recently and Oakland will have to make do without its most explosive option.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)
Probable – Knee
Miller has been dealing with a knee issue the last few weeks, but he’s been able to play through it and it also hasn’t caused him to miss much practice time. He was a full practice participant this week, so his Probable designation is a mere formality. As bad as the Jets have been record-wise, this is not an ideal matchup for Miller. New York’s defense has done a pretty job against the run, giving up just 3.4 yards per carry. Miller does catch a break in that Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson won’t play, but yards will probably be pretty tough to come by on the ground, which is why Miller is a low-end RB2 this week.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons
Probable – Foot/Hip
Injuries really aren’t the main concern when it comes to Ellington. He’s been dealing with something every week this season and even though his practice time has been limited, he’s yet to miss a game. He’s Probable for this one too, but what Ellington’s owners are really hoping for is that this matchup against the Falcons will be what finally gets him going again. Ellington is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and has one touchdown over his last three games. He continues to see a fair number of targets (64 for the season), which has helped maintain his fantasy value. The Falcons are giving up the most fantasy points to RBs, so hopefully Ellington will be able to put up RB1 numbers.
Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, RBs, New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Shoulder; Out – Forearm; Probable – Rib/Shoulder
No change to last week – Robinson is out yet again while everyone else is Probable. Ingram remains the most appealing option of this backfield, but it’s worth noting that after averaging 26 carries over a four-game stretch, he had just 11 on Monday night against Baltimore. The good news is that total was still more than half of the team’s 21 carries, so Ingram maintains RB2 status. Monday night also marked Thomas’ return from a four-game absence, and as expected, he impacted Cadet the most. Based on Monday night’s usage (Thomas 11 touches, Cadet two), it certainly appears that Thomas has reclaimed his versatile role in New Orleans’ offense, making him the more appealing flex option for this week, if not the rest of the way.
Already Ruled Out:
Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders – In less than a half last week Murray racked up 112 yards rushing (on just four carries) and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he left in the second quarter after sustaining a concussion and he’s already been ruled out for today. In Murray’s absence, Darren McFadden should get the most touches out of a committee that also includes Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcel Reece. This also is a committee that you should pay no attention to.
Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos – Neither Ball (groin) nor Hillman (foot) practiced this week, so this duo will be inactive for yet another game. C.J. Anderson exploded for 167 yards rushing and a touchdown last week against Miami and is firmly entrenched as a top-10 option against Kansas City this week. Anderson’s effectiveness makes Juwan Thompson mostly an afterthought, as there’s no guarantee he’ll see enough touches to even merit flex consideration.
Arizona and Atlanta both have some banged up targets entering their Week 13 matchup. Will the Cardinals or Falcons or any other team in action be shorthanded in their wide receiver corps this week?
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Questionable – Ankle
White is back on the injury report after not being able to practice because of an ankle issue. He’s listed as Questionable, but Mike Smith said on Friday that he expects White to play despite the injury and missed practice time. White’s production has actually been on the uptick lately – averaging 82 yards receiving with three touchdowns over the past five games – so his status is something definitely worth keeping an eye on. The Falcons play later in the afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET kickoff) out in Arizona, but I think it’s safe to take Smith at his word and keep White in your starting lineup.
John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, WRs, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons
Probable – Teeth; Questionable – Knee
Brown had his wisdom teeth pulled earlier this week, which is why he shows up on the injury report. He’s listed as Probable and should be just fine today. The same can’t be said for Fitzgerald, however, who saw his streak of 110 consecutive regular-season games end last week because of a knee injury (Grade 2 MCL sprain). Fitzgerald is anxious to return and he was able to practice a little on Friday. He’s Questionable and will be a game-time decision. The matchup with the Falcons is appealing, but Brown and Michael Floyd are much safer options than Fitzgerald. If you can wait for the later (4:05 p.m. ET) kickoff before making a final decision, you are welcome to do so, but I wouldn’t count on having Fitzgerald in my lineup this week.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)
Probable – Chest
Wallace continues to get nicked up, as he was limited in practice this week due to a chest injury. He is considered Probable and despite all the bumps and bruises, he’s yet to miss a game. Wallace caught just four passes last week against Denver, but one of those was for a touchdown, his seventh of the season. He’s averaging about eight targets per game and has already surpassed his touchdown total from 2013 (five), two reasons why Wallace has been a top-25 fantasy WR this season. Regardless of the matchup, Wallace is pretty locked in as a WR2.
Brandon LaFell, WR, New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Questionable – Shoulder
Last week it was Julian Edelman who was dealing with a thigh injury, this week it’s LaFell, who was limited in practice by a shoulder ailment, which has him listed as Questionable. LaFell should be out there today and he did lead tbhe Patriots last week with 98 yards on nine catches (12 targets). His production can be up-and-down, but given this matchup against Green Bay, LaFell should be a relatively safe WR3/flex option.
Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders
Probable – Back
A back injury is bothering Britt enough that he didn’t practice on Wednesday. He was a full go the rest of the way, however, and is listed as Probable. Britt is the closest thing the Rams have to a No. 1 WR right now, which isn’t saying much. He does have two touchdown receptions over his last four games and two weeks ago put up a season-best 128 yards receiving. Britt is a risky play regardless, but he could end up earning his keep as a flex or a WR3 depending on your other options and your willingness to roll the dice.
Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns
Probable – Ankle
Woods caught a career-high nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ Monday night romp over the Jets, but was limited in practice because of an ankle injury. The issue must not be that worrisome, however, as Woods is Probable. Even though Woods is the hot hand, be sure to temper your expectations if you plan on having him in your lineup today. Before Monday night’s breakout, Woods had caught 36 passes for 361 yards (10.0 ypr) and two scores in 10 games. That’s less than four catches and 36 yards per game. That’s not even reliable flex production in a PPR league.
Greg Jennings and Coradarrelle Patterson WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers
Probable – Rib; Probable – Knee
Jennings was a full practice participant this week, so he’s good to go. Patterson on the other hand, didn’t practice until Friday. Both are listed as Probable, so the expectation is they will play. However, I wouldn’t trust any Viking WR in my starting lineup. Jennings is inconsistent, Patterson has been a colossal bust and pretty much replaced in the starting lineup by Charles Johnson. And there’s also the fact that Teddy Bridgewater has looked every bit like the rookie quarterback he is over the past several weeks. Right now, Minnesota's backfield and wide receiver corps have two things in common: 1) both are unsettled situations and 2) are positions you don’t want to have anything to do with fantasy-wise.
The Week 13 tight end injury report is brought to you by the letter J. Between Jared, Julius and a pair of Jordans, Athlon Sports has the latest on the TE injury news you need to know, even if their first or last name doesn’t start with a J.
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders
Probable – Back
Cook was a full go on both Thursday and Friday, so his mere practice participation alone indicates his back is getting better. He was Questionable last week and played, so there’s little doubt regarding his availability this week given his Probable designation. Cook was targeted nine times last week against the Chargers, but reeled in only three of those for 27 yards. The Raiders are a more appealing matchup, but this is a TE who has a total of one touchdown catch even though he’s been targeted 70 times. At best, Cook is in the TE2 discussion.
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Questionable – Ankle
Not surprisingly, Thomas wasn’t activated for last week’s game after not practicing because of an ankle injury. He’s Questionable again, but he was a limited practice participant on Thursday and Friday, and head coach John Fox said his tight end was “much better” on Friday. Chances are Thomas will probably end up being a game-time decision yet again, but unlike last week, the Broncos don’t play until tonight. Unless something more definitive comes out before the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs, it may be safest to leave Thomas on your bench. Jacob Tamme’s role would increase if Thomas were to miss his second straight game.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills
Questionable – Concussion
Cameron missed his fourth straight game last week, but he was able to participate in practice to some degree every day this week. He’s listed as Questionable, but it’s possible that Cameron will end up being a game-time decision. The Browns have taken their time in bringing Cameron back, which probably speaks to the severity of the concussion he suffered. Cameron is an appealing fantasy option, but with so much uncertainty still surrounding his status, not to mention the presence of one Josh Gordon, it may be best to leave Cameron on your bench and then revisit this situation next week.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts
Questionable – Hamstring
Reed was a full practice participant on Friday, so that certainly helps his chances of playing despite the Questionable designation. There’s plenty of risk when it comes to relying on Reed, as evidenced by the five games he has missed this season because of other injuries, but he’s also potential TE1 material. Another thing Reed has going for him is the switch back to Colt McCoy at quarterback. In McCoy’s lone start this season, a Week 8 win in Dallas, Reed tied for the most targets on the team with seven. Provided he plays, an argument could be made for Reed as a low-end TE1 option this week.
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)
Doubtful – Hamstring/Knee
Clay missed last week’s game because of a knee injury and after practicing some on Thursday, he was not able to participate at all on Friday or Saturday. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no doubt in my mind what you should do with Clay – leave him on the bench this week and go a different direction.
Already Ruled Out:
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts – Allen has yet to return to practice, so he will miss a second straight game because of an ankle injury. Coby Fleener will get the start and despite last week’s disappointing showing (2 rec., 28 yds.) he remains in the TE1 discussion because the Colts are the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL.
Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets – Amaro suffered a concussion in the Monday night loss to the Bills and hasn’t been able to make progress getting through the league-mandated protocols. Amaro will miss the Monday night game against Miami, but it’s not like he was a major fantasy contributor in the first place.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle in Saturday’s 42-28 win over Michigan and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Barrett was injured during the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ victory and was carted to the locker room with an air cast on his leg.
Barrett will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Cardale Jones in the Big Ten Championship and in Ohio State’s bowl game. Jones completed 2 of 3 passes for seven yards and rushed for 19 yards on two attempts in limited snaps against Michigan.
Jones has attempted just 16 passes during his career in Columbus. The sophomore has rushed for 316 yards and one score during that span.
Jones will have a huge opportunity in his first start next Saturday in the Big Ten Championship. If Ohio State emerges with a victory next week, it will stay in the mix for a playoff spot.
However, Barrett’s injury is a huge blow to Ohio State’s playoff hopes. The committee will take into account injuries, and a team with a third-string will be an interesting evaluation for the rankings after the final weekend – assuming the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title.
Prior to Week 14, Barrett was considered a top-five candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Sure, the redshirt freshman was a longshot, but his candidacy was remarkable considering what transpired for Ohio State in the preseason. Starter Braxton Miller was lost for the year, and Barrett – with zero career attempts – was pushed into the lineup.
Barrett’s final 2014 numbers were impressive by a first-year starter, as he threw for 2,658 yards and 33 scores and added 849 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
Sportsmanship. pic.twitter.com/2q8sw7OlsN— Freep Sports (@freepsports) November 29, 2014