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The search for the next Penn State head coach took an interesting turn over the weekend with the news that current Miami coach and former PSU player Al Golden signed a new four-year contract extension that stretches to February 2020. So where will the Nittany Lions turn now as they try to move away from the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal and the subsequent firing of Joe Paterno? Many around college football believe that Penn State will stay away from candidates with Paterno ties, but that may not be the case in the end. Interim coach Tom Bradley will get consideration, as will several coaches with PSU or state of Pennsylvania connections such as Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Other top candidates will include Virginia’s Mike London, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. The Big Ten’s Leaders division has had a year of scandals, and next season will look much different with new leadership at Ohio State (Urban Meyer), Penn State and Illinois.
Who is your favorite to be Penn State's next coach?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Until Al Golden signed his extension at Miami, I thought he had to be candidate No. 1. Now it appears to be a wide-open race. Interim coach Tom Bradley seems to have a decent shot of keeping the full-time gig, but I think the one to watch is Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen. Although he’s raised the bar in Starkville, how much higher can he take the program in a brutal SEC West? Mullen may seem like a strange fit at first, but he is a Pennsylvania native and went to college in the state at Ursinus. If Penn State is willing to pay, Mullen would be a great hire. Outside of Mullen, not many names are jumping out as frontrunners for the job. The Nittany Lions would also be wise to take a look at Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in college football.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Since the contracts coaches and universities sign aren't really worth paper they are printed on, I would not be entirely shocked to see Al Golden coaching in Happy Valley next season. However, after some of that tricky "coach speak" with a reporter last week, all signs point to the Penn State alum staying in Coral Gables. And Greg Schiano recently told Sirius XM Radio that the only job he is interested in is Rutgers. That leaves Tom Bradley, Dan Mullen, Mike London, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Ferentz and others as possible choices. Mullen appears to be the most ready and with deep ties to the Keystone State, would be a perfect fit in the region. He also removes himself from the brutal SEC West battleground and gets the opportunity to duke it out with mentor Urban Meyer every season in the Leaders Division. It may be too early to predict, but I will go with the Drexel Hill, Pa., native and Ursinus (Pa.) College grad to be coaching in State College next fall.
There is no clear-cut "favorite" for the next Penn State coach, in terms of an obvious hire who will certainly take the job — like Urban Meyer to Ohio State, for example. There are several good coaches with ties to Linebacker U., the question is whether any will take the job following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and subsequent Joe Paterno firing? Miami coach Al Golden would be my top choice; but the former Penn State tight end just signed a four-year contract extension at the U. The best realistic candidate is Rutgers' Greg Schiano, a former Penn State assistant who has long been rumored to be JoePa's successor. Schiano has lost some luster of late and is no longer the red-hot national candidate he once was; but he is a proven commodity whose recruiting ties in New Jersey would be a natural fit at PSU. A flashier hire would be Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who was born in Pennsylvania and would have a better chance to contend for a BCS bowl in the Big Ten than the SEC West. If the Nittany Lions take a few public rejections, they may fall back on a safety-net option like Connecticut's Paul Pasqualoni, a former Penn State linebacker who would certainly say "yes" if asked to be PSU's next coach. Oddly enough, Pasqualoni's long facial features and white hair resemble those of Sandusky a little too much for him to be the next head coach; but he'd be a perfect top assistant for a less-proven, younger hire. A longshot to keep in mind would be Delaware's K.C. Keeler, a Keystone State native who has led the Blue Hens to three FCS national title games since 2002.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think it comes down to Dan Mullen or Mike London, with a slight edge to Mullen. Besides playing college ball in Pennsylvania and his father graduating from Penn State, Mullen has quickly changed the program at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs won nine games in his second year, including destroying Michigan in the Gator Bowl. MSU has six losses this season, but five of those were to teams in the Top 15 in the nation. Mullen was an assistant for very successful teams at Florida and Utah, and he would be a great fit in Happy Valley if Penn State will pay the freight to get him to leave Starkville. London’s name is also one to keep in mind, as he has engineered eight wins at Virginia this season. He won a FCS national title at Richmond and would be a solid choice for PSU as well.
By Mitch Light
You can mock Urban Meyer about his family-first statements. You can question his ability to handle the rigors — both physically and mentally — of coaching at Ohio State. You can cite the high number of arrests that have occurred under his watch. You can call him a hypocrite. But you have to admit that the guy is a great football coach.
Some of his doubters will insist that his outstanding record at Florida is simply a product of Tim Tebow’s greatness. That is ridiculous. Meyer has won at a high level at all three of his stops as a head coach, compiling an overall record of 104–23 and a 50–19 mark in league play.
In 2001, Meyer inherited a Bowling Green team that won two games and averaged 15.8 points the previous season. In his first year, the Falcons went 8–3 and doubled their scoring output to 30.2 points per game. The following season, in ’02, Bowling Green went 9–3 and averaged 40.8 points per game.
At Utah, he took over a program that had suffered two losing seasons in the previous two years, including a 5–6 mark in 2002, and went on to records of 10–2 and 11–0 (did not coach the bowl game) in his two seasons. His ’04 Utah team set a school record by averaging 45.3 points and became the first non-AQ school to earn a spot in a BCS bowl. The Utes also produced the top overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, quarterback Alex Smith.
Then, in 2005, Meyer began a six-year run at Florida that featured a 36–13 record in SEC play and two national championships. His teams won 13 games on three occasions, and he went 3–0 in BCS bowls. And in three of his six seasons, the Gators ranked first in the SEC in total offense.
His detractors will point to his final season at Florida — an 8–5 record in 2010 — but not every coach wins at a high level every season. That might be the only wart on what has been a near-flawless coaching record.
And I don’t buy the argument that it’s easy to win at Florida. In fact, history proves just the opposite. Meyer and Steve Spurrier are the only two coaches who have consistently competed for championships in Gainesville.
The bottom line: Meyer is one of the elite coaches in the game and is almost sure to win at a high level as the boss at Ohio State. I have no problem with those who question the way he goes about his business off the field, but it’s almost impossible to find fault with what he has done in the between the lines.
I’d be shocked if Ohio Sate is not competing for a national title in the very near future. He is the right coach at the right time.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
After just two seasons at Kansas, Turner Gill was fired on Sunday. Gill’s record through two years was an awful 5-19, winning only one Big 12 game. Although the Jayhawks began this season with a 2-0 record, they lost 10 straight to close the year and only two of those defeats were by less than 10 points.
Who will replace Gill as Kansas’ next head coach?
Tim Beckman, head coach, Toledo – Beckman might be more inclined to wait for a job in the Big Ten, but has been a solid coach at Toledo through three seasons (21-16). The Rockets fell just a victory short of winning the MAC West this year. He has Big 12 coaching experience, working under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2007-08. Would the Jayhawks go to the MAC again after Gill’s failed stint at Kansas?
Dave Christensen, head coach, Wyoming – Christensen is a name that Kansas' fans are certainly familiar with, as he worked at Missouri under Gary Pinkel from 1997-08. He has served as Wyoming’s head coach for the last three seasons, leading the Cowboys to a 17-19 record during that span. Wyoming played in a bowl in 2009 and will likely make a postseason trip this year. Christensen is known for his offenses and has done a good job at Wyoming, especially working with inexperienced quarterbacks.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz has made a quick climb up the coaching ladder. He started his career as a graduate assistant at Florida State in 1998, before jumping to NC State in 2000. Diaz later became MTSU’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and took the same position at Mississippi State in 2010, before leaving after one year to coach at Texas. Diaz is a high-energy coach and one of the nation’s top defensive minds. Considering the struggles of Kansas’ defense this year, Diaz would be someone who can immediately help on that side of the ball. The only drawback? No head coaching experience.
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes has quietly done a good job at Louisiana Tech, leading the Bulldogs to an 8-4 record and a WAC title this season. He has just two years of head coaching experience, but a solid resume as an assistant at Arizona, Texas Tech and Kentucky. His father (Spike) was the head coach at Texas Tech from 1986-99 and led the Red Raiders to an 82-67-1 record. If Kansas doesn’t want to go after Mike Leach, why not one of his disciples from Texas Tech?
Larry Fedora, head coach, Southern Miss – Just like Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, Fedora is going to be mentioned for nearly every BCS job that comes open this offseason. In four seasons at Southern Miss, he has recorded a 32-19 record and led the Golden Eagles to a Conference USA East Division title this year. Fedora spent time as an assistant at Florida and Oklahoma State, so he is certainly familiar with what it takes to win at the BCS level. Considering Fedora could be in the mix at Illinois, North Carolina and Ole Miss, Kansas is going to have competition for his services.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach – Considering what transpired at Texas Tech, Leach certainly comes with some baggage. However, his results on the field are impressive. In 10 years with the Red Raiders, he recorded an 84-43 record and 10 bowl appearances. Kansas has not made a bowl appearance since 2008, so the program needs a shot in the arm. Leach’s high-powered offenses would be entertaining, but would need a year or two to build personnel if he takes over at Kansas. He is expected to be in the mix for coaching jobs at Arizona State and Illinois.
Jim Leavitt, former South Florida head coach – Leavitt had a messy exit from South Florida in 2009, when he was fired after an investigation into allegations about his treatment of a player during halftime of a game against Louisville. While his exit was not ideal, Leavitt built the South Florida program from scratch, turning it into a consistent bowl team. The Bulls made a bowl every year from 2005-09, but never finished higher than third in the conference. Leavitt played at Missouri and coached at Kansas State from 1990-95, so he’s certainly familiar with the Big 12. Like Leach, Leavitt has some baggage, but has produced solid results on the field.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops is one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. He joined the Seminoles in 2009 as the defensive coordinator, with previous stops as an assistant at Arizona, Miami, Houston, Wyoming and South Florida. Florida State’s defense has shown big progress in two seasons since Stoops took over, with the Seminoles finishing in the top 20 of scoring defense both times. He does not have any head coaching experience, but has developed a strong resume as an assistant. A longshot, but Stoops is a coach that is going to get a shot at a BCS job in the near future.
Mike Stoops, former Arizona head coach – Stoops was fired at Arizona midway through this season. He posted a 41-49 record through eight seasons in Tucson, including three consecutive bowl trips. Stoops left Arizona in a much better position than he inherited it, but was unable to turn it into a contender in the Pac-10 (and now Pac-12). He is very familiar with coaching in the Big 12, thanks to stops at Kansas State (1992-98) and Oklahoma (1999-03). Stoops is a longshot, but considering his familiarity with the Big 12, is someone to watch during the search.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – Sumlin is one of the hottest names in coaching searches this season. He has been mentioned as a candidate for Ole Miss, Arizona State, North Carolina and Illinois. In four years with Houston, Sumlin has a 35-16 record, and has the Cougars on the doorstep of their first appearance in the BCS. He also has a solid resume, spending time as an assistant at Minnesota, Purdue, Texas A&M and under Bob Stops at Oklahoma. Sumlin will have his choice of jobs this offseason, so the Jayhawks will have to move quick if he is their No. 1 target.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Venables is regarded as one of the top assistants in college football since joining Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 1999. He has worked as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator and associate head coach during his time in Norman. Venables is a Kansas native and coached at Kansas State from 1993-98. He is certainly due for a shot at a BCS school, but could be sought for the Illinois, Arizona State or Ole Miss jobs. Needless to say, Venables can be very selective with his decision on where to become a head coach.
They were 6-2 at the midpoint of the season, despite a bunch of free-agent losses and an infirmary full of injuries. Eli Manning was on his way to joining the MVP conversation. Tom Coughlin was earning praise as a possible NFL Coach of the Year.
So what happened? How is it that the Giants are suddenly playing for their season, facing two seemingly unwinnable games and the possibility that they’ll be 6-6 and riding a four-game losing streak when they travel to Dallas for a big NFC East showdown in two weeks?
What happened is what always happens to the Giants: Something. It almost doesn’t matter what. Injuries. Poor play. A receiver shooting himself in the leg. They always start fast and they always finish like they’re a kid at a water park flying down the biggest slide.
This latest splash down has put them in a precarious situation. Tom Coughlin -- who has a 47-17 record in the first halves of season, but a miserable 24-34 record in second halves – has to figure out a way out of his mess while his team plays at New Orleans (7-3) on Monday night and home against the undefeated, defending champion Packers (11-0) on Sunday. Otherwise they’ll head into Dallas reeling, and dealing with seemingly annual questions about Coughlin’s job.
Is it already too late? Is the collapse already in their heads? At least one prominent Giant hopes the answer to the latter is “Yes”.
“I hope it is in our heads,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “I hope it’s fresh in our heads, knowing that we can’t allow ourselves to do that. The good thing is we don’t have any time to feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have time to be down on ourselves or wonder what’s happening here. We’ve got to figure things out right and figure it out now.”
“You talk about second-half collapses,” Tuck added, “if we get down to the Saints it could be an historical second-half collapse.”
Of course, as Tuck knows, in order to avoid history they need to learn from it first. And the things that led to this collapse are similar what led to their collapses of the past:
They don’t want to use them as an excuse, but they are an excuse. They have 10 players on injured reserve and nine others that have been cut with injury settlements. They lost a starting cornerback and a starting middle linebacker for the season. Tuck has been a physical shell of himself and defensive end Osi Umenyiora lost several games. Lately they’ve been without running back Ahmad Bradshaw and linebacker Michael Boley and receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have been battling injuries. And they also may have lost their left tackle for the season. No team can seriously be expected to overcome all that.
Lack of emotion
Safety Antrel Rolle blasted his team for being “too calm” and passively letting the Eagles beat them – and beat them up last Sunday. He wanted some sort of response to Philly’s taunting and late hits. Overall, though, this isn’t a fiery team and it doesn’t have a fiery leader. Eli Manning and Justin Tuck are the big voices and their voices are respected, but soft. When things go wrong – as they have the last few years – there’s no fire and brimstone. There’s no Ray Lewis to angrily raise the temperature. Maybe Rolle will be the guy, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Big players come through in big moments, and that’s been sorely lacking in recent years. Eli Manning has done it most of the year, but wasn’t able to come through against the 49ers or Eagles. During the Super Bowl run in 2007, so many players played big in key spots. It was a different player every week. But in the years since? Down the stretch, the biggest players have come up mostly small.
Too much pressure on Eli Manning
This started in 2008, when Plaxico Burress took himself out of the Giants’ lineup with a stray bullet. Everyone looked to Manning to carry the depleted team, to turn someone else into his No. 1 receiver. He never did. He’s great at making the pieces work, at seeing the big picture and doing what he’s supposed to do. But improvising has never been his strongpoint, and when pieces are taken away he has trouble adjusting. It’s subtle. It’s like throwing the ball to where a receiver is supposed to be, without adjusting to the fact that the receiver he’s throwing to can’t get there. Now you want him to win with an offensive line crumbling in front of him, a run game stagnating, and a defense not keeping the score down. This is the first year he’s seemed fully capable of doing that, but it may be too much for him to do it alone.
Too much talk, not enough action
This team loves to talk about their issues and tell everyone how overlooked and underappreciated they are. They talk about needing fire, but don’t show it. They talk about not having another second-half collapse, then go out and lose the first two games of the second half. Their 2007 motto was “Talk is cheap, play the game” which had more to do with all their 2006 griping about their coach. That team loved to talk, too. But it found a way at the end to back up their words. This team, and the teams in 2008-10, never got around to the playing part.
Those are the problems. Those are always the problems. And they need to fix those issues fast, otherwise this whole second-half disaster is just going to happen again.
“It doesn’t matter. The story is still being written,” said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. “Regardless of what it says now, it all depends on how we finish the season.”
The finish line is approaching quickly. The end of the story begins right now.
By RALPH VACCHIANO
In the five games the Broncos have won since Tim Tebow took over as the starting quarterback, the passing-impaired Tebow has staged his own personal version of NFL Mythbusters.
Myth No. 1: A purely running quarterback will never succeed in the NFL, where the athletes are too good and the speed too overwhelming.
Reality: On the season, Tebow has rushed 78 times for 455 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. That's the best number in the NFL. You read that right: Tim Tebow leads the NFL in yards per rushing attempt. And these aren't Michael Vick scrambles we're talking about. Tebow rushed the ball 22 times against the Chargers, the most rushing attempts by an NFL quarterback since 1950. Of the 22 attempts, 17 of them came on designed runs. Tebow, Willis McGahee and the Denver rushing attack clearly wore down the athletic Chargers defense in piling up 208 rushing yards.
Myth No. 2: The option will never work in the NFL.
Reality: In the Broncos' 16–13 overtime win over San Diego yesterday, the Broncos earned 147 of their 208 rushing yards via the option.
Myth No. 3: In today's NFL, passing accuracy, yardage and mechanics are essential to success.
Reality: For the season, Tebow is completing 45.5 percent of his passes. Yesterday's game marked his first time to hit the 50 percent completion mark (he was 9-of-18 for 143 yards). His season high of 172 passing yards came in the 45–10 loss to Detroit.
For Tebow, though, the only important number has always resided in the win column, and by that measure, the Tebow Train is gathering steam. Denver's improbable march toward the playoffs continued yesterday with another tight, low-scoring win, as the Broncos stuck a fork in the Norv Turner regime in moving to 6–5 on the season and only a game behind the AFC West-leading Raiders.
The Tim Tebow era in Denver is now six games old — still a small sample size, but enough of a body of work to start drawing a few conclusions.
At a glance, it's easy to say that the defense deserves the credit for Denver's resurgence. During Kyle Orton's five games as a starter, the defense surrendered an average of 28 points; in the last six games, the Broncos have allowed an average of 20 points, and if you throw out the 45–10 loss to Detroit, the number falls to 15 ppg.
A-ha, say the detractors. The defense has keyed the surge, and Tebow doesn't play defense. Time to shut up about Timmy and give credit where it's due. Safety Brian Dawkins said as much yesterday: "It's time to start giving the defense some credit," he snapped. I'll gladly do so, Brian: In Tebow's five wins as the starter, the defense has allowed an average of 320 yards per game. That's a more than respectable number.
But let's dig a little deeper. I would argue that Tebow is a key component of Denver's defense, even if he's merely Tebow-ing on the sidelines while the defense does its work. Football is a game of possessions; if you don't have the ball, you can't score. Tebow and the Broncos are playing a remarkably effective game of keep-away. In Tebow's five wins, the Broncos have turned the ball over only twice — Tebow himself, only once — and forced six turnovers of their own.
By shortening the game with the NFL's leading rushing attack and protecting the football, Tebow and the Denver offense are playing the most effective brand of defense imaginable.
Perhaps most importantly, Tebow, the true believer, creates belief among his teammates. The defense, knowing its margin for error is slim, plays a little harder. The offensive line holds its blocks a little longer.
And in the game's waning minutes, the team knows its leader will make just enough plays to win.
"Just having that guy around, it makes us better men," said linebacker Von Miller. "I think he plays for us, and he makes us want to play for him."
Bottom line: Whether John Elway likes it or not, the current Denver formula is a winner. Will it last for the long haul? That's debatable, but the current results are not. Tebow and the Denver defense are the story of the NFL at the moment.
• The Dream is dead. New England dissected the corpse of the Eagles' season with surgical precision. Tom Brady was flawless in the Patriots' 38–20 win over Philly, completing 24-of-34 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Vince Young passed for 400 essentially meaningless yards and was robbed of two TD passes by alligator-armed All-Pro wideout DeSean Jackson. Time to put the Dream Team out of its misery.
• Houston's quarterback situation deteriorated further, as Matt Leinart was lost for the season in the Texans' 20–13 win over Jacksonville. New starter T.J. Yates has a tiny cushion — a two-game lead over the Titans — as he tries to coax this injury-depleted squad into the postseason. The decisive game may come in Week 17 as the Titans visit Houston.
• Speaking of emergency replacement quarterbacks, Chicago's Caleb Hanie was game in defeat, but it was still a defeat, 25–20 at the hands of the Raiders. Sebastian Janikowski made a team-record six field goals as the Oakland special teams were the stars of the show.
— by Rob Doster
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 13 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oregon (10-2, 8-1) – With the dominating 49-21 win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War, the Oregon Ducks clinched the Pac-12 North. With a win over the 6-6 Bruins on Saturday, the Ducks will win their third straight conference championship and play in their third straight BCS bowl. Oregon finished No. 1 in the league in rushing (291.0 ypg), No. 1 in total offense (510.6 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring offense (45.9 ppg). The Ducks also claim the nation's leading rusher in per game average with LaMichael James' 142.7 ypg and the conference's top return man in DeAnthony Thomas (27.7 ypr). Oregon has won three straight over UCLA including a 60-13 victory in Eugene last season. In his three years as head coach, Chip Kelly is 32-6 overall and 24-3 in conference play.
2. Stanford (11-1, 8-1) – Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck tossed four touchdown passes in what was likely a BCS bowl-clinching 28-14 win over Notre Dame. Luck, who is the Pac-12's most efficient passer (167.5), is 23-2 over his last two seasons and will see his legacy defined as much by his inability to beat Oregon as his 9,083 yards and 87 total touchdowns. Had Luck managed to beat Oregon in either of the last two seasons, Stanford would likely have played for a national championship. Stanford led the Pac-12 in rushing defense (90.3 ypg) and total defense (331.4 ypg). The 23 wins mark the most in a two-year period and represent the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in program history. A match-up with the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner in the Fiesta Bowl is the most likely scenario for Luck's final game at Stanford.
3. USC (10-2, 7-2) – Any team in the nation want to play the USC Trojans in a playoff game? I seriously doubt it. The Men of Troy and Matt Barkley pounded rival UCLA 50-0 in the season finale for USC. It was the Trojans' 11th win in 12 games against UCLA and gave the school their eighth 10-win season in 10 years (counting 2005). Barkley played in what could be his final game for Southern California, completing 35-of-42 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns. Since the overtime loss to Stanford, the USC quarterback has thrown 17 touchdowns, only two interceptions and averaged 309.5 yards per game while winning all four games. The Trojans are clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South, and it is unfortunate for the players and fans that the NCAA did not lift the postseason bans.
4. Washington (7-5, 5-4) – Despite some second-half struggles, the Huskies ended the 2011 regular season on a high note with a 38-21 win over rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. Keith Price bounced back admirably with a 21-of-29, 291-yard, 3-TD performance in the win. The sophomore gunslinger battled through inconsistency and some injuries in his first year as the starter to finish with 29 touchdowns and 2,625 yards through the air. The win gave Washington its first winning regular season since 2002, and with a bowl win, the Huskies would have their first eight-win season since 2001. Washington appears to be headed for the Alamo Bowl to battle with either Kansas State or the loser of the Bedlam game. The Alamo Bowl could also select Cal, pushing Washington to the Holiday Bowl.
5. California (7-5, 4-5) – Cal may have saved Jeff Tedord's job by beating Arizona State 47-38 on Friday. The Golden Bears rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries. The win assures Tedford of his ninth winning season in 10 years on the job in Berkeley. Cal led the league in pass defense and tackles for a loss this season, and breakout wide receiver Keenan Allen finished second in the conference with 89 receptions and third with 1,261 yards. With three wins in their final four games, the Bears appear to be headed to the Holiday Bowl — potentially against the Baylor Bears and Robert Griffin III.
6. Utah (7-5, 4-5) – Utah missed a golden opportunity to make a huge statement in its first season in the Pac-12. Utah kicker Coleman Petersen missed a 48-yard field goal with two seconds left in a very disappointing 17-14 home loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. It was his third miss of the game, and the loss cost Kyle Whittingham and company a Pac-12 South title — and a chance at a Rose Bowl. Losing star tailback John White IV in the third quarter didn't help, as the Utah running back finished nearly 100 yards below his season average. White carried a season-low 10 times for a season-low 28 yards. The second half of the season has proved that Utah belongs with the BCS big boys, as the Utes finished 4-1 down the stretch in league play. However, the loss to the Buffs leaves an extremly bitter taste in the Utes' mouths — and checkbooks. Instead of the Rose, Alamo or Holiday Bowl, Utah looks to be slated for a trip to El Paso and the Sun Bowl against the ACC's No. 4 team (likely Wake Forest or Virginia).
7. UCLA (6-6, 5-4) – The UCLA Bruins are the inaugural Pac-12 South Champions. The Bruins were outgained 572 to 385 yards, converted on only 3-of-15 third and fourth down conversions and lost 50-0 to USC. But an unexpected loss to Colorado by Utah, awarded the Bruins with a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. As a heavy underdog against the Ducks, the Bruins will likely finish the regular season at 6-7 and will have to apply for a bowl waiver from the NCAA leadership council. If given the waiver, the Bruins have to wait for the conference to fill its other seven bowl commitments before they likely land in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. However, head coach Rick Neuheisel won't be joining his team on any postseason trip. Neuheisel is 21-28 overall and 3-25 against teams that finished with a winning record in four years as head coach, and it appears he will be given his walking papers following this Saturday's conference title game.
8. Arizona State (6-6, 4-5) – The Sun Devils finished an up and down 2011 season by losing 47-38 to Cal at home in the season finale. The loss marked the fourth straight loss and fifth in six games after a 5-1 start for Arizona State. A trip to Sin City and the Las Vegas Bowl with a match-up against Mountain West champ TCU appears the likely postseason destination for ASU. Head coach Dennis Erickson, like many Pac-12 coaches this postseason, could be coaching for his job in the bowl game. Arizona State is 31-30 under Erickson in five seasons, featuring one winning season (2007) and no bowl wins. TCU would be a heavy favorite.
9. Washington State (4-8, 2-7) – The Cougars lost 38-21 to the rival Huskies in the 104th edition of the Apple Cup. Washington State allowed 434 yards of offense to Washington and turned the ball over twice in the second straight loss to the Pac-12 North rival. Paul Wulff is now 9-40 as the head man at Wazzu, and the last winning season in Pullman took place in 2003. The offense showed signs of improvement, finishing second in the conference in passing at 322.3 yards per game. However, expect another tumultuous off-season for the Cougars.
10. Oregon State (3-9, 3-6) – In his second stint as head coach at Oregon State, Mike Riley had two losing seasons in his first eight years. After the 49-21 loss to rival Oregon this weekend, Riley now has his third losing season and his worst record in 11 total seasons as the Beavers head coach. Quarterback Sean Mannion has offered some solace, as the freshman has provided the answer at quarterback. He threw for another 299 yards and three touchdowns in the loss this weekend. He was one yard away from his fifth 300-yard effort in nine games. The Beavers uncharacteristically finished last in the league in rushing offense (86.9 ypg) and rushing defense (196.8 ypg).
11. Arizona (4-8, 2-7) – The Wildcats got a "nice" 45-37 win against a decent UL Lafayette team. Although it doesn't count as the first win of the Rich Rodriguez era, Arizona is technically 1-0 with RichRod as acting head coach. Nick Foles extended his single-season school records for completions (387) and yards (4,334) with his fifth straight 300-yard game and 10th of the season. Foles finished as the Pac-12's leader in total offense at 352.6 yards per game. A two-game winning streak is a great way to get what should be an exciting off-season in Tucson started.
12. Colorado (3-10, 2-7) – The first season of the Jon Embree era ended with a bang. The Buffaloes snapped a 23-game road losing streak by topping the Utes 17-14 in Salt Lake City. Not only did Colorado get its second Pac-12 win of the year, but it also crushed the Utes' hopes of landing in the conference title game. Rodney Stewart played his final game in a Buffs uniform with only 12 touches for 45 yards. Stewart finished his career with 3,598 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns, 93 receptions and 969 yards receiving.
The 2012 Free Agency fun has really begun now. The Angels opened the Disney vault for Pujols and Wilson, while the Marlins make headlines on the other coast. Teams listed for Unsigned players are projections for 2012. The chart is updated daily. Some salary figures are rounded and all salary numbers are in millions.
Updated Dec. 8, 5:00p
|1||Albert Pujols||Angels||10||254.00||14.50||Angels must put together a team to win now, because in six years this contract will be an albatross.|
|2||Jose Reyes||Marlins||6||106.00||11.00||Exciting offensive catalyst and flashy defender must prove he can play every day.|
|3||CJ Wilson||Angels||5||77.50||7.00||Stealth Angels reeled in their slugger and pitcher.|
|6||Mark Buehrle||Marlins||4||58.00||14.00||As consistent as anyone, the lefty will be reunited with manager Ozzie Guillen.|
|9||Jonathan Papelbon||Phillies||4||50.00||12.00||Closing games wasn't a problem for the Phillies in 2011, and shouldn't be in 2012.|
|15||Heath Bell||Marlins||3||27.00||7.50||Marlins begin buildking process from back of bullpen.|
|20||Mark Ellis||Dodgers||2||7.75||6.00||Brings solid defense, but has played in 135 games just twice.|
|21||Aaron Hill||Diamondbacks||2||11.00||5.00||Serendipity at the trade deadline for Hill leaving Toronto for first-place Arizona.|
|22||Clint Barmes||Pirates||2||10.50||3.93||Good money for Barmes; Pirates active in secondary market.|
|25||Bruce Chen||Royals||2||9.00||2.00||Chen has led the Royals in wins the last two seasons.|
|38||Ramon Hernandez||Rockies||2||6.50||2.95||Part-time catcher offers intangibles and veteran presence.|
|39||Ryan Doumit||Twins||1||3.00||5.20||His bat and defense suggest he belongs in American League.|
|41||Ramon Santiago||Tigers||2||4.20||1.35||Utility infielder stays put in Detroit.|
|44||Rod Barajas||Pirates||1||4.00||3.25||Pirates needed a catcher, Barajas needed a job.|
|47||Aaron Harang||Dodgers||2||12.00||3.50||Always seems to be underrated, but not worth this investment.|
|49||Jerry Hairston||Dodgers||2||6.00||2.00||Should have an opportunity to play at second and third.|
|51||Alex Gonzalez||Brewers||2.50||Shortstop market getting a bit thin and Brewers actually improved this position.|
|52||David DeJesus||Cubs||2||10.00||6.00||Just your typical $4.25 mil outfielder. Total includes a $1.5 mil buyout if $6.5 mil option isn't picked up.|
|53||Willie Bloomquist||Diamondbacks||2||3.80||.90||Goes from full-time shortstop to utility role.|
|63||Jamey Carroll||Twins||2||6.50||2.29||Twins may not like this deal when they see Carroll's range at short.|
|65||Frank Francisco||Mets||2||12.00||4.00||Mets' bullpen getting a total makeover.|
|69||Grady Sizemore||Indians||1||5.00||7.67||Indians declined $9 million option, then added $4.5 million in incentives to this deal.|
|71||Juan Rivera||Dodgers||1||4.00||5.25||Inexpensive complement to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in L.A. outfield.|
|72||Jim Thome||Phillies||1||1.25||3.00||Will keep the position warm until Ryan Howard return from Achilles injury.|
|73||Joe Nathan||Rangers||2||14.50||11.25||Is there anything left in his rebuilt arm?|
|75||Henry Blanco||Diamondbacks||1||1.20||1.00||Blanco, who turns 41 in August, has nabbed 44% of base stealers since 2008.|
|76||Matt Capps||Twins||1||4.75||7.15||Will once again have the opportunity to close.|
|82||Jonathan Broxton||Royals||1||.80||7.00||Does he still have it? We think so. Will set up for Royals then get traded at deadline.|
|83||Chien-Ming Wang||Nationals||1||4.00||1.20||If fully healthy, he'll be the best bargain of the winter.|
|85||Jose Molina||Rays||1||1.50||1.20||Should fits Rays' system very well.|
|86||John McDonald||Diamondbacks||2||3.00||1.50||I guess you never have too many middle infielders if you're Arizona.|
|88||Mark Kotsay||Padres||1||1.25||.80||Had three of his best seasons in San Diego from 2001-03, but he was in his mid-20s.|
|91||Gerald Laird||Tigers||1||1.00||1.00||Solid backup to giet Alex Avila badly needed rest.|
|96||Nate McLouth||Pirates||1||1.75||7.00||Returns to only city where he found success.|
|97||Laynce Nix||Phillies||2||.70||After four years of minor league contracts, Nix finally gets a guaranteed deal.|
|103||Adam Kennedy||Dodgers||1||.80||.75||Veteran infielder landed a major league deal with Dodgers.|
|112||Matt Treanor||Dodgers||1||.85||.85||Still not as accomplished (or attractive) as his wife.|
|153||Brian Schneider||Phillies||1||.80||1.63||Offense was woeful last season, defense was sub-par.|
|NR||Chris Capuano||Dodgers||2||10.00||1.50||Two-time Tommy John patient should love pitching at Dodgers Stadium.|
|4||Prince Fielder||Cubs||5||100.00||15.50||Fielder will become the fresh Prince of Chicago.|
|5||Carlos Beltran||Giants||2||20.00||19.30||Injuries and spotty production will scare off most would-be suitors.|
|7||Aramis Ramirez||Diamondbacks||4||60.00||14.60||What a year for a third baseman, especially a good one, to hit the market.|
|8||David Ortiz||Red Sox||2||24.00||12.50||Can Big Papi actually leave Boston?|
|10||Hiroki Kuroda||Dodgers||2||27.00||11.77||Best fit would be West Coast ballparks and should feel at home in L.A.|
|11||Jimmy Rollins||Phillies||3||35.00||8.50||J-Roll is asking for five years, but he'll likely get only three.|
|12||Roy Oswalt||Nationals||2||22.00||16.00||Would love to pitch for St. Louis, but Cardinals rotation has no vacancy.|
|13||Yu Darvish||Yankees||4||35.00||Shouldn't expect a posting fee anywhere close to $51 million for Dice-K.|
|14||Ryan Madson||Reds||4||40.00||4.83||Thought he had a deal with Philadelphia, but Cincinnati needs a closer as well.|
|16||Francisco Rodriguez||Orioles||3||25.00||12.17||Many teams may be nervous to commit to K-Rod as closer, but O's won't mind.|
|17||Johnny Damon||Rays||1||7.00||5.25||Questions of Hall of Fame worthiness begin as his career winds down.|
|18||Edwin Jackson||Mets||3||27.00||8.75||Ultra-talented Jackson always seems to slip below expectations.|
|19||Javier Vazquez||Marlins||1||8.00||7.00||Retire, or go one more year in Miami?|
|23||Kosuke Fukudome||Indians||2||15.00||14.50||With Grady Sizemore gone, Fukudome could become Tribe's full-time CF.|
|24||Francisco Cordero||Blue Jays||2||18.00||12.13||Cordero has averaged 39 saves over the last five seasons.|
|26||Michael Cuddyer||Braves||3||27.00||10.50||Only bright spot for Minnesota last season appears to be a good fit in Atlanta.|
|27||Freddy Garcia||Rangers||1||7.00||1.50||Garcia out to prove last season was no fluke in New York.|
|28||Carlos Pena||Rangers||1||8.00||9.96||The Ballpark at Arlington should suit Pena well.|
|29||Yoenis Cespedes||Marlins||5||30.00||Escaping the Marlins' grasp would be a major surprise.|
|30||Koji Uehara||Rays||2||14.00||3.00||Koji had an incredible 23.0 SO/BB ratio, but allowed 2.5 homers per nine innings.|
|31||Casey Kotchman||Rays||1||6.00||In successive years, he was traded for Mark Teixeira, Adam LaRoche and Bill Hall.|
|32||Josh Willingham||Orioles||2||15.00||6.00||Willingham would love hitting at Camden Yards.|
|33||Kelly Johnson||Rockies||2||11.00||5.85||Johnson would love hitting in Colorado, the question but could Rox stomach all those Ks?|
|34||Paul Maholm||Twins||1||6.00||6.25||Needs a one-year deal to prove himself worthy of more.|
|35||JD Drew||Nationals||1||5.20||14.00||Nats could be latest team to be duped by Drew's "talent."|
|36||Coco Crisp||Tigers||1||4.80||5.75||Tigers needs a leadoff hitter and Crisp swiped 49 bases last season.|
|37||Rick Ankiel||Reds||1||4.50||1.50||Consummate fourth outfielder brings speed, defense and occasional pop.|
|40||Joel Peralta||Red Sox||2||13.00||.93||Another good arm who "found it" in Tampa Bay.|
|42||Chris Young||Nationals||1||3.20||1.00||Needs a one-year deal to prove himself.|
|43||Rafael Furcal||Brewers||1||3.80||13.00||His defense is unquestioned, but his health and offense are uncertain.|
|45||Jeff Francis||Angels||1||4.40||2.00||Could benefit from starting over out west.|
|46||Jason Kubel||Orioles||2||8.20||5.25||Lots of pop for Camden Yards.|
|48||LaTroy Hawkins||Dodgers||1||4.30||4.25||Stuff of a closer, mindset of a setup man.|
|50||Derrek Lee||Nationals||2||7.00||7.25||Nationals will finish fourth or fifth in first baseman derby.|
|54||Jon Garland||Royals||2||6.00||4.44||Can he resurrect his career?|
|55||Wilson Betemit||Royals||1||2.80||1.00||Role will be a super utility man in K.C.|
|56||Brad Lidge||Twins||1||4.00||12.00||Lidge still wants to be a closer; little pressure in Minnesota in 2012.|
|57||Octavio Dotel||Cardinals||2||7.00||3.00||Meant too much to Redbirds' late-season surge not to be re-signed.|
|58||Darren Oliver||Rangers||1||4.50||3.25||Another season in Texas for the ageless lefty.|
|59||Kevin Millwood||Padres||1||3.20||Will find a job by spring training.|
|60||Andruw Jones||Yankees||1||2.10||1.50||Yankees actually like him in the clubhouse.|
|61||Cody Ross||Twins||1||2.50||6.30||His 45 days of fame in San Francisco in 2010 now a distant memory.|
|62||Yuniesky Betancourt||Phillies||2||7.50||4.30||Not as much of a downgrade at short as you might think for Phils.|
|64||Jack Wilson||Braves||1||2.00||5.00||Still has something to offer as an everyday player.|
|66||Jamey Wright||Cardinals||1||2.00||.90||Relishes the opportunity to reunite with Mike Matheny.|
|67||Vladimir Guerrero||Blue Jays||1||3.00||7.60||Vlad's return to Canada could be his final stop.|
|68||Ivan Rodriguez||Cardinals||1||1.50||3.00||Pudge and Yadier would be fun to watch.|
|70||Chris Snyder||White Sox||1||2.50||6.25||Made $11.5 mil over the last two years, won't get near that in 2012-13.|
|74||Kerry Wood||Rays||2||5.50||1.50||Maybe the new regime in Chicago can convince him to stay.|
|77||Nick Punto||Cardinals||1||2.00||.75||Must find a team in need of utility role and must accept the role.|
|78||Kelly Shoppach||Indians||1||1.30||3.00||He'll find a job as a backup somewhere, like in AL.|
|79||George Sherrill||Rays||1||2.00||1.20||Nice lefty setup man for Joe Maddon?|
|80||Ryan Ludwick||Blue Jays||1||1.50||6.78||Still living off one magical season in St. Louis.|
|81||Edgar Renteria||Brewers||1||1.50||2.00||Would be a nice complement to Furcal in Milwaukee.|
|84||Marcus Thames||—||1||ML||1.00||Will have to make a team in spring training.|
|87||Hideki Matsui||Yankees||1||2.00||4.25||Return to Gotham?|
|89||Mike Gonzalez||Cubs||1||.90||6.00||Can be an effective situational guy.|
|90||Rich Harden||Cardinals||1||1.00||1.50||Dave Duncan's next reclamation project?|
|92||Aaron Miles||Dodgers||1||1.00||.50||Likely return to L.A.|
|93||David Aardsma||Mariners||1||.80||4.50||After Tommy John Surgery in July, he's not likely to pitch until late in the season.|
|94||Ronny Cedeno||Phillies||1||.90||1.85||Some team could use a veteran backup infielder.|
|95||Austin Kearns||—||1||ML||1.30||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|98||Jonny Gomes||A's||1||1.00||1.75||Can still drive in runs.|
|99||Cesar Izturis||—||1||ML||1.50||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|100||Brandon Webb||—||1||ML||Wouldn't surprise to see him sign a rich, incentive-laden deal.|
|101||Casey Blake||—||1||ML||5.50||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|102||Lyle Overbay||Padres||1||1.20||5.00||Padres could use a cheap veteran pinch-hitter/first baseman.|
|104||Ramon Castro||—||1||ML||1.20||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|105||Jason Marquis||—||1||ML||.75||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|106||Juan Cruz||—||1||ML||.85||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|107||Jon Rauch||—||1||ML||3.50||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|108||Mark DeRosa||Phillies||1||1.00||6.00||Can be a valuable piece if completely healthy.|
|109||Nori Aoki||Dodgers||2||1.90||Japanese star should debut on West Coast.|
|110||Carlos Guillen||—||1||ML||12.90||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|111||Raul Ibanez||Indians||1||1.00||12.17||Will never see $12 million per season again.|
|113||Jason Varitek||Rockies||1||.90||2.00||Rox could use a mentor like Varitek.|
|114||Brad Penny||—||1||ML||3.00||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|115||Juan Pierre||—||1||ML||8.50||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|116||Arthur Rhodes||—||1||ML||3.90||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|117||Livan Hernandez||—||1||ML||1.25||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|118||Todd Coffey||—||1||ML||1.35||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
|119||Pat Burrell||—||1||RET||1.00||Retirement seems to be in order.|
|120||Scott Linebrink||—||1||ML||5.50||Minor league contract with invite to spring training.|
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 13 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. West Virginia (8-3) – Thanks to conference realignment, Friday night’s Backyard Brawl might be the last one for a couple of years. What a shame if that’s the case. The Mountaineers rallied from a 14-0 hole to knock off Pittsburgh 21-20, moving their record to 8-3 this season. The offensive line has been a sore spot all year for West Virginia and was an issue against the Panthers, as quarterback Geno Smith was sacked four times and threw for only 244 yards. However, the rushing attack came alive in the second half, and the defense sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri 10 times. The Mountaineers close out their regular season with a date at South Florida on Thursday night. If West Virginia wins on Thursday, along with a Cincinnati victory against Connecticut, the Mountaineers will claim the Big East's BCS spot.
2. Cincinnati (8-3) – The Bearcats kept alive their Big East title hopes, defeating Syracuse 30-13 for their eighth win of the season. After quarterback Munchie Legaux struggled against Rutgers, coach Butch Jones opened up the quarterback competition and gave Jordan Luallen some playing time against the Orange. Luallen gave the offense a spark, rushing for 77 yards on eight carries and completing two of three passes. Cincinnati closes out its regular season with a home date against Connecticut. If the Bearcats win and West Virginia loses to South Florida, they will represent the Big East in the BCS.
3. Louisville (7-5) – After a 2-4 start, not many expected the Cardinals to be in position to play in a BCS game. How things have changed since mid-October. Louisville knocked off South Florida 34-24 on Friday, giving it five wins in its last six games. Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had an outstanding performance against the Bulls, completing 19 of 28 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinals’ defense also delivered, limiting South Florida to 64 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers. Louisville has finished its regular season, but will have to wait until next Saturday to see if it will represent the Big East in the BCS.
4. Rutgers (8-4) – Winning the turnover battle has been a critical staple for the Scarlet Knights’ success this year. However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday against Connecticut. Rutgers committed seven turnovers against the Huskies and suffered his worst defeat of the year (40-22). The loss to Connecticut ended any hopes the Scarlet Knights had of representing the Big East in the BCS. Rutgers has finished its regular season and will now wait for its postseason destination, likely the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City on Dec. 30.
5. Pittsburgh (5-6) – The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but West Virginia staged a furious second-half rally to win the Backyard Brawl 21-20. Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered in the final two quarters, largely due to an offensive line that was manhandled by a relentless pass rush by the Mountaineers. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked 10 times, with four coming on the final drive. With the loss to West Virginia, the Panthers were eliminated from the Big East title race. And with one game remaining, Pittsburgh has to focus on getting bowl eligible. Syracuse visits Heinz Field next Saturday in the regular season finale.
6. South Florida (5-6) – With one game left, the Bulls have their backs against the wall. After a 4-0 start, South Florida is in danger of missing out on the postseason. The Bulls had a chance to get bowl eligible on Saturday, but watched an early lead evaporate for a 34-24 loss to Louisville. Quarterback B.J. Daniels was sidelined with a shoulder injury, but replacement Bobby Eveld was solid in relief, completing 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. However, the Bulls were unable to get their rushing attack going, and the offense committed three turnovers. South Florida will have one more shot to get bowl eligible, hosting West Virginia on Thursday night.
7. Connecticut (5-6) – An interesting trend has developed for the Huskies over the last five weeks. Connecticut has alternated wins and losses during that span, capped by a surprising 40-22 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. The Huskies managed only 290 yards of offense, but the defense forced seven turnovers and sacked Scarlet Knight quarterbacks six times. Connecticut’s regular season will conclude next Saturday at Cincinnati. The Huskies need a win to get bowl eligible, while the Bearcats will be playing for a shot at the Big East title.
8. Syracuse (5-6) – After last season’s 8-5, all signs pointed to the Orange going in the right direction. However, thanks to a 30-13 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, Syracuse still needs one win to get bowl eligible. Since pulling a 49-23 upset over West Virginia, the Orange has lost four straight. The culprit for the struggles this season rests with both sides of the ball. The offense ranks near the bottom of the Big East in rushing, while the defense is giving up almost 30 points a game. If Syracuse wants to salvage this season, getting a victory against Pittsburgh on Saturday would keep alive the possibility of back-to-back winning seasons.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
The Ron Zook era had a few highlights, but his seven-year tenure at Illinois was mostly met with mixed results. During Zook’s watch, the Fighting Illini played in the 2008 Rose Bowl, but followed that up with a disappointing 5-7 season. Illinois showed improvement last season, finishing with a 7-6 record and a Texas Bowl win over Baylor. And things were looking up after a 6-0 start this year. However, the Fighting Illini lost six in a row, including a disappointing showing in the finale against Minnesota.
Who might replace Zook at Illinois?
Tim Beckman, head coach, Toledo – Beckman is a rising star in the non-BCS ranks, leading Toledo to a 21-16 record over the last three seasons. The Rockets fell just short of winning the MAC West title this year, but have earned a bowl trip for the second season in a row. Beckman also has coaching stops as an assistant at Bowling Green, Ohio State and Oklahoma State.
Paul Chyrst, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin – Chryst has quietly become one of the top assistants in college football. Under his direction, the Badgers have led the Big Ten in scoring offense for three consecutive seasons. Before joining Wisconsin as the offensive coordinator in 2005, he coached at Oregon State from 2003-04 and with the San Diego Chargers from 1999-01. However, he does not have any head coaching experience. Chryst graduated from Wisconsin in 1988, so pulling him away from Madison won’t be easy.
Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Doeren has only been a head coach for one season, but the results are impressive. The Huskies finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and a spot in the MAC title game against Ohio. He has Big Ten coaching experience, working at Wisconsin from 2006-10. Doeren is probably a longshot considering his overall limited head coaching experience. However, he appears to be a name to watch for BCS coaching searches in the next few years.
Ron English, head coach, Eastern Michigan – Coaching in Ypsilanti at Eastern Michigan is arguably one of the toughest jobs in college football. English has made steady improvements, starting 2-22 through his first two years, but leading the Eagles to a 6-6 record in 2011. While six wins may not seem like much, before this season’s record, Eastern Michigan had only two seasons of at least six victories since 1988. English has Big Ten coaching experience, working under Lloyd Carr at Michigan from 2003-07. He may not be the flashiest name, but he’s a no-nonsense coach and someone who can get results at a bigger program.
Larry Fedora, head coach, Southern Miss – Fedora’s name has popped up in a couple of coaching searches – Ole Miss, North Carolina, Arizona State and Kansas – and probably won’t be at Southern Miss next season. If this is Illinois’ target, it will have to move fast. Fedora has led the Golden Eagles to a 32-19 record in four seasons and a Conference USA East title this year. Before coming to Southern Miss, he coached at Florida and Oklahoma State as the offensive coordinator. Fedora does not have any Big Ten coaching experience, but has built a strong resume from his time with the Golden Eagles.
Hugh Freeze, head coach, Arkansas State – Just like Fedora and Hudspeth, Freeze is going to be a hot commodity this offseason. In one year as Arkansas State’s head coach, Freeze led the Red Wolves to a 9-2 record and a shot at the outright Sun Belt title. He worked as an assistant at Ole Miss from 2005-07 and went 20-5 in two seasons as the head coach at Lambuth. Freeze is regarded as a great recruiter, but does not have any experience in the Big Ten. He is also expected to be targeted by Memphis and Ole Miss to fill its vacancies this offseason.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, UL Lafayette – Hudspeth has had a quick rise through the coaching ranks over the last few seasons. He was the head coach at North Alabama from 2002-08, leading it to a 66-21 record and four playoff appearances. Hudspeth worked under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State from 2009-10 and took over the head coaching spot at UL Lafayette this year, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to an 8-4 record and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl. Hudspeth is expected to be in the mix at Ole Miss, so Illinois will have competition if it is interested.
Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – With the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, Jones could be looking to land with a job with more stability. Before an injury to quarterback Zach Collaros this year, the Bearcats were in complete control of the conference and an automatic spot into a BCS bowl. Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas hired Jones from Central Michigan to Cincinnati, so there is certainly plenty of familiarity between these two.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach – There’s some baggage with Leach, but he’s a proven winner. During his 10 seasons at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders recorded an 84-43 record and made 10 bowl appearances. Leach’s offense wouldn’t fit well with the current personnel at Illinois, but would be a difficult matchup once he gets the right pieces in place. Leach is also expected to be targeted by Arizona State and Kansas for its openings.
Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator, Alabama – Nick Saban assistants have not fared tremendously well – Derek Dooley, Tennessee, Will Muschamp, Florida and Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – but McElwain should get consideration in coaching searches. He has done a good job during his tenure with Alabama, helping to coordinate the Crimson Tide’s offense over the last four seasons. Despite having a first-year starter at quarterback, Alabama finished third in the SEC in scoring offense this season. And the Crimson Tide won the national title with a first-year starter in 2009. McElwain has never been a head coach, but is a proven coordinator with some NFL experience – 2006 with the Oakland Raiders.
Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator, Arkansas – While Bobby Petrino calls the plays, McGee is a highly-regarded assistant. He nearly landed the job at Tulsa last offseason, but withdrew his name from consideration. McGee has also made stops at Northwestern, Toledo and UNLV. He is a longshot to earn the job, but is someone that is due for a shot as a head coach.
Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State – Rhoads has arguably one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12 at Iowa State. However, he has led the Cyclones to an 18-18 record in three years and will likely make a bowl trip this season. Before taking the job in Ames, Rhoads coached as the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh and Auburn. He also spent one season as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (1991). Rhoads wouldn’t be the flashiest of hires, but is a proven winner and his results at Iowa State are impressive.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – Sumlin has done a terrific job in four years at Houston, leading the Cougars to an undefeated 2011 regular season and two previous bowl appearances in 2008-09. Despite his recent ties to Texas and Oklahoma, Sumlin actually has a Big Ten background. He played at Purdue from 1983-86 and coached in the Big Ten at Minnesota from 1993-97 and at Purdue from 1998-00. In addition to his Big Ten ties, Sumlin coached under Bob Stoops from 2003-07 at Oklahoma. There are few (if any) holes in Sumlin’s resume, and he will be one of the most-sought after coaches this offseason.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart inherited a difficult situation at Western Kentucky, a program that had only won two games in the two years prior to his arrival. After a 2-10 record in his first season, Taggart led the Hilltoppers to a 7-5 record and a likely bowl appearance this year. He does not have any experience coaching in the Big Ten, but coached under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Venables is regarded as one of the top assistants in the nation. He does not have any head coaching experience, but has worked under two of the best in college football: Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma). While Venables is likely to come up in this search, he could be more interested in the opening at Kansas.
Kirby Wilson, running backs coach, Pittsburgh Steelers – Wilson is a wildcard to watch in the coaching search. He played at Illinois from 1980-81, but has no head coaching experience. Wilson has spent a majority of his career in the NFL, with his last collegiate experience coming in 2001 as an assistant at USC. Although Wilson is a former Illinois player, not having head coaching experience could hurt his chances of landing the job.
Too often, scandals like the ones at the University of Miami or Ohio State or USC overshadow the positive aspects of college athletics. The Golden Arm Award, presented annually to the top senior quarterback — as qualified by academic year — by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Foundation, encapsulates all that is good in college sports. The award acknowledges performance on the field, for sure. However, it goes beyond completion percentage and touchdown passes. The Golden Arm Award rewards character, citizenship, integrity and those who honor the game.
Athlon Sports is proud to partner with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Foundation in sponsoring this award in 2011.
Three Golden Arm Award candidates post big performances this week.
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Andrew Luck, a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, led the Cardinal to a 28-14 win over Notre Dame and completed a 11-1 regular season, likely good enough to put Stanford in a BCS bowl for the second consecutive season.
In the win over the Irish, Luck tossed four touchdown passes giving him 80 for his career, breaking the school record of 77 set by John Elway. It took Luck just three seasons to surpass what Elway did in four. Luck now owns every major passing record at Stanford.
Luck completed 20 of his 30 passes for 233 yards leading the Cardinal to a 21-0 halftime lead.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Even though Robert Griffin III, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist, missed the second half with a concussion, the dual threat scored two rushing touchdowns and passed for another as the Baylor Bears trounced Texas Tech, 66-42.
Griffin connected with Kendall Wright on a 33-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, then scored on runs of four and three yards before leaving the game late in the second quarter.
After running around the right side for a first down on third-and-six to the Tech five-yard line, a late hit on Griffin knocked the quarterback out with 2:19 left in the half.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
In a game played in 30-40 mph winds, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award finalist Landry Jones struggled with his accuracy, but he and his fellow Sooners stormed the Iowa State Cyclones 26-6 at Norman.
Jones completed just 22 of his 43 throws, but led the Sooners to a 23-6 halftime lead before weather conditions thwarted both offenses in the second half.
Jones threw for 256 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 13 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma State (10-1) – The Cowboys had a bye on Saturday and return to action against rival Oklahoma this week. The off week came at a good time for Oklahoma State, especially after the Nov. 18 loss to Iowa State. Although the Cowboys’ national title hopes are likely over, there is still plenty to play for. With a win over the Sooners, Oklahoma State will clinch a BCS bid – the first in program history. A loss to Oklahoma would likely send the Cowboys to the Cotton Bowl.
2. Oklahoma (9-2) – It wasn’t the cleanest performance for the Sooners, but they found a way to earn a 26-6 victory over Iowa State. Losing receiver Ryan Broyles has clearly had an effect on the offense. Jaz Reynolds also missed Saturday’s game due to a suspension, leaving Dejuan Miller and Kenny Stills as the team’s top two receivers. Quarterback Landry Jones has not thrown a touchdown pass in the last two games, while tossing three picks. Oklahoma will have a chance to win the Big 12 crown next week, as it travels to Stillwater to take on rival Oklahoma State. Despite the personnel losses on offense, the Sooners won’t be an easy out for the Cowboys.
3. Kansas State (9-2) – Although a bye week before the last game of the season isn’t ideal, it probably came at a good time for the Wildcats. Quarterback Collin Klein has been banged up and practiced little over the last two weeks. However, the down time should give the junior quarterback time to heal and return 100 percent for the finale against Iowa State. Kansas State is still in the mix for a BCS bowl, but is likely ticketed for the Cotton or Alamo Bowl.
4. Baylor (8-3) – No Robert Griffin? No problem. Griffin was knocked out of the game late in the first half with a concussion, forcing Nick Florence to end his redshirt season for the second half against Texas Tech. Florence completed 9 of 12 throws for 160 yards and two scores, leading the Bears to a 66-42 blowout win over the Red Raiders. Running back Terrance Ganaway also delivered, rushing for 257 yards and three scores on 43 attempts. Baylor has one remaining regular season game, as it hosts Texas on Saturday. If the Bears can knock off the Longhorns, they will have their first nine-win season since 1986.
5. Missouri (7-5) – The final chapter – at least for now – in the Border War goes to Missouri. The Tigers rebounded from a slow start to knock off Kansas 24-10 and close out the regular season with a 7-5 record. Saturday’s win against the Jayhawks also saw the return of coach Gary Pinkel to the sideline after a one-game suspension due to an off-the-field incident. Quarterback James Franklin struggled early against Kansas, but also threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Missouri will enter the bowl game with a three-game winning streak.
6. Texas (7-5) – Timely. That’s really the only word to describe the Longhorns’ offense in the victory over Texas A&M. With less than three minutes to go, quarterback Case McCoy led Texas into position for the winning score, and kicker Justin Tucker nailed the 40-yard field goal as time expired. The Longhorns finished with just 237 yards, but also got help from the defense with four forced turnovers, including one that was return for a score in the third quarter. Texas still has a ways to go before getting back into Big 12 title contention, but 2011 was a step in the right direction.
7. Texas A&M (6-6) – A disappointing season in College Station came to a close with a heartbreaking 27-25 defeat to Texas. The Aggies took the lead with under three minutes to go, but was unable to get a stop on the Longhorns’ final drive. Running back Cyrus Gray was sidelined with a shoulder injury, but Ben Malena showed flashes of promise with 83 yards on 25 carries. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not have a great performance against the Longhorns, throwing for 224 yards and tossing three picks. Although it has been a disappointing year for Texas A&M, head coach Mike Sherman is expected to return in 2012, as the Aggies embark on their inaugural journey in the SEC.
8. Iowa State (6-5) – One week after beating Oklahoma State, the Cyclones were unable to build off the momentum and lost 26-6 to Oklahoma. Iowa State’s defense did a respectable job of keeping the Sooners’ offense in check with four forced turnovers, but the offense was unable to get on track. Quarterback Jared Barnett finished with only 126 passing yards, while Jeff Woody led the ground attack with 59 yards. Iowa State finishes the regular season next Saturday against Kansas State. There’s no question the Cyclones are going bowling, but a win over the Wildcats could probably improve their destination.
9. Texas Tech (5-7) – For the first time since 1992, the Red Raiders finished with a losing record. Saturday’s 66-42 defeat assured Texas Tech of a 5-7 record, along with no postseason trip. Since beating Oklahoma on Oct. 22, the Red Raiders are winless and scored more than 27 points only once. Coach Tommy Tuberville has done a good job of bringing talent into Lubbock, but it has to translate into wins next season. The offense has plenty of weapons, but the defense ranked among the worst in the nation this year.
10. Kansas (2-10) – A dismal year in Lawrence was capped by a 24-10 defeat to rival Missouri. The Jayhawks started the year 2-0, but finished the season with 10 consecutive losses and some of the defeats weren’t close. The dismal close to the year and little progress on the field cost coach Turner Gill his job. The Jayhawks have some reasons to be optimistic next year, as the team has a talented stable of running backs returning. However, the defense will have to show major improvement next year to turn Kansas into a bowl team.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With 13 weeks in the book, it's time to take a look at how teams project to the postseason. There's going to be a lot of changes over the next couple of weeks, especially as teams battle just to get to six wins.
|New Mexico||Dec. 17||MWC vs. Pac-12||Wyoming vs. Western Michigan*|
|Idaho Potato||Dec. 17||MAC vs. MWC||Ohio vs. Utah State|
|New Orleans||Dec. 17||C-USA vs. Sun Belt||UL Lafayette vs. Illinois*|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 20||Big East vs. C-USA||Marshall vs. Pittsburgh|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 21||MWC vs. WAC||Louisiana Tech vs. TCU|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 22||MWC vs. Pac-12||Boise State vs. Arizona State|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. WAC||Nevada vs. SMU|
|Independence||Dec. 26||ACC vs. MWC||Air Force vs. Wake Forest|
|Little Caesars||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs. MAC||Toledo vs. Northwestern|
|Belk||Dec. 27||ACC vs. Big East||Louisville vs. NC State|
|Military||Dec. 28||ACC vs. Navy||North Carolina vs. Temple*|
|Holiday||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas vs. California|
|Champs Sports||Dec. 29||ACC vs. Big East||Notre Dame vs. Clemson|
|Alamo||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Kansas State vs. Washington|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||BYU vs. C-USA||BYU vs. Tulsa|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Big East||Rutgers vs. Missouri|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Virginia vs. Mississippi State|
|Insight||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Penn State vs. Baylor|
|Car Care||Dec. 31||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Iowa vs. Texas A&M|
|Sun||Dec. 31||ACC vs. Pac-12||Georgia Tech vs. Utah|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||C-USA vs. SEC||Southern Miss vs. Vanderbilt|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 31||Army vs. Pac-12||San Diego State* vs. Western Kentucky*|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Florida State vs. Auburn|
|TicketCity||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. C-USA||Purdue vs. Iowa State*|
|Outback||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||Michigan State vs. Georgia|
|Capital One||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||Nebraska vs. Arkansas|
|TaxSlayer.com Gator||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||Florida vs. Ohio State|
|Rose||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Wisconsin vs. Oregon|
|Fiesta||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Oklahoma State vs. Stanford|
|Sugar||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Michigan vs. Houston|
|Orange||Jan. 4||BCS vs. BCS||Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia|
|Cotton||Jan. 6||Big 12 vs. SEC||South Carolina vs. Oklahoma|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 7||Big East vs. SEC||Cincinnati vs. FIU*|
|GoDaddy.com||Jan. 8||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois|
|National Title||Jan. 9||BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2||LSU vs. Alabama|
* Current standings and projections indicate some conferences may fail to fulfill their tie-ins for 2011.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 13 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Virginia Tech (11-1) – With the Coastal Division title on the line, the Hokies delivered in a big way against Virginia. Virginia Tech jumped on the Cavaliers early and left no doubt in the second half as it cruised to a 38-0 victory. Quarterback Logan Thomas completed 13 of 21 throws for 186 yards and two touchdowns, while running back David Wilson added 159 yards and two scores on the ground. The shutout was the first for Virginia Tech since Sept. 25, 2010 when the Hokies blanked Boston College 19-0. With a win against Clemson next Saturday, Virginia Tech will claim its third ACC Championship in four seasons.
2. Georgia Tech (8-4) – The Yellow Jackets’ struggles against their in-state rivals continued with Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Georgia. The offense gained 355 yards, but committed two turnovers and managed only seven points in the second half. Quarterback Tevin Washington was pulled after a sluggish performance, completing only three of his 10 attempts for 34 yards and two picks. While the defense did a good job of containing Georgia’s rushing attack, it had no answer for quarterback Aaron Murray. With their 8-4 regular season record, the Yellow Jackets have at least eight wins in three out of four seasons under coach Paul Johnson.
3. Clemson (9-3) – Considering the Tigers won the Atlantic Division, there are plenty of reasons to be pleased with the 2011 season. However, the last few weeks have been a disappointment. The Tigers lost 31-17 to Georgia Tech, before clinching the division with a comeback win over Wake Forest. And Clemson has closed out the year with back-to-back losses, including a head-scratching 37-13 defeat to NC State and Saturday’s 34-13 loss to rival South Carolina. The Tigers have a young roster, so there is a lot of optimism about their chances to repeat as Atlantic champs next season. However, losing three out of its last four games is not what coach Dabo Swinney had in mind.
4. Virginia (8-4) – The Cavaliers have made big progress in just two years under coach Mike London. But they are not quite ready for primetime. Virginia was completely dominated by rival Virginia Tech 38-0 on Saturday afternoon. The victory clinched the ACC Coastal title for the Hokies. The Cavaliers’ managed only 243 yards of offense and committed four costly turnovers. A rushing attack that was among the best in the ACC barely got on track, which forced too much pressure on quarterback Michael Rocco against a solid Virginia Tech secondary. Although Virginia has to be disappointed it did not win the Coastal, it’s clear the program is headed in the right direction.
5. Florida State (8-4) – It wasn’t pretty, but the Seminoles knocked off Florida to finish the regular season with an 8-4 record. The victory over the Gators gave Florida State the Sunshine State title, thanks to an earlier 23-19 win over Miami. Improving the offense is going to be a top priority for coach Jimbo Fisher during the bowl practices. The Seminoles managed only 100 yards against Florida and scored only 13 points in the loss to Virginia in Week 12. With the young talent returning next season, Florida State could begin in many preseason top-10 lists. But there’s one more game to play this year, likely in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame or Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn.
6. North Carolina (7-5) – An interesting regular season in Chapel Hill finished with a 37-21 victory over Duke. After the firing of Butch Davis, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding which direction this team would go. However, interim coach Everett Withers led the team to a 7-5 record and a solid bowl appearance. One of the big reasons for North Carolina’s success this season was the play of running back Giovani Bernard. The redshirt freshman finished the regular season with 1,219 yards and 13 rushing scores. Quarterback Bryn Renner also had a solid season, throwing 23 touchdowns and 2,768 yards. Withers may not be back in Chapel Hill next season, but he did a respectable job as the team’s head coach in this year.
7. Miami (6-6) – Thanks to a bowl ban, the Hurricanes finished their season with a 24-17 loss to Boston College. Miami outgained the Eagles 367 to 349, but committed four costly turnovers. Quarterback Jacory Harris was largely responsible for those mistakes, as he tossed a season-high four interceptions. Running back Lamar Miller posted 114 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries, which could be his final performance in a Miami uniform. Miller is expected to consider entering the NFL Draft, which would be a big loss for the Hurricanes and their hopes to win the ACC in 2012. Coach Al Golden has been the source of speculation over the last few weeks and was rumored to be interested in the opening at Penn State. However, Golden received an extension to stay at Miami through the 2020 season.
8. Wake Forest (6-6) – The Demon Deacons closed out the regular season with a disappointing 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt. The defense was pushed around in the trenches by the Commodores’ offensive line, giving up nearly 300 rushing yards (297). Wake Forest’s offense was sluggish, with quarterback Tanner Price throwing for only 157 yards. Although the Demon Deacons finished with four losses in their last five games, they will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2008. And after a 3-9 record last year, Wake Forest has to be pleased with the direction of the program going into bowl practices and 2012 season.
9. NC State (7-5) – One of Week 13’s most bizarre games took place in Raleigh. The Wolfpack came out flat and trailed Maryland 41-14 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, NC State scored 42 unanswered points, including a pick-six of Terrapin quarterback C.J. Brown for the exclamation point with a minute to go. The victory over Maryland was necessary for NC State to go bowling. With Miami’s decision to not play in a bowl, the Wolfpack are likely headed to Charlotte to play in the Belk Bowl. Coach Tom O’Brien’s job status has been the source of speculation, but getting bowl eligible and the victory over North Carolina a couple of weeks ago likely solidified his place for another year in Raleigh.
10. Boston College (4-8) – Overall, it was a disappointing season for the Eagles. However, the second half of the year provided some hope the program can bounce back into a bowl game next season. Boston College capped off its 2011 campaign with a surprising 24-17 victory over Miami on Friday afternoon. The win over the Hurricanes was the Eagles' second win in their last three games. The biggest question mark going into the offseason will be linebacker Luke Kuechly, who could enter the NFL Draft. Also, Boston College has to find some stability on offense in 2012, but could get a boost with the return of running back Montel Harris from a knee injury.
11. Duke (3-9) – The Blue Devils hung tough for a half, but eventually fell to North Carolina 37-21. The loss to the Tar Heels was Duke’s seventh in a row this year, after a three-game winning streak early in the season. What’s next for coach David Cutcliffe? It’s been slow, but there has been progress. The Blue Devils have to find a consistent rushing game and continue to improve their defense. Duke has not made a bowl game since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl and would figure to be picked to finish last in the Coastal next season.
12. Maryland (2-10) – Coach Randy Edsall’s first year in College Park won’t be remembered with many pleasant memories. The Terrapins held a 41-14 lead over NC State, but allowed the Wolfpack to score 42 unanswered points and lost 56-41. Maryland finished the year with eight consecutive losses and not much positive momentum going into the offseason. Edsall does not appear to be well-liked by the players, and the attendance was an issue at some home games this year. Edsall isn’t in any danger of losing his job, but the Terrapins need to show progress next year to add long-term job security for this coaching staff.
Everything seems to be pointing toward Houston Texans quarterback Matt Leinart having a successful debut as the team’s starter in Week 13 at Jacksonville.
Leinart takes over for Matt Schaub, who went on injured reserve this week. He inherits a Texans team that has scored at least 24 points in their last four games — 37, 30, 24 and 41.
He has running back Arian Foster at his disposal along with the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels.
Schaub bows out of the 2011 season as fantasy’s No. 12 QB on a team that leads the league in rush attempts by 21 (357 to San Francisco’s 336) and is 30th in pass attempts (178).
Yes, the Texans will continue to be a run-oriented team under Leinart, but don’t forget what those runners can do as pass catchers out of the backfield.
Foster, has at least four catches in five of the last six games. Over those five games, Foster averages 5 catches for 83 yards and has two scores — an average of 13.2 fantasy points per game in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format. And that’s just 13.2 points receiving, not including what Foster does on the ground.
It’s the play of Foster as a pass catcher that has helped keep the Texans near the top in yards per completion, ranking second at 8.5.
Daniels has been up and down this season with four straight double-digit fantasy days, but has not scored over 9.1 in the last five games. A talented TE is always an inexperienced NFL QB’s good friend. TE Joel Dreessen has also been a good target for the Texans this season.
And after six weeks on the sidelines, Houston gets its stud receiver back. Johnson had three straight games over 17 points — 19, 18.8 and 17.1 — to start the 2011 season before a hamstring injury shortened his season.
Schaub completed over 18 passes just four times this season, but was still a top-12fantasy QB. With how little Schaub was called on to be the centerpiece for the Texans, yet still be productive, is good news for Leinart. His goal: Just get it into the playmakers hands and let them do the rest.
Going up against a Jacksonville defense that has been ravaged by injuries — three starters on IR in the last two weeks, including two defensive backs, and two defensive linemen already being ruled out for this week and Aaron Kampman not looking promising — this should be a solid debut for Leinart.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
For a second-year player, it sure seems like we’ve been waiting a long time for Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller to show up. A top-10 pick from Clemson in the 2010 NFL Draft, Spiller will get the starting nod for the Bills at running back now that Fred Jackson is on injured reserved.
What does this mean for fantasy? Nothing. And that’s pretty sad when a second-year player, replacing fantasy’s current No. 3 RB, a 30-year-old back at that, won’t have half the impact of his predecessor.
Spiller, if he was good enough, would have replaced Jackson by now, or at least significantly cut into his production. Jackson carried 170 times for 934 yards and six scores and added 39 catches for 442 yards this season. Spiller, on the other hand, has carried 21 times for 115 yards and one score and has 15 catches for 82 yards.
Jackson has 67 percent of the team’s 253 carries, while Spiller has eight percent. That hardly looks like someone that’s ready to be given a full workload. Of course there is no guarantee that the cut will be that deep for Spiller, as another rookie from Carolina may get the chance to see what he can do. University of North Carolina product Johnny White has already seen 10 carries for 32 yards in his first season.
If I had to bank of who’s going to get the majority of the looks the remainder of the season, I’d lead toward White.
Buffalo, once 4-1 this season, has lost four of five, including three in a row. After scoring at least 31 points in their first four wins, the Bills have scored no more than 24 in their last five games, and no more than 11 in their last three.
The offense is obviously on the decline. Injuries have taken their toll at the RB position, the WR position and on the offensive line. And that’s just the offense. The defense has seen a rash of injuries as well.
None of this spells success for the Bills for the remainder of the season, particularly the offense, and even moreso the running game.
Spiller has burned fantasy players nearly every time we’ve tried to insert him in our lineups during his short career. Why should the final six weeks of this season be any different?
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Matt Leinart is at quarterback for the Houston Texans this week, and perhaps the remainder of the season as Matt Schaub went on injured reserve with a foot injury. And as one key starter goes down, another is expected to return this week in receiver Andre Johnson.
Johnson was on a torrid pace at the start of the 2011 season before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. Now he is back and he should pick up right where he left off.
Johnson had three straight games over 17 points — 19, 18.8 and 17.1 — before the hamstring injury shortened his season during a Week 4 game against Pittsburgh. In that game, he had caught four of five targets for 36 yards before leaving in the second quarter.
Now the Texans, and the passing game with Johnson in particular, get a Jacksonville defense ravaged by injuries. Three of the Jaguars’ defensive starters have been placed on injured reserve in the last two weeks, including two defensive backs and a linebacker, and three defensive linemen are likely out against Houston. That means easier matchups for Johnson and more time for Leinart.
Backup cornerbacks Will Middleton and Ashton Youboty, who was signed off the street less than two weeks ago, are expected to start against the Texans, according to reports.
In 14 career games against the Jaguars, Johnson has 85 catches for 1,118 yards and six scores — 6.1 catches, 79.9 yards and .4 TDs per game or 13.4 fantasy points per meeting.
If more evidence were needed as to how important Johnson is to the Texans’ passing game, just look at the targets and catches numbers.
Johnson has 37 targets and 25 catches for 352 yards and two scores through three and half games played. Jacoby Jones has 44 targets, 21 catches for 377 yards and two scores in 10 games, including seven starts. Kevin Walter has 35 targets, 25 catches, 298 yards and two scores in nine games, including eight starts. Despite being gone for six-plus weeks, Johnson still leads the team in catches and yards, is tied for the TD lead and Jones has just seven more targets.
Moral of the story: When Johnson’s out there, they get him the ball and he produces.
Start Johnson with confidence in Week 12.
Toby Gerhart won’t come to the rescue for Adrian Peterson owners this week.
Peterson suffered an ankle sprain in the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 11 game against Oakland and will miss at least this week against Atlanta and perhaps more.
That leaves Gerhart, a second-year player, who has 24 carries for 118 yards and five catches for 61 yards — one a 42-yard reception — with no touchdowns in 10 games played this season. Gerhart has just one TD in two seasons on 105 carries and 26 receptions. When Peterson went down in the first quarter against the Raiders last week, Gerhart came in and carried seven times for 18 yards in a 27-21 loss.
Now the Vikings travel to face an Atlanta Falcons defense that is No. 2 in the league against the run at 85.4 yards per game on 22.5 attempts per game. The Falcons are third in the league in runs of 20-plus yards allowed (3), have given up no runs over 40 yards and have forced five fumbles.
Gerhart is in line to get plenty of touches. The Vikings gave Peterson 20-plus carries in just half of their games this season. They are ranked 11th in attempts (27.6) and fifth in yards (143.1) per game, are ranked third with 13 20-plus yard carries and fourth with three 40-plus yard carries.
Atlanta has seen three 12-carry games from lead backs and a 16-carry game over the last six games. After two 20-point games from RBs in Weeks 1 and 2, no fantasy back has scored over 14.7 points and only two have scored double digits against the Falcons.
Gerhart is certainly the kind of back that needs volume to be relevant, and the numbers say that the Falcons just don’t let opposing runners get that chance. Only once this season has a back carried 20-plus times and that was Tampa Bay’s LeGarrette Blount needing 24 carries to get to 81 yards with no TD. That sounds a lot like a Gerhart line you would most likely see.
Then add in the fact that WR Percy Harvin is actually the team’s second leading rusher with 28 carries this season, and the recipe for a successful day from Gerhart against Atlanta is just highly unlikely.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green looks like he will be a go against in-state rival Cleveland in Week 12. But it’s hard to start him with confidence against the Browns today.
Green, whose last catch was a spectacular 36-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh in Week 10, missed last week and the final three quarters against the Steelers after he hyper-extended his knee on the scoring play.
Green participated in two full practices to close the week, as did QB Andy Dalton, who is battling an injury to his throwing shoulder. The last time Green had a considerable ailment was a toe injury prior to Week 3. He then went out and had his worst week of the season — a four-catch, 29-yard performance against the visiting 49ers.
Upon his return to game action this week, Green gets fantastic cover corner Joe Haden. The 41-yard TD Green caught in the fourth quarter of the season opener, the only catch of his four targets during the game, is the longest pass play Haden has allowed this season and one of just two TDs. Receivers have caught 28 of 59 passes thrown Haden’s way for 356 yards and the two scores, according to Pro Football Focus. That comes out to 6.16 fantasy points per game allowed.
All Cincinnati receivers should struggle as a matter of fact.
Cleveland is the best in the league against fantasy receivers. The Browns have allowed just four TDs to receivers this season and a receiver hasn’t posted more than 54 yards since Week 6. The Browns are the best in the league against the pass at 166.5 yards per game on the second-fewest attempts allowed in the league (28.2). Cincinnati is 17th in both passing yards (223.1) and attempts (34.5) per game.
Jerome Simpson is too inconsistent to play. He’s coming off an 8-for-152 performance on a team-high 13 targets, but also had a goose egg the week before and was held to 6.4 fantasy points in the opener against Cleveland. Andre Caldwell, who started in Green’s place last week, produced a 13.8-point day, his third double-digit game of the season, but in six of the other seven games he was held to 5.2 points or less.
It’s tough to sit Green as he has scored a touchdown in six of nine games he has played in and been a double-digit fantasy producer in all but one game this season in Athlon’s half-PPR format. But with Green coming off the knee, going up against Haden and a stingy Browns pass defense and the weather expected to be rainy and windy, just limit your expectations.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Brandon LaFell will get the start opposite Steve Smith at receiver for the Carolina Panthers today against the Indianapolis Colts. And he has a strong chance to be a sleeper for your fantasy roster in Week 12.
LaFell, as the team’s No. 3 this season, has 21 catches on 31 targets for 345 yards and two scores. He replaces Legedu Naanee in the starting lineup. Naanee has 33 catches on 59 targets for 355 yards and no scores. So LaFell has been more productive at the No. 3 spot, and should shine against a Colts team that allows the third-most points to fantasy receivers this season.
Indianapolis has allowed an average of 10.87 fantasy points per game to opposing teams’ No. 2 receivers in Athlon’s half-PPR format. The 0-10 Colts have also allowed at least 23 points in all but one game (17 to Jacksonville in Week 10), and are allowing a league-worst 30 points per game. They are also ranked 29th in yards per game allowed (390.6).
Of course the Panthers are not much better on defense. They allow 28.6 points (31st) and 374.8 (27th) yards per game.
The big difference will be Carolina’s proven ability to succeed on offense and that is where LaFell comes into play.
The Panthers are fifth in the league in yards per game (400.9) and are 18th in scoring (22.5 PPG). Meanwhile, the Colts are 31st in yards per game (275.7) and 30th in scoring (13.1).
If there’s any game that the Colts could get into a shootout this could be the one. They have a decent matchup at running back, a great matchup at TE with Jacob Tammee and still have the underachieving trio of WRs in Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.
The one wrench — or two as it were — that could be thrown into the whole deal is the Carolina running back situation. The Panthers have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to go up against the league’s 31st-ranked rush defense (145.6 YPG and 12 TDs). But I still think QB Cam Newton and Brandon LaFell hook up enough times to make a decent flex play out of LaFell.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Clemson versus South Carolina is one of the more underrated and hate-filled rivalries in college football. The Gamecocks and Tigers have been playing since 1896, and Clemson the all-time series 65-39-4. The Tigers won 10 of the 12 matchups from 1997 to 2008, but Steve Spurrier’s crew has rebounded to win the last two games in the series. Both teams enter Saturday’s battle ranked in the Top 20 with 9-2 records. Clemson started 8-0, but the Tigers have lost two of their last three. However, Dabo Swinney’s bunch should get standout receiver Sammy Watkins back from injury this weekend. South Carolina has struggled to score points since losing All-America running back Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury.
Who wins the battle of the Palmetto State?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Clemson has been trending in the wrong direction over the last few weeks, but I think it will knock off South Carolina on Saturday. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has struggled with turnovers recently, throwing two interceptions in each of his last three games. However, the Tigers will get some help for their passing game, as receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to return from a shoulder injury this week. With Watkins back in the mix, the Tigers will be able to stretch the field with his speed. While getting Watkins back will help, Clemson has to do a better job of pass protection, especially against an active South Carolina defensive line. The Gamecocks have struggled to generate offense without running back Marcus Lattimore, but have to find a way to control the clock and keep the Tigers’ passing attack on the sideline. Whichever team is able to get its style of play going will win this game. Clemson’s best chance to get a victory rests with jumping on the Gamecocks and pulling ahead early. Even though the Tigers have struggled recently, I think they will find a way to win on Saturday.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Sammy Watkins says he will be 100% at kickoff and that may be all that matters. The Tigers have turned the ball over entirely too much lately, and South Carolina has played great defense of late. But with nothing on the line for either team in terms of conference championships, pure hatred should fuel this rivalry. Clemson should right the ship on offense with Watkins in the game and will outlast a South Carolina team that has struggled to score points.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
While there is concern for South Carolina’s lack of offense, I think the Gamecocks find a way to win at home in this heated rivalry game. Running back Brandon Wilds has topped 100 yards in three of the last four USC games, and quarterback Connor Shaw has showed a solid ability to run the ball as well. I see South Carolina keeping the ball on the ground and away from the Clemson offense. The Tigers will get a boost from the return of freshman wideout Sammy Watkins, but South Carolina will be the toughest defense that Tajh Boyd and company have seen this year. The atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium will be electric, and I’ll take South Carolina to win by three.
This article on the USC vs. UCLA college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1990 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of the football series between these two schools in Los Angeles who are separated by a mere 13 miles.
The Great Rivalries — USC vs. UCLA
By Mal Florence
Red Sanders once said that the Southern California-UCLA football series is not a matter of life or death. “It’s more important than that,” he said.
Sanders, the famous single-wing coach who came to UCLA from Vanderbilt in 1949 and coached the Bruins until his death in 1958, may have been overstating the significance of the competition — but not by much, considering what it means to alumni and followers of the Pacific-10 schools in Los Angeles.
It is the unique collegiate rivalry
There are other traditional rivalries such as Army-Navy, Michigan-Ohio State, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Oklahoma-Nebraska, Georgia-Florida, Yale-Harvard, Stanford-California, Clemson-South Carolina, Notre Dame-Southern California, Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Texas A&M.
However, only the USC-UCLA rivalry matches two major universities with renowned football programs located only 13 mile apart in a megalopolis.
Houston vs. Rice fits the geographical requirements but that’s all.
When Southern California meets UCLA, families may be disrupted the week of the game. Father and mother, brothers and sisters may have gone to rival schools.
The late November game usually decides the Pac-10 representative in the Rose Bowl. That makes victory a must for each team.
Among the many memorable games was a scoreless tie in 1939 before 103,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Nor will the crowds through the years forget Gary Beban’s late pass to beat Southern California 20-16 in 1965 in a game the Trojans had dominated; O.J. Simpson’s climatic 64-yard touchdown run in the 1967 game that Southern California won 21-20; and, more recently, Erik Affholter’s juggling (and disputed by the Bruins) catch in the end zone that defeated UCLA 17-13 in 1987.
The series, though, had a humble beginning.
UCLA was established in 1919 as the “Southern Branch” of the University of California, Berkeley, near downtown Los Angeles. The school outgrew its facilities and moved to its present campus in Westwood in 1929.
The University of Southern California was founded in 1880 and was playing football eight years later. By the late 1920s, the Trojans, gaining national identity with the inception of their series with Notre Dame, were a burgeoning power.
The crosstown rivalry, as such, began in 1929. Southern California won 76-0 to open the season and followed up with a 52-0 victory in 1930. The series was then discontinued.
Bill Ackerman, the late UCLA athletic director who was in the school’s first graduating class, recalled a few years ago how the series was renewed.
“After those first two games, an argument ensued as to which school would host the first game in the Coliseum,” Ackerman said. “Southern California officials believed they should have preference on dates because they regarded UCLA as only a young twig off the Berkeley branch. But I think the real reason is that USC didn’t want to acknowledge a young school coming up. The Trojans felt that they were being challenged in a city in which they were the dominant team.”
Nonetheless, Ackerman and his counterpart at Southern California, Willis O. Hunter, and the business managers of both schools met over lunch in 1935 in an effort to revive the series.
“We worked the thing out,” Ackerman said. “To stop UCLA from growing was like trying to keep the sun from coming up, and this was realized. Also, both schools needed the money. We had wasted five years. It was agreed that USC would be the host team in the first game.”
So the series was renewed in 1936, and the Bruins immediately established parity with USC in a 7-7 tie. Last year’s game was also a tie, 10-10, and was one of the few shoddily played games in the series. UCLA, a considerable underdog, almost won on a 54-yard field-goal try by Alfredo Velasco that hit the crossbar and bounced away on the last play.
More often than not, though, the games have been dramatic with stirring endings. A sampling:
1937 — Southern California 19, UCLA 13
The Trojans were apparently on their way to a routine victory, leading 19-0 in the fourth quarter. Many in the crowd of 75,000 had already left when UCLA’s Kenny Washington, a sophomore halfback, passed 62 yards in the air to halfback Hal Hirshon for a touchdown.
Hirshon had ranged far behind USC defenders because they didn’t believe that Washington could possibly throw the ball that far. It was regarded then as one of longest completed passes in college football history.
Washington, who became UCLA’s first All-American in 1939, teamed with Hirshon again for a 44-yard touchdown pass less than a minute later. The surprising Bruins reached the Trojans’ 15-yard line before the game ended but couldn’t score.
After the game, UCLA Coach Bill Spaulding visited the USC dressing room to congratulate his friend and golfing partner, Howard Jones, the Trojans’ legendary coach.
The door was locked so Spaulding knocked.
When someone asked what he wanted, Spaulding replied: “Tell Howard he can come out now. We’ve stopped passing.”
1939 — Southern California 0, UCLA 0
This was the first game in which a berth in the Rose Bowl was on the line for both teams.
In the fourth quarter, UCLA drove 78 yards to a first down on the USC 3-yard line. Two running plays gained only 2 yards, and fullback Leo Cantor was thrown for a 2-yard loss on third down.
What to do? A field-goal attempt seemed to be the percentage play, but, in democratic fashion, a vote was called for in the huddle by quarterback Ned Mathews. Five voted to go for a field goal, and five others opted to try for a touchdown. Mathews cast the deciding vote. He called a pass play.
It turned out to be the wrong decision, as Washington’s pass intended for end Don MacPherson was knocked down by USC halfback Bobby Robertson.
So USC went to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans got the bid over the Bruins on the basis of fewer ties marring their conference record: 5-0-2 to 5-0-3.
“I saw $90,000 flying out the window,” Ackerman once said. “In those days, you didn’t have to divide Rose Bowl money with other conference schools.”
1942 — UCLA 14, Southern California 7
This game is memorable only for its historical significance.
It was UCLA’s first victory over USC, sending the Bruins to the Rose Bowl for the first time.
Bob Waterfield, who later become a Pro Hall of Fame quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams, threw the winning touchdown pass to end Burr Baldwin.
Actually, gaining their first victory over the Trojans and their first outright Pacific Conference championship made earning the Rose Bowl invitation almost anticlimactic for the Bruins. Although outplayed by Georgia on New Year’s Day, they held off the Bulldogs for three quarters before losing 9-0 in the last 15 minutes.
Al Sparlis, UCLA’s right guard, flew a B-25 in 70 missions over the Hump in the China-Burma Theater in World War II. He crashed twice and earned seven campaign ribbons. “Only three of the 25 who went in flight school with me came through the war,” Sparlis said. In 1945 he went back to UCLA and made All-America.
Mike Marienthal, Sparlis’ replacement at guard on UCLA’s 1942 team, fought with the Marines on Okinawa in 1945. He lost one leg and was badly wounded in the other leg when a Japanese mortar shell exploded in his foxhole.
1952 — Southern California 14, UCLA 12
This was a matchup of unbeaten and untied teams for the first time in the series. USC won on the basis of two bizarre plays.
The Trojans scored when wingback Al Carmichael, apparently stopped on a reverse, lateraled to halfback Jim Sears, who ran 75 yards for a touchdown.
Later, a USC guard, of all people, intercepted a pass and returned it 72 yards to the UCLA 8-yard line. Elmer Willhoite’s unlikely run set up Sears’ short pass to Carmichael for a touchdown.
1965 — UCLA 20, Southern California 16
For 56 minutes, USC outgained and dominated UCLA in another Rose Bowl showdown game, but led only 16-6.
UCLA made a remarkable comeback. In the final four minutes, Beban threw a 34-yard touchdown pass and passed again for the two-point conversion.
UCLA Coach Tommy Prothro called for an onside kick, and it worked, with the Bruins gaining possession at the USC 49.
Beban had not had a good day until then, but, he said, “Sometimes things just happen in the stars.”
A few plays later, Beban called a pass play that had resulted in an interception earlier.
“The idea was for Kurt Altenberg to run a post pattern and the back, Mel Farr, to swing behind him,” Beban said. “When I dropped back, Mel was the primary receiver.”
However, Altenberg had another notion.
“All Prothro wanted was a pass to Mel to get us in position for a field goal,” Altenberg said. “I lined up near the sideline, right next to Prothro. He kept yelling, ‘Run, Altenberg, run.’ That doesn’t help you when the defensive backs are listening only five yards away. But Prothro didn’t care because his idea was to dump the ball to Farr. But that wasn’t my idea.”
Hardly. Despite double coverage, Altenberg got open to catch Beban’s 49-yard pass for the winning touchdown.
Beban never saw the receiver, nor the catch.
“I was down on the ground with one of those SC guys rolling on top of me,” He said. “The crowd let me know he had caught the ball.”
1967 — Southern Califorina 21, UCLA 20
Arguably, this was the showcase game of the series. Everything was on the line: the Rose Bowl bid, a possible (actually, eventual) national championship and the Heisman Trophy.
Beban, a senior now, and Simpson, the electrifying junior tailback, were the primary Heisman candidates at the time.
Prothro had come up with a novel defensive plan against Simpson. After every carry, Prothro’s players were to help Simpson to his feet immediately so he wouldn’t have the opportunity to rest.
“At first it bugged me when those UCLA cats picked me up,” O.J. recalled years later, after having joined the Buffalo Bills and, in 1973, having become the first pro to top the 2,000-yard barrier in single-season rushing.
“But as the game wore on and I started getting tired, I sort of looked forward to them picking me up. In fact, one of their guys was slow on a particular play, and I chided him, saying, ‘Come on, man, I’m waiting.’”
The game lived up to every aspect of its advance billing. Beban, playing courageously with a painful rib injury, enhanced his Heisman prospects by passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
As a result, the Bruins led 20-14 in the fourth quarter, and Simpson says that the momentum of the game had apparently shifted in UCLA’s favor. And so it seemed when the Trojans were confronted with a third-and-eight situation at their own 36-yard line.
Simpson will never forget what happened.
“Our quarterback, Toby Page, originally called a pass play; then he yelled, ‘Red alert,’ meaning the next number would be an audible.”
The play was a USC staple, 23 blast, calling for Simpson to run between tackle and guard on the left side. Simpson was thinking first down, but he got more than that, cutting back to the middle of the field and, with his sprinter’s speed, outrunning the Bruins to the end zone.
Although USC Coach John McKay was accustomed to brilliant runs by Simpson, he nevertheless said: “A good back might have made eight yards for a first down. O.J. made it to the Rose Bowl. It was the damnedest run I’ve ever seen. The very first time I saw him run the ball in spring practice (in 1967), I knew I had a very special player.”
Beban, though, won the Heisman Trophy in ’67. Simpson would claim it in ’68.
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The coach who turned the rivalry around was Red Sanders, who had played quarterback at Vanderbilt for Dan McGugin, a guard on Coach Fielding H. Yost’s undefeated, untied, unscored on 1901 Michigan team that crushed Stanford 49-0 in Pasadena’s first Tournament of Roses (Rose Bowl) game.
UCLA had won only two of 18 games against Southern California, with four ties, when Sanders arrived on the West Coast in 1949 (USC now leads the series 33-19-7). One Los Angeles writer began his column on the “unknown” Southerner: “Henry R. Sanders, 45, a male Caucasian, is the new UCLA football coach.”
An interviewer once asked Sanders how he felt about playing blacks. “I’m prejudiced in favor of any boy who can play football,” Sanders said. “and intolerant of any player who won’t block or tackle.”
Sanders had a special feel for humor and used it often to temper tension.
Fred Russell, sports editor emeritus of the Nashville Banner, in his book Bury Me in an Old Press Box, (A.S. Barnes and Co., 1957), relates that before the UCLA-Michigan State Rose Bowl game of 1954, the Bruins had practiced overtime on defenses for the Spartans’ multiple attack. At the team meeting following dinner on the eve of the game, Sanders said, “Fellows, we’ve just found out that Michigan State has three additional variations of the T which we have not covered. If you have your pencils and tablets…”
Finally, Sanders cracked a smile and the groans stopped.
The Trojans defeated UCLA 21-7 in 1949 but suddenly the trend changed. Sanders’ Bruins, using an unusually deceptive and versatile single-wing offense, trounced USC 39-0 in 1950 and won again in 1951, 21-7. The Trojans prevailed in 1952, 14-12 but three successive UCLA triumphs followed in the series.
In 1954, UCLA’s 9-0 national championship year, USC was shut out 34-0. A crowd of 102,548 jammed the Coliseum on a hot afternoon. The temperature reached 110 degrees on the field.
UCLA led 7-0 at halftime on a 48-yard touchdown pass from tailback Primo Villaneuva to flanker Bob Heydenfeldt. The Bruins, who led the nation both in scoring offense (367 points) and scoring defense (39 points), didn’t allow USC past midfield in the first half.
The Trojans advanced to the UCLA 8-yard line early in the third period, but Jim Decker intercepted Jim Contratto’s pass on the 2 and ran 98 yards. But there had been clipping on the play. USC was finished, however, and the Bruins scored 27 points in the final quarter. UCLA could not play in the Rose Bowl because of a rule at the time that prevented two straight appearances, and the Bruins had gone the year before.
Coaches in the United Press poll voted UCLA the national title. Ohio State was No. 1 in the Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters. Sanders was National Coach of the Year.
In his nine years as UCLA coach, Sanders’ teams beat the Trojans six times and outscored them, 170 points to 68. No other UCLA coach holds an edge over USC in the rivalry. Current UCLA Coach Terry Donahue is 5-8-1 while USC Coach Larry Smith is 2-0-1.
“Our system isn’t glamorous,” Sanders once said. “It’s based mainly on the idea of knocking the other fellow down.”
Some called the almost old-fashioned single-wing a “horse and buggy” offense, but Sanders said, “I like to think we have a TV set on the dashboard.”
After Sanders’ death from a heart attack, a plaque in his memory was placed at the Coliseum. On it are these words of his:
“Blocking is the essence of offense.
Tackling is the essence of defense.
And spirit is the quintessence of all.”
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Not all the activity has been on the field in this series. With the schools located within relatively short driving distance, campus raids have been commonplace.
UCLA students delight in splashing blue paint on the statue of Tommy Trojan on the Southern California campus.
In 1958, USC journalism students distributed a bogus Daily Bruin newspaper, replete with Trojan propaganda, on the UCLA campus. Copies of the real Daily Bruin were confiscated. Unsuspecting UCLA students were shocked to read demeaning stories about their team and coaches. That year some UCLA students tried to sully the Tommy Trojan statue with fertilizer dropped from a helicopter but missed the target. USC maintenance crews now cover the statue with plastic and canvas the week of the USC-UCLA game.
Another time a USC student masquerading as a UCLA student became a member of the UCLA rally committee in charge of card stunts. The Trojan infiltrator altered the instruction sheet and, on game day, every UCLA card stunt was marred by a small, block USC in the corner of the section.
And, of course, the game has a trophy, the Victory Bell, which was originally owned by UCLA until stolen by USC students in 1941. Then, after a truce, it became the symbol of victory, with the winner taking temporary possession.
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For half a century, there’s been an intense feeling about this game played either in the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl, now UCLA’s home field.
“When I played in the game, the winner went to the Rose Bowl,” says Pat Haden, former USC quarterback and Rhodes Scholar, now a CBS college football analyst. “Everyone talks about USC-Notre Dame being such a big rivalry and it is. But kids go to USC because they want to play in the Rose Bowl, and to do that you have to beat UCLA. So that game is the most critical.”
Says Norm Andersen, a former UCLA wide receiver and assistant coach: “It’s the most special event in a Bruin’s career. I don’t think you really know what the game is about until you lose it. When I was a sophomore, we were to supposed to win. We didn’t.
“The hurt was terrible. You think it will go away in a couple of days. It doesn’t go away in a couple of months. The first time I went through that, I told myself I’d never get that involved in the game again. Then next year I did it again. It’s either total joy or total agony.”
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Here's a look at every game of the Week 13 college football schedule.
No. 3 Arkansas at No. 1 LSU
LSU is a big favorite at home, but the Tigers will be tested by Arkansas’ explosive offense. Keep in mind that West Virginia, the only other real quality passing team that LSU has played, rolled up 533 yards of offense (463 through the air) in Week 4. Arkansas’ defense was susceptible to the run earlier in the year but has tightened up in recent weeks. The Hogs will have to control LSU’s rushing attack to have a chance.
LSU 28, Arkansas 21
No. 43 Iowa at No. 22 Nebraska
Nebraska’s first trip to Michigan since 1962 didn’t go very well. The Huskers were torched for 45 points in a lopsided loss and can now finish no better than 5–3 in their first Big Ten season.
Nebraska 24, Iowa 21
No. 78 Boston College at No. 29 Miami (Fla.)
It’s been a difficult season for Boston College, but give the Eagles some credit: They are playing hard down the stretch. After getting ripped by Florida State, 38–7, on a Thursday night three weeks ago, they beat NC State, 14–10, and lost at Notre Dame, 16–14.
Miami (Fla.) 24, Boston College 14
No. 84 Colorado at No. 34 Utah
Utah has battled back to .500 in the Pac-12 after an 0–4 start and can actually still reach the league title game. Three things need to happen: The Utes need to beat Colorado (likely); UCLA needs to lose at USC (likely); and Arizona State needs to lose at home to Cal (possible).
Utah 31, Colorado 14
No. 55 Pittsburgh at No. 35 West Virginia
The Backyard Brawl is for more than just pride this year. Pitt and West Virginia are among five Big East teams with two league losses. The loser is likely done; the winner remains in the hunt for a BCS bowl.
West Virginia 30, Pittsburgh 21
No. 39 Louisville at No. 57 South Florida
Louisville has been one of the biggest surprises in the nation and is still in the hunt for the Big East’s automatic BCS bid. Winning at South Florida will be a challenge, but this team has already won at West Virginia and Connecticut.
Louisville 24, South Florida 21
No. 54 California at No. 50 Arizona State
Arizona State has lost three in a row and four of five yet will still head to the Pac-12 title game with a win over Cal coupled with a UCLA loss at USC.
Arizona State 30, Cal 28
No. 61 Toledo at No. 94 Ball State
Toledo needs to beat Ball State and have Northern Illinois lose at home to Eastern Michigan to advance to the MAC title game. The former is highly likely. The latter isn’t.
Toledo 41, Ball State 17
No. 104 Eastern Michigan at No. 67 Northern Illinois
The Huskies have won six straight in the league after losing the opener at Central Michigan. A win over the improved Eagles will put NIU in the MAC title game.
Northern Illinois 30, Eastern Michigan 14
No. 103 Kent State at No. 73 Temple
After a 1–6 start (with the lone win coming vs. South Alabama), Kent State has bounced back to win four straight and sits in a tie for second with Temple at 4–3 in the MAC East. The run will probably end this weekend, but it’s safe to say that Darrell Hazell’s first season at Kent is a success.
Temple 27, Kent State 13
No. 120 Akron at No. 87 Western Michigan
There are rumblings that this could be Rob Ianello’s final game as the boss at Akron. He is 2–21 in two seasons.
Western Michigan 41, Akron 10
No. 98 UTEP at No. 89 UCF
It’s been a rough season for UCF, the 2010 C-USA champs. The Knights are 4–7 overall and 2–5 in the league and have lost five of their past six games. UTEP needs a win to become bowl-eligible.
UCF 31, UTEP 30
No. 105 Bowling Green at No. 108 Buffalo
Bowling Green was 3–1 after winning at Miami (Ohio) in late September. The Falcons have won just once since, though it was over Temple.
Bowling Green 27, Buffalo 17
No. 2 Alabama at No. 27 Auburn
The winner of the last two Iron Bowls has gone on to win the national championship. And thanks to the crazy developments of this past weekend, that streak could extend to three years. Alabama is now No. 2 in the BCS rankings and could be headed to a rematch with No. 1 LSU in the national title game.
Alabama 28, Auburn 17
No. 71 Oregon State at No. 5 Oregon
Oregon played its way out of the national title picture with a loss last week, but the Ducks still have plenty to play for. A win over the Beavers in the Civil War will sent UO to the Pac-12 title game, which will be played at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon 44, Oregon State 17
No. 23 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford
Andrew Luck, still a very strong contender for the Heisman Trophy, has now thrown at least one pick in four straight games, the longest such streak of his career. Nobody’s perfect.
Stanford 33, Notre Dame 28
No. 24 Virginia at No. 7 Virginia Tech
You might not have noticed, but the Virginia Cavaliers have won four straight games — including wins at Miami and Florida State — and can win the ACC Coastal Division with a win over Virginia Tech at home this weekend. I smell upset.
Virginia 27, Virginia Tech 21
No. 42 Iowa State at No. 8 Oklahoma
The two teams that have defeated Oklahoma have scored 41 points (Texas Tech) and 45 (Baylor) to do so. The Cyclones aren’t capable of such an outburst.
Oklahoma 33, Iowa State 16
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 45 Northwestern
The Spartans have already secured their spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they have an opportunity to hit the 10-win mark in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
Michigan State 31, Northwestern 23
No. 17 Penn State at No. 10 Wisconsin
When Wisconsin is playing well, which it has for most of the season, it is a very difficult team to defend. Penn State has been very good on defense this season, and the Nittany Lions will offer some resistance, but Wisconsin is too talented.
Wisconsin 24, Penn State 14
No. 47 UCLA at No. 11 USC
Remarkably, UCLA will head to the Pac-12 Championship Game with a win over its rivals from USC. That, however, isn’t likely to happen. The Trojans are the far more talented team and are playing with a ton of confidence.
USC 34, UCLA 16
No. 63 Wyoming at No. 13 Boise State
Wyoming has managed to record a 7–3 record through 10 games despite ranking 116th in the nation in stopping the run — considered to be one of the more important stats in football.
Boise State 41, Wyoming 17
No. 14 Georgia at No. 35 Georgia Tech
Georgia has won two in a row and nine of the past 10 in this series and has not lost in Atlanta (to Tech) since 1999. That streak should continue — though it won’t be easy.
Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 23
No. 15 Clemson at No. 16 South Carolina
This rivalry isn’t as celebrated as some of the other great in-state battles around the nation, but there is plenty of hate when Clemson and South Carolina get together. And this year, there is more at stake as it’s only the fifth time in 108 meetings that both teams have been ranked at the time of the game.
Clemson 31, South Carolina 27
No. 60 Texas Tech at No. 18 Baylor
The over-under on this game is 77.5, which seems a little low. Texas Tech has allowed an average of 47.5 points in its four-game losing streak. Expect another big game from RGII.
Baylor 47, Texas Tech 37
No. 20 Houston at No. 32 Tulsa
You can argue that the only difference between 11–0 Houston and 8–3 Tulsa is the difficulty of the two teams’ schedules. Tulsa’s three losses have come at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State and at Boise State.
Houston 47, Tulsa 37
No. 30 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan
Michigan is 9–2 overall and 5–2 in the Big Ten thanks in large part to the nation’s most improved defense. Last year, the Wolverines ranked 110th in the nation in total defense (450.7 ypg) and 108th in scoring defense (35.2 ppg). Through 11 games, the ’11 club ranks 14th in total defense (316.0 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (16.2 ppg). Those numbers could get even better after facing an Ohio State offense that struggles mightily to throw the ball.
Michigan 24, Ohio State 10
No. 26 Missouri at No. 95 Kansas
This figures to be the last meeting between these two rivals for the foreseeable future. Kansas has said it has no interest in playing Missouri unless it’s a conference game. Unless KU joins the SEC (not happening) or MU returns to the Big 12 (not happening), these two schools will not be in the same conference.
Missouri 47, Kansas 10
No. 28 Florida State at No. 36 Florida
How the mighty have fallen. Once a can’t-miss game, the Florida vs. Florida State showdown is almost an afterthought on a busy holiday weekend of football. Neither team is ranked, and they are a combined 8–8 in their respective leagues — Florida 3–5 in the SEC and FSU 5–3 in the ACC.
Florida 17, Florida State 14
No. 72 Duke at No. 37 North Carolina
North Carolina has won 20 of the last 21 games in this Tobacco Road rivalry. Duke is decent, but there’s no reason to believe UNC’s dominance will end any time soon.
North Carolina 31, Duke 20
No. 52 Vanderbilt at No. 38 Wake Forest
Vanderbilt needs to win this game to become bowl-eligible in the first year of the James Franklin era. The Dores must regroup after an emotional overtime loss in Knoxville. This is a tough assignment.
Wake Forest 24, Vanderbilt 23
No. 40 Rutgers at No. 76 Connecticut
Rutgers is 8–3 and two of its three losses have come by two points — at North Carolina and at West Virginia. It’s accurate to say this team has exceeded expectations.
Rutgers 20, Connecticut 10
No. 41 Cincinnati at No. 77 Syracuse
The Munchie Legaux era got off to lackluster start at Cincinnati. The Bearcats managed only 225 yards of offense in a 20–3 loss at Rutgers. Anything is possible in the wacky Big East, but the Bearcats look like a team that really misses its starting quarterback.
Syracuse 31, Cincinnati 20
No. 117 Memphis at No. 44 Southern Miss
Southern Miss is fresh off a stunning loss to UAB that ended the Golden Eagles’ eight-game winning streak. A win over Memphis will put Larry Fedora’s club in the C-USA title game.
Southern Miss 38, Memphis 13
No. 66 Washington State at No. 46 Washington
The Huskies are coming off a troubling 38–21 loss at Oregon State. Nick Montana struggled in his first start, completing 11-of-21 for 79 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was replaced by the banged up Keith Price, who will be back in the lineup this weekend.
Washington 33, Washington State 24
No. 90 Maryland at No. 48 NC State
NC State coach Tom O’Brien might have saved his job by sandwiching wins over North Carolina and Clemson around a loss to Boston College. He better not lose to Maryland, a team that is limping to the finish line on a seven-game losing streak.
NC State 28, Maryland 10
No. 49 Illinois at No. 85 Minnesota
Illinois has lost five straight games after starting the season with a 6–0 mark. Losing at Minnesota would not help Ron Zook remain employed.
Illinois 20, Minnesota 17
No. 51 Tennessee at No. 86 Kentucky
Tennessee needs to beat Kentucky — for the 27th straight time — to become bowl-eligible. A win, which is highly likely, will send the Vols to the Liberty Bowl or Music City Bowl.
Tennessee 27, Kentucky 10
No. 96 Ole Miss at No. 53 Mississippi State
Mississippi State has a 1–6 record in the SEC yet is a 17-point favorite over the Rebels. That should tell you all you need to know about Ole Miss’ struggles this season.
Mississippi State 21, Ole Miss 0
No. 56 Purdue at No. 100 Indiana
Indiana, Akron and Florida Atlantic remain the only three teams without a win over an FBS team. It’s been a nightmare first season for Kevin Wilson.
Purdue 27, Indiana 17
No. 101 New Mexico State at No. 59 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech is a home win vs. New Mexico State away from clinching the school’s first conference title since 2001. The Bulldogs might have to share the WAC crown with Nevada, but Tech beat the Pack head to head.
Louisiana Tech 31, New Mexico State 21
No. 64 Nevada at No. 74 Utah State
After losing its first three games by a combined eight points (and its next two by 10 and seven points, respectively), Utah State is showing it knows how to win close games late in the season. The Aggies evened their record with an overtime win at Idaho last week — their third straight win by seven points or less.
Utah State 38, Nevada 35
No. 65 San Diego State at No. 116 UNLV
UNLV has been pretty bad most of the season, but the Rebels did manage to beat Hawaii and Colorado State at home. This isn’t a sure thing for SDSU — but it’s close.
San Diego State 34, UNLV 17
No. 88 East Carolina at No. 69 Marshall
A win over East Carolina will give Marshall its first winning conference season in seven years in Conference USA. The Herd also need to win this game to become bowl-eligible.
Marshall 27, East Carolina 24
No. 70 Air Force at No. 110 Colorado State
With a win over Colorado State, Air Force is likely headed to a bowl game for the fifth straight season, but the 2011 campaign has been a bit of a disappointment. The Falcons will finish, at best, with a 3–4 record in league play, with wins over New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State — not exactly the most impressive list of victims.
Air Force 21, Colorado State 14
No. 79 UL-Lafayette at No. 75 Arizona
Just a few days after the Wildcats knocked off rival Arizona State, 31–27 on the road, the school introduced Rich Rodriguez as its new coach. Quite a week.
Arizona 31, UL-Lafayette 24
No. 80 San Jose State at No. 102 Fresno State
Both teams are 4–7 overall, but these are two programs that appear to be heading in opposite directions.
San Jose State 27, Fresno State 20
No. 97 Rice at No. 82 SMU
SMU was expected to compete for the C-USA West title, but the Ponies have been alarmingly uncompetitive against the better teams in the league. Their losses to Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston have come by a combined score of 102–17.
SMU 31, Rice 10
No. 118 Tulane at No. 83 Hawaii
Hawaii’s 40–20 loss at UNLV in September was one of the most surprising scores of the season. Could that be part of the alleged point shaving scandal at UH?
Hawaii 31, Tulane 17
No. 111 Troy at No. 91 Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky won its sixth straight Sun Belt game last week, beating North Texas, 31–21, on the road. The Hilltoppers have already secured their first non-losing season since joining the FBS ranks in 2009.
Western Kentucky 27, Troy 20
No. 92 FIU at No. 113 Middle Tennessee
FIU won’t be repeating as Sun Belt champs, but the Golden Panthers can secure a second straight winning record in league play by beating the struggling Blue Raiders.
FIU 38, Middle Tennessee 17
No. 93 UAB at No. 119 FAU
It’s been a strange season for UAB. The Blazers are 3–8 overall but have two very good wins, over UCF (26–24) and Southern Miss (34–31).
UAB 31, FAU 10
Last week — 42–14
Season — 486–127
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 13
1. Rivalry week has to be one of the best parts of any college football season. 10 of Athlon’s top 25 rivalries will be played this Saturday, including Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn and Florida-Florida State. But there are a few others that will be headlines this weekend. Conference realignment has threatened the future of West Virginia-Pittsburgh, Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas. The Jayhawks have expressed no desire to schedule the Tigers out of conference, while the Longhorns have told the Aggies no thanks (at least until 2018) for a non-conference matchup. West Virginia and Pittsburgh appear committed to continuing the Backyard Brawl, but it may be a couple of seasons before the rivalry picks back up due to the change in conferences. With some rivalry series in jeopardy, let's enjoy the games this weekend and hope some of the thinking at schools change to get these matchups started again in the future.
2. Michigan State clinched the Leaders Division and a spot in the Big Ten title game last week. Now it’s up to Penn State and Wisconsin to settle the Legends Division this Saturday. The Nittany Lions have been surrounded by off-the-field issues for the last two weeks, but managed to knock off Ohio State 20-14 last week. Wisconsin suffered back-to-back losses in late October, but has rallied with three consecutive victories by a combined score of 132-47. This game features the Big Ten’s best offense (Badgers) against the Big Ten’s best defense (Nittany Lions). With Wisconsin center Peter Konz likely sidelined due to an ankle injury, Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still could be in for a big game. If Penn State has any hope of winning this matchup, Still and the defensive line has to find a way to slow down running back Montee Ball, along with getting pressure on quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s unlikely Penn State can win a shootout, so it’s up to the defense and a ball-control attack on offense to carry the Nittany Lions to a division title and a spot in the Big Ten title game.
3. Friday’s Houston-Tulsa matchup isn’t getting much national attention, but it could have a big impact on how the BCS bowls shape up on Dec. 4. The Cougars are in position to automatically qualify for a spot in the BCS, provided they beat Tulsa and likely Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. However, the Golden Hurricane has quietly put together an impressive resume this season. Under the direction of first-year coach Bill Blankenship, Tulsa has won seven games in a row and its only losses this season came against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State – a combined 27-4 in 2011. Houston quarterback Case Keenum needs a big game to bolster his Heisman resume and considering the firepower on the Tulsa sideline, this one should be a shootout. The winner of this game will claim the West Division championship. But for Houston, the stakes are just a bit higher, as a spot in the BCS will evaporate with a loss to Tulsa.
4. Columbus, Ohio has been buzzing this week and surprisingly not about the Ohio State-Michigan game. Instead, much of the news has been about the Buckeyes’ coaching search for 2012 – mostly centered on former Florida coach Urban Meyer. While the Buckeyes’ disappointing record has dampened some of the interest in this matchup, this is still one of the top rivalries in college football. And there’s plenty of incentive for Michigan, especially for first-year coach Brady Hoke. The Wolverines have lost the last seven matchups to Ohio State – their longest streak in this series. In addition to snapping the losing streak to the Buckeyes, Michigan is still in the mix for a BCS bowl and will likely play in one with a victory on Saturday. Despite the distractions this week, Ohio State still has plenty of pride and won’t go away easy. However, the Wolverines have not allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in three out of their last four games. And a struggling Buckeyes’ offense figures to have trouble moving the ball on Saturday afternoon.
5. Two victories are all that separates LSU from a spot in the national title game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans. But the next two opponents aren’t exactly going to roll over for the Tigers. Arkansas visits Baton Rouge on Friday, looking to extend its winning streak to eight games. While the Razorbacks haven’t played an incredibly challenging schedule, they are a dangerous opponent for LSU. Arkansas’ quarterback Tyler Wilson leads the SEC in total offense with 291.9 yards per game, but faces a secondary giving up only 158.3 yards per game. The Razorbacks have struggled to protect Wilson this year, which figures to be a challenge against an active LSU defensive line that averages 2.5 sacks a game. Arkansas has controlled the recent series, winning three out of the last four matchups, including a memorable 50-48 overtime victory in 2007. If the Razorbacks give Wilson time to throw, they will have a chance to pull the upset. However, if LSU gets its rushing attack going and controls the clock, Arkansas’ upset bid will fall short.
6. The Commonwealth Cup has been a one-sided affair in recent years. Is that about to change? Virginia Tech has claimed 12 out of the last 13 matchups against Virginia, but Saturday’s game could be a turning point in the series. The Cavaliers are riding a four-game winning streak, including a 14-13 upset win over Florida State last Saturday. Coach Mike London has done a great job in just two seasons in Charlottesville, with a chance to earn a marquee win against the Hokies. The winner of Saturday’s game will play Clemson for the ACC Championship next week in Charlotte, N.C. The Hokies have climbed to No. 5 in the BCS standings, but only won by three against North Carolina last week and by four against Duke on Oct. 29. The Cavaliers aren’t a standout team statistically, but rank third in the ACC in total defense. And quarterback Michael Rocco has provided some stability for the offense, tossing only one interception in his last five games. With a trip to the ACC title game on the line between in-state rivals, this matchup figures to be a heated 60-minute battle in Charlottesville.
7. Considering the other rivalry matchups on Saturday, it might be easy to overlook this game. However, Clemson-South Carolina is one of the more intriguing contests on Saturday. The Tigers have lost two out of their last three games, including a 37-13 thumping at the hands of NC State last Saturday. With a victory over Clemson, the Gamecocks would have 10 wins and their first double-digit win season since 1984. This matchup to watch will be the Clemson offense against the South Carolina defense. Receiver Sammy Watkins missed last week’s game due to a shoulder injury, but his return should help spark the Tigers’ passing attack. The Gamecocks rank second nationally in pass defense and are allowing only 19.4 points a game. A shootout would be a nightmare for South Carolina, especially since its offense has struggled since losing running back Marcus Lattimore in the Oct. 15 victory over Mississippi State. The Gamecocks have won the last two in this series, but Saturday’s outcome could rest with whichever team can impose its offensive will.
8. Last season’s Iron Bowl ended up as an instant classic, with Auburn rallying from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama 28-27. Don’t expect a repeat this Saturday. With losses by Oklahoma, Oregon and Oklahoma State last week, the Crimson Tide is back in the national title mix. And a win over the Tigers could all but assure Alabama a likely rematch against LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9. With a lot of turnover on the depth chart, 2011 figured to be a struggle for Auburn. And there have been plenty of problems, including quarterback play and a defense that remains one of the worst in the SEC. Outside of a fluke performance against Georgia Southern, the Crimson Tide has not allowed more than 14 points in a game this year. Although the Tigers will have plenty of motivation to beat their rival, the stats and roster heavily favor Alabama. With so much on the line for Nick Saban and Co., expect a highly-motivated Crimson Tide team at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
9. The annual battle between Florida and Florida State is usually one of November’s most-anticipated games. Not this season. The two teams have combined for a disappointing 13-9 record and neither will be playing in a BCS bowl. The Seminoles began the year as national title contenders, but got off to a slow 2-3 start. The Gators dropped all four of their games in October and got a surprising challenge from Furman last Saturday. Coaches Jimbo Fisher (Florida State) and Will Muschamp (Florida) are good friends, but for 60 minutes, bragging rights and potential victories in the recruiting war are on the line. Youth is to blame for both teams struggling at times this year, and this figures to be a small bump in the road, before rebounding in 2012. Fisher made a statement in his first game in this rivalry last season, leading the Seminoles to a 31-7 blowout victory over the Gators in Tallahassee. However, Florida State has not won in Gainesville since 2003. While it has been a disappointing season for both teams, a victory would help salvage some pride and momentum in the annual battle for control in the Sunshine State.
10. The Pac-12 South race is officially a mess. Well, it was before going into Week 13, but after 11 games, it’s anybody’s guess what happens this weekend. USC is clearly the best team in this division, but is ineligible to play in the conference title game. With the Trojans out of the picture, the race is down to Utah, UCLA and Arizona State. The Sun Devils appeared to be in full control of the South, but have lost three straight. The Bruins hold the edge in the division, but have to beat USC on Saturday to play in the conference championship. Utah needs the most help, but is probably playing the best out of the three teams vying for the South crown. In order for the Utes to win the division, they need losses by Arizona State and UCLA. Considering how the Bruins and Sun Devils have played this year, it would not be a surprise to see either team lose this weekend.
Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 13 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.
Nebraska 27, Iowa 20
Houston 45, Tulsa 38
West Virginia 31, Pittsburgh 24
Louisville 24, South Florida 20
LSU 27, Arkansas 20
Clemson 31, South Carolina 27
Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 28
Virginia Tech 24, Virginia 20
Florida State 24, Florida 17
Michigan 27, Ohio State 13
Wisconsin 31, Penn State 20
Alabama 31, Auburn 13
Stanford 31, Notre Dame 27
USC 34, UCLA 20
Looking for a few upsets? Keep a close watch on these games.
Louisville at South Florida (-3)
The Cardinals need a win to remain alive in the Big East title race. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is a game-time decision for the Bulls.
Houston (-3) at Tulsa
The Cougars have cruised to an 11-0 start. However, the Golden Hurricane has won seven in a row and can win Conference USA’s West Division with a victory.
California at Arizona State (-4.5)
Have the Sun Devils packed it in for the year?
Michigan State (-7) at Northwestern
The Spartans have clinched the Legends Division, so this one is all about finishing the regular season on a high note. One reason to like the upset? It’s senior day at Northwestern – think Dan Persa will be motivated for a big game?
Notre Dame at Stanford (-7.5)
The Irish figure to give the Cardinal all they can handle, especially with a defense that is allowing just 20.3 points a game. Can Notre Dame’s offense avoid the turnover problems?
Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 13
What has gone wrong for Arizona State during its three-game losing streak?
The quarterback carousel continues to turn at Ole Miss, and it looks like Barry Brunetti will start Saturday's Egg Bowl matchup against Mississippi State.
After Munchie Legaux struggled against Rutgers, Cincinnati could make a quarterback change for this week's matchup against Syracuse.
With a move to the SEC coming for 2012, Missouri could be looking to expand its stadium.
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is battling a rib injury, but expects to play in Saturday's game against UL Lafayette.
Due to injuries, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has not practiced much over the last two weeks.
After a 6-0 start, all signs pointed to a big season for Illinois. However, the Fighting Illini have lost five straight and there are a few reasons for the second-half collapse.
Baylor coach Art Briles could be a hot commodity for open coaching jobs at the end of the season.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday suffered a lacerated liver in Saturday's loss to Utah. He will miss this week's matchup against Washington.
Vanderbilt should have plenty of motivation for next season's matchup against Tennessee.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Losses by Oregon, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have turned the race for the national title – at least for now – into a three-team battle: Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. If the Tigers and Crimson Tide win out, all signs point to a rematch for the championship on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
What would it take for Arkansas to earn a spot in the national title game? Does anybody really know? There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding how the top two in the BCS could look if LSU is defeated on Friday. The Razorbacks just need to beat the Tigers and let the rest sort itself out. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but that’s all Arkansas can do.
Although Arkansas has a 10-1 record, it has not played as strong of a schedule as LSU. The Razorbacks were destroyed 38-14 by Alabama on Sept. 24 for their only loss of the season. They also needed late rallies to beat Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
The Tigers have played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. LSU has solid wins over Oregon, West Virginia and on the road in Tuscaloosa against Alabama.
The recent series has been controlled by Arkansas, with the Razorbacks winning three out of the last four games. These two teams hooked up for a memorable game in 2007, with Arkansas pulling out a 50-48 victory in three overtimes.
When Arkansas Has the Ball
Protecting quarterback Tyler Wilson is going to be priority No. 1 for Arkansas on Friday afternoon.
The Razorbacks have allowed 20 sacks this season, while the LSU defense has recorded 27.
In order for Arkansas to pull the upset, Wilson has to stay upright and continue to play mistake-free ball. He has tossed only five picks in 385 attempts this season, while completing 63.1 percent of his throws.
If Wilson can get time to throw, his receivers will have opportunities to make plays on the LSU secondary. Senior Jarius Wright leads the team with 1,002 yards and 10 scores, while Joe Adams (46 catches for 595 yards and three scores) and Cobi Hamilton (29 receptions for 441 yards and three scores) will test one of the nation’s top defensive backfields.
The Tigers have been stingy against the pass this season, allowing only two opponents (Oregon and West Virginia) to throw for more than 200 yards. Also, the secondary has allowed just five touchdown passes and none in the last five games.
With Knile Davis sidelined for the year due to an ankle injury, the Arkansas’ rushing attack has struggled to find some consistency. The Razorbacks rank 72nd nationally in rushing offense, but have managed at least 136 yards in four out of their last five games.
Dennis Johnson leads the team with 606 yards, while Ronnie Wingo has chipped in 424. Johnson is the team’s top big-play threat on the ground, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Arkansas doesn't need 250 yards from its rushing attack, but it has to get some production. Getting some balance on offense will help slow down the LSU pass rush.
Considering LSU’s offense is not built to play from behind, if Arkansas can get up by two scores, it will force the Tigers to step outside of their normal offensive gameplan.
When LSU Has the Ball
While Arkansas likes to lean on its passing attack, the Tigers will stick with a run-first approach.
LSU has one of the deepest backfields in college football. Spencer Ware leads the team with 650 yards, while Michael Ford ranks second with 625. Alfred Blue (445), Kenny Hilliard (146) and Terrence Magee (133) will also see carries on Saturday.
The Tigers’ deep backfield will test a Razorback rush defense that is allowing 164.2 yards per game. If Arkansas wants to win in Baton Rouge on Friday, stopping LSU’s rushing attack is going to be critical.
Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are both expected to see time under center for LSU, which will force the Razorbacks to prepare for two different styles. Jefferson gives the Tigers a running threat from the quarterback spot, while Lee is the pocket passer.
The tempo and score could largely dictate which quarterback is in the game. If the Tigers need to come from behind, Lee will see more action. However, Jefferson has started the last two games and is expected to start against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are giving up some yards (360.3 per game), but are allowing only 21.1 points a game. Much of the defensive gameplan should be based upon stopping LSU’s rushing attack and forcing Jefferson or Lee to beat them through the air.
Arkansas’ secondary has been solid against the pass, allowing only 196.1 yards per game. Also, it has allowed just 10 passing scores and only two in its last four games.
To prevent the Razorbacks from committing too many defenders into the box, don't be surprised if the Tigers take a few shots downfield to receiver Rueben Randle.
One of the weekend’s most underrated matchups has to be LSU punter Brad Wing against Arkansas punt returner Joe Adams. Both have been among the best in college football on special teams this year, with Wing averaging 43 yards per punt, while Adams is averaging 16.2 yards per punt return and has returned three for touchdowns.
The Razorbacks also have dangerous options on kickoffs, with Dennis Johnson averaging 25.6 yards per return.
Arkansas may have a slight edge on returns, but LSU can’t be too far behind. Morris Claiborne is averaging 28.4 yards per kickoff return, and Tyrann Mathieu is averaging 9.8 yards per punt return.
The Tigers have a slight edge on field goals, as Drew Alleman has nailed 14 of 16 attempts this year.
LSU has navigated one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, but two obstacles remain to a berth in the national championship.
This game features an intriguing contrast of styles, and it will be critical for Arkansas’ upset bid to jump on LSU early.
If the Tigers are able to establish their rushing attack and keep Wilson and his receivers on the sideline, LSU should win and finish the regular season unbeaten. If the Razorbacks open up a 10 or 14-point lead, the Tigers could be in trouble.
The last six matchups in this series have been decided by eight points or less. Arkansas will keep it close, but the Tigers’ rushing attack will be too much in the fourth quarter, which will seal a trip to Atlanta for LSU.
Tigers 27, Razorbacks 20
A quick preview of every game on the NFL schedule for Week 12, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports editors Mitchell Light, Rob Doster, Nathan Rush, Patrick Snow and Steven Lassan:
49ers (9-1) at Ravens (7-3)
NFL Network’s main event on Thursday night is a family affair that pits Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers against his older brother John Harbaugh’s Ravens. This marks the first time in the NFL’s 92-year history that brothers have head-coached against each other. In fact, a San Fran win coupled with a Seattle loss to Washington would crown the Niners NFC West champions.
Ravens by 2
Packers (10-0) at Lions (7-3)
Green Bay is off to its first 10–0 start since 1962. That year, the Packers stumbled on the road against the Lions, suffering their first loss at Detroit in Week 11. This Thanksgiving Day game in the Motor City also sets up as a trap for the reigning champs, who have had back-to-back short weeks, with a Monday night tilt in Week 10 and this week’s Thursday kickoff.
Packers by 5
Dolphins (3-7) at Cowboys (6-4)
Miami and Dallas are a combined 6–0 the last three weeks. The team with the fewest mental mistakes — or Leon Lett moments — wins.
Cowboys by 5
Bills (5-5) at Jets (5-5)
Buffalo’s current three-game losing streak started with a 27–11 loss at home to the Jets in Week 9. If New York loses, they will complain about too much time off after a Thursday loss.
Jets by 6
Browns (4-6) at Bengals (6-4)
The Buckeye State Bowl went Cincy’s way, 27–17, in Week 1. The Bengals need a season sweep of the Browns after losing two straight to AFC North rivals Steelers and Ravens.
Bengals by 6
Vikings (2-8) at Falcons (6-4)
Rookie Christian Ponder carries a 1–3 record into Atlanta, where Matt Ryan is 21–4 all-time.
Falcons by 10
Texans (7-3) at Jaguars (3-7)
Subbing for Matt Schaub, backup Matt Leinart looks to repeat Houston’s 24–14 victory against Jacksonville in Week 8. Pressure’s on.
Texans by 5
Cardinals (3-7) at Rams (2-8)
The Cardinals return to St. Louis, where the franchise played from 1960-87. Arizona took down St. Louis, 19–13, in Week 9.
Cardinals by 1
Buccaneers (4-6) at Titans (5-5)
Albert Haynesworth returns to Nashville — his old stomping ground, so to speak. It will be hard to tell whether the 330-pound run-stuffer did his job if Chris Johnson runs like he did in the loss at Atlanta (13 yards on 12 carries).
Titans by 3
Giants (6-4) at Saints (7-3)
This Monday night party brings New Orleans native and Isidore Newman High School alum Eli Manning back home to face his daddy Archie’s old team, which also happens to be the same squad that upset his older brother Peyton’s Colts in the Super Bowl two years ago.
Saints by 6
Panthers (2-8) at Colts (0-10)
The worst team of 2010 travels to take on the worst team of 2011. Indy is coming off a bye, while Cam Newton has struggled in two straight games. Is this the week the Colts win?
Panthers by 9
Redskins (3-7) at Seahawks (4-6)
The Skins’ six-game losing streak is the worst since Dan Snyder paid $800 million for the team and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in 1999.
Seahawks by 4
Bears (7-3) at Raiders (6-4)
With Jay Cutler out with a broken thumb, Chicago turns to backup Caleb Hanie, who is making his first career start and is 8-of-14 for 66 yards and one INT in his four-year career.
Raiders by 3
Patriots (7-3) at Eagles (4-6)
This was one of the most anticipated matchups of the year when schedules were released. Since then, Philly’s “Dream Team” has been sleepwalking through a disappointing season.
Patriots by 8
Broncos (5-5) at Chargers (4-6)
Tim Tebow has 10 total TDs and two turnovers; Philip Rivers has 16 total TDs and 21 turnovers.
Chargers by 1
Steelers (7-3) at Chiefs (4-6)
Tyler Palko’s first two career starts are national television games against the Patriots (34–3) and Steelers. In his first action under the lights, Palko threw zero TDs and three INTs in defeat.
Steelers by 12
Last week: 10–4 // Season: 108–52