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At the midpoint of the Pac-12 season, it has been Oregon and whichever team wants to try and lineup for second place. No team has scored more, allowed less and is better in turnover margin. That said, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is the nation’s leading passer (418.5 YPG), teammates Brandin Cooks (157.3 YPG) and Steven Nelson (5) lead the nation in receiving and interceptions, Washington’s Bishop Sankey is the nation’s best rusher (149.8 YPG), Arizona State’s Marion Grice leads the nation in scoring (90), Colorado’s Chidera Uzo-Diribe is tops in the nation in forced fumbles (4), and Utah walk-on Andy Phillips has the nation’s most field goals — a perfect 11-for-11.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC | Big 12 |Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Kyle Whittingham, Utah
After a five-win season and no bowl for Utah for the first time in nine years, Whittingham felt a little pressure going into 2013. Clearly, Whittingham has Utah back on track, guiding the Utes to a 4-2 mark with wins over No. 5 Stanford — the highest-ranked team ever defeated in Utah’s home stadium — and in-state rival BYU to go along with an OT loss to now-5-1 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to then-No. 11 UCLA. Utah has played five of its first six at home, and will close with four of its final six on the road against teams currently a combined 8-10 in league play. The eight wins come from Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State — all teams Utah will face away from Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Newcomer of the Year: Addison Gillam, LB, Colorado
Gillam drew rave reviews throughout the preseason, and the true freshman has backed up that play through the first half of 2013. He leads the Pac-12 in tackles per game (10.6), is fifth in tackles for a loss per game (1.3) and is tied for 14th in sacks (2). Gillam, who did not start playing football until his junior year in high school, was only offered one FBS scholarship — by then-San Jose State and now-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre — and he is well on pace to set the school record for tackles by a freshman (85).
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Turnover-free ball leads to good things, and Mariota is capitalizing on all of his touches. He’s carried 41 times for 426 yards and thrown 165 times for 1,724 yards. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns on those 206 touches, and averages a score every 8.24 touches. The Pac-12’s most efficient passer (184.1), is second in the league in TD passes (17) and total offense (358.3 YPG), sixth in passing yards per game (287.3), eighth in rushing (71 YPG) and 10th in scoring (8 PPG).
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr has been everywhere on the field for the Bruins and a defense ranked second in the Pac-12 in scoring (18.2 PPG) and fourth in yards allowed (344.8 YPG). The senior is tops in the Pac-12 in tackles for a loss with 10 for 60 yards and fumbles recovered (2), and is second in sacks (4) and fumbles forced (3).
Midseason Disappointment: USC
Projected by Athlon to finish outside the top 25, the Trojans are having no trouble with that. Problem is: they were projected to finish 26th, and have the players to win the Pac-12 South. It comes as no surprise, though as Lane Kiffin was the No. 1 coach on the hot seat in the preseason. And five games into the 2013 campaign, Kiffin was fired. Let go with a 3-2 record, the Trojans were 0-2 in league play and were thumped 62-41 at Arizona State. Interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to have ignited this team, but it may be too late to get back into the Pac-12 South title picture.
Midseason Surprise: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Remember when there was that preseason question of whether it would be Mannion or Cody Vaz to start for the Beavers? Um, neither do we. After preseason uncertainty at quarterback in Corvallis, six games into the 2013 season and Mannion leads the nation in passing touchdowns (25), yards (2,511), points responsible for (154) and is 11th in passing efficiency (166). The junior has just three interceptions while leading the nation in attempts (289) and is second in completions (194).
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
USC under interim coach Ed Orgeron
Orgeron’s first game in place of a fired Lane Kiffin started with the Trojans’ best scoring output of the season and their first Pac-12 win (38-31 against Arizona). USC still has road games at Notre Dame and Oregon State and home games against a resurgent Utah, and top-15 teams Stanford and UCLA. The offense has posted 79 points in the last two games, but a normally stellar defense has given up 93. There’s a lot to fix in L.A., and a schedule that will not allow for much error.
Pac-12 South title race
It is potentially a three-horse race with plenty of obstacles in the way for UCLA, Arizona State and Utah. UCLA already has a win over Utah, but still faces Arizona State on Nov. 23. The Bruins’ two toughest remaining games are not even against the South, but are games that will set the tone for the remainder of the regular season. They travel to Stanford and Oregon the next two weeks before closing with three of five at home against five teams that are a combined 4-10 in Pac-12 play so far. The Sun Devils’ trip to Pasadena will be the last of their three road games over the next six weeks, which also includes trips to Washington State and Utah in back-to-back games. The path is likely the bumpiest for Utah, which plays four of its last six on the road. The Utes' must-win home game to close the season is Arizona State on Nov. 9. So Nov. 9 and 23 will be the weeks to watch to see who claims the South.
Can Oregon finish unbeaten?
Why not? The Ducks play four of their last six at home, and travel to Stanford on 12 days rest. No Pac-12 team is scoring more points on offense (56.8), allowing less points on defense (13.8) and has a better turnover margin (plus-11) than Oregon. The six teams left on the schedule have a combined turnover margin of plus-10, and only Arizona and UCLA are giving up less than 20 points per game on defense.
Top Five Games in the Second Half
UCLA at Stanford (Oct. 19)
Utah put a scare into UCLA two weeks ago, and then upset Stanford last week. Now UCLA and Stanford meet in Palo Alto for the second straight year — both trying to keep their Pac-12 division title hopes alive. Last season’s Pac-12 championship saw Stanford score the final 10 points to post a 27-24 win over the Bruins.
UCLA at Oregon (Oct. 26)
Oregon will arrive at this game off of a home date vs. Washington State; UCLA will be playing its second straight road game after traveling to take on a Stanford team seething from an upset loss at Utah. It will be the biggest defensive test the Ducks have faced when they take on a Bruins team currently surrendering 18.2 PPG — second to Oregon’s 13.8.
Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7)
Oregon starts its mini-gauntlet a week after UCLA’s. Following the home game against the Bruins, the Ducks travel to face a Stanford team trying to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 North title. Both teams will be on 12 days rest as this is a Thursday game, and should make for another exciting contest after Stanford’s 17-14 OT win in Eugene a season ago.
Arizona State at UCLA (Nov. 23)
This will likely be the Pac-12 South title game after UCLA and Arizona State have tough road tests before meeting in Pasadena. Currently holding a one-game lead over the Sun Devils, if the Bruins can arrive at this one healthy, and perhaps having collected one road upset en route to this meeting, the South will be theirs for the taking.
UCLA at USC (Nov. 30)
If UCLA were to make it through games at Stanford and Oregon it is likely the Pac-12 South title will have been clinched when the Bruins arrive in L.A. Since chances of that happening are slim, the Trojans would love no more than to play spoiler against their rival long after their season was already spoiled.
Pac-12 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|Wazzu||UCLA||at Stanford||Utah||at Arizona||Oregon State||Final Record|
|UCLA||at Ore. State||Oregon||at USC||California||ND||Final Record|
|at Ariz. State||California||Colorado||at UCLA||at Ore. State||Wazzu||Final Record|
4. Oregon State
|at California||Stanford||USC||at Ariz. State||Washington||at Oregon||Final Record|
5. Washington State
|at Oregon||Arizona State||at Arizona||Utah||at Washington||Final Record|
|Ore. State||at Washington||Arizona||USC||at Colorado||at Stanford||Final Record|
|at Stanford||at Oregon||Colorado||at Arizona||UW||Ariz. State||at USC||Final Record|
2. Arizona State
|at Wash. State||at Utah||Ore. State||at UCLA||Arizona||Final Record|
|at ND||Utah||at Ore. State||at California||Stanford||at Colorado||UCLA||Final Record|
|Utah||at Colorado||at California||UCLA||Wazzu||Oregon||at Ariz. State||Final Record|
|at Arizona||at USC||Ariz. State||at Oregon||at Wazzu||Colorado||Final Record|
|C. Southern||Arizona||at UCLA||at UW||California||USC||at Utah||Final Record|
College football’s coach carousel didn’t spin into motion as some may have expected in Week 7.
Texas was a heavy underdog to Oklahoma in the annual Red River Rivalry, but the Longhorns stunned the Sooners. Coach Mack Brown is still on the hot seat, and the victory against Oklahoma probably doesn’t change anything in the overall picture for Texas. However, the Longhorns aren’t finished in the Big 12 title landscape, and the win over the Sooners has Brown’s team in position to push Baylor for the top spot.
Eastern Michigan is arguably the nation’s most difficult job. However, the Eagles have backtracked since going 6-6 in 2011, winning just three games in their last 18 contests. English faces long odds to return for 2014.
Other coaches moving up the hot seat watch include Kansas’ Charlie Weis and Virginia’s Mike London.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-5||EMU is 3-15 in last 18 games.|
|2||Charlie Weis||2-3||KU likely to go winless in Big 12 play.|
|3||Mack Brown||4-2||Win over OU doesn't change much.|
|4||Mike London||2-4||Has vote of confidence…|
|5||Norm Chow||0-6||UH lost by 10 points or less in last 3 games.|
|6||Ron Turner||1-5||Lost to UAB by three on Saturday.|
|7||Bo Pelini||5-1||Huskers in control of Legends Division?|
|8||Charley Molnar||1-5||Minutemen break into win column.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-4||Solid road victory at Ohio for the Chips.|
|10||Matt Rhule||0-6||Army may be only chance at a win this year.|
|11||P.J. Fleck||0-7||WMU outscored 80-20 in last two games.|
|13||Dana Holgorsen||3-3||Bye week came at good time for WVU.|
|14||Bobby Hauck||4-2||Hauck has Rebels moving in right direction.|
|15||Doc Holliday||4-2||Herd the frontrunner in C-USA East?|
|18||Todd Monken||0-5||No guaranteed win on schedule for USM.|
|19||Dan Mullen||3-3||Tough job, but fanbase getting restless.|
|20||Kirk Ferentz||4-2||Hawkeyes can still make run at bowl.|
|21||Rich Ellerson||3-4||Already surpassed win total from 2012.|
|22||Jeff Quinn||4-2||Bulls have won four in a row.|
|25||Sean Kugler||1-5||Miners on road in five of last six games.|
|27||Rick Stockstill||3-4||Blue Raiders have lost three in a row.|
|28||Terry Bowden||1-6||Zips gave NIU all it could handle.|
|30||Randy Edsall||5-1||Terps one win away from bowl eligibility.|
|33||Rocky Long||3-3||Aztecs back on track.|
|34||Tony Levine||5-0||Soft schedule, but Cougars 5-0.|
|38||Troy Calhoun||1-6||AFA off to worst start since 1993.|
|41||Larry Fedora||1-4||Can UNC get back on track?|
|46||Dan McCarney||3-3||Mean Green should be in mix for winning record.|
|52||Paul Johnson||3-3||Yellow Jackets have lost three in a row.|
|55||Scott Shafer||3-3||Syracuse coming off first ACC win.|
|70||Gary Pinkel||6-0||Mizzou firmly in SEC East title discussion.|
|73||Curtis Johnson||5-2||Green Wave one step closer to bowl.|
|79||Rod Carey||6-0||Huskies back in BCS bowl contention.|
|81||Kyle Whittingham||4-3||Win over Stanford is Utah's biggest in the Pac-12.|
|85||Mark Helfrich||6-0||Ducks on path to play for national title.|
|90||Frank Beamer||6-1||Hokies quietly riding six-game win streka.|
|95||Steve Addazio||3-3||BC clearly improved under Addazio.|
|101||James Franklin||3-3||Will the Commodores go bowling?|
|120||Art Briles||5-0||Baylor should be the favorite in the Big 12.|
|NR||Ed Orgeron||1-0||Trojans showing signs of life under Orgeron.|
|NR||T.J. Weist||0-1||Lost debut to USF.|
|NR||Mike Bath||0-1||Lost to UMass in first game.|
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know From Week 7
ACC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
The talk all summer long about the Big Ten was Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State. At the midway point, it’s already obvious that the Buckeyes are the best team in the league and are the only true national contender in the Big Ten. And despite two losses, it’s also clear that Gary Andersen was the right guy for the job in Madison.
What else have we learned, however? Embattled coaches across the league are still very much dealing with pressure situations to get to the postseason and need to win critical games in the second half to ensure future employment. Meanwhile, and more importantly, the Legends Division is completely wide open. Four teams have a legitimate chance to face Ohio State in the championship game — and none of them have played each other yet.
2013 Big Ten Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Almost by default, Meyer has to be the pick here. Bill O’Brien has a few nice wins, Gary Andersen has done an excellent job in his first season, Bo Pelini is winning without Taylor Martinez, and Mark Dantonio appears to have rejuvenated his offense. But Meyer’s team is clearly the best in the league and is the only unbeaten squad left in the Big Ten. Let’s face it, until Meyer losses a game at Ohio State, he is the Coach of the Year. He’s 18-0 thus far.
Offensive Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
With Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez dealing with injuries, Gordon appears to be the clear-cut frontrunner for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He is leading the Big Ten in rushing and is third nationally at 145.0 yards per game. He is tied for the Big Ten lead with eight rushing touchdowns and is fourth nationally among running backs with an absurd 9.7 yards per carry average. Wisconsin might be the second-best team in the league and will continue to ride what might be the most talented running back to play in Madison.
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (47 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 FF) will battle with Borland for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors but no one has meant more to his team than the Badgers' linebacker. Borland is third in the league with 9.3 tackles per game, has 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and even completed a pass on a fake punt for 23 yards. Borland, who is tied for the NCAA’s all-time lead in fumbles forced, is the reason the Badgers defense is leading the league in points allowed (13.2 ppg) and is fifth nationally in total defense (267.3 ypg).
Newcomer of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The five-star all-everything recruit has quickly lived up to his lofty recruiting status as one of the most-touted signal callers to ever sign with the Big Ten. He has three 300-yard games in his first six career starts and is leading the Big Ten in passing with 278.7 yards per game. He is also asked to do more for his offense than any other quarterback, as he leads the league in completions (132) and attempts (226).
Midseason Disappointment: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Gardner is leading the Big Ten in total offense per game (285.8 ypg) and his team is 5-1. But most have to agree that his play has been a big disappointment thus far. He has thrown four more interceptions (10) than anyone else in the league and is leading the Big Ten in fumbles lost (3). Gardner has made big plays but has also made too many mistakes. With huge games looming in the Legends Division as well as Ohio State, he has plenty of time to turn his early season slump around.
Midseason Surprise: Michigan State’s offense
At first it looked like the Spartans would have yet another ugly season on offense. While 374.7 yards per game may not look like much at this point, Michigan State is looking much more like a balanced team than expected - one that could win the Legends Division. The Spartans are averaging over 30 points per game, and quarterback Connor Cook has elevated his play in the Big Ten. The Spartans just posted more yards (474) and points (40) in a win over Indiana than it had in a Big Ten game since 2010 (yards) and 2011 (points). With the No. 1 defense in the nation, all Cook has to do on offense is be respectable and Sparty could find itself in the title game again.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
Ohio State’s Quest for 25-0
After a 12-0 perfect season in Urban Meyer’s probated first year, the Buckeyes have yet to lose in 2013. And with two big hurdles already cleared in the form of Wisconsin and Northwestern, there is little left on the Buckeyes schedule. Penn State at home on Oct. 26 and a much anticipated road trip to Ann Arbor in the season finale appear to be the only two potential stumbling blocks. Should Ohio State finish the regular season unbeaten, it would be a Big Ten Championship Game win away from a perfect 25-0 start to Meyer’s Buckeyes career. It might also mean a fourth BCS National Championship game bid in 11 years. USC in 2004-05 was the last team to go unbeaten in back-to-back regular seasons.
Legends Division Round Robin
Ohio State has all but locked up the Leaders Division and one half of the Big Ten Championship Game. But to suggest that the Legends Division is anything by wide open would be foolish. Michigan (1-1), Michigan State (2-0), Nebraska (2-0) and Northwestern (0-2) have yet to play each other and all four will face the other three in the coming weeks. Nebraska might be in the best situation, as both Northwestern and Michigan State come to Lincoln, and the Huskers avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State altogether. Northwestern gets both Michigan and Michigan State at home but has three road games left with Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois and sits two games back already. The Wolverines still have three nasty road trips, as well as home games with the Huskers and Buckeyes. The Spartans also avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State but must visit Nebraska, Northwestern and Illinois. This should be a fun second half.
Indiana (3-3) has been to one bowl game (2007) since 1993. Illinois (3-2) has been to just two bowls since 2007. Iowa (4-2) hasn’t missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons since 1999-00. And Minnesota (4-2) is without its head coach for the indefinite future. All four could make it to a bowl game but all four will have to pull upsets to do so. Kevin Wilson, Tim Beckman and Kirk Ferentz are all sitting on warm coaching seats and all three desperately need to get to the postseason or post a winning record. The Hoosiers might be the best of the trio but will have to win games against the Gophers and Illini at home to have a chance.
Games to Watch
Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 30)
It’s the best rivalry in college football and more could be on the line in this year’s edition than ever before. A trip to the Big Ten Championship game for Michigan could be hanging in the balance in the season finale. But for Ohio State that will likely already have clinched the Leaders Division, a second straight perfect season and potential trip to the BCS National Championship game will be at stake.
Nebraska at Michigan (Nov. 9)
These two have met just twice in the regular season since the 1960s, and the home team has won both contests. As conference foes, Michigan won two years ago in Ann Arbor in convincing fashion, while the Huskers handled the Wolverines with ease in Lincoln last fall. There is a very real chance Nebraska is 4-0 in Big Ten play when they head North to battle Michigan the second weekend in November.
Michigan at Michigan State (Nov. 2)
An in-state rivalry once dominated by the Maize and Blue has recently swung in the favor of the Spartans. Mark Dantonio won four straight in the matchup before Brady Hoke broke through with a hard-fought 12-10 win last year in Ann Arbor. This is a must-win game for both teams if either wants to keep pace and top Nebraska in the Leaders Division.
Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 16)
These two teams combined for 551 yards rushing in a thrilling come-from-behind win for Nebraska in East Lansing last season. Should both teams survive the above tests with Michigan (and Northwestern, in Nebraska’s case) to get to this point, it would likely feature two unbeaten teams in Big Ten play — in which case, the division crown will be at stake.
Northwestern at Nebraska (Nov. 2)
The Wildcats get both Michigan and Michigan State at home in the month of November. But before facing either, the Wildcats will have to visit Nebraska to start the month. A loss would give Northwestern a minimum of three conference losses and no chance at a division crown. This was an epic 29-28 thriller in Evanston last year, and Huskers fans certainly haven’t forgotten about what happened the last time Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch came to Lincoln — the Cats scored 21 second-half points to win.
Big Ten 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
1. Ohio State
|Iowa||Penn State||at Purdue||at Illinois||Indiana||at Michigan||Final Record|
|at Illinois||at Iowa||BYU||Indiana||at Minnesota||PSU||Final Record|
3. Penn State
|at Ohio State||Illinois||at Minnesota||Purdue||Nebraska||at Wisconsin||Final Record|
|at Michigan||Minnesota||Illinois||at Wisconsin||at OSU||Purdue||Final Record|
|Wisconsin||Mich. State||at PSU||at Indiana||OSU||at Purdue||NW||Final Record|
|at Mich. State||OSU||Iowa||at Penn State||Illinois||at Indiana||Final Record|
|at Minnesota||NW||at Michigan||Mich. State||at PSU||Iowa||Final Record|
2. Michigan State
|Purdue||at Illinois||Michigan||at Nebraska||at NW||Minnesota||Final Record|
|Indiana||at Mich. State||Nebraska||at NW||at Iowa||OSU||Final Record|
|Minnesota||at Iowa||at Nebraska||Michigan||Mich. State||at Illinois||Final Record|
|at OSU||NW||Wisconsin||at Purdue||Michigan||at Nebraska||Final Record|
|at NW||Nebraska||at Indiana||PSU||Wisconsin||at Mich. State||Final Record|
The Big 12 entered the midpoint for 2013 the same way it ended 2012 — without a top 10 team. The last time a Big 12 team was in the top 10 was Dec. 2 when Kansas State was seventh in the Big 12 poll.
Oklahoma had its chance to move into the top 10, starting last week at No. 12 before a surprising loss to Texas.
In many ways, the Big 12 season is playing out the way Athlon Sports envisioned the race in the preseason — four or five imperfect teams bunched up near the top. Two conference losses may be enough to win a bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
But there’s also the unexpected: Baylor so far has the Big 12’s most complete team. Yes, the offense is on record-breaking pace, but the defense has been among the league’s best. A light schedule with only one road game, though, is enough reason to keep the Baylor national championship bandwagon empty at this point.
Beyond Baylor, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has delivered on the optimism surrounding his homecoming to Lubbock by leading the Red Raiders to a 6-0 start. And even mighty Texas can be a success story as a 3-0 start in the league looked unattainable in the first three weeks of the season.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
2013 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
The Bears won’t keep up the 70 points per game pace they had earlier this season, but Briles has Baylor in position for its first conference title since 1980. Hard to believe that Baylor has just become more productive after losing Robert Griffin III and then the school’s single-season passing leader in the last two seasons. Briles is the nation’s top offensive coach, but the Bears have a strong team in the trenches and the 12th-ranked defense in yards per play.
Newcomer of the Year: Texas Tech quarterbacks
Kliff Kingsbury has a knack for coaching freshman quarterbacks. After working with Johnny Manziel last season, Kingsbury needed to rookie quarterbacks to step in for an injured Michael Brewer. As a duo, redshirt freshman walk on Baker Mayfield and true freshman Davis Webb are second in the nation in passing at 2,453 yards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor
With Baylor’s run game bottled up in the Bears’ toughest game of the season, Petty rose to the occasion by leading Baylor to two fourth quarter scoring drives against Kansas State. Petty has attempted only four passes in the red zone this season (4 for 4), but the entire field is Petty’s red zone. He has seven touchdown passes from inside his own 40 yard line.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jason Verrett, TCU
Verrett doesn’t have a ton of eye-popping statistics, but he’s the top lockdown cornerback in the Big 12. In the loss to Texas Tech, Verrett kept Red Raiders receiver Eric Ward from catching a pass. Verrett has 2.5 tackles for a loss and 10 pass break ups this season.
Midseason Disappointment: Oklahoma State’s run game
The Cowboys caught Mississippi State off guard in the opener by replacing starting quarterback Clint Chelf with J.W. Walsh and running out of the diamond formation. Otherwise, the Cowboys have been unimpressive in the run game, averaging 3.2 yards per carry since then. Oklahoma State’s 144.8 rushing yards per game would be its lowest average since 2001.
Midseason Surprise: Greg Robinson
Robinson wasn’t on anyone’s radar back in early September. The former Syracuse coach and Michigan defensive coordinator was breaking down film for Mack Brown. But then BYU rushed for 550 yards against the Longhorns. Texas replaced one-time defensive hotshot Manny Diaz with a retread who had struggled everywhere he’d been since he left Texas the first time. Robinson’s defense though held Oklahoma to 263 yards last week. The Longhorns have held Big 12 opponents to 3.7 yards per carry in the 3-0 start in the league.
Three things to watch in the second half:
Baylor’s championship bid
Baylor is 33 years removed from its last conference championship in the Southwest Conference. With Texas’ defensive woes and Oklahoma’s lackluster offense, this would seem to be the perfect season to take advantage. That, and Baylor’s offense is really, really good. The meat of Baylor’s schedule isn’t until November when the Bears face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas in succession in November.
Is Texas for real?
The Longhorns sure looked the part of a Big 12 title contender in dismantling Oklahoma on Saturday, but Texas fans have to wonder if the Mr. Hyde from the BYU and Ole Miss games will return down the stretch. Daje Johnson hasn’t lost a step since returning from injury, and Case McCoy is growing into his role as starting quarterback. The next question is if this is indeed Mack Brown’s final question if he’ll leave Texas with a Big 12 championship trophy. The Longhorns have already ended futility against the Sooners and Kansas State.
Oklahoma’s quarterback situation
Blake Bell was dreadful against Texas, completing 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions. Bell lost the starting quarterback job in the preseason, and it’s a legitimate question if he could lose it again. Texas proved that by ganging up on the run game Bell couldn’t win with the passing game.
Top five games in the second half
Oct. 26 Texas Tech at Oklahoma
The Red Raiders have built their undefeated start against opponents that have gone a combined 6-11, including the bottom two teams in the Big 12 (Iowa State and Kansas). Even against a wounded OU team, Texas Tech could prove its legitimacy in the Big 12 race in Norman.
Nov. 7 Oklahoma at Baylor
The shine on this Thursday night game has dulled a bit after Oklahoma lost to Texas. The Sooners may need to win this game to get back into the Big 12 race.
Nov. 23 Baylor at Oklahoma State
In Baylor’s first road trip, the Bears played a tight game for the first time this season. This game against the preseason Big 12 favorites will be the toughest road test this year.
Dec. 7 Texas at Baylor
What will the Bears have left for their final game after going through the gauntlet in November? This could be a de facto Big 12 championship game...
Dec. 7 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
...Or the Bedlam Game could decide the conference. The Cowboys were the preseason favorite and OU looked the part of a Big 12 frontrunner just a week ago. There’s plenty of time for this to become the key game again in the Big 12 race.
Big 12 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|ISU||at Kansas||OU||TTU||at OK State||at TCU||Texas||Final Record|
|at TCU||Kansas||at WVU||OK State||TTU||at Baylor||Final Record|
3. Oklahoma State
|TCU||at ISU||at TTU||Kansas||at TX||Baylor||OU||Final Record|
|at Kansas||TTU||at Baylor||ISU||at K-State||at OK State||Final Record|
5. Texas Tech
|at WVU||at OU||OK State||K-State||Baylor||at TX||Final Record|
6. Kansas State
|WVU||ISU||at TTU||TCU||OU||at Kansas||Final Record|
|at OK State||TX||WVU||at ISU||at K-State||Baylor||Final Record|
8. West Virginia
|TTU||at K-State||at TCU||Texas||at Kansas||Iowa State||Final Record|
9. Iowa State
|at Baylor||OSU||at K-State||TCU||at OU||Kansas||at WVU||Final Record|
|Oklahoma||Baylor||at Texas||at OSU||WVU||at ISU||K-State||Final Record|
With seven weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear. Stanford’s loss to Utah was a huge setback to the Cardinal’s national title hopes, while Oregon took a step forward with its win against Washington.
Alabama still looks like the team to beat in the SEC, while Ohio State should be a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten. Baylor takes over as the No. 1 team in the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s loss to Texas.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. Even at the midpoint of the 2013 season, it's still hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with nearly two months of conference games still remaining.
The post-Week 7 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, Washington State, Duke and NC State from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Tulsa, North Texas and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah vs. SJSU|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Wyoming|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Oreg. State vs. Boise State|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||Nevada vs. Arizona*|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Indiana|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Notre Dame* vs. SDSU|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||ECU vs. B. College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. N'Western|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincinnati vs. K-State|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||UCF vs. Virginia Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Utah State vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ga. Tech vs. Missouri|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Washington vs. Okla. State|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||UNC vs. Tennessee|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Ariz. State vs. Maryland|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Ole Miss vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. Georgia|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Auburn vs. Michigan|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Rice vs. Iowa|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Mich. State vs. Florida|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||So. Carolina vs. FSU|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Louisville|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. WKU|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know From Week 7
ACC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
This preview and more on Missouri and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Missouri Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-11 (11-7 SEC)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Frank Haith (53-13 at Missouri)
SEC projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
But heading into his third year with the Tigers, Haith finally seems to be assembling a group of players he’ll be able to count on for more than one season.
“I like what we’ve done in terms of putting together a roster,” Haith says. “Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown and Tony Criswell, those guys have worked their tails off and gotten better, which gives us a great foundation to work with going into the season.”
It’s the addition of Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and a top-20 recruiting class headlined by freshmen Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark and junior college All-American Keanau Post that has Haith most excited about the future in Columbia.
A couple of those newcomers will have to be ready to make an impact if Missouri is going to make up for the loss of starters Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell and take a run at a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.
Criswell, a 6’9” senior forward, is the only returning frontcourt player who was a regular part of Missouri’s rotation last season. The junior college transfer, who began his college career at UAB, averaged 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds as the Tigers’ top reserve. He brings enough versatility to play either position along the front line, so Haith might prefer to bring him off the bench again. To do so, he’ll have to identify viable starters.
The 6’11” Post will likely be one — at center — if he can improve his conditioning. He averaged 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last season at Southwestern Illinois College. “He runs the floor well, has good hands,” Brown says. “He’s more athletic than I knew, good post moves.”
Missouri could look to either Williams or sophomore Stefan Jankovic to start at power forward.
The 6’9” Williams, who was the Tigers’ highest-ranked recruit, brings great skill and versatility but must add strength after weighing in at 208 pounds when he arrived in Columbia.
Jankovic has already had a season to bulk up his 6’11” frame, which should help him make the move to the frontcourt after playing mostly on the perimeter — when he played at all — as a freshman. He’s comfortable shooting from long range or slashing to the basket and could present matchup problems for opponents.
Missouri forwards benefited from Pressey’s playmaking skills the past two years. Though he struggled with decision-making last season, he still averaged 11.9 points and an SEC-leading 7.1 assists. One of the biggest question marks facing the Tigers is how to replace him.
Clarkson, who averaged 16.5 points and 2.5 assists as a sophomore with the Golden Hurricane, is a leading candidate.
“There is nothing he can’t do,” Haith says.
Missouri would still prefer to play Clarkson off the ball, but whether it can likely depends on the readiness of Clark, a top-75 recruit, to contribute. He arrives with a reputation as a hard-nosed guard who led his team to a state championship last season in Michigan.
The Tigers’ most proven weapons already reside on the wing with Brown and Ross. Brown, who began his college career at Oregon, averaged 13.7 points while shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range after becoming eligible last December.
Ross, a senior who started his career at Auburn, gives the Tigers an excellent rebounder (5.0 rpg) who also averaged 10.3 points while shooting 42.3 percent from three in conference play.
Freshman Shane Rector, a late addition who originally committed to Rutgers, could provide additional ball-handling off the bench.
Missouri’s coaches are already looking at Jordan Clarkson as a team leader. He’s expected to be one of the Tigers’ top scorers whether he’s playing on the wing or running the point. His primary position could be determined by the readiness of Wesley Clark, a hard-nosed point guard. Missouri is counting on Keanau Post to provide a low-post scoring threat and protection in front of the rim. Johnathan Williams III, a multi-talented forward, might have the brightest future of any newcomer but has to get stronger to realize his potential. Torren Jones has the size and athleticism needed to play under the basket in the SEC but remains raw. Shane Rector was signed late to give the Tigers a needed third ball-handler.
Factoid: 6. The Tigers will try to make a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in school history. Missouri also made five straight NCAA trips between 1986-1990 and 1999-2003.
Missouri will be short on experience with a lot of unknowns to be sorted out before it can be considered a contender in what figures to be a stronger SEC this season.
But Haith has talent to work with, particularly on the wing with Clarkson, Brown and Ross, and he expects to use a deeper bench. If the Tigers can jell and show some more grit on the defensive end, they have the potential to get another NCAA invite.
This preview and more on LSU and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
LSU Facts & Figures
Last season: 19-12 (9-9 SEC)
Coach: Johnny Jones (19-12 at LSU)
SEC projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
The Tigers return five of their top six scorers, including SEC Player of the Year candidate Johnny O’Bryant. They also welcome a top-10 recruiting class, highlighted by 6-8 local product Jarell Martin.
The signing of Martin was critical to the program. His arrival has energized the local fan base and created momentum for Jones’ program on the recruiting trail. The Tigers are now viewed as a program on the rise, and the Maravich Assembly Center should be hopping for the first time in several years.
The strength of the Tigers’ lineup is inside, where O’Bryant and Martin combine to form an imposing tandem on the blocks and boards.
The 6-9 O’Bryant contemplated early entry to the NBA and can enhance his draft status with an improved junior season. He will be among the best big men in the league, along with Florida’s Patric Young, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein.
O’Bryant ranked among the league leaders in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (8.7 rpg) and shooting (48 percent). He used his superior size and strength to dominate on the blocks and isn’t shy about demanding the ball in the paint.
O’Bryant committed a team-high 3.2 turnovers per game last season primarily because of collapsing defenses. He should find more room to operate in the paint with opponents forced to guard Martin in the high-low game. Martin, who can hit the mid-range jumper, plays with a non-stop motor and will be a force on the boards at both ends.
Senior Shavon Coleman is the glue guy at small forward. A big-time athlete, he’s an exceptional rebounder for his 6-5 size and can defend three positions. He’s not a great shooter but makes his hay on drives and put-backs.
Heralded freshman small forward Jordan Mickey, a top-40 national recruit, is expected to challenge for a starting spot and add immediate offensive punch on the wing.
Undersized freshman power forward Brian Bridgewater, junior college transfer John Odo and freshman center Darcy Malone add depth. Odo, a native of Nigeria, enrolled at LSU last January and practiced with the Tigers the remainder of the season.
Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey are the Tigers’ version of Louisville’s successful guard tandem of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Both are pesky, undersized defenders with streaky offensive games. The 5-11 Hickey led the SEC in steals last season at the point, but has fallen in and out of Jones’ doghouse. He must become more mature and fill the leadership void created by the graduation of Charles Carmouche.
The presence of O’Bryant and Martin ensures the Tigers will face a lot of zone defenses this season. That theoretically should provide many open looks for Stringer and Hickey. They’ll need to shoot consistently from the perimeter to keep opponents honest and prevent them from focusing their defensive efforts inside. Neither is considered a sharpshooter, but both are capable of getting hot from behind the arc. Stringer ranked second (40.9 percent) and Hickey sixth (32.8) in the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage.
Sophomore Malik Morgan and freshman Tim Quarterman are classic combo guards who are the heirs apparent to Stringer and Hickey in the backcourt. Morgan is a streaky scorer with a slashing game. Last year, he scored in double figures only three times with a high of 12 in a loss at Tennessee. With added strength, the staff believes Morgan could have a breakout season.
The wiry 6-6 Quarterman has excellent size and can play just about anywhere on the perimeter. He was a top-100 recruit who picked LSU over a host of SEC schools.
Jarell Martin, LSU’s best recruit in a decade, owns a pro body and a pro-style pick-and-pop game. Tim Quarterman should compete immediately for playing time on the wing and at point. His versatile skill set allows him to play three positions. Junior college center John Odo bolsters the interior depth and is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker. Australian big man Darcy Malone is the classic stretch power forward-center who patterns his game after Dirk Nowitzki. Brian Bridgewater is an undersized power forward who adds physicality inside.
Factoid: 62.5. LSU shot only 62.5 from the foul line last season, ranking last in the SEC and 331st in the nation. Johnny O’Bryant, who led the team with 141 attempts, shot 59.6 percent.
If anything, Jones is one year ahead of schedule in his rebuilding effort. His recruiting success has created excitement about LSU basketball for the first time in years. The Tigers’ deep, talented frontcourt is among the best in the SEC. If the Tigers’ perimeter players can provide consistent offense, LSU should return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
As the SEC rules college football, the question remains: What happened to this league as a basketball conference?
The SEC produced at least five NCAA Tournament teams every season from 1997-2008, but the league matched that only once since then. The expanded SEC produced only three NCAA Tournament teams last season, and Ole Miss needed to win the league tournament to erase any doubt.
Just about anywhere besides Lexington and Gainesville has a basketball program that’s seen better days. Florida, a two-time national champion when the SEC was in a position of strength, has reached the NCAA regional final the last three seasons.
And despite a loss in the NIT, Kentucky fans have been optimistic for 2013-14 since it became clear last season just wasn’t working out.
Kentucky landed the top recruiting class in history with six of the top 15 players who are already being loaded up with national championship expectations.
For the sake of SEC perception, it couldn’t hurt if Kentucky delivers on those projections.
SEC Predicted order of finish
G Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
G Jordan McRae, Tennessee
F Johnny O’Bryant, LSU
F Julius Randle, Kentucky
C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
All-SEC Second Team
G Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
G Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
G Trevor Releford, Alabama
F Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
C Patric Young, Florida
All-SEC Third Team
G Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
G Michael Frazier, Florida
G Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
F Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Postseason projection: NCAA champion
Arguably the best recruiting class in history will have the Cats in the national title hunt.
2. FLORIDA (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Transfers Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) and Damontre Harris (South Carolina) bolster the Gators’ roster.
3. TENNESSEE (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32
Vols will need a big contribution from transfer Antonio Barton and a healthy season from Jeronne Maymon.
4. LSU (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64
An influx of high-level talent will join Johnny O’Bryant on what should be one of the league’s most-improved teams.
5. MISSOURI (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64
Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown will key the Tigers’ perimeter attack.
Postseason projection: NIT
With one NCAA invite in four years, pressure is starting to mount on Anthony Grant.
Postseason projection: NIT
Hogs lost their two best players (B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell) but the roster still stocked with talent.
8. OLE MISS
Postseason projection: NIT
Key losses in the frontcourt will be tough to overcome — even if Marshall Henderson behaves.
9. TEXAS A&M
Postseason projection: NIT
Aggies will be balanced, but replacing Elston Turner’s scoring will be a huge issue.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA
Frank Martin continues his slow rebuild in Columbia. The Gamecocks will be painfully young in ’13-14.
Losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a crushing blow to the Georgia program.
Brutal offseason saw the Dores lose two starters (Kedren Johnson and Kevin Bright) and a key reserve (Sheldon Jeter).
13. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Rick Ray is recruiting the Bulldogs out of the abyss, but it will take some time.
Tony Barbee’s tenure at Auburn has not gone well. Too much roster turnover and not enough talent.
Player of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky
It may be tough for one player to stand above the fray in Kentucky’s unprecedented recruiting class, but Randle has the ability to do so. He’s a 6-9 power forward who’s impressive as an athlete and has drawn comparisons to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for his competitiveness.
Best Defensive Player: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
Marshall Henderson isn’t the only SEC guard in his coach’s doghouse. Wilbekin remains “partially suspended” for a violation of team rules, but when he plays, he’s the top perimeter defender on the best defensive team in the league.
Most Underrated Player: Shavon Coleman, LSU
Coleman will round out an top-notch frontcourt for LSU. The 6-5 wing averaged 5.9 rebounds last season for the Tigers. He’s a key glue guy for a team looking to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
Newcomer of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky (complete look at key newcomers in the SEC)
Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 prospect in the country and only added to his legend by holding out until the spring to make his college on decision. Randle, though, was right there as one of the top prospects in the country.
Top coach: John Calipari, Kentucky (full SEC coach rankings)
Hot seat: Tony Barbee, Auburn (full list of hot seat coaches)
Whether we admit it or not, most of us have little superstitions, whether it be knocking on wood or saying, "God bless" when someone sneezes. But some athletes have taken it just a little farther than that. We thought that it was appropriate to find the 13 most superstitious people in sports, with their seriously strange quirks, habits and talismans, and present them here.
Men's Fitness magazine once named pitcher Turk Wendell, whose 11-year major league career (1993-2004) included stops with the Cubs, Mets, Phillies and Rockies, the most superstitious athlete of all time. Wendell wore a necklace made from teeth and bones of animals he had hunted. He would leap over the chalk lines and draw crosses in the dirt on the pitcher's mound. He insisted that his contract figures end with his jersey number of 99. Wendell would eat four pieces of licorice during games he pitched, but don't worry about his dental health — he would also brush his teeth in the dugout between innings.
Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs didn't compile a .328 career batting average and accumulate 3,010 hits by accident. The superstitious athlete ate chicken every day before a game; took batting practice at 5:17; ran sprints at 7:17; and wrote the word "Chai" (Hebrew for "life") in the dirt before his plate appearances. Speaking of his love of chicken, Boggs' Twitter account is @ChickenMan3010.
They take their curses seriously in the U.K. The Birmingham City football club labored under a gypsy curse that came about due to the stadium's location atop the site of a Romany cemetery. Football club manager Barry Fry, who led the Birmingham City team from 1993 to 1996, took the advice of a clairvoyant to break the curse: He peed in all four corners of the St. Andrew's pitch. So did it work? "Well, we started to win and I thought it had," Fry said in an interview. "Then they sacked me, so probably not."
Slugger Jason Giambi (A's, Yankees, Rockies, Indians) addressed a hitting slump with his choice of undergarments. His personal slump-buster was a fancy piece of butt floss — a gold thong. If that’s not disturbing enough, try this: Teammates would ask to borrow it when they encountered slumps of their own.
How obsessed was power-hitting outfielder Larry Walker (Expos, Rockies, Cardinals) with the number 3? He set his alarm clock for 33 minutes past the hour, took batting practice in groups of three swings and was married on November 3 at 3:33 P.M. He bought 33 tickets in section 333 of Olympic Stadium to give to under-privileged kids during his time in Montreal. On one of his contracts, he asked for $3,333,333.33. Appropriately enough, Walker's career stats include plenty of threes: His career batting average was .313, and he hit 383 career homers.
Michael Jordan's superstition inspired an NBA fashion trend. Jordan insisted on wearing his North Carolina Tar Heels shorts under his Bulls uniform, and to cover up his old college basketball trunks, he started wearing longer shorts. Naturally, the rest of the NBA followed suit.
Mercurial NBA guard Jason Terry (Hawks, Mavs, Celtics, Nets) has the habit of sleeping in the shorts of the team he is playing the next day.
Beloved Phillies legend and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who played in Philadelphia from 1948 to 1959 before ending his career with the Mets, slept with a lot of old bats in his day. Literally. In order to keep track of a bat that was treating him particularly well, Ashburn would take the bat to bed with him.
Chicago Black Hawks legend Stan Mikita, who led the NHL in scoring four times during a remarkable career that spanned four different decades (1958-80), also led the league in Most Unusual Superstition: Mikita would flick a lit cigarette over his left shoulder before taking the ice for a game.
Goalie Pelle Lindbergh, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers from 1981 to 1986, would drink a Swedish beer called Pripps during each intermission, with two ice cubes — no more, no fewer.
There must be something about goalies. Patrick Roy, whose career included stints with Montreal (1984-95) and Colorado (1996-2003), is considered by many the greatest goaltender in NHL history. He might also be the strangest, since he befriended the posts. That's right — Roy would touch and talk to the net posts, thanking them if a shot went awry or clanged off of one of them. Roy would also step over the red and blue lines on the ice, and he would avoid reporters on game day.
For the Celtics of the 1960s, Bill Russell's puke became a good-luck totem. According to Sports Illustrated: "If he threw up before a big game, the Celtics were sure everything would be all right. If he didn't, then Boston's coach, Red Auerbach, would tell Russell to go back to the toilet and order him to throw up." Russ must've done an awful lot of puking, considering that he led the Celtics to 11 championships in his 13-year career.
Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 Grand Slam singles titles, is a candidate for Greatest Tennis Player of All Time. He's also the GOAT when it comes to superstitious eccentricities, which he refers to as his "routines." His assortment of quirks is a category unto itself.
• Nadal has rituals involving his water bottles. He brings two bottles to each match, with one slightly warmer than the other, and sips from both during the match. The label of both has to be facing the court.
• During his recent run to the U.S. Open crown, Nadal ate the same meal at the same restaurant every night. The New York Post reported that Nadal consumed Chilean sea bass, fried rice and noodles at a Manhattan Chinese restaurant every evening when he wasn't playing a night match.
• Before every point, Nadal makes sure that his socks are pulled up at the same height. Prior to a match, he'll spend 30 seconds or more pulling his socks up and down.
• Nadal never steps on the lines before or after any point. He also crosses the lines right foot first.
Forget the Sprint All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600 or Saturday’s 500-miler. NASCAR’s biggest race at Charlotte Motor Speedway happens on Monday in front of a handful of officials, mechanics and high-tech engineers. At stake: keeping the future of the sport intact after a season of less-than-scintillating competition with NASCAR’s much-ballyhooed Gen-6 chassis. It’s a test insiders say could kill off the dreaded “aero push,” enemy number one in what’s made trying to pass the leader a Mission: Impossible assignment.
As we hit the Chase’s halfway point, where words like “debris,” “strategy” and “survival” dominate the conversation, you can understand why there’s a heightened sense of urgency. As a small consolation, this last battle at Charlotte, between reigning champ Brad Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne did showcase what we used to see on a weekly basis. There was good, clean, hard competition, side-by-side for the win where both drivers were able to pass – and pass back. But that five-minute slice has come few and far between these days, with Charlotte’s ending and Fontana back in March overrun by a series of races where drivers seem to “march in place.” Single-file, settled in position becomes the dominant order of the day, a full green-flag run taking place with little more than one or two positions inside the top 10 changing hands.
For the intermediate ovals, it’s aerodynamics, tires and the Chase as the combined cause. Goodyear is working hard on its end, with a “multi-zone” tire at Atlanta and Kansas proving a step in the right direction. Now, aerodynamics is being tackled. The Chase? We’re unlikely to see any changes there until 2015, if at all.
But at least all parties involved are trying — and trying hard — with certain things within their control. Television ratings during the season’s second half that are a smidgen of what they used to be during the sport’s peak years served as a wakeup call. The fact NASCAR had to force its current television partners TNT and ESPN to keep covering the sport because they so desperately wanted to leave served as a kick in the pants. The powers that be — the ones with the cash – they know change must come.
Now, it’s up to the guys with the wind tunnels, mechanical brains and creative muscle behind the scenes to make NASCAR shine at a new level.
Back to the race at Charlotte. The engines are revved and it’s time to shift up “Through thee Gears” …
FIRST GEAR: A crucial win for Keselowski – not just for this year but next To say the reigning champ, just the second ever to miss the Chase, has been living under a black cloud would be an understatement. Did you see David Ortiz, tying the game against the Tigers Sunday night in the eighth inning? Keselowski has had that type of heartbreaker happen at least a half-dozen times this season. Victory or even a solid finish would be a few laps away only for extraordinary circumstances to take charge.
For Keselowski, Charlotte started as one of “those nights” again when he left an early pit stop with a jack attached. Stuck mid-pack, he was mired 15th, 27 seconds back of the leader as late as Lap 160. But a mid-race debris caution kept him on the lead lap, and by the time the fourth and final yellow came out with less than 30 circuits remaining, the No. 2 car had worked its way up to fifth position. At the time, Keselowski was running lap times comparable to the leaders; he just needed a lucky break to show it.
There’s that word again — luck —where intangibles finally started tilting his way.
“This is a very good team,” Keselowski said after fighting from the third row, on that final restart to eventually blow by Kahne and take control of the race. “Along the way, all season long we've had the speed. It's just been one of those years where you say, ‘How much more can they throw at you?’ And I think we ran out of things for them to throw at us tonight with the jack and still find a way to win.”
Love him or hate him, know this much about Keselowski, who has been the epicenter of controversy in 2013 dating back to a February USA Today interview in which he criticized aspects of the sport and questioned the “100% rule” just over one week ago: This driver cares about his team, his people and the long-term confidence of the program; he was adamant no changes in the face of failure were necessary. Getting a victory was very important for morale, making that edict easier to swallow within Penske Racing as they keep the core intact after such a difficult season and go with the motto of simply “shrugging it off” and starting from scratch in 2014.
“Those guys spend a lot of time away from their friends and family,” Keselowski said of his crew, understanding the importance of winning at NASCAR’s home base. “They make sacrifices to essentially make me a hero, and that's not something that's lost on me. So when they have the opportunity to come to Charlotte, bring their family and friends and kind of showcase what they do and then you combine that with success, I think it really validates to them some of those sacrifices they made, whether it's missing their kid's soccer game or whatnot, and it's something very special for them.”
SECOND GEAR: Johnson’s missed opportunityNo doubt, the No. 48 team was primed and ready to walk away from Charlotte with the points lead, halfway towards that elusive sixth title. Holding a comfy lead with the most fuel of anyone on the lead lap and one of the fastest cars on track, victory was a mere formality.
And then came that pesky debris.
It was never shown on camera. Multiple drivers claim they never saw it. One claimed he never even looked. Yet the yellow clearly changed the race’s outcome, leaving Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to simply wonder what might have been.
But here’s the cold, ugly truth for fans of the No. 48: Johnson and Knaus still managed to beat themselves. A choice for four tires, with just 10 cars on the lead lap, found Johnson third behind Kasey Kahne and unstable on a restart. It’s not the first time the team has struggled coming up to speed; take Kansas, one week ago, where Johnson nearly spun out in front of the field multiple times in a rollercoaster run. “Closing the deal” when these calls happen is part of what makes a champion. At some point these last three years, this duo forgot how to handle the ninth inning.
Meanwhile, rival Matt Kenseth steadily worked his way forward from 20th place, landing third in a “tortoise and the hare” approach after two straight wins to start the Chase. Even if Johnson had won, the No. 20 team was ready to minimize the damage and will continue to do so each and every week. If the No. 48 team doesn’t relearn how to do the same once adversity hits, title number six is little more than a pipe dream.
THIRD GEAR: Kahne returns to relevancy
Saturday night was a boon for Hendrick Motorsports, which combined to lead 313 of the race’s 334 laps. But perhaps none of its four drivers needed time at the front more than Kahne, the team’s intermediate track specialist who hasn’t really specialized in, well, anything this Chase. It had been four races and four finishes outside the top 10 for the driver whose postseason, to this point, is better known for an awkward New Hampshire interview that left the masses thinking he was hard of hearing, had a concussion or a combination of both.
“I wish I knew how to get my car to drive like it does here at other places,” he said of Charlotte after leading a race-high 138 laps. “I don't know if it's the tire or the track itself. But we just always run pretty good. It always gives us confidence when we leave here.”
A win at one point appeared in the cards after a two-tire stop on the final caution gave the No. 5 team track position. But second, after Keselowski tracked him down, is far from shabby; there’s enough momentum here to right the ship. Expect Kahne to be a contender at Texas and Homestead the remaining 1.5-milers on the schedule despite a postseason that will ultimately be termed disappointing.
FOURTH GEAR: Hamlin’s small victory Seventeen races. That’s how long this career-defining slump has been since Denny Hamlin last appeared in the top 10 at the conclusion of a Sprint Cup race. What would happen for most drivers holding that type of top-tier ride, one where his two teammates are competing for a title? They’d be holding a pink slip come the end of November — if they hadn’t been fired already.
Of course, Hamlin has an excuse: his ailing back leading to a month of missed time and likely offseason surgery. But that’s why a run of ninth place, which would have been disappointing for teammates Kenseth or Kyle Busch, means the world to this Joe Gibbs Racing outfit. This team needs to feel like it’s on the upward swing heading into the offseason to feel confident it’ll find chemistry once again. Perhaps the real test, though, will be at a place like Martinsville — a test on Hamlin’s back but a place in which he’s had the most success of anyone not named Johnson over the last six years.
Best wishes to Brian Vickers, out the rest of the season after doctors found a blood clot in his right calf. Vickers, who’s missed time for the problem before – it actually led to surgery to repair a hole in his heart a few years back – will thankfully play it safe. He’ll be back in time for the 2014 Daytona 500; in his place, no substitute has been named beyond Talladega, where Michael Waltrip was already scheduled to run the No. 55. … Best wishes No. 2 to a number of Michael Waltrip Racing employees who were told after Charlotte that they’ll be released at the end of the season. With sponsor NAPA along with driver Martin Truex Jr. leaving the organization, MWR is cutting back to two full-time entries for 2014. So what happens to NAPA and Truex? Buzz currently centers around Furniture Row Racing in a second car or as a fourth expansion team for Richard Childress Racing. … Just 13 cars wound up on the lead lap at Charlotte in both Cup races this season. Only the Dover race last month had fewer. … Keselowski was the first non-Chaser to win since Kahne did it, driving for Team Red Bull at Phoenix in November 2011.
Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
National League Championship Series – Game 3
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)
This series could not be much closer, yet the Cardinals emerged from St. Louis with a two-game lead heading to Los Angeles. The Cardinals won a 13-inning classic, then made an unearned run off Clayton Kershaw stand up for a 1-0 win in Game 2. The 2004 Boston Red Sox proved to us that the Dodgers will indeed have a chance if they lose tonight, but this game is all but an elimination game for Los Angeles. The Dodgers will have to beat the Cardinals’ best in Adam Wainwright in order to avoid a three-games-to-none hole. Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the hill for the Dodgers.
Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers may need a super-human effort from Ryu in order to match Wainwright pitch for pitch. If not, the Dodgers’ lineup must produce more runs than it has to this point, and do that against the Cardinals’ ace.
Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals still haven’t found their groove with the bats. And left-handed pitching hasn’t been kind to the Redbirds all season, even when they were hitting well. Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams and Jon Jay, in particular, struggle more against lefties than righthanders. So Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese may have to shoulder the run production tonight.
Dodgers to Watch
Ryu will certainly be watched closely by Don Mattingly. The manager can’t afford for this game to get out of hand. That means Ryu will be on a short leash. With Hanley Ramirez ailing, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez must carry the offensive load. Ethier has a good history off Wainwright.
Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has been so good, it’s almost expected that he’ll throw a dud at some point. Or maybe he got that out of his system a few weeks ago against Cincinnati. The Cardinals are 12-5 in his 17 road starts this season, and he has failed to get through the sixth inning just once.
St. Louis is batting just .187 in the postseason…Opponents are batting .196…Los Angeles is 19-11 in Ryu’s 30 starts this season, 10-5 at home…Ethier is 10-for-33 in his career against Wainwright with three home runs and three doubles…Ramirez is batting .208 off the Cardinals’ righthander (5-for-24)…Mark Ellis is 1-for-12 (.083).
Urban Meyer is one of the best recruiters in the business. Why? Because he gets them young. We've heard of middle schoolers getting scholarships, but the second-year coach is taking things to another level as Meyer is already working on the recruiting class of 2029. Last week, Meyer received a flyer in the mail detailing the vast skillset of two-year-old Columbus resident Sullivan Busser. The 3-foot-2, 25-pound quarterback is sure to follow in the footsteps of other Urban Meyer proteges like Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Braxton Miller.
Meyer reached out to the future five-star recruit with a letter that read:
Your parents sent us your future Buckeye recruiting information. We will look for you to make your collegiate football debut in 2029 — you will need to gain a little weight, but our strength staff will take care of that! Go Bucks!
Sincerely, Urban Meyer Head Football Coach
Alabama coach Nick Saban, never one to be outdone, is probably already scanning Tuscaloosa daycares for a two-year old prospect of his own.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 14.
• The best part of hockey (in my opinion): the ice girls. They're flirty and functional. Enjoy this NHL Ice Girls Social Media Power Ranking.
• What a weekend of sports, especially if you're from Massachusetts or St. Louis. To make yesterday's "Brady, Aim, Fire" moment even more stirring, here it is in Tecmo Bowl form, call included. If you want to see Brady taken down a notch, enjoy watching Julian Edelman ignore Tom Terrific's attempt at a high-five.
• Of course, the best part of Brady's late touchdown was the reaction from Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ladies and gentlemen, your GIF of the Week.
• Erin Andrews got a Gatorade dousing at the Red Sox game resulting in soaked hair extensions. She described it via Twitter as "sticky."
• Some Texans fans cheered Matt Schaub's injury. Some Texans didn't like that. At all.
• Bob Costas called the "Redskins" nickname a slur. Twitter reacted, as it always does.
• Columnist Phil Mushnick took to the pages of the New York Post to rip Adrian Peterson in the immediate aftermath of his son's death. Yep, you read that right.
• It's been 10 years since Bartman became a thing, and we still don't know much about him.
• Tide's rolling, Georgia's gutted and Johnny Football still rules: Your SEC weekend roundup.
• Les Miles is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy his ruminations on the hammer and the nail.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Indianapolis Colts will aim for a fourth straight victory tonight when they take on the San Diego Chargers at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Andrew Luck and company also will be trying for their second win on the West Coast this season, while the Chargers would like to get back to .500 with a victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
With Luck running the show, the Colts have used a consistent rushing attack and a stingy defense to jump out to a 4-1 start and first place in the AFC South. Philip Rivers has rebounded quite nicely under first-year head coach Mike McCoy, but inopportune turnovers and a susceptible defense have cost the Chargers on more than one occasion.
4 Things to Watch
Indianapolis’ West Coast Success
This season, the AFC South teams play both the AFC and NFC West divisions. What this means is that the Colts face all four of the NFL’s West Coast-based teams – Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Tonight will be the fourth of those meetings, and Indianapolis is looking for the clean sweep. Indianapolis opened its season by beating Oakland at home, and then stunned San Francisco on the road 27-7 in Week 3. Last week, the Colts overcame a five-point, fourth-quarter deficit at home against Seattle, beating the Seahawks with 11 unanswered points to close out the game. In these three victories, the formula has been pretty simple – protect the football, capitalize on the other teams’ mistakes and stop the pass. The Colts forced a total of six takeaways in their wins over the Raiders, 49ers and Seahawks, and also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown last week, while only committing two turnovers of their own. The defense also held these three teams to an average of 181.7 passing yards per game. San Diego enters this game with a minus-eight turnover differential, including six giveaways in its last two games alone. The Chargers are averaging more than 300 yards passing per game, but as the Colts have shown, their defense has been up to the task, no matter which time zone they are playing in.
Same Old Philip Rivers?
Last season was one Rivers would like to forget, as he finished with about as many turnovers (22 total) as touchdown passes (26), and San Diego went 7-9, costing head coach Norv Turner his job. Enter Mike McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who together have helped resurrect Rivers’ career. Rivers already has three 400-yard passing games this season, and was among the top four quarterbacks in the four major categories – yards (1,610), touchdown passes (13), completion percentage (73.7) and passer rating (110.6) – entering Week 6. Rivers’ early success is one of the main reasons the Chargers are fifth in the NFL in total offense at 402.4 yards per game. Unfortunately, the Rivers of last season has made a few appearances during games, which is why the Chargers are just 2-3 in the standings. In the season opener, after leading Houston for much of the game, Rivers’ lone interception was returned for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter with the Texans eventually winning on a field goal as time expired. Last week, Rivers threw three picks against the Raiders, one of them in the end zone in the fourth quarter, in the Chargers’ 27-17 loss. Rivers enters this game with a respectable 13:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he has yet to lose a fumble. It’s important that he continues to perform more like the 2013 version rather than the 2012 model. The Colts’ defense has already forced 10 turnovers through five games, so you know they will be looking for more of the same tonight.
Paging Mr. Richardson
Indianapolis rocked the NFL world about a month ago when the team traded for Cleveland running back Trent Richardson, sending its 2014 first-round draft pick in exchange for the third overall selection of the ’12 draft. A bold move for so early in the season, the Colts showed the league they meant business by adding a talented back to an offense that already had a franchise quarterback and legitimate pass-catchers. As it turns out, the trade became even more important when Ahmad Bradshaw suffered what turned out to be season-ending neck injury in Week 3. Bradshaw’s injury was preceded by Vick Ballard’s torn ACL sustained in practice prior to the team’s second game. Richardson’s presence and production is needed even more now with him and Donald Brown the main ball-carriers left. While Richardson has gotten the carries (51 in three games), he is only averaging three yards per attempt with his new team, and has yet to break a run of more than 16 yards. Before his injury, Bradshaw was averaging 4.5 yards per carry and Brown has gained 8.3 in limited totes (19). Regardless, the key to this team’s success moving forward is Richardson. Indianapolis has clearly committed to the running game this season. The Colts are averaging 142 yards per game on the ground and their seven rushing touchdowns were tied for first in the NFL entering Week 6. The Chargers are allowing more than 124 yards rushing per game, so perhaps tonight this will be Richardson’s coming out party as a Colt. I’m sure the team and certainly the fans, would love to finally see some more sizable returns from their recent investment.
Leading the Charge(rs) on the Ground
San Diego entered Week 6 fifth in the league in total offense, gaining more than 400 total yards per game. The main reason for this is the right arm of Rivers, who is averaging 322 yards passing per game. As a team, the Chargers are gaining less than 92 yards rushing per contest. For the second straight season, running back Ryan Mathews has not gotten the job done, as he’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has one total touchdown through five games. Injury-prone is one of the labels most often used to describe the 12th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For example, last season Mathews broke one of his collarbones on his first carry of the preseason and then after returning to action, broke the other one in the middle of the December. The injury bug struck against last week when he hurt his hamstring in practice and then played less than a quarter against the Raiders because of a concussion. Mathews has been cleared to play tonight, but he will probably split the carries fairly evenly with Danny Woodhead. The former Patriot who signed as a free agent is gaining only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, but he’s caught 31 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Throwing the ball hasn’t been a problem for San Diego, but Indianapolis ranks among the top passing defenses and has seven interceptions in five games. The Chargers need to do something on the ground to keep the Colts’ defense off balance. At this point, there’s no clear-cut lead dog in the Chargers’ backfield. The team just needs someone, whether it’s Mathews or Woodhead or even veteran Ronnie Brown, to make the carries they get count for something.
Indianapolis Key Player: Robert Mathis, LB
The Colts have Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and now Trent Richardson on offense, but it’s their defense that has been making the most noise to open this season. Entering Week 6, the defense ranked among the top five units against the pass, in points allowed and stopping the opponent on third down. Indianapolis is giving up 330.4 yards per game (tied for 11th), but only 201.4 of those have come via the pass. One of the reasons for this success has been the ability to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, as their 15 sacks and seven interceptions can attest to. Mathis leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks with at least one in each game. His career high is 11.5, which he has done twice (2005, ’08) and he seems poised to go well beyond that total this season. San Diego has relied heavily on Philip Rivers to move the ball via the pass, so if Indianapolis wants to maintain its pass defense standing, Mathis will need to lead the charge, no pun intended. The Chargers have given up just eight sacks in five games, but the pass protection could have its hands full tonight with the league leader.
San Diego Key Player: Antonio Gates, TE
Similar to Philip Rivers, Gates also has turned back the clock to start this season, as the tight end is playing his best football in several years. Now in his 11th season with the Chargers, Gates said before the season opener that this is the healthiest he has been in a number of years, and it looks like he was telling the truth. Not only is he leading the team in receptions (32) and yards (438), he’s among the top four in catches at his position and trails only Jimmy Graham in yards. Gates has two touchdowns, but even more impressive, he’s already posted seven catches of 20 or more yards. No one on the Chargers has more than four and the seven also ranked Gates among the top 10 in the NFL entering Week 6. While he may not be as young as he once was, Gates is proving again that he’s one of the toughest matchups at tight end. If Rivers plans on making some plays against a stingy Colts’ defense, the two long-time teammates will need to hook up early and often tonight.
While Denver, Kansas City and New England are getting most of the attention as the AFC’s current top teams, Indianapolis can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. A win tonight would put the Colts at 5-1 and stake them to an early two-game lead in the AFC South. Chuck Pagano’s team has already shown it can not only hang with, but beat the likes of NFC powerhouses San Francisco and Seattle.
Andrew Luck may not be filling up the stat sheet, but he’s doing what it takes to put his team in position to win, as well as making the big throw or play when it’s needed the most. Philip Rivers has gotten off to a strong start and is the main reason the Chargers are even hanging around .500, but he has a track record of coming somewhat unglued when everything’s riding on him.
They may not be flashy, but the Colts stick to the game plan that has worked so well for them this season – run the ball consistently, limit the opponent’s passing game, win the turnover battle – and pick up their fourth victory against a West Coast-based team in the process.
Indianapolis 27, San Diego 20
Wisconsin was easily the most impressive team of the Week 7 Big Ten slate. The Badgers completely and thoroughly dominated Northwestern and may be the second-best team in the league. Contenders Michigan State and Nebraska both made quality statements by handling Indiana and Purdue with relative ease.
However, Penn State stole the show this weekend as they outlasted Michigan in four overtimes in front of 110,000 whited-out Nittany Lions fans. It wasn't the prettiest overtime affair, but it continued 2013's dramatics.
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings:
|1.||(1)||Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): After topping Wisconsin at home and Northwestern on the road, the Buckeyes got a well deserved week off. The Bucks will get Iowa and Penn State in the Horseshoe to finish off October. Next Week: Iowa|
|2.||(3)||Nebraska (5-1, 2-0): Taylor Martinez missed another game with his lingering turf toe injury, and the Huskers had to overcome three interceptions from his replacement freshman Tommy Armstrong. But the running game was excellent again, topping 250 yards rushing for the fifth time in six games (251 against Purdue). The defense has been solid in Big Ten play as well and it held Purdue to just 217 total yards and without a point until the final minutes of action. The Huskers will rest before traveling to Minnesota in two weeks. Next Week: Bye|
|3.||(5)||Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1): The Badgers were rested and it showed as they crushed Northwestern by four touchdowns. Joel Stave tossed three touchdowns while star tailback Melvin Gordon did the heavy lifting, rushing for 172 yards on 22 carries and one long TD. The defense, however, won the day by holding the Wildcats to just 242 total yards and nary a touchdown. This was as thorough a showing as Wisconsin has had all season and there is a real shot at an at-large BCS bowl bid should UW win out. Next Week: at Illinois|
|4.||(2)||Michigan (5-1, 1-1): Devin Gardner played well but his coach didn't do him any favors in the four-overtime road loss to Penn State. The Wolverines coughed up a 10-point fourth quarter lead and scored six total points in four overtime possessions. Brady Hoke appeared to be coaching tentatively throughout the waning moments. The Wolverines have been living on the edge for the better part of a month, and it finally caught up with them in the form of special teams miscues and poor offensive execution. Next Week: Indiana|
|5.||(4)||Northwestern (4-2, 0-2): Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both banged up early, but it didn't matter as the Cats were outmatched at the point of attack by Wisconsin no matter who was in the backfield. Pat Fitzgerald's offense couldn't run the ball (25 att., 45 yards) and his defense couldn't stop it (51 carries, 286 yards). If the Wildcats want to compete for a division title — which remains possible — this unit will need to figure out a way to stop a power rushing attack. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa still loom. Next Week: Minnesota|
|6.||(6)||Michigan State (5-1, 2-0): The Spartans traded body blows with Indiana for much of the first half before Mark Dantonio's bunch pulled away thanks to the emergence of Jeremy Langford. The Michigan State running back carried 23 times for 109 yards and scored four total touchdowns on the afternoon (three rushing, on receiving). The league's best defense (MSU) held the league's best offense (IU) to 351 yards — or nearly 200 yards under their average. Sparty should be 4-0 in the Big Ten before a visit from Michigan on Nov. 2. Next Week: Purdue|
Penn State (4-2, 1-1): Christian Hackenberg threw up a pair of prayers on the game's final drive and they were answered. In fact, the football gods must have been smiling on Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions needed multiple missed field goals to hold on for a thrilling four-overtime victory over Michigan. It wasn't pretty for either team and neither team was impressive in overtime, but in the end, however, Hackenberg overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and led the game-winning scoring drive in the fourth overtime. If the freshman signal caller continues to develop, his cult following will only continue to grow in State College. Next Week: Bye
|8.||(8)||Minnesota (4-2, 0-2): The Gophers needed the off weekend after Jerry Kill took an indefinite leave of absence due to epileptic seizures that have impacted two games this season. Minnesota gets back on the field in Evanston against what should be an angry Wildcats. Next Week: at Northwestern|
|9.||(9)||Indiana (3-3, 1-1): The Hoosiers top-rated offense made a few big plays in the first half against the nation's No. 1 defense but simply couldn't match the Spartans physicality for 60 minutes. Kevin Wilson's bunch was outrushed 238-92 and the Hoosiers couldn't stop the Jeremy Langford show. Things don't get any easier for IU as it will return to the state of Michigan next weekend. Next Week: at Michigan|
|10.||(10)||Iowa (4-2, 1-1): The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to stew over the Homecoming loss to Michigan State. However, no amount of rest and preparation will help Iowa as they head to Columbus this weekend. Next Week: at Ohio State|
|11.||(11)||Illinois (3-2, 0-1): The Illini had the week off after getting handled with ease on the road against Nebraska. Tim Beckman now gets two upset chances at home and may need to win one if his team wants to go bowling. Next Week: Wisconsin|
|12.||(12)||Purdue (1-5, 0-2): Freshman quarterback Danny Etling got his first career start, but the change under center did little to impact the Boilermakers troubling season. The defense forced some turnovers but couldn't stop the Cornhuskers explosive rushing attack and didn't muster a point until 39 seconds left in the game. Things won't get any easier as Michigan State on the road and Ohio State at home are the next two up for Darrell Hazell's squad. Next Week: at Michigan State|
Big Ten Week 7 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
Melvin Gordon powered the Wisconsin rushing attack, and Christian Hackenberg led an extraordinary comeback. But Jeremy Langford single-handedly defeated the Hoosiers. The junior tailback had 58 career rushing attempts coming into the game against Indiana but turned in a career performance. Langford rushed 23 times for 109 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards and scored four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). He matched Indiana's 28 points by himself.
Defensive Player of the Week: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State
The soft-spoken defensive end had a coming out party of sorts on Saturday night against Michigan. The senior was a disruptive force all night against the Wolverines, sacking Devin Gardner 2.5 times and forcing a key fumble. He also added eight total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Olaniyan is third in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss on the season.
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Despite the excitement in Happy Valley, the Badgers were the league's premier team in Week 7. Wisconsin dismantled Northwestern in every aspect of the game. Gary Andersen's squad was balanced on offense — throwing for 241 yards and rushing for 286 — and didn't allow a touchdown on defense. Northwestern mustered just six points, 10 first downs, 241 yards and were held to 2-of-17 on third downs. This might be the second-best and most complete team in the Big Ten.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin
Northwestern came into the weekend averaging 39 points and 474 yards per game on 6.4 yards per play. Aranda's unit dominated the dynamic and explosive WIldcats offense by physically imposing its will along the line of scrimmage. The Badgers held Northwestern to 44 yards rushing on 25 carries and knocked both Venric Mark and Kain Colter out of the game (Colter returned). Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally in both total defense (267.3 ypg) and scoring defense (13.2 ppg).
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.
• Penn State has won four straight games over Michigan.
• Michigan State kept the Old Brass Spittoon by defeating Indiana for the fifth consecutive time. The Spartans haven't lost at home to the Hoosiers since 2001. MSU outscored IU 28-14 over the final 30:37 of game time.
• After 10 more flags, the Spartans are last in the Big Ten with 45 penalties and 122nd nationally with 78.8 penalty yards given up per game.
• Nebraska moved to 5-1 on the year and 5-1 when Ameer Abdullah rushes for at least 100 yards. He carried 20 times for 126 yards against Purdue and his lowest total of the season thus far was 98 yards against UCLA.
• Melvin Gordon leads the Big Ten in rushing (145.0 ypg) and is third nationally, just two yards behind Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (147.0) and less than five behind Washington's Bishop Sankey (149.8).
• Wisconsin's Joel Stave is third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (146.65) and fourth in passing (216.2 ypg). He set a career high with 295 yards last game against Ohio State and tied a career high this week against Northwestern with three TD passes.
• Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten averaging more than 220 yards rushing and passing per game in 2013.
• Venric Mark left the game against Wisconsin on Saturday for X-rays on a leg injury. Wisconsin star wideout Jared Abbrederis also left the game early with a head injury.
Week 7 was a table-setter for the rest of the ACC season.
Clemson avoided an upset bid by Boston College, which sets up a huge showdown against Florida State next week. The Tigers and Seminoles are both national title contenders, and the matchup in Death Valley should be one of the best games in the ACC for 2013.
Virginia Tech recorded its sixth straight victory with a 19-9 win against Pittsburgh. The Hokies aren’t flashy on offense, but the defense might be the best in college football.
Duke beat Navy, which improved the Blue Devils to 4-2 and positions coach David Cutcliffe’s team for a chance to make another bowl game.
Maryland survived without quarterback C.J. Brown, Georgia Tech lost on the road to BYU, and Syracuse’s ground attack led the way for a 24-10 victory over NC State.
ACC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
|1||1||Clemson (6-0, 4-0): Boston College gave Clemson all it could handle, but the Tigers found a way to win, setting up a huge showdown with Florida State next Saturday. Clemson’s offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders against the Eagles but still managed 496 yards. The Tigers’ defense helped to pickup some of the slack, as Boston College was held to 4.8 yards per play, and end Vic Beasley scored on a 13-yard fumble return for the final dagger. Clemson can certainly play better, and it’s fair to wonder if this team was looking ahead to the matchup against Florida State next Saturday. However, a similar effort next week against the Seminoles would spell trouble for the Tigers. Next Week: Florida State|
|2||2||Florida State (5-0, 3-0): The Seminoles were on bye in Week 7 and return to action next Saturday at Clemson. Florida State has cruised to a 5-0 start so far and crushed Maryland 63-0 in Week 6. The Seminoles have lost five straight in Death Valley but defeated Clemson 49-37 in Tallahassee last season. And barring a collapse, the winner of next week’s game should claim the Atlantic Division title. Next Week: at Clemson|
|3||3||Miami (5-0, 1-0): The Hurricanes had a bye in Week 7 and return to action on Thursday at North Carolina. Miami lost 18-14 against the Tar Heels last season but has won two out of the last three games in this series. The off date came at a crucial time for the Hurricanes, as quarterback Stephen Morris was dealing with a leg injury in last week’s win against Georgia Tech and clearly wasn’t 100 percent. Next Week: at North Carolina (Thursday)|
|4||4||Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0): It wasn’t necessarily pretty against Pittsburgh, but the Hokies won 19-9 and now have six consecutive victories heading into the bye week. Virginia Tech’s offense managed only 315 yards, with quarterback Logan Thomas carrying the load. The senior threw for 239 yards and one score and led the team in rushing for the second time in three games. Running backs J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds combined for just 38 yards on 15 attempts. The Hokies’ defense continues to carry the team, dominating the line of scrimmage against the Panthers with eight sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. After an opening week loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech has rallied behind a stout defense and timely offense. And this team has its sights set on a Nov. 9 showdown at Miami for the Coastal Division title. Next Week: Bye|
|5||5||Maryland (5-1, 1-1): Quarterback C.J. Brown was forced to miss Saturday’s game with a concussion, but the Terrapins used a solid performance from backup Caleb Rowe (332 yards) to hold off Virginia. In addition to Rowe, running back Brandon Ross also delivered a key performance, recording 88 rushing yards and two scores, while catching three passes for 81 yards. After holding its opponents to 41 points through the first five games, Maryland has allowed 89 in its last two contests. With the Terrapins moving to the Big Ten next season, this was the last scheduled matchup against rival Virginia. Next Week: at Wake Forest|
|6||6||Georgia Tech (3-3, 2-2): The Yellow Jackets suffered their third consecutive defeat, losing 38-20 at BYU. The Cougars jumped out to a 24-13 lead at halftime, but Georgia Tech’s defense stepped up in the second half, limiting BYU to just 88 yards in the final two quarters. However, the Yellow Jackets’ offense had two fourth quarter turnovers, including an interception return to give the Cougars a 31-13 edge. Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee threw for 133 yards and added 41 on the ground, but the sophomore tossed a costly interception and averaged only two yards a rush. The Yellow Jackets had a difficult schedule over the last three weeks, and the slate is considerably lighter for the rest of October. Next Week: Syracuse|
|7||7||Pittsburgh (3-2, 2-2): The Panthers had their three-game winning streak snapped in Blacksburg. Pittsburgh’s offensive line was a huge concern entering Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech, and the unit was simply manhandled by the Hokies’ defensive front. Virginia Tech recorded eight sacks and 10 tackles for a loss, and the Panthers recorded only 23 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Running back James Conner and receiver Devin Street both suffered shoulder injuries against the Hokies, and their status for next week’s game is uncertain. Next Week: Old Dominion|
|8||8||Boston College (3-3, 1-2): Coach Steve Addazio won’t take any solace in moral victories, but the Eagles have nearly scored upsets against the top two teams in the power rankings. Boston College lost 48-34 to Florida State on Sept. 28, and the Eagles gave Clemson all it could handle on Saturday, losing 24-14. Boston College held a 7-3 halftime lead, but the offense never got on track in the second half. Quarterback Chase Rettig had a costly fumble that was returned for a score in the fourth quarter, and running back Andre Williams was held to 70 yards. Even though Boston College didn’t win at Clemson, losing by 10 points to the No. 1 team in the ACC is a good sign for Addazio’s rebuilding effort in Chestnut Hill. Next Week: Bye|
|9||13||Duke (4-2, 0-2): It won’t register on many national radars, but the Blue Devils’ 35-7 win over Navy was impressive. Duke’s offense got a spark from the return of quarterback Anthony Boone, who completed 31 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three scores. The defense was the bigger storyline for coach David Cutcliffe, as the Blue Devils allowed 230 rushing yards to the Midshipmen but forced three turnovers and did not allow a point in the second half. With four wins in non-conference play, Duke needs just two more wins to get bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. Next Week: at Virginia|
|10||10||North Carolina (1-4, 0-2): The Tar Heels were on bye in Week 7 and return to action against Miami on Thursday night. North Carolina has been one of the biggest disappointments in the ACC through the first half of the season, but coach Larry Fedora’s team has a chance to turn things around. The schedule is easier in the second half of 2013, and the Tar Heels play five out of their next seven games at home. Next Week: Miami (Thursday)|
|11||14||Syracuse (3-3, 1-1): With a struggling passing attack, the Orange leaned on the ground attack against NC State, and running backs Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley responded with a huge effort. Smith recorded 140 yards and one score, while Tyson-Gulley chipped in 132 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Terrel Hunt only threw for 74 yards, but he added 92 yards on the ground. Syracuse averaged 9.1 yards per carry against the Wolfpack. The Orange turned in one of their top defensive efforts of the season on Saturday, as NC State’s offense managed just 3.7 yards per play and 2.9 yards per carry. The win over the Wolfpack was Syracuse’s first victory in ACC play. Next Week: at Georgia Tech|
|12||11||Virginia (2-4, 0-2): Close, but not good enough. That sums up Virginia’s upset bid against Maryland, as the Cavaliers missed a last-minute field goal to win in College Park. Virginia’s offense has struggled against FBS competition, but quarterback David Watford posted a solid stat line against the Terrapins, throwing for 263 yards on 27 completions. Running back Kevin Parks also chipped in 112 yards and one score, while the defense forced three turnovers. While Saturday’s loss was a valiant effort, Virginia’s schedule isn’t going to get any easier, which only increases the pressure on coach Mike London’s hot seat. Next Week: Duke|
|13||12||Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2): The Demon Deacons were on bye in Week 7 and return to action against Maryland next Saturday. Wake Forest went into the off week with some momentum after a 28-13 victory over NC State on Oct. 5. The Demon Deacons need to find three wins to get bowl eligible this year, which won’t be easy with a schedule that features Maryland, Miami, Florida State and Vanderbilt in the second half of the season. Next Week: Maryland|
|14||9||NC State (3-3, 0-3): The bad news: The Wolfpack is now 0-3 in conference play after losing to Syracuse 24-10. The good news: Quarterback Brandon Mitchell will return to the lineup against Florida State on Oct. 26. After averaging just 3.7 yards per play against the Orange, it’s clear NC State’s offense desperately needs a spark. The Wolfpack has not scored more than 14 points in an ACC contest this season, and quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown eight interceptions. Another concern for NC State has to be its rush defense. After allowing just 107.6 rushing yards per game coming into Week 7, the Wolfpack were gashed by Syracuse for 362 yards on the ground. NC State is off to an 0-3 start in conference play, but Mitchell’s return will help this team make a run at a bowl eligibility. Next Week: Bye|
ACC Week 7 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Anthony Boone, QB, Duke
Still recovering from a collarbone injury, Boone wasn’t guaranteed to start Saturday’s game against Navy. However, Brandon Connette was injured after practice on Thursday and was ruled out just before kickoff. Boone was Duke’s starter prior to his injury against Memphis on Sept. 7, and the junior was sharp in his return to the starting lineup. Boone completed 31 of 38 throws for 295 yards and three scores. The junior did not throw an interception, and the 295 passing yards were the best by Boone in his three starts in 2013.
Defensive Player of the Week: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley gets the nod for the second week in a row as Athlon’s ACC defensive player of the week. The junior recorded five tackles (two for a loss), one pass breakup and one sack in a 24-14 win over Boston College. Those numbers are solid, but Beasley’s biggest contribution came in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Tony Steward forced a fumble from Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig, which Beasley picked up and returned for a 13-yard touchdown. The score gave Clemson a 10-point cushion, which was enough to hold off the Eagles’ upset bid.
Coordinator of the Week: Jim Knowles, Duke
Duke’s defense has received plenty of criticism over the last two years, as the Blue Devils finished 11th in the ACC in total defense last season and allowed 36 points a game. And in the first five games of 2013, Duke ranked 12th in the ACC in total defense, allowing 400 yards per game. However, the Blue Devils turned in one of their best defensive performances against a FBS team in recent years, as Navy was held to seven points and 230 rushing yards. The Midshipmen did not score a point in the second half and lost three turnovers. The seven points allowed by Duke was the fewest against a FBS team since holding Vanderbilt to just seven points in 2008. Although the Blue Devils have struggled at times on defense, Knowles and the defensive staff deserve a lot of credit for the performance against Navy.
Team of the Week: Virginia Tech
The pickings are slim here, but let’s give a tip of the cap to Virginia Tech. The Hokies used another strong defensive effort to beat Pittsburgh on Saturday, moving to 6-1 on the season. Last year, Virginia Tech won six games in the regular season and needed a bowl victory over Rutgers to get to 7-6. The offense is still a work in progress, averaging only 328.4 yards per game. However, quarterback Logan Thomas has not thrown an interception in three games. The Hokies are holding opponents to just 256 yards per game and only one opponent has scored more than 20 points in a contest this year.
Freshman of the Week: Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
Tocho made his first start of the season against Syracuse and made an instant impact for NC State’s defense. The true freshman recorded three tackles and picked off Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt twice. Tocho also added one pass breakup. The three-star recruit injured his shoulder against the Orange but made a solid contribution for NC State’s defense when he was on the field.
• Pittsburgh averaged just 3.8 yards per play against Virginia Tech.
• Maryland linebacker L.A. Goree turned in a strong performance against Virginia, recording 15 stops (with one tackle for a loss).
• In Saturday’s game against Clemson, Boston College running back Andre Williams was held under 100 yards for only the second time this season.
• Virginia Tech’s defense recorded eight sacks against Pittsburgh, with three coming from Dadi Nicolas.
• Virginia quarterback David Watford threw for a season-high 263 yards against Maryland.
• Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded three tackles for a loss and two sacks against Virginia Tech.
• Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his last three games.
• Syracuse scored its first ACC win by beating NC State 24-10 on Saturday.
• Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis recorded four tackles for a loss and two sacks against BYU.
• For the first time since 2011, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has not tossed an interception in three consecutive games.
The national title picture was altered by Utah’s 27-21 win over Stanford on Saturday. The Cardinal’s first loss of the season is early enough to rebound back into the BCS title contention, but Stanford still has to play Oregon and UCLA.
Utah’s win over Stanford was arguably its biggest since it joined the Pac-12 and should be enough for the Utes to get back to a bowl game.
USC had a solid showing in the first game of the post-Lane Kiffin era, defeating Arizona 38-31.
Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State scored blowout victories, while Oregon picked up a huge 45-21 win at Washington.
Pac-12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
|1||1||Oregon (6-0, 3-0): With Stanford losing to Utah, it’s clear the Pac-12 title runs through Eugene. The Ducks passed their biggest test of the season with a 45-24 victory over Washington on Saturday. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was simply flawless against the Huskies, throwing for 366 yards and three scores and rushing for 88 yards and one touchdown on 13 attempts. The Ducks’ defense delivered with some timely stops, recorded five sacks and seven tackles for a loss, and held Washington quarterback Keith Price to just 182 passing yards. Assuming Oregon beats Washington State this Saturday, the Ducks’ national title hopes could hinge on a two-game stretch of a home game against UCLA and a road date at Stanford. Next Week: Washington State|
|2||4||UCLA (5-0, 2-0): Thanks to Stanford’s loss at Utah, the Bruins climb to the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 power rankings. The Bruins defeated California 37-10 on Saturday, improving to 5-0 for the first time since 2005. Although it was a comfortable 27-point win, UCLA shouldn’t be satisfied with its performance. The rushing attack had only 78 yards, and California exploited the offensive line for eight tackles for a loss and two sacks. The Bruins are favorite to win the Pac-12 South, but this team’s toughest tests of 2013 have yet to come. Next Week: at Stanford|
|3||2||Stanford (5-1, 3-1): The Cardinal’s national title hopes took a huge hit with a 27-21 loss in Salt Lake City. Stanford trailed Utah 27-14 early in the fourth quarter but rallied with a touchdown pass from quarterback Kevin Hogan to receiver Devon Cajuste. The Cardinal had a chance to take the lead with less than a minute to go, but Hogan’s pass fell incomplete on fourth and goal, giving the Utes a huge upset win. Utah outgained Stanford 415 to 389, and the Utes’ defensive line outplayed the Cardinal’s offensive line. If Stanford wants to get back into the national title picture, it will have a chance in the next three weeks with games against UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon. Next Week: UCLA|
|4||Washington (4-2, 1-2): The Huskies are 1-2 in Pac-12 play, but we have to give some credit in terms of overall schedule difficulty. Washington held its own against Stanford last week and traded punches with Oregon, trailing only 31-24 going into the fourth quarter. The Huskies have closed the gap in the Pac-12 North, but coach Steve Sarkisian still has more work to do. Washington’s road in conference play won’t get any easier this week, as a trip to Tempe awaits. Next Week: at Arizona State|
|5||Arizona State (4-2, 2-1): As expected, the Sun Devils didn’t have much trouble with Colorado. Arizona State led 47-6 at halftime against the Buffaloes and cruised to an easy 54-13 victory. The Sun Devils finished with 532 overall yards, which included a solid performance from running back Marion Grice (88 yards, two scores). Arizona State’s defense feasted on Colorado’s offensive, recording four sacks, seven tackles for a loss and forcing four turnovers. The Sun Devils are chasing UCLA for the top spot in the Pac-12 South, with the Nov. 23 date looking like a de facto division title game. Next Week: Washington|
|6||Oregon State (5-1, 3-0): The Beavers have been on fire since losing to Eastern Washington, recording five straight victories. Oregon State’s offense has led the way, as the Beavers average 506.8 yards per game, and quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks are one of the top pass-catch combinations in the nation. The defense has struggled at times this year but stepped up with six turnovers in the 52-24 win over Washington State. Assuming Oregon State beats California next Saturday, the Oct. 26 showdown against Stanford will have huge Pac-12 North title implications. Next Week: at California|
|7||9||Utah (4-2, 1-2): The Utes’ No. 7 ranking in the power rankings shows just how deep the Pac-12 is this season. Utah pulled off one of the biggest upsets of 2013 by defeating Stanford 27-21 on Saturday. Both sides of the ball delivered for the Utes, as quarterback Travis Wilson threw for 234 yards, and running back Bubba Poole chipped in 111 yards on the ground, while recording seven receptions for 75 yards. The defense had only two sacks but made plays at key times, including a fourth and goal in the final minute. Another sign of how good Utah has been this year: The Utes lost by seven to UCLA and just by three to Oregon State. Beating Stanford was no fluke. Next Week: at Arizona|
|8||10||USC (4-2, 1-2): The Trojans looked like a different team in Thursday night’s win over Arizona. With Ed Orgeron now in control, USC seemed to play loose and it clearly showed on the field. The offense recorded 546 yards (7.3 yards per play), including two 60-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter. Running back Silas Redd made his 2013 debut, rushing for 80 yards on 19 attempts. The defense gave up 508 yards to the Wildcats, but it’s easier for USC to win games when the offense scores 38 points and wins the time of possession battle by seven minutes. The Trojans have a tough schedule in the second half of the season, but if the same effort against Arizona is there in the next six games, USC will find a way into a bowl. Next Week: at Notre Dame|
|9||7||Arizona (3-2, 0-2): After a 3-0 start, the Wildcats have dropped their last two games. However, losses to Washington and USC are nothing to be ashamed about. In Thursday night’s defeat at USC, Arizona’s passing attack showed signs of life after struggling early in the year, as quarterback B.J. Denker threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. The Wildcats will have a chance to gain some ground over the next few weeks, as they will likely be favored to beat Utah, Colorado and California. Next Week: Utah|
|10||8||Washington State (4-3, 2-2): Although the final scoreboard read 52-24, Saturday’s loss to Oregon State wasn’t quite as one-sided as the score would indicate. The Cougars were tied with the Beavers going into the fourth quarter, but turnovers on five consecutive drives allowed Oregon State’s offense to pull away in the final 15 minutes. Washington State has clearly made progress in coach Mike Leach’s second season and need two wins to get bowl eligible. However, the schedule isn’t kind, and the Cougars have to do a better job of holding onto the ball after losing 20 turnovers through the first seven games. Next Week: at Oregon|
|11||11||Colorado (2-3, 0-3): The Buffaloes dropped their third consecutive game, losing 54-13 to Arizona State. Colorado was simply overmatched against the Sun Devils, falling behind 47-6 by halftime and being outgained 532 to 268. Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau made his debut on Saturday, completing 18 of 26 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. There’s no denying this is a rebuilding year for the Buffaloes, so getting Liufau some experience in the final seven games is a good idea as Colorado builds to 2014. Next Week: Charleston Southern|
|12||12||California (1-5, 0-3): After four consecutive losses, the Golden Bears are reeling in coach Sonny Dykes’ first season. Several factors are to blame for the struggles, but the defense, which is dealing with a plethora of injuries, has been the primary culprit. California held UCLA to 37 points on Saturday, but the Golden Bears have lost by 20 points in three consecutive games. Quarterback Jared Goff only threw for 215 yards against UCLA, but the freshman passer didn’t have much help from a rushing attack that managed 2.8 yards per carry. The schedule isn’t getting any easier for California, as Oregon State, Washington, Arizona and USC are its next four games. Next Week: Oregon State|
Pac-12 Week 7 Awards
by Braden Gall
Offensive Player of the Week: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Ducks quarterback was brilliant again, this time on the road against a ranked divisional foe and rival. Mariota led the Ducks to an easy 45-24 win over Washington by completing 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He added 88 yards rushing on 13 carries and another touchdown on the ground. He is now 18-1 as a starter with 63 career total touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota hasn't thrown a pick in 233 attempts.
Defensive Player of the Week: Nate Orchard, LB, Utah
Fellow defensive linemates Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi have made more plays and garnered more headlines through five games, but Saturday night's upset of Stanford was Orchard's coming out party. He registered his second and third sack of the season and forced two huge fumbles for a Utah defense that simply outplayed the Cardinal for most of the game. He finished with five total tackles on the night and was a big part of the final minute goal-line stand that won the game for the Utes.
Team of the Week: Utah
The Utes shocked the college football world by handling the Stanford Cardinal with relative ease. The 27-21 win over the No. 5 team in the nation wasn't a fluke as Utah outgained Stanford, won the turnover battle, were penalized just four times and won the time of possession game. Travis Wilson was solid (234 yards, two touchdowns, interception, 33 rush yards) at quarterback and the running game carried the offense (39 carries, 176 yards) while the defense capitalized on two critical fumbles. It was the first win for Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium over a top-five team.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
7: Ranked teams that lost in Week 7
Three powerhouses fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday as seven ranked teams lost in Week 7. Oklahoma was favored by 14 and lost in humiliating fashion to arch rival Texas. Michigan lost a four-overtime thriller to Penn State that was equal parts ugly and exciting. And Stanford was outplayed by Utah on the road. Additionally, No. 17 Florida and No. 19 Northwestern lost physical games against division foes on the road while No. 7 Georgia and No. 16 Washington both lost critical divisional showdowns at home. All in all, the AP Top 25 went 11-7 and only 14 teams are left unbeaten on the season.
92-3: Alabama scoring margin in the second quarter
The Crimson Tide entered the second period against Kentucky tied 0-0 but headed into halftime in complete control. After a 24-point second quarter in Commonwealth Stadium, Alabama has outscored opponents 92-3 in the second quarter this season. The Tide hasn't given up a second-quarter point since a field goal by Virginia Tech in Week 1. Since then, Alabama has outscored its competition 78-0, including a huge 21-0 quarter over Texas A&M in Week 2. Bama has won 43 straight over unranked opponents.
8:13: Time Johnny Manziel needed to lead three fourth-quarter scoring drives
Against Ole Miss, the reigning Heisman winner was magical, leading three scoring drives in the final 8:13. He got the ball inside his own 30 yard line each time and each time led a scoring drive of at least 56 yards. In fact, he ran 22 plays for 206 total yards and 17 points over the final 10 minutes or so of action — twice leading his team from behind to tie the game. Manziel threw for 346 yards, rushing for 124 yards and accounted for two second-half touchdowns. It was his seventh career 300-yard passing effort, ninth career 100-yard rushing effort, ninth game with at least 400 yards of offense and the fourth time he topped both the 300-yard passing and 100-yard rushing plateau in the same game.
154: Wins by Mack Brown and Bob Stoops at Texas and Oklahoma
Texas and Oklahoma have met in the Red River Riv… Shootout 108 times. Mack Brown has coached in the contest 16 times while Bob Stoops has been a head coach 15 times in the rivalry. Stoops owns a 9-6 edge against Brown after the Crimson and Cream was stomped by the Horns 36-20 in Dallas. The win was Brown's 154th as the head coach of Texas, matching Stoops exact win total at Oklahoma. For the first time in series history, Texas had two running backs — Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown — go over the 100-yard mark rushing. The Longhorns now sit at 3-0 in the Big 12 with wins over Oklahoma, Kansas State and Iowa State. TCU, Kansas and West Virginia are the Horns next three opponents, so a 6-0 start is well within reach.
43.6: Oregon points per game against Washington since 2003
The Ducks fans chanted "10 more years" in the stands at Husky Stadium as Oregon dominated the fourth quarter of yet another Pacific Northwest showdown with Washington. The Ducks topped the U of W 45-24 on the road for the 10 straight win in the series. Oregon has averaged 43.6 points per game against the Huskies during the winning streak. The performance on Saturday was the sixth time in seven games with Washington that Oregon has scored at least 43 points. Marcus Mariota was simply unstoppable once again.
Plus-2.8: Houston's best turnover margin per game in the nation
Has anyone noticed that the Cougars are 5-0 on the season? Tony Levine's team forced four turnovers and gave the ball up just once in the 25-15 win over Memphis to stay unbeaten this weekend. The plus-3 turnover performance only extended Houston's national lead in turnover margin to a plus-2.8 per game average. Houston has yet to lose the turnover battle in any game this fall and is lapping the field nationally when it comes to turnovers. Oregon is No. 2 nationally at plus-1.8 per game, barely half the pace the Cougars are on after five games. Only Florida State (three) has turned the ball over fewer times than the Cougs (four) and only Tulane and Middle Tennessee State (20) have forced more turnovers than Houston (18). For the record, Houston will visit Louisville on Nov. 16.
6-11: Aaron Murray's career record against ranked opponents
Murray went 0-3 against ranked teams as a freshman, losing to No. 24 South Carolina, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 2 Auburn. He then lost to No. 5 Boise State and No. 12 South Carolina to start his sophomore season 0-2 overall — and 0-5 against his first five against ranked teams. He finished up his second season with wins over No. 24 Auburn and No. 25 Georgia Tech before losing to No. 1 LSU and No. 12 Michigan State in the SEC Championship and Outback Bowl respectively. He split as a junior against ranked teams, losing to No. 6 South Carolina and No. 2 Alabama while beating No. 3 Florida and No. 23 Nebraska. After his injury-riddled team turned the ball over four times against No. 25 Mizzou, Murray moved to 2-2 against ranked teams as a senior.
304: Terry Baggett's Army school rushing record
Army toppled Eastern Michigan 50-25 this weekend behind a record-setting performance by running back Terry Baggett. The junior from Chicago rushed 18 times for an Army single-game record 304 yards for a per-carry average of 16.9 yards. He scored twice in the first quarter to start the scoring and twice in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. His final TD run put a nail in EMU's coffin when he galloped 96 yards with nine minutes to go in the third frame.
1-6: Combined SEC record for Vanderbilt and Ole Miss
These two locked horns in Week 1 in a thrilling 39-35 primetime Thursday night kickoff showdown, giving the Rebels the only SEC win in seven tries for either team. And other than a solid road win for Ole Miss over Texas in Week 3, neither team has accomplished much of anything all season. The rest of their combined six wins have come over SE Missouri State, Austin Peay, UMass and UAB. The Dores and Rebs combined to win 16 games a year ago and both went bowling. It wouldn't be a surprise if one or both missed the postseason this time around.
The seventh week of the season shook up the Big 12 race, making Baylor’s offense and Oklahoma’s defense look vulnerable for the first time all season.
Texas’ dominant win over Oklahoma shows the Longhorns can be a realistic contender for the league crown. Kansas State’s performance against Baylor in a 35-25 loss makes the Longhorns’ 3-0 start in Big 12 look a little stronger.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, looked nothing like a team ready to compete for a conference title Saturday. Texas moved the ball with ease on the Sooners’ 3-3-5 and could have have won by a more significant margin if not for overthrown passes on deep routes.
In Manhattan, Baylor’s fate was up in the air deep into the fourth quarter, a time when the Bears’ starters haven’t even played this season. Kansas State may have given a blueprint to upsetting Baylor, controlling the clock with the run game led by a mobile quarterback and stifling Lache Seastrunk in the run game.
The Big 12 race appeared to be a hotly contested competition among flawed teams in the preseason, and Week 7 only further proved that perception.
Big 12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
|1||2||Baylor (5-0, 2-0): The Bears learned there’s a big difference between facing overmatched teams in Waco and facing a quality team on the road. Baylor needed two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat a Kansas State team that wouldn’t go away in the second half. The Wildcats were able to limit Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin in the run game, and Antwan Goodley dropped a couple of passes. Still, Baylor was able to win by 10 points on the road thanks to its explosive passing game. Bryce Petty averaged 15.5 yards per pass attempt, raising his season average to 14.8. One major concern: Kansas State’s run game was able to keep the Baylor offense off the field. Baylor ran only 59 plays against the Wildcats after entering the game averaging 81 plays per game. This week: Iowa State|
|2||5||Texas (4-2, 3-0): The Longhorns finally played like a Big 12 contender for the first time all season. The Longhorns were physical up front on both sides of the ball and flummoxed quarterback Blake Bell. Reaction to Greg Robinson’s elevation to defensive coordinator was lukewarm at best, but it’s tough to argue the switch didn’t help. Texas has allowed only 3.7 yards per carry in the last three games after allowing 6.0 in the first three. And keep in mind: This is without standout linebacker Jordan Hicks in the last two games. This week: Off|
|3||3||Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0): It seems Kliff Kingsbury can plug and play any freshman quarterback with Davis Webb becoming the second rookie to hit the 400-yard mark this season for the Red Raiders. One thing not to overlook: Texas Tech has a quality run game, rushing for 251 yards against Iowa State and a total of seven rushing TDs in the last two games. Why isn’t Texas Tech higher in the power rankings? The Red Raiders’ opponents are a combined 6-11. No team in one of the five major conferences has faced a weaker schedule in terms of raw wins and losses. This week: at West Virginia|
|4||1||Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1): The Sooners felt the absence of defensive tackle Jordan Thomas and linebacker Corey Nelson. And in the 3-3-5 alignment, Oklahoma can afford few letdowns in the front six. Just as disconcerting was the play of Blake Bell, who had his worst game of the season. With the run game ineffective, Bell completed only 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions and four sacks. The Sooners have had only four offensive touchdowns in Big 12 play this season. If Bell’s struggles continue, will Bob Stoops go back to Trevor Knight or give Kendal Thompson a shot? This week: at Kansas|
|5||4||Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1): The Cowboys are in the mix for the Big 12 title as much as any team, but the Pokes have little margin for error after losing to West Virginia. Oklahoma State’s run game is averaging 3.2 yards per carry since the season-opening win against Mississippi State. This week: TCU|
|6||6||Kansas State (2-4, 0-3): That record isn’t pretty, but does any really want to face Kansas State in the Big 12? Despite the loss, Kansas State still proved to be an opportunistic team, converting a blocked punt and a fumble for touchdowns. Daniel Sams is becoming more comfortable at quarterback, especially as a runner. He rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He completed 4 of 7 passes for 41 yards with an interception, sharing the passing duties with Jake Waters. This week: Off|
|7||7||West Virginia (3-3, 1-2): The Mountaineers needed the off week in the worst way after a 73-42 loss to Baylor. Coach/quarterback/receiver communication has been major hurdle for Clint Trickett, who transferred from Florida State during the summer. Meanwhile, the defense has been beset by injuries all season. This week: Texas Tech|
|8||TCU (3-3, 1-2): The Horned Frogs beat Kansas 27-17, but their slow starts on offense persisted. TCU ended the first half tied 10-10 thanks to three turnovers (two Trevone Boykin interceptions and a Waymon James fumble). The Horned Frogs finished with five total turnovers. During the same week TCU learned Devonte Fields would be lost for the season, the Horned Frogs may have found a new defensive stud in linebacker Paul Dawson. The junior college transfer amassed 17 tackles and three tackles for a loss. This week: at Oklahoma State|
|9||9||Iowa State (1-4, 0-2): Give Iowa State credit: The Cyclones wouldn’t go away against Texas Tech. The offense struggled mightily, but Jarvis West kept Iowa State in the game with standout play in the return game. Still, Aaron Wimberly managed only 65 yards on 19 carries and quarterback Sam Richardson missed 11 consecutive passes at one point. This week: at Baylor|
|10||10||Kansas (2-3, 0-2): Yet another game for Kansas where the Jayhawks are competitive in the first half but watch things fall apart in the second. Kansas had one sustained drive all day against TCU, but it ended in an interception. At least basketball practice has started. This week: Oklahoma|
Big 12 Week 7 Recap and Awards
Offensive player of the week: Tevin Reese, Baylor
With Baylor’s run game struggling, Tevin Reese made sure the Bears still had big-play potential in the 35-25 win over Kansas State. Reese finished with five receptions for 184 yards and two touchdown catches. Reese had an 83-yard touchdown catch early, but snuck behind the Kansas State secondary for a 54-yard go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Defensive player of the week: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
Despite the loss, Kansas State’s Mueller was the best defensive player on the field. Mueller turned in one of the best plays of the game with a sack, strip and fumble recovery on Bryce Petty in the third quarter. Mueller finished with seven tackles and two tackles for a loss.
Freshman of the week: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
Another week and another freshman quarterback thriving for Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. Webb replaced an injured Baker Mayfield and didn’t miss a beat, completing 35 of 56 passes for 415 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 42-35 win over Iowa State.
Team of the week: Texas
Tough to argue with a Longhorns team that changed the fortunes of its entire season with a 36-20 win over Oklahoma. Texas is 3-0 in the Big 12 and finally played to its talent level, particularly on defense. Texas held Oklahoma to 276 total yards. Oklahoma managed to convert only 2 of 13 third downs. The Longhorns, in bad shape after losses to BYU and Ole Miss, could build quite the Big 12 resume against TCU, Kansas and West Virginia in the next three games.
Coordinator of the week: Major Applewhite, Texas
The defense was off to a bad start for Texas, but the offense has been nearly as disjointed this season for Texas. Not against Oklahoma. Quarterback Case McCoy missed some open deep throws, but he still finished 13 of 22 for 190 yards. They key for Applewhite’s offense though was third down conversions (13 of 20) and a two-headed rushing attack from Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray that combined for 253 yards on the ground.
• Not only did Texas pick up its first win over Oklahoma since 2009, the Longhorns got their first lead over OU in four years. The Longhorns took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and led for the final 48:25.
• Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray became the first duo in Texas history to rush for 100 yards apiece against Oklahoma.
• Oklahoma’s 147 yards in penalties against Texas was the sixth-highest total in school history.
• Oklahoma gave up a punt return for a touchdown for the first time since 2002 when Colorado’s Jeremy Bloom ran one back for 80 yards against the Sooners. Texas’ Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a score against OU.
• Kansas State held Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk to 56 rushing yards on 12 carries, the first time Seastrunk failed to rush for 100 yards in 10 games.
• Baylor didn’t have a three-and-out in its first four games, but K-State held Baylor to two of them Saturday.
• Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro caught nine passes for 143 yards, giving him five consecutive games with eight receptions.
• Texas Tech rushed for 251 yards, the most for the Red Raiders since the pre-Mike Leach days with a 257-yard performance against Iowa State in 1999.
• TCU’s 27-17 win over Kansas was the Horned Frogs first Big 12 win at home.
Georgia dropped five spots in the power rankings after losing at home to Missouri. The Bulldogs have some quality wins, but this is not the same team — due largely to injuries — that beat South Carolina and LSU earlier in the season. Missouri jumped from seventh to fifth after its win in Athens, and Arkansas dropped from 11th to 12th after losing badly at home to South Carolina. Meanwhile, LSU is now No. 2 after its impressive victory over Florida.
Alabama (6-0, 3-0): Alabama was dominant in all phases during a 48-7 win over Kentucky in Lexington. After being held scoreless on their first three possessions (one punt and two lost fumbles), the Crimson Tide scored on their final eight drives, with six touchdowns and two field goals. AJ McCarron threw for 359 yards to lead an offense that rolled up 668 total yards and picked up 37 first downs. T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each had over 100 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama has now won 17 straight games away from home. Next Week: Arkansas
|2||3||LSU (6-1, 3-1): In a game that hearkened back to the SEC of 2010, LSU beat Florida 17-6 in a defensive struggle that featured only two touchdowns and a combined 568 yards of offense. The Tigers limited Florida to 238 yards (only 3.6 per play) and did not allow a drive longer than 50 yards after the first quarter. LSU scored both of its touchdowns in the second quarter, both on one-yard runs — by J.C. Copeland and Anthony Jennings. Jeremy Hill rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries, giving him four 100-yard games this season. LSU is now bowl-eligible for the 14th straight season. Next Week: at Ole Miss|
Texas A&M (5-1, 3-1): The Aggies had to overcome an apparent knee injury to Johnny Manziel (don’t worry, he’s fine) and two fourth-quarter deficits but managed to escape Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a 41-38 win over Ole Miss. Manziel played like a Heisman Trophy winner, completing 31-of-39 passes for 346 yards and rushing for a game-high 113 yards and two touchdowns. Texas A&M tied the game at 38-38 on a 6-yard run by Manziel with 3:41 remaining and won it on a 33-yard field goal by Josh Lambo as the clock expired. Next Week: Auburn
|4||5||South Carolina (5-1, 2-1): After a couple of less-than-satisfying wins in league play — at home over Vanderbilt and Kentucky — the Gamecocks no doubt feel great about their performance in Fayetteville on Saturday afternoon. South Carolina fell behind 7-0 early in the first quarter but then scored the game’s final 52 points to cruise to the easy win. The Gamecocks outgained Arkansas 537-to-248 and had 32 to first downs to seven for the Hogs. Sophomore tailback Mike Davis, perhaps the nation’s most underrated offensive player, had another big game, rushing for 118 yards and 19 carries. Next Week: at Tennessee|
|5||7||Missouri (6-0, 2-0): The Tigers followed up their dominating win at Vanderbilt with an impressive showing in Athens to remain undefeated, both overall and in league play. Missouri jumped out to a 28-10 lead at halftime and held on to beat Georgia 41-26 in a breakthrough SEC win for Gary Pinkel’s program. The Tigers, however, will have to play without star quarterback James Franklin for the foreseeable future. Franklin, who battled shoulder and knee issues last season, separated his shoulder in the second half on Saturday. Mizzou is very high on redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, but losing Franklin is a huge blow. Next Week: Florida|
|6||6||Florida (4-2, 3-1): Florida became the first team to slow down LSU’s suddenly high-powered attack, but the Gators were unable to muster enough offense of their own to seriously challenge the Tigers in Baton Rouge. Florida had only 240 yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown in a 17-6 loss. Tyler Murphy was decent at quarterback, but he averaged only 4.3 yards on his 27 attempts and did not have a completion longer than 20 yards. Florida fans got their first long look at true freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor (son of Fred), who rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries. Next Week: at Missouri|
|7||2||Georgia (4-2, 3-1): Maybe it was the injuries — or maybe Missouri was just better. But the result was a disheartening 41-26 loss at home that knocked the Bulldogs out of the national title race. Georgia had 454 yards of offense but committed four turnovers, including an Aaron Murray fumble on a sack in the second quarter that resulted in a Missouri touchdown. With Todd Gurley still out with an ankle injury, true freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas carried the rushing load, combining to run for 157 yards on 26 carries. Next: at Vanderbilt|
|8||8||Auburn (5-1, 2-1): As expected, Auburn had little trouble with Western Carolina, one of the worst FCS teams in the nation. The big story for the Tigers was Gus Malzahan’s decision to start true freshman Jeremy Johnson at quarterback. With starter Nick Marshall slowed by an injury, Malzahn went with Johnson, who had yet to play in a game, over sophomore Jonathan Wallace. In his debut, Johnson completed 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Marshall is expected back for next week’s trip to Texas A&M. Next Week: at Texas A&M|
|9||9||Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3): For the second straight season, Ole Miss lost a fourth-quarter lead at home to Texas A&M. Last year, the Rebels led by 10 points for an eight-minute stretch only to watch Johnny Manziel lead A&M to two scores in the final seven minutes. On Saturday night, Ole Miss held leads of 31-24 and 38-31 but was unable to come up with a defensive stop when it mattered most. Bo Wallace played well at quarterback (throwing for 301 yards and two scores) but had a costly interception in the red zone. Barry Brunetti, the “running” option at quarterback, completed 3-of-4 attempts for 28 yards and his first two touchdown passes of the season. Next Week: LSU|
|10||10||Tennessee (3-3, 0-2): Tennessee did not play on Saturday. The Vols’ next four games includes home games against South Carolina and Auburn sandwiched around trips to Alabama and Missouri. Next Week: South Carolina|
|11||12||Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3): The Commodores had the week off after losing at home to Missouri. Over the next four weeks, James Franklin’s club plays Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida — the latter two on the road. Next Week: Georgia|
Arkansas (3-4, 0-3): The good news: Arkansas led 7-0 after Alex Collins scored from six yards out on the opening possession of the game. The bad news: South Carolina proceeded to outscore the Hogs 52-0 the rest of the way. The final numbers were not pretty: Arkansas had 248 yards of offense (only 30 through the air) and picked up seven first downs. South Carolina, on the other hand, rolled up 537 total yards and had 32 first downs. The Razorbacks have had less 300 yards off offense in three of their last four games. Next Week: at Alabama
|13||13||Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2): Dan Mullen’s team dodged the upset, holding on to beat Bowling Green 21-20 in Starkville. Dak Prescott only threw for 75 yards, but he led the Mississippi State rushing attack with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Tyler Russell made his first start since opening day and completed 12-of-14 passes for 102 yards. In his two games since returning from a concussion, Russell is 19-of-25 for 248 yards. The Bulldogs completed their non-conference schedule with a 3-1 record. Next Week: Bye|
|14||14||Kentucky (3-4, 0-4): The Wildcats held No. 1 Alabama scoreless for one quarter — but not much else went well for Mark Stoops’ club. Kentucky managed only 170 yards of offense — the third time UK has had less than 200 yards in the past two seasons — en route to its 10th consecutive SEC loss. Starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return. Maxwell Smith played the rest of the way and completed 7-of-16 passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. Next Week: Bye|
SEC Week 7 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Not even a knee injury can slow down the most exciting football player in the nation. Manziel bounced back from what looked to be a serious injury in the first quarter to lead Texas A&M to a thrilling 41-38 win at Ole Miss. For the fourth time in his career, Manziel topped 300 yards passing (346) and 100 yards rushing (113) in the same game. He failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, but he scored twice on the ground — on highlight-reel runs of five yards in the third quarter and six yards in the fourth. Manziel leads the SEC in total offense with 377 yards per game.
Defensive Player of the Week: Lamin Barrow, LSU
There were many stars for an LSU defense that limited Florida to six points and 240 total yards. Barrow, a senior linebacker, led the way with a game-high 13 tackles, including one for a loss, and one pass break-up. Barrow leads LSU with 49 tackles – 13 more than any other player on the team.
Team of the Week: Missouri
Missouri is all alone in the SEC East with a 2-0 record after beating Georgia 41-26 in Athens. The Tigers were held to a season-low 375 total yards but won the turnover battle 4-to-0, converted on 5-of-12 on third down and scored a touchdown on all three trips inside the red zone. Senior wide receiver La’Damian Washington was the offensive star for Mizzou with seven catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The news, however, was not all good for the Tigers: Quarterback James Franklin, who was enjoying a banner senior season, went down with a separated shoulder that is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the regular season.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Steckel, Missouri
Missouri’s offense had been the talk of the SEC in the past week, but the Tigers can play a little defense as well. Mizzou held Georgia to three offensive touchdowns — the Dawgs’ fewest since last year’s SEC Championship Game — and made several huge plays in its huge 41-26 win in Athens. MU forced four turnovers, none bigger than Michael Sam’s 21-yards scoop-and-score after Shane Ray’s sack-and-strip of Aaron Murray late in the second quarter. Georgia still had 452 yards of offense but averaged a season-low 5.9 yards per play.
Freshman of the Week: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
A true freshman from Texas, Robinson was a major force in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line on Saturday night in Lexington. He had six tackles and two sacks (for 14 lost yards) in the Crimson Tide’s 48-7 win over Kentucky. Robinson leads Alabama in both tackles for a loss (five) and sacks (six).
• Arkansas only had 38 offensive plays in its 52-7 loss at home to South Carolina. The Razorbacks had 30 yards passing and were held to eight first downs.
• In LSU’s 17-6 win over Florida, Zach Mettenberger averaged less than 10 yards per attempt for the first time since Week 1 against TCU. LSU’s senior quarterback threw for a season-low 152 yards on 17 attempts for an 8.9-yard average.
• Aaron Murray threw two interceptions against Missouri on Saturday, marking only the second time in his career that he’s thrown more than one pick in a home game. Georgia’s senior quarterback threw three INTs in a 24-10 win over Mississippi State in 2011.
• South Carolina running back Mike Davis has rushed for 100 yards or more in five of six games this season. The sophomore tailback picked up 128 yards on 19 carries in the Gamecocks’ 52-7 win over Arkansas. He leads the SEC in rushing with 123.7 yards per game.
• Auburn leads the SEC with seven offensive plays of at least 50 yards. Last season, the Tigers had a total of three such plays in 12 games.
The Mountain West enjoyed the best season in its history in 2012-13. The fun, though, stopped when New Mexico was crowed MWC tournament champion.
The Lobos were on the wrong end of an NCAA Tournament upset to 13th-seeded Harvard. If that wasn’t enough, San Diego State became the first team to lose to a No. 15 seed in the round of 32, sending Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16.
With Boise State, Colorado State and UNLV, the Mountain West had a league-record five teams in the field, but none of them reached the second weekend of the Tournament. Then, the lone coaching change in the conference was an unexpected once as UCLA plucked Steve Alford from New Mexico.
The Mountain West moves on with longtime assistant Craig Neal taking over the league’s most consistent program plus two new teams that have had success in the WAC (Utah State and San Jose State).
New Mexico has enough pieces left to win the league title, and San Diego State and UNLV have the talent on the roster to absorb the losses of Jamaal Franklin and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, respectively.
Mountain West Predicted Order of Finish
G Kendall Williams, New Mexico
G Deonte Burton, Nevada
G Derrick Marks, Boise State
C Jarred Shaw, Utah State
C Alex Kirk, New Mexico
All-Mountain West second team
G Preston Medlin, Utah State
G/F Anthony Drmic, Boise State
F Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
F Khem Birch, UNLV
F Josh Davis, San Diego State
All-Mountain West third team
G Tyler Johnson, Fresno State
G Bryce Dejean-Jones, UNLV
F Winston Shepard, San Diego State
F Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming
F Chris Cunningham, San Jose State
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Lobos hope turning up the tempo under new coach Craig Neal will lead to more postseason success. Neal has two great building blocks in Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams.
2. UNLV (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Rebels lost a ton of experience and talent from a team that underachieved last season. Dave Rice will hope a changing of the guard is beneficial.
3. BOISE STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
The Broncos return all five starters from a team that surprised the league to reach the First Four. The high-scoring duo of Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic won’t catch anyone off guard.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Jamaal Franklin did everything for the Aztecs last year. Steve Fisher needs Tulane transfer Josh Davis and sophomore Winston Shepard to pick up the slack if the Aztecs are to reach a fifth consecutive Tournament.
5. UTAH STATE
Postseason projection: NIT
The Aggies had an uneven season in their final year in the WAC, a league that rarely challenged Stew Morrill’s crew. Utah State brings three key returners to a tougher Mountain West slate.
6. FRESNO STATE
The Bulldogs will look to Oklahoma State transfer Cezar Guerrero to improve their woeful point guard play. Look for the Bulldogs to approach the .500 mark in Rodney Terry’s third season.
7. COLORADO STATE
Larry Eustachy had it made as a first-year coach with a veteran-laden roster that ended up as the best rebounding team in the country. His second season will be a rebuilding year around guard Daniel Bejarano, the MWC’s Sixth Man of the Year.
The WAC champions were Mountain West also-rans last season. Deonte Burton is a Mountain West star, but he’ll need help from a rebuilt frontcourt.
The Cowboys may have missed a window last season, finishing the season in an 8-14 stretch. Three players who averaged double figures are gone, leaving coach Larry Shyatt to rebuild around Larry Nance Jr.
10. AIR FORCE
The Falcons had enough firepower last season to put a scare into the best Mountain West teams. With five seniors gone and one returning starter, Air Force will slip back to the bottom of the standings.
11. SAN JOSE STATE
The Spartans have a new coach (Dave Wojcik), a new conference and a new floor. Expect the same meager results for now.
Mountain West Awards
Player of the Year: Kendall Williams, New Mexico
Williams returns after earning Mountain West Player of the Year honors. He averaged 13.3 points on a balanced team, but his breakout performance (46 points, 10 3-pointers) against Colorado State was impossible to ignore.
Best Defensive Player: Khem Birch, UNLV
The reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year averaged three blocks per game after his transfer from Pittsburgh.
Most Underrated Player: Jeff Elorriaga, Boise State
The Broncos’ duo of Drmic and Marks get more attention, but Elorriaga is the Boise State’s best 3-point threat. He averaged 10.2 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from long range (84 of 188).
Top Newcomer: Josh Davis, San Diego State
The Tulane transfer will be an immediate impact player for the Aztecs after averaging 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last season. He’ll be expected to be in double-double territory for San Diego State, too.
Top coach: Steve Fisher, San Diego State (full rankings of MWC coaches)
Coach on the hot seat: David Carter, Nevada (full list of coaches on the hot seat)
*photo courtesy of Karsen King Welch/UNM
This preview and more on Boise State and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Boise State Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA First Four
Coach: Leon Rice (56-41 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Coach Leon Rice returns all five starters and the majority of production in every statistical category — 92.4 percent of its scoring, 96.7 percent assists and 83.9 percent rebounds). Eight of the nine players who regularly saw action last season are back.
“I like the expectations,” Rice says. “I like being talked about as one of the better teams in the conference. Our guys have a healthy attitude about that. They know how hard we have to work to accomplish that, how much better we have to get to go from where we were to where we want to get to. I think our guys are in a very good place about all of that.”
The Broncos run a four-out offense, leaving forward Ryan Watkins as the man in the middle. The 6-9 senior is a threat facing or with his back to the basket, as his 61.7 shooting percentage attests. He was the team’s leading rebounder last season at 6.8 per game and also contributed an average of 8.4 points. Watkins has been starting since his freshman season.
Perhaps the most important addition to the roster is 6-9 sophomore Edmunds Dukulis, a talented Latvian who sat out last season. He’ll be counted on to score and rebound on the interior. Freshman Nicholas Duncan also should carve out a niche in the frontcourt; Rice loves the Australian’s nose for the ball and ability to rebound.
Junior college transfer James Webb III and redshirt freshman Joey Nebeker also are available and could work their way into small roles.
There aren’t many backcourts that pack the offensive punch of the Broncos’ crew. Point guard Derrick Marks was a second-team All-Mountain West pick last season when he had three 30-point performances en route to averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists. Marks is a physical guard who can get to the basket or pull-up and score. He shot 46.6 percent and a cool 83.7 percent from the line.
Marks has plenty of weapons at his disposal, most notably fellow junior Anthony Drmic. The wing led the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game and should eclipse the 1,000-point barrier before conference play begins. Drmic is a high-energy offensive player who can shoot from long range (39.2 percent from three) or create with penetration.
Senior Jeff Elorriaga is the team’s undisputed leader. He’s a calming influence on offense and the team’s stopper on defense. The former walk-on hit a school-record 10 3-pointers in a game last season and shot 44.7 percent from behind the arc on his way to averaging 10.2 points. He missed three games with a concussion, and the Broncos lost all three.
Junior Igor Hadziomerovic serves as a second point guard on the floor. His presence allows Marks to play on the wing at times. Hadziomerovic is a heady Australian with the knack of finding the open man. He makes everyone around him better.
Off the bench, the Broncos have explosive sophomore Mikey Thompson. The 6-3 guard had 11 double-digit games last season. Senior Thomas Bropleh is versatile and can play a number of positions. Junior Joe Hanstad is a solid shooter.
Edmunds Dukulis, a 6-9 forward from Latvia who sat out last season per NCAA eligibility rules, will be counted on to score inside. Junior college transfer James Webb III, a 6-9 forward, arguably will be the most athletic player on the roster. Freshman forward Nicholas Duncan hails from the Australian Institute of Sport — the same school that produced starters Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic — and should be a factor. Redshirt freshman forward Joey Nebeker and freshman guard Dezmyn Trent will add depth.
Factoid: 5. Boise State returns five starters. The Broncos are the only team that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament that brings back all five starters from last season.
Boise State should contend for a Mountain West championship in its third season in the conference. The Broncos are tough to guard because of their ability to spread the floor with 3-point shooters, and that gives Marks space to operate. Scoring won’t be an issue, but defending and rebounding will determine how this season plays out — teams with size and superior athleticism will cause Boise State trouble.
Taco Bell Arena has become one of the tougher courts in the West, as Rice’s squad went 14–1 at home last season. A nonconference game at Kentucky and a December trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic are tests that should give Boise State fans an idea of whether this season will be as special as they are hoping and expecting.
*photo courtesy of Boise State athletics
This preview and more on San Diego State and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
San Diego State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Steve Fisher (281-171 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
First, the athletic department reversed course and elected to remain in the Mountain West, one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country, instead of dropping down to the inferior Big West due to football’s yearning to join a top-flight conference. The other key development occurred in mid-May when fifth-year senior forward Josh Davis decided to transfer from Tulane to San Diego State. Davis averaged 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last season for the Green Wave and is eligible to play immediately after earning his degree at Tulane.
The addition of Davis gives the Aztecs the bona fide star they would otherwise lack after standout Jamaal Franklin skipped his senior season in favor of the NBA. Davis’ presence will be crucial in a loaded league in which the Aztecs will be challenged by strong teams from New Mexico, UNLV and Boise State.
The addition of Davis gives San Diego State a player capable of racking up double-doubles, as he had 16 for Tulane last season. He is billed as the best frontcourt player in San Diego State’s program since Kawhi Leonard, now a budding star for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
The 6-8 Davis earned first-team All-Conference USA honors at Tulane and joins gritty junior JJ O’Brien as a frontcourt starter. O’Brien is a strong defender who is gradually improving his offensive repertoire.
Athletic sophomore Winston Shepard could make a big jump this season. He experienced consistency issues last season after arriving as one of the most ballyhooed recruits in program history. Shepard started just two games as a freshman and averaged 5.7 points while shooting only 39.3 percent from the field.
Sophomore post Skylar Spencer excelled on the defensive end with 51 blocked shots and will again be part of the rotation. Junior wing Dwayne Polee II underwhelmed last season after transferring from St. John’s but figures to get more minutes with Franklin gone. Junior post James Johnson will help in a backup role, and redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley has a nice shooting touch.
Replacing Franklin will be quite a chore, as he was the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season. Coach Steve Fisher supported his point guard’s decision to depart a season early, and Franklin was a second-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Senior Xavier Thames isn’t going to approach Franklin’s 17-point average, but he’s a capable floor leader despite his assists average dropping from 4.1 as a sophomore to 2.4 last season. Thames (9.5 ppg) is San Diego State’s top returning scorer but isn’t a strong shooter and dealt with periodic back issues last season. He is at his best when penetrating and drawing fouls.
Junior transfer Aqeel Quinn offers 3-point shooting prowess and has two years of major-college experience at Cal State Northridge. Quinn averaged 6.8 points as a sophomore.
Incoming freshman Dakarai Allen is expected to make immediate contributions as a defender. How he fares on the offensive end will determine how much of an impact he will make. Allen is one of two newcomers from Sheldon High in Sacramento. Guard D’Erryl Williams also chose the Aztecs and he will back up Thames this season.
Senior forward Josh Davis is an impact transfer who is expected to be San Diego State’s leading scorer and rebounder. Freshman guards Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams are both expected to contribute with Allen entering the fold as the more polished player. Junior guard Aqeel Quinn provides outside shooting punch and redshirt freshman wing Matt Shrigley will also be part of the rotation.
Factoid: 8. Steve Fisher has strung together eight consecutive 20-win campaigns at a school that was one of the worst programs in the nation prior to his arrival in 1999.
The schedule has a few challenges — a road date at Kansas and a home contest against Arizona are the highlights — as San Diego State wants to make sure it is battle-tested. The conference slate will certainly be arduous, as the Mountain West will again be a fiercely competitive league with conference road wins hard to come by.
Even with all its recent success, San Diego State has won only three NCAA Tournament games in its history. That numbers should be four (at least) by the end of the 2013-14 season.
Photo courtesty of Ernie Anderson/San Diego State athletics
It’s been a while since a college football coach had a good rant.
Thankfully, LSU coach Les Miles was feeling a little feisty after Saturday’s win against Florida.
Miles was asked about a hammer and nails in relation to last year’s loss at Florida….and his response was priceless:
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.