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World Series – Game 4
Boston at St. Louis
8:15 ET Fox
Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97)
After one of the strangest endings in postseason history, the Cardinals emerged with a two-games-to-one lead heading to Game 4 tonight. The Cardinals look to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead behind starter Lance Lynn. Boston counters with Clay Buchholz, who was the Red Sox ace for the first half of the season. Both teams pretty much emptied their bullpens last night, so there’s more pressure on the starters tonight.
Keys for Boston
Forget about the tough loss last night. Convince themselves that the “whole world is against us,” and use that mentality to galvanize this team in order to begin an incredible run. And manager John Farrell can’t allow his team to lose a close game without firing one of his hottest bullets in Mike Napoli. Farrell, who should have made a double switch if he wanted relief pitcher Brandon Workman to throw more than one inning, allowed Workman to bat for the only time in his professional career in the ninth inning. Farrell can’t get caught like that again. Buchholz, who has appeared to be uncomfortable while throwing on the side this week, must give Boston a strong outing.
Keys for St. Louis
Lynn must have good command and control in the strike zone. If he’s pounding the zone early in counts, Boston’s patience will allow him to get ahead of hitters and that’s when Lynn is effective. If he falls behind too many hitters, this could be Shelby Miller’s game early.
Red Sox to Watch
Buchholz will be watched closely from the first pitch tonight by Farrell. If he can’t give the Sox maximum effort, expect veteran Ryan Dempster to be thrown into the spotlight. Whoever hits behind David Ortiz — most likely Daniel Nava — must make the Cardinals pay for pitching around Big Papi. It was evident in Game 3 that St. Louis pitchers were not going to let Ortiz beat them. That also adds pressure to Dustin Pedroia, who hits in front of Ortiz. All it took was a few miscues in the field to allow St. Louis to score, so the Red Sox must play a clean game on defense. When will Boston test Yadier Molina? The stolen base was such a big part of Boston’s offense all season, but they’ve yet to test the Cardinals’ catcher.
Cardinals to Watch
Expect the Red Sox to begin giving Matt Holliday the Ortiz treatment — pitching around him. That would mean that Matt Adams, Yadier Molina, who had three hits in Game 3, and David Freese would see more critical at-bats. The more Matheny goes to his bullpen, the more likely it will be for Shelby Miller to find his way to the mound in high leverage situations.
Shane Victorino, who is hitless in the series, has been hit once and walked once. He scored both times…Game 3 was the 18th time in Ortiz’s career that he has reached base three times via hit or walk. The Red Sox are now 12-6 in those games, losing the last two…St. Louis is 2-2 in Lynn’s four postseason starts…With 123 steals during the regular season, Boston has yet to attempt a steal in the World Series. With a scant 45 stolen bases this season, St. Louis has pilfered three…In the first three games, the Red Sox have 18 hits, nine walks and 28 strikeouts…Game 3 marked only the second time in World Series history that a team had two blown saves, yet still won the game. The first time was Game 7 in 1960.
If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State can keep this up, the Bedlam Game will be mighty interesting.
The Sooners and Cowboys remained among the nation’s one-loss teams this week, but more important, they showed they remain Big 12 title contenders thanks to finding answers on offense.
Oklahoma State still has quarterback issues, but the Cowboys may finally have a running back who can carry the load in Big 12 offensive player of the week Desmond Roland.
And against Texas Tech, Oklahoma started two possessions backed up inside its own 10-yard line, but Blake Bell marched down the field for a 97-yard touchdown drive that could help turn the season for the Sooners’ offense in a 38-30 win over the Red Raiders.
Big 12 Week 9 Recap and Awards
Offensive player of the week: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have been stumbling for answers at quarterback and running back all season. Roland may be one of the answers at tailback. The junior rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries in the 58-27 win over Iowa State for the best day by an Oklahoma State running back since early 2010. Roland’s day was highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown run in which he broke a handful of tackles and spun away from Iowa State defenders.
Defensive player of the week: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
Texas Tech got its yards in the passing game, but the Sooners still led in the big play department in the 38-30 win over the Red Raiders. Cornerback Aaron Colvin finished with seven tackles and added an interception early in the first quarter. Colvin also recovered a Jace Amaro fumble that negated a key third down completion in the second quarter.
Freshman of the week: Shock Linwood, Baylor
The Bears redshirt freshman backup gets plenty of work spelling running back Lache Seastrunk, but his performance against Kansas was the best of the season. Linwood rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries in the 59-14 rout. Linwood’s seven rushing touchdowns this season is as much as Kansas has as a team.
Team of the week: Oklahoma
The Sooners still need to beat Baylor and watch Texas lose to have a shot at the Big 12 championship, but OU erased the malaise of the last few months with a 38-30 win over Texas Tech. Even if Oklahoma doesn’t win the league, a one-loss Sooners team would still be attractive to a BCS game. Against Texas Tech, the Sooners’ offense came alive in the final three quarters while the defense did enough to force three turnovers.
Coordinator of the week: Josh Heupel, Oklahoma
After several weeks of trying to find its way, the Oklahoma offense finally hit its stride against Texas Tech with a balanced attack. OU’s 277 rushing yards and 5.5 yards per carry were both the best for the Sooners since Sept. 7 against West Virginia. But the real improvement was in the passing game where Blake Bell had his best game of the season. The Sooners passed for 249 yards and averaged a season-high 11.3 yards per attempt.
• Texas burned the redshirt of prized freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the waning minutes against TCU. Swoopes replaced starter Case McCoy late in the fourth quarter. The move signaled former starter David Ash will be out for at least another week after suffering a concussion.
• Trevone Boykin started at quarterback for TCU, but Casey Pachall returned for most of the action against Texas. Pachall had is non-throwing arm heavily wrapped upon his return from a broken bone. He finished 13 of 34 for 139 yards with an interception.
• By defeating Kansas 59-14, Baylor set a school record with 11 consecutive wins.
• Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett returned from injury to catch eight passes for 111 yards with three touchdowns. Tramaine Thompson also returned to catch three passes for 53 yards with a score.
• Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops improved to 23-1 in the last 24 games in his first meeting against a fellow Big 12 coach.
• Oklahoma State started Clint Chelf at quarterback for the second time this season. Chelf started the opener before he lost the job to J.W. Walsh. Chelf regained the upper hand last week against TCU.
• Iowa State eventually ended up with an all-backup offensive backfield. Running back Aaron Wimberly missed the loss to Oklahoma State with a hamstring injury, and quarterback Sam Richardson left in the second quarter with a head and neck injury.
• Baylor accumulated 743 yards against Kansas, the fifth time Baylor topped the 700-yard mark this season, but Baylor’s 59 points was the second-lowest total of the year.
The only game with a significant impact on the SEC standings in Week 9 turned out to be a thriller. South Carolina, left for dead after trailing 17-0 entering the fourth quarter, rallied to beat Missouri to keep its SEC East title hopes alive. Elsewhere, Johnny Manziel was brilliant in Texas A&M’s win over Vanderbilt; Alabama rolled, as expected, over Tennessee; and Mississippi State outlasted Kentucky on Thursday night in Starkville.
SEC Week 9 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Shaw, nursing a knee injury, came off the bench in the third quarter with his team trailing 17-0. About two hours later, the Gamecocks walked off the turf at Faurot Field with an improbable 27-24 win in double-overtime. Shaw was the man most responsible for Carolina’s season-saving win. The senior completed 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns — despite not playing the entire first half. The Gamecocks tied the game when Shaw connected with Nick Jones on a 2-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in regulation and sent the game into a second overtime when Shaw found Bruce Ellington for a TD on 4th-and-goal from the 15.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Quarles, one of the more underrated players in the SEC, was disruptive in the middle of the South Carolina defensive line. The junior from Hodges, S.C., recorded six tackles, including three for a loss (and two sacks) in the Gamecocks’ double-overtime win over Missouri. Quarles leads South Carolina with 10.0 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks — five more than his more famous teammate, Jadeveon Clowney.
Team of the Week: South Carolina
South Carolina kept its SEC East title hopes alive with an improbable comeback win at Missouri. The Gamecocks, who entered the day two games behind Mizzou in the loss column, rallied from 17-0 down in the fourth quarter and eventually won the game in the second overtime when MU’s Andrew Baggett missed a 24-yard field goal. South Carolina is now 4-2 in league play with games remaining at home against Mississippi State and Florida. Missouri, now 3-1, still has to play Tennessee and Texas A&M at home and Ole Miss and Kentucky on the road. Florida and Georgia both have two losses as well.
Coordinator of the Week: Mark Snyder, Texas A&M
The SEC’s worst defense — at least statistically — had its best day of the season on Saturday afternoon. Texas A&M, which had allowed an average of 532.0 yards in SEC action, limited Vanderbilt to 329 yards and only 4.3 yards per play. The Commodores were playing with a redshirt freshman quarterback (Patton Robinette) making his first start, but this was still an impressive performance by the Aggies’ defense. A&M had allowed at least 250 yards rushing in every SEC game this season — including 379 in the loss to Auburn two weeks ago — but held Vanderbilt to 95 on 44 attempts.
Freshman of the Week: Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
Johnson, a true freshman from Montgomery, Ala., was forced into action when Nick Marshall went down with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter. Johnson responded, completing 10-of-16 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic. Johnson connected with Sammie Coates for a 36-yard TD on his first play of the game and then found Coates again for a 67-yard score later in the second quarter.
• Johnny Manziel, playing through a shoulder injury, had career-lows in rushing yards (11) and rushing attempts (four) — and two of his attempts came on sacks. Prior to Saturday, Manziel’s fewest carries and yards both game in the 2013 season-opener against Rice, when he had 19 yards on six attempts in one half of action.
• Alabama has not allowed more than two touchdowns to an SEC team not named Texas A&M in the regular season since the 2010 Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. In the last two regular seasons, Alabama has given up 71 points in two games against Texas A&M and a total of 78 points in its other 11 SEC games.
• Missouri let a late lead slip away, but the Tigers continue to get solid play from their defensive line. Mizzou held South Carolina to only 75 yards rushing on 35 attempts for a 2.1-yard average. Mike Davis, who entered the day as the SEC’s leading rusher, was held to a season-low 51 yards on 19 carries. His previous low was 77 yards on 17 carries against Vanderbilt.
• It’s a small consolation for Tennessee — which lost 45-10 at Alabama — but the Vols had to be pleased with the play of tailbacks Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane. The two combined for 90 yards on 19 carries (a 4.7-yard average) against the SEC’s top rushing defense. Neal leads the team with 763 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
• Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood had the first 100-yard game of his career on Saturday afternoon. The senior caught a season-high six passes for 112 yards in Bama’s win over Tennessee.
The ACC was short on marquee games for Week 9, but the conference provided some intrigue.
Duke upset Virginia Tech to earn bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.
Florida State and North Carolina cruised to easy victories, while Miami needed another late comeback to stay unbeaten.
Pittsburgh suffered an upset loss to Navy, which puts the Panthers’ bowl hopes in jeopardy.
ACC Week 9 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
For the second week in a row with the game in doubt, Miami turned to its ground attack to earn the victory. And the Hurricanes’ running backs and offensive line delivered once again, as the Miami scored with less than a minute remaining to beat Wake Forest 24-21. Running back Duke Johnson was the difference in the game for the Hurricanes, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 30 rushes. And it was a gutty performance from the sophomore, as he appeared to be less than 100 percent in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes will need a similar performance from Johnson in next week’s huge showdown against Florida State.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
Brown and fellow linebacker David Helton anchored Duke’s strong defensive effort against Virginia Tech. Brown recorded 14 stops, which ranked second on the team behind Helton’s 19. One of Brown’s tackles for a loss, but his biggest contribution was an interception with less than five minutes remaining, which sealed the victory for Duke. Brown ranks third on the team with 61 stops this season and has recorded 5.5 tackles for a loss. The junior missed 2012 due to injury but has been a key contributor for Duke’s defense in 2013.
Coordinator of the Week: Jim Knowles, Duke
The Blue Devils’ defense had some help from a sluggish Virginia Tech offense, but for the second week in a row, Duke’s defense has stepped up when it mattered. The Blue Devils didn’t allow a point in the second half of last Saturday’s victory over Virginia and held the Hokies to just 55 yards in the fourth quarter, which was just enough for Duke to score a 13-10 win in Blacksburg. The Blue Devils forced four interceptions off Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and generated four tackles for a loss. Duke has held its last three opponents to five yards or less per play, and only one team in the last three games against the Blue Devils has scored more than 10 points. Knowles has pushed the right buttons this season, and the key stops on defense are a key reason why Duke is 6-2.
Team of the Week: Duke
Despite four turnovers, 198 yards of offense and zero third-down conversions, Duke defeated Virginia Tech 13-10. Saturday’s win in Blacksburg was the first in school history, and the Blue Devils are bowl eligible for the second straight year. Duke’s defense has taken a lot of criticism over the last few years, but this unit has delivered with the game on the line in back-to-back weeks. The Blue Devils did not allow a point in the second half of last Saturday’s win against Virginia, and this unit held Virginia Tech to just 24 yards on its final two drives to secure the win. It wasn’t pretty, but the victory in Blacksburg shows how far Duke has progressed under David Cutcliffe. After going 6-18 from 2010-11, the Blue Devils are 12-9 in their last 21 games. And Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech was the program’s first on the road over a ranked team since 1971.
Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
A tip of the cap needs to go to Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller, who recorded three picks in Saturday’s loss to Duke. However, this award should take permanent residence in Tallahassee this season. Winston did most of his damage in the first half against NC State and finished with 16 completions for 292 yards and three scores. The freshman tossed just two passes in the second half against the Wolfpack and has at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games.
• Clemson running back Roderick McDowell rushed for 161 yards on 30 carries against Maryland. The 100-yard effort was his first since the season opener.
• In Saturday’s win at Virginia Tech, Duke did not convert a third down or complete a pass in the second half.
• Wake Forest freshman safety Ryan Janvion led the defense with 14 tackles in Saturday’s loss to Miami.
• Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand recorded 23 tackles in Saturday’s loss against Clemson.
• After missing five games due to a foot injury, quarterback Brandon Mitchell returned to the lineup for NC State. Mitchell completed 17 of 32 passes for 128 yards.
• Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street caught nine passes against Navy, giving him 186 career receptions. Street’s 186 career receptions are a school record.
• Freshman linebacker E.J. Levenberry led Florida State with eight tackles.
• Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins set a single-game school record with 14 catches in Saturday’s win over Maryland.
• Georgia Tech had three players – Zach Laskey, Robert Godhigh and David Sims – rush for 100 yards against Virginia.
• Florida State has averaged at least seven yards per play in every game this year.
• Duke did not complete a pass in the second half in Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Virginia Tech.
• Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro has three consecutive games of at least 10 catches.
• Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 17 points on Navy’s final three possessions, which was just enough for the Midshipmen to score a 24-21 upset.
• Virginia receivers Darius Jennings and Tim Smith became the first duo in school history to catch at least 10 passes in the same contest.
Stanford and Oregon handled their business in impressive fashion against Oregon State and UCLA, respectively. The Ducks blew past UCLA with a high-powered offense and better-than-advertised defense while the Cardinal used a typically physical defensive approach to outlast and ground the Beavers normally explosive offensive approach.
The two wins set up one of the most important matchups of the season in two weeks. Both teams will get an off weekend before the primetime Thursday night showdown in Palo Alto, and the outcome could determine half of the BCS championship game.
Here are your Week 9 Pac-12 superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
After a monster performance against UCLA at home, Gaffney backed it up with another stellar showing against a team that had yet to lose in Pac-12 play. On the road against Oregon State, Gaffney carried 22 times for 145 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He accounted for all of Stanford's scoring in Corvallis and is now third in the Pac-12 in rushing (894 yards, 111.8 ypg). His 12 touchdowns are tied for the lead in the conference.
Defensive Player of the Week: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Murphy, much like the rest of the Cardinal defense, was all over the field against Oregon State. Murphy posted eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks against the nation's leading passer. He leads the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss after back-to-back stellar showings against UCLA and Oregon State. The Cardinal's defensive performance — holding the Beavers to a season-low 288 yards — on the road was a championship-style performance.
Team of the Week: Oregon
Just like it did against Washington, Oregon played a relatively tight game against UCLA for the better part of three quarters. And just like it did against the Huskies, the Ducks put their foot on the gas pedal for the final quarter and pulled away from a ranked team in impressive fashion. Oregon scored 28 unanswered points to make a 14-14 game a blowout. Oregon has scored at least 42 points in every game and produced another 555 yards of total offense. The win for the Ducks and Stanford's subsequent victory over Oregon State has set up the Thursday night battle in Palo Alto between the last two Pac-12 champs.
Coordinator of the Week: Derek Mason, Stanford
After dominating at home last week against UCLA by holding the Bruins to a season-low in yards and points, Mason's bunch was at it again. Against yet another elite offensive attack, this time on the road, Stanford dominated the Oregon State front line. The Cardinal registered eight sacks against the nation's leading passer in Sean Mannion and held the nation's most productive wide receiver to a season-low 90 yards. The Cardinal defense appears to be well past its early season "slump" and has produced two of the most impressive showings in the nation the last two weekends.
Freshman of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Arizona moved to within a game of bowl eligibility and got its second conference win with a victory over Colorado on the road. Wright posted nine total tackles and helped the Wildcats hold the Buffs to just 349 yards of offense and only 3.3 yards per carry. He is Arizona's leading tackler and is third among Pac-12 freshmen in tackles for the season.
• Washington's Bishop Sankey got back on track against Cal by rushing for a career-high 241 yards on 27 carries for a sturdy 8.9 yards per carry.
• Arizona's B.J. Denker and Ka'Deem Carey combined for 311 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Colorado. Carey scored all four touchdowns, and Denker averaged 12.8 yards per carry (192 yards).
• With less than 50 scholarship players, USC defeated Utah 19-3. The Trojans allowed 201 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers.
• Byron Marshall rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns for Oregon in the win over UCLA. He also caught a pass for 23 yards.
• Sean Mannion was averaging more than 400 yards passing per game. He attempted 57 passes in the loss to Stanford and managed just 271 yards for a 4.8-yard per attempt average.
The final Saturday of October gave us further examples of two truths of the soon-to-be-defunct BCS:
1. October is way too early to be frustrated about the BCS rankings.
2. October is a perfect time to be frustrated with the BCS rankings.
On the first point, Missouri and Texas Tech fans were probably too busy basking in the surprising seasons the Tigers and Red Raiders have put together to worry about the national title contention, but in any event, those hopes may be finished as both suffered their first loss of the season.
On the second, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon further proved why all three have legitimate claims to the top two spots in the BCS. Alabama and Florida State rolled over overmatched competition while Oregon won a signature game against UCLA. Ohio State, with a significantly weaker schedule than the other three, is forced to wait for one of the big three to lose to crack the top three.
All four, not to mention undefeated Baylor, have every reason to believe they’re national championship material, are stuck in a two-teams-take-all system.
Speaking of the postseason, Saturday was plenty of reason to celebrate for a handful of teams. College football powers may not get excited for any and all bowl bids, but teams like Duke, Buffalo and Tulane all became bowl eligible Saturday. UNLV is one game away.
Not every postseason is a source of frustration.
College Football Week 9 Recap: Three And Out
Three Things We Learned from Oregon 42, UCLA 14
Oregon has a defense, too. The Ducks did many of the same things Stanford did to UCLA and quarterback Brett Hundley. Like Stanford, Oregon held UCLA to four yards per play and intercepted Hundley twice. But defense is a calling card for Stanford in a way it isn’t for Oregon, despite the Ducks’ impressive numbers over the years under coordinator Nick Aliotti. Against the Ducks, UCLA got two touchdowns on drives that started inside Oregon’s 40 and little else. Hundley also was held to a mere 134 yards of total offense, a career low. Only Washington State has topped 400 yards this season against Oregon, and that was a game that was out of hand early.
No one goes from a tight game to lopsided finish like Oregon. The Ducks needed a full four quarters to get the comfortable finish they’re used to having, but it happened against UCLA. Oregon and UCLA were tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter in a game that was tight enough at one point that a 66-yard run on a fake punt was one of the few sparks for the Ducks. But Oregon, as usual, caught its stride to outscore UCLA 21-0 in 9:10 of game time. Heisman contending-quarterback Marcus Mariota continued to build his case by completing 10 of 10 passes in the second half.
It’s Oregon-Stanford in the Pac-12 again. The Pac-12 schedule did Washington and UCLA no favors with both facing Oregon and Stanford back-to-back. The two league powers in the Pac-12 North defeated Washington and UCLA by a combined score of 142-76. Throw in Stanford’s 42-28 win over Arizona State, and it’s further evidence the power in the league will reside in the Oregon-Stanford winner on Nov. 7.
Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30
Oklahoma is still in the thick of the Big 12 ... thanks to its offense. Blake Bell won’t make Oklahoma fans forget about Sam Bradford or even Landry Jones, but the Sooners quarterback started to come into his own in the final three quarters of the biggest game of the year. Backed up on his own 3 early in the second quarter, Bell led a long touchdown drive that could be the turning point for his season. Against Texas Tech, Bell completed 14 of 22 seasons for 249 yards with two touchdowns to go with 44 rushing yards. He’s been erratic as a passer but showed perfect touch on the next possession with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders. It’s been a rocky start for Bell in the Big 12 this season, but Saturday was as encouraging game as the quarterback has had this season.
Kliff Kingsbury has guts. The Texas Tech coach didn’t wilt in his first big road game against Oklahoma. After the Red Raiders kicked a field goal in the third quarter to close the margin to 21-17, Kingsbury called for an onside kick. Tech recovered and scored a go-ahead touchdown. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Texas Tech converted a fourth and 2 from its own 45 amid another Tech scoring drive.
Oklahoma lost even when it won. The Sooners offense took a handful of strides against Texas Tech, but they’ll have to overcome a major loss through the remainder of the season. Fullback Trey Millard, a threat as a runner and a receiver in addition to being a devastating blocker, was lost for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL. This was a guy voted first-team All-Big 12 by coaches while accounting for 535 yards from scrimmage last season. He’ll be impossible to replace this season.
Moving the Chains
Ohio State’s rout. The Buckeyes needed to prove they could beat any Big Ten team by a significant margin. Ohio State followed through with a 63-14 rout of Penn State, the biggest Big Ten blowout under Urban Meyer. Still, it may be too little, too late. Without a marquee nonconference win and a weak slate against the Big Ten, Ohio State isn’t going to catch Alabama, Oregon or Florida State if any of them stay undefeated. The Buckeyes’ next three Big Ten opponents (Purdue, Illinois and Indiana) have one conference win among them.
Minnesota’s fight. The Gophers are bowl eligible before November, which is a major feat considering the adversity Minnesota has battled this season. Gophers coach Jerry Kill has been out of action for two games as he seeks to remedy the epileptic seizures that impacted two games this season. Acting coach Tracy Claeys led the Gophers to a 34-23 win over Nebraska to end a 16-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers dating back to 1960. The Gophers rushed for 271 yards and three touchdowns on 54 attempts, but also caught Nebraska off guard with tricky formations. In one drive in the third quarter, Minnesota had an offensive tackle line up as a receiver only to complete a 21-yard pass to tight end. Four plays later, Minnesota lined up in the Wildcat on the goal line only to have quarterback Philip Nelson motion from his receiver spot to take a QB sneak for a touchdown.
Michigan State. Maybe it’s time to start taking Michigan State more seriously as a Big Ten contender, and not just because Nebraska can’t play defense and Michigan is turnover-happy. A week before facing Michigan, the Spartans smashed Illinois 45-3, outgaining the Illini 477-128. Michigan State held Illinois to 1.2 yards per carry while rushing for 4.9 yards per carry itself. In addition, the efficiency numbers for Michigan State were through the roof as quarterback Connor Cook completed 15 of 16 passes for 208 yards with three touchdowns and the Spartans went 14 of 16 on third down.
Missouri. This has been a magical season for Missouri that may end up in the SEC Championship Game, but Tigers fans can’t get out of a season without a dose of misery. Missouri gave up a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 27-24 in double overtime in a game joining Colorado's Fifth Down and Nebraska's Flea Kicker in Missouri misery lore. Kicker Andrew Baggett was the goat of the moment when a 24-yard field goal from the left hashmark (and with a questionable hold with the laces out) bounced off the goal post in the second overtime. But the Missouri defense also gave up a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the first overtime. The Tigers were also on the wrong end of a gutty effort by Connor Shaw. The South Carolina quarterback wasn’t even supposed to play after sustaining a knee injury last week against Tennessee. Shaw entered the game to complete 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns.
Northwestern’s collapse. Northwestern is falling apart in a way that would make Ron Zook’s final team at Illinois blush. The Wildcats lost 17-10 in overtime to Iowa (an overtime game completed in two hours, 50 minutes, no less) for their fourth loss in a row. Northwestern started 4-0 and was ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP poll, but now the Wildcats are in danger of missing a bowl game with Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois rounding out the Big Ten schedule. Most perplexing Saturday was Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald forgoing a timeout on Iowa’s final possession. The Hawkeyes ran the ball twice in side the Northwestern 40, but Fitzgerald didn’t call a timeout until fourth down. The Wildcats got the ball back win only seven seconds in regulation.
Oregon State’s pass protection. Sean Mannion was sacked eight times in the 20-12 loss to Stanford, nearly doubling how often he’d been sacked all season. The pressure contributed to Mannion’s 4.7 yards per attempt, a season-low by two yards, and only one touchdown. Mannion completed 42 of 58 passes for a mere 274 yards in the loss.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. The Huskies quarterback accounted for four passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and a touchdown catch in a 59-20 win over Eastern Michigan. It’s going to be tough for him to crack the hold Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel have on the top three, but efforts like that might put him in the top five. Lynch was seventh in the voting last season.
Jameis Winston, Florida State. Winston completed 16 of 26 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and was lifted after the first possession in the third quarter. Probably not the last time that happens for the Seminoles' freshman.
Derek Carr, Fresno State. His team was not impressive in a 35-28 win in overtime against San Diego State. Even the key pass in overtime wasn’t anything special — it was an 11-yard shovel pass on third and 8. But it all happened after 2:30 a.m. Eastern, so some voters may just see an undefeated quarterback with a famous name who went 35 of 58 for 298 yards with two touchdowns.
104. Alabama’s unanswered points streak when it ended. Alabama had outscored SEC opponents 104-0 going back to the second half against Kentucky before the unanswered scoring streak was broken in the most unlikely way. With Justin Worley injured, Tennessee burned the redshirt of freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs. Dobbs led the first scoring drive against Alabama in seven quarters and the first touchdown drive against the Crimson Tide in eight quarters. Alabama is still outscoring SEC opponents 170-17 since the Texas A&M game on Sept. 14.
3,172. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews set the SEC’s career receiving record at 3,172 yards with at least four games to go in his senior season. Matthews passed Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards’ 3,093 career yards from 1999-2002. Matthews is the second Vanderbilt receiver to hold the SEC’s receiving record. The Commodores’ Boo Mitchell held the record from 1988 until he was passed by LSU’s Josh Reed in 2001.
40. Points allowed in three consecutive games by Penn State. That’s the first time that’s happened to Penn State since 1899, according to the Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine. The teams that did that back in 1899: Yale, Penn and the Duquesne Athletic Club. Penn State’s 63 points allowed against Ohio State was the most since a 106-0 loss to Lehigh in 1889.
Buried on the Depth Chart
Landon Collins, Alabama
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Three Lonely Kickers
Andrew Baggett, Missouri
Cody Journell, VIrginia Tech
Seamus McMorrow, San Diego State
Outta Nowhere Heroes
Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Nick Sloan, Navy
Dang, They’re Good
Dang, They’re Bad
Best Games Next Week
Michigan at Michigan State
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Miami at Florida State
Receivers return for Kansas State. The Wildcats gave Baylor its toughest test of the season and came close to upsetting Oklahoma State, but they’ve been short on wins. Kansas State finally got a Big 12 victory thanks in part to the return of injured receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. The tandem combined for 11 catches for 164 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-12 win over West Virginia. Lockett alone had three touchdown catches.
SMU’s comeback. Garrett Gilbert saved SMU from embarrassment and kept the Mustangs in bowl contention with a furious comeback to beat Temple 59-49. Gilbert passed for a school record 538 yards and rushed for 97 yards as SMU needed 45 points in the second half to put away a 1-7 Temple team.
Three Telling Numbers from the ACC
35-0. Florida State’s first-quarter lead against NC State. The Seminoles continue to be head and shoulders above the ACC competition, jumping to a 35-0 lead against NC State. Jameis Winston was brilliant again, completing 11 of 14 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Florida State has outscored its last three ACC opponents 163-31.
8. Combined interceptions in Duke-Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech offense regressed to its early season form as tailbacks accounted for only 72 rushing yards and Logan Thomas threw four interceptions. Duke’s Anthony Boone threw four picks of his own, but Virginia Tech’s performance isn’t going to help the perception of whoever emerges from the Coastal Division.
2. Miami comebacks against lesser teams. Next week will feature a matchup between undefeated top-10 teams, but Florida State will obliterate Miami if the Hurricanes play like they did the last two weeks. Miami needed a touchdown in the final minute to beat Wake Forest 24-21 at home Saturday just nine days after scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put away North Carolina 27-23.
Hot Seat Watch
Bo Pelini, Nebraska. The heat on the Cornhuskers coach began anew Saturday after a 34-23 loss to Minnesota. The lackluster Nebraska defense made its return by allowing 430 yards and 6.1 yards per play to the Gophers. Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier tweeted his displeasure, possibly because this kind of loss is becoming routine. A ranked Nebraska team has lost to an unranked foe in each of the last five seasons under Pelini. That said, Nebraska barely cracked the top 25 this week, and one of the losses to an unranked team last season was in the Big Ten Championship Game.
|Ranked Nebraska losses to unranked teams|
|Oct. 26, 2013||Minnesota def. No. 25 Nebraska 34-23|
|Dec. 1, 2012||Wisconsin def. No. 14 Nebraska 70-31 (Big Ten Championship Game)|
|Sept. 8, 2012||UCLA def. No. 16 Nebraska 35-30|
|Nov. 5, 2011||Northwestern def. No. 9 Nebraska 28-25|
|Dec. 30, 2010||Washington def. No. 17 Nebraska 19-7 (Holiday Bowl)|
|Oct. 7, 2010||Texas def. No. 5 Nebraska 20-13|
|Oct. 17, 2009||Texas Tech def. No. 15 Nebraska 31-10|
Mike London, Virginia. Georgia Tech did everything it could to keep Virginia competitive, but the Cavaliers still found a way to lose 35-25. Virginia was plus-four in turnover margin, getting the ball on five Georgia Tech takeaways, yet the Cavs never led. The most egregious mistake came at the end of the first half when Virginia, without a timeout, ran the ball on second down at the Georgia Tech 1 in the final seconds to come up short in a critical scoring opportunity. Virginia is 2-10 in the ACC in the last two seasons under London.
Tim Beckman, Illinois. Turns out Illinois’ 3-1 start season was a product of the competition. Illinois lost to Michigan State 42-3, erasing any optimism about an offensive turnaround in Champaign. Illinois is 0-11 in the Big Ten under Beckman and has been outscored by an average of 25 points.
Three Unlikely Bowl-Bound Teams
Duke. The Blue Devils will go to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history after defeating Virginia Tech 13-10. The Blue Devils also defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since 1994 and beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time since defeating a Rose Bowl-bound Stanford team in 1971.
Tulane. Bigger surprise? Tulane getting to 6-2 or defeating a 2-5 Tulsa team to do it? The Golden Hurricane reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2002 by defeating Tulsa 14-7. Tulane and Rice are both 4-0 in Conference USA and have favorable schedules before a meeting on Nov. 30 that may decide a trip to the league title game.
Buffalo. The Bulls opened the season against two teams that remain undefeated (Ohio State and Baylor), but they earned bowl eligibility with one of the easiest six-game stretches in the country. Buffalo defeated Stony Brook in five overtimes and the defeated UConn (0-7), Eastern Michigan (1-7), Western Michigan (1-8), UMass (1-8) and Kent State (2-7) to get to six wins. Buffalo is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 when the Bulls won the MAC under Turner Gill.
Ohio State and Minnesota stole the show again this week in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes need to win out in convincing fashion — and get some help from Florida State, Oregon and Alabama — to get into the BCS title game. A 49-point win over Penn State is a start for Urban Meyer.
Meanwhile, the Gophers won a second straight game as a double-digit underdog in the division as they toppled Nebraska in impressive fashion at home to open up the Legends Division in short order.
Here are the Big Ten's Week 9 Superlatives:
Offensive Players of the Week: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Urban Meyer needs style points, and his star quarterback delivered in a big way. Against Penn State, Miller was efficient, completing 18-of-24 passes for a personal-best 252 yards and three touchdowns passes while rushing for 68 yards on 11 carries and two more touchdowns. He led his offense to season highs in points (63) and total yards (686) while posting the best passing game of his career.
Defensive Player of Week: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Facing the Nebraska rushing attack, Hageman was going to play a huge role in the outcome no matter how he played. But he had one of his best games of the season, disrupting the line of scrimmage and playing in the Huskers backfield all game long. He finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss and his second sack of the season. Hageman and the Gophers held Nebraska to its second-lowest rushing output of the season and its lowest total yardage output of the year (328 yards).
Team of Week: Minnesota
For the second straight week the Gophers are the team of the week in the Big Ten after pulling an upset as a double-digit underdog. This time it netted the Gophers its first win over old-time rival Nebraska since 1960 — giving the school its second straight win over a division contender. Not only had the Gophers lost 16 straight against Nebraska but it hadn't had a lead over Nebraska since 1969.
Coach of Week: Matt Limegrover, Minnesota
Acting head coach Tracy Claeys did another fantastic defensive job on a high-powered divisional foe but Limegrover's offensive gameplan was the biggest difference maker in Week 9. Minnesota ran the ball 54 times and threw just 17 passes and outgunned the Huskers by more than 100 yards (430-328). Limegrover didn't ask Philip Nelson to make many plays with his arm but put him in good positions all while pounding the rock for five yards per carry. Minnesota simply took the action to the Huskers' defense and the Blackshirts couldn't handle it.
Freshman of the Week: Tyvis Powell, DB, Ohio State
With Christian Bryant out for the season, Urban Meyer will need some younger players to step into the secondary and provide support. The 6-foot-3 Powell is one of those players. He posted seven tackles in the blowout win over Penn State at home. The Buckeyes defense allowed 357 yards of offense and forced three turnovers as the secondary forced bad decisions from Christian Hackenberg all night.
• Minnesota took the lead against Nebraska for the first time since 1969 when it went up 14-10 with three minutes to go in the second quarter. The Gophers never trailed the rest of the way. Minnesota has created five total turnovers without giving it up once over the last two games against Northwestern and Nebraska combined.
• For the third straight week, Penn State allowed more than 40 points in a game, the first time it's happened since the turn of the century — the 20th century.
• The Spartans scored 42 points in the road win over Illinois. Michigan State is averaging 31 points per game in Big Ten play this year. Connor Cook completed 15 of his 16 passes.
• Iowa's James Morris and Anthony Hitchens combined for 17 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
• Minnesota's David Cobb carried a 31 times for 138 yards, both career highs, in the Gophers win over Nebraska. He had 11 career carries entering 2013.
• Ohio State won its national-best 20th consecutive game.
• Northwestern lost to Iowa in overtime 17-10. It was the Wildcats fourth consecutive Big Ten loss in four 2013 Big Ten games.
Division rivals headed in opposite directions are on tap for tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Mike McCarthy’s Packers (4-2) entered Week 8 having won three in a row and with a half-game lead on the Lions and Bears in the NFC North. Leslie Frazier’s Vikings (1-5) are alone in the cellar and have been outscored 58-17 in their last two losses. Minnesota also is starting its third quarterback in as many games, as Christian Ponder goes back under center after Matt Cassel started in Weeks 4 and 6 and former Tampa Bay starter Josh Freeman got the nod this past Monday night against the Giants.
The Packers have been hit hard by key injuries on both sides of the ball, but continue to find a way to win. The Vikings have issues on both sides of the ball, but most of their problems start at quarterback. This also represents the last game in the Metrodome between these two long-time division rivals. The Vikings are set to play the 2014 and ’15 seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium while the team's new home is under construction at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
3 Things to Watch
Can Peterson Run “All Day” on the Packers?
Regardless of the sad state of Minnesota’s quarterback situation, everyone knows that the Vikings’ offense begins and ends with Adrian Peterson. The reigning NFL MVP enjoyed quite a bit of success against Green Bay last season, rushing for 508 yards in three games, including the Wild Card loss at Lambeau Field. Peterson gained 199 yards on 34 carries in the Vikings’ home win over the Packers in the 2012 regular-season finale, clinching Minnesota’s playoff berth and coming just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record in the process. This season, Peterson has 511 yards rushing and five touchdowns through six games. He’s actually ahead of last season’s pace (499 yards through six games), which only reinforces how ridiculously good he was in the second half of 2012. That said, it has been Green Bay’s rushing defense that has been ridiculously good this season. The Packers are third in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 79 yards per game, and only one running back has gained more than 50 yards (Alfred Morris, 107) on the ground against them. The Vikings obviously need Peterson to lead the way, but will this year’s Packers defense be as accommodating?
Ponder’s Last Stand?
Ponder suffered a rib injury in the Week 3 loss to Cleveland, which caused him to miss the next game. Matt Cassel took over and led the Vikings to a win over the Steelers in London before throwing two interceptions in a blowout loss at home to the Panthers in Week 6. A few weeks ago, Minnesota signed Tampa Bay cast-off Josh Freeman, who then made his Vikings debut on Monday night against the Giants. Freeman was horrendous, completing 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception, as the offense scored no points (lone touchdown was on a punt return) and totaled 206 yards in the 23-7 loss. As bad as Freeman played, he would have gotten another start had he not sustained a concussion. That’s all that needs to be said about the team’s confidence in Ponder, who needs to approach this game as his opportunity to show not just the Vikings, but the rest of the teams, that he has what it takes to be a serviceable quarterback in the NFL. Ponder’s numbers this season (59 percent completion rate, 691-2-5) certainly don’t inspire confidence, but he did come up big against the Packers last season when it mattered the most. With the Vikings facing a must-win situation to secure a playoff berth, Ponder threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 victory over Green Bay in the 2012 regular-season finale. That game also was played in the Metrodome, so no doubt Ponder would love to repeat that performance tonight. His NFL future may depend on it.
Green Bay’s New Aerial Attack
Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, wide receiver Randall Cobb, suffered a broken fibula two weeks ago against Baltimore and will be out until the middle of December, at minimum. In that same game, fellow wideout James Jones sprained his knee. Although he escaped serious injury, Jones didn’t play last week and it’s highly doubtful he will be on the field tonight. The Packers also are without tight end Jermichael Finley, who had to be taken off the field on a stretcher last week after taking a big hit. Finley spent several days in the hospital and has been diagnosed with a spinal contusion. He is out indefinitely, which means the Packers could be without three of their four top pass-catchers. Jordy Nelson has assumed the role of No. 1 wide receiver, while Jarrett Boykin filled in quite nicely last week in place of Cobb and Jones. Boykin will need to continue his outstanding production and the Packers also will need contributions from backup tight end Andrew Quarless and perhaps rookie running back Johnathan Franklin to prevent defenses from focusing all their attention on Nelson. The Vikings are a good matchup for a team looking to break in its new aerial attack, as they are 29th in the NFL in passing defense (288.8 ypg). So while some of the names of those catching his passes have changed, Rodgers is hoping the results won’t.
Green Bay Key Player: Eddie Lacy, RB
The Packers’ second-round choice in April’s draft, Lacy got off to a slow start. He rushed for just 41 yards in his first NFL game and then sustained a concussion on his first carry in Week 2. After missing a game, Lacy returned after the team’s bye and has shown why he was so highly touted coming out of Alabama. Lacy has 301 yards rushing in his last three games, all Green Bay wins. Lacy’s success on the ground is even more critical now that the Packers are without wide receiver Randall Cobb (broken leg) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck injury) for an extended period of time, and could be missing wideout James Jones (sprained knee) tonight as well. Aaron Rodgers has one 300-yard passing game during the team’s current three-game winning streak, as the Packers have relied more on the ground game to eat up the clock and wear down defenses. Minnesota is allowing 102.3 yards rushing per game, which is right around Lacy’s average over the past month. As far as Green Bay is concerned, another “average” performance tonight from its rookie running back wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Minnesota Key Player: Greg Jennings, WR
Even without his obvious ties to tonight’s opponent, Jennings is one of the Vikings who really needs to step up against the Packers. After spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Packers, Jennings was Minnesota’s big free-agent acquisition during the offseason. And if signing a five-year, $45 million contract wasn’t enough; he had no problems taking several shots at his former team and quarterback on his way out of Green Bay. Jennings has wisely backed off or tried to explain those earlier comments this week, but he also knows he can’t take them back completely. The easiest way for him to move past this is to make more noise on the field, and tonight would be as good a game as any for him to finally break out as a Viking. Jennings is tied for second on the team with 24 catches for 327 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers have been more generous against the pass compared to the run, so Jennings and his teammates should get their opportunities to make some plays. While quarterback play has certainly been an issue for the Vikings this season, Jennings can’t use that as an excuse. After all, no one has a better understanding of the quarterback situation for these two teams than him.
Green Bay has been hit hard by injuries, but yet has still found a way to win. The offense is adjusting to its personnel, as rookie running back Eddie Lacy has been able to take some off of the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. The defense has kept things together despite linebacker Clay Matthews’ extended absence and is among the best in the league in stopping the run.
Minnesota is a team in transition, but turmoil is probably the more fitting descriptor. The Vikings have employed a revolving door at quarterback, which not only means the passing game has struggled to find a rhythm or any consistency, but it also allows defenses to focus solely on slowing down Adrian Peterson. Meanwhile the defense is starting to show its age and a few key injuries have exposed this unit’s weaknesses.
Peterson ran wild against the Packers last season, but that was a different defense and it’s Green Bay who has flexed its muscles on the ground lately. Even without three of his top four weapons, Rodgers shows why he’s one of the NFL’s best as he and Lacy combine to dominate the time of possession battle and simply wear out the Vikings defense in the process. Green Bay wins its fourth in a row without really breaking a sweat, closing out its record in the Metrodome at 15-16.
Green Bay 31, Minnesota 17
Roster depth will really be tested in Week 8 with six teams on bye. Here are some running backs that were listed on their team’s injury report that you need to know about before setting your lineup.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, RBs, Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints
A mini-soap opera of sorts developed this week as Spiller and the Bills’ coaching staff were not on the same page, at least initially, regarding the condition of his ankle. What can’t be disputed, however, is that Spiller missed practice three days in a row and is Doubtful to face the Saints. Doubtful is really just a step away from “Out,” so if you own Spiller, you need to have a plan B in place. Jackson (right) is dealing with a lingering knee injury, but he is Probable and figures to get the majority of the carries in Spiller’s absence. Tashard Choice also should see some touches, but probably not enough to merit fantasy consideration.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (London)
Gore did not practice on Wednesday due to an ankle injury, but he was a full go on Friday. He is Probable to play and since I don’t think he would have made the long flight from the U.S. to England if he wasn’t going to suit up, London fans and his fantasy owners really have nothing to worry about. Besides, nothing can help you heal quicker than a matchup with the NFL’s worst rushing defense.
Brandon Jacobs and David Wilson, RBs, New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Wilson has already been ruled Out with a neck injury and Jacobs isn’t looking much better. After missing last week because of a hamstring injury, Jacobs is considered Doubtful for today’s game. It is highly unlikely that Jacobs will play meaning the Giants will turn to Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox to carry the load. Hillis got the most touches and did find the end zone on Monday night against Minnesota, but I don’t need to tell you how risky a play either of these Giants are do I?
Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
The Browns continue to give McGahee planned rest days during the week because of his knee, but he is Probable to play today. Even though McGahee is a safe bet for double-digit carries, the matchup with Kansas City is not appealing whatsoever. The Chiefs are giving up 11.6 points per game and have a pass rush that is just waiting to tee off on Brandon Weeden. Even in a week when six teams are on bye, McGahee is nothing more than a RB3/flex option.
Dallas is hoping to have its workhorse back while Atlanta’s top ball-carrier finally looks ready to fly again. Here is the latest on some key running back injury situations entering today’s action.
DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar, RBs, Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions
As expected, Murray missed last week’s game because of a sprained knee. Following the initial diagnosis the Cowboys were hopeful of getting their No. 1 back after just a week or two, and it looks like that could come to fruition. Murray practiced three days in a row on a limited basis and although he is listed as Questionable, the team is hopeful that he will be able to play. Most likely Murray will be a game-time decision, and this is one of those weeks you will want to try and wait as long as possible before making a final decision. With six teams on bye, if Murray does play, I think you need to strongly consider putting him out there and seeing what happens. If he doesn’t, then that’s good news for rookie Joseph Randle, who would get his second straight start. As a starter, Randle is a legitimate fill-in for this week, but even if Murray doesn’t play, Lance Dunbar will make his return to the field. Dunbar has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and prior to the injury was ahead of Randle on the depth chart, so he will get some touches against the Lions. Similar to Randle, Dunbar’s fantasy potential is tied to whether Murray plays or not. If Murray doesn’t go, Dunbar could be a flex option in deeper leagues. Otherwise, he would probably see fewer touches than Randle in a crowded Cowboy backfield.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Peterson is still dealing with some sort of hamstring issue, but he was able to practice fully on Thursday and Friday. He is Probable for tonight’s primetime matchup with the Packers and even with the Vikings’ offensive struggles; you simply don’t sit the reigning MVP. Peterson rushed for 508 yards in three games against the Packers last season, but Green Bay’s rush defense has fared considerably better this season. The Packers are third in the league against the run, so it could be another tough night at the office for Peterson.
Steven Jackson and Jason Snelling, RBs, Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
The Falcons have already lost Julio Jones and Roddy White will miss a second straight game, but at least it looks like they will finally get Jackson back. After sitting out four games, Jackson is listed as Probable and is expected to play against the Cardinals. Jackson immediately will go back to being the Falcons’ No. 1 back, but he likely won’t see a full workload, which means Jacquizz Rodgers will still be a factor. Jackson needs to be back in your lineup, but if you have Rodgers, don’t bench him just yet, especially this week. These two won’t have to worry about a third wheel this week, as Jason Snelling has already been ruled Out because of an ankle injury. Unfortunately, Snelling’s window of opportunity has probably closed with Jackson’s return and how well Rodgers has been playing over the last several weeks.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons
Mendenhall didn’t practice at all on Thursday or Friday, which is why he is Doubtful for this afternoon’s game. Reports are he will see how his injured toe feels in the morning, but expectations are that rookie Andre Ellington will get his first career start. In many ways, Ellington has been more productive than Mendenhall despite getting fewer touches, so this will be a chance for the sixth-round pick to show what he’s capable of. Ellington goes from flex to RB2 because of Mendenhall’s expected absence and this also could mean more touches than usual for the Cardinals’ other rookie back, Stepfan Taylor.
Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant may not be at 100 percent, but both are ready for their head-to-head matchup today. Which other top wide receivers dealing with injuries can be counted on for Week 8?
Wes Welker and Eric Decker, WRs, Denver Broncos vs. Washington Redskins
Welker and Decker were limited in some capacity during practice this week, but for the most part it was just the coaching staff giving some of the veterans, including Peyton Manning, a little time off. Welker is dealing with an ankle injury, while Decker has a sore toe. Both were full participants on Friday and are Probable to go up against the Redskins. Washington is allowing the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers, so a case can be made that Welker, Decker and Demaryius Thomas are all WR1 options this week.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys
Johnson was limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday, but he is Probable to face the Cowboys. After posting two atypical games, Johnson was back to his old self last week against Cincinnati, posting nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys are 30th in the league in passing yards allowed and Megatron also has the extra incentive of showing Dez Bryant (see below), his Dallas counterpart, why he’s viewed the best wide receiver in the NFL. Regardless of who comes out on top in this, Johnson and Bryant should live up to their WR1 status.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, WRs, Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions
Bryant appears on the injury report with a hamstring issue, but he’s Probable and there’s no way Bryant’s missing this “showdown” with the Lions’ Calvin Johnson. Bryant is a no-doubt WR1 every week and he should be able to make some plays against Detroit’s 29th-ranked passing defense. Austin, on the other hand, is Questionable due to his nagging hamstring injury. It continues to limit him in practice and although he’s played the past two weeks, he has yet to record a catch. Even with so many teams on bye, there’s really no reason to have Austin in your lineup, unless you simply have no other options. After Bryant, Terrance Williams is the Cowboy wideout to have on your roster, as he’s a borderline WR2 this week.
James Jones, WRs, Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Jones missed last week’s game and didn’t practice at all this week because of his sprained knee. He is officially considered Doubtful, but I would be surprised if Jones plays. For one, Green Bay needs to get Jones back healthy as the team is already without Randall Cobb for several more weeks because of a broken leg. Secondly, Jarrett Boykin showed he’s capable of carrying the load in the meantime. Boykin led the Packers with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown last week against Cleveland. Jordy Nelson is the current No. 1 wideout, but Boykin has already made his case for WR2 status this week, if not beyond.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns
Bowe is a new addition to the injury report, as he was limited in practice on Thursday with a groin injury. It got worse from there, however, as he missed all of Friday’s practice and is considered Questionable to play today. Bowe has been a disappointment thus far, with just 25 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns. So add to that his gimpy groin and the prospect of being shadowed by Cleveland’s shutdown cornerback Joe Haden, and maybe it’s for the best to give Bowe a week off. If you do play him, at least you shouldn’t be shocked if he in turns in another mediocre effort.
A couple of highly drafted wide receivers could finally pay some dividends this week while a pair of Jaguars is ready to go on the prowl in London. Here’s the latest on their playing status and some other wide receivers for Week 8.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons
Fitzgerald has been dealing with injuries to both of his hamstrings and while he has yet to miss a game, there have been times where it’s apparent he was not 100 percent on the field. Last week, Fitzgerald managed just two catches for 17 yards against Seattle. The good news is that Fitzgerald was a full go at practice all week and he is listed as Probable. While his production to this point has been disappointing, this could be the week Fitzgerald finally breaks out as the Falcons are 23rd in the NFL in passing defense and are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, WRs, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. San Francisco 49ers (London)
The good news is that Blackmon (right) and Shorts both made the trip to London. Unfortunately, Blackmon didn’t practice on Friday because of a hamstring injury and Shorts is still listed on the injury report with a sprained shoulder joint. Both are Probable and expected to face the 49ers. The matchup is not great by any means, but if you have either Jaguar receiver you pretty much have to take your chances and hope for the best. The Jaguars probably will end up throwing the ball quite a lot, as the 49ers are heavy favorites to win by a comfortable margin.
Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, WRs, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
First Rob Gronkowski came back last week and now, just maybe, Amendola can do the same. After missing last week’s game because of a concussion, Amendola returned to practice and has passed all of the necessary tests and NFL protocols to clear the way for him to play. He has been limited in practice and Amendola is officially listed as Questionable, but on Friday he proclaimed, “I’m healthy and I’m ready to play.” The final decision doesn’t rest with him, but as long as you are able to check on his status leading up to the 1 p.m. ET kickoff, you should be safe to put Amendola back in your lineup. There’s no telling how many snaps he will get against the Dolphins or targets, but he has borderline WR1 potential, so it’s worth the risk. Amendola’s fantasy prospects look even better depending upon Edelman’s status. Edelman took Amendola’s place as the Patriots’ No. 1 wide receiver while the latter was sidelined, first for a groin injury and then the concussion, but the former has been dealing with his own thigh injury. Edelman has yet to miss any time, but he is Questionable and with Gronk back and Amendola feeling good about his chances to play, it’s possible the Patriots could decide to rest Edelman. Either way, Edelman is a riskier play this week than Amendola in my opinion, although both should probably be employed if they do play.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Julio Jones is on injured reserve and White will miss his second straight game, as he’s already been ruled Out due to a hamstring injury. The team is hoping that White will get healthy soon, although Harry Douglas filled in quite nicely last week. Douglas caught all seven of his targets against the Buccaneers for 149 yards and a touchdown. Douglas is a must-start this week and the only thing keeping me from putting him in the WR1 discussion is the potential matchup with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes, WRs, New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
Holmes remains Out because of a hamstring injury and probably won’t return until after
the Jets’ bye in Week 10. Kerley was limited in practice on Thursday because of a hamstring injury, but was a full participant on Friday. He is Probable to play the Bengals and is coming off his best game yet, eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the overtime win against the Patriots. Geno Smith is hard to trust, especially on the road, but Kerley has been his most productive target recently and he is probably worth employing as a WR2/WR3 this week.
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets
Jones didn’t practice on Thursday because of a shoulder injury, but he was back on the field on Friday. He is considered Probable to play this afternoon and has a touchdown catch in each of his last two games. The Jets are a solid defense, but most of their attention will be on limiting A.J. Green so Jones could be the beneficiary for a third straight week. If you are in need of WR help this week, you may want to take a look at Jones.
Two elite quarterbacks were surprise additions to the Week 8 injury report, while another fantasy favorite appears ready to return to the field. Here are the quarterback injuries you need to know to get your team ready for today’s action.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos vs. Washington Redskins
Don’t get alarmed, even though Manning missed practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury, he was back at it on Thursday and Friday and was reported to be showing no ill effects. He is Probable for today’s game and you better believe he wants his shot at the Redskins, who are giving up nearly 400 yards of offense and more than 30 points per game, not to mention Manning is still probably seething over last week’s loss. It should be another rewarding day for those fortunate enough to have Manning on their team.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
Anytime an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning, or in this case, Brady shows up on the injury report, it’s news. Brady was a limited practice participant on Thursday because of an apparent shoulder injury, which certainly made headlines. He was a full go on Friday and is Probable for today’s game, so it looks like it was much ado about nothing. If anything, it’s a sigh of relief for Brady owners, especially in a week where six teams are on bye. They and NFL fans and analysts alike are anxious to see what the Patriots’ quarterback can do with tight end Rob Gronkowski in the lineup for a second straight game as well as the possible return of wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Last week, Vick said he needed another week for his hamstring to heal and it looks like he was telling the truth. Vick practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is Probable to face the Giants. He will reclaim his starting job from Nick Foles, who has already been ruled Out because of a concussion he sustained last week. Besides starting for the Eagles, Vick needs to be starting for your fantasy team again, and you just have to hope he can stay healthy, especially in an appealing matchup like this one.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Tannehill was limited on Wednesday with a shoulder injury, but was a full go in practice on Friday and is Probable. While he’s certainly in the fantasy starting conversation, probably more for 2-QB leagues than standard, Tannehill has struggled recently. He’s thrown as many interceptions as touchdown passes (5 each) over his last three games and is on the road facing a New England defense that’s 11th in passing defense and should get cornerback Aqib Talib back this week. I don’t think there’s any doubt Tannehill will play today, but there’s plenty of doubt as it relates to what sort of numbers to expect from him.
Josh Freeman, QB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Freeman has been ruled Out because of a concussion, but after his disastrous Viking debut on “Monday Night Football” (20-of-53, 190-0-1), you weren’t planning on starting him in the first place were you? Christian Ponder will get the nod instead, but unless you’re feeling lucky, you probably don’t want to take your chances with him either.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. San Francisco 49ers (London)
After missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, Gabbert is Probable this week. It doesn’t really matter, however, as Chad Henne will get the start against the 49ers. Henne is an option for 2-QB leagues while the only way Gabbert will probably get on the field is because of injury or mop-up duty.
Already Ruled Out:
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills – The Bills’ first-round pick has yet to even return to practice as he’s still recovering from a LCL sprain in his knee. Thad Lewis will continue to start in Manuel’s place and faces a tough test this week on the road against New Orleans. The Saints are ninth in the league in passing defense, love to get after the quarterback and are a very difficult team to play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I would analyze all of my options before relying on Lewis this week.
Six teams are on bye, but there are still plenty of talented tight ends to go around in Week 8. The biggest question is will Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski finally be on the field in the same week?
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills
Graham injured his foot two weeks ago in the loss to New England, a game in which he didn’t record a single catch. Unfortunately, he still isn’t back to 100 percent following the Saints’ bye week. He didn’t practice at all on Thursday and was only a limited participant on Friday. He is Questionable to play against the Bills and most likely will be a game-time decision. The Bills-Saints game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET, so as long as you are able to keep an eye on Graham’s status you should be OK.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
Gronkowski did indeed make his long-awaited season debut last week and wasted little time in making an impact. Gronk led the Patriots with eight catches (on 17 targets) for 114 yards in the overtime loss to the Jets. He was a limited participant in practice, but that’s not really surprising considering his lengthy recovery. He is Probable and needs to be in your lineup, as the Dolphins are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
At this point, I think Davis’ appearance on the injury report is a mere formality. He hasn’t missed a game since Week 3 and has been one of the most productive tight ends over the last three games. He is Probable to face the Jaguars in London and there’s no probably to it, Davis must be in your starting lineup.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys
Pettigrew was somewhat of a surprise addition to the Lions’ injury report this week. He was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday due to a hamstring injury, but he is Probable for today’s game and is expected to be out there on the field. Pettigrew caught his first touchdown pass of the season last week and while he’s not one to record catches in bunches; he has posted at least three receptions over the last four games. As long as he’s not ruled out prior to kickoff at 1 p.m. ET, you need to keep Pettigrew in your lineup.
Jeff Cumberland, TE, New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
Cumberland was limited in practice both Thursday and Friday because of a hamstring injury, but he is Probable and expected to play today. Although you may not recognize the name, don’t overlook Cumberland as a starting TE option, especially this week. He has two touchdown catches over his last four games and is starting to develop chemistry with rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Finley spent several days in the hospital after being taken off of the field on a stretcher last Sunday. He has been diagnosed with a spinal contusion and is out indefinitely. There’s a strong chance Finley may not return at all this season, but you certainly shouldn’t count on him for the foreseeable future. Andrew Quarless will take Finley’s spot as the Packers’ starting tight end and while he’s in an envious situation, he is an unknown commodity on the fantasy landscape.
Nebraska suffered a disappointing loss at Minnesota on Saturday, but running back Ameer Abdullah turned in one of the few bright spots for the Cornhuskers.
In the fourth quarter, Abdullah hurdled a Minnesota defender to put the Cornhuskers into scoring position. Abdullah finished with 165 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
Check out this play by Nebraska’s No. 1 running back:
First it was Clive Walford. And now it’s Stacy Coley. Miami’s receivers provided plenty of highlight-reel plays against Wake Forest.
Coley’s catch was a huge play in terms of momentum for the Hurricanes, which survived an upset bid of Wake Forest to win 24-21.
Ball State’s Willie Snead is quietly one of the nation’s most-productive receivers, and the junior made one of 2013’s top catches against Akron.
After going up 21-0 against Iowa State, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was caught by the cameras with a few comments about the Cyclones’ pass defense.
It’s a short vine from @PistolsGuy, but it sums up what the Oklahoma State coach thought about the start of his offense against the Iowa State secondary.
World Series – Game 3
Boston at St. Louis
8:07 ET Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) vs. Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69)
The Cardinals escaped Boston with a split, and that’s good news for the Redbirds. But this World Series is just now beginning. We’re entering the portion of the program where hitters actually have a fighting chance. Expect a little more offense tonight in St. Louis, but both bullpens stand ready and can extinguish fires quickly. Neither manager will allow this one to get away early. The Cardinals’ Joe Kelly was one of their more reliable starters down the stretch this season, but hasn’t been as sharp in the postseason. Jake Peavy, a former Cy Young winner in the National League, struggled in his starts against the Rays and Tigers in the playoffs. One critical factor for both teams throughout this series is to play a clean game, both defensively and on the bases, taking advantage of every slight opportunity.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must adjust to having Peavy bat and Ortiz must not give away anything defensively at first base. Boston hitters are a patient bunch and they will wait out Kelly, who can be a bit erratic with his control at times. Now is certainly not the time to change their typical patient approach.
Keys for St. Louis
Mike Matheny doesn’t expect Kelly to get past the seventh inning, but he’ll ask the young righthander to leave it all on the mound for what few innings he can. The Redbirds’ manager will turn this game over to his bullpen, which has been dominant in the postseason. Matheny called on Carlos Martinez to get six outs and Trevor Rosenthal three in Game 2, but he will be more likely to mix and match relievers for matchups rather than extend Martinez tonight. The Cardinals have had some success against Peavy, both in the regular season and playoffs when he was with San Diego. St. Louis has won five of their six home playoff games this fall, and need to continue to feed off the home atmosphere.
Red Sox to Watch
Many eyes will be on Ortiz and how well he handles first base. In 2004, he played well in St. Louis, but he was nine years younger then. He’s played just 13 games at first over the past three seasons. In two starts for Boston this postseason, Peavy was touched for eight runs over 8.2 innings. He must avoid big innings. Stephen Drew has been a non-factor at the plate, but his steady presence up the middle has squelched some St. Louis momentum in the first two games. With regular first baseman Mike Napoli on the bench, both Drew and Peavy are candidates to be pinch-hit for in big spots. The Red Sox have yet to test Yadier Molina behind the plate. Without the DH in the lineup, expect the Sox to start runners and play more small ball in St. Louis. That starts with Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino.
Cardinals to Watch
If the Cardinals are to win with a potent offense, it will be Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday providing the punch. Both have a pretty good history with Peavy and are swinging the bat well now. In addition to keeping hitters off base, Kelly must also be adept at keeping runners close at first base and give Molina a chance to shut down the Red Sox running game.
St. Louis was 11-4 in Kelly’s 15 regular-season starts…Aside from Ortiz (4-for-6) and Dustin Pedroia (3-for-7), the rest of the Red Sox are scuffling at .098 off of St. Louis pitching…Ortiz last made an error in 2009…The Red Sox have lost both games this postseason when Ortiz didn’t reach via hit or walk...Beltran in 8-for-20 against Peavy…Holliday is 8-for-28…The 32-year-old righthander has held Molina to 3-for-17.
Miami tight end Clive Walford made a nifty one-handed grab in the first half of Saturday’s game against Wake Forest.
With the Hurricanes trailing 14-3, Walford grabbed a pass by quarterback Stephen Morris for a big gain, which helped Miami move into scoring position.
UCLA comes into this game against the No. 3 Ducks after a brutal 24-10 loss against Stanford. Things don't get any easier as they get a firsthand look at the nation's second-best scoring offense at 57.6 points per game. Bruins' quarterback Brett Hundley needs to bounce back from last week's poor performance, in which he threw two interceptions. UCLA will also need to put together a better run game than the 74 yards they racked up last week. If Stanford rushed for 192 yards against the UCLA defense last week, Mark Helfrich and the Ducks are probably drooling as they prepare for this game. Oregon has won four-straight games in this series, but UCLA holds a 39-26 all-time record against the Ducks. Tune it to ESPN at 7 pm ET to watch the nation's most exciting offense.
Three Things to Watch
The aforementioned title goes to the uber-talented Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has thrown for 2,051 yards with 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also has rushed for nearly 500 yards, averaging over 10 yards a rush, and has piled up nine rushing touchdowns. No defense has been able to stop him or the Oregon offense yet. Mariota has tallied 14 total touchdowns in just three Pac-12 contests. Despite UCLA's defense, which is 19th in the nation in points allowed, Mariota should continue his rampage on the college football world.
UCLA pass protection
The Bruins offensive line is inexperienced and struggled last week against Stanford. Hundley was under consistent pressure and responded with his worst game of the 2013 campaign. UCLA is actually starting three true freshmen on the offensive line. Tony Washington heads up a deep and talented Oregon defensive line. Washington leads the Ducks with 6.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. The quickness of the Oregon defensive line, which normally rotates in six or seven players, could spell trouble for UCLA's offensive line.
Return of De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon's dynamic tailback is due to return after missing three weeks. The Ducks' offense is already nearly unstoppable and the reintegration of Thomas will just make it that much better. Thomas' versatility and ability to line up all over the field makes him a matchup nightmare. Not to mention, he may just be the fastest player in the country. Thomas immediately improves the Ducks' running game and passing game, making the read option with Mariota even more lethal. Good luck Bruins.
Player to Watch: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Despite top-level talents in Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and even Brett Hundley, Anthony Barr could be the best player in this game. He has the pro scouts raving as many are calling him the nation’s top defensive player, vaulting over preseason draft favorite Jadeveon Clowney. Stanford coach David Shaw compared Barr to former All-Pro Jevon Kearse. They certainly have reason to make such claims as Barr has racked up four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in just six games. Barr is probably the Bruins only chance to stop Oregon's deadly read option plays.
UCLA is a top-15 team, and Jim Mora has this program on the right track. But this is Oregon. I actually don't doubt that UCLA can keep up with the Ducks from a points perspective, but I really don't see the Bruins being able to stop the combo of Mariota and Thomas. Stanford is just a bad matchup for UCLA so I expect their offense to look better, despite Oregon looking to be on its way to the national title game.
Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 28
Oregon is considered a heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 North, but Stanford and Oregon State are still in the mix. The Cardinal’s national title hopes took a hit with a loss to Utah on Oct. 12, while the Beavers are still trying to recover in the polls from a defeat to Eastern Washington in the season opener.
It’s probably too early to say this is an elimination game for the North Division, but Stanford cannot afford another loss. The Cardinal had some help in the national title picture with an array of upsets last week. However, winning the Pac-12 and playing in a BCS bowl appears to be the more attainable goal.
Stanford has won four out of the last five meetings in this series. Oregon State’s last victory against the Cardinal came in 2009, winning a 36-28 matchup in Corvallis.
Stanford at Oregon State
Kickoff: 10:30 ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Stanford -4
Three Things to Watch
Mannion to Cooks
What a difference a couple of months can make. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion wasn’t guaranteed to be the No. 1 quarterback in fall practice, but the junior leads the nation with an average of 427.4 passing yards per game. Mannion has just three interceptions and is completing 68.6 percent of his throws. His favorite target is Brandin Cooks, who has 76 receptions for 1,176 yards and 12 scores this year. Cooks and Mannion have been two of college football’s top players through the first half of the season, but Stanford’s defense will be their toughest opponent of 2013. The Cardinal rank sixth in the Pac-12 in pass defense efficiency, but this group is loaded with talent. Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons form a solid pair at cornerback, while safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards both have All-American potential. Richards has three picks this season, and Reynolds ranks second on the team with 50 stops. Can Cooks and Mannion be stopped? If any defense can find an answer for this duo, it should be the Cardinal, especially with a pass rush that has generated 19 sacks in 2013.
Oregon State’s rushing attack
With a prolific passing attack, Oregon State’s struggles on the ground have been overlooked. However, the numbers aren’t pretty. The Beavers are averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and 86 yards per game in Pac-12 games. Running back Storm Woods finished 2012 with 940 yards and 13 touchdowns, but the sophomore has just 193 yards in 2013. Although quarterback Sean Mannion has been sharp through the first seven games, Oregon State needs to have some balance to beat Stanford. But that’s easier said than done against the Cardinal, who leads the Pac-12 in rush defense at 99 yards per game in conference-only contests. One wildcard to watch: Keep an eye on Woods on swing passes out of the backfield.
Stanford’s offensive line
The Cardinal has one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and this unit will be under the microscope on Saturday night. Oregon State’s defense has improved since allowing 46 points to Eastern Washington in the opener, but the Beavers are still susceptible to the run. Utah gashed Oregon State for 260 yards and Stanford is averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. The Cardinal’s defense can hold their own against anyone in the nation but having a good offense – especially one that can play keep-away – could be the key to stopping Mannion and Cooks. If Stanford is able to get running back Tyler Gaffney going early on, it could be a long night for Oregon State's front seven.
Key Player: Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
In Stanford’s 27-21 loss to Utah, Hogan completed 15 of 27 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown. That performance is certainly enough to win most Pac-12 games, especially with the strength of Stanford’s defense. However, Oregon State’s offense has been on fire this year. A 45-41 shootout seems unlikely, but if the Beavers’ connection of Mannion to Cooks gets on track, Hogan’s play could be the difference between a Stanford win or second Pac-12 loss.
If Oregon State knocks off Stanford, the Beavers could be 10-1 heading into the season finale at Oregon. However, the Cardinal is the better team and should leave Corvallis with the victory. Stanford’s balance on offense should be the difference in the game, while the defense does just enough to keep Mannion and Cooks below their season averages.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Oregon State 27
In the preseason, Missouri-South Carolina appeared to be just a typical SEC contest. There was some upset talk surrounding this game, especially since this was slated to be the Gamecocks’ third consecutive road test. But fast forward to October, and the storylines have changed dramatically.
Missouri has quickly erased any bad feelings from last year’s 5-7 mark. The Tigers have a two-game lead on the rest of the division and with a matchup against 1-6 Kentucky still to come, Missouri can essentially clinch the SEC East with a win on Saturday.
Since the Tigers already have wins over Georgia and Florida, South Carolina might be the only team with a realistic shot at knocking Missouri from the top spot in the East. However, the Gamecocks’ division title hopes took a huge hit in last week’s loss to Tennessee. If South Carolina loses in Columbia on Saturday night, its hopes of winning the East Division are essentially finished.
These two teams have met only three times. Missouri owns a 2-1 series edge, but South Carolina has claimed the only victory as SEC opponents.
South Carolina at Missouri
Kickoff: 7 ET
TV Channel: ESPN 2
Spread: Missouri -2.5
Three Things to Watch
Injuries have wrecked havoc on quarterbacks in the SEC East. After Saturday, only one team (Georgia) will have started the same player under center all year. With James Franklin sidelined indefinitely, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will make his second start for Missouri. Against Florida last week, Mauk completed 18 of 36 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown. Florida’s defense is slightly better than South Carolina in terms of allowed yardage per game, but the Gamecocks lead the SEC in pass defense (conference games only). With Connor Shaw nursing an injured knee, Dylan Thompson will make his third career start for South Carolina. Last season, Thompson threw for 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 appearances. Both quarterbacks will be under the microscope on Saturday night. With very little separating these two teams, any mistake will be magnified. Will it be Thompson or Mauk that delivers with a better performance?
South Carolina’s Offensive Line vs. Missouri’s Defensive Line
Missouri’s defensive line has been one of the biggest surprises in the SEC this year. After losing tackle Sheldon Richardson to the NFL, most preseason rankings had the Tigers’ line pegged for the bottom of the conference. However, behind the direction of line coach Craig Kuligowski, Missouri has been one of the SEC’s best in the trenches. The Tigers are allowing just 117.7 yards per game on the ground in SEC play, and opponents have scored just three rushing scores. Missouri also has 15 sacks against conference foes. End Michael Sam was a midseason All-American, and there’s plenty of depth and talent at the other three spots. Quality line play is always a priority in the SEC, but with both teams starting backup quarterbacks, it’s takes on even more importance this Saturday. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson doesn’t have Connor Shaw’s mobility, and the Gamecocks need to give the junior time to throw and test a Missouri secondary that may not have standout cornerback E.J. Gaines. In addition to giving Thompson time to throw, South Carolina’s ground attack could be the difference in this game. Running back Mike Davis averages 119.4 yards per game in 2013, but the Tigers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since the season opener. The Gamecocks’ front five averages 322.4 pounds a player, and the matchup against Missouri’s athletic, quick line will be the toughest test (so far) of 2013.
Clowney is arguably the most-talented player in college football. However, the junior got off to a slow start in 2013, as injuries sidetracked his season. But in last week’s game against Tennessee, Clowney looked like the player everyone expected to see in the preseason, as he recorded five tackles, with 2.5 going for a loss. Was last Saturday’s performance the start of a strong second half for Clowney? He dominated the Missouri line for two sacks and four tackles last season, and a similar game could be enough for the Gamecocks to win.
Key Player: Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
Anytime a team has to turn to a backup quarterback, the immediate focus shifts to the running backs and offensive line to pickup the slack. Missouri has three running backs over 350 yards this season, but Josey leads the team with 494 yards. The junior missed all of 2012 recovering from a serious knee injury, but Josey hasn’t missed a beat, averaging six yards a carry on 83 attempts. Even though Mauk impressed in his first start last week, the Tigers need to have balance against a solid South Carolina defense.
This matchup is a tossup. Missouri is one step away from essentially clinching the SEC East, while South Carolina desperately needs a win to keep its division title hopes alive. Mauk and Thompson are plenty capable, but turnovers and the supporting cast may have a bigger impact on the outcome. Running back Mike Davis should be the difference in this game for the Gamecocks, which finds a way to win a close matchup that should be decided in the final minutes.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Missouri 24
The Buckeyes are right in the thick of the national title race following a 34-24 victory over Iowa. Braxton Miller displayed his dual-threat abilities as he completed 81 percent of his passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 102 yards. The Buckeyes haven't been dominating teams; however, as they've won their last three contests (all conference games) by an average of just nine points. By comparison, every other team in the AP top 5 has a significantly higher average margin of victory in conference games. For conference games, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Missouri have average margins of victory of 34, 31, 36, and 19, respectively. Clearly, Ohio State hasn't been all that impressive in their three conference victories over teams with a combined 13-8 record. This week Urban Meyer's bunch looks to grab some national respect as they look to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 20 with a win over the 4-2 Nittany Lions. This will be easier said than done, as Penn State has had a whole with to rest and recover from an exciting quadruple-overtime victory over Michigan in Beaver Stadium. A victory will also keep Ohio State in the thick of the national title race, while a Penn State victory would put the Nittany Lions just a half game out of the lead in the Leaders Division. Bill O'Brien's team is ineligible for postseason play, so Penn State will be pumped up as they will look to this as their defacto bowl game. Tune in for the intense Big Ten action at 8 pm ET on ABC.
Three Things to Watch
Ohio State's three-headed rushing attack
The Buckeyes like to spread things around when it comes to their running game. Three players have over 75 carries. Halfbacks Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall each average 6.2 yards per carry. Hall has eight rushing touchdowns, while Hyde has five. Shockingly, despite rushing for 335 yards this year, Braxton Miller has yet to register a rushing touchdown. Penn State has only the sixth-best rushing defense in the Big Ten, but it has allowed just one running back to top 100 yards in a game this season. The Nittany Lions have shown that they struggle against a running quarterback. Michigan's Devin Gardner rushed for a season-high 121 yards from the quarterback position just two weeks ago, and Miller may look to duplicate that gameplan. The run is what makes the Buckeyes offense go, so expect a conservative gameplan with a healthy helping of the read option.
Hostile environment for Hackenberg
Due to his excellent play this year it's easy to forget that Christian Hackenberg is just a true freshman. His performance in the come-from-behind victory over Michigan certainly was impressive, as he is on pace to throw for more than 3,200 and 22 touchdowns. Mostly, he has played well; however, at times he tends to stare down receivers and force the ball into tight windows. The highly touted recruit has only played one road game this season - at Indiana. Clearly, that's not one of the more difficult venues to play. The Nittany Lions actually lost that game in a half-empty Memorial Stadium. The Horseshoe certainly is. For the first time in his young career the Penn State signal caller will have to play in front of a raucous opposing crowd numbering over 100,000. We'll see how he deals with handling the huddle and audibles at the line of scrimmage amidst the deafening noise.
Ohio State secondary
Ohio State has struggled at defending the pass this year. The Buckeyes are giving up an average of 240 yards per game, which is tied for No. 78 in the country. Against Wisconsin, Ohio State allowed wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to catch 10 balls for 207 yards, both season highs. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter completed 12-of-12 passes against Ohio State a week later. Last week, the Buckeyes gave up 10 receptions, 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Iowa's tight end duo of C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jake Duzey.
Key Player: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby, who was a preseason NFL first-round lock, has struggled this season. The returning All-American corner looked foolish against Abbrederis. Roby didn't help his team out last week when he was ejected for targeting in the first half. Roby still has top-notch closing speed and ball skills and will be asked to lock Allen Robinson. The Penn State wideout mixes excellent athleticism (a 37-inch vertical) with excellent route-running abilities and hands. He has 43 catches for 705 yards and five touchdowns. and the best route-running ability on the team. Robinson is clearly Hackenberg's first option as he has more than three times the amount of catches as the next closest Nittany Lion. Roby will undoubtedly be in a position to make something happen. His play could determine whether Penn State blows up the Ohio State defense or whether Hackenberg throws a couple costly interceptions.
The difference in this game in Braxton Miller. He's the x-factor. Without him, Ohio State has an above average offense; with him, it's dynamic. Penn State won't be able to stop him on the ground which should open up some passing lanes. Expect this game to be a low-scoring street fight that is turned by a spectacular play by the gifted Miller.
Prediction: Ohio State 24, Penn State 15
September 18, 2004. That's the last time the scoreboard read in Tennessee's favor in the Third Saturday in October. Butch Jones was still an offensive coordinator at Central Michigan, yet to begin his head coaching stints at CMU, Cincinnati and Tennessee. After several disappointing seasons with Derek Dooley at the helm, Jones appears to have righted the ship with Tennessee starting the season with a 4-3 record. After falling short against Georgia in overtime, the Volunteers came back with an impressive 23-21 victory over South Carolina. Things don't get any easier for Tennessee in what has been a brutal three-game stretch. This week they get the nation's top team in Alabama. The Crimson Tide is not only undefeated but has rolled teams this year with an average margin of victory of 31 points. Tune in to CBS at 3:30 pm ET to see if Tennessee can turn the tide on Nick Saban and Alabama.
Three Things to Watch
Can Alabama's defense be scored on?
The Crimson Tide defense has been stellar this year. They allow an NCAA-best 9.7 points per game. Outside of the outlier of 42 points Johnny Manziel and A&M put up on Alabama, the Tide have only allowed 26 points in six games. Tennessee has struggled at times this season with offensive consistency and it's hard to imagine a scenario where they put up big numbers. The Crimson Tide's defense has struggled at times with a dual-threat quarterback. That is not Justin Worley's strong suit.
Yards after contact
The Vols defense missed 15 tackles last week, as their issues with tackling in space have continued. The Tide has a bevy of talented receivers that are excellent at running after the catch. DeAndrew White, Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell have been especially adept at turning into great runners after the reception. Tennessee really can't afford to give the Tide extra yardage and easier first downs. Let's not forget the surprisingly powerful T.J. Yeldon, who does a great job of keeping his feet churning through traffic.
Both teams are third in the SEC with +4 turnover differential, which has been a key reason for each program's success this year. However, Tennessee got five of those turnovers in a six-play span against Western Kentucky. Justin Worley is much more likely to make mistakes as he has thrown six interceptions. On the other hand, AJ McCarron has been nearly flawless this season. He has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. It will surely be hard for Tennessee to create any turnovers, while just one giveaway by the Vols could be enough to bury them.
Key Player: Pig Howard, WR, Tennessee
With safety Vinnie Sunseri out for the season, Howard should be able to roam the middle of the field with freedom. Sunseri was a smart, veteran presence who was always in the right spot. Alabama is much more susceptible to a blown coverage or two without the defensive captain. Howard amassed 116 yards on 10 touches against Georgia and caught a career-high eight passes for 33 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina. With Deion Belue locked up on Marquez North, Howard seems poised for a big game.
Tennessee has make huge strides this year; however, this is still Alabama. The line on this game is 28.5 and that doesn't seem far off from what reality will bring. Tennessee is improved, but Alabama is the nation's best team. This should be another throttling as the Crimson Tide will surely grab their 10th straight victory in the rivalry. Nick Saban's teams just don't lose to inferior talent.
Prediction: Alabama 42, Tennessee 10