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Jan. 21, 2007: Colts 38, Patriots 34, (AFC championship game)
Jan. 18, 2004: Patriots 24, Colts 14, (AFC championship game)
Nov. 15, 2009 – Colts 35, Patriots 34
Nov. 24, 2013: Patriots 34, Broncos 31, overtime
Nov. 4, 2007 – Patriots 24, Colts 20
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 31:
• LeBron James made his re-debut for Cleveland last night. It wasn't exactly Jordan-esque. His intro was pretty ballin' though.
• LaVar Arrington had a nice J.J. Watt costume, even amid racial allegations.
• Eric Decker took to Twitter to ask fans what they love about the Jets. The results were about what you'd expect.
• Scare of the day: When sea lions attack.
• This is inspiring: Deaf cheerleader defies the odds.
• Here's LeBron's epic intro last night.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Surely you’ve heard by now — LeBron James is back in Ohio, once again the leader of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Last night’s ugly 95-90 home loss to the New York Knicks marked his first regular season game as a reborn Cav, and the birth of Cleveland’s new mega team featuring James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James looked stiff and, frankly, not himself in the game. It’s unlikely the Cavs’ faltering start will be representative of their year at large.
But yesterday also showed us the latest of Mr. James’ hubris. We’d be foolish to undermine his confidence about his playing abilities — he’s one of the greatest ballers the game’s ever seen — but he’s clearly imagined himself into quite the inflated cultural figure. When asked about the significance of his return game, James said “this is probably one of the biggest sporting events that is up there ever,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
James’ P.R. team is probably wishing for a mulligan on this one. Especially after James reportedly co-opted his team’s first practice at training camp, holding an impromptu players-only meeting during which he gave each roster member a specific, personal goal for the season. This before rookie coach David Blatt was able to begin his own team instructions.
If you assumed LeBron had learned his media lessons since his gaudy, absurd production of “The Decision” and the ridiculous “not one, not two, not three…” celebration that followed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when he joined the Miami Heat four years ago — well, you assumed wrong. James may have figured out that it behooves him to keep expectations for wins, losses and awards lower, but he hasn’t yet seen how to hide some of his megalomaniacal tendencies.
Maybe it will take a retired, further-wizened LeBron to wield his substantial power without all the corny reminders of how tall he stands over the pack. Or maybe he’ll never be humble enough to stop giving his skeptics more reasons to mock him.
— John Wilmes
The annual meeting between Stanford and Oregon has played a key role in shaping the Pac-12 championship in recent seasons. Over the last four years, the winner of the Stanford-Oregon matchup won the conference title.
And barring a significant change of events in November, this game will significantly shape the conference title once again. Stanford is 3-2 in conference play and has to beat Oregon to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive. On the other sideline, the Ducks need to win to rank among the nation’s best in next week’s playoff poll. A two-loss Oregon team could get left out of the playoff, so every week is essentially an elimination game for coach Mark Helfrich’s team.
Stanford holds a 43-30-1 series edge over Oregon. The Cardinal has won three out of the last five meetings in this series, including two in a row and the most recent meeting in Eugene.
Stanford at Oregon
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oregon -8
Three Things to Watch
1. Marcus Mariota Versus Stanford’s Defense
Stanford has been Mariota’s biggest nemesis in his three years as Oregon’s starting quarterback. The junior is 0-2 and completed 57.8 percent of his throws – a drop from his normal 66.5 percent career mark – against the Cardinal. Stanford sacked Mariota three times last year and held the Ducks scoreless until the fourth quarter. Will this year be any different? Despite a new coordinator (Lance Anderson) and a few new faces, the Cardinal hasn’t missed a beat on defense. Stanford is limiting opponents to 3.7 yards per play and only one offense managed more than 17 points so far this year. The success of the Cardinal defense starts up front, as senior Henry Anderson (35 tackles) anchors the line and the 3-4 attack. Anderson will have to do more of the heavy lifting on Saturday night with tackle David Parry out due to injury. With Parry sidelined, Oregon may look to attack the middle of Stanford’s defensive front. The linebacking corps is Stanford’s deepest and most-talented collection of players on defense. Junior Blake Martinez is having a breakout year, and redshirt freshman Peter Kalambayi leads the team with 5.5 sacks. If the Cardinal is able to generate pressure on Mariota, this defense will have a chance to control the pace of the game. It’s critical Stanford wins the battle at the line of scrimmage to have a chance to win on Saturday.
2. Stanford’s Offense
Even if Stanford’s defense finds a way to slow down Oregon’s offense, can the Cardinal generate enough points to pull off the upset? Coach David Shaw promised to tweak the offense after a sluggish showing against Arizona State, and the one-week results against Oregon State were promising. Stanford scored 38 points against the Beavers and averaged 6.7 yards per play – its best mark in Pac-12 games this year. But winning at home against Oregon State and beating Oregon on the road is a different challenge. Sure, the Ducks have struggled on defense this year, allowing 5.7 yards per play and is last in third-down defense in the Pac-12. But what is Stanford’s identity on offense right now? With a rebuilt offensive line and no clear go-to back, the Cardinal need to ask more from quarterback Kevin Hogan. The junior is completing 62.6 percent of his throws but tossed two interceptions in a 17-14 loss to Notre Dame. Hogan also completed only 48.7 percent of his passes in a 26-10 loss to Arizona State. The bottom line for Stanford’s offense is clear: Hogan has to play better and needs to get the ball to the team’s playmakers. Receivers Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste will have opportunities for big plays on Saturday night. And if Hogan has success through the air, it should allow the rushing attack to find lanes against the Ducks – ranked 10th in the Pac-12 against the run. Time of possession is an overrated statistic. But Stanford needs to control the pace of the game and limit Mariota’s opportunities on offense.
3. Oregon RB Royce Freeman and Stanford WR Ty Montgomery
Freeman and Montgomery are this game’s biggest x-factors. Freeman has been a breakout player for Oregon in his true freshman campaign, rushing for 748 yards and 13 touchdowns on 136 attempts. The true freshman has three consecutive 100-yard efforts and gashed Washington for 169 yards and four scores. Stanford is limiting opponents to 2.6 yards per carry and has held three Pac-12 opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground. Without tackle David Parry, will Freeman find room to run against this stingy defense? On the other sideline, Montgomery is one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats. The senior leads the team with 1,163 total yards, averaging 13.1 yards per touch. Considering how dangerous Montgomery is with the ball in his hands, it’s important for coach David Shaw to get the senior 10-15 touches in a variety of ways.
This game was pegged by most in the offseason to be one of the biggest games of the year in the Pac-12. While this is still an intriguing matchup, this game has lost some of its appeal due to Stanford’s 4-3 record. Even though the Cardinal isn’t as highly ranked as most anticipated, there’s still plenty at stake for both teams. Stanford has controlled this rivalry over the last two years, but it’s also worth considering Mariota was not at full strength in last season’s meeting. With Mariota back at full strength and capable of running, Oregon’s offense should be more dynamic on Saturday night. Stanford will move the ball on the Ducks’ defense, but Mariota delivers with the game on the line to snap a two-game losing streak to the Cardinal.
Prediction: Oregon 34, Stanford 24
The SEC West dominated the first release of college football’s playoff rankings, but there’s a chance for a shake up in the top four with Auburn and Ole Miss meeting in Oxford on Saturday night.
It’s too early to call this an elimination game in the SEC West, but both teams need this game. Ole Miss suffered its first loss of the season last Saturday at LSU, while Auburn won a 42-35 shootout against South Carolina. The winner of this game will keep pace with Mississippi State and Alabama as the main contenders in the West and should stay among the top four in next week’s playoff poll.
Auburn owns a 28-10 series edge over Ole Miss. The Tigers won last year’s matchup 30-22 and have defeated the Rebels four out of the last five times in this series. Ole Miss won the last meeting between these two teams in Oxford, edging the Tigers 41-20 in 2012.
Auburn at Ole Miss
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ole Miss -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
Prior to last week’s game against LSU, Wallace was playing mistake-free ball in the SEC. The senior started conference play by tossing zero interceptions through his first four games but played his worst game of the year in Baton Rouge. Wallace threw for just 176 yards on 14 completions (33 attempts) and tossed a costly last-minute interception to lose 10-7. For Ole Miss to get back into the win column this week, Wallace has to play better. The Rebels don’t have a traditional rushing attack, and the senior will have opportunities to make plays against an Auburn secondary that allowed five touchdowns and 416 passing yards to South Carolina last week. Wallace has a solid group of receivers at his disposal, but the offensive line is a concern with recent injuries to center Ben Still and tackle Laremy Tunsil. Considering the firepower on Auburn’s sideline, it’s tough ask Ole Miss’ defense to hold the Tigers in check all four quarters. Can Wallace bounce back after a rough outing in Baton Rouge? The Tigers defense should provide a good opportunity for the senior to get back on track and keep Ole Miss in contention for a playoff spot.
2. Auburn’s Rushing Attack
Ole Miss’ rush defense took a pounding in Baton Rouge last Saturday. The Rebels allowed 264 yards – a season high – to LSU and gave up 4.8 yards per carry. Additionally, the defense was on the field for 36 minutes. Time of possession isn’t necessarily important in the outcome of a game, but it’s noteworthy Ole Miss just played a 60-minute battle against a run-first team. Can the Rebels regain their pre-LSU form and recharge for another 60-minute battle against a run-first team? Auburn will test Ole Miss’ rush defense, as the Tigers averaged 8.4 yards per carry against South Carolina last week and have recorded at least 232 rushing yards in six out of their first seven games. Cameron Artis-Payne leads the team with 831 yards, but quarterback Nick Marshall is equally as dangerous with the ball in his hands, rushing for 581 yards on 85 attempts this year. Auburn’s offensive line is not as dominant as it was in 2013, but the Tigers are still one of the best in the nation on the ground. In order to stop Marshall and Artis-Payne, Ole Miss needs defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Cody Prewitt at full strength. Both players were banged up in last week’s loss, and this defense will have trouble containing the Auburn offense if either is forced to miss a chunk of Saturday’s game. After taking a pounding in Baton Rouge, the front seven of Ole Miss will be under fire once again. In order to beat the Tigers, the Rebels have to stop the run on first and second downs, forcing Auburn to take to the air to win. Which team wins the battle at the line of scrimmage is critical to the outcome on Saturday night.
3. Timely stops by Auburn?
Auburn’s defense struggled on the stat sheet last year, but the Tigers were known for getting stops at critical times on third downs and in the red zone. This year, Auburn is statistically better, holding opponents to 25.3 points per game (SEC-only games) after allowing 29.6 in 2013. Also, the Tigers have limited opponents to just 5.7 yards per play – an improvement from the 6.4 mark in SEC games last season. While those numbers are good news for coordinator Ellis Johnson, it’s also important to note Auburn leads the SEC (conference-only games) in third-down and red zone defense. Across the board, improvement seems evident for the Tigers. However, this unit just allowed 35 points to South Carolina and has allowed 32 plays of 20 yards or more in 2014. Will that trend continue on Saturday night? Ole Miss isn’t as explosive as the Auburn on offense and needs to get seven points when they get in the red zone. If the Tigers can limit the Rebels’ big plays – especially to receiver Laquon Treadwell – and limit Ole Miss to field goals, Auburn can counter with touchdowns and break out to an early (and potentially commanding lead).
This matchup features an interesting contrast in styles, as the Rebels own one of the SEC’s top defenses, while the Tigers rank near the top of the conference in scoring. Ole Miss would prefer for this game to not turn into a 45-40 type of shootout and needs to rely on its defense once again. However, the Rebels have to find more answers on the ground and need a flawless effort from Wallace. Ole Miss could be more aggressive with its play-calling, allowing Wallace to take advantage of a suspect Auburn secondary. Asking the Rebels to shut down the Tigers’ offense is simply too tall of an order. However, Ole Miss can limit Auburn’s big plays, and force Malzahn’s offense to drive the length of the field. If the Rebels revert back to their pre-LSU form against the run, Ole Miss will knock off Auburn and remain squarely in the top four of college football’s playoff. If the Tigers establish their tempo and get out to a 14-0 or 14-3 start on offense, that might be too much to overcome for the Rebels.
Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Auburn 27
You can blame me, Ole Miss fans. I cost you the game against LSU (not Bo Wallace) by picking the Rebels to cover in Baton Rouge.
Needless to say, I need to make it up to you but I’m hoping you glanced at the Top 25 picks. I went 11-6 against the number and am, happy to say, now tied for the lead among my Athlon peers at 70-65-4 on the year. (I am very proud of this, clearly).
Anyway, back to top picks this week in an effort to get back into the black.
Last Week: 3-4
Oklahoma St (+14) at Kansas St
The Wildcats are on a mission and are surging after sweeping Oklahoma and Texas. Kansas State defensively is lights out and Jake Waters has been brilliant. The Cats are 5-2 against the number this season and the Cowboys are 2-5-1 and limp into Manhattan. Prediction: Kansas State -14
Arizona (+6.5) at UCLA
The Bruins' defense doesn’t get pressure on the QB and doesn’t create turnovers and that’s a bad recipe against Anu Solomon and Rich Rodriguez. In fact, the Wildcats might be the better team. Home field gives UCLA a good shot to win but Arizona could easily walk away with the outright upset. The Bruins are 1-7 against the spread this season. Prediction: Arizona +6.5
Arkansas (+10.5) at Mississippi St
Like when the Hogs faced Georgia, this is a bad matchup for Arkansas. They don’t have the weapons to take advantage of issues in State’s secondary. And the Hogs won’t be able to stop Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson. The Bulldogs are 5-2 against the spread this year as well. Prediction: Mississippi State -10.5
Cal (+4) at Oregon St
The Bears are 5-3 against the spread and can score points with the best the nation has to offer. Oregon State is 2-5 against the spread and hasn’t mustered any offense whatsoever this season. While the Beavers should be able to score (take the over), Cal should win outright. Prediction: Cal +4
Wisconsin (-10/pk) at Rutgers
The real spread is likely in the 10-11 range and I like UW to cover that too. The reason some books have removed the game is Gary Nova’s status. But two books on Covers.com have the game as a pick-em, so I am jumping on that easy money. Again, even laying the 10, I’d take the Badgers to roll. Prediction: Wisconsin -10/pk
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
Ride the hot(est) hands:
TCU (-5.5) at West Virginia
The Horned Frogs are 7-0 against the spread this season and are clicking on all cylinders on offense. Lay the points and ride it until they lose.
Utah (+6) at Arizona St
The Utes are 6-1 against the spread this year and should be able to pressure the ASU offense into a few mistakes.
Tulsa (+24) at Memphis
The Tigers are 5-1-1 this year against the number and Tulsa has been terrible for much of the season, checking in at 2-5 ATS.
Western Michigan (-6) at Miami-OH
The only team in the nation that has been better against the spread than WMU is TCU. The Broncos are 7-1 against Vegas this year.
Top 25 Picks ATS:
|Top 25||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Arkansas (+10.5) at Miss. St|
|Auburn (+2.5) at Ole Miss|
|Stanford (+8) at Oregon|
|TCU (-5.5) at W. Virginia|
|Okla. St (+14) at Kansas St|
|Notre Dame (-14) at Navy|
|Florida (+12.5) vs. Georgia|
|Arizona (+6.5) at UCLA|
|Kansas (+35.5) at Baylor|
|Utah (+6) at Arizona St|
|Purdue (+23.5) at Nebraska|
|Illinois (+28.5) at Ohio St|
|Oklahoma (-16.5) at Iowa St|
|ECU (-7.5) at Temple|
|Duke (+3.5) at Pitt|
For the first time during his tenure at Illinois, John Groce has a roster loaded with familiar faces. Of the 13 players making up this year’s Illini, 11 have been a part of Groce’s system for at least one year, a stark contrast to Year 1, when everyone was getting to know the new coach and his staff, and last year, when nine newcomers made up the majority of the roster.
Illinois’ third-year coach recognized a clear difference in the flow of practice after the team’s first workout of the eight-week summer schedule.
“We were able to cover more things in the hour I had them on the first day than at any time last summer because guys just knew stuff right away,” Groce says. “They’ve heard this stuff, in some cases for two years. That was really encouraging.”
The hope in Champaign is that the familiarity breeds victories. After a second-round exit in the NIT, the expectation is to return to the NCAA Tournament, where Illinois reached the Round of 32 in Groce’s first season.
Top scorer Rayvonte Rice returns to anchor the backcourt, and he’ll be aided by transfers Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall) to add some offensive balance for a team that finished 11th in the Big Ten in scoring (64.2 ppg).
“Obviously, we’ve got to improve our offensive efficiency,” Groce says. “Our defense was plenty good enough last year to win against anybody.”
The Illinois edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
In Nnanna Egwu, Illinois has a defensive stopper and rim protector who finished second in the Big Ten last year with 2.1 blocked shots per game. The key for the senior will be to stay out of foul trouble and remain on the court, because frontcourt depth took a hit when Western Michigan transfer Darius Paul was suspended for the season after violating team rules.
Freshman Leron Black, Mr. Basketball in Tennessee, figures to earn regular minutes in the playing rotation. The hard-nosed 6-7 forward brings a level of toughness that Illinois has lacked. “Guys really hate going against him in practice,” Groce says.
Sophomore Malcolm Hill, who came along in the second half of last season, adds versatility. The 6-6 Hill started the final 12 games of his freshman season as the power forward and connected on nine of his last 15 3-pointers.
Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert were seldom used as freshmen last season, and one or both will have to emerge to provide added depth. Freshman Michael Finke is a prolific outside shooter, and at just a shade under 6-10, he could see time as the stretch-4.
Illinois Fighting Illini Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-15, 7-11 Big Ten
Last NCAA Tournament: 2013
Coach: John Groce (43-28 at Illinois, 15-21 Big Ten)
Big Ten Projection: Seventh
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 64
In his first season at Illinois after transferring from Drake, Rice proved he could score in the Big Ten. His 15.9-point average was eighth in the league. The 6-4 slasher did that while dealing with double teams as driving lanes closed because of Illinois’ lack of outside shooting.
Starks, the all-time leader in 3-pointers made at Oregon State, and Cosby, a 38.8 percent 3-point shooter at Seton Hall, will help free up Rice.
Kendrick Nunn, a member of the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team, enters the season carrying momentum from a strong finish. The 6-3 guard started the last 12 games of his rookie season and averaged 10.3 points during that stretch. Jaylon Tate, who had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman, will add depth at the point guard position.
Good thing the Illinois backcourt has depth. The Illini lost Tracy Abrams for the season with a torn ACL. Abrams was expected to contribute at the point after averaging 10.7 points per game last season.
The Big Ten, which was as strong the last two years as it’s been in some time, will ease up a bit this season, and that provides a chance for Illinois to make a move. With a good mix of drivers and shooters, the offense is expected to rebound from its anemic output. If the defense, which ranked in the top 25 in the country last season allowing 62.2 points, can maintain its punch, the Illini can climb the conference standings. For the first time in Groce’s tenure, the expectations are elevated, and how this group of players handles that pressure will go a long way in determining whether they meet the challenge.
Leron Black is a consensus top-50 recruit whose non-stop motor and knack for rebounding should earn him playing time. Michael Finke is a local kid who has grown two inches since committing to Illinois early during his junior season in high school. A versatile offensive player, Finke will need for his defense to catch up.
The first College Football Playoff rankings are here, and now we have an idea of what the selection committee will value in the final month of the season.
We also have an idea of what the teams out of the top four right now might have to do to get in. For the SEC contenders, the answer is simple: Just keep winning.
For teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State, who were perhaps ranked lower than expected, not only to they have to win the major games on their schedule, they may have to look great doing it.
The playoff has made the season more interesting for several teams, and every game will be important. Some, though, will be more critical than others.
Auburn at Ole Miss
The selection committee’s first rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4 give this matchup a little more juice. Both teams have one loss to a top-five team, but Ole Miss’ situation seems a little more dire. The Rebels are facing injury issues, but more concerning Bo Wallace and his playcaller don’t appear to be on the same page.
Oregon at Utah
Whether or not Utah defeats Arizona State this week for at least a share of the Pac-12 South lead, Salt Lake City will be a tough trip for the Ducks. Oregon travels to the spot where Stanford saw its national title hopes evaporate with a loss in Salt Lake City a year ago. The Ducks will face a challenging road trip only a week after a critical game against Stanford’s physical defense.
Notre Dame at Arizona State
The No. 10 Irish and the No. 14 Sun Devils are on the fringes of the playoff picture after the committee’s first set of rankings. Notre Dame’s best statement this season is a close loss in Tallahassee while Arizona State needs to atone for a 62-27 home loss to UCLA. A critical game for two dark horses.
Ohio State at Michigan State
The Big Ten’s playoff hopes appeared to be awfully dim on Sept. 6 when Michigan State lost to Oregon on the road and Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes’ loss to the Hokies is more embarrassing, but this game is a must-win for both. Not to mention — this is a division game in the Big Ten East.
Kansas State at TCU
Surprise. Surprise. The two Big 12 teams in purple were top 10 teams in the first playoff rankings. TCU has to get through a road trip to West Virginia and Kansas State has to beat Oklahoma State at home before this matchup. If both survive, this may be an elimination game. A bit of an irony: TCU became a contender thanks to an up-tempo spread and will have to beat a stifling ball control team to continue the ride.
Baylor at Oklahoma
The preseason Big 12 favorites have their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. A loss here probably ends the playoff and league hopes for either.
Nov. 13 (Thursday)
East Carolina at Cincinnati
This game won’t factor into the national semifinals, but East Carolina is the only Group of 5 team in the first playoff rankings. Winning the American and being the top ranked team from outside of the major conferences guarantees East Carolina a major bowl bid. The road trip against Cincinnati will be the last major barrier until ECU faces UCF at home on Dec. 4.
Mississippi State at Alabama
Alabama started at No. 6 in the playoff rankings but no team has a more direct path to improve its stock thanks to remaining games against No. 1 (Mississippi State) and No. 3 (Auburn).
Auburn at Georgia
Hey, the SEC East makes an appearance in a playoff discussion. This is with good reason. Georgia’s lone loss is to South Carolina on the road by 3, and the Bulldogs have been able to absorb the absence of Todd Gurley. Provided Georgia can get through two more games without him (Florida and Kentucky), Georgia and Gurley can make a playoff statement against rival Auburn.
Nebraska at Wisconsin
One-loss Nebraska might be a playoff sleeper, but the Cornhuskers have no wins over ranked teams. The Cornhuskers need to beat Wisconsin and Iowa on the road and a Big Ten title to sniff the top four.
Auburn at Alabama
Not that a rematch of the Kick Six and the Iron Bowl needed any extra juice, but the game could end up deciding the SEC West and a playoff spot by the time the two teams meet.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
Like the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl has the potential to be a matchup with SEC West and playoff implications. As it stands now, it’s the No. 1 vs. No. 4 game in the semifinals. And there’s recent history here as an Ole Miss turnover meltdown contributed to a Mississippi State win to set the momentum for this season.
March Madness was a one-and-done experience as Tennessee defeated Iowa 78–65 in the “play-in” game in Dayton. The season-ending collapse left Hawkeye fans wondering what went wrong with a team that just a month earlier had shown so much promise.
Making matters much worse was the personal crisis facing Iowa coach Fran McCaffery at the time. His 14-year old son, Patrick, had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his thyroid in the days leading up to Iowa’s NCAA Tournament game.
Patrick is now well on his way to recovery, his latest tests showing no signs of cancer.
As for his father’s team, it’s more of a mystery heading into this season. Four of the five starters return from last season, including All-Big Ten forward Aaron White. But the one missing piece is All-Big Ten guard Roy Devyn Marble, who led Iowa in scoring last season and was clearly the go-to player for a team that struggled to shoot from the perimeter.
The Iowa edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
White is the first Hawkeye to have at least 1,300 points, 650 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 assists by his junior season. He is still considered a suspect shooter but hopes to change that after spending the offseason working on his medium-range jump shot.
Joining White on the frontline is 7-1 junior center Adam Woodbury, who has started all 71 games in his college career. Woodbury hasn’t been much of an offensive threat, though, scoring in double figures only 10 times in two years. But he had his best performance in the final game of the season, scoring a career-high 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the loss to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament.
Junior Jarrod Uthoff is expected to start at small forward, giving Iowa another 6-9 presence on the frontline. Throw 6-10 Gabe Olaseni and 6-9 freshman Dominique Uhl into the mix and the Hawkeyes are well-equipped with size and experience.
Iowa Hawkeyes Facts & Figures
Last season: 20-13, 9-9 Big Ten
Postseason: NCAA First Four
Consecutive NCAA Tournaments: 1
Coach: Fran McCaffery (74-63 at Iowa, 30-42 Big Ten)
Big Ten Projection: Sixth
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 32
This season will mark the first time that McCaffery hasn’t had Marble in his backcourt. They spent the last four seasons helping to rebuild the Iowa program, which had fallen on hard times when they both arrived in 2010.
Marble gave McCaffery a reliable scorer who at 6-6 could play both guard positions. Iowa doesn’t have that dimension this season. Junior Mike Gesell returns as the starting point guard, and he also has played shooting guard. But Gesell stands only 6-1 and has struggled to make perimeter shots and to finish at the basket. Junior college import Trey Dickerson will add some athleticism to the position.
Senior Josh Oglesby is considered the favorite to replace Marble at shooting guard. Oglesby can catch fire from 3-point range, but he lacks Marble’s size and versatility.
Sophomore sharpshooter Peter Jok has Marble’s size at 6-6, but Jok also has some personal issues holding him back. He pleaded guilty to OWI after being arrested on his moped in late April. Less than two months later, Jok was stopped again on his moped and cited for driving with a suspended license, prompting McCaffery to suspend him indefinitely.
Junior point guard Anthony Clemmons returns after a rocky sophomore season in which he fell out of the rotation and played sparingly down the stretch. Clemmons blamed himself and is determined to regain his form as a freshman, when he started 13 games.
The collapse at the end of last season marks the only time under McCaffery in which Iowa hasn’t progressed as a team. Iowa did end its NCAA Tournament drought last season, but now the challenge is to keep climbing without Marble leading the way. The Hawkeyes have a proven commodity in the post in White and quality depth along the front line. They have quality pieces on the perimeter but lack consistent outside shooting. Anything less than another NCAA Tournament bid would be considered a disappointment.
Fran McCaffery had several near-misses in this class, the biggest setback coming when point guard Tyler Ulis signed with Kentucky over Iowa last November. McCaffery rebounded by landing point guard Trey Dickerson, who averaged nearly 20 points per game as a freshman in junior college. Brady Ellingson enters college with a reputation for being a great 3-point shooter. Dominique Uhl will bring athleticism to the front line.
That may come as a surprise for a league hasn’t produced a national champion since Michigan State in 2000.
Yet, the Big Ten is the only conference to send a team to the Final Four in each of the last three seasons and has done so with three different teams — Wisconsin in 2014, Michigan in 2013 and Ohio State in 2012.
The league has also produced its share of regular season excitement with as many compelling teams as any league. Consider: Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State remain as consistent as ever, Michigan has become a national power, Indiana enjoyed one season as a No. 1 team for much of the year, and Iowa and Nebraska have risen their levels of play.
The question for 2014-15 is how long it continue.
Wisconsin returns from the Final Four with nearly its entire roster intact. Other mainstays at the top of the Big Ten heap have lost major cogs — Michigan State enters the season without Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, Michigan without Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, Ohio State without Aaron Craft and Iowa without Roy Devyn Marble.
Those are major losses for a league that has relied on upperclassmen for the most of the last four years.
Does that mean the league as a whole will take a step back in 2014-15 while Wisconsin runs away with the title? Will the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes reload? Will the Cornhuskers take the next step?
In any event, the depth in the Big Ten is in question for the first time in several years.
Previews of every Big Ten team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.
Big Ten 2014-15 Preseason Picks
1. Wisconsin (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA runner up
Four returning starters from a Final Four team has ignited intriguing talk of a national championship run.
2. Nebraska (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
With Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, the Huskers are the trendy pick to do big things.
3. Michigan State (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Replacing Gary Harris and Adreian Payne won’t be easy, but Tom Izzo built depth while battling injuries last season.
4. Ohio State (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32
Life without Aaron Craft (or LaQuinton Ross) will be a challenge for a team that was offensively challenged last season.
5. Michigan (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32
Give John Beilein three perimeter guys like Derrick Walton Jr., Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin and he’ll do the rest.
6. Iowa (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32
Hawkeyes’ fans will expect more than merely a trip to the NCAA Tournament from a veteran team led by a talented senior like Aaron White.
7. Illinois (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64
John Groce has put together a nice blend of veterans, youth and transfers but the Illini remain a big man away from the Top 25.
Postseason projection: NIT
Tom Crean has addressed his team’s shooting issues, but now the worry is rebounding and interior defense.
Postseason projection: NIT
Richard Pitino won the NIT during his first season, but could not close down the recruiting border.
Postseason projection: NIT
Embattled Mark Turgeon adds a top-10 recruiting class, but watched five players transfer out of his program. Hot Seat alert.
11 Penn State
Postseason projection: NIT
The Nittany Lions remain a team nobody wants to play because they defend and D.J. Newbill is always capable of a 20-point night.
If A.J. Hammons improves from good to great, the Boilermakers could move to the middle of the pack.
Lack of depth remains the leading issue as Chris Collins aims for progress in his second season.
It won’t be any easier for the Scarlet Knights here than it was in the Big East.
2014-15 Pac-12 Superlatives
Player of the Year: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Dekker bulked up during the offseason and, oddly enough, grew from 6-7 to 6-9 since the end of last season. He already was Wisconsin’s top NBA prospect, and he'll make a run an All-America honors. He returned to add an outside shot to his game and for a run at a national title.
Best Defensive Player: Shannon Scott, Ohio State
Scott has major shoes to fill stepping in for point guard and defensive stopper Aaron Craft. His per 40 minute numbers were close to Craft’s, but carrying that over to a full-time role is easier said than done.
Most Underrated Player: Caris LeVert, Michigan
LeVert won’t be underrated for long. A secondary player for the Wolverines last season will be the focal point for this Michigan team. After averaging 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds, he’s suited to being a team leader for a young, rebuilding squad.
Newcomer of the Year: Anthony Lee, Ohio State
Ohio State was a mediocre rebounding team last season. Lee will be a major boost in that area after averaging an American Athletic Conference-best 8.6 boards per game at Temple last season.
Top Coach: Tom Izzo, Michigan State (full rankings of Big Ten coaches)
First-Team All-Big Ten
G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
G Caris LeVert, Michigan
G/F Terran Petteway, Nebraska
F Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
C Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Second-Team All-Big Ten
G D.J. Newbill, Penn State
G Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
G/F Branden Dawson, Michigan State
F Aaron White, Iowa
C A.J. Hammons, Purdue
Third-Team All-Big Ten
G Derrick Walton, Michigan
G Shavon Shields, Nebraska
G Andre Hollins, Minnesota
G/F Dez Wells, Maryland
F Anthony Lee, Ohio State
Whether it’s their given name or a nickname, these athletes and sports figures fit right in on Halloween.
College football coach (Iowa Wesleyan 1989-91, Valdosta State 1992-96, Kentucky 1997-2000, Southeastern Louisiana 2003-04, New Mexico State 2005-08, McMurry 2009-12, SMU 2013, Bellhaven 2014)
Mumme (pronounced mummy) has been a college football head coach for more than 20 years and has more than 130 wins on his resume. For all his success, however, he is best known for his four seasons at Kentucky, where he went 20-26 overall and only 10-22 in SEC play. Mumme’s tenure with the Wildcats was (ahem) wrapped up at the end of the 2000 season with an eight-game losing streak and an investigation into NCAA rules violations related to illegally paying recruits. After taking a break from coaching, Mumme returned to the profession in 2003 and is currently the head coach of the Bellhaven Blazers, a NAIA school located in Jackson, Miss.
Weekley’s given name is Thomas Brent, but everyone knows him by his nickname, Boo. This nickname came from Yogi Bear’s sidekick, Boo Boo, and not from trying to scare people, which is fitting given Weekley’s colorful personality on and off the golf course. It was on full display during the 2008 Ryder Cup when he rode his driver like it was a horse down the fairway during Singles play. Weekley and the rest of the U.S. team certainly put a fright into the European team at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., as the underdog Americans won back the Ryder Cup with a convincing five-point victory. Weekley has three career victories on the PGA Tour, the last coming at the 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
NFL (Cincinnati Bengals 1984-92, ’97; New York Jets 1993-95; Arizona Cardinals 1996)
A quarterback for 14 years in the NFL, Norman Julius, better known as Boomer, finished his career with 37,920 passing yards and 247 touchdown passes. His best season came in 1998, when he was the league’s MVP and led the Bengals to a spot in Super Bowl XXIII. He and his teammates came up short in that game against San Francisco, but Esiason will always be loved in Cincinnati, where he spent 10 seasons. The same cannot necessarily be said in New York, at least as it relates to his playing career. Esiason heard many a boo from the home crowd during his 15-27 run as the Jets’ starting quarterback from 1993-95. Esiason has remained in the game as a television and radio analyst and he also co-hosts "Boomer and Carton," a morning radio show on WFAN Radio in New York.
Red Grange, “The Galloping Ghost”
NFL (Chicago Bears 1925, ’29-’34; New York Yankees 1926-27)
Harold Edward, better known as “Red,” first made a name for himself and earned his spectral nickname when he starred as a halfback at Illinois. While noted sportswriter Grantland Rice was the first to record Grange’s collegiate exploits in prose, it was his colleague, Warren Brown, who then wrote for the Chicago American, who dubbed Grange “The Galloping Ghost.” Grange went on to play10 seasons in the NFL, most of them with the Chicago Bears, who later retired his number. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
MLB (Philadelphia Athletics 1954, Kansas City Athletics 1955-56, Pittsburgh Pirates 1956)
His given name was Forrest Vandergrift, but for some unknown reason he went by Spook during his brief baseball career. A second baseman, Jacobs hit .247 in 188 career games and never hit a home run.
Jerry Adair, “Casper the Friendly Ghost”
MLB (Baltimore Orioles 1958-66, Chicago White Sox 1966-67, Boston Red Sox 1967-68, Kansas City Royals 1969-70)
Adair’s major league career lasted 13 seasons, in large part due to his glove and ability to deliver in the clutch. He played most of his career for the Orioles and was a .254 hitter with 57 career home runs. He finished with a career .981 fielding percentage as he played all four infield positions (primarily second base and shortstop) at some point during his time in the majors.
NFL (Dallas Cowboys 1998-2003, Cleveland Browns 2003-04, Denver Broncos 2005-06, Cincinnati Bengals 2007)
MLB (Florida Marlins 1995, Detroit Tigers 1995-97, Milwaukee Brewers 1998-99, Colorado Rockies 2000-01, Arizona Diamondbacks 2002-03, Seattle Mariners 2004, Boston Red Sox 2004-05, New York Yankees 2006-07, Chicago White Sox 2007)
Michael Dewayne Myers terrorized quarterbacks as a defensive end in the NFL for six seasons collecting 15.5 sacks, while Michael Stanley Myers lasted 13 seasons in baseball as a left-handed relief pitcher. Myers didn’t exactly slash his was through major league batters, as he played for nine different teams in his career. His major league totals include a 25-24 record, 4.29 ERA, 256 walks and 429 strikeouts in 541 2/3 career innings pitched.
John Candelaria, “Candy Man”
MLB (Pittsburgh Pirates 1975-85, ’93; California Angels 1985-87; New York Mets 1987; New York Yankees 1988-89; Montreal Expos 1989; Minnesota Twins 1990; Toronto Blue Jays 1990; Los Angeles Dodgers 1991-92)
Candelaria was a left-handed pitcher who won 177 games during his 19-year major league career. The “Candy Man” finished with a respectable 3.33 career ERA over his 2,525 2/3 innings pitched. He was at his sweetest in 1977 when he went 20-5 with a National League-leading 2.34 ERA. He made his only All-Star Game that season and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting.
Vladimir Guerrero, “Vlad the Impaler”
MLB (1996-2003 Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels 2004, Los Angeles Angels 2005-09, Texas Rangers 2010, Baltimore Orioles 2011)
For 16 years Guerrero struck fear into the hearts and minds of major league pitchers because of his tendency to swing at whatever they threw at him, regardless of where it was located. A career .318 hitter who was named AL MVP in 2004, Guerrero finished many of his at-bats holding his wooden stake after driving it right through the pitcher’s heart with yet another monster home run or game-winning hit.
George Wolfman & Cedric Wolfman
Minor league catcher 1934-35; Minor league pitcher 1954-56
Neither of these guys got a chance to howl on the major-league level, although I bet they were a lot of fun on nights with a full moon.
MLB (New York Giants 1905)
Best known for his inclusion in the iconic baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” Archibald Wright, better known as “Moonlight” was in fact a real major leaguer. The outfielder’s career in the big leagues lasted all of one game, actually one inning, with the New York Giants 1905 when he was 27. He spent seven seasons in the minors, including his last in professional baseball in 1908. After his baseball dreams came to an end, he worked as a doctor in Chisholm, Minn., for 50 years before passing away in 1965 at the age of 85.
NFL (Houston Oilers 1984-93, Minnesota Vikings 1994-96, Seattle Seahawks 1997-98, Kansas City Chiefs 1999-2000)
After going undrafted out of college, Moon started his professional football career playing for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos. Six seasons later, Moon migrated from north of the border to Houston where he started his NFL career with the Oilers. Moon played 10 seasons for the Oilers, setting numerous franchise records, before moving on to the Vikings, Seahawks and ending his career with the Chiefs in 2000. Moon’s No. 1 jersey was retired by the Oliers (now Tennessee Titans) and he finished his NFL career with 49,325 yards passing and 291 touchdown passes. In 2006, Moon became the first modern African-American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2001).
Jose Bautista, “Joey Bats”
MLB (Baltimore Orioles 2004, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2004, Kansas City Royals 2004, Pittsburgh Pirates 2004-08, Toronto Blue Jays 2008-present)
Bautista bounced around with four different teams in his first season in the majors before finding a home in Pittsburgh. However, it’s been his run in Toronot during which Bautista has made a name for himself and earned his nickname for the damage he’s done with his Louisville Slugger. In 2010-11, Bautista truly drove opposing pitchers batty as he hit a combined 97 home runs, drove in 227 runs, scored 214 and walked 232 times. He was named to the American League All-Star team and finished in the top four of the AL MVP voting each of these seasons. Injuries derailed him in 2012 and '13, causing him to miss a combined 114 games. But he was back in form this season, finishing in the top 10 in the AL in numerous offensive categories, including home runs (35, 5th), RBIs (103, 7th), runs (101, 3rd), walks (104, 2nd), and OPS (.928, 4th).
Torii Hunter, “Spider-Man”
MLB (Minnesota Twins, 1997-2007, Los Angeles Angels 2008-12, Detroit Tigers 2013-14)
The recipient of nine straight Gold Gloves from 2001-10, Hunter has an established reputation for his defense, most notably the art of robbing the home run. First with the Twins, then the Angels, Hunter earned his nickname for his adept ability at climbing the outfield wall or timing his leap just perfectly to snag what seemed like a certain home run. Many a batter has experienced the agony of defeat as they watched the baseball that seemed ticketed to go over the fence get ensnared in the web of Hunter’s glove instead. Hunter signed with Detroit as a free agent prior to the start of the 2013 season, and has helped the Tigers win the AL Central in each of his two seasons in Motown and represented the team at the 2013 All-Star Game.
Formula 1 driver (1950, ’52-‘54)
Webb’s racing career lasted all of four races, in which he never finished higher than 19th. Tony Stewart may have made the move famous, but it would have been something to see Webb climb the fence after reaching Victory Lane, no?
The professional golfer’s given name is James Frederick Webb, but whatever you choose to call him, you have to include major champion in that title. Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco with a final score of one-over par. Simpson has four career victories on the PGA Tour and has been a member of two Presidents Cup (2011, '13) and two Ryder Cup (2012, '14) teams. Simpson was one of Tom Watson's captain's picks for the U.S. team that failed to wrest the Cup back from Europe in September. Simpson went 0-1-1 at the competition held at Gleneagles in Scotland, losing his Friday morning fourballs match with partner Bubba Watson and having his Sunday singles match against Ian Poulter.
MLB (Arizona Diamondbacks 2003-09)
Shoulder injuries have short-circuited his pitching career, but Webb was at his best from 2005-08. He won 70 games during that four-year span, including 22 in 2008. He spun the best season of his career in 2006 as he went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and was awarded the NL Cy Young Award. He finished second in the voting the next two seasons, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009.
NBA (1985-91, ’95-‘96 Atlanta Hawks; Sacramento Kings 1991-95; Minnesota Timberwolves 1996; Orlando Magic 1998)
Anthony Jerome, better known as “Spud,” stands all of 5’7, but he never let his lack of size limit his impact on a basketball court. After playing at NC State for Jim Valvano, Webb was drafted in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He never played for the Pistons and ended up spending the first six seasons of his NBA careeer with the Atlanta Hawks. Webb will forever be remembered for winning the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend as he surprised everyone in defeating defending champion and Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins for the title. Webb remains one of only two participants under six feet tall (Nate Robinson, who is 5’9 won it in 2006) to win the slam dunk competition. Webb’s NBA career lasted 12 seasons and he is documented as the third-shortest player in NBA history. He currently is the President of Basketball Operations for the Texas Legends, the NBA Development League team for the Dallas Mavericks.
We all would like to budget wisely, and it's no different in daily or weekly fantasy football.
If you are playing in a salary capped game at either FanDuel or DraftKings, here are a few value plays and bargains at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions for Week 9 of the NFL season that should allow you to hold on to some of that money to spend on the big-name studs.
VALUE PLAYS (salaries in parenthesis are that of FanDuel's and DraftKings)
1) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco vs. St. Louis ($7800/7000)
While Kaepernick is not even playing as QB1 through the first half of the season, the 49ers' signal caller does come off his bye getting to face an NFC West foe that is allowing the eighth-most points to QBs. The Rams have allowed multiple TD passes to QBs in five of seven games, including a season-high three to Kaepernick in Week Six, and have only picked off three passes, which is tied for second fewest.
2) Alex Smith, Kansas City vs. New York Jets ($7100/5700)
The Jets' defense, on the way to allowing the second-most points to QBs, has surrendered multiple touchdown passes in every game this season, including 3+ in five of eight games. The Jets have just one interception this season. Even miserable Alex Smith should payoff on his value this week against a New York team that has seen only rookie Derek Carr in Week 1 score below 20 fantasy points.
3) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston vs. Philadelphia ($6400/5700)
Outside of Eli Manning going all Eli Manning in Week 6, the Eagles have allowed 22+ points to every starting QB this season on the way to surrendering the third-most fantasy points to the position. They have given up three passing touchdowns in three games, two in three others, and then Manning happened. It takes a strong person to place Fitzpatrick in your lineup, but the combination of what Philly allows and the "Amish Rocket" having thrown a TD in all but one game this season does mean your bye-week cupboard is not completely bare, and can be one-week filled on the cheap.
1) Alfred Morris, Washington vs. Minnesota ($6800/3900)
Morris had a season-high 91 rushing yards in the only game he and QB Robert Griffin III finished together (Week 1). With Griffin in the game last season, Morris hit 70+ yards on the ground nine times and scored five touchdowns. The Vikings have not played against a consistently productive back the last two weeks, but did allow Joique Bell 74 yards and a score in Week 6 and Eddie Lacy 105 yards and two scores in Week 5.
2) Justin Forsett, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh ($6500/5300)
The Steelers have allowed the third-most rushing TDs (7) to running backs, and five backs have posted at least 70 yards on the ground. Forsett, playing alongside Bernard Pierce in Week 2, averaged 7 YPC (8-56) and added four catches against Pittsburgh. A leg injury has him a little iffy this week, but he said he plans to play. Forsett has had multiple catches in five of seven games, has rushed for at least 60 yards in six games to go along with three TDs.
3) Denard Robinson, Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati ($6700/4800)
Robinson has put together back-to-back 100-yard games on the ground (108 and 127) with one touchdown. This week, the Jaguars draw a Bengals team that has allowed RBs to rush for 512 yards and five scores over the last four games, which has made them the second-easiest team for RBs to score against in that span.
1) Terrance Williams, Dallas vs. Arizona ($6800/4900)
Arizona has allowed the second-most yards (1,537), third-most receptions (116) and are tied for 10th in WR TDs allowed (9). Williams matched a season high in catches last week (6) thanks to a few check downs in the fourth quarter. Whether it's Tony Romo (back) or Brandon Weeden looking Williams' way against a struggling Arizona secondary, there should be plenty of production for the Cowboys' No. 2 receiver.
2) Marques Colston, New Orleans vs. Carolina ($6700/3900)
It has not been the best of seasons for Colston with just one TD and two games above 65 yards. However, he and the Saints draw a Carolina squad that allows the fifth-most points to WRs. The Panthers have surrendered multiple TDs to the position in four of their last six games, and 220+ yards in three of those six games. Colston has posted double-digit days in five of his last six games against Carolina. He combined for 14 catches, 188 yards, and two scores in last year's two meetings.
3) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay vs. Cleveland ($6000/4700)
The rookie receiver has been nothing if not consistent. He has four catches on the nose in each of the last five games and had five in the season opener. Evans has touchdowns in two of his last three games and averages 66 yards over those three outings. That's a perfect combo heading into Cleveland. The Browns have surrendered six touchdowns to receivers over the last four games, and five receivers have hit 60+ yards in those four games.
1) Travis Kelce, Kansas City vs. New York Jets ($5400/4100)
The only thing limiting Kelce this season is usage, but he continues to produce despite playing just over half the team's snaps per game. Kelce has the most yards after the catches (248) amongst tight ends this season despite being just 13th at the position in targets received. He draws a Jets team this week that has allowed seven TDs to tight ends over the last five weeks and seven for the season.
2) Larry Donnell, New York Giants vs. Indianapolis ($5400/4600)
Paging Larry Donnell. Paging Larry Donnell. Can we stay consistent after another strong performance, Mr. Donnell? The early-season darling of the tight ends after 137 yards and a score over the first two weeks, Donnell posted a season high in yardage and tied a season high in catches Monday night against Dallas. The 7-for-90 effort gives us hope with an Indianapolis team on the horizon that has allowed the sixth-most points to the TE position, including 321 yards and two scores over the last five games.
3) Jace Amaro, New York Jets vs. Kansas City ($5100/4100)
A tight end has scored a touchdown in five of seven games against the Chiefs, and Kansas City has given up seven to the position this season. Amaro, who has one score this season, has posted 50+ yards on four of his last six games.
@Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
How Alvin Dupree Jr. became Bud Dupree starts with a dream by his godmother.
The story is a little too unbelievable and a little too perfect, but this is how Bud tells it:
“My godma had dream before I was born that everyone was calling me ‘Bud’ because I was playing football, and they were saying how good Bud was playing football and how good he’s doing,” Dupree told Athlon Sports. “My mom just went with it.”
The dream turned out to be accurate, though the eventual outcome didn’t always seem clear.
Dupree is now the leader of a defense that has Kentucky on the verge of bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2010. The Wildcats have lost their last two games — to LSU and Mississippi State — but at 5-3, Kentucky has already exceeded its win total of the previous two seasons combined.
Second-year coach Mark Stoops said before the season he’d be “very shocked” if Dupree isn’t Kentucky’s first first-round NFL draft pick since 2003.
Again, that’s some dream.
Kentucky at Missouri (4 p.m., SEC Network) is the Talk Back Game of the Week. Join former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and former Missouri quarterback James Franklin as they take your questions live throughout the game.
Dupree grew up in rural Georgia in a town of less than 600 people where football wasn’t even the No. 1 high school sport. The roster for the Wilkinson County football team had roughly 30 players, some of whom, like Dupree, split time with the school’s basketball team, a powerhouse in the state. For the football team, many played on both sides of the ball.
“A lot of guys had to play both ways, but that’s all we needed,” Dupree said.
That meant Dupree had to cut his teeth at wide receiver and then tight end in high school.
A big body like that split out wide could fool most high school teams — he’s now 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds playing defensive end and linebacker at Kentucky — but not rival Baldwin County.
That school had inside information from offensive Travis Carswell, a Wilkinson County alum who is a cousin and a mentor to the young Dupree since he was in elementary school. Carswell would eventually become Dupree’s offensive coordinator, but in that first meeting, Carswell was on the opposite sideline.
“I told our defensive coordinator, ‘If he’s lining up at receiver, don’t think he’s slow,’” Carswell said.
Carswell had good reason to know better. Starting when Dupree was 9 years old, he spent time trying to keep up with the Carswell family. Travis played college football at North Alabama. His younger brother, T.J., played at Bowling Green under Urban Meyer.
Other members of Travis’ extended family, spanning several generations, played college football at a high level — Chuck Carswell and Travis Jones at Georgia, Ryan Taylor at Auburn, Robert Carswell at Clemson and Brandon Carswell at USC.
When Dupree was younger, T.J. Carswell would return home to Irwinton, Ga., to train. Travis Jones, who would go on to become a defensive line coach with the Saints and Seahawks, would return home, too.
All the while, Dupree would tag along.
“He’d want to compete with the older guys,” said Carswell, who is now offensive coordinator at Miles College in Fairfield, Ala. “He was always around older athletes who played football at the higher level. That is what put him above the rest in high school.”
In high school, Dupree, also was Carswell’s most trusted lieutenant in delivering messages to the team and keeping an eye on his teammates. Carswell had only four coaches on his staff, so the extra eyes and ears on and off the field were critical.
“We had a lot of hard heads on our team,” Dupree said. “In high school a lot of people don’t want to listen to coach. He told me to do things, relaying things to the team make sure they’re focusing. Once you’ve got someone who can vouch for you on everything you say, it helps a lot in the coaching process.”
Dupree may have been above the rest on the field in high school, but recruiting didn’t pick up until he put up an MVP performance in a national camp before his senior year.
Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia Tech started recruiting him late in the process, but Auburn eventually took tight end C.J. Uzomah. Meanwhile, Kentucky and Joker Phillips stayed on Dupree through signing day.
With he Wildcats. Dupree expected to play tight end, but Phillips quickly moved him to the defensive side of the ball.
As prolific as he was in high school with 10 sacks as a defensive end, he never considered it his primary position until the move at Kentucky. After all, he topped 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a tight end.
If defensive end was his future, that would be his focus.
“I wanted to be the best player to come out of my county,” Dupree said. “I worked hard every day to get out. I wanted to make sure I wasn't a person left behind I didn’t want to be stuck behind where I’m from.”
Dupree was on track at Kentucky to be an impact player in the SEC even though the Wildcats struggled with a combined 2-14 league record his first two seasons. As a sophomore, Dupree ranked in the top 10 in the league in tackles, sacks and tackles for a loss.
During a 2-10 season, Kentucky fired Phillips, and Dupree found himself wondering if he should stick around. New coach Mark Stoops wondered if his blossoming star defender would stick around.
“He was preparing to transfer,” Carswell said.
Carswell told Dupree to get to know the new staff first. A day after defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was hired in December 2012 — three weeks after Stoops was hired and six weeks after Joker Phillips was fired — Dupree told Carswell he planned to stay.
As happened on Dupree’s high school team, the rest of Kentucky’s defense fell in line when Dupree opted to stay in Lexington.
The trend has continued through his senior season. Dupree is a potential high draft pick and has the athletic ability to “blow up the combine,” as he said at SEC media day. But his numbers don’t jump off the page — 45 tackles, four sacks through eight games — so far this season.
“We had some circumstances where, not Bud, but certain people were trying to do too much (to boost statistics) and it was hurting us,” Stoops told reporters prior to the LSU game two weeks ago. “You have to be very unselfish to play D line, and I think we're getting good D line play. No matter what the recognition they're getting, they're playing very hard and fundamentally getting better and better and Bud is starting to get his statistics.”
Meanwhile, Dupree is just as interested in keeping himself and his old offensive coordinator on their toes.
The two stay in touch through the offseason, but even a round of golf can get cut short for a voluntary workout. During the season, Dupree critiques Carswell’s defensive players at Miles College. Carswell would try to pick apart Dupree’s game at Kentucky, but Dupree is usually well ahead of him.
“He’ll tell me exactly what play and what he did wrong,” Carswell said. “That lets you know his focus. ... “He’s a kid who was destined for greatness.”
Heat Nation is no longer where LeBron James lives. And if you were an alien who watched the team’s latest promotional video, you’d think he never did. The short film, below, features a voice-over of Gill Scott-Heron grandeur and a sweeping, folksy frame of basketball love in Southern Florida. It’s got champagne, parades, and pride — but no sign of the man most responsible for bringing the most of all those things to Dade County:
There are more shots of Ronny Seikaly, Alonzo Mourning, Shaq, Danny Granger and Shabazz Napier in this clip than there are of the man who won two MVP trophies (and two Finals MVPs) as the top Heatle (zero, in case you're counting).
There’s a strange calm that accompanies the omission, though. Inviting the King’s throne into your city’s borders means bringing the non-stop nationwide hullabaloo that follows him, too. Things in Miami are much quieter, calmer, and less loaded with crushing expectations than they have been in recent years.
As Dwyane Wade told Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick at the beginning of the preseason, “Last year wasn't fun. I mean, there was no stretch of it (that was) fun. That whole season, to me, it's amazing we made it to the Finals. It's just honest. Just this year, coming in, I can see, even in the coaches, there's just a different renewed focus and energy. No one knows what it's going to lead to. No one knows if that's going to lead to a Finals win or Finals loss or not the Finals at all. But right now it's good for everyone to come in every day and want to be here."
LeBron brought a previously unheard-of level of attention to roundball in Miami. Now that he’s left and taken his championship-or-bust circus with him, we’ll find out whether the team’s fanbase actually loves the game or not. As claustrophobic as the sport’s biggest name can make things feel — and as free and personalized as the team might feel to its city now—mediocrity and mere playoff berths might not be to Miami’s liking.
— John Wilmes
We’ve hit Week 10 of the 2014 college football season and the best has yet to come for the American Athletic Conference.
Though East Carolina sits atop the conference with a 6-1 record and the No. 21 ranking in the latest AP Top 25, there are several teams making moves and positioning themselves for a potential title run in the coming weeks.
Central Florida undoubtedly possesses the top defense in The American, ranking 17th in the country against the run (110.9), 16th in opponent passer rating (107.0), and 14th in scoring defense (19.1 points per game). If coach George O’Leary can continue to mold Justin Holman into becoming a more consistent and less turnover prone quarterback, the Knights stand as a serious threat to ECU.
Houston has won two games in a row for the first time since October of 2013 and should be 8-3 (6-1) by their regular season finale with Cincinnati, as its next four opponents have a combined 6-23 record.
Even with the loss to Houston weeks ago, SB Nation ranks Memphis as the third-best team in the AAC (No. 9 in the Group of Five) in its latest Underdogs Poll. There’s still an opportunity for the Tigers to win out and be crowned conference champions, but without ECU or UCF on the schedule, will need a little help from their friends.
Cincinnati hasn’t come close to being the team we had expected it to be in August, but even with its historically poor start to the season, it might have the best chance out of any contender to rise from the ashes and claim its fifth conference title in seven years.
Amid a five-way battle for the final first-place standing, here are the five most critical games remaining on the American Athletic Conference slate.
5. Houston at Cincinnati
When and where: Saturday, Dec. 6 (TBD)
We’re watching because… This game could potentially crown the AAC champion. If Houston can get through November unscathed (which is anticipated, considering its four games are against opponents with a combined 6-23 record), then it will be 8-3 (6-2) riding a six-game winning streak. Cincinnati is hit-or-miss, but if it gets hot and beats both ECU and Temple, then this matchup could end up being must-see football.
Prediction: Cincinnati wins
4. East Carolina at Temple
When and where: Saturday, Nov. 1, 12 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
We’re watching because… ECU hasn’t been playing particularly well as of late, and Temple is back home after spending three of its last four games on the road. The Pirates are still ranked in the AP Poll after three straight shaky performances against inferior competition, but star quarterback Shane Carden has had to pick up the slack from his team’s massive amount of penalties (28 for 306 yards) and the inconsistency from the secondary. Temple has had its own struggles lately, but if P.J. Walker and the Owls offense can avoid turnovers and make a few big plays down the field, ECU will be on upset alert in a hurry.
Prediction: ECU wins
3. Temple at Penn State
When and where: Saturday, Nov. 15 (TBD)
We’re watching because… It’s a mid-November in-state non-conference game between two schools that are separated by roughly 100 miles. Both teams benefited Temple from a soft first quarter schedule and have come down to Earth; Temple has lost two in a row after starting 4-1 and Penn State is losers of three straight after its 4-0 run to open the season. This one might not have any affect on the AAC title race, but it should be a fun one to watch—and the Owls might need a win here to ensure bowl eligibility.
Prediction: Penn State wins
2. Central Florida at East Carolina
When and where: Thursday, Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
We’re watching because… UCF could be vying for back-to-back AAC titles. Since losing their first two games of the season, the Knights are 5-0 and are holding opponents to 14.0 points per game. With the likelihood of winning its next four games (UConn, Tulsa, SMU, and USF), the matchup with ECU could determine whether Central Florida receives a News Year’s Six Bowl invitation or if it plays in the Bitcoin Bowl—and the Knights’ back seven against the Shane Carden/
Justin Hardy duo is going to be one heck of a grind.
Prediction: ECU wins
1. East Carolina at Cincinnati
When and where: Thursday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
We’re watching because… This is the only game East Carolina is projected to lose, according to ESPN FPI Rankings. The Pirates, who have a 12.8 percent chance of winning out and 46.3 percent chance of taking The American, are expected to fall at Paul Brown Stadium with a 49.4 percent chance of beating Cincinnati. This was the game that was circled on everyone’s calendars during the preseason when the Bearcats were dubbed the favorites to win the conference, and though the roles are now reversed, the implications remain the same. If Gunner Kiel can stay upright and retain his Week 1 form, then this has all the makings of a break-the-scoreboard type of outcome—and who wouldn’t want to see that on a Thursday night?
Prediction: Cincinnati wins
Written by Tyler Waddell of AACFootballFever.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler_Waddell and @AAC_FB_Fever
Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan preview the big games of Week 10. The Pac-12 has a full slate of interesting games, Auburn-Ole Miss and the Cocktail Party highlights another great SEC schedule, Gameday is in Morgantown and who really cares about the Big Ten? We pick every big game for Week 10 and also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 30:
• Fireball is getting recalled in Europe, but here in 'Murica, we don't mind a little propylene glycol in our booze. Nor do we mind Fireball girls.
• Madison Bumgarner ruled this postseason, but he had a weak postgame. First, he only chugged six beers, not seven, and then he was outshone by the awkward Chevy guy.
• Throwback Thursday: Current college football players as kids in their Halloween costumes. Or, if hoops is your thing: Current college basketball players in their Halloween costumes.
• Remember Antoine Dodson? He's going to fight the intruder who inspired his famous rant, in a celebrity boxing match.
• Pablo Sandoval celebrated the Giants World Series win in a costume panda head.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is a happy man. New recipient of a four-year, $48 million contract extension, he was also his team’s hero in their first game of the 2014-15 NBA season. Walker shot just 9-for-26 on the night, but two of those nine counted for a little something extra. First, Walker hit this buzzer-beating three to send the game to overtime, after the Hornets came back from more than 20 points down against the Milwaukee Bucks:
Then, he hit this chilly jumper to seal the 108-106 victory in the extra period:
Looks like Hornets owner Michael Jordan’s got plenty to smile about this morning. His packed arena caught quite the dramatic, cathartic show on the first night of the team’s triumphant return to their beloved 90’s moniker. Buzz City is back.
Meanwhile, Michael’s old team and coach squared off in Manhattan, as the Chicago Bulls stormed into Madison Square Garden for a 104-80 takedown of the New York Knicks. It was not a good start on the court for the team, now ran by zen master Phil Jackson. New York looked to be at a lack of willpower defensively, and lost in the pages of Jackson’s intricate triangle offense playbook, as implemented by rookie coach Derek Fisher.
It was, conversely, a smooth and impressive beginning for the new-look Bulls. A returned Derrick Rose didn’t need to do much as the Bulls’ second unit, led by Taj Gibson’s 22 points and eight rebounds, blew the game wide open by halftime. From there it was an exhibition of sorts, with even the annals of Chicago’s roster getting their chance for a bright Big Apple moment in garbage time.
Next for the Bulls is enemy number one, and the premiere NBA game of the week, as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers battleship visit the United Center in Chicago for a Halloween special this Friday night.
— John Wilmes
A surface glance at this matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers would indicate that a boring clash of NFC mediocrities is in store, as the NFL Network takes over “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts. But a look at the standings reveals that the top spot in the NFC South is actually on the line. It's true — one of these teams is likely to make the playoffs, and the winner of this one takes a giant step toward that goal.
After a 2–0 start, the Panthers are 1–4–1 and coming off of a disappointing 13–9 home loss to Seattle in a game that was theirs for the taking. Looking at recent results, the Saints (3-4) would seem to have the upper hand, since they're coming off their best performance of the season, a 44–23 win over Green Bay. But New Orleans must venture away from the friendly, comfy confines of the Superdome, and Sean Payton's Saints have not exactly been kings of the road.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NFL Network
Spread: New Orleans -3
Three Things to Watch
|New Orleans 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||vs TB||W 37 - 31||Recap|
|10/19||@ DET||L 23 - 24||Recap|
|10/26||vs GB||W 44 - 23||Recap|
|10/30||@ CAR||W 28 - 10||Recap|
|11/9||vs SF||L 24 - 27||Recap|
|11/16||vs CIN||L 10 - 27||Recap|
|11/24||vs BAL||L 27 - 34||Recap|
|11/30||@ PIT||W 35 - 32||Recap|
1. New Orleans' Road Woes
It's becoming a sadly familiar refrain for Saints fans: The team is great at home, but take one foot out of New Orleans and they become the Raiders. The numbers are stark — 3–0 at home, 0–4 on the road this season, after going 3–5 away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2013. The hopeful thing, though, is that the Saints' road games have been competitive; they led in the fourth quarter in three of the four losses. "You look at how we've lost three of those four road games and you say, `We made some critical errors at the end,’" said tackle Zach Strief. "It's not that we were getting dominated on the road." But until the Saints close the deal on the road, this bit of futility is going to follow them like a black cloud.
|Carolina 2014 Schedule|
|10/5||vs CHI||W 31 - 24||Recap|
|10/12||@ CIN||37 - 37||Recap|
|10/19||@ GB||L 17 - 38||Recap|
|10/26||vs SEA||L 9 - 13||Recap|
|10/30||vs NO||L 10 - 28||Recap|
|11/10||@ PHI||L 21 - 45||Recap|
|11/16||vs ATL||L 17 - 19||Recap|
|11/30||@ MIN||L 13 - 31||Recap|
2. Can Cam Reverse the Trend?
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's numbers have been on a season-long decline. After posting a 100.2 passer rating in a September win over Detroit, Newton has seen his stats and his production plummet, hitting a season-low 61.0 passer rating in the loss to Seattle. A contributing factor: a troublesome ankle that has impacted Newton’s production as a runner. A year after posting six rushing touchdowns, Newton has found the end zone on the ground only once so far this season and has seen his yards per carry average dip by a yard (5.3 to 4.3). A New Orleans pass rush that was invigorated against the Packers — four sacks and 13 hurries — will look to keep the big-bodied Newton in the pocket and get him to the ground a few times.
3. Saints’ Renewed Rushing Attack
The Saints' reliance on Drew Brees and the passing attack has been well documented. But New Orleans has seen a rushing renaissance in 2014. The Saints are averaging 133 yards per game on the ground, seventh in the NFL, and rank second in the league with 5.1 yards per carry. That makes this a tough matchup for the Panthers, who are surrendering 5.2 yards per carry (28th in the NFL). Mark Ingram exploded for 172 yards rushing against the Packers, and the Saints would no doubt love to get similar production from the former Heisman Trophy winner this week.
The numbers seem to favor New Orleans, but the Saints' road futility is starting to embed itself in the franchise's DNA, and that's not a positive indicator heading into a critical division matchup on the road. The powerful New Orleans offense seems to have difficulty protecting the football away from home, and Carolina has been highly adept at forcing miscues (14 on the season). Plus, Drew Brees has struggled in his last two visits to Carolina, tossing four interceptions and posting a 73.1 passer rating. Look for miscues to make the difference in this one.
Prediction: Carolina 24, New Orleans 23
The ACC’s Week 10 slate isn’t filled with top 25 matchups, but there’s plenty of intrigue in games that should help determine which team wins the Coastal Division in 2014. Miami took a step forward in the division with a win over Virginia Tech last Thursday, and Georgia Tech stayed alive by beating a turnover-prone Pittsburgh team on Saturday.
Miami hosts an improving North Carolina team this Saturday, while Duke travels to Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech hosts Virginia, and Virginia Tech plays a crossover game with Boston College. Needless to say, after this weekend, there should be some separation at the top of the Coastal.
And of course, we can’t forget about the huge showdown on Thursday night between Florida State and Louisville. The Seminoles ranked as the No. 2 team in college football’s first playoff committee poll and will be challenged by the Cardinals, who feature one of the nation’s top defenses.
Week 10 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. Florida State (-4) at Louisville
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Remember the last time Louisville hosted Florida State? The Cardinals upset the Seminoles 26-20 on Thursday night in 2002. Fast forward 12 years later, the stakes are even higher on Thursday night in Louisville, as Florida State hopes to remain among the nation’s best with a win over the Cardinals. This matchup won’t be easy for the No. 2 ranked Seminoles, as Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to 3.9 yards per play and 14.6 points per game. Quarterback Jameis Winston will be throwing against a secondary that ranks second nationally with 15 interceptions. However, this is by far the best offense the Cardinals have played in 2014. Winston’s supporting cast at receiver has improved over the course of the season, but the rushing attack (3.9 ypc) has struggled at times and won’t have running back Mario Pender due to injury. Louisville’s front seven is active around the line of scrimmage, recording 28 sacks and 60 tackles for a loss. If Florida State can establish the run, it will slow down the Cardinals’ pass rush and allow Winston to test the secondary. Louisville needs to get pressure on Winston and force the Seminoles into third-and-long situations. Offensively, the Cardinals aren’t as prolific as most expected in coach Bobby Petrino’s first year. But there are signs of life, as running back Michael Dyer is coming off a 173-yard effort against NC State, and receiver DeVante Parker is back from injury. Florida State is allowing 5.1 yards per play and has given up at least 156 rushing yards in three out of its last four games. Louisville’s offensive line is struggling, but the Seminoles aren’t as dominant in the trenches as they were in 2013.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Duke at Pittsburgh (-4)
Noon ET, ESPNU
Last week’s performance against Georgia Tech was one to forget for coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers never had a chance to get on track thanks to five fumbles in their first five possessions. After all of the bad luck last Saturday, is Pittsburgh due for some good luck this week? Duke has quietly returned to the top of the Coastal Division and plays arguably its toughest remaining games (North Carolina and Virginia Tech) at home. But this week’s road trip to Heinz Field won’t be easy, especially with the Blue Devils struggling to stop the run (193.4 ypg). Pittsburgh running back James Conner averaged 12 yards per carry (10 attempts) against Georgia Tech last Saturday and should eclipse the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this year. Duke has allowed only three passing scores this year, so it’s critical for the Panthers to get Conner on track to open up the passing game for quarterback Chad Voytik and receiver Tyler Boyd. The Blue Devils aren’t flashy on offense, but this might be one of the nation’s most-balanced attacks. Duke has 1,526 yards on the ground and 1,412 yards through the air this year. In a tight game, turnovers could be the deciding factor. Pittsburgh ranks last in the ACC at a -6 margin, while Duke is first at +8.
3. North Carolina at Miami (-17)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
The arrow on both teams is pointing up after key victories in Week 9. North Carolina upset Virginia 28-27 in Charlottesville, while Miami won 30-6 in Blacksburg. The victories by both teams keeps them alive in the Coastal Division title picture, with both teams a game behind Duke with a month to go. Considering the Tar Heels nearly defeated Notre Dame in early October and have won two games in a row, it’s a surprise to see coach Larry Fedora’s team a 17-point underdog. But in order to pull off the upset in Miami, North Carolina has a major challenge ahead on defense. Running back Duke Johnson gashed Virginia Tech for 249 yards last week, and the Tar Heels rank at the bottom of the ACC against the run (210.6 ypg). In addition to stopping Johnson, North Carolina has to get pressure on quarterback Brad Kaaya and disrupt a passing game that has hit on 13 plays of 30 yards or more. Of concern for Miami is the offensive line, which is expected to be without starting tackle Ereck Flowers. When the Tar Heels have the ball, quarterback Marquise Williams has to carry this team once again. Williams has recorded 500 yards of total offense in two out of its last three games and will be challenged by a Miami defense allowing just 18.8 points a game in ACC play. Both teams will score, but which defense will step up with a key play at a critical moment late in the second half?
4. Virginia at Georgia Tech (-3.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
With both teams having two losses in conference play, this week’s meeting could be an elimination game in the Coastal Division. Virginia has lost two ACC games in a row after a 2-0 start in conference play, while Georgia Tech rebounded from back-to-back losses to trounce Pittsburgh 56-28 last Saturday. Turnovers will be critical in this game, as the Cavaliers have lost 17 this year, and the Yellow Jackets are +7 in margin. Georgia Tech could be shorthanded at running back this week, as Zach Laskey is not expected to play due to a shoulder injury, and Charles Perkins is dealing with a knee injury. Injuries have dwindled the options in the backfield, but the Yellow Jackets’ option attack will continue to thrive as long as quarterback Justin Thomas is healthy. But Thomas will have his hands full on Saturday, as Virginia ranks third in the ACC against the run and limits opponents to 3.0 yards per carry. When the Cavaliers have the ball, expect running back Kevin Parks to test a Georgia Tech defense that ranks 12th in the ACC against the run. The Yellow Jackets have won four out of its last five games against Virginia.
5. Boston College at Virginia Tech (-3)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
After last week’s loss to Miami, Virginia Tech sits at the bottom of the Coastal Division and is in jeopardy of missing a bowl for the first time since 1992. While the Hokies are struggling to generate consistent production on offense, the defense ranks last in the ACC (conference-only games) against the run (237.3 ypg). That’s a huge concern for coordinator Bud Foster this week, as Boston College has a veteran offensive line and averages 277 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 843 yards, but Jon Hilliman and Myles Willis each average over four yards per carry. The Eagles average only 135.8 passing yards per game, so expect to see Virginia Tech crowd the line of scrimmage to force Murphy to win this one through the air. When the Hokies have the ball, this offense has to find a spark after scoring just 22 points over its last two games. Mark Leal moved the offense late against Miami, but Michael Brewer is expected start at quarterback. While Brewer has struggled recently, he’s not the sole problem for Virginia Tech. The rushing attack is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry in ACC games, and the offensive line has allowed 15 sacks in eight games. Boston College’s defense ranks as one of the best in the conference, limiting opponents to 4.7 yards per game (conference-only matchups) and recording 22 sacks in eight contests.
6. NC State at Syracuse (-3.5)
3 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
This matchup won’t garner much national interest, but the meeting between the Orange and Wolfpack is critical for both team’s bowl hopes. Syracuse is 3-5 and 1-3 in ACC play, while NC State is 4-4 and winless in conference action (0-4). With the upcoming schedules for both teams, a victory on Saturday could be enough to hit six wins. Additionally, the Wolfpack are still searching for their first ACC win under second-year coach Dave Doeren. In last year’s meeting, Syracuse recorded 362 rushing yards (9.1 ypc) and won 24-10. Stopping the run will be a challenge for NC State once again, as the defense ranks 11th in the ACC and has allowed five yards per carry in conference games. The Wolfpack needs to counter with a rebound game for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Since throwing for 359 yards and three scores against Florida State, Brissett is completing just 45 percent of his throws and has not topped 225 yards in each of his last three games. Syracuse has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.8 percent of their throws in ACC games this year.
ACC Week 10 Predictions
|FSU (-4) at UL||FSU 21-17||FSU 28-24||FSU 27-24||FSU 28-17|
|Duke (+4) at Pitt||Duke 35-21||Duke 31-30||Pitt 27-24||Pitt 31-20|
|UNC (+17) at Miami||Miami 42-28||Miami 34-27||Miami 38-30||Miami 33-20|
|UVa (+3.5) at GT||GT 31-21||GT 30-27||GT 27-24||GT 36-31|
|BC (+3) at Va. Tech||BC 24-21||VT 24-23||BC 24-20||BC 17-14|
|NC State (+3.5) at Syracuse||NC State 17-14||Cuse 30-27||NC State 31-27||Cuse 21-20|
The release of the first College Football Playoff rankings revealed some interesting statements about the Big 12.
No. 7 TCU is ranked well ahead of No. 13 Baylor despite losing to the Bears. Kansas State, the Big 12's lone remaining unbeaten team in conference play, is No. 9 despite almost beating No. 3 Auburn. And the committee is clearly not respecting No. 20 West Virginia.
Big 12 Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. TCU (-5) at West Virginia
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
In a bizarre twist, the Mountaineers won impressively in Stillwater last weekend by running the football. With Trevone Boykin coming into town, Clint Trickett and Kevin White will have to get back on track in the passing game. In fact, if TCU decides to play man coverage, WVU’s Kevin White will be guarded by TCU’s Kevin White in many situations. The real key will be the play of both defensive lines, however. The Mountaineers were able to pressure and disrupt Baylor and it led to an upset while the Frogs brag two of the better defensive tackles in the league in Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter. Whichever team is more one-dimensional will likely walk out of Milan Puskar Stadium a loser.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Oklahoma St (+14) at Kansas St
8 p.m., ABC
The Wildcats are atop the Big 12 standings but have a nasty road schedule left over the final month. So it obviously can’t afford any mistakes at home against two touchdown-underdogs. Kansas State’s defense was suffocating last week against Texas, allowing 196 yards, 3.8 yards per play and zero points. That is bad news for a team that managed just 10 points at home against West Virginia. In fact, over its last three games, OSU has mustered just 323 yards per game. That won’t cut it on the road against Jake Waters, Tyler Lockett and one of the most balanced and complete teams in the nation.
3. Texas (pk) at Texas Tech
7:30 p.m., FS1
One team was shutout last weekend and the other allowed 82 points. Things are not going the way either Kliff Kingsbury or Charlie Strong had planned in 2014. But this games presents an opportunity for both struggling programs. Tyrone Swoopes (106 yards last week) and Davis Webb (13 INTs this season) have had issues this fall in their first full seasons as starting quarterbacks but both have upside. This is one of the few chances Tech has left for a “quality” league win for a team that has lost nine of its last 10 Big 12 games. A loss at home to one of the worst offenses in the league would be extremely telling about the development of this program under Kingsbury.
4. Oklahoma (-16.5) at Iowa St
The Sooners debut in the Playoff Rankings as the fourth-best team in the league. But they aren’t out of the race just yet with plenty of winnable games left on the schedule. Oklahoma has dominated the series against ISU since Paul Rhoads took over, winning all four meetings by an average of 31.3 points per game. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare, so the Cyclones will have to play near-perfect football to pull off the upset. The good news is Iowa State is coming off of its best offensive showing of the year, a season-high 524 yards and 45 points against Texas last week.
5. Kansas (+35) at Baylor
4 p.m., FS1
Poor Kansas. Baylor likely feels snubbed by the committee despite defeating the top-ranked team in the Big 12. So don't be surprised if the Bears take out some of their frustration on the Jayhawks this weekend. Art Briles' bunch is still in control of its own destiny in the Big 12 and playoff picture, so fans in shiny new McLane Stadium should expect a motivated Bears performance. The last two meetings between these two in Waco were Baylor wins by a combined 96-21 score.
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|TCU (-5) at WVU||TCU, 41-38||TCU, 37-33||TCU, 42-38||TCU, 38-34|
|OSU (+14) at KSU||KSU, 38-13||KSU, 31-21||KSU, 24-10||KSU, 34-17|
|Texas (pk) at T. Tech||Texas, 30-24||Texas, 23-13||Texas, 21-10||Texas, 31-20|
|Okla. (-16.5) at ISU||OU, 45-21||OU, 37-12||OU, 41-21||OU, 41-17|
|Kansas (+35) at Baylor||BU, 63-7||BU, 51-10||BU, 49-10||BU, 50-17|
The Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the initial College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings get together in Oxford this weekend. The winner will stay in the thick of the SEC West race; the loser is probably out of the Playoff race. Elsewhere, Florida and Georgia meet in Jacksonville in a game that could go a long way in determining Will Muschamp’s future with the Gators; Tennessee heads to South Carolina desperate for its first SEC win of the season; top-ranked Mississippi State hosts Arkansas; and Kentucky visits Missouri.
Week 10 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. Auburn (+2) at Ole Miss (7 ET, ESPN)
When these two schools last met in Oxford, Ole Miss was riding a 16-game SEC losing streak and Auburn was in the midst of an 0–8 SEC season. Now, two short years later, they are among the elite in college football and in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ole Miss’ dreams of an undefeated season ended Saturday night in Baton Rouge thanks in part to some shaky late-game management. Still, Ole Miss might be in the best position of the four contenders in the SEC West thanks to a schedule that is a bit more forgiving. Yes, the Rebs still have to play Auburn and Mississippi State, but both games are at home. Auburn, on the other hand, still has games at Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are good enough to beat all three teams, but it’s not likely they can make it through this gauntlet without a loss.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Florida (+13) vs. Georgia (3:30 ET, CBS)
Georgia is in great position in the SEC East and could make a big move on the national scene in the next month. The Bulldogs basically have to win two games to reach the College Football Playoff — beat Auburn at home on Nov. 15 and upset the SEC West champ in the league title game. First things first: Florida awaits in Jacksonville in desperate need of a win. Treon Harris will be the second true freshman quarterback to start against Georgia this season, joining Vanderbilt’s Wade Freebeck. Harris has played well in limited duty, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and averaging a gaudy 14.6 yards per attempt. He will have to deal with a quality Georgia defensive front that includes one of the league’s top pass-rushers in Leonard Floyd.
3. Tennessee (+7) at South Carolina (7:30 SEC Network)
South Carolina has not won a conference game since beating Vanderbilt on Sept. 20 in Nashville. The Gamecocks can snap their three-game SEC skid against another team from the Volunteer State that is winless in league play. Tennessee played admirably — after falling behind 27–0 — against Alabama last week, but it was yet another loss for a program that has not entered November with more than one SEC win since 2009. The Volunteers need to win three of their final four games to become bowl-eligible in Butch Jones’ second season on the job. We are not quite sure who will be at quarterback for the Vols; Justin Worley’s health (shoulder) is in doubt, but even if he’s ready to go, Tennessee could opt to go with sophomore Joshua Dobbs, who played well in relief against Alabama. Dobbs offers more mobility, something that comes in handy while operating behind a suspect offensive line.
4. Arkansas (+10.5) at Mississippi State (7:15 ESPN2)
Mississippi State remains unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the country, but the Bulldogs are living on the edge. Last weekend, they gave up 505 yards to a Kentucky team that had 217 yards against LSU, 352 against ULM and 384 against Vanderbilt. Despite MSU’s overall struggles on defense, the Dogs have been solid against the run (against all teams not named Auburn) — and that’s a good sign with Arkansas on the horizon. The Hogs are much-improved in the passing game, but this team is at its best when talented tailbacks Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins are the focal points of the game plan. Arkansas does not want to get into a shootout in Starkville.
5. Kentucky (+6.5) at Missouri (4 ET, SEC Network)
Missouri is somehow 3–1 in the SEC even though its offense is averaging only 232.8 yards per game and 4.0 yards per play against league competition. The Tigers have been outstanding on defense and special teams, and they have the good fortune of playing in the SEC East (despite being located west of the Mississippi River). Kentucky played well last week in a 45–31 loss at home to No. 1 Mississippi State. Patrick Towles was outstanding at quarterback, throwing for 390 yards (without an INT) and adding 76 yards on the ground. He is developing into an All-SEC-caliber quarterback who will continue to thrive under Neal Brown.
6. ULM (+32.5) at Texas A&M (12 ET, SEC Network)
ULM enjoyed a nice run for a few years when Kolton Browning was at quarterback, but the Warhawks have slipped back to the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt. They have been good on defense (first in the Sun Belt) and bad on offense (last on the Sun Belt). Texas A&M is eager to get back into the win column after going 0–3 in the month of October. Kenny Hill, the star of Week 1 in college football, is now fighting for his starting job with true freshman Kyle Allen. Whoever plays quarterback this week should put up big numbers; the bigger test will be in two weeks at Auburn.
7. Old Dominion (+7) at Vanderbilt (7 ET, ESPNU)
After playing relatively well in last week’s 24–14 loss at Missouri, Johnny McCrary will get the start at quarterback once again for Vanderbilt. Patton Robinette, who was medically cleared late last week after dealing with a concussion, also is expected to play. Both quarterbacks will have to play well because Vanderbilt will have to score some points to win this game. Old Dominion is averaging 33.1 points per game and scored 34 vs. NC State (in a loss), 45 vs. Rice (in a win) and 51 vs. Western Kentucky (in a loss). The Commodores’ offense should be able to do its part, but don’t forget this team only scored 21 points three weeks ago against Charleston Southern.
SEC Week 10 Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|ULM at Texas A&M||A&M 42-21||A&M 41-20||A&M 50-20||A&M 47-10|
|Florida vs. Georgia||UGa 34-10||UGa 27-13||UGa 31-13||UGa 31-13|
|Kentucky at Mizzou||UK 21-20||MU 31-24||MU 27-24||UK 27-20|
|ODU at Vanderbilt||VU 28-21||VU 24-20||VU 34-24||VU 28-13|
|Auburn at Ole Miss||AU 35-21||AU 27-21||OM 27-24||AU 28-20|
|Arkansas at Miss. St.||MSU 35-28||MSU 40-28||MSU 41-27||MSU 41-30|
|Tenn. at S. Carolina||USC 31-21||USC 35-31||USC 30-20||USC 27-21|
The Pac-12 is getting no respect from the Playoff Committee.
Oregon isn’t ranked in the top four and one-loss teams Arizona, Arizona State and Utah rank significantly down the list of one-loss teams (No. 12, No. 14 and No. 17 respectively).
With marquee showdowns for all four this weekend, that could soon change.
Pac-12 Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. Stanford (+7) at Oregon
7:30 p.m., FOX
Marcus Mariota has yet to beat Stanford and if he cannot do it this year, the Pac-12 could be left out of the inaugural playoff. Since Jake Fisher returned, the offense has been surging along at nearly 48.7 points and 537.3 yards per game in three wins. David Shaw’s defense has been electric all season and excellent in two wins over Mariota, holding Oregon to season lows in total offense each of the last two meetings. The weakness-on-weakness matchup, however, will be the more intriguing one. Stanford’s offense was solid last weekend but still lacks any playmakers other than Ty Montgomery. Meanwhile, the Ducks' defense hasn’t been much better, giving up at least 490 yards or 30 points in four of the last five games. It’s must-see TV when Mariota takes the field but Kevin Hogan will likely be the deciding factor.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Utah (+5) at Arizona St
11 p.m., FS1
The JUCO Bowl has developed quickly into one of the more critical Pac-12 South showdowns, as both teams enter with just one loss and plenty of tiebreakers already in their pocket. While the playmakers in this game — Jaelen Strong, Devontae Booker, Kaelin Clay — hail from the junior college ranks, it’s the QBs that will be under the microscope. Travis Wilson might have cemented himself as the starter for Kyle Whittingham with his late-game heroics last weekend, but he will have to be efficient on the road like he was against Michigan to beat ASU. Not having star wideout Dres Anderson for rest of the year only makes it more difficult on whoever is under center for Utah. Todd Graham also has been forced to use multiple quarterbacks and done so effectively, but folks in Tempe are excited to have Taylor Kelly back for a reason. Like Wilson, he led his team to a late game-winning TD last weekend and should be back to form, as long as he has time to operate against one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.
3. Arizona (+6.5) at UCLA
10:30 p.m., ESPN
All-American-caliber linebacker Scooby Wright versus Heisman-caliber quarterback Brett Hundley is as good as it gets in college football. Wright has been stuffing the stat sheet all season (78 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 5 FF) and Hundley is one touchdown pass away from tying Cade McNown for the most in school history (68), but the bigger question comes on the other side of the ball. How will UCLA’s defense, one that is allowing more than 30 points per game, stop Rich Rodriguez' offense led by Anu Solomon? Behind a veteran offensive line with 139 combined starts, Solomon should have room to make plays against a defense that doesn’t pressure the quarterback — UCLA ranks last in the Pac-12 and 112th nationally in sacks — and doesn’t create turnovers (85th with 10 takeaways). If Solomon stays upright and Arizona protects the ball, UCLA will have to play extremely well on offense to simply hold serve at home.
4. USC (-7) at Washington St
4:30 p.m., P12 Net
This was an ugly and sloppy Wazzu upset in The Coliseum last season and there isn’t much reason to think this year’s edition will be much different. Washington State is dead last in the league in turnover margin and these two are 10th and 12th respectively in Pac-12 play in penalty yards given up. The biggest difference between this year and last will be in the USC backfield. Cody Kessler has taken huge strides and is one of the more underrated players nationally and no one in the nation has rushed for more yards in conference play than Buck Allen (846). If good USC shows up, Connor Halliday and WSU could play perfect football and still lose easily. If wildly inconsistent USC shows up, Halliday has already proven he’s capable of knocking off the mighty Trojans.
5. Cal (+3) at Oregon St
10:30 p.m., P12 Net
Against Cal, Oregon State has won two in a row, six of the last seven and three straight in Corvallis. But these two programs feel like they are heading in different directions. The Beavers can change that perception with a win over the Bears at home. Stopping Jared Goff is a good place to start, as the Cal signal-caller is fourth nationally with 2,842 yards, second with 26 TDs and has thrown just four interceptions all season. Oregon State has its own star in Sean Mannion but he’s been much more inconsistent, throwing just three touchdowns in his last five games combined. Oregon State is a team in desperate need of finding an identity after being held to 221 yards and 3.3 yards per play last weekend and falling for the third time in four weeks.
6. Washington (-4) at Colorado
1 p.m., P12 Net
The Buffs have been close but have yet to break through in a Pac-12 game. If Washington isn’t careful (which it hasn’t been of late) then Colorado could easily pull the home upset. Mike MacIntyre’s bunch has lost three of its last four by five points or fewer and this weekend might be their best shot at a win. The Huskies were without Cyler Miles last weekend but he is supposed to start for UW this weekend. There is no excuse for the league’s worst scoring offense (18.5 per game in conference play) not to get rolling against the league’s second-worst scoring defense (45.8 ppg).
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Stan. (+7) at Ore.||Ore., 27-21||Ore., 31-17||Ore., 31-10||Ore., 31-24|
|Utah (+5) at ASU||ASU, 28-27||ASU, 28-14||ASU, 35-28||ASU, 30-20|
|Arizona (+6.5) at UCLA||Zona, 34-33||Zona, 27-20||Zona, 41-38||UCLA, 38-34|
|USC (-7) at WSU||USC, 34-20||USC, 34-20||USC, 31-21||USC, 38-30|
|Cal (+3) at OSU||Cal, 35-34||Cal, 36-27||Cal, 44-31||Cal, 34-31|
|Wash. (-4) at Colo.||Wash., 29-27||Wash., 23-10||Wash., 17-14||Wash., 34-27|
“Two weeks until Ohio State-Michigan State” may as well be the theme for this Saturday in the Big Ten.
A nice way to put this week would be to call it a table-setting Saturday. Northwestern and Iowa meet in an important game to set the table for a Wildcats’ bowl bid or the Hawkeyes’ hopes for a division title.
Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah have a chance to rack up huge numbers to further their Heisman campaigns. And the Buckeyes are looking to pick up one more win before a critical matchup against the Spartans.
Big Ten Week 10 Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern.
1. Northwestern at Iowa
Noon, Big Ten Network
This isn’t the most sexy game in the Big Ten this season, but this is a key momentum game for both teams. Iowa hardly looked the part of Big Ten West contender by losing 38-31 at Maryland two weeks ago. Now, Iowa can’t afford to limp into its backloaded schedule against Minnesota on the road and Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. Northwestern, meanwhile, needs to win three of its final five games for bowl eligibility. Both teams are emerging from off weeks, but while Northwestern is getting healthier, Iowa has a host of problems. Among them is a two-game suspension for starting linebacker Reggie Spearman, who was charged with a DUI on Saturday. Iowa has allowed 528 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the last two games. Meanwhile, Northwestern has found a workhorse in the running attack in Justin Jackson, who has topped 100 yards in three consecutive games.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Illinois at Ohio State
8 p.m., ABC
Hey, Illinois, congratulations on an upset of Minnesota, now you get to face Ohio State in Columbus. The Illini will face a Buckeyes team looking to make a statement on multiple fronts. Ohio State was ranked No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, giving the one-loss Buckeyes quite a climb if they want to get into the playoff mix. The Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Penn State 31-24 in a game defined by shoddy officiating. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett saw his progress stall thanks to shaky offensive line play, two interceptions and a knee sprain. Illinois is coming of arguably its best defensive performance of the season after holding Minnesota to 5.8 yards per play. For a team allowing more than 300 rushing yards per game in conference play, that qualifies as a solid effort.
3. Maryland at Penn State
Some rivalry: Penn State and Maryland haven’t played since 1993, and the Terrapins haven’t won since 1961. Still, the two coaches during the summer talked like this was some kind of rivalry. Penn State likes to recruit in Maryland’s backyard, and as Terps coach Randy Edsall admitted, the Nittany Lions have rarely missed on prospects there. This has all the makings of a low-scoring, ugly game. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown will face a solid Penn State defense after averaging only 4.6 yards per attempt with one touchdown and three interceptions in his last three games. In theory, Penn State’s lackluster offensive line and Big Ten-worst run game could pick up confidence against a Maryland defense that ranks 13th in the league against the run. But the Nittany Lions’ meager running attack is now down a tailback following a season-ending injury to Zack Zwinak.
4. Wisconsin at Rutgers
Get ready to watch Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon go wild again. Rutgers allowed a total of 616 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and 7.6 yards per carry in its last two games against Ohio State and Nebraska. Containing Gordon isn't the only problem for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, already down starting running back Paul James, likely will be down to backup quarterback Chris Laviano. Starting QB Gary Nova left last week’s game against Nebraska with a knee injury.
5. Indiana at Michigan
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
The rematch will be hard-pressed to live up to the 63-47 shootout Michigan won a year ago. The Wolverines have topped 20 points just once since Sept. 13, and the Hoosiers are down to a freshman third-string quarterback, who completed 5-of-15 passes for 11 yards in his only start this season. Look for a steady diet of IU running back Tevin Coleman against Michigan’s defense, which is actually an interesting matchup. Coleman has rushed for at least 120 yards in each game this season while Michigan is third in the Big Ten in rush defense.
6. Purdue at Nebraska
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
The Ameer Abdullah watch continues as the Nebraska tailback faces a Purdue defense that allowed 294 rushing yards to Michigan State and 285 yards to Minnesota in the last two games.
Big Ten Week 10 Staff Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Northwestern at Iowa (-4)
|NW 28-21||Iowa 31-30||Iowa 24-20||Iowa 24-19|
Maryland at Penn State (-3 1/2)
|Md 17-13||PSU 30-27||PSU 27-24||Md 20-10|
Wisconsin (-11) at Rutgers
|Wisc 42-14||Wisc 40-24||Wisc 38-17||Wisc 31-13|
Purdue at Nebraska (-23 1/2)
|Neb 38-17||Neb 45-21||Neb 45-20||Neb 41-24|
Indiana at Michigan (-7)
|IU 35-28||Mich 19-17||Mich 31-20||IU 34-30|
Illinois at Ohio State (-28)
|OSU 41-10||OSU 48-21||OSU 45-17||OSU 41-10|
Florida State puts its 23-game winning streak on the line on Thursday night, as the Seminoles travel to Louisville for a key ACC showdown. The Cardinals are 6-2 in their debut season in the ACC, but Florida State is easily their toughest opponent so far this year.
The Seminoles are not as dominant – at least right now – as this team was last season. However, coach Jimbo Fisher’s team continues to win and has recorded solid victories over Clemson, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame this year. And Florida State ranked as the No. 2 team in the first release of college football’s playoff committee rankings, so there’s plenty at stake in Louisville on Thursday.
On the other sideline, Louisville is looking to score a breakthrough win in its ACC debut, and Thursday night’s game is the start of a difficult four-game stretch to close out the 2014 season. The return of coach Bobby Petrino was supposed to transform the Cardinals into one of the ACC’s best offenses, but Louisville has been winning with its defense so far this year.
Florida State owns an 11-1 series edge over Louisville. However, the Cardinals’ won 26-20 in the last meeting between these two teams (2002).
Florida State at Louisville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Florida State -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Louisville’s Front Seven
Despite a change in scheme, Louisville’s defense has been one of the best in the nation through the first nine weeks of the season. The Cardinals are limiting opponents to just 14.6 points per game and 3.9 yards per play. Additionally, Louisville’s front seven creates a lot of havoc at the line of scrimmage. Through eight games, the Cardinals have recorded 60 tackles for a loss and 28 sacks. Florida State’s offensive line was expected to be one of the best in the nation this year but has struggled through the first seven games. The Seminoles also lost center Austin Barron due to injury, leaving redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefield to anchor the starting line. The Cardinals are aggressive and have enough experience up front to give Florida State’s offense plenty of headaches. End/linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin leads the team with six sacks, while end Sheldon Rankins has five. Not only is Louisville’s front capable of causing problems in pass rush situations, but this front seven will make life difficult for the Seminoles’ ground game. Florida State has struggled to establish a consistent push on the ground all year, and running back Mario Pender is unavailable to play due to injury. Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams will handle the workload on the ground on Thursday and will find limited running room against the Cardinals No. 1 ranked run defense in the ACC. Florida State doesn’t need 200 rushing yards, but it needs to have success to take some of the pressure off of Jameis Winston’s shoulders.
2. Jameis Winston Against Louisville’s Secondary
At the beginning of the 2014 season, Florida State’s receiving corps was a question mark. Sure, the Seminoles had Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary, but would a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver emerge early in the season? Those fears have subsided in recent weeks, as Jesus Wilson, Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane have each contributed, and Winston has more weapons available at his disposal. Louisville’s secondary (largely at safety) entered the year with its own share of question marks, and much like Florida State’s receivers, this unit is no longer a concern. The Cardinals have allowed only seven passing touchdowns and have picked off 15 passes. Additionally, opposing quarterbacks are completing just 54 percent of their throws against this defense. Winston has been sharp most of this season, completing at least 62 percent of his throws in five of his six appearances. The sophomore has only four games of more than one interception in his career and was nearly flawless in the second half of the 31-27 win over Notre Dame. With the pressure Louisville gets with its front seven, it should limit Winston’s time to scan downfield and find Greene, Wilson or Rudolph for big plays. However, this is the best offense the Cardinals have played this year. If Florida State’s line gives Winston time to throw, will Louisville’s secondary struggle to stop Greene, O’Leary and the other Seminole receivers? Or can the Cardinals provide the necessary support in pass defense if the pass rush is stymied?
3. Louisville’s Offense
Is Louisville’s offense ready for a breakout performance on Thursday night? In the 30-18 win over NC State, the Cardinals regained the services of receiver DeVante Parker, while running back Michael Dyer recorded 173 yards on just 24 carries. With Parker and Dyer playing at a high level, combined with Will Gardner growing more comfortable at quarterback, Louisville’s offense could be peaking at the right time. Florida State’s defense is not as dominant as it was last season, largely due to injuries in the front seven and lack of depth at defensive tackle. With Timmy Jernigan no longer the anchor at the point of attack, the Seminoles have slipped to sixth in the ACC against the run and have generated only 11 sacks in seven games. Even though Louisville’s offensive line has struggled this year, expect coach Bobby Petrino to give Dyer several opportunities to test the Florida State front seven. And when Gardner looks to pass, having the big-play ability of Parker on the outside should open up opportunities for receivers James Quick and Eli Rogers and tight end Gerald Christian to attack the middle of the field. Despite a lackluster pass rush on the stat sheet, the Seminoles should bring pressure on Gardner, as the Cardinals have allowed 27 sacks through eight games. If Louisville doesn’t get its ground game on track, this game may not be close in the fourth quarter.
Florida State’s last trip to Louisville did not go well. The Seminoles lost 26-20 in overtime to the Cardinals in 2002. This year’s matchup is a dangerous spot for Florida State as well. Injuries on both lines of scrimmage have dwindled the team’s depth, and the offense won’t have running back Mario Pender. However, the Seminoles still have arguably the best quarterback in the nation – Jameis Winston – and keep finding ways to win games this year. This game will be a good barometer test for the Cardinals' defense, especially since it has yet to play an offense with the talent level Florida State will bring to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Thursday night. Louisville’s offense should benefit from having over a week to prepare, along with the return of receiver DeVante Parker to full strength. Dyer should find room to run, allowing Gardner and Parker to connect on a couple of big passing plays on play-action opportunities. But even if Florida State's defense gives up yards, it should hold its own in the red zone, limiting Louisville's scoring opportunities throughout the game. The Cardinals may ride the home crowd to early momentum, but Florida State edges out another victory and remains near the top of next week’s college football playoff rankings.