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All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-qa-kentucky-forward-willie-cauley-stein
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Willie Cauley-Stein is a rarity for Kentucky under John Calipari — a seasoned junior with pro potential. Such a situation may not have occurred if not for an ankle injury in the Sweet 16 that ended Cauley-Stein’s NBA Draft hopes (and made him a brief fashion icon in the basketball world).

 

Not since 2010-11 with Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins has Calipari had a third-year player in a key role. That said, Cauley-Stein’s minutes won’t be guaranteed simply because he’s been around the block a few times. Cauley-Stein will be a member of one of the best frontcourts in the country with holdovers Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee and freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles.

 

Athlon Sports spoke with Cauley-Stein about Kentucky’s transformation from a 12–6 team in the SEC to the national runner-up and how Cauley-Stein is embracing his role as one of the veterans for another team with national title  aspirations.

 

This interview and more appears in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports college basketball annual, available on newsstands and in our now.

 

Related:

 

We may as well start with this. One of the last times people saw you was wearing that wild shirt while on the bench at the Final Four. It got quite a bit of run. Where did you find that?

 

I had just seen it in a mall. When I first saw it I didn’t look twice at it, and as I was walking around. I was like, you know what, I like that shirt after all, so I picked it up.

 

Did you know people would be talking about it? It was quite the subject on Twitter.

 

Anything different is going to be a subject.

 

How do you view last season in retrospect? How you finished was great with a run to the national championship game, but your team didn’t show that potential until you got to the postseason.

 

I think we just stayed focused. When you have a lot of young guys out of the gates, it takes a long time to start clicking together like a real team. We did the things we did at the end because we learned how to play with each other. It just took a whole season to figure out that out.

 

So do you consider it to be a successful season or do you feel like you left something on the table since you didn’t start playing to that potential until the late?

 

It was real successful. We made it to the finals. Everybody had us canceled out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

When did you sense the switch had started to flip and you were starting to play together?

 

It was the first game of the SEC Tournament. That’s when the sense of urgency was different. The feel was different. You can tell players had finally figured out how they wanted to play and how they were supposed to play. They had starting giving of themselves for the team, and that started at the SEC Tournament and carried over from there.

 

Coach John Calipari said he had to learn through the season how to coach this team and figure which buttons to push. Did you notice a change in him during the season?

 

He got more chill as we were starting to win. When you’re losing, the coach isn’t going to be chill. You change a lot when things are going to right. He just changed the way guys are playing. The change he made with Andrew (Harrison) was vital. Andrew should have been playing like that from Day 1. That changed the whole team up.

 

You suffered an ankle sprain against Louisville in the Sweet 16 on March 28 but didn’t undergo surgery until mid-April. How has your recovery progressed?

 

Pretty good. I’m pretty much cleared to do stuff now. Now it’s just getting back to playing shape and strengthening my legs back up again. Other than that, I’m able to do little workouts here and there and hit the weights hard.

 

How tough was it to watch the Final Four, and do you feel like you could have won the title had you been able to play?

 

That’s hard to say. People say it’s true, but you don’t really know. I’d like to think that I’d be able to change the game that much to change the outcome. But it’s hard to say. You don’t know what could happen.

 

For the last few years Kentucky has been a team without a lot of veterans, and you’re going to be one of the guys that Kentucky looks to. How do you prepare for that role?

 

It’s going to be different, but I think it’s time to just go into that role and stopping all the kiddish stuff. It’s time to step up and take a role that older dudes take.

 

What do you mean by “kiddish stuff” and stuff that you’re cutting out?

 

Like arguing with the coach or looking for calls. Just playing like nothing really matters, playing with a good attitude and a good mind and not worrying about little petty stuff.

 

Do you feel that arguing with coaches or officials held you back?

 

No. But when you get to the veteran stage it’s almost like you’re a coach. You have to start telling young guys what you’ve been through and you got through it. And if you’re doing the same things as a young dude when they come in, you don’t get the kind of respect as a veteran.

 

When you were contemplating going to the NBA Draft after the season, what was your conversation like with John Calipari?

 

He just gave us all the facts, what teams are saying. He’s trying to pick your brain on whether you’re ready to go or not. That’s all he tells you, or if he thinks you can go.

 

He said he was surprised that you returned to school instead of going to the draft. What led to that decision?

 

I feel like if I never got injured I would have left. A lot played into that because I was kind of thinking earlier in the season of leaving. I was banking on making my draft stock go up by going through the workouts you have to go through. Since I was injured, I couldn’t go through any of that. I wasn’t able to change any spots to go earlier because I wasn’t able to work out.

 

Were you just as surprised as anyone that Andrew and Aaron Harrison decided to come back to Kentucky or did you have a feeling they’d return as well?

 

I really wasn’t thinking about it. By the time they were going through their decision, I was going through surgery and wasn’t paying attention to anything other than getting healthy again. It took a long time to decide, so I figured if they were taking that long that they were coming back.

 

With the group of big guys coming into this team, Kentucky is going to have one of the best frontcourts in the country. How do you think this group and the competition is going to help you for the next level?

 

They’re all pros. We’re all future pros. In a practice setting, going against future pros every single day, you have no choice but to get better. You’ve just got to get your mind right before you get to the next level.

 

How competitive do you think it’s going to be for playing time? As you said, you’re all future pros and you can’t all be on the court at the same time.

 

I don’t know, but it’s the same thing every year. It’s no different this year than it was the last three years, the last four years or the last five years. It’s the same every year. Coach is going to play the guys he thinks deserves to play more or who is working hard and doing the right things. Those are the guys who are going to play. But there are so many combinations you can play with this team coming in that it doesn’t really matter who is coming off the bench or who starts because everyone is going to play the same minutes.

 

With that competition and the mixing and matching, how do you make sure that’s something healthy and not something that can disrupt the team?

 

You’ve got to sacrifice yourself for the team, tell yourself that I’m not getting 35 minutes a game, so I disagree with what coach is doing. That’s just a sacrifice you have to make to play at a level we’re trying to play at.

 

Is that where you could use Marcus Lee as an example? Here’s a guy who didn’t play much during the season, but when the time came, he was ready.

 

For sure, that’s how it is. Everyone here can play the game of basketball. You have to be ready for your opportunity. When you’re called up, you’ve got to be ready to go. That’s how we run practices and how we run workouts. You never say one guy is over everybody else.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Q&A with Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-qa-wisconsin-center-frank-kaminsky
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Frank Kaminsky was an anonymous Wisconsin big man entering last season. The 7-foot junior had barely played his first two years in Madison, but he became a household name by the end of the season — when he helped lead the Badgers into the Final Four and a near-victory over Kentucky in the national semifinals. Kaminsky thought long and hard about leaving Wisconsin to take a shot at the NBA, and he talks to Athlon Sports about that decision, his nickname(s) and why he was a class clown back in high school. 

 

This interview and more appears in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports college basketball annual, available on newsstands and in our now.

 

Related:

 

Let’s start with the nickname — Frank the Tank. What was the origin?

 

I’ve actually got a few nicknames. That one started in high school. I didn’t play at all as a freshman on the sophomore team, then stayed on the sophomore team the next year. I only played two years on varsity, and our point guard got hurt our senior year for about eight games — so I played point guard at 6-10. I got to do whatever I wanted. It was so much fun. I’d call ball-screens, call plays for myself. Anyway, we had the best student section — and they started calling me Frank the Tank. I didn’t love it at first, but eventually I embraced it.

 

But I had a nickname before then — Fupps. I was fat my freshman year of high school, and someone started calling me “Fuppa Face.” I was puffy, had a little extra love on my body. I was called that for four years of high school. I like it and brought it with me to Madison. 

 

Is it true you were cut from your AAU team?

 

I was the first kid cut during the Under-15 tryouts. I made it through half of the first tryout before they told me. After that, anytime I touched the ball I shot it. Then the next year I made the 16’s, but I didn’t travel. I just went to the local tournaments, but I wasn’t allowed to go on the road. I was 2-for-2 from the field the entire month of July. Then on the 17’s, I was playing behind (current Illinois center) Nnanna Egwu, and he got hurt so I started to play. When I went into that summer, there were a couple of low-major Division I teams. Then I got to play the entire month of April after Nnanna got hurt and more schools started showing interest. It was basically Wisconsin, Northwestern, DePaul, Bradley and Southern Illinois. But Wisconsin was really the first one and had faith in me before anyone else did.” 

 

You came into Wisconsin and barely played your first two years. How frustrated were you?

 

I knew that coming in. My first year I didn’t expect to even get on the court. I thought I’d redshirt, so I was fine with a backup role. I knew it wouldn’t be much different my sophomore year because everyone was back — Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz.


You went from anonymous to having a breakout season as a junior. How much did that surprise even you?

 

Some games I surprised myself, but other games I expected what I accomplished. I’ve worked hard and never got any respect from anyone. Obviously, I’ve had my own dreams and goals, and it frustrated me that the respect never came. Once it started happening last year, it may have surprised a lot of people — but not me.


Your introduction to the college basketball world came on Nov. 19 last season, the fourth game of the year, when you erupted for 43 points in a win over North Dakota. What do you remember from that night?

 

It was interesting. I’ve had some games like that before where everything is falling — a lot of people have — but it was surreal. That was the most points I’d ever scored in a game, other than in the summer league. It was cool that Coach (Bo) Ryan kept putting me back in to get the school record. After the game, I went on Twitter, and seeing everything was crazy. I got so many texts after the game, and I’d never experienced anything like that before.

Social media exploded that night about you, but now that you’ve had a chance to deal with Twitter as a known commodity for the past year, what are your thoughts on it?

 

In the past it was fun. I got to say some things and be myself. I had about 1,000 followers. Now I have 20,000 followers and so much of the time I hate it. I’ve pretty much gotten off Twitter. Sometimes I get on to check out articles or whatever, but other than that I try not to go on there, It’s a difficult forum because sometimes you can’t just be yourself — people take everything you say and read into it. 

 

Do you enjoy the recognition you’ve received lately, or do you prefer to be questioned to add more fuel to the fire?

I’m not satisfied with what I’ve accomplished individually or as a team. I’ve never been about individual awards. I don’t care if I score two points, as long as we win. The Final Four was a great achievement, but we didn’t win anything. I want to win championships. I haven’t won a Big Ten title or a national title. The great thing about our team is that no one cares about the glory. We all just want to win. Sure, we had a great year and a terrific tournament run — but we all want more. We want to win championships.

 

You recently started a blog and called it The Moose Basketball. What was the reason for that, and how has it gone thus far?


I took a digital social media class in the spring, and I set up a blog for that. I’m not really the most creative person, but I wrote about my decision whether to stay in school or try and go to the NBA. It was about 10 paragraphs, but three words got all the headlines: “NBA looks boring.” That’s not at all what I meant. That’s my end game to be in the NBA, but I love college and really wanted to stay for my senior year.

 

How difficult was the decision to come back for your final season?

 

I thought about it for a while. I did research and talked to people, my parents talked to a ton of people. Right after we lost to Kentucky, I remember telling people that I wasn’t going anywhere. At that point, I hadn’t even thought about it. I didn’t even realize I had the potential to leave for the NBA. Then I was intrigued by it. I know I could have been drafted if I left, but I enjoy college and my teammates so much — and I want to come back and see if we can do even more than we did last year.

 

Your teammate, Sam Dekker, and many of the other top returning and incoming college players were at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July. Why weren’t you there?

 

As far as I know, I wasn’t invited. I’m not going to get mad about it, because I have no control over it. It would have been nice — especially to get all the free stuff! But I’m OK with it. I’ve been working out all summer with people I’m close to in my hometown. I’m watching a lot of film, have gotten my body in better shape. I know what I need to do to get better. I’m not trying to overdo it, either, and be in the gym for six hours a day. I’ve been efficient and do what I need to finish my college career strong.

 

The word is that you were a class clown back in the day. True or false?

 

So completely true. I couldn’t be any worse growing up. I was the tall kid who got picked on for being so tall. I remember one time in the seventh grade, the teacher was late for class, and I shut and locked the door so she couldn’t get in. I told everyone to hide in the back of the room. Then one kid finally opened the door, but I was hiding under the teacher's desk until she noticed. It took a while. I was pulling things down and knocking stuff down off her desk practically the whole class. I might have gotten in a little trouble for that one, but it was worth it.

 

How often have you watched Aaron Harrison’s game-winner that knocked you guys out of the Final Four?

 

Not once. I’ll probably never watch it — and I’m not kidding, either. It’s too painful. The same thing happened to me in high school when we were playing Jabari Parker’s team downstate. We were up three in regulation and we missed a free throw. He came down and pulled up from halfcourt to force overtime. We wound up losing in double-overtime.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Q&A with Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-kentucky-wildcats-team-preview
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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 1 Kentucky begins 2014-15 where it started last season — at the top. Even though last season ended in the national title game, the Wildcats are hoping for a smoother ride this time around. The Wildcats didn’t start looking like a title team until the NCAA Tournament — a good time to do so, mind you — but this year’s group will aim for wire-to-wire consistency.

 

The Kentucky edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

After last season, most Kentucky fans promised themselves never to allow that silly notion back into their minds — the idea that this latest loaded collection of Cats could, just maybe, win every last one of their games. The weight of that expectation nearly crushed a team full of freshmen, who eventually lost 11 times.

 

However, that team did eventually click in time for a wild ride all the way to the NCAA title game. And eight guys from that team who might’ve been drafted instead passed on the NBA and returned for another season at UK.

 

Plus, four more prized recruits signed up for the circus, bringing coach John Calipari’s roster to this crazy number: nine McDonald’s All-Americans, not counting projected lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein.

 

And in a rarity, Calipari has veterans now, six sophomores and two juniors.

 

“The levels of practice are high,” Calipari says. “They’re not backing down from each other. The younger guys are competing. The older guys are coming.”

 

And the rest of college basketball should be quivering. 

 


No. 1 Kentucky Facts & Figures

Last season: 29-11, 12-6 SEC

Postseason: NCAA runner-up

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Coach: John Calipari (152-37 at Kentucky, 64-20 SEC)

SEC Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA champion

 


Frontcourt

 

It’s hardly hyperbole to say no one in college basketball can match the Cats’ combination of size and athleticism inside. With seven players 6-8 or taller, six of them former top-50 recruits, and all with skills that belie their size, Calipari’s frontcourt will overwhelm most.

 

Veteran forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee play as if on pogo sticks and have gotten in peak condition — Poythress improving his cardio endurance and Lee packing on several pounds of muscle — demonstrated by dominant and dunk-filled performances during the Cats’ summer exhibition trip to the Bahamas.

 

It was a pivotal trip for Poythress, once considered a one-and-done and now entering his third season at UK.

 

“He came back to school to prove to the world: ‘I’m one of the best forwards in the country,’” assistant coach Kenny Payne says. 

 

Then there’s the matter of three (almost) 7-footers in junior Willie Cauley-Stein, sophomore Dakari Johnson and freshman Karl-Anthony Towns. Johnson, already a rugged rebounder and inside scorer, has slimmed down and is running the floor — and springing up off it — better than ever. Towns opened a lot of eyes in the Bahamas with an unusually polished and multi-faceted game for a freshman. He swished hook shots, skied for dunks, crashed the glass and even delivered a few slick passes not typical of a 6-11 center.

 

There’s also 6-9 Derek Willis, another high riser who is a strong 3-point shooter. And both Cauley-Stein and 6-10 McDonald’s All-American Trey Lyles, who sat out the summer tour with leg injuries. Good luck to opponents trying to come up with a counter.

 

Related:

 

Backcourt

 

When twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison passed on the draft and returned to school, it solidified the Cats’ status as fully loaded across the board. They’re joined by two other former McDonald’s All-Americans: freshman point guard Tyler Ulis, an electric 5-9 water bug, and rookie sharpshooter Devin Booker.

 

Andrew Harrison looked far more comfortable and in control this summer, taking charge of the team and playing a more aggressive — but still pass-first — style. Aaron Harrison, hero of the Final Four run with three straight clinching 3-pointers, has a much more well-rounded game now. Both twins have lost weight, and it shows most in Aaron, who looks more explosive entering his sophomore season. He had multiple drives and dunks (over defenders) that drew gasps from the crowd in the Bahamas.

 

The twins will be catalysts for this team, but both Booker and Ulis will help significantly. Ulis handles the ball like it’s on a string, is a breathtaking passer and a surprisingly aggressive defender at his size.

 

“It’s like he’s a gnat,” Calipari says. “It changes the dynamic of our team right now, because we didn’t have that.”

 

Final Analysis

 

This team is really, really, really good. Each of Calipari’s teams at Kentucky have been loaded with talent. Some of his teams have had solid depth. This one, however, has talent, depth and experience.

 

Will this team be the one to run the table? It’s unlikely. But you’ll have trouble finding a game right now they’d be picked to lose. Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite to the win the national title.

 

Newcomers

 

Only four McDonald’s All-Americans in this class? John Calipari is slipping, clearly. But 5-9 point guard Tyler Ulis is electric with the ball and will quickly be a fan favorite. Devin Booker has a sweet outside stroke but can also get to the bucket. Trey Lyles, if his undisclosed leg injury is fully healed, will be a force, while 6-11 Karl-Anthony Towns can do a little bit of everything and looks like a future top-five NBA Draft pick.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-wisconsin-badgers-team-preview
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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 2 Wisconsin returns nearly every key player from a team that reached last year’s Final Four. That kind of stability has the Badgers thinking of other prizes, such as the school’s first Big Ten title since 2008 and, ultimately, its first national championship in program history.

 

The Wisconsin edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere now.

 

As a keepsake from their run to the 2014 national semifinals, Wisconsin players each received a padded folding chair that included the Final Four logo. Sam Dekker has decided to put his in a spot where he can see it every day before he hits the court for practice. 

 

“I feel like I have that reminder in front of my locker every day to think about the good things we did and things we can improve on,” Dekker says of the Badgers, whose 30-win season ended with a 74–73 loss to Kentucky. “A new chair could be waiting for us if we do the right things.”

 

It’s a long road to Indianapolis in April, but Wisconsin has the pieces to contend for another Final Four berth. Dekker is one of seven key players returning for Bo Ryan. More than 80 percent of the scoring and 80 percent of the rebounding is back from a team that could have played Connecticut for the title had Aaron Harrison not drained a 3-pointer from 25 feet with 5.7 seconds remaining. 

 


No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers Facts & Figures

Last season: 30-8, 12-6 Big Ten

Postseason: NCAA Final Four

Consecutive NCAAs: 16

Coach: Bo Ryan (321-121 at Wisconsin, 156-66 Big Ten)

Big Ten Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA runner-up

 


Frontcourt

 

Center Frank Kaminsky was a breakout star as a junior, leading the Badgers in scoring and rebounding. While his coming-out party was a school-record 43-point effort early in the season against North Dakota, Kaminsky’s best contributions came during the stretch run when he used a variety of post moves to become the Badgers’ No. 1 option on offense. 

 

Dekker wasn’t satisfied with his second season at Wisconsin, particularly his low shooting numbers from 3-point range (32.6 percent) and the free throw line (68.6). But he had a terrific summer that included standout performances at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and LeBron James Nike Skills Academy and is determined to reach his potential. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin’s top player off the bench as a freshman, could be ready for a starting role that would allow Dekker to move to small forward, his natural position. Before Kaminsky’s late-season run, it was Hayes who carried the offense by using a quick first step to get to the basket and draw fouls.

 

Forward Duje Dukan, coming off a medical redshirt year, proved to be a capable scorer off the bench in his first extended action. Wisconsin’s frontcourt depth will get a boost if forward Vitto Brown, who played only 44 minutes as a freshman, makes strides and shows Ryan he’s ready to join the rotation.

 

Related:

 

Backcourt

 

The Badgers’ only significant loss is shooting guard Ben Brust. Not only is Brust the program’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers — he was 15-of-30 during Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament run — but his defense and scrappy play also will be missed. But Wisconsin still has a load of experience at guard in seniors Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser. Jackson has started 67 consecutive games and has no fear when it comes to taking big shots in the closing seconds, while Gasser, a two-time member of the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team, is on pace to become the program’s all-time leader in minutes played. Gasser exceeded expectations last season in his return from major knee surgery and has vowed to be more of an offensive presence, which would help make up for Brust’s departure.

 

Bronson Koenig has a nice shooting touch and the ability to break down defenses with his dribbling and passing. He could move into a starting role if Ryan chooses to stick with a three-guard lineup. Zak Showalter, whose strength is defending, redshirted last season and will compete with Jordan Hill and Riley Dearring for the fourth guard spot.

 

Final Analysis

 

Ryan’s best offensive club helped him get over the hump and finally reach the Final Four. The Badgers could be even more lethal on that end in 2014-15 and should also be improved on the defensive end. They’ll be heavy favorites to win their first Big Ten title since 2007-08 and appear to have the tools to make another deep run in March, meaning that Ryan’s biggest challenge might be keeping his players from getting caught up in the hype. 

 

Gasser says that won’t be an issue. “We’ve always had expectations of winning a Big Ten title and making a deep run in the tournament,” he says. “Really, it’s nothing different for us.”

 

Newcomers

 

Riley Dearring took one look at a crowded backcourt last season and decided to use a redshirt season to get stronger. He arrived at Wisconsin with a reputation as a shooter and willing defender, but it won’t be easy to find much playing time in an experienced backcourt. Ethan Happ committed to Wisconsin after attending a camp in Madison following his sophomore season and the coaching staff is excited about his future, but it won’t be easy for him to find minutes right away.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Wisconsin Badgers Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-7
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Joe Flacco dominated last week, but Andrew Luck still reigns supreme atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 7. Flacco tossed four touchdowns in the first quarter alone on his way to a season-best 42.2 fantasy points against Tampa Bay. Luck meanwhile had another strong game (370-3-1) in the win over Houston and continues to pace everyone in fantasy scoring. And while he’s still outside of the overall top 10 at his position, Tom Brady has certainly played like the Tom Terrific of old with 653 yards, six touchdowns and no picks in his last two games for a combined total of 63.7 fantasy points (Athlon scoring). Luck leads the way in this week’s rankings but Brady at home against a depleted Jets secondary checks in as a top-10 option as well. Flacco also could be in for another big game, facing a porous Atlanta defense that gave up 381 yards passing to Jay Cutler last week.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

 

Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Andrew LuckINDvs. CIN
2Aaron RodgersGBvs. CAR
3Peyton ManningDENvs. SF
4Philip RiversSDvs. KC
5Jay CutlerCHIvs. MIA
6Russell WilsonSEAat STL
7Cam NewtonCARat GB
8Drew BreesNOat DET
9Tom BradyNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
10Colin KaepernickSFat DEN
11Matthew StaffordDETvs. NO
12Tony RomoDALvs. NYG
13Carson PalmerARIat OAK
14Joe FlaccoBALvs. ATL
15Matt RyanATLat BAL
16Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. HOU (Mon.)
17Kirk CousinsWASvs. TEN
18Eli ManningNYGat DAL
19Brian HoyerCLEat JAC
20Andy DaltonCINat IND
21Alex SmithKCat SD
22Ryan TannehillMIAat CHI
23Derek CarrOAKvs. ARI
24Kyle OrtonBUFvs. MIN
25Blake BortlesJACvs. CLE
26Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat PIT (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit .

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-7
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DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher by a wide margin, leads off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 7, but he’s not the only one getting the job done. Even though Matt Forté is just seventh in the league in rushing, he trails only Murray in fantasy points among RBs thanks to a position-high 46 receptions. Murray and Forté should both earn their keep yet again this week based on their respective matchups and the number of touches each has been getting. Another back that could see his workload increase is Lamar Miller, who is now the Dolphins’ clear-cut No. 1 option with Knowshon Moreno done for the season (torn ACL). Other injured ball carriers that could be fantasy relevant as early as this week if they are able to return from injury include Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram and Jonathan Stewart. 

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

 

Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1DeMarco MurrayDALvs. NYG
2Matt ForteCHIvs. MIA
3Arian FosterHOUat PIT (Mon.)
4Le'Veon BellPITvs. HOU (Mon.)
5Marshawn LynchSEAat STL
6Jamaal CharlesKCat SD
7Giovani BernardCINat IND
8Ben TateCLEat JAC
9Andre EllingtonARIat OAK
10Branden OliverSDvs. KC
11Eddie LacyGBvs. CAR
12Lamar MillerMIAat CHI
13Alfred MorrisWASvs. TEN
14Justin ForsettBALvs. ATL
15Fred JacksonBUFvs. MIN
16Andre WilliamsNYGat DAL
17Joique BellDETvs. NO
18Ahmad BradshawINDvs. CIN
19Frank GoreSFat DEN
20Ronnie HillmanDENvs. SF
21Shane VereenNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
22Chris IvoryNYJat NE (Thurs.)
23Reggie BushDETvs. NO
24C.J. SpillerBUFvs. MIN
25Trent RichardsonINDvs. CIN
26Pierre ThomasNOat DET
27Bishop SankeyTENat WAS
28Mark IngramNOat DET
29Steven JacksonATLat BAL
30Jerrick McKinnonMINat BUF
31Jonathan StewartCARat GB
32Brandon BoldenNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
33Isaiah CrowellCLEat JAC
34Zac StacySTLvs. SEA
35Darren McFaddenOAKvs. ARI
36Jeremy HillCINat IND
37Khiry RobinsonNOat DET
38Bernard PierceBALvs. ATL
39Matt AsiataMINat BUF
40James StarksGBvs. CAR
41Chris JohnsonNYJat NE (Thurs.)
42Knile DavisKCat SD
43Storm JohnsonJACvs. CLE
44Benny CunninghamSTLvs. SEA
45Antone SmithATLat BAL
46Carlos HydeSFat DEN
47Roy HeluWASvs. TEN
48Juwan ThompsonDENvs. SF

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

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Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-7
Body:

The NFL’s best tight end may be sidelined for a little longer, but there’s no slowing down the one who checks in at No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 7. Julius Thomas not only leads his position in fantasy scoring, he leads the entire league in touchdown catches with nine. This is something we are accustomed to seeing from Jimmy Graham, but unfortunately the Saints’ top target could be sidelined up to three weeks because of a sprained shoulder. There has been some good news on the tight end injury front, however, as Jordan Reed returned last week and made his presence immediately known with eight catches for 92 yards.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

 

Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Julius ThomasDENvs. SF
2Rob GronkowskiNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
3Greg OlsenCARat GB
4Martellus BennettCHIvs. MIA
5Antonio GatesSDvs. KC
6Delanie WalkerTENat WAS
7Jordan CameronCLEat JAC
8Jordan ReedWASvs. TEN
9Travis KelceKCat SD
10Jason WittenDALvs. NYG
11Larry DonnellNYGat DAL
12Vernon DavisSFat DEN
13Dwayne AllenINDvs. CIN
14Heath MillerPITvs. HOU (Mon.)
15Jared CookSTLvs. SEA
16Owen DanielsBALvs. ATL
17Clay HarborJACvs. CLE
18Jace AmaroNYJat NE (Thurs.)
19Coby FleenerINDvs. CIN
20Jermaine GreshamCINat IND
21Tim WrightNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
22Eric EbronDETvs. NO
23Charles ClayMIAat CHI
24Scott ChandlerBUFvs. MIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-7
Body:

Seattle’s DST hasn’t been all that productive from a fantasy standpoint, but it’s the Seahawks’ reputation and matchup that has the defending Super Bowl champions leading off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 7. Even though Seattle lost to Dallas at home last week, the Seahawks scored their first defensive or special teams touchdown of the season and now gets a Rams team that’s allowing the most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. Elsewhere, Detroit’s defense had its way with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last week (8 sacks, 3 INTs), tying Philadelphia for the most fantasy points (22, Athlon scoring). The Lions are shaping up to be another strong play this week, as they are at home facing a Jimmy Graham-less New Orleans offense.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

 

Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

 

RankPlayerOpp
1Seattle Seahawksat STL
2New England Patriotsvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
3Buffalo Billsvs. MIN
4Cleveland Brownsat JAC
5Arizona Cardinalsat OAK
6Detroit Lionsvs. NO
7Baltimore Ravensvs. ATL
8Houston Texansat PIT (Mon.)
9Denver Broncosvs. SF
10Dallas Cowboysvs. NYG
11Chicago Bearsvs. MIA
12San Diego Chargersvs. KC
13Green Bay Packersvs. CAR
14Cincinnati Bengalsat IND
15Tennessee Titansat WAS
16Pittsburgh Steelersvs. HOU (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

 

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Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-7
Body:

Order has seemingly been restored when it comes to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 7. Not only is Stephen Gostkowski No. 1 among kickers in fantasy scoring, he also led his position in points for Weeks 6 and 7. New England appears to have rediscovered its championship form, so there’s a good chance that Gostkowski will camp out atop our rankings for the rest of the season. Except when the Patriots are on bye in Week 10 of course.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

 

Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. NYJ (Thurs.)
2Dan BaileyDALvs. NYG
3Adam VinatieriINDvs. CIN
4Nick NovakSDvs. KC
5Justin TuckerBALvs. ATL
6Chandler CatanzaroARIat OAK
7Brandon McManusDENvs. SF
8Phil DawsonSFat DEN
9Steven HauschkaSEAat STL
10Dan CarpenterBUFvs. MIN
11Matt BryantATLat BAL
12Mason CrosbyGBvs. CAR
13Robbie GouldCHIvs. MIA
14Caleb SturgisMIAat CHI
15Shaun SuishamPITvs. HOU (Mon.)
16Randy BullockHOUat PIT (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, NBA
Path: /nba/nba-will-experiment-shorter-game-times
Body:

Earlier this month, we heard that in order shave time off games. Now, they’re taking a more direct route to brevity.

When the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics face off on Sunday, October 19 (a preseason game), the bout’s duration will be just 44 minutes, not 48. The league’s president of basketball operations, Rod Thorn, , per USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt: “We have looked at everything that we do and are taking a fresh look at all the different things we do. One of the things that keeps coming up is our schedule and the length of our games... Our coaches talked about it, and a lot of them seemed to be in favor of at least taking a look at it. We talked with our competition committee, and they were in favor of taking a look at it... Let's get some empirical evidence regarding this and take a fresh look at it.”

The biggest flaw in the NBA’s product has been, for some time, its volume. There’s too much of it. The 82-game season is a beleaguered yawn at times, and fans are often right to turn their attention elsewhere until the playoffs begin and teams are finally in the pressure cooker of do-or-die expectations. That’s when the real drama begins.

But the season probably won’t shorten anytime soon. There’s simply too much money in all that TV time. The next best thing the league can do to make their brand snappier, though, is to condense the game, and that seems to be a priority for progressive new commissioner Adam Silver. 

And 48 minutes is an aberration, anyway: Every other major basketball league across the globe plays the game for 40 minutes or less. It seems like only a matter of time before the NBA comes closer to that figure.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/injuries-have-and-will-impact-rest-nfl-season
Body:

The scene seems to be played out over and over every week, and there’s simply no way to avoid it. A player takes a wrong step, a big hit, or is simply running. Then he drops to the ground in pain.

 

Fans lose a star player to cheer for. Players lose a valuable teammate. Sometimes it’s just for a few weeks, and sometimes it’s much longer. But in this war of attrition that is the NFL season, many of these injuries have huge impacts on the standings. Teams can lose all hope in a single pop.

 

So far this season, more than a handful of big-name, big-play, high-impact players have been taken away from the teams that need them. Here’s a look at some of the walking – or not-walking – wounded whose absences could have the biggest impacts on their teams.

 

Giants WR Victor Cruz

The Giants’ offense was just beginning to roll when Cruz went down with a torn patellar tendon. And when he did, it exposed the Giants’ incredibly thin receiving corps. Rookie Odell Beckham, who has been in two NFL games and hardly any full practices, now steps into a starting role and vet Preston Parker becomes the slot man. They also signed the well-travelled Kevin Ogletree, but there’s not a lot behind the starters, Beckham and Rueben Randle, with Cruz gone.

 

Patriots LB Jerod Mayo

The Patriots don’t look much like the Patriots anymore, and losing their leading tackler (with a knee injury) from an already weak linebacking corps won’t help. Now his job will likely fall to an undrafted rookie (Deontae Skinner) and that’s big, since Mayo was the leader of the group and the one who made the play calls. In years past, we’d all just assume Bill Belichick would just find someone else to fill in and move on. But Belichick doesn’t look much like Belichick these days either.

 

Patriots RB Steven Ridley

The effect of Ridley’s knee injury (out for the season) depends on your perspective on Ridley, which is always hard to figure when deciphering Belichick’s revolving backfield. He seemed to be their best running back, if the focus is on the running. But they do have Shane Vereen — who has been used more as a third-down-type back — and Brandon Bolden. Ridley seemed to have the most upside, though, if you could only look past his penchant for fumbling.

 

Lions WR Calvin Johnson

His high ankle sprain has had him in and out of the lineup, but it’s also made him a shell of his former self on game day. And while the Lions still have other weapons, and a pretty good receiver in Golden Tate, they have the potential to be one of the top offenses in the NFL when Johnson is on the field. They probably have enough to reach the playoffs without him, but they could be actual contenders with him. There’s no way to take one of the best players in the game off the field and not have it hurt.

 

Bengals WR A.J. Green

At this point, the on-again, off-again toe injury to Green is more annoying than devastating, but he likely will be out for a couple of weeks and who knows how much he’ll be hampered the rest of the way. The Eagles have other weapons, but Green is what makes them a Top 10 (or higher) passing offense. He is a consistent big-game player, a small notch below Calvin Johnson, and opens up the field for everyone else. Without him, the Bengals go from possible championship contender to a very ordinary-looking team.

 

Saints TE Jimmy Graham

There simply is no replacing the best tight end in the NFL, who will likely be out this week and possibly more with a shoulder injury. Obviously Drew Brees has plenty of weapons at his disposal, but Graham is their leading receiver and his size/speed forces defenses into difficult decisions on who to double and which positions to commit to covering Graham. Without him creating mismatches and opening up space for others, there’ll be a lot less room for Brees’ other targets to run.

 

Browns C Alex Mack

The Browns have surprised everyone with their 3-2 start and a lot of that has to do with their rushing attack, which ranks third in the NFL. When your rushing attack is that good, it has a lot to do with the offensive line. So losing Mack to a broken leg upsets everything. Coach Mike Pettine will have to juggle his line, probably by moving guard John Greco to center. Maybe it’ll still work, but Mack has been a solid force even through the bad times in Cleveland. And the center is usually the leader of the line.

 

Eagles RB Darren Sproles

He has been such a valuable, versatile weapon for Chip Kelly, both as an occasional runner and receiver and as a return man. There are few running backs in the NFL with his kind of explosion. Now he has a sprained MCL and while optimistic reports say he could be back in a few weeks, the real question will be if the sprain lingers. He’s 31 and small (5-6, 190) so even a loss of a half step of his speed could greatly diminish his importance.

 

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III

At first, when RGIII dislocated his ankle, it looked like a blessing in disguise for Washington because Kirk Cousins looked terrific. Then the bubble burst and in recent weeks it became clear to everyone why Griffin was such a high draft pick. He’s good. He’s dangerous. He has uncommon talent. At some point he’ll be back, but by then the Redskins likely won’t have a season to save.

 

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno

Injuries have hampered the former Bronco all season, even before an ACL tear sidelined him for the season. With a still-growing quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins need to rely on their rushing attack. They had hoped Moreno would get healthy enough to help at some point.  Now Lamar Miller is stuck carrying a very heavy load.

 

Cowboys G Doug Free

Things had been going so well for the Cowboys and most of it had to do with their offensive line. So the last thing they wanted to do was lose one of the pieces. Sure enough, Free is out 3-4 weeks with a fractured foot. If that’s all it is, it’s not a killer blow since Dallas is 5-1. But without him, there is some question about what will happen to Demarco Murray and the NFL’s best rushing attack, and whether there’ll be a lot more pressure on Tony Romo from now on.

 

—By Ralph Vacchiano

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 14:25
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-ink-ogletree-victor-cruz-goes-ir
Body:

East Rutherford, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Giants officially placed Victor Cruz on injured reserve after the star wide receiver underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.

 

In a related move, the Giants announced the signing of veteran wideout Kevin Ogletree on Tuesday. Additionally, the team put nickel back Trumaine McBride on IR after he fractured his thumb in Sunday's 27-0 loss at Philadelphia.

 

Cruz suffered his injury while attempting to catch a fourth-down pass from Eli Manning in the end zone during the third quarter of Sunday's game. The 2012 Pro Bowl selection immediately clutched his knee after dropping the pass and needed to be carted off the field.

 

The 27-year-old spent Sunday night at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and was transferred to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, where team physician Dr. Russell Warren performed the procedure.

 

Cruz caught 23 passes for 337 yards and one touchdown in six games this season. In 14 games last year, he hauled in 73 passes for 998 yards and four scores.

 

Ogletree began the season with the Detroit Lions but was released in Week 3 after being inactive for the club's first two contests. He caught 13 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown in 12 games for Detroit last season.

 

The 27-year-old Queens native's best season came with Dallas in 2012, when Ogletree compiled 32 receptions totaling 436 yards and four touchdowns.

 

McBride had been serving as New York's slot cornerback after Walter Thurmond sustained a season-ending torn pectoral muscle against Arizona in Week 2. The journeyman corner was a 10-game starter for the Giants in 2013, recording two interceptions and 15 passes defensed.

 

Through New York's first six games of this season, McBride had notched 21 tackles, one interception, one sack and two forced fumbles.

 

Cornerback Chandler Fenner was signed off the practice squad to replace McBride on the active roster.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 13:41
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/dolphins-place-rb-knowshon-moreno-ir-acl-injury
Body:

Davie, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of an ACL injury.

 

The free agent acquisition from Denver played just three games in his first season with the Dolphins and totaled 148 yards with a touchdown on 31 carries.

 

Moreno had an impressive debut with his new team in the season opener against New England, running for 134 yards and a score in Miami's 33-20 victory. He then suffered an elbow injury on his only carry the following week against Buffalo and missed the next two games.

 

The 26-year-old Georgia product returned for this past Sunday's game against Green Bay, but had just 10 yards on six rushes and had just one carry after halftime in the 27-24 loss.

 

Moreno had signed a one-year contract with the Dolphins in March after playing his first five seasons with Denver. He was coming off his best year in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,038 yards with 10 touchdowns while adding 60 receptions for 548 yards with three scores.

 

The Dolphins also reinstated the suspended Derrick Shelby after the defensive lineman sat out Sunday's game following an arrest during Miami's bye week.

 

"We have completed our process and have made the determination to reinstate Derrick," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin in a statement Tuesday. "Derrick understood that he would be held accountable for his actions as they did not represent our organizational standards."

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 13:38
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo, NFL
Path: /nfl/dallas-sitting-pretty-5-1-following-upset-seattle
Body:

Jerry Jones’ birthday party came a few hours early this season. The Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager turned 72 on Monday, Oct. 13, but the festivities got cranked up Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, 30–23, at CenturyLink Field — where the neon-clad world champs had a 19–1 record (including playoffs) with Russell Wilson at quarterback prior to the Boys shocking the Hawks.


The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 5–1 for the first time since 2007 and gave Jones an early birthday present that has to rank among the sweetest — and most surprising — of his career in Dallas.

 

“Almost as good as the Herschel Walker trade,” joked Jones, referring to the blockbuster deal that, coincidentally, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Sunday and is credited with establishing the foundation of the 1990s dynasty that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.


“When I see us come up here against the Super Bowl champions and play in these adverse conditions. When I see us play like that, then I’d say we’ve got a chance to line up against anybody and win the game.”


Much like the ’90s Super Bowl teams with Emmitt Smith, these Cowboys are riding their star running back to victory week in, week out. DeMarco Murray joined Jim Brown as just the second player in NFL history to open a season with six consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Prior to Murray’s 29-carry, 115-yard, one-TD effort on the ground, Seattle’s No. 1-ranked rush defense was allowing 62.3 yards per game on just 2.6 yards per carry. The Seahawks had not allowed any runner to gain more than 38 yards this season and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Nov. 3, 2013. In fact, Murray is only the seventh 100-yard rusher since Pete Carroll took over as Seattle’s coach in 2010.


“He’s a powerful back,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who is known more for his trash talk than his praise of opposing players.
“He runs strong. You’ve got to tackle him with multiple people and when you have your opportunity to tackle him one-on-one, you’ve got to find a way to bring him down.”


Murray was the main reason Dallas had a nearly two-to-one time-of-possession edge over Seattle, at 37:39-to-22:21.


But the Cowboys are certainly more than just a one-man team. The highlight of the game at Seattle was clearly the 3rd-and-20 conversion from Tony Romo to Terrence Williams, who tip-toed the sideline on a diving fourth-quarter catch that kept a 75-yard go-ahead touchdown drive alive.
Most surprising has been Dallas’ defense, which allowed just nine first downs and 206 total yards against a powerful Seattle offense that includes Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.


“Nothing surprises me in the NFL. They pay their players, too — the other side of the ball,” said Jones. “Those guys weren’t All-Pro players, in the ’90s, and they’re great players, great players. But before they were winning like that, they weren’t thought to be great players. The winning helped them become better players.”


This version of the Cowboys has a long way to go before being compared to the Super Bowl champions of two decades ago. But the sky appears to be the limit this year with offensive studs like Murray, Romo, wideout Dez Bryant,  tackle Tyron Smith and tight end Jason Witten, along with a defense that has shown far more ability than anticipated.


“Guys aren’t going to back down,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “We have the right kind of guys on this team.”


In other words, how ’bout them Cowboys?

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 12:38
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-15-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 15:

 

.

 

.

 

 

.

 

• Have a hankie ready: .

 

.

 

(strong language warning).

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

• In 2003, the Year of Bartman, .

 

• Mike Moustakas' amazing over-the-railing catch is emblematic of the Royals' crazy run.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 10:38
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-austin-dillon-upset-talladega-not-implausible
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

 

Today, David gives special attention to a rookie primed for an “upset win” this weekend at Talladega.

 

 

The racing at Talladega Superspeedway is a polarizing topic among race fans and competitors. And that’s really based on how it’s perceived. If you’re living in the moment, ‘Dega is an absolute crapshoot, and to be fair, there will be approximately eleventy billion lead changes this Sunday, all of which will undoubtedly be touted in ticket sales promotions for next spring’s race. Plus, where else can Front Row Motorsports win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race? This is the only track on the circuit in which David Ragan and David Gilliland matter.

 

If you aren’t living in the moment, and look at Talladega races as a whole, it’s only a crapshoot in the relative sense. In the last nine races in Alabama which encompass all Cup events dating back to 2010, usual front-running teams — Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing — scored victories in seven events. Ragan’s win in 2013, while believed to be the norm, was actually an outlier. Jamie McMurray’s win last year was his second career score at Talladega, but a rare victory for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Stock Car wing. Three of those wins belong to the usual suspects emanated from RCR drivers Clint Bowyer (who won in 2010 and 2011) and Kevin Harvick (2010).

 

Though RCR winning a third of the races during that span is impressive, it was its drivers that took the majority of the credit as “restrictor plate aces.” Bowyer and Harvick are gone, but RCR will still trot out three entries this weekend, all of which will be capable of winning — they were the only multi-car organization to place three entries in the top 20 of NASCAR’s average green-flag speed ranking there in May — but one sticks out more than the others.

 

Paul Menard will experience his first race with new crew chief Justin Alexander on Sunday, beginning a five-race de-facto preseason jaunt for 2015. RCR’s lone Chase contender, Ryan Newman, is on the record as vehemently hating Talladega (easily understood since he’s flipped violently at the track on three separate occasions). Based more on situation than statistics, those two probably aren’t clear favorites to emerge with the trophy.

 

If a strong organization winning at Talladega is the norm, and RCR comprises the highest win total in recent races, then rookie Austin Dillon should be considered a more serious candidate for the win than usual. He almost corralled a victory in this race last year while substituting for the injured Tony Stewart — before . His No. 3 Chevrolet SS claimed the pole for this year’s Daytona 500 and his finishes of ninth, 15th and fifth in the three restrictor plate races this year are all better than his 16.8-place season-long average result.

 

Dillon being a rookie on the hunt for his first career Cup Series conquest shouldn’t deter anyone from thinking he’s a threat for the win. Out of 90 races at the 2.66-mile facility, 10 were won by first-time winners, including Davey Allison and Brad Keselowski, who scored their victories during their first seasons in the Cup Series. For six of those 10, it served as their only win in Cup Series competition. As much as it would help add to the crapshoot lore, Dillon winning in a RCR car wouldn’t be much of a fluke considering how well the organization has game-planned in these events.  Austin Dillon

 

A big part of Dillon’s elevated performance on the plate tracks is crew chief Gil Martin. One of RCR’s secrets to success on the plate tracks is its ability to scoop up positions offered during green-flag pit cycles. This season alone, Martin earned Dillon 20 extra spots through short-pitting during these pit cycles. That’s not nearly the 40 that Luke Lambert earned Newman through three outings this season, but it’s good enough to rank as the eighth-largest amount of positions gained in the entire series. Between Martin, Lambert and Nick Harrison (on behalf of part-timer Brian Scott), RCR teams gained 81 positions on green-flag pit cycles at Daytona and Talladega. It’s a ton of track position, rivaled only by Roush Fenway Racing’s triumvirate (its three teams combined for 76 positions earned).

 

During the ESPN telecast of qualifying last week at Charlotte, Andy Petree noted that Dillon has “found speed” of late, which in the general sense is a true statement. Following Charlotte, Dillon and team rank 23rd in average green-flag speed for the season and 20th in average running position (18.9). This represents a decent leap from where they were after the Bristol race in late August, ranking 24th in average green-flag speed and 21st in average running position (19.4). To the layperson, a half-position increase doesn’t seem like much, but to a NASCAR team, it’s quite a feat. 

 

Dillon himself took a turn for the better in the passing game, which is . Following an eight-race stretch in which he accumulated negative adjusted pass differentials in every single contest, Dillon has scored two positive-differential performances in a row at Kansas (53.72 percent adjusted efficiency) and Charlotte (51.23). Position jockeying will see numbers too inflated to trust this weekend, but the point is that Dillon and this team have never shown better form than what they’ve displayed in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s 500-mile tilt.

 

That makes the idea of a Dillon “upset” at Talladega that much more believable.

 

 

David Smith is the founder of and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at

 

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Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 10:21
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The first half of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and it’s time to revisit the preseason predictions and make a few changes for the next eight weeks.

No conference, team or player performs exactly how most expect from the preseason, so it’s only natural to have changes of opinion in several different areas by the midpoint of the season.

That’s the case in 2014, as it’s been an unpredictable season, and more chaos should be anticipated over the next two months.

Before Week 8 officially starts the second half of the season, let’s take a look at 20 predictions that are sure to be right by December.

First-Half Awards and Second-Half Predictions
|  |  |  |  | 

 

20 Predictions for the Second Half of the 2014 Season

 

1. Florida State Finishes the Regular Season Unbeaten
See a loss on Florida State’s schedule? We don’t either. The Seminoles will head into college football’s playoff with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a 29-game winning streak. Games against Louisville, Florida and Notre Dame are tough, but the Seminoles will be unbeaten going into the first playoff matchup.

2. Every Pac-12 Team Has At Least Two Losses
On paper, that seems like a far-fetched idea. But take a look at the standings after Week 7: Every team already has at least one loss in conference play. Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona are the frontrunners for the Pac-12 title, but there’s no dominant team in the league this year. The Ducks were the favorite by Athlon’s editors to win the Pac-12 title in midseason predictions. However, will Oregon navigate its remaining schedule – Washington, California, Stanford at Utah, Colorado and at Oregon State – unbeaten? The guess here is no. A two-loss team wins the Pac-12 title in early December.

3. Oklahoma Rebounds to Win the Big 12
Oklahoma needs a little help to win the outright conference title, as TCU holds the tiebreaker over the Sooners. But Bob Stoops' team will have an opportunity to work their way back to the top of the Big 12 over the next few weeks, starting with Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State. After playing the Wildcats in Week 8, Oklahoma hits the road to take on Iowa State before Baylor – which has never won in Norman – visits on Nov. 8. With the Bears coming to Norman, Oklahoma wins that game and finishes 11-1. That’s enough to win the Big 12 title.

4. Florida Barely Makes a Bowl
With the opener against Idaho canceled due to weather, Florida doesn’t have much margin for error to make a bowl game. At 3-2, the Gators need three wins to play in a bowl after missing out on the postseason last year. Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky should be wins, which leaves Florida with matchups against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State to get win No. 6. It won’t be easy, but the Gators win one of those games and finish with a 6-5 regular season mark.

5. Justin Fuente is a Hot Commodity for Open Coaching Jobs
Memphis has made significant progress under Justin Fuente over the last three years. The Tigers went 3-21 under Larry Porter, but Fuente has guided the program to 10 wins since 2012 and is on track to make a bowl this season. Memphis is 3-3 after six contests this year and has a good opportunity to finish in the top four of the final American Athletic Conference standings. Fuente is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks, and his rebuilding efforts should draw the attention of open jobs (Kansas) in the Power 5 conferences this offseason.

6. Arkansas Wins a Game in SEC Play This Year
That prediction may seem like no big deal, but Arkansas has a 15-game losing streak in SEC play. The Razorbacks have been close to breaking through in 2014, losing by seven to Texas A&M and by one to Alabama. A tough schedule may prevent a bowl appearance, but coach Bret Bielema gets a win in SEC play this year, setting up Arkansas to take another step forward in 2015.

7. Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris is Hired as a Head Coach
Morris is one of the nation’s top assistant coaches, and he’s ready for his chance to run a program. The Texas native has worked as an assistant on the FBS level since 2010, with the last four years coming at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. Considering his ties in the state of Texas, SMU or Tulsa (if Bill Blankenship doesn’t return) would be a good landing spot for Morris.

 

8. East Carolina Represents the Group of 5 in New Year’s Bowls
With wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech, East Carolina has the best resume from a Group of 5 school for a spot in college football’s top bowl games. The bigger question: Could East Carolina lose a game in conference play and still get the bid? An undefeated Marshall is in the mix, but strength of schedule is not on the Thundering Herd’s side.

9. One SEC Job Will Open This Offseason
Florida is the job most likely vacancy, but would Dan Mullen leave Mississippi State for Michigan or to replace Will Muschamp in Gainesville? How about Les Miles if Michigan is open? The guess here is the SEC will have at least one new coach in 2014.

 

10. SMU Finishes 0-12
The Mustangs are 0-5 entering Week 8 and still have to play Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF and Houston. Games against UConn, Tulsa and USF are more manageable, but SMU has just four offensive touchdowns all year and has been outscored 247-36 this year. Interim coach Tom Mason has a tough assignment to guide this team to a win in the second half of 2014.

 

11. Three Big Ten Running Backs Earn All-America Honors
Three of the nation’s top four leading rushers (yards per game) hail from the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon has 1,046 yards and 13 scores through six games, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah has 878 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. But the player no one is talking about – Indiana’s Tevin Coleman – leads the nation by averaging 176.7 yards per game. All three running backs will earn All-America honors in December.

12. Georgia Wins the SEC East…With or Without Todd Gurley
Georgia took a step forward in the SEC East title race with a 34-0 win over Missouri last Saturday. The convincing win over the Tigers came without running back Todd Gurley, and the junior’s status for the rest of the year is uncertain due to an investigation into violation of NCAA rules. Regardless of whether or not Gurley returns won’t matter: Georgia will win the East Division. The Bulldogs still have to play Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas, but Georgia is the best team in the division and will find a way to get to Atlanta.

13. Miami Finishes 7-5
Miami is still looking for its first appearance in the ACC Championship game. And barring a sweep of the remaining schedule, the Hurricanes will have to wait another year to play in the conference title game. Miami is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play after Week 7, and Al Golden’s team still has to play Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia. Road trips to Tallahassee and Blacksburg result in losses, leaving Miami a disappointing 7-5 before the bowl season.

14. The SEC West Champ Has One Loss
The SEC’s West Division is the best in college football. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Alabama all rank as top 10 teams following Week 7, and the depth extends to talented teams like Texas A&M and LSU, along with an improving Arkansas’ squad in Bret Bielema’s second year. Even though Mississippi State and Ole Miss are unbeaten in conference play after three games, it’s tough to envision both making it through the regular season without a loss. The West Division is simply too tough for the champion of the division to make it through without a loss.

15. Virginia Tech Emerges to Win Coastal Division
Good luck sorting out the Coastal Division at the midpoint of the 2014 season. Virginia and Georgia Tech – two teams picked near the bottom of the Coastal – are at the top, and North Carolina and Miami are a combined 1-4 in conference play. No team is going to go through the Coastal with an unbeaten record, and it’s unlikely one loss wins the division. But after sorting out the schedules for the rest of the way, it’s apparent Virginia Tech has a good shot to rebound and win the division. The Hokies play two of their toughest games – Miami and Virginia – at home and catch Wake Forest (the ACC’s worst team) in crossover play.

16. Washington State QB Connor Halliday Falls Short of Single-Season Yardage Record
After seven games, Halliday has 3,344 passing yards. To break the NCAA single-season record held by Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons (5,833 yards), Halliday needs to average at 498 yards per game over his final five contests. With Washington State at 2-5, it’s unlikely Halliday will get an opportunity to play in a bowl this year. Averaging 498 yards per game isn’t out of the question, especially since Halliday has three 500-yard games in 2014. The guess here is Halliday surpasses 5,000 yards but falls short of Symons’ record.

17. Michigan Finishes With a Losing Record
At 3-4 through seven weeks, Michigan needs three wins over its final five games to make a bowl. With trips (and likely losses) to Ohio State and Michigan State ahead, that leaves the Wolverines with no margin for error in their other three games. Assuming Michigan loses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes, it has to sweep these matchups: Indiana, at Northwestern and Maryland. It’s not out of the question, but Michigan needs major improvement from its offense to sweep that stretch.

18. One Mississippi School Makes the Playoff
Take your pick: Mississippi State or Ole Miss will make the college football playoff. Expect Alabama to improve over the second half of the season, and if that happens, the Crimson Tide will be the biggest obstacle to the Rebels and Bulldogs in the division. And of course, it’s also too early to discount Auburn and its explosive offense from making a run at a playoff spot. But the guess here is at least one team from the SEC makes the playoff – with one coming from the Magnolia State. 

19. Marshall Doesn’t Lose a Game in 2014
Unless Marshall gets the spot from the Group of 5 in one of the New Year’s Day bowls, the Thundering Herd should go 14-0. Check out the remaining schedule for Doc Holliday’s team: at FIU, FAU, at Southern Miss, Rice, at UAB and Western Kentucky. Assuming Marshall wins the East Division, it will play in the C-USA Championship and should be a heavy favorite over the West Division champ. Unless there’s a switch in bowl tie-ins to get Marshall in a higher-profile spot, the Thundering Herd won’t have a major obstacle in C-USA’s designated bowls to an unbeaten record.

20. The Heisman Winner is…
Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. But Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a close second. This year’s race is close, and with both teams likely to lose a game before the year ends, this battle will go down to the final week. Oregon still has to play Stanford’s rugged defense, while Mississippi State has a favorable stretch of games before playing Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. The late-November matchups against the Crimson Tide and Rebels are a good opportunity for Prescott to build his Heisman resume. If Mariota or Prescott doesn't win the award, keep an eye on Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

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20 Predictions for the Second Half of College Football's 2014 Season
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, NBA
Path: /nba/phil-jackson-dissing-lakers%E2%80%99-jim-buss
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It’s salt in Lakers fans’ wounds every time they see Phil Jackson’s face next to the New York Knicks logo, not theirs. (Now they know how Chicago Bulls fans felt for the better part of a decade). It’s even worse when Jackson, the Knicks’ new president of basketball operations, rubs the salt around.

Jackson’s latest words are a reminder that Jim Buss — a Lakers decision-maker since his deceased father, Jerry Buss, became too sick for the job — bungled the franchise’s relationship with the famously accomplished zen master, who could’ve coached their team for a third time if not for Buss. “Jimmy Buss is a person that's vaulted into position through his inheritance, his father's position,” . “I think he's coming to terms with one of the realities of this job. That's all I can offer.”

Nothing Jackson says is untrue. Buss is an heir, not an expert. It’s only slightly alarming that Jackson would publically rag on someone who’s practially his brother-in-law (Jackson has been in a relationship with Jeanie Buss, Jim’s brother, for about 15 years), but Jackson’s never gotten along with authority. His distinct, singular approach demands that he be given total leeway. And Jackson not only usually wins his battles for control, but he also gets paid big-time in the process. His new contract with New York is worth a reported $60 million over five years.

Now Jackson’s bringing his eccentric vision to the Knicks. He’s started by bringing in someone to conduct “mindfulness training.”

“There's a mindfulness training program that's very logical and very calm, quiet, and we've started the process with this team, and (first-year head coach) Derek (Fisher is) all for it. He's a proponent of it," . "And yet I think that it's kind of what I am inserting in here as part of what I think has to happen because I know what effect it [has]. I think it's very difficult sometimes for a coach to do this because it's so anti what we are as athletes.”

Stay tuned for more results of Jackson’s ongoing experiments.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

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Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-7-heisman-trophy-voting
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Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

 

Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.

 

The Panel:

 

, FOX Sports

, Big Ten Network 

, CBS Sports

, SBNation

, Sports Illustrated

, NFL.com

, Big Ten Network

, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

, MrSEC.com

, Athlon Sports

Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

 PlayerTeamPts1st2nd3rd4th5th
1.Dak Prescott62103---
2.Marcus Mariota523811-
3.Melvin Gordon29-1712
4.Bryce Petty18-1232
5.Everett Golson12--222
6.Shaq Thompson7---23
7.Tevin Coleman6---3-
8.Ameer Abdullah5--11-
9t.Todd Gurley1----1
9t.Bo Wallace1----1
9t.Jameis Winston1----1
9t.Amari Cooper1----1

Dropped out: Nick Marshall, Shane Carden, Jared Goff

 

Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:



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The Top 3:

 
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi St

Prescott takes over the top slot after his third consecutive win over a top 10 team. Against Auburn, Prescott sparked an early 21-0 lead and never looked back. He completed 18-of-34 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while carrying 21 times for 121 yards and two scores on the ground.

 

Season Stats: 1,478 yards, 61.5%, 14 TDs, 4 INTs, 576 rush yards, 8 TDs

 

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota has been brilliant despite a bad offensive line. In a blowout win on the road over UCLA, the Ducks quarterback completed 17-of-27 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns to go with 75 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground. He now has wins over Michigan State and UCLA and has yet to throw an interception.

 

Season Stats: 1,621 yards, 69.7%, 17 TDs, 0 INTs, 290 rush yards, 5 TDs

 

3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in the blowout win over Illinois last weekend. It’s his fourth consecutive game rushing for at least 175 yards and he has scored 12 times over that span. He’s second in the nation in rushing behind only Tevin Coleman.

 

Season Stats: 132 att., 1,046 yards, 7.9 ypc, 13 TDs, 6 rec., 27 yards, TD 

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Expert Poll: Week 7 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-8
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The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.

 

The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 7.

 

Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.

 
Washington will lose by less than one score

 

Wait, why is it outrageous that a really good Huskies team will play well against Oregon’s depleted offensive line? Because Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2003 (10 straight) and hasn’t lost by fewer than 17 points. The average score of the this important Pac-12 North Division rivalry over the last 10 years is 43.6 to 18.2. Only once (2011) has this game been within 20 points.

 

Everett Golson or Jameis Winston will lose a start

 

Everett Golson and Jameis Winston have had off-the-field issues, to say the least. One has missed an entire season and the other has been buried under salacious headlines ever since winning the Heisman Trophy. However, it’s worth noting that Golson and Winston are a combined 35-1 as starters with the only loss coming against Alabama in the 2012 BCS title game for Golson. Someone WILL, in fact, lose a game as a starter this weekend.

 

Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:



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Oklahoma State will be in first place next week

 

Should Oklahoma State top TCU on the road, the Pokes would move to 4-0 in the Big 12. If Kansas State can beat Oklahoma in Norman, it would move to 3-0 in the Big 12. And if West Virginia can topple Baylor at home, the Cowboys would be alone atop the Big 12 standings. With five ranked teams in the top 15 of the AP Poll and four of them playing each other, Mike Gundy could be alone in first place after Week 8.

 

Kevin Hogan will throw for 300 yards

 

The Stanford Cardinal offense has been atrocious this fall. At least, until they played Washington State last weekend where Hogan threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Hogan has one career 300-yard game (Cal, 2013) in 30 career games but will post his second this weekend. Arizona State has allowed 313.7 yards passing per game and seven touchdowns in three Pac-12 games thus far. Stanford has won four straight in the series and should make it five behind what could be a career game from its QB.

 

A coordinator won’t survive the Alabama-Texas A&M game

 

I’m not sure which one it will be but Nick Saban could attack and destroy one of his coordinators against Texas A&M this weekend. The Tide and Aggies have played very close and entertaining games since becoming conference foes two years ago and this year figures to be the same. Lane Kiffin’s offense has gotten plenty of heat after poor showings against Ole Miss and Arkansas while Kirby Smart’s defense was attacked by Bo Wallace in the loss to the Rebels. Smart’s unit could face serious heat from Kenny Hill and the Aggies passing attack.

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Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 8
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/shaq-thompson-vs-marcus-mariota-matchup-has-heisman-potential
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The two most impossible jobs in college football this week will belong to two anonymous players in Eugene and Seattle.

 

One of their tasks this week will be to imitate a linebacker who can play running back and has more touchdowns than one entire FBCS team. The other will be to play the role of a dual threat quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pick since last season.

 

These are players stepping in to help Oregon and Washington prepare for two of the biggest game-changers in the country in linebacker Shaq Thompson and quarterback Marcus Mariota.

 

“In terms of preparation, you don’t have many Shaq Thompsons running around on your scout team,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.

 

Or Mariotas, for that matter. When Oregon and Washington meet at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, the subplot of Mariota vs. Thompson may be the most compelling individual offense vs. defense matchup this season.

 

True, this may not be a true one-on-one matchup on every down, but rest assured, one will always be wary of the other.

 

Moreover, this could be the rare time two Heisman contenders face each other when they’re on the field at the same time.

 

Though Mariota never slumped when his offensive line was down to backups, the return of left tackle Jake Fisher re-established Mariota as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

 

The senior is completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards with 17 touchdowns while rushing for 290 yards and five scores.

 

“He’s an accurate thrower and understands their systems inside and out and that makes him a great player,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.

 

Petersen, though, has a player who is just as much a difference-maker on his defense.

 

Thompson was a highly coveted recruit in 2012 and finished his first two seasons as an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. The next step for Thompson has been astronomical.

 

Washington experimented with Thompson on offense, where he’s rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He hasn’t needed to play running back, though, to reach the end zone.

 

Thompson has recovered four turnovers this season (three fumbles, one interception) and returned them all for touchdowns.

 

The junior will be in a matchup whose only turnovers this season were two fumbles in a game two weeks ago against Arizona.

 

“(Thompson)'s been phenomenal,” Helfrich said. “It’s not usual that you need to worry about a defensive player in the end zone so much. That’s something we need to eliminate. It’s been incredible how many plays he’s made and also guys around him that have created a tipped ball or a ball knocked out that went the other way. That’s not by accident.”

 

Heisman contenders face off all the time, but usually this is a quarterback paired with another quarterback or running back. Even as defensive players are becoming more and more realistic contenders for the award, they’ve rarely been able to impact another Heisman contender directly.

 

In 2011, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Alabama running back Trent Richardson were on the field at the same time for a 9-6 LSU win. Both finished in the top five of the Heisman voting.

 

The most impactful recent offense vs. defense matchup was 2009. Nebraska lost the Big 12 championship game to Texas that year, but defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh turned himself into a Heisman finalist with a dominant performance (4.5 sacks, 12 tackles) against Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy.

 

The Texas signal caller finished third that year, but only 159 points behind winner Mark Ingram of Alabama in a close race. Suh finished fourth.

 

This game may be too early in the season to declare one as the clear winner over the other, at least as far as postseason awards are concerned, but the possibilities in this matchup are too good to miss.

 

“I just know (Mariota)’s one of the elite players in the country,” Petersen said. “I talked to the Oregon guys more then than I would now because we compete against each other. I know how strongly they felt about him. They were always jumping up and down about him. I knew he was the real deal for a long, long time.”

 

On Saturday, Petersen will learn if he has a talent to match.

Teaser:
Shaq Thompson vs Marcus Mariota Matchup has Heisman Potential
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-arizona-wildcats-team-preview
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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 3 Arizona enters the 2014-15 season as the established power in the Pac-12. It’s been a long road back, but Sean Miller has restored the Wildcats to prominence in the West for years to come. After reaching the Elite Eight twice in the last four seasons, Arizona is seeking to take the next step by reaching its first Final Four since 2001.

 

The Arizona edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere now. 

 

No league team has gone undefeated since the Pac-10 was created 36 years ago, and Arizona coach Sean Miller won’t touch the subject. 

 

“There’s a reason for that,” he says. “You’ve got to go 9-0 on the road. You can’t have an off night at home. I’ll leave that to (former UCLA) Coach (John) Wooden.”

 

Miller’s sixth Arizona team projects to be his most talented in Tucson and could perhaps challenge the five Lute Olson-coached teams that went 17–1 in the conference. Coming off a 33–5 season, in which the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 for eight weeks, Arizona appears deeper, a better shooting team with fewer weaknesses. In addition, it will approach the season with a chip on its shoulder.

 

“We left some money on the table last year,” says sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is likely to be an all-conference player. “We didn’t finish the job."

 

Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Aaron Gordon combined to play 64 minutes per game before leaving early for the NBA Draft. Competition for those minutes will be brutal.

 

Junior forward Brandon Ashley, who broke his foot after starting the year’s first 21 games — in which Arizona went 21–0 — will take Gordon’s spot. Johnson’s shooting guard role will be contested by, among others, National Junior College Player of the Year Kadeem Allen.

 

Allen is part of a five-man recruiting class that some ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. It includes 6-6 Stanley Johnson, who, like Gordon a year earlier, was California’s prep Player of the Year. The newcomers have a high defensive standard to live up to.

 

“We were successful last year because our defense held up,” says Miller. Held up? The Wildcats limited opponents to 58.6 points per game, lowest at Arizona in the Pac-10/Pac-12 era. 

 

“Nick and Aaron led our defense, and those are the two guys we lost,” says Miller. “So our challenge will be to identity two guys who can play effectively on defense. We’ll take it from there.”

 

Miller has created an identity as an elite recruiter who plays a deliberate style, overpowering opponents with defense and rebounding. This year he has the pieces to take Arizona to its first Final Four since 2001.

 


No. 3 Arizona Wildcats Facts & Figures

Last season: 33-5, 15-3 Pac-12

Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

Coach: Sean Miller (129-48 at Arizona, 63-27 Pac-12)

Pac-12 Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA Final Four

 


Frontcourt

 

Kaleb Tarczewski has started 70 games over the past two seasons. The 7-footer is an improved shooter (58.4 percent) and powerful defensive presence. One critique: He only had two double-doubles last season. 

 

Ashley, a score-first power forward with shooting range to 15 feet, is all-conference caliber. Miller might choose to use energetic Hollis-Jefferson in a sixth-man role, in which he thrived as a freshman. Hollis-Jefferson averaged 25 minutes as a freshman and was one of the club’s top players in the postseason. Ashley and Hollis-Jefferson can both play multiple positions, which will determine if Johnson plays shooting guard or small forward.

 

Backcourt

 

Senior point guard T.J. McConnell was a steadying influence as a junior, averaging 32 minutes and a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has a defense-first, team-first mentality and is tenacious. 

 

Returning starter Gabe York will have to fight for a starting job at shooting guard with Allen and Johnson, who can swing between small forward and shooting guard. 

 

The only potential backup at point guard is freshman Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a highly regarded recruit from Los Angeles.

 

Final Analysis

 

Arizona is seven players deep and possibly eight if sophomore Elliott Pitts, a shooting guard, plays as well as he did late last season. On paper, the Wildcats are superior to Miller’s Elite Eight clubs of 2011 and 2014, both of which won Pac-12 championships. The most intriguing variable is how Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson will mix. Is Johnson a 2 or a 3? Is Hollis-Jefferson a 4 or a 3? 

 

It might not matter. With two potential NBA players, Ashley and Tarczewski inside, opposing defenses won’t likely be able to do much more than pick a poison. 

 

Arizona’s schedule is set up for success. Home games with Gonzaga and Michigan will get Miller’s full attention. The Maui Invititational, which includes San Diego State and Pitt, will provide an early glimpse of Arizona’s prowess. Miller is frequently described as “the best active coach not to get to a Final Four.”

 

This could be the year he sheds that reputation.

 

Newcomers

 

Stanley Johnson, a 6-6 swingman, ranks among the most coveted recruits in school history. He is apt to lead the club in scoring as a freshman. Junior college transfer Kadeem Allen, is expected to give returning starter Gabe York a fight for the starting job at shooting guard. Dusan Ristic, a 7-0 Serbian freshman, is a low-post scorer with semi-pro experience overseas who could force his way into the rotation early. Point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright will backup T.J. McConnell.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Arizona Wildcats Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-midseason-awards-and-recap
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The first half of the 2014 college football season is officially in the books. And at the midpoint of 2014, it’s time to look back at the first seven weeks, examine preseason predictions and take a glimpse at what the second half of the season has to offer.

With half of a season still to go, plenty of changes, surprises and disappointments should be expected this year.

Mississippi State ranks as the No. 1 team in Athlon’s projected playoff poll after seven weeks, but will the Bulldogs remain at the top in December? Quarterback Dak Prescott and coach Dan Mullen are big winners in our midseason awards, and both should have a strong case at the end of the year for some of the year’s end-of-season awards in December.

As the second half of the season gets underway, let’s take a look back at some of the top players, coaches and freshmen from Weeks 1-7. 


Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions:


2014 College Football First-Half Awards

 

Coach of the Year: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mississippi State is a tough SEC job, and Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl appearances and winning seasons. But the 2014 edition of Mississippi State is poised to be Mullen’s best team. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 after beating Auburn and are one of the top contenders for a spot in college football’s four-team playoff.

2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
3. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
4. Gary Patterson, TCU
5. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
 

Best Assistant Coach Hire of Offseason: Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, OC, TCU
TCU’s offense was in need of a spark after averaging just 20.9 points per game in Big 12 play last year. Meacham was hired from Houston to call the plays, while Cumbie joined the staff under the shared co-offensive coordinator tag. The duo has helped the Horned Frogs average 47.5 points per game in two Big 12 contests. Also, quarterback Trevone Boykin is one of the nation’s most-improved players.


2. Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

3. Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator, Louisville

4. Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator, Stanford
5. Ralph Friedgen, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers

Best First-Year Coach: Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern is transitioning to the FBS level, but the Eagles are 4-0 in Sun Belt play and 5-2 overall. The only two losses suffered by Georgia Southern this season came against NC State (one point) and Georgia Tech (four points). Fritz has a strong track record of success, and he’s already making an impact in his first season in Statesboro.   

2. Bill Clark, UAB
3. Chris Petersen, Washington
4. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
5. Charlie Strong, Texas

Offensive Player of the Year: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott’s emergence is a big reason why Mississippi State is ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. The junior finished 2013 by recording at least 300 total yards in four out of his last five games. And so far, Prescott has picked up where he left off and then some. He’s averaging 342.3 yards per game and has accounted for 22 total scores. The junior also recorded at least three touchdowns in each of his last three SEC games.

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
5. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
6. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
7. Amari Cooper, WR, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Washington’s defense has a handful of standouts, but Thompson has made the biggest impact in 2014. The junior ranks second on the team with 46 tackles (two for a loss), has recorded one sack and one interception this year and forced three fumbles. Those stats are more than enough to get Thompson in consideration for a spot among the top five defensive players at the midway point, but the junior has scored four touchdowns on defense this year and took one of his nine carries on offense for a score. Thompson’s five touchdowns are more than SMU’s offense has scored all season (four) in five games.


2. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
3. Leonard Williams, DE, USC
4. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
5. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

 

Best True Freshman: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett has been one of the bright spots on a struggling Texas A&M defense. The freshman has recorded 33 tackles (nine for a loss) and 7.5 sacks through seven games. Garrett is just one sack away from breaking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s record for most sacks as a freshman in the SEC. Garrett was one of the top prospects in the 2014 signing class and has lived up to the hype. Expect to hear more from the Texas native over the next couple of seasons.

 

2. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

3. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

4. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
5. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
6. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Best Redshirt Freshman: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
Solomon’s emergence is a big reason why Arizona is squarely in the mix to win the Pac-12 South this year. The redshirt freshman has passed for 2,136 yards and 15 touchdowns through six games, guiding Rich Rodriguez’s high-powered offense to an average of 37.5 points per game.

2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
3. Devon Allen, WR, Oregon
4. Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
5. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
 

Biggest Surprise (Team): Mississippi State

It’s no surprise Mississippi State is ranked and in the top 25. But it’s a surprise the Bulldogs have improved from finishing 7-6 last year to a potential spot in college football’s playoff. Mississippi State still has to navigate a schedule that features road games at Alabama and Ole Miss, but this team ranks No. 1 after seven weeks, has a Heisman contender in quarterback Dak Prescott, along with a defense that leads the SEC in red zone defense. If there were any doubts regarding the coaching ability of Dan Mullen, they should be answered after this season.
 

2. Kentucky

3. Arizona

4. TCU

5. California

 

Biggest Disappointment (Team): North Carolina
Miami is a possibility for this spot, but North Carolina gets the nod after a 2-4 overall and 0-2 start in ACC play. The Tar Heels were not impressive in season-opening wins over Liberty and San Diego State and have dropped four in a row since. North Carolina lost three of its four games by 15 points or more but played well in a 50-43 defeat to Notre Dame on Saturday. Problems on both sides of the ball have contributed to the 2-4 start, as the Tar Heels are allowing 6.2 yards per play on defense, and the offense has lost 12 turnovers and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in ACC games. Youth has attributed to a chunk of North Carolina’s problems, especially on the defensive side and on the offensive line. The young talent is promising for 2015 and beyond, but the thoughts of North Carolina contending for a division title in 2014 were probably premature. 

 

2. Michigan

3. South Carolina

4. Florida

5. UCLA
 

Heisman Frontrunner: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott has emerged in a wide-open race as the clear frontrunner exiting Week 7. Georgia running back Todd Gurley was the favorite prior to his suspension, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota dipped in the rankings after the loss to Arizona. Prescott is a big reason why Mississippi State has climbed to No. 1 in the nation, as he engineers an offense averaging 6.9 yards per play this season.

 

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

4. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

5. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

 

Coach on the Hot Seat: Will Muschamp, Florida
Time is running out for Muschamp in Gainesville. Florida’s offense ranks near the bottom of the SEC once again (4.5 yards per play), and the Gators are 3-2 after five games, with matchups remaining against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State. Getting back to a bowl is a priority for Muschamp, and that’s no guarantee with the Gators’ remaining schedule.

 

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan

3. Tim Beckman, Illinois

4. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

5. Norm Chow, Hawaii


Best Conference: SEC

2. Pac-12
3. Big 12
4. Big Ten
5. ACC
6. American Athletic
7. Mountain West
8. C-USA
9. MAC
10. Sun Belt

Breakout Player: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
A healthy Clint Trickett at quarterback has been a huge boost to West Virginia’s offense, and as a result, White has benefited with a monster start to 2014. Through six games, White has 61 receptions for 888 yards and five touchdowns. White has reached 100 yards in every game this year, including 173 yards on 10 receptions against Oklahoma. Just how good are White’s numbers? Last year, he had 35 catches for 507 yards and five scores in 11 games.

2. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
3. Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado
4. Jared Goff, QB, California
5. Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

Most-Improved Player: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Boykin has thrived in TCU’s new up-tempo, spread attack this season. The junior has also benefited from the addition of new co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, and Boykin has thrown for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns through five games. Boykin also has 305 rushing yards and three scores this year. The emergence of Boykin is a big reason why TCU has a chance to win the Big 12 and push for a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games this year.

2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
3. Clint Trickett, QB, West Virginia
4. Jared Goff, QB, California
5. Nate Orchard, DE, Utah

Head Coach on the Rise: Jim McElwain, Colorado State

After a 4-8 record in his first year at Colorado State, McElwain is 13-7 in his last 20 games. The Rams had their first winning record since 2008 by finishing 8-6 with a victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. Despite losing four starters on the offensive line and standout running back Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State is off to a 5-1 start and recorded wins over Power 5 opponents Colorado and Boston College in non-conference play.

2. Justin Fuente, Memphis
3. Matt Wells, Utah State
4. Matt Rhule, Temple

5. Bill Clark, UAB
 

10 Must-See Games for the Second Half
 

Auburn at Ole Miss (Nov. 1)

Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)

Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)

Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)

Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)

Mississippi State at Alabama (Nov. 15)

USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)

Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 29)

Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)

Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

Teaser:
College Football 2014 Midseason Awards and Recap
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jason Kidd, NBA
Path: /nba/giannis-antetokounmpo-6%E2%80%9911%E2%80%9D-point-guard-now
Body:

New Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd comes into training camp with a maverick chip on his shoulder. After spending his first year leading the Brooklyn Nets (a job he got almost immediately after retiring from the New York Knicks in 2013), Kidd exited his franchise on controversial terms. He jumped ship to the midwest very suddenly and unexpectedly this summer, after it leaked out that he’d been steeped in a long, bitter power struggle with Brooklyn’s front office. The first-year coach was fighting for more salary and a dominant role in the team’s personnel decisions — a brash approach, to say the least.

So it doesn’t come as a shock that he’s got the moxie to try out some new, seemingly ridiculous ideas on the floor. He’ll be starting Giannis Antetokounmpo — the sensational 19-year-old from Greece — as the Bucks lead point guard. Anteokounmpo (known by many as “The Greek Freak”) is 6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan, and .

 

He’s also a phenomenal athlete, with excellent vision — both prerequisites for excelling as a point guard in the modern NBA. But a man of his length doesn’t typically have success bringing the ball up and down the floor for a whole professional game. And 19-year-olds, as we know, are not the soundest of decision-makers. Antetokounmpo’s time running the point seems like more like a preseason learning experiment than a prospective Bucks reality, for now. But Kidd feels confident about it.

"We've seen it in practice, and so when you see a player's comfort level with the ball no matter what size, we want to see it in game action," , a presage to this development. "We slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offense.”

Antetokounmpo will start at point guard Tuesday night, when the Bucks face off against LeBron James and the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers; no training wheels for you, Giannis.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-unveils-throwback-uniforms-saturdays-game-against-washington
Body:

The Oregon-Washington matchup on Saturday is one of the top games for Week 8. The Northwest rivalry has plenty of intrigue, and the Ducks plan to go retro with their uniforms on Saturday.

Oregon is wearing throwback uniforms from 1994, which mark a critical moment in the program’s history. In 1994, cornerback Kenny Wheaton intercepted a pass from Washington quarterback Damon Huard and returned it for a touchdown, helping the Ducks reach the Rose Bowl.

Here’s a look at Oregon’s retro uniforms for Saturday’s game:

Teaser:
Oregon Unveils Throwback Uniforms Saturday's Game Against Washington
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 14:07

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