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Are you looking for the perfect and unusual gift for the sports fan in your life? Welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.
STOP ROOTING, START OWNING
Thanks to oneshare.com, you can actually give someone a framed share of real stock in a host of different companies. In the sports world, those companies include Churchill Downs, Callaway Golf, Manchester United and more. Talk about rooting…with interest!
Price: About $100
Found at: www.oneshare.com
A BIG GIFT: A MINI STADIUM
Bring the house in the house! These mini stadiums (approx. 7” x 6”) from the Danbury Mint are expertly crafted down the very last detail. Available for a host of pro and college stadiums, they’re a wonderful collectible for the fan who wants a game day stadium experience, everyday. Talk about a home field advantage.
Found at: www.danburymint.com
FOOTBALL, BY THE YARD
Some people want a tree on their lawn. Others want a defensive lineman. These giant inflatables football players (5-8 feet tall) come in two styles (lineman and TD scorer) and you can choose from NFL teams, many colleges and even college mascots. It’s a great way to show the world who rules in your house. At least on fall weekends.
Found at: amazon.com
THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT OF SPEED
Imagine giving someone the chance to enjoy the thrills and excitement of racing at the Richard Petty Driving experience. Available at 22 different tracks, attendees can choose to ride shotgun for a series of laps, or actually get behind the wheel and show off their skills. They’ll be so excited, they’ll be running in circles. Well, ovals.
Price: Ride-Alongs, $99-$159, Driving: $449-$3,499
Found at: www.drivepetty.com
WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE, LITERALLY
These sterling silver cufflinks are made from material salvaged from old baseball stadium seats, classic college basketball courts and more. From Fenway Park to the University of Kentucky to Ebbets Field, this is a one of a kind gift. Well actually, two.
Found at: www.uncommongood.com
NOT EVERY BASEBALL SHOULD BE CRUSHED
This beautiful Steuben glass crystal baseball celebrates the national pastime in style. It’s a very special gift for the baseball fan in your life and would be perfect suited for a desk, or a mantle. Catch in the yard? Not so much.
Found at: www.lbgreen.com
THE PERFECT GIFT FOR A HOCKEY FAN, OR JASON
At Masks from the Past, you’ll find exact fiberglass recreations of famous NHL goalie masks. From a replica of JacquePlante’s first ever mask, to Gerry Cheevers’ scarred beauty from the 70s, the hockey fan in your life will love having a remembrance of days gone by. Shoot. Score.
Found at: www.hockeymasks.com
GOING, GOING, GONE
Want to give someone a chance to show their allegiance to the bitter end? These MLB decorated caskets are velvet inside and have a half couch design with a matching pillow and throw, too. You can even have ashes placed in a MLB urn and then in a cremation casket. Either way, you’re outta here!
Price: Approx. $1,400-$2800
Found at: www.memorials.com/sport-caskets.php
YOU CAN’T SPELL “NICE” WITHOUT “ICE”
Turn the backyard into a winter wonderland with this do-it-yourself ice rink. The Rink-In-A-Box package from NiceRink provides everything anyone needs for a little slice of ice heaven—liner, support brackets, resurfacer, nets--the whole thing. Put it down. Freeze ‘er up. Triple axle here we come!
Found at: www.nicerink.com
“AND NOW, ENTERING THE RING: YOU”
It’s the perfect gift for the kid in all of us: pro wrestling title belts. Choose from a variety of shapes, sizes and titles. You can even have a name engraved on the removable plate. So why not give the gift that keeps on giving…body slams, that is. NOTE: folding chair and brass knuckles not included.
Found at: shop.wwe.com
For the fan wanting a great view no matter where they’re sitting, the Pentax 62555 might be just the ticket. These high-powered binoculars offer a bright image and reduced reflection and work well in extreme weather conditions. Big game in a December freeze? No problem. Big game in a July downpour? Did we mention they’re waterproof?
Found at: www.amazon.com
For you cold-weather tailgating fans, there’s nothing better than the warming effect of a great whiskey. Thankfully Jim Beam has brought forth three new taste sensations—Devil’s Cut Bourbon (a premium 90-proof whiskey packed with a flavorful punch, $23.99); Red Stag Spiced (a sweet, warm whiskey with hints of cinnamon, $17.99); and Knob Creek Rye (an aged, 100-proof whiskey that finishes with a lingering spiciness, $40.99). Game on!
Found at: www.jimbeam.com (Must be 21 or over)
These unique stools are made from game day bases used by many MLB teams, including the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets. It’s the perfect gift for the baseball lover in your life, who can slide into memorabilia. And sit on it, too.
Found at: www.uncommongoods.com
THE SPORTS VACATION OF YOUR DREAMS
At Sports Traveler, you can plan a trip to the sporting event of your choice...anywhere in the world. From pro football to international tennis to the Olympics and more, you can give someone a gift card to help them arrange their dream sports trip. Ready, set, go!
Price: Gift cards start at $100
Found at: www.sportstraveler.net
Nothing says “I love you, team” like an NFL recliner. Made from a sturdy hardwood frame, each chair is decorated in theteam’s main color and features their name and logo. Even better, when they score and the beer and salsa go flying, the microfiber makes it easily cleanable with soap and water.
Found at: www.nflshop.com
Custom-built irons from SCOR are uniquely designed from shaft to head guaranteeing a better short game. In fact, they’re so sure they’ll help, they promise that if you’re not happy, they’ll buy you a wedge you think you like better. Need more accuracy from fairway to green? Think SCOR? Need more accuracy from tee to green? Maybe they should consider tennis.
Price: Approx. $150 each. Set of 5 for $640
Found at: www.scorgolf.com
Wouldn’t it be fun to give someone the chance to play baseball with some of the all-time greats? Baseball fantasy camps offer fans a chance to play the game they love alongside some of the most memorable players on their favorite team. The good news: more than 20 MLB teams offer a fantasy camp (see the link below). The bad news: somebody you know just might get struck out by a 70-year-old.
Found at: www.baseballfantasycampdirectory.com
These 7” tall bobbleheads can be personalized for that special someone. Just upload a photo, and rockbobble will create a custom-ordered hoops player. They’ll even send you photos along the way to ensure it’s looking exactly the way you want. Will they like this gift? The head says yes!
Found at: www.rockbobble.com
Found at: www.fourroses.us (Must be 21 or over)
Despite three bowl appearances in his last four years at NC State, Tom O'Brien sits on the hot seat entering the season finale against Boston College. Although there's plenty of discontent from the fanbase, should the Wolfpack make a coaching change?
Should Tom O'Brien Return to NC State in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
My question for NC State is what do the Wolfpack expect to be? History says the program is exactly what O’Brien has delivered. He’s 23-14 overall and 12-11 in the ACC in his last three seasons compared to 16-21 and 9-15 in his first three. Clearly, improvement is there even if this season has been a let down. But let’s face it: NC State football is not NC State basketball. The program has had only one top-15 finish since 1974, and that was when Philip Rivers was on campus. Other than that one year, O’Brien has delivered what NC State has always been -- a program floating between five and nine wins. That said, the ACC is primed for a team to move up. Florida State and Clemson are the only teams playing close to their potential, though Virginia Tech most likely will bounce back. Meanwhile, Miami and North Carolina are dealing with NCAA issues. Tom O’Brien’s going to win games and bring stability, but he’s not the energetic coach likely to pull in prominent recruits to take a program to the next level.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
I certainly understand the frustration from the NC State fanbase, but I think Tom O’Brien should return for 2013. After starting his tenure with a 16-21 record, O’Brien is 23-14 over the last three years. The Wolfpack are guaranteed a bowl appearance in 2012, which gives NC State four postseason trips under O’Brien. While those numbers aren’t impressive as Alabama or Oregon, I think it’s fair to wonder what the expectations are at NC State. Every program wants to challenge for a national title, but is that realistically possible? The other question NC State needs to ask: Who can make this program better and challenge Clemson/Florida State for the ACC title every year? Is there really that candidate out there in 2012? Even though Vanderbilt’s James Franklin has been tossed around Raleigh, he’s not leaving the SEC. Yes, NC State should be finishing consistently higher than fourth or fifth in the division, but if the Wolfpack beat Boston College and win in the bowl game, O’Brien would have three consecutive seasons of at least eight victories. The last time NC State had three straight years of at least eight wins? 1972-74.
The Wolfpack are headed to their third straight bowl game under O'Brien, but this measure of success hasn't done anything to tune out the whispers regarding his job security. More was expected this season with a team that had so much experience, starting with quarterback Mike Glennon, but an opening loss to Tennessee in Atlanta sort of set the tone for what has taken place. The season highlight has been a 17-16 win on Oct. 6 over a Florida State team that was ranked No. 3 and undefeated at the time. However, NC State followed that up by losing three of their next five ACC games, including a fourth-quarter collapse against arch-rival North Carolina and an embarrassing 33-6 home loss to Virgina the following week. The Wolfpack can still get to eight wins if they beat Boston College on Saturday and win their bowl game, but there will be many new faces in the starting lineup next season on both sides of the ball. If O'Brien's bosses aren't pleased with where he has the program, then the end of this season would be as good time as any to chart a new direction. I don't think O'Brien, whose contract goes through 2015, hasn't done anything to merit losing his job, but he also hasn't made the strongest case to necessarily keep it.
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Despite last week’s loss to Stanford, Oregon still has a chance to play for the Pac-12 Championship. However, the Ducks first have to take care of their business against in-state rival Oregon State. Oregon needs to win on Saturday and hope for a Stanford loss at UCLA later that night to clinch the North title.
Although the Beavers can’t win the North title, they still have a shot to play in a BCS game. With a win over Oregon, Oregon State would be 9-2 and should have an easy victory over Nicholls State next week. And of course, there’s always extra motivation when it comes to keeping your rival out of the Pac-12 title or even national championship. Considering what transpired last week, it’s too early to count Oregon out of the BCS title game. If Oregon State knocks off the Ducks, there’s no chance of Oregon getting back into the national championship picture.
Oregon has dominated this series over the last four years. The Ducks have won four in a row and only one matchup was decided by less than 17 points. Oregon State won back-to-back games in 2006-07 but has struggled against its in-state rival in recent seasons.
When the Oregon Ducks have the ball:
After getting shut down by Stanford, the Ducks’ high-scoring attack looks to get back on track this week. However, that’s easier said than done against Oregon State’s defense. The Beavers rank 14th nationally against the run and are giving up just 18.6 points per game.
In order for Oregon to find its rhythm on offense once again, the rushing game has to get going. Running back Kenjon Barner had only 66 yards against Stanford, while De’Anthony Thomas chipped in 43 yards on seven attempts. The Beavers have held nine out of their 10 opponents in 2012 to under 175 rushing yards, with much of the credit due to an active defensive line. End Scott Crichton is a lock for All-Pac-12 honors and has nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. It’s nearly impossible to keep Oregon’s rushing attack in check for 60 minutes, but Oregon State has to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and prevent the Ducks from breaking many big plays.
Even if the Beavers hold Barner and Thomas in check, they still have to contain quarterback Marcus Mariota. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 2,371 yards and 29 touchdowns this year, along with adding 605 yards and three scores on the ground. The Ducks don’t have a clear No. 1 go-to target but there’s plenty of depth in the receiving corps. Tight end Colt Lyerla and receiver Josh Huff has combined for 13 scores this year, while Thomas leads the team with 40 receptions. Although Oregon State’s secondary ranks 61st nationally against the pass, it has allowed just 11 passing scores.
It may seem simple, but Oregon State has to prevent Oregon from hitting on big plays and make the Ducks drive the length of the field.
When the Oregon State Beavers have the ball:
With Cody Vaz suffering an injury against Stanford, Sean Mannion reclaimed Oregon State’s starting quarterback spot. Mannion played well at the beginning of the season but struggled after returning from a knee injury against Washington. The sophomore was sharp in last week’s win over California, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
With a banged up Oregon secondary coming to town, Mannion’s performance in last week’s win is a good sign for the Beavers. Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton form one of the nation’s top receiving duos for Oregon State, with each catching over 58 passes this year. The Ducks rank 54th nationally against the pass and depth at safety is an issue after losing John Boyett and Avery Patterson for the season due to injuries. Even though Oregon State doesn’t want to get in a 50-47 type of shootout against Oregon, the Beavers have the passing attack to give the Ducks a lot of problems.
Although Oregon’s secondary has taken some hits through injuries, the front seven seems to be getting healthy. Although the Ducks won’t talk about injuries, the defensive line and linebacking corps was running thin on bodies against California. Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart both played in last week’s game against Stanford and their presence will be crucial to slowing down Oregon State.
The Beavers don’t have a dynamic rushing attack, but Terron Ward and Storm Woods are a solid one-two punch. And both backs should have some opportunities to find rushing lanes against a defense that is allowing 151.8 yards per game on the ground. Establishing the run will be crucial for Oregon State, especially as it hopes to wear down Oregon’s defense and keep its offense on the sideline.
Expect a motivated Oregon team this Saturday. The Ducks can’t control what happens in the Stanford-UCLA matchup later in the day, but a victory over Oregon State should lock them into a BCS bowl. The Beavers’ defense will hold Oregon’s offense in check early on, but Mariota and Barner make just enough plays in the fourth quarter to keep the Ducks’ Pac-12 title hopes alive.
Prediction: Oregon 38, Oregon State 34
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With conference play finished for South Carolina and Clemson, it’s all about bragging rights in the Palmetto State this Saturday. And even though the emotions will always keep this as a spirited rivalry, there’s plenty of motivation on both sides, so there’s a little extra spice when these two teams meet on Saturday.
With a 10-1 record, Clemson has a chance to earn an at-large spot in a BCS bowl. However, the Tigers need to get past their in-state rival to remain in consideration. The Gamecocks are still in the mix for a BCS bowl but with Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida and LSU ahead of them in the BCS standings, it’s unlikely Steve Spurrier’s team will be able to earn an at-large spot.
South Carolina has owned this rivalry in recent years, winning four out of the last six matchups. The Gamecocks won 34-13 in Columbia last season and 29-7 in Clemson in 2010.
When the Clemson Tigers have the ball:
Stopping Clemson is no easy task. Just ask the 11 defenses so far on the Tigers’ schedule. Florida State is the best defense Clemson has faced this year, and the Seminoles allowed 37 points in a victory.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd ranks second nationally in pass efficiency and has thrown 18 touchdowns over his last four games. Although the junior is one of the nation’s top passers, his improved mobility is a big reason why Clemson is averaging 44.6 points a game.
Boyd isn’t alone on offense, as Clemson boasts one of the top receiving corps in college football. DeAndre Hopkins leads the team with 68 catches for 1,171 yards and 15 scores, while Sammy Watkins has 53 receptions for 671 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Brandon Ford has eight touchdown grabs and there’s plenty of depth with Martavis Bryant, Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries and Charone Peak. Running back Andre Ellington is having another solid season, recording 959 yards on 186 attempts.
Stopping Clemson’s offense has to start in the trenches. And South Carolina has the players to give Boyd plenty of problems on Saturday night. End Jadeveon Clowney is one of the nation’s best and is expected to play after missing last week’s game due to a foot injury. The Gamecocks are averaging three sacks a game, which figures to test a Clemson offensive line that has struggled at times this year.
If South Carolina can harass Boyd with just its front four, it will make the job of the secondary much easier as it tries to keep Hopkins and Watkins in check.
When the South Carolina Gamecocks have the ball:
The Gamecocks aren’t going to wow anyone on the stat sheet when it comes to offense. South Carolina ranks 81st nationally in rushing, 74th in passing but is 41st in scoring offense. Although the Gamecocks aren’t getting huge chunks of yardage, they are making the most of their opportunities.
With running back Marcus Lattimore sidelined for the rest of the year with a leg injury, Kenny Miles and Mike Davis have worked as the top two options in the rushing attack. Miles has 313 yards and two scores this year, while Davis has 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
There’s no doubt the Gamecocks miss Lattimore, but Miles rushed for 127 yards in the win over Wofford. Additionally, quarterback Connor Shaw will chip in on the ground, as he ranks second on the team with 339 yards. Shaw has been dealing with a foot injury but is expected to play in Saturday’s game.
South Carolina may not be the most dynamic offense in the SEC, but it should find some open opportunities against Clemson’s defense. The Tigers are allowing over 408 yards per game and gave up 48 points in last week’s win over NC State. The Gamecocks need to have a balanced approach in this game, getting Miles 20-25 carries, while Shaw has a chance to hit a few big plays in the passing game.
Considering Clemson’s high-scoring offense can put up points in a hurry, it’s important for South Carolina’s offense to control the clock, as well as not give the Tigers any short-field situations.
This game may get overlooked on Saturday, especially with Florida taking on Florida State and the annual battle between Ohio State and Michigan. However, this game could be one of the more entertaining matchups of Week 13. Whichever side can impose its will should have the upper hand. Clemson wants to play quick on offense, but South Carolina’s front four will be a handful to stop. The Gamecocks are more methodical on offense and should be able to grind out the clock against the Tigers’ defense. This one is really a tossup, but a slight edge goes to Clemson, especially with this matchup in Death Valley.
Prediction: Clemson 27-24
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Florida and Florida State don’t require much motivation when it comes to the annual meeting for bragging rights in the Sunshine State. However, there’s a little more motivation for both teams in 2012.
Florida ranks No. 4 in the latest BCS standings and with a little help, could make it to the national championship game. The Gators won’t play in Atlanta for the conference title but could climb to No. 2 in the BCS standings with a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech and a Bulldogs victory over Alabama in the SEC Championship.
Florida State needs a lot of help to get into the conversation for the national title. The Seminoles haven’t made much progress in the BCS standings and rank 10th overall going into Week 13. A weak non-conference schedule, as well as a bad year in the ACC is hurting Florida State in the computer rankings. The Seminoles likely need nine teams to lose ahead of them in the BCS, so it’s unlikely they will be able to get into one of the top two spots. However, considering what transpired last week, Florida State still has a chance.
Florida State has won the last two matchups in this series by a combined score of 52-14. Florida won six consecutive from 2004-09 but has been dominated in the last two games.
When the Florida Gators have the ball:
In last season’s matchup, Florida’s offense managed only 184 yards and just 11 first downs. Considering Florida State’s defense is just as strong as it was last year, the Gators have to be concerned. Florida’s offense has been very average for most of the season and scored just 23 points in its last two SEC games.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered an ankle injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and did not play against Jacksonville State. However, the sophomore is expected to be in the lineup for Saturday’s game. Driskel gives Florida the best chance to win, as his mobility is a valuable asset for an offense that is struggled to generate much of a passing attack.
Driskel is completing 64.8 percent of his throws and has tossed only three picks on 193 attempts. However, the Gators have a lack of proven playmakers in the receiving corps. Tight end Jordan Reed is the team’s go-to target, but the top two receivers – Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond – don’t scare many defenses.
If the Gators are going to win on Saturday, they need a big effort on the ground from running back Mike Gillislee. The senior leads the Gators with 964 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and is coming off a 122-yard effort against Jacksonville State. However, there won’t be much room to run against Florida State, as the Seminoles rank first nationally in rush defense. Getting Gillislee going, as well as letting Driskel make plays with his legs is crucial to Florida’s shot at a victory.
Much of the success for Florida State’s defense starts up front. The Seminoles have one of the nation’s most talented lines in college football, which will be a problem for Florida’s offensive line (allowing 2.9 sacks per game). Expect the Seminoles to crowd the box and force Driskel to win this one with his arm.
When the Florida State Seminoles have the ball:
While Florida’s offensive numbers were awful in last season’s game, Florida State’s were even worse. The Seminoles managed only 95 yards on 59 plays and had just seven first downs. Even though the Gators have a solid defense, don’t expect Florida State to repeat those totals this year.
The Seminoles have scored at least 30 points in all but two games this year and rank 14th nationally in total offense. The biggest reasons for Florida State’s improvement on offense this year has been the health of quarterback EJ Manuel and an offensive line that has made significant strides since 2011. Manuel dealt with a shoulder injury for much of last season but has managed to stay healthy this year, throwing for 2,785 yards and 21 scores. Florida State’s offensive line has struggled at times, but this unit has shown big improvement from last season and should hold its own against Florida's active front seven.
There’s no shortage of weapons around Manuel, starting in the backfield with Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Losing Chris Thompson to a torn ACL in October was a tough blow for the running game, but Freeman and Wilder have easily picked up the slack over the last few games. The Seminoles have five players with at least 20 catches this year, including Rashad Greene who leads the team with five touchdown tosses.
Although Florida State’s offense has thrived this year, Florida’s defense will be the best it has played all year. The Gators rank fourth nationally in total defense and are allowing just 11.7 points per game. There’s plenty of strength in the front seven, but Florida has allowed just four passing scores this season.
Yards and points will be difficult to come by on Saturday afternoon. Florida and Florida State both rank in the top five of total defense and each are generating at least two sacks per game.
While the defenses are even, there’s a clear edge on the offensive side. Florida State is simply the better team on offense and that’s the difference in the game. And with this being the final game for quarterback EJ Manuel in Tallahassee, expect the senior to deliver Florida State’s third straight win over its biggest rival.
Prediction: Florida State 24, Florida 17
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Happy Thanksgiving. Now go set your lineup for three games in Week 12 that are probably starting way too early to your likeability. There are a few key injuries that are affecting these Thanksgiving games, and hopefully we can help you out to set your lineup and feel comfortable going into Sunday’s full slate.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
Pierre Garcon returned to action last week and was limited as expected. He played in 23 of the team's 58 offensive snaps — nine pass and 14 run plays — and caught three passes for five yards. Josh Morgan led the Redskins' receivers by playing on 40 snaps. He was limited at practice on Tuesday and saw light work in Wednesday's walk-through in advance of today's game against Dallas. Garcon is still not at 100 percent and he might be a player you hold on to, have to sacrifice him blowing up one game and move on from there. But knowing that Robert Griffin III has the free agent weapon the team went out and got at the receiver this position is at least back in the fold in some way, shape or form is good news as a late-season add.
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Man, it is getting uglier and uglier when it comes to the Dallas ground game. DeMarco Murray went down with a foot injury in Week 6 and has yet to return. Felix Jones has stepped in and had six double-digit fantasy weeks in the last seven games thanks to four touchdowns. Jones has been dealing with a knee bruise and is questionable for today's game against Washington. The Cowboys are also likely to be without left tackle, Tyron Smith (ankle). Center Phil Costa (ankle) is out again. Washington, while terrible against the pass — unless you're Nick Foles — has been decent against fantasy running backs because of the pass. The Redskins have allowed just three touchdowns to the position the last five weeks and only three runners have eclipsed 79 yards this season against them. If Jones cannot go then rookie Lance Dunbar would make his first start. He underwent a knee procedure this week but it should not set him back. However, the issues on the line, with the running game itself and the Redskins’ stoutness against fantasy RBs make starting most Cowboys a little scary.
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Happy Thanksgiving. Now go set your lineup for three games in Week 12 that are probably starting way too early to your likeability. There are a few key injuries that are affecting these Thanksgiving games, and hopefully we can help you out to set your lineup and feel comfortable going into Sunday’s full slate.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Last week we heard Murray say it was the best he's felt since suffering his foot injury. His chances of playing against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday was highly doubtful, particularly with the Cowboys playing today. And as has been evident, Dallas badly needs him to return and spark its running game. However, it appears he will miss his sixth straight game. So we have to hope that lucky No. 7 will make for Murray's return against Philadelphia in Week 13. And the running game that is already struggling will likely even more as Murray's back up, Felix Jones (knee) and left tackle, Tyron Smith (ankle), are questionable. It would be up to rookie Lance Dunbar to pick up the slack if Jones is out. Dunbar underwent a knee procedure of his own this week, putting the Cowboys' run game in an even more precarious position.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, TEs, New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
By now you’ve heard the news on Rob Gronkowski. If you haven’t, the game’s top tight end broke his left forearm on an extra point play with 3:59 remaining in the Patriots’ 59-24 win against Indianapolis last week, had surgery and is now out 4-6 weeks. In steps an injured Aaron Hernandez to fill the role. That is if he is healthy enough to suit up for the last of the three games on Thanksgiving. He reportedly will play tonight. Hernandez has been battling a severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of seven of the team’s 10 games. He returned too soon a few weeks ago and that reportedly set him back in his recovery. Why don’t coaches realize that us as fantasy owners have waiver wires and can make plans until our stud returns with a clean bill of health? But I digress. Hernandez was close to returning for the Colts’ game but the quick turnaround with the Thanksgiving game made that a tough ask of the still injured tight end. You hate to start a question mark on Thursday and wait around until Monday night to make sure you were right, but if Hernandez is active then you start him, The Jets are just behind the Pats as the fifth-worst fantasy defense against tight ends. Gronkowski had six catches for 78 yards and two scores in their Week 7 matchup and Hernandez added five catches for 54 yards in that game. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd were question marks going into last week, but combined for 18 targets, 11 catches and 125 yards. There will be plenty to go around for Hernandez, plus the red-zone TD opportunities. In the three full games he has played this season, Hernandez has 23 targets, 17 catches for 143 yards and two scores — or 14.6 points per game in PPR leagues.
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
The Detroit Lions host their traditional Thanksgiving Day game today, as they will take on the Houston Texans at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The opener of the NFL’s turkey day triple-header features a Lions team that’s lost two in a row and is almost in a must-win situation if it wants to keep its playoff hopes alive. On the other side are the Texans, who enter this game with an AFC-best 9-1 mark and a three-game lead over the Colts for first place in the AFC South.
When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Detroit is second only to New England in total offense, averaging nearly 402 yards per game, but all of this yardage gained has not necessarily translated into points. The Lions are 15th in the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Just like last season, Detroit is struggling to run the ball, averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Mikel Leshoure has shown glimpses of why the Lions drafted him in the second round two years ago, but for the season he’s averaging four yards per carry. The biggest drop off offensively, however, has been with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Through 10 games last season, Stafford had thrown 25 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. This season those numbers are 12 and 10. The good news for Stafford is that All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson doesn’t appear to be as hindered with the knee issues he’s been dealing with all season. Johnson is averaging nearly 160 yards receiving over his last three games and has caught a touchdown in each of the past two contests.
Houston is fourth in the league in total defense and second against the run. The Texans are giving up less than 86 yards rushing per game and have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. They also are seventh against the pass, but are coming off of last week’s overtime win against Jacksonville in which they allowed backup quarterback Chad Henne to throw for 354 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans are among the league leaders in sacks (27) and interceptions (11) thanks in large part to the efforts of Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt (11.5 sacks).
When the Houston Texans have the ball:
Houston is known for its ability to run the ball, as the Texans’ rushing attack led by Arian Foster is eighth in the league with 136.7 yards per game. Foster is a workhorse, averaging nearly 25 carries per game and he is fourth in the league with 949 rushing yards while his 10 rushing touchdowns are tops. Despite the Texans’ tendency to run the ball more than pass it, quarterback Matt Schaub is more than capable of producing through the air when called on. Last week against Jacksonville, Schaub set a franchise-record with 43 completions and his 527 yards passing tied for the second-most ever in a regular-season game. Schaub also had five touchdown passes against the Jaguars, including one to his favorite target, Andre Johnson. Johnson, like his Lions’ counterpart Calvin, is an All-Pro-caliber wide receiver and is coming off of his best game of the season, as he hauled in 14 passes for 273 yards and a score against the Jaguars.
Detroit is 10th in total defense and has done a better job against the pass compared to the run. They are ranked eighth in pass defense and 16th in rushing defense. The Lions are 23rd in the league in scoring defense, allowing 23.6 points per game, but have held teams to 24 points or fewer in seven of their last eight contests. They also have struggled to force turnovers, as they have just 11 through 10 games.
Detroit has not fared well when it has played teams that can run the ball effectively. The Lions have faced four teams — Chicago, Minnesota (twice), San Francisco and Seattle — ranked among the top 10 in rushing offense. In these five games, they have given up an average of 155 yards rushing per contest. The Texans enter this game ranked eighth in rushing offense. Detroit needs this win more than Houston, but we like the Texans’ running attack powered by Foster to allow them to get a leg up, or perhaps two, on the Lions this afternoon.
Texans 34, Lions 23
The New England Patriots look to build on their three-game lead in the AFC East as they take on the New York Jets in MetLife Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Patriots have won four games in a row, a streak that started with a 29-26 overtime victory against the Jets in Foxboro back in Week 7. The Jets snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 27-13 win in St. Louis. Their record is 4-6 and they can ill afford another loss, especially in divisional play, if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
When the New England Patriots have the ball:
To really no one’s surprise, New England is leading the league in both total and scoring offense, as the Patriots are generating nearly 432 yards and 36 points per game. They are fourth in passing offense, but also have been equally successful rushing the ball. The Patriots are fifth in that category, averaging 142.9 yards on the ground per game. Compare that to last season when they finished 20th in the league in rushing. Tom Brady is once again among the league’s passing leaders with 2,976 yards (fifth), 21 touchdowns (tied for fourth) and just three interceptions. Stevan Ridley is leading the charge on the ground with 842 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Brady has plenty of receiving weapons at his disposal, including Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but the question will be what happens now that tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for at least the next few games after suffering a broken forearm late in last week’s game. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is capable of stepping in, but he’s missed the past few games with an ankle injury. On top of that, Gronkowski is the team’s second-leading receiver and was responsible for seven touchdowns in the past four games. Two of those came in the Patriots’ Week 6 win over these Jets.
The Jets rank 14th in the league in total defense and have had a hard time stopping the run consistently this season. They are 30th against the run, giving up nearly 142 yards per game on the ground, but are fourth in pass defense (200.1 ypg). The latter is even more impressive when you consider that All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Even though the Jets haven’t been able to generate a lot of pressure (17 sacks), they have forced 18 turnovers. They also are 21st in the league in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 24.1 points per game.
When the New York Jets have the ball:
The Jets have struggled on offense all season. They rank 29th in the NFL in total offense (301.3 ypg) and 23rd in scoring offense at 23.2 points per game. The main culprit has been a passing attack that also is 29th in the league, as Mark Sanchez has completed less than 54 percent of his passes and has only 11 touchdown passes. He is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL right now. The offensive line, which has surrendered 25 sacks, and the running game are not without blame, however. The Jets are 15th in the league in rushing with 108.6 yards per game, but are only averaging 3.7 yards per carry as a team and have scored seven rushing touchdowns. Shonn Greene has matched that 3.7 yards per carry mark and his inconsistency has resulted in more opportunities for Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was lost for the season (Lisfranc injury) in Week 4 and no one has really stepped up to take his place. The Jets also have been reluctant to utilize Tim Tebow in the offense, but his mere presence and Sanchez’ lack of productivity has resulted in a season-long, media-driven quarterback quandary that has only added to the Jets’ issues. Turnovers have not helped their cause either as the Jets have coughed it up 18 times (8 INTs, 10 fumbles) in 10 games.
New England is 28th in total defense, but is allowing fewer yards (388.7) and points (22.5) per game than the offense is generating. Pass defense has been the biggest issue, as they rank 30th in that category. The offense’s ability to put points on the board and jump out to big leads is a contributing factor to this statistic, but that doesn’t totally excuse the Patriots in this matter. Consider that Sanchez put up 328 passing yards against them in Week 7 and we’ve already documented his struggles. That said, the defense has done a better job against the run (10th, 99 ypg) and, typical of a Bill Belichick unit, has capitalized on turnovers. The Patriots have forced 27 turnovers and have scored three defensive touchdowns. The Patriots’ defense has bent plenty this season, but has rarely broken, one of the reasons why they are 7-3 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC East.
New England has won four of its last five games against the Jets and has an 18-9 edge in the series overall since 2000. The Patriots won 37-16 in last season’s meeting in MetLife Stadium and a victory tonight could basically wrap up the AFC East for them, while potentially eliminating the Jets from playoff contention. The Jets gave the Patriots all they could handle in Foxboro back in Week 7, but this Patriots team is on a roll offensively. They put up 59 points in the win over Indianapolis last week and are averaging 47 points per game since that overtime win over the Jets. The Jets have scored 47 points once all season and that came in Week 1.
Patriots 38, Jets 23
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Thanksgiving Day, Sunday and Monday in Week 12.
Turkey Leg Locks
The three Thanksgiving Day games should be as good as the tryptophan-filled big bird and grandma’s homemade cornbread dressing.
Texans (-4) at Lions
Barry Sanders, the greatest televised Thanksgiving tradition, had a 7–3 holiday record during his decade of dominance; the Lions are 3–10 since the great No. 20 stopped showing up for dinner.
Redskins (+3) at Cowboys
Tony Romo is 5–0 on Thanksgiving Day. But for some reason, RG3’s 0–0 record on Turkey and Dressing Day smells a little bit better this season.
Jets (+7.5) vs. Patriots
New England won but failed to cover an even bigger number against New York during a 29–26 victory at home in Week 7. In case of a blowout, you can always watch The Godfather or whatever’s on the James Bond marathon.
Sunday Sales Rack
The masses will hit the stores at 4 a.m. or whenever it is they show up on Black Friday, but the real deals might have to wait until Sunday afternoon.
Ravens (-1) at Chargers
This has the feel of a trap game, with Baltimore coming off an emotional win at Pittsburgh and San Diego in do-or-die mode. But it’s pretty much a pick ‘em.
Falcons (-1.5) at Buccaneers
Although Matt Ryan does carry a 6–2 record against the Bucs, he’s just 2–2 on the road in Tampa Bay.
Seahawks (-3) at Dolphins
Miami is a miserable 9-for-34 on third downs over its current three-game losing streak.
Titans (-3) at Jaguars
This would be easier to call if Blaine Gabbert were starting in Jacksonville. But what are the odds Chad Henne puts together back-to-back good games?
Broncos (-10.5) at Chiefs
Kansas City’s disgruntled fanbase will wear all-black again this week — and probably leave at halftime of the wake once again.
Steer clear of these games like they were your creepy uncle or the aunt who always gets emotional at family gatherings.
Cardinals (-3) vs. Rams
Arizona’s six-game winless drought started with a 17–3 loss at St. Louis on Thursday in Week 5. This is like roulette; just because a color/number has hit six straight times doesn’t make it less likely there will be a seventh straight.
Colts (-3) vs. Bills
Indianapolis will probably run by Buffalo. But if there is going to be a rookie wall for Andrew Luck, he’ll hit it the week after being destroyed by New England.
Giants (-3) vs. Packers
The last time these two powers met, New York shocked No. 1-seed Green Bay, 37–20, at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Bengals (-8) vs. Raiders
Cincy has been way too up and down this season to bank on — a 3–1 start, then an 0–4 slump and now a two-game winning streak. Who knows?
Off the Board
The concussed and crippled fraternity of starting quarterbacks has led to uncertainty on the big board in Vegas. As of Wednesday afternoon, these games were up in the air. But let’s bet on what the spread might be, anyway.
Steelers (n/a) at Browns
Charlie Batch puts his 5–2 record as a Steelers starter on the line. Odds are, he’ll improve to 6–2. Take the Steelers (-4.5)?
Vikings (n/a) at Bears
Samantha Steele powers Christian Ponder. Planet Krypton powers Adrian Peterson. Take the Vikings (+2.5)?
49ers (n/a) at Saints
Alex Smith is a game manager, Colin Kaepernick is a playmaker, Jim Harbaugh is a quarterback guru… Take the 49ers (-3)?
Panthers (n/a) at Eagles
What’s Cyber Monday without a little online action? Pick the gift that Nick Foles doesn’t have anything to do with. Take the Panthers (+2.5)?
The racing is over. All that remains is for NASCAR to get together in Las Vegas next week, dole out some money and party. Before the banquet arrives, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council take a look back at the sport’s TV coverage this season and the racing, while looking ahead to 2013. Here is what they had to say:
Grade the TV coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season by FOX, TNT, Speed and ESPN/ABC
48.1 percent said Good
31.1 percent said Fair
12.6 percent said Poor
8.2 percent said Great
What Fan Council members said:
• ESPN had one of the best with their side-by-side halfway through the races of the Chase. This should be done for all races so we do not miss any action. And this should be in place for the ENTIRE Daytona 500! The most important race should be seen in its entirety. All networks could improve on their pre-race show except for FOX; FOX keeps it short and sweet and that is what it should be.
• This season was the first time that I actually changed the channel during a race or left the house completely. I always used to look forward to the TNT races, but even they dropped the ball this year. I seriously hope the 2013 season is better. The broadcasters need to stop "phoning it in" and actually listen to the fans and fix their coverage.
• Oh don't get me started! FOX might have good camera coverage, but I cannot stand the booth. TNT was just outright awful. SPEED has the most offerings, but they killed “Trackside” and “RaceDay” by making them way too silly. I love their programming, I just think sometimes it looks one step above cable access.
• It's nice to have the three TV crews covering the races because it’s a variety and they all do very good in their own way. I REALLY enjoy SPEED's pre-race and post-race coverage. I sure hope when they re-brand SPEED to FOX Sports they don't take away my NASCAR shows, including “Race Hub.’’
• Still a lot of room for improvement. Side-by-Side coverage = A+
• There's no better team than Bestwick, Jarrett and Petree. There's the gold standard right there. Mike Joy is another gem but the rest of the circus at FOX and SPEED are little more than a traveling carnival show, especially “Trackside,” which is no longer watchable. Oh yeah, TNT does broadcast a few races, but does anyone even recall them? Too little time on the schedule to be noticed or remembered.
• I said “good,” but in my opinion, it was borderline great. FOX is absolutely the best followed by ESPN/ABC. In Chris Myers' book, he explains that NASCAR really did listen to the fans when it came to TV programming. I've been a fan over 20 years, and I love the improvements the TV stations have done: more cameras, better announcers and most importantly the ability to listen to the drivers/crew chiefs/spotters radio communication. Mike Joy and Allen Bestwick are the best in the business! I also love the SpEED Channel and the pre- and post-race shows.
• “Great” for FOX because no matter how long the race goes over, they talk to the competitors. If it is short, then they go that much further to talk to others — not TNT or ESPN/ABC. They can have 15-30 minutes extra time and they'll go to some other stupid program.
Grade the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season
57.9 percent said Good
21.9 percent said Fair
16.8 percent said Great
3.4 percent said Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• This was a great season is so many ways. Having Brad win the championship was refreshing to see. What a great interview he gave on ESPN. He was real. Seeing Dale Jr. finally make it into Victory Lane in the Batmobile was awesome. Being in Victory Lane to celebrate with the No. 88 team was a thrill of a lifetime for me. Watching MWR teams do so well did a lot for the sport, too. Quite surprising to see Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush miss the Chase and Jeff Gordon just squeaking in. It was refreshing to see some emotions between drivers come to light this season. All in all, I enjoyed this season and am looking forward to the 2013 season.
• I have only been a fan since 200, but since then I have watched every race and have gone to at least one race a year. All I have to say is NASCAR has a serious problem on its hands, as this was the most boring season in memory. Do I have a solution to this problem? No. But something must be fixed.
• There were some good moments, but this year just did not seem to have the same buzz as last year. I enjoyed the Nationwide and Truck series races more this year.
• Flashes of brilliance followed by long stretches of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...
• Lots of drama, intensity, at times great racing, and there was always something new going on. I’m going to have withdrawals for the next few weeks.
• All in all, I would say this season has been good. I was almost leaning toward a “great,” because we got a new champion, but there were too many snoozer races to say it was great.
• Anyone who says anything less than great, must not remember Daytona, Watkins Glen, ‘Dega, Phoenix, among other great races, this year. Loved it and I hope next year is even better.
• I'm glad to see Keselowski as the champ. I'm glad to see Dale Jr. back in Victory Lane. But when I look back over the season, I don't have as many lasting images as I have from years past. There never seemed to be that "defining moment" of 2012. Maybe it's just me.
Grade Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead
53.1 percent said Good
26.9 percent said Fair
16.0 percent said Great
4.1 percent said Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• Most of the race was enjoyable, but I was disappointed that Jeff Gordon won. After his reckless behavior at Phoenix, I preferred that they take points away rather than suspending him for the benefit of sponsors and fans. However, the way everyone treated the win like it was some kind of vindication for his actions last week made me wish he'd been suspended. The championship race between Jimmie and Brad was great, and Brad's win made up for any other disappointment.
• I have to say great because Brad won. It is great that someone other than Jimmie or Tony won the championship.
• Not really a great race, other than I was thrilled at the ending. Very boring, at least on TV. As much as I loved seeing Brad K. and Jimmie J., it seemed like the whole race was just the two of them. Awful TV coverage.
• It was exciting to watch the 48 and the 2 battle for the championship. If that had not been going on, it would have been another boring race.
• It was typical of all the past races. Not a whole lot of excitement. Anti-climatic.
• The race had it all: Kyle leading but not winning again, Jeff winning at a track he never won at, Matt's last race in the No. 17, Jimmie about ready to make the biggest comeback in championship history and Brad topping the season off with the top prize and a cool 5 million bucks to boot! Not bad for a guy whose family was about ready to lose it all just a few short years ago because of their investment in their son. Wow!
How much faith do you have that the 2013 car will make the Cup racing better?
39.0 percent said Some
30.2 percent said A little
20.3 percent said None
10.5 percent said A lot
What Fan Council members said:
• They've been working on them a long time so hopefully they'll get them right. They have nailed the looks of the cars. They look great and I can tell them apart now. If they race as well as they look, we will have a very exciting 2013 season.
• It's not the cars that are at fault, it's the track configurations and NASCAR rules that hamper competition. Daytona and Talladega are little more than Barnum & Bailey near-death experiences. Nothing will change there until NASCAR kills its next driver.
• NASCAR is a corporation that is trying to promote a product. Sadly, I will have to see it to believe it.
• I don't quite understand why tighter competition is a good thing. If you make the cars the same, they all run around the track together and can't pass. Don't fans already complain about restrictor-plate racing forcing them into packs? Besides, I believe the problem is the TV coverage, and no change to the car will fix that.
• I give them the benefit of the doubt. As much as a few may have issues with NASCAR, they do a way better job at most issues than other sanctioning bodies.
• I had awesome faith for the CoT to be a lot safer for these drivers and we haven't had a death in NASCAR for a long time. Now we need to focus on tight racing cars and hopefully this new car will work. I have faith.
• Little faith but lots of hope. Soooo tired of hearing “track position is key.” I hope to hear that a fast car is key.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at [email protected]
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
There were plenty of epic failures in 2012. Players, coaches and even entire sports leagues embarrassed themselves in a variety of ways. With Thanksgiving Day in mind, here’s a rundown of the 10 biggest turkeys of the year.
1. NFL Replacement Referees
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the root of this evil. But he wasn’t the one throwing the yellow flags, handing out fourth timeouts, putting more or less than the right amount of time on the clock, spotting the ball on the wrong yard-line, calling college football rules in an NFL game or creating an environment of casual chaos on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays from Weeks 1-through-3 this season. The Replacement Refs went out with a bang, however, making a controversial call of simultaneous possession on a game-winning touchdown “catch” by the Seahawks’ Golden Tate to beat the Packers in prime time on Monday Night Football.
2. Gary Bettman, NHL clueless commissioner
The NHL owners have declared a lockout of the NHL Players’ Association, canceling the scheduled Oct. 11, 2012 start of the season. The Bettman-led NHL owners want to reduce the NHLPA’s previous guaranteed share of 57 percent of hockey related revenues. Having already canceled NBC’s Thanksgiving Showdown on Black Friday as well as the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, the league has already missed out on two of its highest-rated events of the year. Losing all momentum and turning on a loyal fanbase are not the best moves for a league struggling to keep the “Big Four” team sports from shrinking to the “Big Three.”
3. Jeffrey Loria, Marlins bait and switch conman
After spending over $500 million in public money from taxpayers and the city of Miami in order to build Marlins Park, Loria pulled a classic bait and switch — trading away nearly every player on the roster worthy of having his own baseball card. Is a ball club better with or without Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buehrle, Omar Infante, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, Heath Bell, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez? Doesn’t take a Sabermetrics statistician to answer that one.
4. Bobby Petrino, Hog wrecker and home wrecker
The ultimate April Fool, the 51-year-old married father of four wiped out on his motorcycle with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a blonde former Arkansas volleyball player turned football program employee. When the neck brace was off, it turned out that the young Dorrell had accepted some $20,000 in gifts used for a car, vacation and wedding expenses — that’s right, she was engaged to be married. Petrino lost his job, but not before making himself into a national punch-line and reminding everyone not to use a company phone (especially if working for a state school) when trying to keep an inter-office affair hidden from your wife and boss.
5. Bobby Valentine, Red Sox mental manager
In his first season managing the Red Sox, the funny Valentine led the proud franchise to its worst winning percentage since 1960. But it wasn’t just what he said and did, it was how he said and did it. He mismanaged pitchers, position players and the Boston media every chance he got en route to a 69–93 record and last-place finish in the AL East. The lovable slugger David Ortiz even questioned Valentine’s mental stability after hearing the lame duck manager’s double-talk on television and via text message. “I said to myself, ‘This guy must have some mental issues or needs medicine or something?’ I said, ‘I am dealing with someone crazy and I am not going to drive myself crazy, so it is better if I leave it alone.’” Good eye, Big Papi.
6. Melky Cabrera, Giants juiced All-Star Game MVP
San Francisco enjoyed home field advantage in this year’s World Series thanks to its own suspended outfielder. Cabrera went 2-for-3 with two RBIs on his way to winning MVP of the All-Star Game. Soon after, the then-MLB hits leader and NL batting champ contender was suspended 50 games for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. And while the Giants distanced themselves from their disgraced hitter in the midst of a tainted career year, the damage had already been done. No one benefited more from Cabrera’s indiscretions — which also included creating a shady fake website in an attempt to win his appeal of suspension — than San Fran, who reaped the rewards with a World Series home field edge and a batting champ in MVP Buster Posey.
7. Hope Solo, Olympic net-minder and never-mind-her
The Team USA goaltender was in rare form this year. First, she got into the Olympic spirit by ripping former Team USA star, sports bra flasher and NBC commentator Brandi Chastain via Twitter. “Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb” Followed by, “Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb”
Then, she made waves by dishing dirt about athletes getting down and dirty in the Olympic Village. “There’s a lot of sex going on,” said Solo, of Olympic Village. “I’ve seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.”
Finally, Solo became a duo with former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens one day after her husband-to-be was arrested following a domestic dispute. Stevens has a long history of run-ins with the law; Solo has a history of run-ins with whoever will pay attention to her. If those two kids can’t make it…
8. Lolo Jones, Olympic virgin and media whore
Wrongfully targeted but targeted nonetheless, the Lolo backlash was a brutal example of “build ‘em up to tear ‘em down” media. Jones had a phenomenal rags-to-riches story and a chance at redemption at the 2012 London Olympics. Instead, the self-proclaimed virgin became America’s media darling and was a victim of premature adulation. When Lolo finished a disappointing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, even her teammates turned on her. “I’ve had family issues as well, but I’m not willing to say all of them just so it can be in the papers. I don’t want that for myself or my family,” said silver-medalist Dawn Harper on the Today Show. “The three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” added bronze-medalist Kellie Wells. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.”
9. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees pinstripe Ponzi schemer
The world’s most overpaid athlete hit .120 (3-for-25) with two walks and one run scored over seven games in the playoffs. Plus, A-Rod produced the ultimate A-Rod moment when he allegedly attempted to get the phone number of Australian model Kyna Treacy by sending a souvenir baseball to her in the stands during Game 1 of the ALCS. A-Rod shut down his flirting bar fly from the bench routine when the Captain, Derek Jeter, broke his ankle hustling for the team in extra innings.
10. U.S. Ryder Cup team, international choke artists
In an epic meltdown that Greg Norman, Jean Van de Velde, or any member of the 1999 European Ryder Cup team could relate to all too well, the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team folded like a Medinah spectator’s golf chair at the 38th Ryder Cup. On the comfortable confines of U.S. soil and in front of 40,000 rowdy American fans, Team USA led 10–6 on Sunday — needing just 4.5 points out of 12 singles matches.
But the lineup assembled by Captain Davis Love III struggled out of the gate and never regrouped. When Germany’s Martin Kaymer beat Steve Stricker in the penultimate group, the U.S.’s closer Tiger Woods became essentially irrelevant. Woods’ missed putt on the final hole — which came after an over-the-top Euro celebration — gave Europe the outright win rather than just a retained Ryder Cup after one of the worst letdown’s in the 85-year history of the international competition.
This much is certain: The team returning to the mainland as the Battle 4 Atlantis champion will have earned it.
The best early season tournament includes eight teams that reached the postseason a year ago. Five of the eight teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis field reached the NCAA Tournament, including Louisville to the Final Four. Two of the three teams that played in the NIT met in the final at Madison Square Garden.
Beyond last season's results, four teams here (the Cardinals, Duke, Missouri and Memphis) were ranked among the Athlon preseason top 20.
In short, even a consolation game here could be a chance to pick up a quality win for a postseason resume.
The field includes three preseason All-Americans (Peyton Siva, Phil Pressey, Trevor Mbakwe), three national championship coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith) and three of the brightest young coaches in the business (Shaka Smart, Josh Pastner, Ben Jacobsen)
Even on a holiday weekend stuffed with football, this tournament is appointment viewing.
Overriding question: Will Louisville justify its top-three ranking or is it up for the taking?
Louisville has done nothing to cast doubt that it’s a Final Four contender again, but the Cardinals’ have faced overmatched competition thus far. A strong showing against this field could further cement Louisville’s status among the top teams. That said, Duke, which already beat defending national champion Kentucky this season, and Missouri, a potential SEC contender, also could be in position to make statements. A key to watch for Louisville will be Russ Smith. The junior guard remains a high-volume shooter (47 attempts from the field, 27 from 3-point range in three games). The Cards may need someone else to step up, particularly George Mason transfer Luke Hancock, who has been hobbled by shoulder injury and a 5 of 29 start from the floor.
Another big question: What will we see from Mason Plumlee?
Plumlee played well in the offensive end agains Kentucky earlier this season, going 7 of 8 from the field with 18 points in a matchup against top freshman Nerlens Noel. But Plumlee also played with foul trouble. He’ll be on the spot early against Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe and then potentially another talented frontcourt against Memphis. Plumlee has played well under the basket all season, shooting 77.4 percent from the floor.
Best potential matchup: Louisville vs. Duke in the final
Two top-10 teams and two Hall of Fame coaches would highlight this matchup. On the floor Plumlee vs. Gorgui Dieng would be a key matchup to watch, also the potential contest on the perimeter with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith facing Seth Curry and freshman Rasheed Suliamon.
Player to watch: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Mbakwe has been easing into the lineup this season after returning from knee surgery last season. The senior forward has yet to start a game, but his minutes increased from the 10-14 in the first three to 27 in Sunday’s win over Richmond. Mbakwe’s 12 rebounds against the Spiders was an encouraging sign for coach Tubby Smith. If he’s healthy this season, Minnesota could challenge for an NCAA Tournament berth. If he’s healthy in this Battle 4 Atlantis, the Gophers could be a spoiler.
BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS
Individual matchup to watch: Louisville’s Peyton Siva vs. Missouri’s Phil Pressey in the semifinal
Two of the nation’s best point guards could meet in the semifinal provided Louisville defeats Northern Iowa and Missouri defeats Stanford (granted, both could meet in the losers’ bracket as well). The most compelling part of the matchup may be which comes up on top in steals. Siva and Pressey have been among their conference’s leaders in thefts.
Related: Preseason Q&A wtih Pressey
Coaching matchup to watch: Anyone vs. Mike Krzyzewski
Just about anyone facing Krzyzewski will be intriguing. He’ll start out against Tubby Smith and then could face VCU’s Shaka Smart or Memphis’ Josh Pastner, who weren’t even born when Krzyzewski took his first coaching job at Army. And if Duke reaches the final, Krzyzewski could face Rick Pitino, a former player and assistant in Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, or a fellow coach who was upset as a No. 2 seed in the first round last season in Missouri’s Frank Haith.
Most interesting first-round game: Memphis vs. VCU
Memphis has a ton of talent in Joe Jackson, Tarik Black and Adonis Thomas, but VCU has a well-established track record of exceeding the sum of its parts. VCU has hopes to contend for the Atlantic 10 in its first year in the league, so this could be a good barometer of the Rams potential. Forward Juvonte Reddic, who can pick up double-digit rebounds and shoot from outside, will be worth watching against Memphis’ front line.
Sleeper team to watch: Minnesota
The Gophers improved as the season went along before falling to Stanford in the NIT final last season. With Mbakwe to the established core of point guard Andre Hollins and forward Rodney Williams, the Gophers could be a threat in the deep Big Ten.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for November 21:
• A basketball player went off for 138 points last night. Of course, it took 108 shots for him to get there. The game film is what Kobe Bryant now refers to as "porn."
• Speaking of Kobe, naturally, someone went to him for a reaction to the 138-point game. Naturally, his reaction was pretty priceless.
• The Jon Gruden to Tennessee train has left the station for some hopeful Vol fans. This article and accompanying photo won't do anything to dampen speculation.
• The NCAA is playing hardball with Miami Hurricanes players, who are apparently guilty until proven innocent.
• Welcome to Montreal, a foreign city where pro sports are now a foreign concept.
• Not to pile on our neighbors to the north, but the mayor of Toronto beclowned himself for our enjoyment.
• If you ever wonder how the sausage is made at the Worldwide Leader, our friends at Deadspin are always happy to show you.
• Like coach, like QB. Matt Barkley's stand-in is guaranteeing victory vs. top-ranked Notre Dame.
• I didn't know that the Curse of the All-Star Game was a thing, but apparently it is.
• It's Thanksgiving Eve, and here are a few helpful hints for enjoying the holiday from our friends at The Onion. My favorite: Have children sit at a small table so they feel gigantic.
• Today's video honors a great American tradition: Barry Sanders running wild on Thanksgiving Day.
--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
• Last night, the Niners emasculated the Bears on national TV. Here it is, summarized in one GIF.
• Our Girl Gallery of the Day includes USC's finest cheerleaders.
• Remembering Metta World Peace's former identity as the scariest guy in the NBA (instead of just the weirdest). Hard to believe it's been eight years since the Malice in the Palace.
• Andy Reid draws a line in the sand: You want me gone? You gotta fire me.
• Gotta love the late-'70s disco font on this vintage Magic cover.
• Snoop Lion's latest inspiration. Not sure what he's thinking, but hey, weed's a helluva drug.
• Well, if it's good enough for Commissioner Bud, it's good enough for me.
• SI's already anticipating the post-Gruden era of Monday Night Football.
• FSU to Maryland: Don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.
• Today's video features Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski living down to every NASCAR stereotype. Congrats on securing that lifetime beer sponsorship.
--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Just like the crazy uncle with the nonstop inappropriate jokes or the aunt with the barely edible green bean casserole, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are welcome additions to the holiday family gathering even though they will probably provide an awkward moment or two.
Here are a few of the noteworthy Thanksgiving Day memories from the Lions, whose first Turkey Day game was in 1934, and Cowboys, who first sat at the table in 1966.
1. Lett It Snow
On a snow-covered field at old Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 1993, the Cowboys blocked a potential game-winning field goal by the Dolphins with 15 seconds to play. The Boys surrounded the dead ball in celebration before Leon Lett came sliding in through the snow, tipping the ball and allowing the Fins to recover the muff at the one-yard-line — and beat Dallas, 16–14, on a game-winning field goal as time expired.
2. Heads or Tails?
Prior to the coin toss at the start of overtime in Detroit in 1998, Pittsburgh’s “Bus” Jerome Bettis clearly called “tails.” But referee Phil Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions, who kicked a game-winning field goal on their first drive to beat the stunned Steelers, 19–16.
En route to becoming the only 0–16 team in history, the Lions allowed a Thanksgiving Day team-worst 47 points to the Titans, who posted an NFL-best 13–3 record in 2008.
4. Fried Turkey
Vikings rookie Randy Moss burned the Cowboys — who infamously passed on the wideout in the 1998 draft — to the tune of three catches for 163 yards (54.3 ypc) and three touchdowns, as Minnesota ran by Dallas, 46–36.
5. Unruly Kids
Detroit 24-year-old Ndamukong Suh threw a temper tantrum on the field and was ejected from the game for stomping on Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith during a 27–15 loss in 2011.
6. Delicious Leftovers
Cowboys third-stringer Jason Garrett starts in place of an injured Troy Aikman and outpitches the Packers’ Brett Favre in a 42–31 Dallas win in 1994. The game reminds many of the time Cowboys backup Clint Longley replaced an injured Roger Staubach to lead thrilling come-from-behind 24–23 win over the rival Redskins in 1974.
7. Juice Spoiled
O.J. Simpson broke the NFL’s single-game rushing record with 273 yards at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. But due to inept quarterback play from Gary Marangi, who went 4-for-21 for 29 yards, the Bills lost to the Lions, 27–14.
8. Unfitting Finale
Mr. Thanksgiving himself, Lions legend Barry Sanders, had just 33 yards on 20 carries against the Steelers in 1998 — the worst showing No. 20 ever had on a fourth Thursday in November. Although the effort pushed Sanders over the 15,000-yard mark for his career, it was (shockingly) the last Thanksgiving Day he graced the nation with his brilliance.
If you play in a deep league and are in a pinch this week, take a look at this week’s Emergency Starters. As always, if you have any start/bench questions or need additional insight on roster decisions, please reach out to us via emailor twitter.
Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)
Sam Richardson, Iowa St vs West Virginia
Sean Mannion, Oregon St vs Oregon
Crawford Jones, Houston vs Tulane
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss vs Mississippi St
Kelly Page, Ball St at Miami, OH
Jeremy Wright, Louisville vs Connecticut
Marlin Lane, Tennessee vs Kentucky
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor vs Texas Tech
Kenny Miles, SC at Clemson
Shane Wynn, Indiana at Purdue
Chris McNeill, Wyoming vs San Diego St
Chandler Jones, San Jose St vs LA Tech
Chris Gallon, Bowling Green vs Buffalo
For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to: [email protected]
Blake Bortles, Central Florida vs UAB
Terrance Broadway, LA vs South Alabama
Cameron Coffman, Indiana at Purdue
Eric Soza, UTSA vs Texas St
Donnell Alexander, Colorado St vs New Mexico
Brandon Hayes, Memphis vs USM
Shadrach Thornton, NC St vs Boston College
Mike Evans, Texas A&M vs Missouri
Chris Coyle, Arizona St at Arizona
Harry Peoples, LA vs South Alabama
The 2012 college football season has officially entered the home stretch. With bowl games officially around the corner, there's not much time for teams to get eligible or make up ground in a conference title race.
College Football's Week 13 Upset Predictions
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Duke (+6.5) over Miami
Remember a few weeks ago when it seemed the winner of this game would go to the ACC championship game? Me neither, but it happened. Then Duke lost three in a row to Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech. And Miami self-imposed a bowl ban. Certainly, this is a mismatch for Duke. The Blue Devils’ defense isn’t very good, and Miami can be explosive on offense. But there’s too much history of Miami flopping when the moment is right. I’m thinking of the 24-17 loss to Boston College to end last season. Or the 41-40 loss earlier this season to Virginia. With the ACC and bowl possibilities gone, this seems like a game tailor made for the ‘Canes to show up uninspired. Despite Duke's struggles the last three weeks, the Blue Devils are good enough to upset Miami. And with the guarantee of a winning season ahead of them, they have the motivation.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Wisconsin (+3) over Penn State
With the Leaders Division title wrapped up, there’s very little for Wisconsin to play for in Week 13. However, I think the Badgers will escape Happy Valley with a win on Saturday. Considering this is the final home game for Penn State, there’s certainly an emotional edge for the Nittany Lions. But this matchup seems to slightly favor Wisconsin. The Badgers fell just short of knocking off Ohio State last week but all four of their losses this year are by seven points or less. Quarterback Curt Phillips also seems to be finding his rhythm under center, while running back Montee Ball will test a Penn State defense that won’t have linebacker Michael Mauti this week. Wisconsin hasn’t won in Happy Valley since 2003, but I think that streak ends and the Badgers head into the Big Ten Championship with a little momentum with a solid road victory.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Oklahoma State (+7.5) at Oklahoma
They aren’t in the national spotlight this season, but the Oklahoma State Cowboys are still scoring a ton of points. The Pokes have scored a total of 114 points in the last two weeks — wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech — and rank third nationally with 45.4 points per game. And they have done all of this while playing three quarterbacks. Junior Clint Chelf is expected to start this weekend, but both redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and true freshman Wes Lunt are also available. Oklahoma has rebounded from its loss at home to Notre Dame by beating Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia. The Sooners blew a late lead in Morgantown on Saturday but scored with 24 seconds remaining to claim a 50–49 win. Landry Jones broke his own school record by throwing for 554 yards, and he tied his own record with six touchdown passes. The Sooners would love to exact some revenge after losing in Stillwater 44–10 last December. Won’t happen. Take the Pokes on the road. Oklahoma State 41–37
Mark Ross: Ohio (+10.5) over Kent State
Even though Kent State has two more wins than Ohio and is headed to the MAC title game next week, I think a 10 1/2-point spread to begin with is entirely too much. For starters, it's not like Ohio is a "bad" team, as the Bobcats have eight wins of their own, including a season-opening victory at Penn State. They also are ranked 35th in the nation in total offense behind dual-threat quarterback Tyler Tettleton. While Kent State has 10 wins, including an impressive 35-23 win at Rutgers on Oct. 27, and hasn't lost a conference game, this is still a team that lost 47-14 to Kentucky. Don't forget Kentucky has just two wins on the season, its second coming last week courtesy of FCS member Samford. That said, these two teams are very similar in terms of statistics, so I see a much closer game than the spread predicts. On top of that, I think Tettleton and the Bobcats will be able to take advantage of what appears to be Kent State's defensive weakness - pass defense. The Golden Flashes are 113th in the nation in pass defense (286.5 ypg), while the Bobcats are averaging 233.6 yards per game through the air. Ohio has struggled recently, losing three out of its last four, but this is still a team that has a shot to win 10 games and would like nothing more than to make a final statement before the bowl selection process by beating a ranked (No. 23 in BCS standings, AP poll) Kent State team. I also think the Golden Flashes may be looking ahead to their MAC title game showdown next Friday with Northern Illinois. So between the motivation and letdown factors, I'm picking Ohio to come away with a hard-fought road victory over Kent State this Friday in Dix Stadium.
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
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 website can give you.
2012 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings
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
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
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points
There isn’t a ton of drama remaining in the regular season. Assuming Alabama beats Auburn — and Nick Saban’s team is favored by over four touchdowns — the SEC Championship Game is set: Georgia vs. Bama. Two teams are fighting for bowl-eligibility; Ole Miss must defeat Mississippi State and Missouri needs a win at Texas A&M to reach the six-win mark. Four league teams will play an opponent from the ACC this weekend — Georgia (Georgia Tech), South Carolina (Clemson), Florida (Florida State) and Vanderbilt (Wake Forest)
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
1. Will this be Gene Chizik’s final Iron Bowl?
Two years after winning a national title, Auburn is on the verge of the program’s first winless SEC season since 1950. Nothing has been announced, but there is speculation that Gene Chizik will be fired shortly after Auburn concludes its season, which most assume will end with a lopsided loss to rival Alabama. The Tigers are a 31.5-point underdog. While it seems a bit rash to fire a coach who delivered the school its second-ever national championship, there is ample evidence to suggest Chizik is not the long-term solution. Auburn has had one winning SEC record in Chizik’s four seasons; his predecessor, Tommy Tuberville, had eight winning records in nine seasons. Not only will Auburn likely fail to a win a game in the league this season, but the Tigers have been alarmingly uncompetitive. Through seven SEC games, they have been outgained by an average of 199.2 yards and outscored by an average of 20.3 points. And, the stat that everyone loves to point to: Chizik is 24–37 overall and 9–30 in conference play as a head coach when Cam Newton is not his quarterback.
2. Will Alabama’s defense pitch a shutout?
There won’t be much drama at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. It’s pretty much a given that Alabama will beat rival Auburn — and do so with ease. But Nick Saban will keep a close eye (as usual) on his defense. With a date with Georgia looming in the SEC Championship Game, it’s important that Alabama plays well on the defensive end after giving up 435 yards and 418 yards to LSU and Texas A&M, respectively, in its last two SEC games. Prior to that, the Tide had not allowed any team to gain more than 282 yards this season. Auburn’s issues have been well-documented (see above). It will not be a good sign if Alabama struggles on defense this weekend.
3. Can Ole Miss reach bowl-eligibility?
Ole Miss is 0-for-3 in its quest to become bowl-eligible under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels’ last two losses have been especially painful —a 27–26 defeat at home to Vanderbilt in a game in which Ole Miss led 23¬–6 and then last week’s 41–35 heartbreaker at LSU. “We are coming off of another disappointing loss,” Freeze said earlier this week. “I don’t know that in my years of coaching high school, NAIA or Division I football if I’ve ever had three [Ole Miss also lost by three to Texas A&M this season] more difficult ones in one year. I’m extremely proud of our kids and coaches and the way that they bounce back from those.” Motivation should not be a problem this week against hated rival Mississippi State. The Rebels have lost three straight and five of the past seven in the series. Freeze would like nothing more than to snap the streak in his first Egg Bowl as the head coach. “There’s a lot riding on this game for us,” he said. “Obviously the Egg Bowl is enough, but I sure would like to send these seniors out going to play in a postseason game and our fans to get to experience that.”
4. Can Florida get its offense going?
We thought Florida had figured some things out on offense after scoring 31 points or more four times in a five-game stretch from late September through late October. We were wrong. The Gators have averaged only 18.3 points in their last four, and that includes games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Overall, Florida ranks 12th in the SEC in total offense (332.9 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (25.8 ppg). Those are troubling stats that become even scarier when you have a trip to Tallahassee looming. Florida State ranks first nationally in total defense (236.3 ypg) and has given up more than 22 points only once this season. It’s strange to say this about a team ranked fourth in the BCS standings, but it’s tough to envision a scenario in which Florida musters enough offense to win this game.
5. Can Georgia control Georgia Tech’s option attack?
Georgia is 3–1 against Georgia Tech since Paul Johnson and his option attack arrived in Atlanta. After losing 45–42 in Athens in the first meeting, the Dawgs have won three straight. But even in the victories, Georgia has had trouble with Tech’s option offense; the Jackets have averaged 317 rushing yards and 30 points in the four games. Last week, Georgia prepped for Tech by playing Georgia Southern, an FCS team that has been running the option for years. The results couldn’t have thrilled Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: Georgia Southern rushed for 302 yards on 58 attempts, with three different players averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. Stopping Tech’s attack this week will be a challenge.
6. Can Johnny Manziel finish strong?
Johnny Manziel, now considered the Heisman frontrunner, has one more opportunity to impress the voters. The redshirt freshman from Texas A&M closes what has been a magical regular season against Missouri on Saturday. Manziel leads the SEC in rushing (144.1 ypg), ranks fourth in the league in passing efficiency and ranks second nationally in total offense (378.3 ypg). He had one bad game — three picks and no touchdowns in a loss against LSU — but shined on the biggest of stages in the Aggies’ win at Alabama two weeks ago. He completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns and added 92 yards rushing against arguably the nation’s finest defense.
The Heisman is Manziel’s to lose.
7. Can Carolina make it four straight against Clemson?
South Carolina is in the midst of its most successful run in school history. The Gamecocks are 17–7 in the SEC over the last three seasons and have won three straight against their rivals from Clemson. It will be a significant challenge to increase that streak to four games. The Tigers, 10–1 overall, have been on a tremendous roll offensively for the majority of the 2012 season. They rank fourth nationally in scoring (44.6 ppg) and are fresh off of a 62-point, 754-yard performance last week against NC State. It was the sixth time in the last seven games that Clemson has scored at least 40 points. South Carolina was one of the top defensive teams in college football through the first half of the season but has not been as stout in the past month. Sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the best defensive player in the nation, has been slowed by a foot injury. Carolina will need Clowney to be back to his disruptive self on Saturday to slow down the potent Tigers’ attack.
8. Can Vanderbilt handle prosperity?
James Franklin has done a great job keeping his team focused on the task at hand — the next game — throughout the 2012 season. But that will more difficult than ever this weekend. The Commodores are riding high after beating Tennessee 41–18 on Saturday night in Nashville. It was their fifth straight win overall and their first win over Tennessee at home since 1982. This week, the Commodores head to Wake Forest to play a struggling Demon Deacon team that has lost its last two games (at NC State and at Notre Dame) by a combined score of 75–6. Last year, Vanderbilt closed its regular season with a 41–7 win at Wake Forest. Franklin is no doubt guarding against overconfidence this week.
9. Can the LSU offense take its show on the road?
LSU has played well offensively in recent weeks, scoring 41 against Ole Miss, 37 against Mississippi State and gaining 435 yards in a 21–17 loss to Alabama. But all three of those games were at home. The Tigers have not played well offensively in their three previous road trips — and yes, they have only played three road games. LSU has averaged 14 points and 289 yards on the road this year, and only one of those opponents (Florida) is ranked in the top half of the SEC in total defense. The Tigers scored 12 points in a way-too-close win over Auburn, six in a loss at Florida and 24 in a win at Texas A&M. Zach Mettenberger has shown tremendous improvement at quarterback in the latter half of the season. Now it’s time for the junior to prove he can perform at a high level on the road.
10. Will Tennessee actually go winless in the SEC?
Tennessee dropped to 0–7 in the SEC with its 41–18 loss at Vanderbilt last week. The Volunteers need to beat Kentucky on Saturday to avoid their first winless conference season in school history. On two occasions Tennessee has only won one game (1–5–1 in 1964 and 1–5 in 1977), but never have the Vols done the unthinkable — fail to win an SEC game. And it probably won’t happen. As much as Tennessee is struggling, it is still a much more talented team than Kentucky, which is also winless in the SEC. The Vols would have to play really poorly not to win this game.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
LSU at Arkansas
|LSU 28-14||LSU 24-13||
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kentucky at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
Florida at Florida State
Florida State 28-10
|Florida St. 24-20||
Florida St. 24-17
|Florida St. 27-17|
Auburn at Alabama
Miss. State at Ole Miss
Ole Miss 28-24
|Ole Miss 34-30||
Miss. State 31-30
|Ole Miss 31-27|
South Carolina at Clemson
Missouri at Texas A&M
Texas A&M 35-14
|Texas A&M 30-21||
Texas A&M 41-24
|Texas A&M 33-20|
Thanksgiving weekend college football rivalry games are as much of a tradition as eating leftover turkey and falling into a tryptophan-induced coma on the couch.
The best games of the year are crammed into a holiday weekend like an extra slice of pie on an already overflowing plate. Naturally, the oldest and most bitter rivals have produced some of the most memorable moments in the sport’s history.
Chomp vs. Chop
The Gators’ chomp and Seminoles’ tomahawk chop are two of the most recognizable celebrations in all of sports — especially when done by UF Gator girls and FSU cowgirls.
Free Shoes University
The Ol’ Ball Coach has a yap trap full of razor sharp one-liners. When he coached at Florida in the 1990s, Steve Spurrier gave the FSU acronym new meaning — referring to "Free Shoe University" after a Foot Locker scandal rocked Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.
The rivalry between Notre Dame and USC would not even exist if not for a train conversation that sparked a fast friendship between Irish coach Knute Rockne’s wife, Bonnie, and USC de facto athletic director Gwynn Wilson’s wife, Marion. Returning from Nebraska, Mrs. Rockne thought a trip to Los Angeles would be more to her liking. The rest is history.
Punt, Bama, Punt
The Auburn Tigers rallied from a 16–0 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play to take down Bear Bryant’s undefeated No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1972 Iron Bowl. Bill Newton blocked two punts, which were both returned for TDs by David Langner....Forty years later, Alabama loon Harvey Updyke Jr. became the poster boy for sociopathic football fans when he poisoned the historic trees at Toomer’s Corner on Auburn’s campus.
“From the Emerald Isle,” the Irish club goes to the winner of the Notre Dame and USC intersectional rivalry. It is currently adorned with 43 Fighting Irish shamrocks and 35 Trojan heads and five combined medallions, representing ND’s 43–35–5 all-time edge since 1926 — although USC has won nine of the last 10 in the series.
The Ohio State loving “best damn punk band in the land” had a cult following in the early 2000s, bashing Michigan with songs like “We Don’t Give a Damn For the Whole State of Michigan,” “Chad Henne is a Mother F****** Joke” and “I Hate Michigan.”
What do you get when you cross an Oregon Duck with an Oregon State Beaver? A duck-billed, beaver-tailed Platypus Trophy awarded the winner of the Civil War.
Beat the Farmers
Ole Miss students dress old money preppy, donning buttons and biting their thumbs at their “Cow College” rivals from Mississippi State. The problem is that the Bulldogs are riding a three-game win streak and have beaten the Rebels five of the last seven meetings.
Bedlam “Bets, Drugs, and Rock & Roll”
In his 2007 book, offshore gambling maven Steve Budin claimed that in 1954 the Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) had been fixed by mobsters who had paid a cook to poison Bud Wilkinson’s undefeated Sooners with horse laxatives. The Cowboys (then Aggies) covered the spread but ultimately lost the game.
In 1961, the South Carolina chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity pulled an epic prank on its arch-rival Clemson. Roughly 50 frat boys dressed in orange and purple football uniforms and ran out onto the field prior to kickoff, as 47,000 confused Tigers fans cheered on the Gamecock imposters.
Conference realignment put an end to several of Thanksgiving weekend’s greatest historical rivalries.
Texas A&M vs. Texas
The Aggies headed to the SEC and will not play the Longhorns this year.
Missouri vs. Kansas
The Border War dates back to 1891. But sadly, it is no more.
West Virginia vs. Pitt
The Backyard Brawl dates back to 1895. But after WVU’s move to the Big 12, it’s over.
Wisconsin is in and waiting for either Nebraska or Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game. Senior day will take place all across the Midwest, including what should be a very emotional day in Happy Valley. Michigan and Ohio State renew arguably the greatest rivalry in all of college football. And, oh by the way, the Big Ten is no longer at 12 teams as Maryland and Rutgers have officially been added to the league. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
1. Brady Hoke vs. Urban Meyer, Part 1
There are many who believe that this rivalry has a chance to reach a new level now that both programs apparently have long-term stability at the head coaching position. These are two old-school coaches with old-school philosophies and old-school personalities who understand the old-school tradition inherent in this matchup. Urban Meyer is completely obsessed with beating Michigan, while Brady Hoke has never lost to That School from Down South in his short stint as coach at That School from Up North. The 10-Year War has a chance to be revived with these two leaders in place — and this Saturday at noon in Columbus, Ohio, they will face each other for the first time. Here's hoping the ghosts of Woody and Bo enjoy what they see.
2. Ohio State, Braxton Miller's 2012 legacy
The Buckeyes would be no lower than third in the BCS standings — and more likely second — if they weren't ineligible. Braxton Miller should end up in New York but won't win the Heisman Trophy due to NCAA sanctions. However, a win over hated Michigan would give Meyer his first unbeaten season as a BCS head coach and would send the Heisman hype around Miller soaring into the offseason (which might be a terrible thing if you are a Buckeye, considering the preseason favorite never seems to win). Should Nebraska somehow lose to Iowa, the Wolverines would be playing for a spot in the Big Ten game. Knocking the Maize and Blue out of the Big Ten Championship game would completely out-weigh the what-ifs that would swirl in Bucknuts' heads for eternity about what this 12-0 team could have done had it been eligible to compete for a national championship.
3. Better yet, what is Denard Robinson's legacy?
Shoelace was used almost exclusively as a runner last weekend, rushing 13 times for 98 yards, catching a few passes and attempting no passes. Devin Gardner, meanwhile, dissected the Hawkeyes with six touchdowns with his arm (3 TD) and his legs (3 TD). Robinson deserves kudos for taking his role in stride, especially considering what he was able to do last fall in this rivalry. He got the Wolverines into the win column against their bitter rival for the first time since 2003 and has weeks of highlight reel performances over three years of starting games with that famed winged helmet on. He is one of the most productive players in the history of college football, but he never won a championship and it will feel weird watching him take hand-offs and catch passes from someone else in what could be his final Big Ten football game. Just imagine what a big play or two in an upset win over unbeaten Ohio State would mean to his legacy as a Wolverine?
4. Conduct business in Iowa City
Kirk Ferentz has major issues at Iowa. His team is going to have its first losing season since 2001 — which is simultaneously both a credit and debit on his resume — and these Hawkeyes should pose little threat to the Nebraska Cornhuskers title run. With a win, Bo Pelini will have led the Big Red to the Big Ten championship game in only its second season in the league. Taylor Martinez, who could push Braxton Miller for Player of the Year honors should Ohio State lose to Michigan, should have no issue carving up a Hawks defense that has looked anything but what a Ferentz-coached defense normally looks like. SEE: Devin Gardner's stat line from last week. This should be a corn-onation of sorts for Pelini and Martinez.
5. Michigan State's bowl eligibility
The question this summer about Michigan State was whether Mark Dantonio built the Spartans into a "reload" program or would they have to "rebuild" after losing so many key players. After the school's greatest quarterback and all-time leading receiver moved on, it certainly appeared as though Sparty was rebuilding this season. The defense has been stout, even without Jerel Worthy, but the offense has struggled to find balance all season. And now, after back-to-back 11-win seasons, Dantonio is faced with a must-win situation against Minnesota just to keep from having a losing campaign. Look for Le'Veon Bell to get upwards of 40 carries if that is what it takes to demoralize the underrated Minnesota defensive line and get Michigan State to the postseason.
6. Montee Ball's TD records
The Wisconsin tailback is tied with Travis Prentice for the NCAA's all-time lead in total touchdowns with 78. With one more score, he will have reached paydirt more than anyone else in the history of the game. It's quite a statement for a player who really has only started for two-and-a-half seasons. Additionally, Ball is one rushing touchdown behind Prentice's all-time NCAA mark for rushing scores with 73.
7. Emotional senior day in Beaver Stadium
No matter which side of the Wisconsin-Penn State rivalry you may land on, everyone will be cheering for Nittany Lions' senior linebacker Michael Mauti on Saturday. His career in Happy Valley came to an end last weekend when he was carted off the field with a knee injury. This is the same knee that needed ACL surgery in 2011 and, right or wrong, his draft stock is undoubtedly slipping. This was supposed to be his final home game in front of a fanbase that understands and appreciates first-hand what Mauti and the rest of the seniors sacrificed the last 12 months. Mauti, Matt McGloin and the rest of this class have set a tremendous example of how to overcome adversity and what it means to commit to something larger than the individual. Win or lose, both teams should applaud how a collection of young people performed in the face of unthinkable atrocities.
8. Can Danny Hope save his job with a win?
The rumblings from West Lafayette are getting louder by the day. Even on a two-game winning streak that has Danny Hope poised to make his second-straight bowl game, there are those that feel a change is needed atop the Boilermakers program. A loss for Hope in the in-state Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket would effectively end his head coaching career at Purdue. Unfortunately, a win might not help much either.
Week 13 Big Ten Predictions:
|Week 13 Games||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Nebraska at Iowa||Nebraska, 34-10||Nebraska, 30-10||Nebraska, 31-14||Nebraska, 35-10|
|Illinois at Northwestern||Northwestern, 35-17||Northwestern, 31-17||Northwestern, 38-13||Northwestern, 28-14|
|Indiana at Purdue||Purdue, 34-31||Indiana, 34-17||Indiana, 34-31||Purdue, 17-10|
|Michigan at Ohio St||Ohio St, 41-31||Ohio St, 30-17||Ohio St, 31-28||Ohio St, 28-14|
|Michigan St at Minnesota||Michigan St, 28-7||Michigan St, 20-17||Michigan St, 27-17||Michigan St, 14-7|
|Wisconsin at Penn St||Penn St, 24-20||Penn St, 24-17||Wisconsin, 27-24||Penn St, 21-14|
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 13 Previews and Predictions
SEC Week 13 Previews and Predictions
College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections
Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124
Rutgers and Pittsburgh will play this week in what’s an important Big East game ... for now. The Scarlet Knights are seeking their first Big East title, and Pittsburgh is looking for a bowl game.
After that, it’s off to the ACC for Pittsburgh next season, and then Rutgers to the Big Ten in two years. Elsewhere, UConn and Louisville will face each other this week in a game between teams hoping to get called up to the ACC.
For another year, the Big East season has been marred by realignment. Last season it was Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, West Virginia and never-was Big East member TCU to the Big 12. Conference movement chaos continues to loom over the league even with the Big East title up for grabs in the final two weeks.
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big East’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
How does Rutgers manage its new running back tandem?
Hobbled with an ankle injury, Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison carried the ball only four times for 37 yards in the 10-3 win over Cincinnati last week. Jamison had been the focal point of the Scarlet Knights’ offense, but Rutgers learned it may have a formidable duo as Savon Huggins rushed for 179 yards on 41 carries. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood could use both this week against Cincinnati. Jamison’s elusiveness and Huggins’ physical style creates an intriguing complement. Splitting the carries may not be a bad idea, either, since both now have a 40-carry game under their belts this season.
Is a Pitt upset of Rutgers crazy enough to happen?
If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that no one in the Big East can take anything for granted. In that sense, a Pittsburgh upset of Rutgers makes perfect sense. Regardless of what happens against Pitt, Rutgers’ hopes of a BCS bid and Big East title depend on next week’s finale against Louisville. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights’ offense remains prone to slow starts and turnovers. Ten of quarterback Gary Nova’s 12 interceptions this season have come in the last four games. One the other sideline, Pitt running back Ray Graham will face is half-brother Khaseem Greene, the likely Big East defensive player of the year. Graham rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown in the 34-10 loss to Rutgers and Greene last season.
Can UConn follow Syracuse in exposing the Louisville defense?
In short, not likely. The drop-off from Ryan Nassib and the Syracuse run game to what Connecticut has to offer is fairly steep. Even after rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown against Pitt, UConn still ranks last in the Big East in rushing and scoring offense. The Huskies had rushed for 178 yards total in Big East play prior to the Pitt game. Worth watching for Louisville will be the role of Jeremy Wright as the Cardinals’ primary running back with Senorise Perry out for the remainder of the season. Louisville rushed for only 48 yards against Syracuse. Connecticut, meanwhile, ranks 11th nationally in rush defense (107.6 yards per game).
What does Montel Harris have in store for his final game?
The twisting and turning career for Montel Harris comes to an end this week against Syracuse, just a week after he had the best game of his career. The lightly recruited running back out of Jacksonville, Fla., wasn’t even the top running to sign with Boston College in 2008 (that would have been Josh Haden). Yet Harris ended up the program’s all-time leading rusher before he was dismissed for violations of team rules. He landed at Temple and rushed for a Big East-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns last week. What he finds against Syracuse is a mystery. In Big East play, the Orange allowed 154 rushing yards to Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville combined. Yet Syracuse also allowed 369 rushing yards to USF and 286 to Cincinnati.
How dire could Syracuse’s injury situation be?
In a conference call with reporters, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said half of his offensive and defensive starters are on the injured list. However, he also said all are expected to play against Temple. Running backs Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith both left last week’s win over Missouri with injuries, and wide receiver Marcus Sales and defensive tackle Jay Bromley are also hobbled. Marrone will find out Friday if these bumps and bruises are enough to even the score between the hottest team in the Big East against one of the coldest.
What’s the latest question for Cincinnati’s quarterback?
It seems every week is a new question for the Cincinnati quarterbacks from Munchie Legaux’s early inconsistency to the switch to Brendon Kay and now to the health of Kay. The fifth-year senior is questionable agains USF with an injury to his non-throwing elbow. Kay sustained the injury last week, but he never left the game against Rutgers. Legaux would return to the starting role if Kay is unable to play. The Bulls have their own quarterback quandary with redshirt Matt Floyd making his first career start. Floyd went 20 of 35 for 175 yards with two interceptions in relief of Bobby Eveld last week.
Week 13 Big East Predictions:
|Week 13 Big East Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Syracuse at Temple (Fri.)||Syracuse 35-10||Syracuse 30-17||Syracuse 34-20||Syracuse 34-13|
|USF at Cincinnati (Fri.)||Cincinnati 28-7||Cincinnati 24-20||Cincinnati 31-17||Cincinnati 21-17|
|UConn at Louisville||Louisville 31-13||Louisville 34-14||Louisville 34-17||Louisville 27-11|
|Rutgers at Pittsburgh||Rutgers 24-10||Rutgers 27-20||Pittsburgh 24-20||Rutgers 21-17|
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This could be one of the truly great season finales in Pac-12 history. And this comes from a league that consistently plays its best rivalries on the final weekend of the year. The Civil War. The Apple Cup. The Duel in the Desert. Notre Dame and USC. And, oh by the way, Stanford visits UCLA with a trip to the Pac-12 championship game on the line.
Additionally, it's worth nothing that Colorado will play Utah.
Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
1. Will USC upset the national landscape?
Max Wittek has already gone on radio in Los Angeles and all but guaranteed victory. That's a pretty bold statement for someone making their first career start against the first No. 1-rated Notre Dame Fighting Irish team in the history of the BCS. The funny thing is? The Trojans have the weapons on the edge and in the vertical passing game to attack an area of vulnerability. If the 6-foot-4, 235-pound four-star prep All-American can simply get the football out of his hands quickly, USC has a chance to keep it close. Considering how No. 1 teams have fared in big games thus far in 2012, a win would allow Oregon, Florida State, Georgia, Florida or even Kansas State back into the National Championship mix. If the USC offensive line fails to hold up and Wittek cannot get rid of the football, then Notre Dame will play for its first BCS title. Either way, history will likely be made in The Coliseum.
2. This is the most important Civil War showdown since...
Ever? These two teams enter the regular season finale both ranked in the top 15 of the BCS and have a combined three losses (two of which came against Stanford, I might add). Oregon has to win to keep its Pac-12 and national title chances alive. Oregon State still has its sights set on a 10- or 11-win season. The Beavers have played great defense this fall and are coming off a dominating performance against Cal. Sean Mannion finally looked 100-percent healthy, and the ground game was effective. But it will be the Beavers defense that will have to play well at home if it expects to get a win in the Civil War for the first time in five years.
3. The rushing defense will be on display in Corvallis
The Beavers used to own the Civil War at home, winning five straight from 1998-2006. Oregon, obviously, has since dominated the rivalry no matter where the game has been played. This is due in large part to Chip Kelly's vaunted rushing attack. After topping the 400-yard mark rushing in three straight games, the Ducks have failed to reach the 200-yard plateau in each of the last two games leading into this weekend. It didn't matter against Cal, but against Stanford, and more importantly Oregon State, it most certainly will. The Beavers have faced elite runners all season and won't be phased by Kenjon Barner. Montee Ball (61 yards), Johnathan Franklin (45), Ka'Deem Carey (115), John White (68), Bishop Sankey (92) and Stepfan Taylor (114) have all been held in (relative) check for Mike Riley's 14th-rated rushing defense. Fans on both sides are expecting this one to live up to the hype.
4. Should UCLA intentionally lose?
The Bruins essentially get to pick who they want to play in the Pac-12 championship. UCLA clinched the South with its win over USC last weekend and now plays a meaningless game — as it pertains to the standings in the South — against the Cardinal. So Jim Mora has to ask his coaching staff: Do we want to face Stanford for the second time in six days or try to stop Oregon? While David Shaw's bunch defeated Oregon last weekend, the conventional wisdom would lean away from having to face Oregon. But can a coach actually ask their players to lay down against a top 10 team at home? Hardly. Momentum is fleeting in college football and there is no way Mora can NOT try to win this game. Even if it means the Ducks hang 50 on them in the title game.
5. The not-so-much Duel in the Desert
Arizona has won four out of five games, has its star quarterback back under center healthy, the nation's leading rusher behind him in the backfield and is playing at home. Arizona State, prior to last week's win over lowly Washington State, had lost four straight games with little-to-no defense to speak of. Ka'Deem Carey might be the nation's most underrated player and has been on an absolute tear of late, rushing for 570 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games — yes, that is 285 yards and 3 TD per game. There is nothing on paper that indicates the Sun Devils will be able to slow an offense that averages over 520 yards and 37 points per game. It's a good thing for Todd Graham that games aren't played on paper, so should ASU pull the upset, it will be because of coaching.
6. Statement time for the Washington Huskies
Mike Leach isn't this bad of a coach. His team won't always be this bad. But if Steve Sarkisian wants to continue feeding his budding Pacific Northwestern powerhouse, he needs to keep his foot on his arch-rival's neck. Coach Sark completely renovated his defense, has re-established the running game in a big way and has his team poised for a shot at nine wins. But a loss to a team with locker room turmoil and nine losses would be absolutely devastating to the overall growth of his program. The weather could be bad and strange things happen in rivalry games on the road, so Washington must take nothing for granted and dominate Leach's first Apple Cup.
7. There is one reason to watch the Utes and Buffs
And his name is Travis Wilson. The young freshman quarterback played poorly against Washington on the road two weeks ago — a place where most have struggled, admittedly. However, he rebounded last weekend against Arizona with the best performance of his young career. The touted passer set career highs in completions (28), attempts (40), yards (311) and touchdowns (2) despite the loss to the Wildcats. If he is the future of the Utah's quarterback position, then No. 7 in red will be unstoppable against the dreadful Colorado Buffaloes.
Week 13 Pac-12 Predictions:
|Week 13 Pac-12 Games||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Utah at Colorado||Utah, 35-7||Utah, 41-7||Utah, 34-10||Utah, 35-10|
|Washington at Washington St||Washington, 31-10||Washington, 37-10||Washington, 34-17||Washington, 38-14|
|Arizona St at Arizona||Arizona, 41-28||Arizona, 41-27||Arizona, 38-34||Arizona, 38-31|
|Oregon at Oregon St||Oregon, 31-24||Oregon, 44-37||Oregon, 34-31||Oregon, 35-17|
|Stanford at UCLA||UCLA, 23-20||UCLA, 28-20||UCLA, 27-24||Stanford, 24-20|
|Notre Dame at USC||Notre Dame, 30-17||Notre Dame, 24-17||Notre Dame, 31-13||Notre Dame, 28-14|
Bye Week: Cal
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ACC Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 13 Previews and Predictions
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SEC Week 13 Previews and Predictions
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With Florida State and Georgia Tech set to meet in the ACC Championship next Saturday, Week 13 is all about bowl positioning and getting a few marquee non-conference wins. Florida State, Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech take on SEC opponents, which is a chance for the ACC to get some much-needed national respect. Duke-Miami, Boston College-NC State, Virginia-Virginia Tech and Maryland-North Carolina are the final conference games for 2012.
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines for Week 13
Will Florida State’s offense struggle to move the ball against Florida?
The Seminoles’ 21-7 win over Florida last season wasn’t exactly an offensive clinic for either team. Florida State managed only 95 yards, while the Gators posted 184 in a loss. With both defenses ranked in the top five nationally in yards allowed, don’t be surprised if this season’s matchup is another low scoring game. However, if there’s one offense that’s capable of producing big plays, it has to be Florida State. The Seminoles have scored at least 40 points in two out of their last three games and rank 14th nationally in total offense. Although the schedule hasn’t been as challenging as playing in the SEC, Florida State has the better quarterback and playmakers on the outside. Don’t expect the Seminoles to match their average yards per game (493.6) but they should be able to generate enough offense to win.
Can Duke get its first ACC win over Miami?
The Blue Devils and Hurricanes have met only nine times and most of the matchups have been a one-sided affair. Duke’s only win in this series came in 1976, but the Blue Devils have yet to beat Miami as a member of the ACC. With NCAA sanctions looming from the Nevin Shapiro scandal, the Hurricanes self-imposed a bowl ban earlier this week. If last year was any evidence, motivation is a concern for Miami. After announcing the bowl ban in 2011, the Hurricanes lost 24-17 to Boston College in their next game. Duke has been trending in the wrong direction over the last few weeks, winning just one game out of its last four matchups. The Blue Devils’ rush defense is a huge concern, especially against Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson. Duke is already locked into a bowl game but with wins over the Hurricanes and in the postseason, the Blue Devils will have a chance to match the program’s eight-win mark from 1994.
Can Georgia Tech’s offense keep it going?
Since a 41-17 loss to BYU, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 47.7 points a game and are riding a three-game winning streak. The late-season surge propelled Georgia Tech into a spot in the ACC Championship against Florida State. However, there’s a little business to take care of first. The Yellow Jackets take on rival Georgia this week and hope to reverse the recent trend in this series. Georgia Tech has lost 10 out of its last 11 games to Bulldogs and was defeated by 14 points last year. Georgia’s defense already had some practice for the Yellow Jackets’ option attack, as it played Georgia Southern last week. These two teams have been involved in a few shootouts in recent years, including a 45-42 matchup in 2008. Although Georgia’s defense had a chance to tune its gameplan last week, the Yellow Jackets should be able to keep this one much closer than some may expect.
Clemson’s offensive line vs. South Carolina’s defensive line
There’s a lot on the line when Clemson and South Carolina meet this Saturday. With a win, the Tigers would finish 11-1 and have a realistic shot at an at-large BCS bid. Clemson has lost its last three games against the Gamecocks, with each of those matchups decided by at least 17 points. For the Tigers to snap the three-game losing streak, protecting quarterback Tajh Boyd is the No. 1 priority. The junior has been on fire the last four weeks, recording 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Clemson has done a good job when it comes to pass protection this year, allowing just 1.8 sacks per game. However, South Carolina’s defensive line registered five sacks in last season’s matchup and sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney is only getting better with more snaps. If Boyd has time to throw, he should have opportunities to make plays against the Gamecocks’ secondary. The junior’s increased mobility in 2012 should make a difference with the pass rush but this will be his toughest test since taking on Virginia Tech in mid-October.
Tom O’Brien’s Future?
Even though NC State coach Tom O’Brien is 23-14 in his last three seasons, there is plenty of discontent from the fanbase about the direction of the program. The Wolfpack were a trendy preseason pick to surprise in the ACC Atlantic but a loss to Boston College on Saturday would drop them to a 6-6 overall mark. Although there are plenty of grumblings about O’Brien, NC State is on the verge of making its third consecutive bowl appearance. Needless to say, Saturday’s game against Boston College is a big one for O’Brien. Get to 7-5 and a victory in the bowl means the veteran coach should probably return for 2013. However, a 6-6 finish could force NC State to consider a change.
Bowl Eligibility for Wake Forest
With Miami and North Carolina ineligible for the postseason, the ACC is going to struggle to fill out its bowl allotment. The situation could get even worse if Wake Forest fails to knock off Vanderbilt this Saturday. The Demon Deacons are a double-digit underdog to the Commodores, a team they lost 41-7 to last season. Vanderbilt is coming off a 41-18 victory over in-state rival Tennessee, so there’s the slight possibility of a letdown. However, for Wake Forest to get its sixth victory, it must generate something on offense. Injuries on the offensive line have taken a toll in pass protection and have prevented the rushing attack from finding many open lanes. Receiver Michael Campanaro was held in check in last week’s loss to Notre Dame, but he will need a big performance for the Demon Deacons to get to 6-6.
Maryland or North Carolina…all about building momentum for 2013?
All things considered, Maryland and North Carolina can’t be disappointed after the final whistle in Saturday’s game. Sure, the Terrapins had bowl aspirations after a 4-2 start but injuries wrecked havoc on their offense, especially at the quarterback position. For the Tar Heels, a postseason ban had to be a concern for Larry Fedora when it came to the motivation of his team. However, North Carolina had a solid season in Fedora’s debut year and is on the cusp of its second season of eight wins over the last three years. This series has been dominated by Maryland recently, as the Terrapins have won five out of the last six meetings. Although Maryland ranks second in the ACC in total defense, it will be hard to slow down North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard and quarterback Bryn Renner. And this could be the final game for Bernard in Chapel Hill, as he is projected to be one of the first running backs off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Will Virginia Tech get bowl eligible or will Virginia play spoiler?
In addition to Wake Forest, there’s a lot of interest in the ACC and from its bowl partners on what happens in Blacksburg this Saturday. Surprisingly, the Hokies are 5-6 and still need one victory to get bowl eligible. Virginia Tech avoided a bad loss to Boston College last week, but the road to six wins doesn’t get easier this Saturday. The Hokies have won the last eight in this series and Virginia would like nothing more than to snap that streak, as well as end Virginia Tech’s quest to get bowl eligible. For the Cavaliers to pull off their first win in Blacksburg since 1998, they need to find a spark on offense once again. After scoring 33 points against NC State and 41 in a win over Miami, Virginia’s offense went dark against North Carolina (13 points). For the Hokies, it’s all about getting quarterback Logan Thomas on track. If the junior has around 275-300 yards of total offense, that should be good enough for Virginia Tech to get win No. 6.
Week 13 ACC Predictions
|Week 13 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Virginia at Virginia Tech||Va. Tech 24-10||Va. Tech 34-20||Va. Tech 30-20||Va. Tech 24-20|
|Georgia Tech at Georgia||Georgia 35-17||Georgia 30-17||Georgia 34-24||Georgia 34-23|
|Miami at Duke||Miami 31-24||Miami 41-30||Miami 38-34||Miami 38-20|
|Boston College at NC State||NC State 24-13||NC State 34-20||NC State 38-13||NC State 34-13|
|Maryland at North Carolina||UNC 28-17||UNC 42-14||UNC 38-17||UNC 31-10|
|Vanderbilt at Wake Forest||Vanderbilt 31-21||Vanderbilt 34-13||Vanderbilt 31-17||Vanderbilt 30-20|
|Florida at Florida State||FSU 28-10||FSU 24-20||FSU 24-17||FSU 27-17|
|South Carolina at Clemson||Clemson 35-21||Clemson 27-20||Clemson 30-27||Clemson 30-20|
by Steven Lassan
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Rivalry week still has the Bedlam Game at least.
Thanksgiving used to be the traditional home Texas-Texas A&M, but the Aggies’ move to the SEC put a stop to that. Texas will play host to TCU this week, and A&M will face Missouri, another Big 12 defector who won't play its top rival (Kansas) this week.
The Bedlam Game should be enough to carry the banner for the Big 12 this week, however. Kansas State’s loss to Baylor last week reinvigorated Oklahoma’s chances to win the Big 12. Even if the Sooners defeat their in-state rival, they’ll have to root for a Kansas State loss -- a prospect that requires Oklahoma fans to pull for Texas next week.
In that case, maybe the absence of Texas-Texas A&M isn’t the strangest thing going on in the Big 12 during these final two weeks.
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Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
How does Oklahoma’s run defense rebound?
West Virginia dealt Oklahoma a curve last week by using Tavon Austin at tailback. The Sooners’ defense never caught up to Austin, who rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. That’s a little more than being caught off guard by an unexpected wrinkle in the opponent’s offense. Oklahoma has allowed at least 200 rushing yards in three of the last four games (215 to Notre Dame, 252 to Baylor, 462 to West Virginia) in addition to giving up at least two rushing touchdowns in each of the last four. Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle has tailed off in his production in the last three games, but perhaps the Oklahoma defense is the cure.
Can Oklahoma State solve its road woes?
Oklahoma State is 1-2 on the road this season, with the only win against Kansas 20-14. The Cowboys’ ability to win on the road will be key if the they’re going to finish the regular season on a positive note. Oklahoma State wraps up with Oklahoma in Norman, where the Pokes have won just once since 1998, and Baylor, who upset then-No. 1 Kansas State last week in Waco. With Oklahoma State’s quarterback injuries and inexperience, the road difficulties shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Each road loss has had its own storyline: Oklahoma State outgained Arizona by more than 200 yards in Tucson, but freshman quarterback Wes Lunt through three interceptions in his first road start. Against Kansas, Oklahoma State struggled to run the ball in quarterback J.W. Walsh’s first road start. And the Cowboys ran into undefeated Kansas State and yet another quarterback injury in a loss in Manhattan. Now, Chris Chelf becomes Oklahoma State’s third quarterback to make his first career road start this season. Chelf will have to hope it works out better than the last three road games for Oklahoma State.
Can the Texas run game keep its momentum against the TCU defense?
Texas’ run game has been much more effective in the four games since the loss to Oklahoma as freshman Johnathan Gray has emerged. The Longhorns have averaged 201.5 yards per game and five yards per carry in the last four games, opening up the play action pass for David Ash. This week’s opponent, TCU, ranks seventh in the nation in rush defense (98.4 yards allowed per game). Perhaps the numbers are skewed a bit as TCU has faced pass-oriented teams from Texas Tech and West Virginia but not Kansas State. Still, the Horned Frogs are allowing a Big 12-low 3.1 yards per carry.
Was the Baylor defense last week for real?
In one of the most unlikely turns of the season Baylor’s defense -- the main culprit in the Bears’ five losses this season -- shut down Kansas State in a shocking burst of competence. Baylor held Kansas State to 76 rushing yards Saturday. All but two of Baylor’s FBS opponents this season amassed twice that this year. Can Baylor do it against on the road against Texas Tech and Seth Doege? Perhaps confidence can go a long way for Baylor, which intercepted Collin Klein three times and threw in a goal line stand for good measure. But unlike Kansas State, Texas Tech is built to win through the air. Baylor ranks 98th nationally and eighth in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.
West Virginia is painfully close to ending its five-game losing streak. Can the Mountaineers finally get over the hump?
No, the defense isn’t any better. The Mountaineers have allowed 50 points in three of the past four games. To put that in perspective, Notre Dame and Alabama have allowed 111 points this season each. But TCU needed a couple of gambles to defeat the Mountaineers in double overtime, and Oklahoma needed a late drive by Landry Jones to win in Morgantown. Though he threw two more interceptions last week, quarterback Geno Smith has put his season back on the right track. Meanwhile, West Virginia finally had a game-breaking running threat. The trouble is that it came from receiver Tavon Austin. Coach Dana Holgorsen appeared to be reluctant to put Austin in a position where he needs to provide 21 carries and 344 yards again. “If Tavon was an every down running back and could carry the ball 40 times a game, he would have been doing that for the last four games,” Holgorsen said. Iowa State will provide West Virginia its best chance to end its five-game losing streak. The Cyclones’ best defensive player, linebacker Jake Knott, is out for the remainder of the season, and Paul Rhoads is on to his third starting quarterback of the season.
Week 13 Big 12 Predictions:
|Week 13 Big 12 Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|TCU at Texas (Fri.)||Texas 35-21||Texas 27-20||Texas 31-24||Texas 27-24|
|W. Virginia at Iowa St. (Fri.)||West Virginia 31-27||West Virginia 31-20||West Virginia 38-34||Iowa State 31-30|
|Baylor at Texas Tech||Texas Tech 35-31||Baylor 30-28||Baylor 41-38||Texas Tech 41-33|
|Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma||Oklahoma 35-24||Oklahoma 34-33||Oklahoma 38-35||Oklahoma St. 41-37|
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