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The Rust Belt and California both got good looks at the new tilt of the NBA’s power balance this weekend.
Friday night featured perhaps the premier matchup of the young season, when LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers armada visited the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Coming into the game on the heels of a big letdown on opening night — when, behind James’ eight turnovers and overall stiff play, they lost 95-90 to the New York Knicks at home — the Cavs were focused like a laser Friday. James scored 36 and Tristan Thompson added 12 offensive rebounds as Cleveland overcame the Bulls in overtime, 114-108.
More significant than the game’s result was the fact that Bulls’ point guard Derrick Rose left the contest with a sprained ankle. Rose traveled and warmed up with the team Saturday, but did not play as the Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury appears to be minor, and if Rose’s scintillating play on Friday is any indication, we’re all lucky for that; the Bulls and Cavs could be embarking upon the league’s new top rivalry.
Out West by the bay on Saturday night, Kobe Bryant and his thin Los Angeles Lakers roster couldn’t find such feverish competition against the Golden State Warriors; the Warriors are of a higher class than the Lakers now, and they let them know it. Klay Thompson went off for 41 points and combined with Steph Curry to total 72, as the Warriors beat L.A. 127-104. Thompson’s performance was taken as something of a statement game — a proving ground for his new four-year, $70 million contract extension, inked over the weekend. Klay wanted the world to see that he’s worth all that paper.
Bryant and the Lakers have started the season 0-4. When asked by a reporter about the skid — the worst Lakers’ start of Kobe’s career — Bryant sarcastically chided his questioner, saying “No, it doesn't bother me. I’m festive and jovial about it."
Adjusting to the status of mere basketball mortal clearly isn't easy on Bryant. But at least he turned back the clock for a moment or two toward 28 points, and got in one of the plays of the year during the loss:
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 3:
• While you work off your Halloween hangover, here's a barely safe for work slideshow of Arizona State students enjoying the Halloween weekend as only college students can.
• I can't imagine a more tragic ending to a football game than what happened to Ole Miss on Saturday.
• Has the Dallas collapse begun? Seems like they're already panicking in Big D.
• Years after giving us the Buttfumble, the Jets allowed a Butt Touchdown.
• Everything's coming up Steelers right now. They turned a botched PAT into a two-point conversion.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 9 of the NFL season.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for six touchdown passes in a 42-23 win over Baltimore, marking the second straight week he has thrown six TDs for an NFL record 12 touchdowns over a two-game span. Roethlisberger had 10 TD passes in the first seven games of the season.
New England's Tom Brady surpassed John Elway for fifth-most passing yards all-time. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Denver. The win was Brady's 155th victory, the most of any starting QB through his first 200 regular-season starts.
When Brady and Denver's Peyton Manning met in Week 9 it marked the first game in NFL history to feature opposing starting quarterbacks with at least 150 career regular-season wins each.
Peyton Manning threw for two touchdowns in the 43-21 loss to New England, and now has 2+ TD passes in 14 consecutive games. That is the longest streak in NFL history. It marked the 47th consecutive game with at least one touchdown pass, tying Johnny Unitas for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
Peyton Manning also set the NFL record with his 14th game of at least 400 passing yards, besting Dan Marino's 13. Manning threw for 438 yards in the New England loss.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowksi recorded his 50th career touchdown in his 59th game, tying Randy Moss as the second-fastest players in NFL history to reach 50 career TD receptions. Lance Alworth (54 games) is the only player to reach the milestone in fewer games.
The Patriots are now 59-0 all-time when leading by 20 or more points at halftime (regular and postseason combined). They led 27-7 at the intermission. The 27 points allowed by Denver at the break was more points than it had allowed in any game this season.
With its 28-17 win over Dallas, Arizona is 7-1 for the first time since 1974 and also has sole possession of the best record in the NFC this late in the season for the first time since Week 11, 1974. This was the first regular-season win for the Cardinals in Dallas since Oct. 29, 1989.
Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin became the first player in franchise history with at least 150 receiving yards and multiple touchdown catches in back-to-back games in a single season. He was 6-for-158 with two TDs against Houston in Week 9 after going 12-for-187 with two TDs against Arizona last week. Maclin is the first player to go 150+ with two TDs in back-to-back weeks since Miles Austin did it in 2009.
All 21 Houston points in a 31-21 loss to the Eagles came via turnover. It began with an A.J. Bouye 51-yard interception return for a score. Jumal Rolle's interception setup the Texans' next score four plays later (Ryan Fitzpatrick to Arian Foster for 56 yards), and Houston recovered a fumble on a play in which Fitzpatrick was intercepted. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick found DeAndre Hopkins for a 7-yard TD pass.
Minnesota running back Matt Asiata rushed for three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 29-26 win against Washington. Asiata now has three career games with three rushing touchdowns, the most of any undrafted player in his first three seasons in the common draft era (since 1967).
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill rushed for 47 yards in Week 9, including a long run of 22 yards. He now has a rush of at least 20 yards in each of his past four games. Tannehill joins Steve Young and Michael Vick as the only quarterbacks with a 20+ yard run in at least four consecutive games in the past 25 years.
Miami's 37-0 shutout of San Diego was the Dolphins' first shutout in 123 games and their largest since a 42-0 win over Kansas City on Oct. 11, 1987. The Chargers were shutout for the first time since 1999, having scored in 241 straight games, which was the third-longest active streak.
Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston posted his fourth game with multiple sacks in Week 9. That is the most of any player in the league. Denver LB Von Miller is the next closest with three such games. Houston leads the league with 12 sacks.
Cincinnati rookie running back Jeremy Hill joined Corey Dillon as the only rookies in franchise history to run for at least 150 yards and two rushing TDs in a single game. Hill had 154 yards on 24 carries and two scores in the win at Jacksonville. It was the most rushing yards by a Bengal since Cedric Benson's 189 in 2009.
Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had six catches in a 24-10 win against the New York Jets and now has 503 career catches. He joins tight end Tony Gonzalez (916) as the only players in franchise history with 500 career receptions.
Few trends have changed college basketball more in recent years than the wave of transfers each season.
Some teams, like Iowa State and Florida, have made an art for of recruiting transfers as key cogs of their programs. Other teams are just looking to fill holes and don’t always have to look too far to fill gaps on the roster.
The 2014-15 season will feature its fair share of impact transfers. Iowa State and Florida are here as usual, but teams like Gonzaga, Ohio State and Miami picked up key players in the in the transfer market this season as well.
Matt Carlino, Marquette (from BYU)
Steve Wojciechowski will be off to a rough start roster-wise at Marquette. Lucky for the first-year coach, a point guard in the transfer market had an uncle who played at Marquette and a mother who is from Milwaukee. Carlino should step in immediately and play point guard for the Golden Eagles after averaging 12.5 points and 4.6 assists per game in three seasons at BYU.
Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State (from UNLV)
The Iowa State transfer trend continues with Dejean-Jones, who is on his third stop after transferring from USC to UNLV to Ames. Dejean-Jones averaged 13.6 points per game in 31 games in his final season with the Runnin’ Rebels. He’s an effective scorer who will have to integrate himself into a lineup including returning point guard Monté Morris and forward Georges Niang.
Josh Gray, LSU (from junior college)
With point guard Anthony Hickey transferring to Oklahoma State, sophomore forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin need someone to get them the ball. Gray may be the answer. Before heading to Odessa (Texas) College, Gray averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 assists as a freshman at Texas Tech. He’ll be more than a facilitator, though, as Johnny Jones expects his point guard to score in a variety of ways.
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State (from LSU)
Oklahoma State will need a number of players to fill the gaps left by Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. At least Travis Ford will have a veteran point guard in the mix in Hickey, who was a three-year starter at LSU. Hickey’s scoring output dropped in his final season in Baton Rouge, but he finished second in the SEC with a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio and has averaged 3.8 assists per game in his career. He averaged nearly three steals per game as a sophomore two years ago.
Jonathan Holton, West Virginia (from junior college)
Holton averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a freshman at Rhode Island in 2011-12, but he was dismissed from school due to some legal issues. Holton spent a season at junior college and then a redshirt season at West Virginia, where he’ll be a regular double-double threat.
Kedren Johnson, Memphis (from Vanderbilt)
Memphis is in the rare position where it is short on experienced guards this season. That’s why Josh Pastner had to be overjoyed Johnson, who was suspended last season at Vanderbilt, is eligible to play for the Tigers this season. Johnson averaged a team-best 13.5 points with 3.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in his last season with the Commodores.
Trevor Lacey, NC State (from Alabama)
Lacey is the latest addition for an NC State program that’s seen its share of roster turnover under Mark Gottfried. Lacey won’t be asked to fill the scoring void left by T.J. Warren, but he will need to be a complement to emerging sophomore point guard Cat Barber in the backcourt. Lacey is a strong guard who can score around the basket.
Anthony Lee, Ohio State (from Temple)
The 6-9, 230-pound Lee will give Ohio State a key player in a thin frontcourt. He has been one of the nation’s most effective rebounders — both offensively and defensively — over the past few years. Lee also averaged a career-high 13.6 points per game last season.
Alex Murphy, Florida (from Duke)
Florida may have to wait until the second semester to add Murphy to the lineup. When he’s eligible, Murphy will be a stretch-4 and another transfer on a roster that includes Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech), Jon Horford (Michigan) and Eli Carter (Rutgers). Murphy is the brother of Erik Murphy, who averaged 12.2 points per game in 2012-13.
Rodney Purvis, UConn (from NC State)
All Purvis has to do is help fill the void left by Shabazz Napier in the backcourt for the defending national champions. OK, so maybe it’s not that drastic. Still, he’s a key cog in a talented backcourt that returns Ryan Boatright and adds freshman swingman Daniel Hamilton. Purvis averaged 8.3 points per game on an NCAA Tournament team that featured five double-digit scorers
Katin Reinhardt, USC (from UNLV)
Andy Enfield needed to replenish the roster in a major way in his first season at USC, a year that yielded only two Pac-12 wins. Reinhardt, who sat out last season after his transfer, will be a major part of that. He started 34 games as a freshman at UNLV, averaging 10.1 points and 2.5 assists per game. The 6-5, 205-pound sophomore will be a combo guard in Enfield’s system in Los Angeles.
Angel Rodriguez, Miami (from Kansas State)
Miami cobbled together 17 wins with depleted roster largely because two of its better players — Rodriguez and fellow Big 12 transfer Sheldon McClellan — were sitting out. Now ready to play, the 5-11 Rodriguez will man the point for Miami. In his last stop at Kansas State, Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game for a team that won 27 games.
Ricky Tarrant, Alabama (from Tulane)
Tarrant will compete with freshman Justin Coleman for minutes at point guard, where Trevor Releford departs. Tarrant was a second-team All-Conference USA selection in his last season at Tulane in 2012-13. He averaged 15.3 points and 3.4 assists per game in two seasons at Tulane, needing only 66 games to cross the 1,000-point mark.
Byron Wesley, Gonzaga (from USC)
Wesley led USC in scoring last season at 17.8 points per game, but he bolted a program that finished 11–21. With a handful of veterans and transfers, Wesley won’t shoulder as much of the load in Spokane after averaging 13.6 shots per game in Los Angeles.
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga (from Kentucky)
Wiltjer was the odd man out on Kentucky’s ultra-talented squads laced with NBA Draft lottery talent. After sitting out for a year, Wiltjer has bulked up to become a more formidable presence in the frontcourt. He’s a 6-10 forward with a perimeter game — and a national championship ring.
Anthony Lee had never been in greater demand as a basketball player than the morning after Temple released him from his scholarship. That day in March, Lee woke up to 40 text messages and dozens of missed calls from people he didn’t know.
“It was like a bum rush, a stampede almost, with so many schools calling as soon as they gave me my release,” Lee said.
Before Temple signed the forward out of high school, teams from the Pac-12, SEC and a handful of prominent mid-majors all pursued Lee, so this was not entirely unfamiliar ground.
He was a veteran power forward who averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds last season for the Owls. And more important, he was on track to graduate by the end of the semester. He was the fourth-leading scorer from a bad team, but he was among the most valuable commodities in college basketball in 2014-15 — a proven veteran player ready to transfer and, as a graduate, eligible to play immediately for a new team.
Critics have called the recent transfer trend everything from an epidemic to free agency, but here’s what it is: reality. In 2012-13, 13.3 percent of Division I college basketball players had transferred from another four-year school. Another 14.5 percent were junior college transfers.
Transfer season has become a second recruiting season.
The transfer trend isn’t just for upstarts or mid-majors. Final Four contenders and national powers have made Division I transfers a major plank in their recruiting strategies. Even Duke embraced transfers by adding Rodney Hood from Mississippi State in 2012 and Sean Obi from Rice following the ’13-14 season.
As the trend has become more pronounced, more public and more accepted, coaches and players have to be ready to navigate the transfer recruiting waters.
Ohio State, for example, rarely dives into the transfer market, but the Buckeyes knew they’d enter the 2014-15 season with major holes in their frontcourt. Lee, with the right skill set and the ability to play now, was one of the top targets on their list.
Compared to the typical high school recruiting process, Lee’s transfer moved at lightning speed.
Two days after Lee announced his intent to transfer, Ohio State was upset by Dayton in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament on March 20. By March 29 — the day Dayton lost in the Elite Eight — Lee signed a letter of intent with the Buckeyes. In between, Ohio State coach Thad Matta and associate head coach Dave Dickerson met with Lee in Philadelphia near the Temple campus, and Lee took an official visit to Columbus.
Lee knew other coaches weren’t pleased that he committed to Ohio State before taking the visits he promised to make, but like many transfers, he knew the terrain better than he did as a high schooler.
“I didn’t want to let that opportunity slip by,” Lee says. “At that time, the (McDonald’s) high school All-Americans were making their decisions. I couldn’t wait and enjoy it too much. I was a high-profile athlete, but I was with other high-profile athletes, incoming freshmen and other transfers who were looking to make decisions, too.”
Lee had played through the recruiting game — and waiting game — before. VCU recruited him out of high school, and although Lee liked coach Shaka Smart, he wasn’t thrilled about living in Richmond. Instead, he hoped to land at USC with all that Los Angeles had to offer, but another recruit snatched the last scholarship offer before Lee had a chance to commit. He eventually signed with Temple.
He started 73 games, played in two NCAA Tournaments and helped the Owls win a regular-season Atlantic 10 title before they bottomed out at 9–22 last season. Lee says he enjoyed his time at Temple and parted on good terms with coach Fran Dunphy. But he asks himself, what if he signed with VCU? The Rams reached the Final Four in 2010-11 (a year Lee redshirted at Temple due to injury) and have played in the last four NCAA Tournaments overall.
When he approached recruiting the second time, Lee couldn’t be swayed by the cities or the facilities he considered. He was more interested in developing his game. Temple wanted him to rebound and play close to the basket — an area where he excelled — but Ohio State would allow him to expand his offensive game and play away from the basket.
“The only reason I didn’t go to VCU was because of the city, and when I look back at that now, it’s kind of crazy,” Lee says. “This time around, it wasn’t about the city or how the place looked.”
Experiences like that of Lee are why Florida coach Billy Donovan has been wore willing to seek out transfers in recent years.
Donovan’s team this season will include four players who transferred from major conference programs — Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech), Alex Murphy (Duke), Jon Horford (Michigan) and Eli Carter (Rutgers). Finney-Smith led the team in rebounding last season, and another transfer, Mike Rosario from Rutgers, led Florida in scoring two years ago.
“A lot of times these guys don’t make the best choices in terms of what is going to make them happy,” Donovan says. “When you go out and recruit a kid who is transferring, there’s just a different level of maturity, a different level of understanding because they have more of a foundation of what’s important to them and what’s going to make them happy.”
For Donovan, one of the most important factors in targeting a transfer is learning why a player is looking to change schools. And, yes, more playing time and more opportunities to thrive are valid reasons.
“You always want to get to the core of why a kid is transferring,” Donovan says. “In a lot of ways, the problems that they’re enduring at one institution are not going to go away at another one.”
Like Florida, Iowa State under coach Fred Hoiberg has become a prime destination for transfers.
The last three Big 12 Newcomers of the Year (there’s a separate award for freshmen) have been Division I transfers at Iowa State. The haul under Hoiberg has included star players like All-Big 12 performers DeAndre Kane (Marshall), Will Clyburn (Utah) and Royce White (Minnesota) and role players like Chris Babb (Penn State), Korie Lucious and Chris Allen (Michigan State) and Scott Christopherson (Marquette).
Iowa State added three more since December in Bryce Dejean-Jones from UNLV (eligible immediately), Jameel McKay from Marquette (eligible in December) and Hallice Cooke from Oregon State (eligible in 2014-15).
Hoiberg’s program isn’t the first or only national power to take a deep dive into the transfer waters, but the competition for these collegiate free agents has become more intense since the former NBA player and executive returned to his alma mater in 2010.
Besides Iowa State and Florida, high-major programs like Gonzaga, Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Missouri, Oregon, UNLV and West Virginia have re-stocked their rosters with multiple transfers from Division I programs.
“We weren’t competing against too many schools or so many high-profile schools as we are now,” Hoiberg says. “It’s become difficult, but it is the landscape of college basketball right now.”
The transfer trend is exacerbated by a number of factors, among them the graduate transfer rule allowing players like Lee to be eligible immediately if they’re holding a degree and want to pursue a post-grad program not available at their current school. Undergraduate recruits generally sit out one year by NCAA rules unless granted a waiver.
In addition, many new coaches encounter a wave of transfers after they’re hired or they release signees from a previous staff from their letters of intent. Or both. This transition creates an immediate need to fill some scholarships. There’s no official transaction wire maintained per the NCAA, but Jeff Goodman, a reporter for ESPN, has been tracking Division I transfers since 2006 — a list he updates regularly throughout the season.
Coaches check the list of hundreds of available players on a regular basis.
“Our staff does and I think every staff in America does,” says Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who was hired in April after 15 years as a Duke assistant.
After a transfer target is pinpointed, the recruiting process begins.
Coaches and assistants often call their counterparts at other schools to figure out how to track down a transfer. Even though transfers may have been in college for up to four years, the parents, high school coaches and AAU coaches may be gatekeepers to the process.
Point guard Matt Carlino, who signed to play for Wojciechowski at Marquette, used his father as well as BYU assistant coach Mark Pope as intermediaries in his most recent recruitment. During the summer, Carlino was taking two regular classes and an online class while serving as a teaching assistant and finishing papers at BYU so he could finish his undergraduate degree and be eligible immediately. With that workload, Carlino gave his father and Pope the parameters and allowed them to sift through requests so he could finish his class work. Like Lee, Carlino wasn’t interested in finding a sexy locale — he started his career at UCLA and decided it wasn’t for him.
He even considered playing time to be an unnecessary topic to broach.
“They’re not bringing in a guy for a year not to play,” Carlino says.
Carlino took a month to make his decision during a process that included visits with Purdue, Providence and Saint Joseph’s. His final decision came down to another truth in recruiting transfers — the coach matters perhaps even more than with high school prospects.
Strip away the bells and whistles like location and facilities, and what’s left? Coaching, style-of-play and ability to thrive.
“I knew everywhere I was going to go the facilities would be nice, the campus would be nice,” Lee says. “So it wasn’t about the facilities, the area. It was about the coaches.”
The same was true for Carlino.
Marquette wasn’t completely on Carlino’s radar at first. His uncle played there and his family is from the Midwest, but he had little contact with former coach Buzz Williams.
When Wojciechowski arrived — and needed a point guard immediately — that changed. Carlino clicked with the former point guard from Duke and signed in late April.
In other words, recruiters would be well advised to get right to business.
“The fluff is eliminated,” Wojciechowski says. “You talk directly about what the school can offer the player, what the player can offer the school and you really hone in on what I would consider are the most important things of the decision. It’s their last chance or close to it, so you’ve really got to get it right when you decide transfer.”
Bryce Dejean-Jones is another player who knew exactly what he wanted in a school this summer. After starting his career at USC, Dejean-Jones transferred to UNLV, where he averaged 11.8 points per game in two seasons. While Dejean-Jones was at UNLV, the Runnin’ Rebels went one-and-done in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and missed it altogether his second season. With a churn of freshmen — and, yes, other transfers — consistency was tough to find. In the transfer market a second time, Dejean-Jones looked more closely at rosters and where he had a chance to fit.
“Choosing UNLV, I was coming there to sit out, so I wasn’t looking at the players that would be playing with me,” Dejean-Jones says. “This time, I looked at who else would be on the floor with me.”
When Hoiberg recruited Dejean-Jones, he talked about style of play and how the guard could step in for the departure of Kane.
And that’s a completely different conversation Hoiberg had with Cooke, his undergraduate transfer from Oregon State who would redshirt in 2014-15.
“You have a support system for those guys. You talk about skill development in their year off,” Hoiberg says. “When you recruit a kid who’s sitting out, it is more like recruiting a high school kid.”
In other words, the recruiting pitch is different, depending on the player. But as the players are more in tune with what they are seeking when they transfer, coaches have to be ready to prepare. And many times, decisions are closed within a matter of weeks.
If landing a transfer starts to sound like a lot of networking, background research and job interviews, there’s a good reason for that.
“It’s a business for the players, too,” Carlino says.
Ole Miss lost a critical piece of its offense on Saturday night. Receiver Laquon Treadwell suffered a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle on a tackle late in the game by Auburn linebacker Kris Frost.
Just one look at the stat sheet shows how important Treadwell is to the Rebels’ offense.
Through nine games, Treadwell led the team with 48 receptions and 632 yards. He also tied for first with five touchdown catches.
Vince Sanders, Cody Core and tight end Evan Engram are a capable trio for quarterback Bo Wallace, but Treadwell was easily the team’s No. 1 target and likely the best receiver in the SEC outside of Alabama’s Amari Cooper.
True freshman Markell Pack has seven receptions for 70 yards and is listed as a backup to Core in the slot. However, Pack should see a bigger role in the offense moving forward. Redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe was listed as Treadwell’s backup on the depth chart prior to Saturday night’s game against Auburn and will join Pack as a bigger contributor moving forward as well.
While Treadwell can be replaced in terms of another receiver stepping in, his impact is going to be felt in the Rebels’ passing game.
And Treadwell’s absence the rest of the year underscores how critical it will be for Ole Miss to develop a rushing game this offseason. The Rebels don’t have a traditional ground attack and average only 3.9 yards per carry. This is one area coach Hugh Freeze will have to work on in spring practice, which should also improve as the team improves its offensive line.
In Saturday’s game against Auburn, Treadwell was one of the best players on the field, catching 10 passes for 103 yards and a score.
And in Ole Miss’ 23-17 win over Alabama in early October, Treadwell caught five passes for 55 yards and one touchdown.
Despite back-to-back losses, the Rebels still have plenty to play for this year. Ole Miss should have no trouble with Presbyterian next Saturday and has a bye before closing out 2014 with a matchup at Arkansas and then the home finale against Mississippi State.
If Ole Miss manages to finish 10-2, it could be enough to claim a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games. And of course, finishing 10-2 assumes a win over Mississippi State – so the opportunity to play spoiler is out there.
Treadwell will be missed, and Ole Miss will have to regroup on offense. Young players will have to step up, and quarterback Bo Wallace may target tight end Evan Engram more often. Despite the huge absence in the receiving corps and the back-to-back losses, there’s plenty still at stake for the Rebels over the last three regular season matchups and postseason game.
It may be years before we can fairly pinpoint the most extreme low point of Penn State’s sanction era, but there may be a new leader in the clubhouse. Maryland made the trip Beaver Stadium to face its new Big Ten neighbor to the north, mixed things up with Penn State as the teams took the field, refused to shake hands during the coin flip and then went home celebrating a 20-19 victory. Maybe Penn State is down, now losers of four straight for the first time since 2004, but one thing looked to be clear Saturday afternoon. Maryland is ready to consider Penn State a rival.
“Let the rivalry begin now,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said after the game. “Let it begin. There should be a trophy for this game. It’s a bordering state. Let’s have some fun. Let’s make it really competitive.”
This was just the second time Maryland has won a game against Penn State. Penn State now leads the all-time series 35-2-1, with the series dating back to 1917 and now revived with Maryland and Penn State in the same division in the same conference for the first time. With Penn State and Maryland now in the same conference, the tensions should continue to boil in the future, and it begins with recruiting.
After being hired to be Penn State’s new head coach, James Franklin went on a bus tour to meet alums all around the northeast. That tour included a notable drive through Maryland and Washington D.C., where Franklin made it clear to the Penn State faithful Penn State would have a strong presence in recruiting in the region. Franklin was so strong about his intentions he indirectly suggested Maryland should just shut down (same as Rutgers). This, of course, did not sit well with some Maryland fans who caught wind of the statements from Franklin.
Penn State and Maryland have been competing for the same recruits in the same territory for generations, so 2014 and beyond is nothing new. But the stakes just got a little higher, and Maryland went all in on Saturday. Maryland’s captains went out to midfield for the pregame coin flip and just stood there, staring blankly as the Penn State captains extended hands for a pregame handshake. The non-handshake resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty, and Edsall took no responsibility for the incident. This one was on the players, intent to make a statement before the game started.
Of course, the best way to send a message is by putting more points on the scoreboard. Maryland did just that. Time will tell if Maryland can keep this going once Penn State supposedly gets back to full strength, but perhaps this was the start of a new rivalry for years to come.
“We think that we set the tone for the rivalry going forward,” Maryland tight end P.J. Gallo.
You sure did P.J. Let’s see if Maryland decides to shake hands next.
-By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
With a 6-3 overall record and a 3-2 mark in conference play this year, it’s hard to say Miami has made significant progress in coach Al Golden’s fourth year. The Hurricanes are just 16-13 under Golden’s watch in ACC games, but there’s optimism for the program after the last three games.
Miami stayed within striking distance of Duke in the Coastal Division with a convincing 47-20 win over North Carolina on Saturday. The win over the Tar Heels was the Hurricanes’ third in a row and ensured the program would go bowling in 2014.
While the three-game winning streak is a positive sign, there’s a huge showdown looming for Miami on Nov. 15 against Florida State. Forget about the Nov. 22 game against Virginia and the Nov. 29 matchup against Pittsburgh. The true barometer of Golden’s tenure is the upcoming game against the Seminoles.
Miami is 0-4 in its last four matchups against Florida State and has won just one out of the last six matchups in this series. And it’s not just a loss, as the Hurricanes lost by 27 points last season and was easily handled by the Seminoles 45-17 in 2010.
Considering Miami’s three-game winning streak consisted of two fringe bowl teams and a 5-3 Cincinnati team, it’s easy to poke holes in the resume and think another blowout loss to Florida State is coming.
However, there are reasons to believe the Hurricanes are poised to threaten the Seminoles run to the playoff.
Florida State’s rush defense has allowed at least 156 rushing yards in each of its last three games. That’s not awful, but it also represents an opportunity for Miami running back Duke Johnson to control the pace of the game and keep the Seminoles’ explosive offense on the sidelines. Johnson has rushed for 588 yards over his last three games this year.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya has not tossed an interception in three games and completed at least 64 percent of his passes in two out of the last three contests.
Miami’s defense was the target of criticism after giving up 6.8 yards per play against Nebraska and 318 rushing yards in a loss to Georgia Tech.
But over the last three games, the Hurricanes have been stingy against opposing rushing attacks (2.1 ypc), and the defense has recorded 18 tackles for a loss in that span. In Football Outsiders’ Defensive S&P ratings, Miami ranked No. 18 prior to the victory over North Carolina.
Again, the recent play by an injured offensive line, quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Duke Johnson is an encouraging sign for Miami. And the defense seems to be playing better, albeit against weak competition.
With two weeks to prepare, Miami should be at full strength against Florida State on Nov. 15.
The Seminoles have dominated this rivalry in recent years, continue to out-recruit Miami and are the better team on paper. With that in mind, this might be the biggest game in Golden’s tenure. There’s some positive momentum with a three-game winning streak for the Hurricanes and this year’s matchup is in Coral Gables (with a healthy Florida State contingent expected). Can Miami capitalize off some of Florida State’s weaknesses and make this a competitive game?
Nov. 15 is shaping up to be a huge barometer game for Miami. There are reasons to believe the Hurricanes will be able to be competitive against one of the top teams in the nation, and Golden needs a big win to answer some of the critics.
Despite the positive momentum, it’s also easy to doubt how wins over Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Cincinnati are enough for Miami to breakthrough against the Seminoles.
Only time will tell.
Either way, Nov. 15 should be an interesting moment for Al Golden’s tenure at Miami.
They are the defending SEC champs. They came one defensive stop away from winning the 2013 national title.
Yet the Auburn Tigers are seemingly a forgotten team in the SEC in 2014. The story of the season, until recently, had been the improbable rise of the Mississippi schools. Ole Miss’ recent losses — one to Auburn on Saturday night — has altered script, but Mississippi State is still undefeated and the darling of the college football word. Alabama, despite being ranked below Auburn, is far more-talked about than its in-state rivals from western part of the state. Many people, including the boys in Vegas, consider the Crimson Tide to be the best team in the nation — despite the fact that Alabama lost at Ole Miss, a team that now has two losses.
Auburn, meanwhile, simply goes about its business against an absolutely brutal schedule that features road games at Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers have navigated this slate with only one blemish to date, a 38–23 setback at Mississippi State. This team has proven its worth on many occasions this fall, beginning with a 24-point win over Arkansas in Week 1 and continuing with solid road wins at K-State and Ole Miss and a dominant win at home over LSU.
Auburn will once again be included among the all-important top four when the CFB selection committee releases its top 25 on Tuesday night. The Tigers won’t be among the top two spots — it’s hard to argue that they should be ranked ahead of Mississippi State and Florida State — but they have built a résumé that should leave doubt they are the best one-loss team in the nation.
There were snarky comments on Twitter — imagine that — when some images were posted late Saturday night of students celebrating on the Tennessee campus.
I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of the tweets poked fun at Volunteer fans for making such a big deal about beating a South Carolina team that hasn’t won an SEC game in six weeks and is now 2–5 in the league.
My take: It was a big deal. A huge deal — and a cause for celebration.
Butch Jones has done a terrific job rebuilding the Tennessee program but has had very few tangible results on the field. Before Saturday’s improbable win in Columbia, Jones had won only two of his first 12 SEC games. Sure, the schedule has been tough, but it’s hard to argue that a team with a 2–10 record in league play is making progress.
Jones needed a breakthrough win. And he got it. Yes, South Carolina is struggling right now, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But the Gamecocks, with an 18–6 record in the league from 2011-13, have been one of the elite teams in the SEC in recent seasons. And now Jones and the Vols have recorded wins over Steve Spurrier’s program in consecutive seasons.
Saturday’s win was extra special for two reasons: It came on the road (UT’s first SEC road win against a team other than Vanderbilt or Kentucky since 2007) and it came after the Vols trailed by 14 points with under five minutes to play.
Joshua Dobbs, who was planning to redshirt as recently as nine days ago, threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 166 yards and three scores to lead an offense that rolled up 645 yards. On the final drive in regulation, the Vols went 85 yards on nine plays without a timeout. The defense had it struggles — South Carolina had 625 yards — but flexed its muscles with a dominant series in overtime.
This program is not ready to compete with the elite in the SEC on a consistent basis, but Tennessee took a major step forward on Saturday night.
And it was a cause for celebration.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the Volunteers’ 45-42 overtime win over South Carolina. Dobbs was the catalyst in a furious fourth-quarter rally, guiding Tennessee’s offense 21 points – including the game-tying touchdown with just 11 seconds remaining.
Whether it was on the ground or through the air, South Carolina’s defense simply had no answer for the talented sophomore. Dobbs earned Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 10 by passing for 301 yards and two scores and leading the team with 166 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
The Volunteers are rebuilding under second-year coach Butch Jones, and the program has found a spark on offense in the last two games with Dobbs under center. Against Alabama, Dobbs rushed for 75 yards and passed for 192 yards. One week later, Dobbs took another step forward in his development, leading Tennessee to an overtime win over South Carolina.
Dobbs played in the final five games of last season but clearly looks more comfortable in Tennessee’s offense after a full offseason to work with the coaching staff. And with an offensive line that’s also rebuilding, Dobbs’ mobility has been a huge asset. The sophomore’s emergence should give Tennessee a chance to win each of its remaining three games and reach a bowl for the first time since 2010.
Defensive Player of the Week: Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
The Ducks snapped a two-game losing streak to Stanford with a 45-16 victory on Saturday night. Both sides of the ball delivered in the win, as the offense posted 45 points and averaged 6.8 yards per play, while the defense held the Cardinal to just three second-half points. Dargan was one of the leaders for Oregon’s defensive effort, pacing the team with 12 tackles (nine solo) and recording one interception. The senior also forced fumble on Stanford’s opening drive for the fourth quarter. Saturday’s game was just another standout performance for the senior, as he leads the team in tackles and has five interceptions through nine games.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin
Aranda entered the season with just three returning starters and a host of questions about the defense. But after eight games, Aranda has found plenty of answers to his preseason concerns, and Wisconsin’s defense is performing at a high level over the last two weeks. The Badgers held Maryland to seven points on Oct. 25 and pitched a shutout against Rutgers (37-0) on Saturday. Since allowing 6.5 yards per play against USF on Sept. 27, Wisconsin’s defense has held opponents to a lower per-play mark in four consecutive games. The Terrapins managed only 3.1 yards per play last weekend, while the Badgers held Rutgers to 2.5 mark in Week 10. In just two seasons at Wisconsin, Aranda has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top coordinators and is a big reason why the Badgers could sweep their final four games (at Purdue, Nebraska, at Iowa and Minnesota) on a path to a West Division title.
Freshman of the Week: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook received only nine carries in Thursday night’s 42-31 win over Louisville, but the true freshman made the most of his opportunities. Cook recorded 110 yards and two scores on nine attempts and caught four passes for 40 yards. The true freshman averaged 12.2 yards per carry, with his big-play ability showcased on touchdown runs of 38 and 40 yards. Cook’s 38-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave Florida State the lead for good against the Cardinals. After the five-star true freshman delivered in the clutch on Thursday night, it’s a safe bet he will be a bigger part of the offense in future weeks.
The stakes, as usual, will be high when the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers renew their rivalry tonight on NBC. Both teams enter this game 5-3, percentage points behind AFC North-leading Cincinnati (4-2-1). Tonight’s victor will either keep pace with the Bengals or replace them at the top of the standings, while the loser could wind up in last place in the NFL’s most competitive division.
There’s no love lost between John Harbaugh’s and Mike Tomlin’s teams, who have played each other 15 times, including twice in the playoffs, since Harbaugh took over the Ravens in 2008. Tomlin holds an 8-7 edge, but the Ravens have won the last two meetings. Games between these two archrivals have typically been close – 11 contests have been decided by four points or fewer.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Baltimore -1.5
Three Things to Watch
|Baltimore 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||@ IND||L 13 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ TB||W 48 - 17||Recap|
|10/19||vs ATL||W 29 - 7||Recap|
|10/26||@ CIN||L 24 - 27||Recap|
|11/2||@ PIT||L 23 - 43||Recap|
|11/9||vs TEN||W 21 - 7||Recap|
|11/24||@ NO||W 34 - 27||Recap|
|11/30||vs SD||L 33 - 34||Recap|
1. Joe Cool vs. Big Ben
They may not have the history or surefire Hall of Fame resumes of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, but Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have developed their own little rivalry. Since being taken 18th overall in the 2008 draft and thrust into the starting lineup, Flacco has gone 7-8 versus Pittsburgh, but he’s just 4-7 (including 0-2 in the playoffs) head-to-head against Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger has missed four games against Flacco’s Ravens – three due to injury, including both games in 2012, and one due to suspension (2010). In their nine regular-season meetings, neither quarterback has exactly filled up the stat sheet. Flacco has a better passer rating (87.6 to 78.2), more touchdown passes (12 to 9) and fewer interceptions (3 to 8), while Roethlisberger has thrown for more yards (2,193 to 1,895). Even with the edge in yardage, Roethlisberger’s total breaks down to less than 244 per game. The two are also separated by less than a percent (58.8 for Flacco, 58.0 for Roethlisberger) when it comes to accuracy. So while neither quarterback has typically put up big numbers against the other’s team, each is still critical to their team’s success and will no doubt be under Al Michaels’ and Cris Collinsworth’s microscope during NBC’s broadcast. And who knows, perhaps tonight will produce a rare breakout performance from one of these signal-callers in this heated rivalry. After all Flacco did throw a career-high five touchdown passes earlier this season while Roethlisberger set new franchise records with his 522-yard, six-touchdown performance last week against Indianapolis.
|Pittsburgh 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||@ JAC||W 17 - 9||Recap|
|10/12||@ CLE||L 10 - 31||Recap|
|10/20||vs HOU||W 30 - 23||Recap|
|10/26||vs IND||W 51 - 34||Recap|
|11/2||vs BAL||W 43 - 23||Recap|
|11/9||@ NYJ||L 13 - 20||Recap|
|11/17||@ TEN||W 27 - 24||Recap|
|11/30||vs NO||L 32 - 35||Recap|
2. Baltimore’s Beat-up Defense
The Ravens handily beat the Steelers 26-6 when these two first met back in Week 2. Even though the total yardage was close (323-301), Baltimore was much more physical, punishing Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball. The Ravens’ defense set the tone, finishing with three takeaways and two sacks, but this unit will look a little different tonight. Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson, who were the starting cornerbacks in Week 2, won’t play due to injury. Smith, Baltimore’s top cornerback, will certainly be missed against a Steelers wide receiver corps that features All-Pro candidate Antonio Brown, as well as younger weapons Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. Several other starters, most notably Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, are also dealing with some injury issues of their own, although both are expected to play tonight. Ngata and Suggs are veteran leaders and linchpins of the Ravens’ defense and will be needed to not only get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, but also to help contain Le’Veon Bell, who is third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,086). One of the reasons Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh so easily in Week 2 was the Ravens limited the Steelers to just two field goals and two trips in the red zone (0-2). With the secondary already shorthanded and the front seven dealing with some injury issues of its own, Baltimore’s defense will need to dig deep to have similar success tonight against a Pittsburgh offense that put up 639 yards and 51 points last week.
3. Ball Security
In the 26-6 win over Pittsburgh in Week 2, Baltimore’s defense forced three turnovers. Since that game, the Ravens have posted a minus-one (10 giveaways, 9 takeaways) turnover margin. The Steelers meanwhile have recorded at least one takeaway in each of their past six games and are plus-five (6, 11) during that span. Two of Pittsburgh’s three turnovers in the first game against Baltimore occurred in the red zone and the Steelers’ miscues led to 10 points for the Ravens. In a rivalry where so many games (12 of 15 since 2008) have been decided by a touchdown or less, it makes sense that ball security has played a key role in the outcomes. To that end, the Steelers are 7-3 in games against the Ravens in which they have won the turnover battle (4-2) or the teams were even (3-1). Baltimore is 4-1 when it does a better job of taking care of the football. And even though the Ravens are plus-seven overall against the Steelers in their last 15 matchups, it should be pointed out that this discrepancy is primarily due to a forgettable 2011 season opener when Pittsburgh committed seven turnovers, five of those courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger (3 INTs, 2 fumbles). Not surprisingly, that 35-7 Ravens win represented the most lopsided decision in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco vs. Mike Tomlin/Roethlisberger rivalry. So keep two hands on the football at all times tonight fellas, if you want to win.
Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh sit at 5-3 halfway through the season, but tonight’s winner could find itself in first place at the end of this game while the loser could the only last place team in any division with a winning record. What else would you expect when these two teams get together? The Steelers are coming off of their best offensive showing (639 yards and 51 points), while the Ravens are picking up the pieces after watching the Bengals come back and beat them with a late touchdown. In a rivalry that’s know for close games, the smallest break or advantage could be the difference between victory and defeat. To that end, I think Pittsburgh not only has the most momentum entering tonight, but also is catching a depleted and banged-up Ravens defense at the right time. It won’t be a cakewalk, because it never is, but I think the Steelers continue their recent strong play by taking care of business at home.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Baltimore 24
Two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game take center stage this afternoon when the Denver Broncos face the New England Patriots on CBS. Manning-Brady Bowl XVI features history’s greatest QB rivalry — Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Although Brady has a 10–5 all-time record vs. Manning, including a 7–2 mark at Foxboro, this year’s Patriots (6-2) seem far more vulnerable than this year’s Broncos (6-1).
In the previous 15 games, Brady has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,680 yards, 27 TDs and 12 INTs for a 96.4 passer rating; Manning has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 4,371 yards, 31 TDs and 20 INTs for an 88.0 passer rating. The 37-year-old Brady and 38-year-old Manning can’t keep up this pace forever. Enjoy the hype and hoopla while it lasts.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Denver -3
Three Things to Watch
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||vs ARI||W 41 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ NYJ||W 31 - 17||Recap|
|10/19||vs SF||W 42 - 17||Recap|
|10/23||vs SD||W 35 - 21||Recap|
|11/2||@ NE||L 21 - 43||Recap|
|11/9||@ OAK||W 41 - 17||Recap|
|11/16||@ STL||L 7 - 22||Recap|
|11/23||vs MIA||W 39 - 36||Recap|
1. A Tale of Two Quarterbacks
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have always had a two-man mutual admiration society, but they've amped up the praise heading into their 16th career matchup. "Peyton has been a phenomenal player — so consistent and durable for a long period of time," Brady said. "We've had a great rivalry in the AFC East (when Manning was with Indianapolis), and this year is no different." Brady's too modest to point out that he's had a significant upper hand in his personal rivalry with Peyton, holding a 10–5 record against Manning's teams, but both quarterbacks have produced huge head-to-head numbers in what amounts to a season's worth of work, and Manning won the most recent encounter, 26–16 in last season's AFC Championship Game. Football is a team game, but quarterback is the most important position in team sports, and all eyes will be on the two future Hall of Famers under center.
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||vs CIN||W 43 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ BUF||W 37 - 22||Recap|
|10/16||vs NYJ||W 27 - 25||Recap|
|10/26||vs CHI||W 51 - 23||Recap|
|11/2||vs DEN||W 43 - 21||Recap|
|11/16||@ IND||W 42 - 20||Recap|
|11/23||vs DET||W 34 - 9||Recap|
|11/30||@ GB||L 21 - 26||Recap|
2. Patriots Peaking?
The Patriots played their best, most complete game of the season in routing the Bears 51–23 last Sunday in a game that wasn't even as close as the score, as the P-men raced to a 45–7 third-quarter lead before a couple of meaningless Chicago touchdowns. New England was flawless in all three phases, prompting cornerback Darrelle Revis — who had an interception against the Bears — to observe: "We're a team on a mission." The Patriots have won four straight, but it's worth noting that one week earlier, they struggled to beat the lowly Jets, and four of their six wins have come against teams with losing records, including the rapidly imploding Bears. In other words, it's premature to anoint this team the AFC favorite. This game will be far more revealing about the Patriots' prospects.
3. Run to Glory
Most of the ink gets spilled in talking about the quarterbacks, but the running game takes on special importance when the Patriots and Broncos get together. Since 2006, the team that has rushed for more yardage has posted a 6–2 record in this rivalry, including last season's playoff meeting, when the Broncos outrushed the Patriots 107–64. Neither of these teams has been particularly adept at running the ball this season; the Patriots rank 17th in the NFL, the Broncos 21st. In terms of run defense, the Broncos have an overwhelming advantage, ranking first in the NFL, allowing only 72.4 yards per game, while the Patriots surrender an average of 129.6. "We don't want people running the ball on us," said Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall. "We want to get to all of the things we can do with our packages in the pass rush. To do that we have to stop the run."
Some key factors seem to favor New England in this one: Brady's head-to-head record against Manning, his 14-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio during the Patriots’ current four-game winning streak, their 4–0 record at home this season and their 13-game winning streak in Foxboro. This Denver team looks like a Super Bowl contender, but they won't get there unscathed.
Prediction: New England 31, Denver 28
One NFC East quarterback is set to return in Week 9 while another is Questionable because of two small fractures in his back. Let Athlon Sports get you caught up on the QB injuries you need to know about.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings
Probable – Ankle
Colt McCoy led the Redskins to a surprise overtime victory in Dallas on Monday night, but it looks like his stay atop the depth chart will be brief. Griffin was a full go every day at practice and head coach Jay Gruden has already said that he fully intends to turn the starting job back over to RG3. So the fact he’s listed as Probable is a mere formality and now it’s a matter of whether you immediately go back to Griffin as your fantasy starter or do you leave him on the bench? I would suggest the latter, see how he does against the Vikings and revisit this next week, but the bye-week situation may force your hand.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals
Questionable – Back
Cowboys fans held their collective breaths when Romo went down on Monday night after getting kneed in his surgically repaired back on a sack. Romo missed a couple of series, but was able to return late in the fourth quarter. Romo didn’t practice at all this week, but he’s officially listed as Questionable, so he has a 50-50 shot of playing. He will probably be a game-time decision today and the 1 p.m. ET kickoff helps in that respect. However, what was initially referred to as a contusion and pain tolerance issue apparently is worse than that. ESPN’s Todd Archer reported on Saturday that Romo has two small fractures in his back. Even though there’s a chance Romo plays, how effective will he be and what are the chances he doesn’t finish the game? This is not a good week for QB depth with six teams on bye, but I would strongly consider all other possible options before turning your team’s fate over to Romo’s beat-up back.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets
Probable – Shoulder
Head coach Andy Reid revealed earlier this week that Smith suffered some sort of shoulder injury last Sunday and initially expressed some doubt that his quarterback would be able to play in Week 9. Smith has since put to rest any questions about his availability, as he was a full participant in practice every day and is listed as Probable. Smith is not known for being a stat-stuffer, but he gets the Jets, the team that is giving up the most fantasy points to opposing QBs. With six teams on bye, Smith is definitely on the QB-2 radar this week and is certainly worthy of QB1 consideration as well.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers
Probable – Ankle
Tannehill is nursing some sort of ankle injury. He was held back some on Wednesday, but was a full go on both Thursday and Friday. He is listed as Probable and will try and bounce back from a disappointing performance (16-of-29, 196-1-1) last week against Jacksonville. Tannehill is probably more QB2 material this week, but he’s capable of producing like a QB1.
With six teams on bye in Week 9, fantasy owners need all the healthy running backs they can find. Which injured ball carriers can you count on today?
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets
Probable – Back
Charles is on the injury report with a back injury, but he was a full go at practice every day this week and is listed as Probable. There has been nothing reported or mentioned to suggest Charles won’t play, which is why he’s a top-five RB this week in Athlon Sports’ rankings.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Probable – Knee
Foster missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday, but that was mainly a coaches’ decision to give their workhorse some rest. The key here is his Probable designation and the fact that he’s rushed for 100 yards in four straight games with eight total touchdowns and 20 carries per game. Foster is our No. 1 RB this week, so we’re pretty confident in saying he will play.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers
Probable – Knee
Miller was limited all week in practice by a knee injury, but he’s still expected to play today. He’s listed as Probable and will take his shot against a San Diego defense that’s allowed a running back to score at least 14 fantasy points in each of its past three games. Miller is averaging nearly five yards per carry this week and checks in as a top-10 starting option.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns
Doubtful – Ankle
Martin did not practice one bit this week, so his Doubtful tag seems a mere formality. Martin has been a major disappointment this season and the Buccaneers seem content to move on from him and let Bobby Rainey and Charles Sims handle the backfield duties. Rainey has not only been a starter before, but he’s also thrived in the role, so he’s certainly worthy of RB2/flex consideration this week. Sims is the Bucs’ third-round pick but he has been on injured reserve all season because of a preseason ankle injury that required surgery. The team is reportedly high on Sims, but chances are he will be brought along slowly since this would be his first NFL action. For now, Rainey is the Tampa Bay back to own, but Sims is certainly worth adding if you have the room or are looking to beef up your RB depth.
Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans
Probable – Knee
Sproles was Questionable last week, but ended up not playing. That should change today, however, as he was a full participant in practice every day and is listed as Probable. While it’s unclear how many touches Sproles will see in his first game back, he should be safe to employ as a flex option with upside.
Donald Brown and Ryan Mathews, RBs, San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins
Probable – Concussion, Out – Knee
Brown finally got through the league-mandated concussion protocols and was a full participant in practice every day. He’s listed as Probable and should be back out there today. Mathews was able to get a limited session in on Friday, but the team has already ruled him out. Branden Oliver should continue to see the bulk of the work, although it will be interesting to see how may touches Brown gets in his first game back. Oliver should be a pretty safe RB2, but I wouldn’t mess with Brown this week.
Giovani Bernard and Rashad Jennings have already been ruled out for Week 9. Are there are any other top fantasy RBs in danger of not playing?
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys
Probable – Foot
Ellington was limited both Wednesday and Thursday, but that’s probably more a maintenance and rest matter than injury-related. He was a full go on Friday and is Probable yet again and is a no-doubt, must-start RB1. If anything, Ellington may see more touches than usual with backup Stepfan Taylor out because of a calf injury.
Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Out – Groin; Probable – Shoulder
Ball has yet to return to practice, so he will miss a fourth straight game. Hillman fell on his shoulder during Wednesday’s practice and was limited on Thursday. However, he insisted it was nothing serious and proved it by being a full participant on Friday. He is listed as Probable and will be a key part of the Broncos’ offensive game plan even though the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady angle is getting all of the attention. Not only has Hillman been extremely effective as Denver’s No. 1 rusher (283 yds., 4.9 ypc over last three games), the Patriots also are ranked near the bottom of the NFL in rushing defense (129.6 ypg) and are giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Hillman is a must-start RB this week and his backup, Juwan Thompson could be worth a look as a flex based on his role as Denver’s goal-line back.
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Ankle
Forsett increased his practice participation a little each day, finishing the week off as a full go on Friday. So even though he’s dealing with some sort of ankle injury, he is listed as Probable and fully expected to face the Steelers tonight. Forsett has been one of this season’s fantasy surprises, seizing the starting job for the Ravens and producing like a top-10 fantasy RB to this point. If you were fortunate enough to pick up Forsett early in the season, there’s no reason to shy away from him at this point.
Already Ruled Out:
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals – Bernard has been dinged up for a while now, and it looks like the damage has finally taken its toll. A combination of a clavicle injury from three weeks ago and a hip injury suffered last week is bad enough that it will sideline him for at least one game. The Bengals have already ruled Bernard out for today’s game after he was unable to practice. Bernard’s absence is not only a blow for Cincinnati, but it’s going to hurt fantasy-wise too with so many other backs on bye. Jeremy Hill will get the nod in Bernard’s absence and he immediately becomes a must-start option. For those who are desperate to fill out their lineup, backup Cedric Peerman may be worth a look. Just don’t expect Peerman to do what Hill has done as Bernard’s backup.
Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants – Jennings is reportedly getting closer to returning from his MCL sprain, but he hasn’t made it back to practice yet. He will miss a third straight game Monday night while the Giants turn to rookie Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis to carry the load. Williams should see the bulk of the carries, but he’s been rather inefficient (3.1 ypc) and the coaching staff is not ready to trust him as pass-blocker or receiver, which could impact his opportunities. That said, Williams still carries more fantasy appeal and potential than Hillis, as long as you’re not expecting anything more than RB2 production from him.
Cincinnati already knows it will be without its top running back for Week 9, but what about the Bengals’ All-Pro wide receiver? Here is the latest on A.J. Green and some other key pass-catchers.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns
Probable – Rib
The rib is still an issue for Jackson, but it doesn’t seem to be enough of a hindrance to prevent him from playing. Jackson was listed as Questionable last week and still wound up playing, so his Probable designation should really put an end to any doubts about his availability. Jackson remains a relatively safe WR2 to employ in your starting lineup.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Questionable – Toe
Green returned to practice this week and even though he was limited all three days, he’s definitely moving in the right direction. Green is officially listed as Questionable, but if you listened to head coach Marvin Lewis earlier this week he sounded pretty optimistic he would have his No. 1 wide receiver back. So barring a last-minute setback, Green will play after missing the past three games. With running back Giovani Bernard already ruled out, the Bengals really need their All-Pro wide receiver. And with so many other wideouts on bye, Green pretty much has to be in your lineup, even if he ends up being limited on the field.
Allen Hurns and Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals
Probable – Ankle; Probable – Groin
At one point or another this season, pretty much every wide receiver on the Jaguars’ roster has dealt with some sort of injury. The good news is that even though Hurns and Shorts appear on this week’s injury report, both are Probable and expected to play today. Between the two, Hurns was the only one who missed any practice time, so there doesn’t appear to be any real concern here. What’s more concerning, however, is should you count on either Hurns or Shorts even in a week where so many other WRs aren’t available. That’s really up to you, depending on your options. For one, rookie QB Blake Bortles is going through the expected learning curve (league-leading 12 INTs) when it comes to getting acclimated to the NFL, while the Bengals have been very stingy against opposing WRs (29th in fantasy points allowed). I still think Shorts is the Jaguar wideout to own, but it’s hard to expect more than WR2 production from him right now. Hurns has had some productive games, but he hasn’t caught a TD since Week 3 and is probably nothing more than a flex option.
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers
Probable – Knee
Clay’s knee injury just won’t go away, as he was limited all week in practice. He’s listed as Probable, so the expectation is that Clay will play, but this is a guy who goes from catching a TD one week to just one pass the next. Clay has been really hard to figure out this season but with six teams on bye, you may have no other choice but to roll the dice on him and hope for the best.
Already Ruled Out:
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns – Cameron suffered a concussion last week and hasn’t made much progress going through the league-mandated tests. He was held out of practice this week and besides already being ruled out for today’s game, there are reports that Cameron could miss even more time. For now, hold on to Cameron and look elsewhere to fill out your TE spot this week.
Reggie Wayne should be back in the lineup Monday night to close out Week 9, but he’s not the only wide receiver or tight end of note that appears on the injury report. Here’s the lowdown on one tough Texan and a pass-catching Jet, as well as the Chiefs’ and Ravens’ big targets.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants (Mon.)
Probable – Elbow
Wayne missed last week because of an elbow injury and his presence was missed, as the Colts lost to the Steelers 51-34. The coaching staff gave Wayne Thursday off, but he was back on the practice field Friday and Saturday and is listed as Probable for the Monday night matchup with the Giants. T.Y. Hilton has been the Colts’ most productive wide receiver, but Wayne’s return should make Andrew Luck and the passing attack that much more difficult to stop. Wayne may not be the no-doubt WR1 he has been in the past, but he should still be started if you own him. Wayne’s return also impacts the outlooks for Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks. Of this duo, Moncrief is the only one with any real fantasy appeal, but just be sure to temper your expectations of the athletic and explosive rookie.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Probable – Ankle
Similar to teammate Arian Foster, Johnson was held out of practice on Wednesday before participating on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. Johnson is listed as Probable and maintains his WR1 status, as he’s gotten 33 targets over the last three games.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets
Probable – Ribs
The ribs are still an issue for Kelce, but the only day he was limited in practice this week was Wednesday. He’s listed as Probable, so Kelce remains a legitimate TE1 starting option. Kelce has caught at least three passes in all but one game thus far and is capable of making something happen anytime he touches the ball. Kelce has the upside, but Anthony Fasano (Probable, Shoulder) is a savvy veteran who could be worth taking a flyer on if you’re desperate at TE.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
Probable – Hamstring
Decker shows up on this week’s injury report, but he was a full go at practice all week, so there doesn’t appear to be much reason for concern. He’s Probable, but should he be in your lineup? Decker has just three touchdown catches in seven games and has yet to surpass 74 yards receiving. Today will be Decker’s first game with Michael Vick as his starting quarterback and the Jets are facing a Chiefs defense at home that’s done a really good job pressuring the pocker. Decker and teammate Percy Harvin are both pretty risky starting options right now, but you may have no other choice with six teams on bye.
Owen Daniels, TE, Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Questionable – Knee
Daniels missed last week’s game after undergoing a procedure on his knee, but he was back at practice this week. He was limited on Wednesday, held out on Thursday and was a full go on Friday. This curious pattern resulted in him getting the Questionable tag, which means he has a 50-50 shot of playing. That still is enough reason to think twice before putting Daniels back into the lineup, especially considering the Ravens don’t play until tonight. Unless you simply have no other choice, I would leave Daniels on the bench and revisit his status next week.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday suffered a broken fibula in Saturday’s loss to USC and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.
The senior was hit after a pass in the first half and was transported from the field on a cart.
Halliday passed for 40 yards and one pick on nine attempts in limited action against USC on Saturday.
For the season, Halliday passed for 3,833 yards and 32 scores.
Backup Luke Falk completed 38 of 57 passes for 370 yards and two scores after Halliday’s injury.
Washington State was eliminated from bowl contention after the loss to USC, as coach Mike Leach’s team is 2-7 and 1-5 in the Pac-12. The Cougars won’t have an easy finish to the season with road trips to Oregon State and Arizona State up next, followed by the Apple Cup finale against Washington.
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah left Saturday’s game against Purdue due to a knee injury. Abdullah was injured early in the first half against the Boilermakers and was replaced by Imani Cross and Terrell Newby.
Prior to the knee injury, Abdullah rushed for just one yard on six carries.
According to coach Bo Pelini, Abdullah will not return in the second half.
However, Abdullah’s knee injury is not believed to be serious, and the senior will have two weeks to get ready for the Nov. 15 showdown against Wisconsin.
Pelini tells Jeanine Edwards that Abdullah is unlikely to return, but "I think he's going to be fine ... We're going to be really cautious."— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) November 1, 2014
New rivalries are a part of any league as expansion has changed the outlook of all of the Power 5 conferences in recent years.
In their first meeting as Big Ten foes, Maryland and Penn State attempted to jumpstart a new rivalry with some pregame fireworks between the two teams.
Only time will tell if this actually becomes a rivalry, but these two teams wasted no time showing their dislike for each other.
Here are the two teams exchanging some pleasantries in warm-ups:
Maryland trying to start a rumble. pic.twitter.com/9WwKATriei— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) November 1, 2014
And here’s the best part: Maryland refused to shake hands with Penn State’s players prior to the coin toss:
Please do not touch the ref, Stefon Diggs. http://t.co/dBxIs4zhg7— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) November 1, 2014
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had lots of bad news lately. It was rough enough losing Kevin Durant to a Jones fracture for up to two months — the reigning MVP is integral to his team’s title chances. But they would’ve had enough left to stay afloat without him, had they not also lost Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow and now the second half of their dynamic duo, Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook started Thursday night off with his customary, bodacious swag step into the Staples Center, to take on Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers:
Then he got his hand hit near the rim during the second quarter, and left for the locker room through L.A.’s chutes. But not before a little discourse with the locals:
Westbrook sustained a small fracture in the hand, but it is unknown how much time he will miss. As to what he said to the fans, why he said it, what they said back: This is unknown. But the Thunder point guard and L.A. native is a famously fiery personality on the court, a method player who stays frantic and aggressive every instant he’s in the building. His frustration from a sudden injury, when his team was already struggling to tread water, would make the combustible Westbrook an easy target for agitation.
The Western Conference of the 2014-15 season looks to be about as difficult a field as the league’s ever seen. Making the playoffs is no sure thing for any squad — last year, the Phoenix Suns won 50 games and still missed the round of sixteen. If the Thunder don’t get healthy quick, they might find themselves in quite the hole to dig themselves out of. But at least OKC’s got the promise of Westbrook and Durant together at some point this season — it’s hard to think of any two superstars we'd rather see waging a fight up the standings.
— John Wilmes
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Patrick Towles, Kentucky vs. Missouri ($6000)
Towles had a huge game last week against Miss State; accounting for over 450 total yards and four total scores. He could post similar numbers this week against Missouri and comes in at a nice price.
1) RB Jon Hilliman, Boston College vs. VA Tech ($4500)
Hilliman scored twice last week and gets to face a Hokies defense that gave up over 350 yards rushing to Miami last week. He could find the end zone again and reach value this week.
2) RB William Stanback, UCF vs. UCONN ($4500)
Stanback had 97 yards and two scores last week versus Temple. He could have a nice game this week against the Huskies. Look for Stanback to reach value this week.
1) WR Deante Gray, TCU vs. West Virginia ($5200)
Gray dropped 165 yards and two scores on Texas Tech last week and could find more success this week against West Virginia. His value really shoots up if Josh Doctson is unable to play this week.
2) WR Mario Alford, West Virginia vs. TCU ($5600)
Alford had 136 yards and a score last week and could see plenty of targets against TCU. This game could be a track meet, with both teams throwing the ball often. Look for Alford to have a solid afternoon.
3) WR Tyler Boyd, Pitt vs. Duke ($5800)
Boyd is having a decent season and his upside is too good to pass on in this game. He could easily have a big week and his price is very appealing. Look for Boyd to show up this week.
1) TE Blake Bell, Oklahoma vs. Iowa State ($2600)
Bell scored in his last game and is worth a look at this price.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Kent Myers, Utah State vs. Hawaii ($4700)
With the top three QB’s on the roster all hurt, Myers will get the start this week against Hawaii. He looks to be a dual threat kid who has some upside at near minimum price.
1) RB Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Fresno State ($5400)
Hill ran for 128 yards and two scores last week after Shaun Wick left with an injury. Wick is out at least three weeks, so insert Hill into your lineups now!
2) RB Tarean Folston, Notre Dame vs. Navy ($4800)
Floston is averaging 109 yards rushing and a score in the last two games and appears to be the main man in the Irish backfield. He could easily reach value this week and appears to be a nice punt option at the RB position.
3) RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn vs. Ole Miss ($4700)
Match up be damned here. I don’t care how good the Ole Miss defense is, getting Artis-Payne for $4700 is too good to pass up. The Auburn ground game is close to unstoppable and Artis-Payne could easily hit the 100-yard mark and add a score.
1) WR Josh Harper, Fresno State vs. Wyoming ($5800)
Harper could have a big night against Wyoming. He appears to be a bit under priced this week and looks like a very nice value play. Look for Harper to find the end zone for the third straight game.
2) WR Dwayne Stanford, Oregon vs. Stanford ($4000)
Stanford has become more involved in the Oregon passing game over the past four contests and could make for a solid punt play this week. He is an excellent red-zone option because of his size.
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There may be a great debate about who the greatest quarterback is of this generation, but there’s no debate which quarterbacks belong in the conversation. It starts and ends with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who both have earned a place among the greatest of all time.
Now, this Sunday, they will meet again for the 16th time in their illustrious careers. Here's a quick statistical look back at their gridiron battles.
Infographic by Barrett Self, barrettself.com