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1. Still waiting for a Chase water cooler moment
A palpable buzz is non-existent heading to Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ championship fight is now four races old, yet the potential drama of a season-ender at Homestead-Miami Speedway seems months away.
Three drivers — Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch — have vaulted in front of the field with an appreciable 27-point gap from Busch’s third-place ranking to the next contenders. Each race has been pretty systemic without late caution flags, incidents or wonky NASCAR officiating calls to toss a wrench in the whole show. Danica Patrick remains slow.
Why has this Chase started in such a ho-hum manner? When is something worthy of a SportsCenter highlight going to occur?
They’re questions without answers right now. That’s unfortunate. They’re also telling of a postseason process lacking an inherent and built-in punch of excitement. Right now, the whole thing is just riding along, seemingly waiting for the final pit stop.
Who’s going to be watching by then?
2. Kenseth isn’t the biggest fan of Kansas’ new tire
Matt Kenseth has won two straight Cup races at Kansas since the track was repaved last summer. He even did it with two different race teams. Change, it seems, wasn’t too big of an issue for the ever-cool driver.
Then Goodyear brought a new tire combination to Kansas on both the left and right sides of the car — the rights being a second incarnation of the “multi-zone tread” featuring two tire compounds on the same wheel — and it threw his No. 20 for a bit a loop in additional testing time offered to teams Thursday afternoon.
“I would have rather left everything alone for us, especially after today,” Kenseth deadpanned Thursday.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to look at it, but (Thursday) was kind of a struggle. Whenever anything is working good for you, you kind of like to leave everything the same.”
Kenseth being who he is and the No. 20 team being who it is, it’d be surprising if he’s not back at the front by the time Sunday’s race reaches its critical points. That’s just how good they have been as a group this season. He’s leading the Chase, after all.
3. Summer tire test may key Kyle Busch Kansas rebound Things didn’t go so well for Kyle Busch during his last race weekend visit to Kansas.
He spun in practice. He spun exiting Turn 2 on lap 6. And then, to top it all off, he spun in Turn 4 and was broadsided by Joey Logano, ending his day.
He finished 38th. Repeating that finish Sunday could be disastrous to his hopes of staying in the Chase fight with Kenseth and Johnson.
Fortunately, Busch was one of the four drivers who helped Goodyear select the tire compounds that gave his teammate Kenseth some fits on Friday. The tire supplier brought Kyle, brother Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman to the track in July for a nighttime selection test.
Ahead of the weekend, Busch was looking forward to the change on the left side of the car.
“I thought we learned some things and went really well for us and I think for Goodyear, as well,” Busch said. “They changed the left-side tire compound, so we’re not on that treacherous left that everybody spins out and crashes on, including myself three times.”
4. Aric Almirola expects to turn heads SundayIn his last two starts at Kansas Speedway, Aric Almirola has started in the top 10. In the spring he finished eighth. But last fall? Amirola’s car was surprising everyone.
His No. 43 led 69 laps and set the fastest pace 48 times — second only to eventual race winner Kenseth’s 50 — only to suffer a crash caused by a blown tire. He finished 29th but made an impression that day that likely went a long way in getting Richard Petty Motorsports to extend his contract. Kansas City-based sponsor Farmland also had to be impressed.
Naturally, Almirola is confident that his team could play spoiler as a dark horse in Sunday’s race.
“For whatever reason, we run really well at Kansas,” Almirola said. “We take some of the stuff from Kansas to the other mile-and-a-halfs but don't run as well as we do in Kansas.”
Crew chief Todd Parrott was even higher on the No. 43’s prospects.
“We have learned some things since April and hope to build on those during the test on Thursday,” Parrott said earlier this week. “I think we have the potential to be the best car this weekend and bring that No. 43 back to Victory Lane."
5. Michigan may be a good Kansas predictorWhile Almirola may feel confident going into the weekend and Kenseth may be looking for the right combination to match the new Kansas tire, what track features the same characteristics that might offer a solid prediction about Sunday’s race?
The easy answer is Chicagoland Speedway — a venue built to nearly identical specifications as Kansas originally, save for a curved backstretch. But if you ask Mark Martin, the answer sits a few states east and north of the Kansas City, Kan., track: Michigan International Speedway.
“I think you should be able to use a lot of your setup logic from Michigan to apply because of the paving and the smoothness,” Martin said. “Even though they’re shaped differently, I think that a lot of the loading and a lot of the characteristics will be very similar. So, I think you need to look at your notes from what you did at Michigan.”
NASCAR has raced twice at Michigan this year. If teams are using a setup logic that is similar, it figures many of the same drivers will run up front at Kansas that did at Michigan. In the two Michigan races, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard scored the best average finishes. As for Michigan laps led, Biffle (76 laps led), Logano (72), Kurt Busch (64), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (54) and Martin Truex Jr. (23) led the way.
Of course, both Michigan races weren’t too kind to Jimmie Johnson. In June, he blew a tire in the final laps chasing Greg Biffle for the lead and in August the No. 48 lost an engine.
Obviously that’s one Kansas predictor Johnson would sure like to prove wrong.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Counting down the hours until Saturday's games.
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College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Friday, October 4th
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger gets highlighted for his Week 5 performance against Georgia.
Lost Lettermen makes the case for why USC needs to hire Chris Petersen.
Saturday Down South has a good read on why attendance is down at college football games.
The playoff committee is beginning to take shape.
Should Mississippi State start Dak Prescott over Tyler Russell?
USC reached out to Jeff Tedford about joining its offensive staff for the rest of the year.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops took another shot at the SEC.
Alabama expects safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to miss 1-3 games due to impermissible benefits. And here's another element to the story: Alabama assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Harris has been placed on administrative leave for providing benefits to Clinton-Dix.
With the improving offenses, has the SEC's DNA changed?
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had an interesting coaches show after the win against UCF.
Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum is close to full strength after tearing his ACL in the offseason and expects to play against North Carolina.
Texas A&M defensive tackle Kirby Ennis is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
SMU should have running back Traylon Shead back against Rutgers.
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer provides some insight into why Terrel Hunt wasn't the starter earlier in the year.
Florida defensive tackle Damien Jacobs isn't crazy about Arkansas' offensive line.
Duke receiver Johnell Barnes suffered a hand injury in an off-the-field altercation.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez has been ruled out of Saturday’s game against Illinois with a turf toe injury. This will be the second straight game Martinez will miss due to injury, as he did not play in the Cornhuskers’ win over South Dakota State.
Freshman Tommy Armstrong will start in place of Martinez, and he held up well against South Dakota State, completing 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and one score. Armstrong also added 38 rushing yards on five attempts.
If Armstrong struggles, Ron Kellogg III will get the call off the bench.
Although Martinez will be missed, Nebraska has a strong supporting cast to ease Armstrong’s transition into the starting lineup.
Also, this experience should serve Armstrong well this offseason, as he is expected to be Nebraska’s No. 1 quarterback in 2014.
Iowa State lost to Texas 31-30 on Thursday night, but the overriding theme from the defeat was questionable officiating.
The Longhorns appeared to fumble on the goal line with just over a minute to go, but the officiating crew did not overturn the call.
After the game, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was not pleased with the officiating, and he didn’t hold anything back in his press conference.
Here’s the video from Rhoads’ press conference, which he raises some good points about the amount of penalties the Cyclones had, along with the questionable no-call on the Texas fumble.
Texas wide receiver Mike Davis might be hearing from the Big 12 over this dirty cheap shot in the first half against Iowa State. After a Texas touchdown (and the ball nowhere in sight), Davis decided to take a shot at Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield.
As expected, Butch Jones’ first season at Tennessee has been a challenge.
The Volunteers opened the year with back-to-back wins against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky but lost by a combined score of 90-31 to Oregon and Florida.
Last week, Tennessee opened up a 31-7 lead on South Alabama, but the Jaguars rallied in the second half and had a chance to tie late in the fourth quarter.
Both sides of the ball are problematic for Tennessee, and help won’t arrive until February with the upcoming signing class.
The Volunteers don’t have an easy schedule the rest of the way, but this team could improve with more time to learn under Jones and his staff.
But will that be enough for Tennessee to get bowl eligible?
After a 3-2 Start, Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
In the preseason, I was more optimistic about Tennessee’s chances of making a bowl game. After five games under new coach Butch Jones, I think the Volunteers will fall short of reaching the postseason. Even with one of the nation’s best offensive lines and two solid running backs, Tennessee ranks last in the SEC in total offense. Quarterback play is a huge concern and isn’t likely to get much better the rest of the season. Things on the defensive side of the ball aren’t much better, as the Volunteers rank 12th in the SEC, allowing 5.8 yards per play and 26.8 points per game. The upcoming schedule won’t give Tennessee much of a break, as Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are all likely losses. If the Volunteers are 3-5 heading into November as most expect, they would need to win three out of four games against this schedule: at Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and at Kentucky. Considering Missouri and Auburn are improved from last season, it’s tough to find three wins on that schedule. Jones will do a good job at Tennessee, but I think the Volunteers will miss out on the postseason.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
No disrespect intended to Joey Jones, but the Volunteers have looked like a glorified Sun Belt team this year. The offense is borderline inept while the defense hasn't shown much improvement from a year ago. That said, the Vols will be 3-5 (as expected) entering the final month of the year. This leaves four swings games to determine the postseason fate of Tennessee: Auburn and Vanderbilt at home, Missouri and Kentucky on the road. A 2-2 record in that stretch won't be good enough to get the Vols to a bowl game. Three wins in that stretch doesn't feel doable for this team, so it will be the third straight season with no postseason for Big Orange Nation.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I don’t think Tennessee will make a bowl game this year. The Vols just have too many problems to fix. Their issues start at quarterback. Justin Worley has struggled as the starter, but coach Butch Jones has been reluctant to give an opportunity to one of the true freshmen. Will that problem get solved against Georgia, Alabama or South Carolina? The defense lacks depth and elite talent. That’s a problem that can only be solved through recruiting.
Tennessee will likely enter November with a 3-5 record, which will put pressure on the Vols to produce a winning record in the final month. I picked Tennessee to beat Missouri at the beginning of the season. Right now, Missouri looks like the better team. It will be difficult for Tennessee to beat Missouri if quarterback James Franklin stays healthy. Tennessee will play Auburn and Vanderbilt at home, but winning both of those games would be asking a lot. Tennessee could turn things around and finish with a 6-6 record. But that doesn’t look likely right now.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
No. Tennessee is definitely moving in the right direction with Butch Jones, but I don’t see a bowl appearance in the cards for the Vols. They have three wins already and need just three more to become bowl eligible. The problem is that they don’t have an SEC win and that’s exactly who is left on their schedule. Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are all sure losses. Those losses will drop them to 3-5, which puts Tennessee in a position where they need to go 3-1 against Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. While I’d say Kentucky is likely to be a win, the other three games are toss-ups. Missouri and Auburn are much improved from 2012 and Vanderbilt has turned into a tough opponent. With so much uncertainty and inconsistency at quarterback, I just can’t see Tennessee running the table at the back end of their schedule. The Volunteers will miss a bowl game for the third straight season.
The Week 6 slate is highlighted by Ohio State’s trip to Northwestern and Washington’s visit to Palo Alto to play Stanford. Elsewhere, Ole Miss tries to get back on track against improved Auburn; Georgia hopes to avoid a letdown at Neyland Stadium against Tennessee; and Maryland looks to knock off ACC superpower Florida State.
No. 43 BYU at No. 57 Utah State
Gary Andersen is now the coach at Wisconsin, but Utah State is still one of the more underappreciated teams in the nation. The Aggies are 3-2, with a four-point loss at Utah and a three-point loss at USC. They also have convincing road wins over Air Force and San Jose State. This is a very good team.
Utah State 27-24
No. 77 Nevada at No. 103 San Diego State
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo returned to the lineup last Saturday after a two-week absence due to injury. He put up Fajardo-like numbers, throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 81 yards and two scores in a 45-42 win over Air Force. Expect similar numbers this week.
No. 125 Georgia State at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama steps out of SEC play for what should be little more than a scrimmage. Georgia State is 0-4, with three of the four defeats coming against teams from the FCS ranks — and all three of those games were at home. Now, the Panthers head to Tuscaloosa to play the nation’s No. 1 team. Good luck.
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 19 Northwestern
ESPN is bringing its travelling road show — better known as College GameDay — to Northwestern for the first time since 1995. That year, the Wildcats were led by an undersized linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald. Nearly 20 years later, Fitzgerald is in the eighth year at his alma mater and has the program positioned to challenge for its first Big Ten title since 2000. This week, the undefeated Cats host No. 2 Ohio State in their first true test of the season.
Ohio State 27-23
No. 3 Oregon at No. 84 Colorado
First-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich served as the offensive coordinator at Colorado from 2006-08. It’s safe to say he has far more talent at his disposal in his current gig. The Ducks will score a ton of points. Colorado won’t score many.
No. 4 Clemson at No. 68 Syracuse
In two weeks, Clemson will host Florida State in the Game of the Year in the ACC. That game, however, won’t mean quite as much if the Tigers slip up in the next two weeks — at Syracuse on Saturday or at home vs. Boston College on Oct. 12.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 49 Tennessee
Georgia lost nine straight in this series from 1989-99 but has since won nine of the last 13, including three straight. And after looking at both teams’ performances through the first month of the season, there is no reason to believe that won’t be four straight after the Bulldogs’ trip to Neyland Stadium this weekend.
No. 13 Washington at No. 6 Stanford
Washington’s emergence as a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 North has elevated this game to must-see status. The Huskies have cruised to a 4–0 start against a solid schedule that has featured home wins over Boise State and Arizona and a road win at improved Illinois. Stanford might lack dynamic playmakers at the skill positions, but this team has few weaknesses.
No. 7 LSU at No. 48 Mississippi State
LSU proved once again last week that it might be the most improved offensive team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they proved it in a loss — despite scoring 41 points on the road. One loss will not eliminate LSU from the national title hunt, but this team no longer has any margin for error.
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 83 Kentucky
Steve Spurrier was not pleased with his team’s start or finish last week in Orlando. The Gamecocks got the win — 28-25 over UCF — but it was not the type of performance that gave Spurrier confidence his team can compete with the powers in the SEC. He can’t, however, have many complaints about Mike Davis, his sophomore tailback. Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 127.0 yards per game and has done so on a healthy 7.2-yard average.
South Carolina 24-10
No. 10 Louisville at No. 116 Temple
Things are not going well for first-year Temple coach Matt Ruhle. The Owls are 0-4 and have lost at home to Fordham and at Idaho. Those are two really bad losses.
No. 26 Maryland at No. 11 Florida State
The same week that UConn fired his replacement, Randy Edsall is gearing up for the biggest game of his tenure as the coach at Maryland. The Terps, off to a 4–0 start, head to Tallahassee to play a loaded Florida State team that has dreams of a national title.
Florida State 34-21
No. 32 TCU at No. 12 Oklahoma
The Sooners are beginning to separate themselves in the Big 12. The defense has been better than expected, and Blake Bell, who began the year No. 2 on the depth chart, is emerging as one of the league’s top quarterbacks. He has completed 71.2 percent of his passes and has six TDs and zero INTs.
No. 45 West Virginia at No. 14 Baylor
These two teams combined to score 133 points last year in Morgantown, with West Virginia outlasting Baylor 70-63. Baylor is still scoring an obscene amount of points — the Bears lead the nation with 69.7 per game — but WVU, minus Geno Smith & Co., isn’t quite as explosive.
No. 59 Minnesota at No. 15 Michigan
Minnesota’s Big Ten opener was a disaster. The Golden Gophers, who went 4-0 against a soft non-conference schedule, managed only 165 total yards in a disheartening 23-7 loss at home to Iowa. That does not bode well for the rest of the season.
No. 29 Georgia Tech at No. 16 Miami (Fla.)
This was shaping up to be the Game of the Year in the ACC Coastal Division … until Georgia Tech lost at home to Virginia Tech last Thursday. Still, this is a big game for both teams. Miami has only been challenged once, and the Canes passed the test in impressive fashion, beating Florida 21–16 in Week 2.
No. 50 Arkansas at No. 17 Florida
So far so good for Tyler Murphy. One week after coming off the bench to lead Florida past Tennessee in Gainesville, Murphy completed 15-of-18 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Gators’ 24-7 win at Kentucky. Those numbers won’t get you in the discussion for All-SEC honors, but it’s probably more than most Florida fans expected from the former 2-star recruit.
No. 20 Fresno State at No. 115 Idaho
Fresno State is undefeated, but the Bulldogs are living dangerously. They have won three games by five points or less, including last week’s too-close-for-comfort 42-37 win over a bad Hawaii team. The Bulldogs’ defense must improve.
Fresno State 48-10
No. 21 Ole Miss at No. 35 Auburn
We learned last Saturday night that Ole Miss isn’t quite ready to contend for the SEC West title. But one loss — especially when that loss is at Alabama — should not derail the momentum the Rebels grabbed with their 3-0 start. This is still a very good team.
Ole Miss 31-21
No. 22 Arizona State vs. No. 28 Notre Dame (Arlington, Texas)
Notre Dame rushed for 220 yards (on a 7.6-yard average) at home last week yet still lost by 14 points to Oklahoma. The reason? Tommy Rees completed only 9-of-24 and was intercepted three times. The Irish will need more balance to beat a solid Arizona State team at Cowboys Stadium.
Arizona State 28-20
No. 55 Kansas State at No. 23 Oklahoma State
Those of us who picked Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 title weren’t envisioning a loss at West Virginia in the Pokes’ league opener. But that’s what happened, thanks in part to a subpar day from quarterback J.W Walsh, who threw 27 incomplete passes (including two picks). The Pokes will have to play much better to stay in the race throughout the season.
Oklahoma State 27-20
No. 58 North Carolina at No. 24 Virginia Tech
It’s hard to decide what stat was the most disappointing last week for North Carolina. Was it the 603 total yards rolled up by East Carolina in the Pirates’ 42-24 win? Was it the 186 rushing yards accumulated by ECU tailback Vintavious Cooper? Or was it the fact that UNC only averaged 2.1 yards per carry against a C-USA defense?
Virginia Tech 24-20
No. 27 Texas Tech at No. 93 Kansas
The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but the Red Raiders are thriving under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. Tech is 4-0, with wins over four teams from Texas — SMU (on the road), Stephen F. Austin, TCU and Texas State. This week, the Raiders leave the Lone Star State for the first time, but their perfect record should remain intact.
Texas Tech 51-17
No. 31 Michigan State at No. 53 Iowa
Iowa opened the season with a loss at home to Northern Illinois but has since won four straight, several in very impressive fashion. Last week, the Hawkeyes limited Minnesota to 165 yards in a 23-7 win in Minneapolis. This week, offensively challenged Michigan State visits Iowa City. Don’t expect a lot of points.
No. 33 Northern Illinois at No. 104 Kent State
The Huskies are 4-0, with two wins coming against teams from the Big Ten (Iowa and Purdue). Jordan Lynch is completing nearly two-thirds of his passes with 10 TDs and two INTs and has added 439 yards and three scores on the ground. It would be a surprise if NIU does not win the MAC.
Northern Illinois 43-18
No. 60 Illinois at No. 34 Nebraska
Illinois hasn’t won a Big Ten road game in almost two calendar years. They won’t win this week, either — but don’t be surprised if this game isn’t decided until the fourth quarter. It’s tough to trust the Nebraska defense. Plus, the Huskers could be playing without quarterback Taylor Martinez.
No. 36 Missouri at No. 37 Vanderbilt
Missouri has cruised to a 4-0 start against a relatively soft non-conference schedule. Now the fun begins for the Tigers, who play eight SEC games over the next nine weeks. On Saturday, Mizzou makes its first trip to Vanderbilt since 1957. Last year, the Tigers outgained the Dores by 100 yards but dropped a 19-15 decision in Columbia.
No. 38 UCF at No. 94 Memphis
Memphis is clearly on the right track under second-year coach Justin Fuente, but the Tigers aren’t quite ready to beat a team as talented as UCF. Blake Bortles is one of the nation’s most underrated players.
No. 39 Penn State at No. 62 Indiana
Indiana closes its season-opening, five-game home stand with a visit from Penn State. The Hoosiers, who have already lost two games, will have a tough time reaching bowl-eligibility unless they win on Saturday.
No. 46 Rutgers at No. 97 SMU
There’s no shame in losing to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU — as SMU has done — but the Mustangs haven’t been competitive in any of the three losses. Also, their only win came against Montana State, by one point. It’s fair to say this team has been a disappointment in 2013.
No. 51 NC State at No. 91 Wake Forest
NC State plays on the road for the first time this year, making the short trip from Raleigh to Winston-Salem. The Wolfpack are 3-1 but don’t have anything resembling a quality win.
NC State 34-24
No. 52 East Carolina at No. 87 Middle Tennessee
East Carolina must avoid a letdown after last week’s shockingly easy 55-31 win at North Carolina. The Pirates rolled up 603 yards of offense and only committed one turnover on 101 offensive plays.
East Carolina 47-24
No. 54 Washington State at No. 69 California
Washington State (-1.5) is favored in a league road game for the first time since late in the 2006 season, when the Bill Doba-led Cougars were a one-point favorite at Arizona State. They lost 47-14.
No. 98 Air Force at No. 61 Navy
After a few days of uncertainty, the Air Force-Navy game will be played despite the government shutdown. Air Force has lost four in a row for the first time since the end of the 2006 season. The Falcons haven’t lost five straight since 1993.
No. 63 Cincinnati at No. 110 South Florida
There’s still a lot of football to be played, but South Florida — 0-4 with a 53-21 loss to McNeese State on its resume — has a chance to be remembered among the worst AQ conference teams in the BCS era.
No. 123 UMass at No. 64 Bowling Green
Last year, Bowling Green limited UMass to 118 total yards, including only 33 passing, in a 24-0 win over the Minutemen. The Falcons should dominate again.
Bowling Green 34-10
No. 79 Ball State at No. 65 Virginia
Ball State stubbed its toe in a surprising Week 3 loss at North Texas (by three points), but Pete Lembo once again has a very good team. The Cardinals are already 2-0 in the MAC, highlighted by a nice win over MAC West rival Toledo. This will be a struggle for Virginia.
No. 111 Army at No. 66 Boston College
This game, like Air Force-Navy, was in jeopardy due to the government shutdown. But it will be played — and that’s a good thing for a Boston College program that is trying to piece together six wins to get to a bowl game under first-year coach Steve Addazio.
Boston College 34-13
No. 81 Texas State at No. 72 UL Lafayette
Dennis Franchione is quietly doing a solid job at Texas State. The Bobcats are 3-1 after beating a decent Wyoming team by 21 points last weekend in San Marcos.
Texas State 34-30
No. 73 Ohio at No. 112 Akron
Ohio has rebounded from a 49-7 loss in Week 1 at Louisville by winning three straight — highlighted by a 34-31 victory over Marshall on Sept. 14. Akron made headlines in Week 3 with its near-miss at Michigan, but the Zips are 1-4, and the only win came by two points against James Madison.
No. 102 UTSA at No. 74 Marshall
Marshall is just a few plays away from a perfect 4-0 record. The Thundering Herd lost by three at Ohio in Week 3 and by eight in triple-overtime at Virginia Tech in Week 4. This team is good enough to challenge East Carolina for the C-USA East title.
No. 76 Rice at No. 86 Tulsa
Tulsa appears to be in the midst of a slow decline under third-year coach Bill Blankenship. None of the Golden Hurricane’s three losses — at Bowling Green, at Oklahoma and vs. Iowa State — is a particularly bad loss, but it’s pretty clear the talent level isn’t the same as previous Tulsa teams.
No. 78 North Texas at No. 89 Tulane
With two roads on the season — at Louisiana Tech and at ULM — Tulane is making solid progress in Curtis Johnson’s second year. Beating North Texas, however, could be a challenge. The Mean Green beat a good Ball State team in Week 3 and made Georgia sweat into the second half last week in Athens.
North Texas 27-17
No. 121 Western Michigan at No. 80 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been easy, but Western Michigan has been one of the worst teams in the nation over the first month of the season. There’s nothing wrong with losing to Michigan State, Northwestern or Iowa. There is, however, something wrong with losing at home to Nichols State.
No. 85 San Jose State at No. 118 Hawaii
It’s a bit too soon to declare the first year of the Ron Cargher era a disappointment — after all, there are a lot of teams that would lose to Stanford, Minnesota and Utah State — but the Spartans really need to beat Hawaii this week.
San Jose State 41-34
No. 88 South Alabama at No. 101 Troy
This has the makings of a solid regional rivalry. Troy has proven it can win on a consistent basis, and Joey Jones is doing an outstanding job building the program from scratch at South Alabama.
South Alabama 34-30
No. 120 Eastern Michigan at No. 96 Buffalo
It’s been a strange season for Buffalo, which in consecutive games gave up 70 points to Baylor, beat Stony Brook in five overtimes and beat Connecticut by 29 points.
No. 109 FAU at No. 106 UAB
The record isn’t very good (1-5), but FAU is showing signs of life under second-year coach Carl Pelini. The Owls won at South Florida in Week 3 and have lost their two games — vs. Middle Tennessee and at Rice — by a combined 11 points (one in overtime).
No. 122 New Mexico State at No. 107 New Mexico
It’s the annual battle in the Land of Enchantment between two of the worst FBS teams in the country. New Mexico is 0-5, and only one its losses (at home to San Diego State) has come by less than 21 points. New Mexico is 1-3, with its only win in overtime at UTEP.
New Mexico 34-20
No. 113 Louisiana Tech at No. 108 UTEP
Some teams have bad records because they’ve played a tough schedule. Louisiana Tech has a bad record because it’s a bad team. The Bulldogs are 0-4 against FBS competition, including losses to Tulane at home, at Kansas and vs. Army in Dallas.
No. 114 Central Michigan at No. 119 Miami (Ohio)
Miami has scored a total of 35 points in four games and only has two plays of at least 30 yards. Wisconsin, for comparison purposes, has 19 such plays.
Central Michigan 20-7
No. 124 FIU at No. 117 Southern Miss
Southern Miss hasn’t won a game since the end of the 2011 season yet is a 17-point favorite over FIU. This game could be painful.
Southern Miss 38-10
Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. Whether you condone gambling or not, think of it as becoming a more informed fan.
Texas A&M delivered in a big way for me last weekend, although it looked tight as those in Vegas expected. Washington also took care of business in a sloppy slugfest against Arizona — setting up a possible skewed line with Stanford this weekend. But the Tennessee Volunteers totally ruined the weekend after going up 31-7 and having to intercept a pass in its own end zone to beat South Alabama. Give Joey Jones' guys lots of credit for fighting back in the second half.
Looking ahead to Week 6, it seems that there are entirely too many teams favored by 10-ish points. Georgia, Florida, Nebraska and others are in that 9-to-11-point range and that makes me think it could be a big weekend for upsets.
2013 Record Against the Spread: 17-10-1 (2-2 last week)
Week 6 Picks of the Week:
Georgia (-10.5) at Tennessee
There has to be something Vegas knows that we don't. Georgia just defeated South Carolina and LSU by scoring 85 points while Tennessee barely slipped past South Alabama at home last weekend. Traditionally, the Vols play tough against the Dawgs but the talent differential seems far too great for Butch Jones' squad to overcome. As long as the letdown factor isn't too powerful for UGA, Aaron Murray should be able to shred this defense. Prediction: Georgia -10.5
LSU (-9.5) at Mississippi State
This is traditionally a close content but LSU is a significantly better team than the Bulldogs and should be fired up after the near miss against Georgia last weekend. Zach Mettenberger and his elite wide receivers should have no issues moving the ball through the air while Jeremy Hill won't be met with much resistance. And the LSU defense gets to deal with an MSU team starting a quarterback, Tyler Russell, who hasn't played since Week 1. Prediction: LSU -9.5
Washington (+7.5) at Stanford
Revenge will be on the minds of a Stanford team that dominated the Huskies last year but still lost in primetime in heart-breaking fashion. The last time Washington came to Palo Alto, the Cardinal scored 65 points. After the extremely impressive showings (and covers) against Arizona State and Washington State the last two weeks, look for Stanford to make a statement in this critical Pac-12 North showdown. Prediction: Stanford -7.5
Arizona State (-5.5) vs. Notre Dame (Arlington, Texas)
Notre Dame and Tommy Rees, in particular, have really been struggling on offense. Meanwhile, Arizona State has played a very difficult schedule and is clicking on all cylinders on offense. Taylor Kelly has topped 300 yards in every game this year, Marion Grice is leading the world in scoring (12 TDs) and Jaelen Strong might be the newcomer of the year in the Pac-12. On a fast track in AT&T Stadium, the Irish's struggles on both sides of the ball will be amplified. Prediction: Arizona State -5.5
TCU (+10) at Oklahoma
The Sooners defense has been markedly improved by dominating on that side of the ball this season. They are one of the nation's best at 299.5 yards per game while TCU has struggled to score against quality competition, namely LSU and Texas Tech. Blake Bell is one of the nation's top rated passers since taking over the starting job, and at home, the Sooners should roll in a critical must-win situation for the Crimson and Cream. Prediction: Oklahoma -10
Texas Tech (-16.5) at Kansas
Despite being ranked in the Top 25, this Tech squad might be underrated due to its sneaky solid defense. The Jayhawks offense is one of the worst in the league, posting just 352 yards and less than five yards per play. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are trailing only prolific Baylor in total offense at 520 yards per game. This one could get ugly quickly. Prediction: Texas Tech -16.5
Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:
Note: games with FCS opponents won't be included each week
|Top 25 Games||Mitch Light||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Georgia St (+54.5) at No. 1 Alabama|
|No. 2 Oregon (-39) at Colorado|
|No. 3 Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse|
|No. 4 Ohio St (-7) at No. 16 Northwestern|
|No. 15 Washington (+7.5) at No. 5 Stanford|
|No. 6 Georgia (-11) at Tennessee|
|No. 7 Louisville (-33) at Temple|
|No. 25 Maryland (+15) at No. 8 Florida St|
|No. 10 LSU (-9.5) at Mississippi St|
|TCU (+10.5) at No. 11 Oklahoma|
|Kentucky (+21) at No. 13 South Carolina|
|Georgia Tech (+5.5) at No. 15 Miami|
|West Virginia (+27) at No. 17 Baylor|
|Arkansas (+11) at No. 18 Florida|
|Minnesota (+19) at No. 19 Michigan|
|No. 20 Texas Tech (-17.5) at Kansas|
|Kansas St (+14) at No. 21 Oklahoma St|
|No. 22 Arizona St (-5.5) vs. Notre Dame*|
|No. 23 Fresno St (-26) at Idaho|
|No. 24 Ole Miss (-3) at Auburn|
The SEC won’t be the nation’s best basketball league, but one thing’s for sure: It’s going to be tough to bang around in the paint.
The SEC is home to four of Athlon Sports’ top 10 post players for 2013-14 in our ongoing list of college basketball superlatives. Kentucky alone has two in freshman Julius Randle and sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein. Our top 10 does not include Florida’s Patric Young, who enters his final season with much to prove, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so against Kentucky’s duo plus LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
Meanwhile, the two teams that played for last year’s national title will hope two key players will take their postseason momentum into this season. Mitch McGary carried Michigan to the championship game, and Montrezl Harrell emerged late last season for the title-winning Cardinals.
Randle, though, is the second freshman to top one of our superlatives list with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins topping our countdown of the top 10 slashers.
Our list of the nation’s best post players players is the one in a series of superlatives to prepare you for the 2013-14 season. Each list and more can be found in the the Athlon Sports College Basketball 2013-14 Preseason Annual . The magazine hits newsstands this week with previews for every team in every conference, plus exclusive Q&As with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith and UCLA’s Kyle Anderson.
|2013-14 Superlatives: Top Post Players|
|1.||Julius Randle, Kentucky|
Randle could give Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins a run for top freshman honors, though Randle may have a more complete supporting cast around him. John Calipari has described him as a “beast” who reminds him of the gritty Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
|2.||Mitch McGary, Michigan|
McGary was a revelation during the Wolverines’ run to the national championship game. Now, Michigan will see if those numbers can hold up through the course of a full season. With national player of the year Trey Burke gone, McGary will need to maintain his postseason form.
|3.||Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU|
O’Bryant will be one of the key cogs in what LSU hopes is its first NCAA Tournament team since 2009. O’Bryant was one of the SEC’s most dominant players in the paint on both ends of the court, averaging 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds.
|4.||James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina|
McAdoo appeared destined for superstardom last season, but like North Carolina’s ACC aspirations, those hopes didn’t materialize. McAdoo put up respectable numbers (14.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), but he shot only 44.5 percent from the floor. He’ll aim to improve his efficiency as a junior.
|5.||Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee|
Stokes battled through double teams last season to average 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds, but the Volunteers forward improved down the stretch as he adjusted. He’s been one of the SEC’s elite players in the post, but the return of Jeronne Maymon may help him reach another level.
|6.||Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky|
Cauley-Stein flourished late in the season, even before the season-ending injury to Nerlens Noel. Cauley-Stein returned from a midseason injury to average 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds in the final 12 games. He’ll be a defensive force for the Wildcats as a full-timer.
|7.||Isaiah Austin, Baylor|
Austin may have been disappointed that a shoulder injury prevented him from entering the NBA Draft after one season. If Austin plays with an edge, Baylor cold have one of the top frontcourts in the country.
|8.||Montrezl Harrell, Louisville|
Harrell was one of a handful of Cardinals who broke out during Louisville’s title run, starting with 20 points and seven rebound against Syracuse in the Big East tournament championship game. Louisville is moving him to center to replace Gorgui Dieng. Will it hold for the full season?
|9.||Alex Kirk, New Mexico|
Kirk returned from back surgery to be one of the keys of New Mexico’s Mountain West championship. The seven-footer averaged 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, but he was also a defensive force with 63 blocked shots.
|10.||Davante Gardner, Marquette|
Gardner slimmed down as a junior to become an imposing presence down low. Coming off the bench, he averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.5 minutes. His physical play pays off as he averaged 83.5 percent on five free throws per game.
Other Post Superlatives
Freshman to watch: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Most to prove: Patric Young, Florida
Returning from injury: Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Transfer to watch: Josh Smith, Georgetown (from UCLA)
Breakout to watch: Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Mid-major star: Augustine Rubit, South Alabama
Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
Anthony Barr, LB vs. Travis Wilson, QB (UCLA at Utah)
Stopping a 6-foot-6, 240-pound quarterback is a daunting task — even for a freakish 6-foot-4, 245-pound outside linebacker like Barr. Wilson has been dynamic for Utah, rushing for 251 yards and five touchdowns to go with his 279.5 passing yards per game. Barr has the quickness, power and athletic ability to mirror Wilson everywhere he goes. This could be one of the best individual matchups of the entire weekend.
Bishop Sankey, RB vs. Shayne Skov, LB (Washington at Stanford
On the other side of the ball, Steve Sarkisian’s balanced offensive attack will put major pressure on Stanford’s extremely talented linebacking corps, led by the senior inside linebacker. The Washington offensive line was decimated last year and Stanford took advantage with three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. This unit is much healthier this time around and has been churning out yards on the ground and protecting Keith Price. Skov will go head-to-head with Bishop Sankey, who broke the game-winning 61-yard touchdown run last year, all game long in what could be one of the most physical games of the year.
Robert Nkemdiche/C.J. Johnson, DE vs. Greg Robinson/Patrick Miller, OT (Ole Miss at Auburn)
The super freshman Nkemdiche and veteran Johnson are a formidable duo on the edge of the Ole Miss defensive line. Charged with stopping them will be Auburn's sophomore tackle tandem of Robinson and Miller. The Tigers have been solid up front, allowing just 4.0 sacks in 2013, and the Rebels have struggled to get pressure (100th in sacks nationally). To hold serve on the road, the Rebs need to disrupt the quarterback and hold their ground against Tre Mason and the Tigers’ running game.
Vad Lee, QB vs. Anthony Chickillo, DE (Georgia Tech at Miami)
Chickillo was active around the line of scrimmage in last year’s game against Georgia Tech, recording seven stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. The Yellow Jackets are struggling at times to execute the option, but are still a handful to defend. Assignment football is an overused cliché at times, but it’s important for Chickillo and the other Miami defenders to not lose responsibility of their gaps. Georgia Tech’s offensive line struggled to block Virginia Tech last Thursday, and if Chickillo can disrupt the offense, the Hurricanes will contain quarterback Vad Lee.
Braxton Miller, QB vs. Tyler Scott, DE (Ohio State at Northwestern)
Scott, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior, will be under a microscope this weekend. He leads the Wildcats in tackles for a loss (4.0) and sacks (3.0) but will be in for his toughest challenge this weekend against Braxton Miller. It goes without saying the goal for Scott and the Cats defensive line will be to contain Miller in the pocket but, moreover, they need to punish the oft-injured Buckeyes star every chance they get. The more physical the game gets, the better chance Northwestern has at an upset.
Alex Collins, RB vs. Antonio Morrison, LB (Arkansas at Florida)
Jonathan Williams will be a heavy factor in the backfield for the Hogs as well, but his carries have decreased in every game this season. Collins, a freshman from Florida, has quickly shown why he was so highly touted as his 119.4 rushing yards per game rank No. 2 in the SEC. He returns to his home state and gets to face one of the most vicious hitters in the nation in Morrison. The rest of the Gators’ front seven will be tough to move as well, but watching these two underclassmen battle all day will be fun for all parties involved.
James Hurst, OL vs. James Gayle/J.R. Collins, DE (North Carolina at Virginia Tech)
Hurst is the leader of a struggling North Carolina offensive line. The Tar Heels have allowed nine sacks and rank last in the ACC in rushing offense after four contests. With three new starters, the Tar Heels' line was expected to be a work in progress in 2013. However, while the line is inexperienced, this group needs to have a good showing on Saturday against Virginia Tech’s defensive front. Hurst will be matched up against ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, who have combined for 6.5 sacks in five contests. This Hokies' defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and if the Heels can’t move the line of scrimmage they will have no chance on the road.
Tyler Lockett, WR vs. Justin Gilbert or Kevin Peterson, CB (Kansas State at Oklahoma State)
Kansas State’s offense needs work, but Lockett is a dynamic presence. The Wildcats' primary pass-catcher has hauled in 29 for 469 yards and a touchdown this season despite K-State’s struggles at quarterback. Gilbert is listed as the starter on the school’s two-deep for this game but Oklahoma State could be without its top cornerback, who was ejected against West Virginia for throwing punches. A suspension of some kind could be possible, giving talented sophomore Peterson the chance to mark Lockett.
With the arrival of October, most of the weekly action in college football is in conference play.
That’s the case in Week 6, as the biggest games are conference affairs.
Ohio State-Northwestern is the top game in the Big Ten this Saturday, while Georgia Tech takes on Miami, and Florida State hosts Maryland in ACC play.
In the Pac-12, Washington plays at Stanford, which is a huge game for the Huskies to see if they have closed the gap on the rest of the North Division.
With conference play starting, the potential for upsets may increase. Teams are more familiar with each other, and the competition is tougher.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 6 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Tulane (+3) over North Texas
Under second-year coach Curtis Johnson, the Green Wave are quietly making progress and with a 3-2 record, need just three victories to get bowl eligible. Tulane opened the year with a win over Jackson State but stumbled in a surprising loss against South Alabama. However, the Green Wave has won two out of its last three games and play their next three contests at home. Saturday’s game against North Texas will be a tough matchup, but I like Tulane to pull off a slight upset. The Mean Green rank last in Conference USA in total and pass defense, which is a bad sign against Green Wave receiver Ryan Grant (33 catches, 461 yards, four touchdowns) and improving quarterback Nick Montana. Tulane’s defense also ranks second in Conference USA in fewest yards allowed, holding opponents to 4.9 yards per play. Expect a close one, but the Green Wave edge the Mean Green on Saturday.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Ohio State (-6.5) over Northwestern
Go big, or go home. The Wildcats have beaten the Buckeyes just once in the 29-game history of the series — in 2004 in Evanston. This is the most talented Northwestern team ever assembled, Ohio State is coming off an emotionally draining effort against Wisconsin and College Gameday is going to be in Evanston for the first time since 1995. Venric Mark could return to the field for Pat Fitzgerald, giving him his full compliment of weapons for the first time all season. The Cats have been extremely competitive against upper level Big Ten teams of late and now is the time for them to break through on the national stage.
Mark Ross: Nevada (+5) over San Diego State
San Diego State's lone win thus far came against New Mexico State, while it lost 40-19 to FCS member Eastern Illinois to open the season. Nevada got pounded by UCLA and Florida State (by a combined score of 120-27), but it also is 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference after beating Hawaii and Air Force the past two weeks. San Diego State is having problems both scoring (20.5 ppg) and keeping opponents from putting points on the scoreboard (33.0 ppg), while quarterbacks have just carved them up. Both Ohio State's Kenny Guiton and Oregon State's Sean Mannion posted decent numbers against the Aztecs. Enter Cody Fajardo, Nevada's dual-threat signal-caller who has thrown five touchdown passes and rushed for five more scores. Fajardo isn't a one-man band, either, and I just think Nevada has too much offense for the Aztecs to overcome.
David Fox: Illinois (+10.5) over Nebraska
Perhaps I should have learned my lesson that Illinois is not ready for the big time when the Illini lost 34-24 to Washington, a game that probably wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. But there aren’t many reasons to trust Nebraska — even at home — with that defense. If Taylor Martinez is out or limited for the Cornhuskers, Illinois will have a major edge in an up-and-down-the-field. We know the Illinois defense isn’t that great, but Nathan Scheelhaase is one of the most improved quarterbacks in the country. Illinois should be able to hold its own in a shootout.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Ball State (+5) over Virginia
Ball State is No. 10 in the country in passing offense and averages 40 points per game. Meanwhile, the Virginia offense struggled mightily last week against Pittsburgh. In fact, the Cavs managed just three points on 188 total yards and went 3 of 18 on third-down conversions. If Ball State’s offense is clicking, Virginia won’t be able to match them blow for blow. Mike London will rely on his defense to keep the Cavaliers in this game, but the Virginia offense has had trouble avoiding big mistakes. In all four games this year, Virginia has turned the ball over at least twice, including a four-turnover performance against Oregon. If this trend continues, I think it will make the difference as Ball State will be able to convert easy points out of some short drives.
After a 1-4 start, new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell is making a few changes to his lineup.
Quarterback Rob Henry has been benched in favor of true freshman Danny Etling, and the Boilermakers will have two weeks to prepare their new starter with a bye this Saturday.
Henry was off to a slow start in 2013, completing only 53.6 percent of his throws and throwing six interceptions to just four touchdowns.
Etling hasn’t been much better in limited action, completing 19 of 39 passes for 241 yards and two scores and two interceptions.
With Purdue’s offense struggling, this move makes a lot of sense. Etling is inexperienced, but Hazell and his staff need to know if he can be their quarterback of the future. And with a bye week to prepare, this is the right time to make a change.
Henry won’t be sitting on the bench for long, as the senior moved to safety in practice on Wednesday.
Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been suspended indefinitely and won’t play in Saturday’s game against Georgia State.
Clinton-Dix is suspended due to a violation of team rules.
The junior ranks second on the team with 24 tackles and has two pass breakups this year.
Clinton-Dix was expected to be one of the SEC’s top defensive backs this season, and although it’s a huge loss for Alabama, the Crimson Tide’s upcoming schedule is very manageable. Alabama hosts Georgia State this Saturday, followed by games at Kentucky, then home contests against Arkansas and Tennessee.
Clinton-Dix will return at some point this year, but the Crimson Tide’s defense will be fine until he is back in the lineup.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix suspended for violation of team rules, Saban says. "Don't know how long that will be."— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) October 2, 2013
Week 6 is here already and now it is time to make a push for the fantasy playoffs. If your team is in the middle of the pack, every roster move you make from this point on can propel you up in the standings or bring your team closer to irrelevancy.
Nathan Scheelhaase, QB-Illinois at Nebraska
Dual-threat quarterbacks have had a ton of success against Pelini’s defense in the recent past. Why should anything be different this week?
Donnel Pumphrey, RB-San Diego State vs Nevada
There is no way that the freshman does not receive significant carries against the fourth-worst rushing defense in the FBS
Saylor Lavallii, RB-Central Michigan at Miami (OH)
After struggling last week on the road against North Carolina State, Savallii should redeem himself in Week 6 when he faces the nation’s fifth-worst rushing defense.
Brian Fields, RB-Western Michigan at Toledo
Fields has totaled over 100 yards in three of five games this season and faces a Toledo defense that has allowed double-digit rushing touchdowns through five games.
Colby Goodwyn, RB-Old Dominion vs Liberty
Goodwyn is averaging 90 total yards per game and has scored seven touchdowns in five games. As long as the Monarchs face inferior competition, the senior running back is a solid starting option.
Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss at Auburn
Scott only carried the ball eight times last week in a 25-0 loss at Alabama. Expect his workload to increase against an Auburn defense that gives up 175 yards per game on the ground.
Tyler Gaffney, RB-Stanford vs Washington
Gaffney was shelved early in the third quarter of last week’s game against Washington State when the Cardinal went ahead 31-3. Expect Stanford to lean on Gaffney quite a bit when they host Washington late Saturday.
Alonzo Russell, WR-Toledo vs Western Michigan
Russell has proven himself to be just as valuable as fellow wideout Bernard Reedy, as he leads the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions.
Taylor Martinez, QB-Nebraska vs Illinois
As of Tuesday, Martinez remained questionable with a toe injury and fantasy owners should be planning for an alternative course of action this week.
Alonzo Harris, RB-Louisiana vs Texas State
Harris has yet to run for more than 75 yards in a game this season and faces the nation’s third ranked rushing defense this week.
George Atkinson III, RB-Notre Dame vs Arizona State
Atkinson ran for 148 yards last week against Oklahoma, but up until the game against the Sooners, the junior back had only rushed for 121 yards in four previous contests.
Jordan Hall, RB-Ohio State at Northwestern
Through three games, Hall ran for 402 yards and was one of the nation’s leading rushers. Then, Carlos Hyde returned from suspension and the senior back has been virtually M.I.A (5 carries for 25 yards the previous two games).
Jahwan Edwards, RB-Ball State at Virginia
Oregon hung up 59 points against Virginia in Week 2, but the Cavaliers defense has only allowed 19 total points in their other three games, which included opponents BYU and Pitt.
Savon Huggins, RB-Rutgers at SMU
We’re pretty sure that Huggins will be the Scarlet Knights’ primary ball carrier this weekend, but don’t be surprised to see more of Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples.
Albert Wilson, WR-Georgia State at Alabama
In three games against non-FBS opponents, Wilson has caught 22 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns. In his only game against an FBS opponent, West Virginia, Wilson was held without a catch. He may not get blanked this weekend, but we feel pretty confident about this recommendation.
Quinshad Davis, WR-North Carolina vs East Carolina
We were wrong about Davis last week, as he caught five passes for 111 yards and a touchdown against ECU. However, we are not ready to insert the sophomore receiver into the starting lineup until he produces on a consistent basis.
Week 6 in the ACC is headlined by a huge matchup in both divisions.
In the Atlantic, Maryland travels to Florida State. The Terrapins have already matched their win total from last season, and their offense has improved with a healthy C.J. Brown under center.
The Seminoles have scored at least 40 points in all four of their games, and redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston will test a Maryland secondary that’s thin at cornerback.
In the Coastal, Georgia Tech travels to Miami. The Yellow Jackets lost to Virginia Tech last Thursday, dropping to 2-1 in ACC play. A win over the Hurricanes would put Georgia Tech back in the mix for the Coastal title.
Miami has yet to play an ACC game this year, but the Hurricanes picked up a key win over Florida in non-conference play.
ACC Week 6 Game Power Rankings
1. Georgia Tech (+5) at Miami (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
With North Carolina struggling and Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both coming to Miami, the Hurricanes have moved into the driver’s seat for the Coastal title. But despite last week’s loss to the Hokies, the Yellow Jackets have a chance to jump back into the title picture this Saturday. Georgia Tech has lost four in a row to the Hurricanes, including the last two in Miami by a combined score of 57-24. However, due to an improved defense, the Yellow Jackets are a more complete team than they were in the last few seasons. New coordinator Ted Roof has led Georgia Tech to a No. 3 ranking in the ACC in total defense, with the secondary holding opponents to just three passing scores in four games. Miami’s offense will test the Yellow Jackets’ defense, especially with a healthy Stephen Morris at quarterback, and dynamic sophomore running back Duke Johnson. When Georgia Tech has the ball, controlling the time of possession and limiting turnovers will be crucial. Quarterback Vad Lee is likely the best passer coach Paul Johnson has had with the Yellow Jackets, but he has struggled at times with executing the option. The Hurricanes are deeper in the front seven this year, which will help to slow down Lee and Georgia Tech’s running backs. If Miami jumps out to an early lead, it will be tough for the Yellow Jackets to rally. However, if Georgia Tech controls the clock and forces the Hurricanes to play at its pace, this one won’t be decided until deep in the fourth quarter.
2. Maryland (+15.5) at Florida State (12 ET, ESPN)
Maryland is off to a fast start, but Saturday’s game at Florida State will be the Terrapins’ biggest test of the season. After winning just six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years, Maryland is 4-0 and is poised to post their first winning season since 2010. But how close are the Terrapins to Clemson and Florida State? That’s the big question. The Seminoles are also 4-0 and are ranked by most among the top-10 teams in the nation. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston continues to impress and averages 9.7 yards per play. Winston has one of the best supporting casts in college football, and his receiving corps will test a Maryland defense that loves to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (17 sacks), but is without its top two cornerbacks due to injury. The Terrapins rank just behind Florida State in the ACC in total offense, averaging seven yards per play and 498.5 yards a contest. The return of quarterback C.J. Brown has made a huge difference for Maryland, and running back Brandon Ross has emerged as a reliable weapon on the ground (332 yards, two scores). The Seminoles have struggled at times against the run, which is no surprise considering the personnel lost from last year’s team, along with the transition to a new coordinator. With a showdown against Clemson coming on Oct. 19, this matchup against Maryland’s offense should help the Seminoles prepare for the Tigers.
3. North Carolina (+7.5) at Virginia Tech (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
Coming into 2013, most expected this game to play a key role in shaping the Coastal Division. Now, it appears to be a battle of two teams headed in opposite directions. Virginia Tech picked up a huge conference win at Georgia Tech last week, while North Carolina dropped to 1-3 with a loss against East Carolina. The Tar Heels are surprisingly off to a slow start on offense, ranking 10th in the ACC in yards per game (397) and 10th in scoring offense. A revamped offensive line has allowed nine sacks, and North Carolina has struggled to establish the run. Help could be coming on the ground for coach Larry Fedora’s team this week, as true freshman T.J. Logan may play this Saturday after recovering from a knee injury. However, against one of the nation's best defensive fronts, the Tar Heels will need a better effort from their line to win. Virginia Tech is holding opponents to just 103 yards per game on the ground, while generating 17 sacks through five contests. With a stout defense, the Hokies won’t need a dynamic offense, but quarterback Logan Thomas is coming off his best performance of the season. And that’s bad news for North Carolina, which ranks last in the ACC in total and scoring defense.
4. Ball State (+5.5) at Virginia (12 ET, RSN)
Upset alert? The Cavaliers have played one of the toughest slates so far in the ACC, as BYU, Oregon and Pittsburgh are a combined 9-3. Ball State is one of the best teams in the MAC and went 9-4 last year, knocking off BCS teams Indiana and South Florida in non-conference play. Scoring points has been a problem for Virginia this year, but the Cardinals are averaging 40 points a game. The Cavaliers have a significant advantage on defense and are holding opponents to just 4.2 yards per play. One area Virginia should have an edge is in the trenches. Ball State has four new starters on the offensive line and has allowed seven sacks in five games. The Cavaliers have generated 13 sacks so far, and defensive tackle Brent Urban and end Eli Harold will be a handful for Ball State’s line. Virginia’s offense has struggled to get on track this year, and coach Mike London doesn’t want to get in a shootout against the Cardinals. Look for the Cavaliers to use their size advantage in the trenches, along with a heavy dose of running back Kevin Parks to take the pressure off of struggling quarterback David Watford.
5. NC State (-8.5) at Wake Forest (3:30 ET, RSN)
The home team has won the last five meetings in this series, but this could be the year where that streak ends. Wake Forest is averaging just 15.3 points a game against BCS competition this season and ranks last in the ACC in total offense. The main culprit of the Demon Deacons’ struggles has been the offensive line, which was a weakness in 2012 and has allowed 12 sacks through four games. NC State’s defense has nine sacks and 37 tackles for a loss so far this year and will be a tough matchup for Wake Forest’s line. The Demon Deacons have been unable to run the ball most of the season (104th nationally), which will force quarterback Tanner Price and receiver Michael Campanaro to shoulder the offense. Wake Forest’s defense has struggled to stop the run this season (167.8) and will be tested by a trio of NC State running backs, along with quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (5.1 ypc).
6. Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
After an 0-2 start, Syracuse has rebounded with back-to-back wins. Beating Wagner and Tulane isn’t going to wow most around in the ACC, but the Orange have some momentum entering this game. Syracuse’s offense found a spark behind quarterback Terrel Hunt, who completed 31 of 39 throws for 446 yards and seven scores in his first two starts. Hunt faces a tougher test in the ACC opener for the Orange, as Clemson is holding opponents to 17.2 points a game and has one of the conference’s most-active defensive lines (15 sacks). Hunt’s mobility is an x-factor for Syracuse, especially if he can avoid the Tigers’ pass rush and make plays downfield in the passing game. The Orange would prefer not to get in a shootout with Clemson, but it will be hard to keep the Tigers’ offense (43 ppg) under wraps. Syracuse’s secondary struggled in the first four games, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 63.1 percent of their throws.
7. Army (+11.5) at Boston College (1 ET, ESPN3)
Due to the government shutdown, this game was in jeopardy of being canceled. However, on Thursday night, Army was given a green light to play this weekend. This will be the 28th meeting between these programs, with Boston College owning a 24-13 series edge. However, the Eagles lost 34-31 at West Point last year. Stopping the run is always critical when playing Army, and Boston College ranks 13th in the ACC in rush defense, allowing 170.5 yards per game. If the Eagles contain the Black Knights’ option attack, they should have a chance to take advantage of an Army defense that’s also struggling to stop the run. Running back Andre Williams has four 100-yard efforts through five games and should have another solid performance this week.
ACC Week 6 Pivotal Players
Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami
Chickillo was active around the scrimmage in last year’s game against Georgia Tech, recording seven stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. The Yellow Jackets are struggling at times to execute the option, but are still a handful to defend. Assignment football is an overused cliché at times, but it’s important for Chickillo and the other Miami defenders to not lose responsibility of their gaps. Georgia Tech’s offensive line struggled to block Virginia Tech last Thursday, and if Chickillo can disrupt the offense, the Hurricanes will contain quarterback Vad Lee.
James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Hurst is the leader of a struggling North Carolina offensive line. The Tar Heels have allowed nine sacks and rank last in the ACC in rushing offense after four contests. With three new starters, North Carolina’s line was expected to be a work in progress in 2013. However, while the line is inexperienced, this group needs to have a good showing on Saturday against Virginia Tech’s defensive front. Hurst will be matched up against ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, who have combined for 6.5 sacks in five contests.
Keon Lyn, CB, Syracuse
Syracuse’s secondary ranks 12th in the ACC against the pass and could be without cornerback Brandon Reddish against Clemson due to injury. Lyn is one of the leaders on defense, as he has 23 career starts and 14 tackles in four games this season. The senior and teammate Ri’Shard Anderson will be tasked with slowing down Clemson’s deep group of receivers, including standout junior Sammy Watkins.
Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech
Lee is coming off his worst performance of the season. Against Virginia Tech last Thursday, Lee completed just 7 of 24 passes for 144 yards and two interceptions. The sophomore didn’t factor much into the rushing attack, generating only 35 yards on 18 attempts. Lee and the Yellow Jackets’ offense will have their hands full on Saturday, as Miami’s defense is fast, athletic and has made improvement after an awful showing last year. If Georgia Tech is going to win at Miami, Lee needs to have his best game of the year.
William Likely/Isaac Goins, CB, Maryland
Likely and Goins have been pressed into action with injuries sidelining starting cornerbacks Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle. This duo has held up well so far, as Maryland is allowing 165.2 yards per game through the air. However, Florida State’s offense is its toughest opponent of the season. The Seminoles average 293.2 passing yards per game and have an athletic, deep and fast group of receivers, led by Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw.
ACC Week 6 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Ball State (+5.5) at Virginia||Ball State 27-21||UVA 31-24||UVA 27-24||UVA 24-20|
|Maryland (+15.5) at Florida State||FSU 35-21||FSU 27-17||FSU 38-24||FSU 34-21|
|North Carolina (+7.5) at Va. Tech||Va. Tech 17-14||Va. Tech 24-17||Va. Tech 30-17||Va. Tech 24-20|
|Army (+11.5) at Boston College||BC 35-17||BC 27-20||BC 31-20||BC 34-13|
|Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse||Clemson 41-14||Clemson 38-21||Clemson 45-20||Clemson 37-17|
|Georgia Tech (+5) at Miami||Ga. Tech 28-27||Miami 28-24||Miami 31-24||Miami 27-24|
|NC State (-8.5) at Wake Forest||NC State 35-10||NC State 31-20||NC State 30-20||NC State 34-24|
For the first time all season, every Big 12 team will be in action as the league begins conference play in earnest.
In some ways, the league has more questions than it was three weeks ago. A TCU-Oklahoma game is now a chance for the Horned Frogs to prove they’re still a league contender or risk falling to 0-2 in the conference.
In a rematch of a wild 70-63 Baylor win over West Virginia, the Mountaineers suddenly appear to have a defense, but there’s a major difference between handling this season’s Oklahoma State team and facing Baylor in Waco.
And then there’s Texas. There are plenty of questions for the Longhorns on a weekly basis (Who will start at quarterback? Will the defense show up?), but the more interesting questions about the long-term (What’s next for Mack Brown?).
That’s the backdrop for the first week of conference play as the calendar turns to October.
Big 12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, all games Saturday unless noted
1. TCU at Oklahoma (7 p.m., FOX)
TCU was projected to be one of a handful of teams competing for the Big 12 title, but the Horned Frogs may need to win in Norman to prove they’re still in the mix. TCU’s offense has been inconsistent, but the Horned Frogs continue to have a big-play defense. Even with limited contributions from star defensive end Devonte Fields this season, TCU leads the Big 12 in sacks (15 in four games) and interceptions (nine). And for all the talk of Oklahoma’s quarterbacks, perhaps the Sooners’ run game has been overlooked. OU is second in the Big 12 in rushing at 256.8 yards per game.
2. West Virginia at Baylor (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Baylor’s offensive firepower is well-established, but the Bears also led the Big 12 in total defense (297 yards per game), yards per play (3.8) and fewest touchdowns (three). And thanks to Baylor’s quick-strike offense, only nine defenses nationally have spent more time on the field. West Virginia’s defense is going to have enough trouble against Baylor, but the offense has lingering concerns even after it received passing marks last week. Quarterback Clint Trickett may be the best option for the ailing Mountaineers’ offense, but he’s ailing with a shoulder injury. Ford Childress has a torn pectoral muscle, meaning Paul Millard may get the call Saturday. Millard has completed 41 of 67 passes for 466 yards in two starts, but he was benched for Childress in the second game of the season.
3. Texas at Iowa State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
For a time, things quieted down around Texas. The Longhorns defeated Kansas State to end their two-game losing streak, the defense looked much improved, and then the Longhorns had an off week. Then, athletic director DeLoss Dodds announced his plans to retire, putting Mack Brown’s fate back into the spotlight. For this week, though, quarterback David Ash will be unavailable again after a second head injury this season, meaning Brown has a key decision on whether to play the underwhelming Case McCoy or remove the redshirt from heralded freshman Tyrone Swoopes. No. 2 wide receiver Mike Davis is also on the injury list as a game-time decision with an ankle injury. Despite the 1-2 record, Iowa State is plus-four in turnover margin and 9-for-9 in the red zone.
4. Kansas State at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m., ABC regional)
Oklahoma State has been first or second in the Big 12 in total offense in each of the last three seasons, but the Cowboys now have legitimate concerns on offense after scoring a combined 42 points against Mississippi State and West Virginia. The problems start with the run game. Oklahoma State is fifth in the league in rushing (one spot behind Kansas). Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland have combined for 83 carries for 312 yards in four games. Kansas State’s run game has been even worse. Aside from a 329-yard outburst against UMass, the Wildcats have rushed for 101.7 yards and 3.1 yards per carry in the other three games.
5. Texas Tech at Kansas (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Kansas quietly has the No. 2 pass efficiency defense in the Big 12, holding opponents to a 53.2 completion rate with four interceptions and two touchdowns. Texas Tech will keep Baker Mayfield at quarterback despite recent struggles, but he’ll need to find a way to get the ball to star receiver Eric Ward, who has seven receptions in the last three games.
Big 12 Week 6 Pivotal Players
J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
Walsh had his worst game of the season at West Virginia, completing 20 of 47 passes for 322 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Mike Gundy told reporters he never considered going to Clint Chelf, whom Walsh replaced after two possessions in the opener. Oklahoma State needs Walsh to return to form if the Cowboys are going to remain in Big 12 contention.
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Kansas State’s offense needs work, but Tyler Lockett is a dynamic presence. Lockett has caught 29 passes for 469 yards with a touchdown this season despite K-State’s struggles at quarterback. Oklahoma State could be without starting cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was ejected against West Virginia for a throwing punches. A suspension of some kind could be possible, opening up the Wildcats’ passing game.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
The Horned Frogs’ stagnant offense finally showed some life in the second half against SMU last week. A few breaks on special teams helped, including an SMU onside kick returned for a touchdown, but Boykin must bring his momentum from the second half of last week into the Oklahoma game. Boykin was 8 of 10 for 155 yards with two touchdowns in the second half and led TCU to 7.5 yards per play. TCU ranks ninth in the Big 12 in third-down efficiency (33.3 percent) and must find a way to crack the top third down defense in the league (28.6).
Shaq Rowell, West Virginia
The Mountaineers had their best defensive game in more than a year against Oklahoma State, holding the Cowboys to 111 rushing yards. The nose tackle anchored the line in West Virginia’s three-man front and will have another major task this week against Baylor and standout guard Cyril Richardson.
Aaron Wimberly, Iowa State
Iowa Western Community College transfer became the first Iowa State running back to rush for 100 yards since the 2012 season opener when he ran for 137 yards on 19 carries against Tulsa last week. With the Cyclones offensive getting healthier and Wimberly picking yards, Texas has another competent run game to worry about.
Big 12 Week 6 Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Texas (-8.5) at Iowa State||Texas 28-14||Texas 31-21||Texas 31-20||Texas 24-20|
|Texas Tech (-17.5) at Kansas||Tech 35-7||Tech 38-13||Tech 34-17||Tech 51-17|
|K-State (+14) at Okla. St.||OSU 28-24||OSU 31-17||OSU 34-27||OSU 27-20|
|TCU (+10.5) at Oklahoma||OU 42-24||OU 35-20||OU 34-20||OU 34-20|
|West Va. (+28) at Baylor||Baylor 63-10||Baylor 42-21||Baylor 45-24||Baylor 54-21|
Ole Miss, humbled last week in its 25-0 loss at Alabama, hits the road again, travelling to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face an improved Auburn team that is coming off a bye. In Nashville, Missouri will finally play its first conference game, against a Vanderbilt team desperate for an SEC win after an 0-2 start. Elsewhere, Tennessee hosts surging Georgia; LSU visits Starkville; Florida returns home to face Arkansas; and South Carolina heads to Lexington to play Kentucky.
SEC Week 6 Game Power Rankings
1. Ole Miss (-2.5) at Auburn (7 ET, ESPNU)
We learned last Saturday night that Ole Miss isn’t quite ready to contend for the SEC West title. But one loss — especially when that loss is at Alabama — should not derail the momentum the Rebels grabbed with their 3-0 start. This is still a very good team. Auburn is another program headed in the right direction, but the Tigers are still in the first year of their new regime. The offense, to no one’s surprise, is much improved with Gus Malzahn back in town. Through four games, the Tigers are averaging 439.5 yards and 28.5 points per game — up from 297.8 and 17.5 at the same point last year. This should be highly entertaining.
2. Missouri (+2) at Vanderbilt (7:30 ET, CSS)
Missouri has cruised to a 4-0 start against a relatively soft non-conference schedule. Now the fun begins for the Tigers, who play eight SEC games over the next nine weeks. On Saturday, Mizzou makes its first trip to Vanderbilt since 1957. Last year, the Tigers outgained the Dores by 100 yards but dropped a 19-15 decision in Columbia. James Franklin — the quarterback, not the coach — enjoyed early success in that game, leading the Tigers down the field with relative ease on two long drives that ended with short field goals. Franklin, however, went down with a knee injury shortly thereafter, and the MU offense struggled the rest of the night. Franklin is now healthy and will be eager to attack a Vanderbilt defense that has had trouble against mobile quarterbacks in recent years. The Commodores have been inconsistent on the offensive end but rolled up over 600 yards last week in a 52-24 win over UAB.
3. Georgia (-10.5) at Tennessee (3:30 ET, CBS)
Georgia lost nine straight in this series from 1989-99 but has since won nine of the last 13, including three straight. And after looking at both teams’ performances through the first month of the season, there is no reason to believe that won’t be four straight after the Bulldogs’ trip to Neyland Stadium this weekend. Georgia has rebounded from its Week 1 loss at Clemson to post huge wins at home over South Carolina and LSU. The Dawgs haven’t looked great on defense — they are allowing 31.2 points per game — but few teams have played as difficult of an early season schedule. Plus, Tennessee, at this point of Butch Jones’ tenure, doesn’t possess the personnel on offense to put up a big number on most SEC defenses. Georgia must guard against a letdown, but the Bulldogs should win this game with relative ease.
4. Arkansas (+10.5) at Florida (7 ET, ESPN2)
So far so good for Tyler Murphy. One week after coming off the bench to lead Florida past Tennessee in Gainesville, Murphy completed 15-of-18 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Gators’ 24-7 win at Kentucky. Those numbers won’t get you in the discussion for All-SEC honors, but it’s probably more than most Florida fans expected from the former 2-star recruit. As we learned last season, the Gators don’t need gaudy stats from their quarterback to win games. Florida’s lack of a downfield passing attack remains a concern, but this is still a team that can challenge Georgia in the SEC East. Arkansas is in the midst of a brutal four-game stretch that includes home games with Texas A&M and South Carolina and road trips to Florida and Alabama.
5. LSU (-9.5) at Mississippi State (7 ET, ESPN)
LSU proved once again last week that it might be the most improved offensive team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they proved it in a loss — despite scoring 41 points on the road. One loss will not eliminate LSU from the national title hunt, but this team no longer has any margin for error. The Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble getting back on track this week, even though they hit the road again. Mississippi State has feasted on inferior opponents but lost to Oklahoma State and Auburn in its only games against BCS conference opponents. Tyler Russell, who has missed the last three games after suffering a concussion against Oklahoma State, is expected back at quarterback for Mississippi State. Still, don’t be surprised to see heavy doses of sophomore Dak Prescott, a dual-threat who played well in relief.
6. Kentucky (+21) at South Carolina (7:30 ET, FSN)
Steve Spurrier was not pleased with his team’s start or finish last week in Orlando. The Gamecocks got the win — 28-25 over UCF — but it was not the type of performance that gave Spurrier confidence his team can compete with the powers in the SEC. He can’t, however, have many complaints about Mike Davis, his sophomore tailback. Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 127.0 yards per game and has done so on a healthy 7.2-yard average. In a surprise, the Gamecocks could have quarterback Connor Shaw, who injured his shoulder in the UCF game, back for Saturday's matchup. If Shaw can't go, Dylan Thompson is an experienced backup, but he completed less than 50 percent of his passes against UCF. Kentucky is struggling to get much going on offense in the first year of the Mark Stoops era. This team has some decent pieces on defense, but it’s hard to envision the Cats scoring enough to make Carolina sweat.
7. Georgia State (+55.5) at Alabama (12:21 ET, SEC TV)
Alabama steps out of SEC play for what should be little more than a scrimmage. Georgia State is 0-4, with three of the four defeats coming against teams from the FCS ranks — and all three of those games were at home. Now, the Panthers head to Tuscaloosa to play the nation’s No. 1 team. Good luck.
SEC Week 6 Pivotal Players
Robert Nkemdiche/C.J. Johnson vs. Greg Robinson/Patrick Miller (Ole Miss at Auburn)
The super freshman Nkemdiche and veteran Johnson are a formidable duo on the edge of the Ole Miss defensive line. Charged with stopping them will be Auburn's sophomore tackle tandem of Robinson and Miller. The Tigers have been solid up front, allowing just 4.0 sacks in 2013, and the Rebels have struggled to get pressure (100th in sacks nationally). To hold serve on the road, the Rebs need to disrupt the quarterback and hold their ground against Tre Mason and the Tigers’ running game.
Alex Collins vs. Antonio Morrison (Arkansas at Florida)
Jonathan Williams will be a heavy factor in the backfield for the Hogs as well, but his carries have decreased in every game this season. Collins, a freshman from Florida, has quickly shown why he was so highly touted as his 119.4 rushing yards per game rank No. 2 in the SEC. He returns to his home state and gets to face one of the most vicious hitters in the nation in Antonio Morrison. The rest of the Gators’ front seven will be tough to move as well, but watching these two underclassmen battle all day will be fun for all parties involved.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Georgia St. at Alabama
Georgia at Tennessee
Arkansas at Florida
LSU at Mississippi St.
Ole Miss at Auburn
Ole Miss 31-27
|Ole Miss 31-21|
Missouri at Vanderbilt
Kentucky at S. Carolina
S. Carolina 35-7
|S. Carolina 37-17|
S. Carolina 38-13
|S. Carolina 24-10|
Big Ten conference play really opens up across the league this Saturday after a teaser last weekend. Ohio State is in commanding early position in the Leaders Division but has another huge test on Saturday — this time on the road. All eyes will once again be on the Buckeyes.
However, unlike last weekend, the rest of the conference — except Wisconsin and Purdue, who are on bye — will be tangled up in big-time divisional matchups. Let the race for the Roses begin.
Big Ten Week 6 Game Power Rankings:
1. Ohio State (-6.5) at Northwestern (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
College Gameday is making just its second appearance in Evanston and its first since Pat Fitzgerald was a player in 1995. Ohio State welcomed back Braxton Miller in style last weekend in an emotional, hard-fought home win over a quality Wisconsin team. Urban Meyer now has to get his team ready for an equally talented but totally different Wildcats squad. Coach Fitz is hoping to get running back Venric Mark, a key cog in his spread option offense, back on the field for the first time since Week 1. Mark helps the Cats' two-quarterback spread system to flourish but how healthy will he be? This is the most talented Northwestern team ever assembled with Big Ten championship aspirations but must battle history this weekend. The Wildcats have beaten Ohio State just once in the last 29 tries and is hoping to shake up the Big Ten with the entire college football world watching on Saturday night.
2. Michigan State (+1.5) at Iowa (Noon, ESPN2)
This game got a lot more interesting with Iowa’s convincing and somewhat shockingly easy road win over Minnesota. These two teams are built in similar fashions as each will play physical defense and pound the football on offense. Normally, home field offers an advantage but, in this series, the road team has won three of the last four meetings. Quarterback play will be a major issue for both: Iowa is 94th in passing offense and 63rd in passing efficiency nationally while the Spartans are even worse ranking 115th in passing offense and 109th in efficiency. This will be a throwback, bruising, Big Ten slugfest and whichever defensive line holds its ground the best will escape with a hard-earned victory.
3. Penn State (-4.5) at Indiana (Noon, BTN)
This was targeted as a critical pecking order game in the Leaders Division and both teams had two weeks to prepare. Kevin Wilson enters Big Ten play with two losses and can’t afford not to hold serve at home in winnable games. However, the Hoosiers have never beaten the Nittany Lions in 16 tries and have only stayed within one score once in the last five meetings. These are two of the top three passing attacks in the league so fans should expect plenty of aerial fireworks, but the ground game may be the deciding factor. Indiana couldn’t run the ball against Missouri in the blowout loss two weeks ago while the Lions are coming off a 287-yard, 3-TD performance against Kent State. Penn State has a significant talent advantage but the team that can be more balanced on offense will come away with a significant win.
4. Illinois (+10.5) at Nebraska (Noon, ESPNU)
Taylor Martinez is listed as questionable for Nebraska’s first-ever Big Ten meeting with Illinois. The Huskers are 7-2-1 against the Illini as non-conference foes and haven’t met since back-to-back Nebraska drubbings in 1985-86. This one could be much tighter than those Big Red blowouts as quarterback play appears to be huge for both teams. Nathan Scheelhaase has been a revelation as a senior under Bill Cubit, completing 67.2-percent of his passes for nearly 300 yards per game, 12 TDs and just three interceptions. Bo Pelini, however, could be without Martinez, his star quarterback, once again. The senior signal-caller hasn’t practiced yet this week and it doesn’t sound like he will play much, if at all, this weekend. That leaves freshman Tommy Armstrong and senior Ron Kellogg III to split time under center. If Scheelhaase doesn’t turn the ball over, the Illini have a chance to hang around against a questionable Black Shirts defense.
5. Minnesota (+20) at Michigan (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN)
The Gophers were surprisingly inept in all phases of the game in the one-sided home loss to Iowa in Week 5 and things don’t appear to be getting any better for Jerry Kill in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug. Quarterback Philip Nelson returned to the starting lineup for Minnesota but played his worst game of the year. Meanwhile, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has had two weeks to stew over his below average play (seven turnovers) against Akron and UConn. Look for both teams to get their reeling running games back on track, but a win for the Gophers over the nation’s No. 6-rated rushing defense seems unlikely. Minnesota has only won the Jug once since 1986, however, that memorable win came in Ann Arbor in 2005.
Big Ten Week 6 Pivotal Players
1. Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior will be under a microscope this weekend. He leads the Wildcats in tackles for a loss (4.0) and sacks (3.0) but will be in for his toughest challenge this weekend against Braxton Miller. It goes without saying the goal for Scott and the Cats defensive line will be to contain Miller in the pocket but, moreover, they need to punish the oft-injured Buckeye star every chance they get. The more physical the game gets, the better chance Northwestern has at an upset.
2. Corey Brown, S, Ohio State
In theory, both Corey Brown’s will play a pivotal role in Ohio State’s trip to Northwestern. But the senior safety Brown is stepping in for injured safety Christian Bryant. He has plenty of experience after starting the opener in place of C.J. Barnett and is fifth on the team in tackles (4.2 pg). But Brown is now charged with manning the safety spot for the rest of the year and it starts on the road against the diverse and complex Northwestern spread that welcomes back its star tailback this weekend.
3. Jake Rudock, QB, Iowa
Yards will be tough to come by on the ground in the Spartans-Hawkeyes boxing match this weekend and it falls to Rudock to make things happen. In a game with elite linebackers on both sides, two great running games and very little scoring, anything Rudock or Michigan State’s Connor Cook can provide in the passing game will make a significant impact. Quarterback is the one area Iowa may have a significant advantage over Sparty and Rudock needs to provide a second offensive dimension.
4. Indiana’s Front Seven
After a pathetic showing in the season opener against Syracuse (38 att., 57 yards, 0 TD), the Penn State running game has exploded. The Lions have averaged 244.7 yards per game over their past three contests with 11 rushing touchdowns. It falls to a Hoosiers front seven that allowed 280 yards and three scores to Missouri the last time out to stop the Lions' physical rushing attack. If not, PSU will move to 17-0 all-time against IU.
5. Tommy Armstrong/Ron Kellogg III, QB, Nebraska
Illinois is much improved but if Bo Pelini can get anything out of his backup quarterback duo, the Huskers should win going away. Both Armstrong (12-of-15, 169 yards, TD) and Kellogg (8-of-9, 136 yards, TD) were solid against South Dakota State but battling Jonathan Brown and the Illini is a totally different task. Another 335 yards rushing would go a long way in helping the quarterback tandem play efficient football. If these two protect the ball, Nebraska should begin its Big Ten slate with a win.
Big Ten Week 6 Prediction Grid:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Ohio St (-6.5) at Northwestern||N'Western, 34-31||Ohio St, 27-23||Ohio St, 34-27||Ohio St, 38-24|
|Michigan St (+1.5) at Iowa||Mich. St, 20-17||Iowa, 13-10||Mich. St, 24-20||Iowa, 21-17|
|Penn St (-4.5) at Indiana||Penn St, 38-30||Indiana, 31-30||Penn St, 34-31||Penn St, 35-21|
|Illinois (+10.5) at Nebraska||Nebraska, 34-24||Nebraska, 37-30||Nebraska, 38-31||Illinois, 28-24|
|Minnesota (+20) at Michigan||Michigan, 34-20||Michigan, 41-17||Michigan, 34-17||Michigan, 27-14|
Last weekend was an eventful one out West. Stanford made another big statement in the Pac-12 North, Sean Mannion has the Beavers turned around, Washington got a big home win and, oh by the way, USC fired Lane Kiffin.
The stories emanating from Heritage Hall has drowned out the rest of the news in the Pac-12 — which is plentiful. UCLA should be on upset alert, Arizona State is trying to do something no team in NCAA history has ever done and the Huskies-Cardinal game carries major championship import.
It’s just another weekend in the nation’s second-best league.
Pac-12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings
1. Washington (+7) at Stanford (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The last time these two hooked up, the Huskies pulled a physical and surprising upset at home on a Thursday night last season. However, the last time these two hooked up in Palo Alto, the Cardinal dropped 65 points on an extremely uncompetitive Washington squad. These two defenses have been two of the nation’s best thus far in 2013 and fans can bet this will be as physical a game as the Pac-12 sees all season. The onus of victory then falls to the offensive lines and quarterback play. Kevin Hogan and Keith Price aren’t posting the same monster numbers of others in the league, but they are leading offenses averaging roughly 40 points per game and have great running games to lean on. The loser will find it hard to win the North, so this showdown is a de facto divisional elimination game.
2. Arizona State (-5) vs. Notre Dame (7:30 p.m., NBC, Arlington)
No team in NCAA history has ever defeated USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Eleven teams have tried and all 11 have failed. That said, the Sun Devils have a great shot at making history. After scoring 62 on the Trojans last week, Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice, the nation’s leading scorer, are riding a wave of renewed confidence against a defense lacking in killer instinct. The fast track in AT&T Stadium gives the Devils a speed edge on Saturday. The Irish were embarrassed at home by Oklahoma and quarterback Tommy Rees appears to be losing his grip on the starting job. He has five interceptions in losses to Michigan and Notre Dame and none in Notre Dame’s three wins. Rees has to take care of the ball if the Irish want to have a chance of pulling the upset.
3. UCLA (-4.5) at Utah (Thurs., 10 p.m., FS1)
The Utes have only beaten the Bruins twice in 11 tries but both came in the last two visits from UCLA. In fact, the Bruins haven’t even been competitive in SLC, losing by a combined 75-12. That said, last year’s meeting was a 21-14 victory for UCLA in Los Angeles. Look for both offenses to excel in this mid-week meeting as two of the best in the nation are spearheaded by elite signal-callers. Utah’s Travis Wilson is seventh nationally in total offense (342.3 ypg) while UCLA’s Brett Hundley is 11th (335.0 ypg). The difference will be Jim Mora’s defense. UCLA hasn’t allowed more than 353 yards in any game this year while Utah is giving up 473.7 yards per game against FBS opponents (three games). The Bruins need to be on serious upset alert but can prove themselves as the South Division front-runner with a convincing road win.
4. Washington State (pk) at Cal (4 p.m., FS1)
Cal is leading the league in plays at a ridiculous 95.0 snaps per game on offense. Washington State is third in the league with 349 offensive snaps in 2013. Yet, both offenses have struggled to score relative to the rest of the Pac-12 — they rank 10th and 11th in scoring offense. This might be in part to questions at quarterback. After an electric start to his career, Cal’s Jared Goff was benched last week after just seven attempts against Oregon. He split time with touted redshirt Zach Kline in practice this week and both will likely see snaps. Meanwhile, Connor Halliday was beaten and bruised by Stanford last weekend but is apparently ready to go against the Bears. Whichever offense has the ball last gets the win.
5. Oregon (-38) at Colorado (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Mike MacIntrye is a well respected rising star in the coaching ranks but the Buffaloes are in over their heads in this one. The Ducks are clicking on all cylinders despite the loss of electric running back De’Anthony Thomas to an ankle injury. Thomas won’t play this weekend in an effort to be healthy for a large trip to Seattle next weekend. The Ducks haven’t scored fewer than 55 points this year and haven’t lost to Colorado since 1998. The Marcus Mariota Heisman freight train will roll through Boulder with little opposition this weekend.
Pac-12 Week 6 Pivotal Players:
1. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
Hogan’s ability to move around both inside and out of the pocket is what coach David Shaw thinks will be the difference. The Cardinal offense, led by Josh Nunes at the time, mustered just 13 points and 238 total yards — the lowest yardage output of the Shaw era — against UW last season. Hogan is coming off his best game of the year after 286 yards passing, 34 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Washington State. Against one of the nation’s nastiest defenses, the Stanford quarterback will have to make plays in all phases of the game. Hogan is 9-0 as the starter for Stanford.
2. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
On the other side of the ball, Steve Sarkisian’s balanced offensive attack will put major pressure on Stanford’s extremely talented linebacking corps, led by its senior anchor on the inside. The Washington offensive line was decimated last year and Stanford took advantage with three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. This unit is much healthier this time around and has been churning out yards on the ground and protecting Keith Price. Skov will literally go head-to-head with Bishop Sankey, who broke a game-changing 61-yard touchdown run last year on the final play of the third quarter, in what could be one of the most physical games of the year.
3. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Stopping a 6-foot-6, 240-pound quarterback is a daunting task — even for a freakish 6-foot-4, 245-pound outside linebacker like Barr. Wilson has been dynamic for Utah, rushing for 251 yards and five touchdowns to go with his 279.5 yards passing per game. Barr has the quickness, power and athletic ability to mirror Wilson everywhere he goes. This could be one of the best individual matchups of the entire weekend.
4. Arizona State’s offensive line
Running back Marion Grice is leading the nation in scoring with 12 touchdowns. Jaelen Strong is developing into one of the nation’s best wideouts. And Taylor Kelly has thrown for at least 300 yards in all four games. Against Notre Dame’s struggling but talented defensive line, the onus of paving the way, protecting and providing time for those ASU stars will be the Sun Devils' offensive line. The Irish have just four sacks in five games and Todd Graham needs that trend to continue this weekend if he wants to make history in Jerry's World.
5. UCLA’s offensive line
The Bruins have been average up front along the offensive line as two young tackles are learning by fire. This team is 62nd nationally in sacks allowed per game (1.67) and 86th in tackles for a loss allowed per game (6.3). Utah has been excellent at disrupting the line of scrimmage, ranking fifth nationally in sacks per game (3.8) and 14th in tackles for a loss (7.8 pg). If the Utes can control the line of scrimmage they will make life miserable for Brett Hundley in a hostile environment.
Pac-12 Week 6 Predictions:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Washington (+7) at Stanford||Stanford, 27-20||Stanford, 27-17||Stanford, 30-20||Stanford, 35-21|
|Arizona St (-5) at Notre Dame||Ariz. St, 31-24||Ariz. St, 28-20||Ariz. St, 31-24||Ariz. St, 31-21|
|UCLA (-4.5) at Utah||UCLA, 34-31||UCLA, 30-17||UCLA, 38-27||UCLA, 35-24|
|Washington St (pk) at Cal||Cal, 38-31||Cal, 38-30||Wazzu, 34-31||Cal, 41-35|
|Oregon (-38) at Colorado||Oregon, 51-17||Oregon, 51-10||Oregon, 58-17||Oregon, 63-14|
With the government shutdown threatening the cancellation of the annual Air Force-Navy game, United Airlines is prepared to step in. There is a question of whether the funds used for sporting activities are congressionally appropriated. While Navy uses non-appropriated funds for athletics, the U.S. Air Force Academy partially fund their athletics programs through appropriated funds. Lawyers are trying to determine whether non-appropriated funds might be used by the Air Force team to travel to Navy (at Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, in Annapolis, Md.). Amidst the uncertainty, United Airlines has stepped up and offered to fly the Falcons to the game for free.
The U.S. Naval Academy said in a statement that a decision will be made by noon Thursday about whether the Midshipmen will play Air Force. The football rivalry between Navy and Air Force dates to 1960, and they have played each other every year since 1972. Saturday's game is sold out.
David Ash will miss his second game in the Longhorns' last three after sustaining another head injury in the first half of the Longhorns win over Kansas State two weeks ago. Ash originally suffered a head injury in the Week 2 loss to BYU and sat out the following week’s game against Ole Miss. He returned as the starter for the Kansas State game but was not able to finish. Case McCoy has thrown for 330 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions this year and is expected to start on Thursday night.
When the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961, with the National League set to follow the next year, baseball ushered in a new era. With both leagues fully integrated by that time, and many players from Latin America finding their way into the big leagues, this was in many ways the beginning of a Golden Age of baseball. For the first time there was a 162-game schedule. From this Expansion Era, we rank the worst managerial disasters.
1. College of Coaches, Chicago Cubs, 1961-62 123-193 .389
Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, who for a while must have thought himself to be P.T. Barnum, instituted an unorthodox College of Coaches to lead the Cubs in 1961-62. The concept called for a group of coaches to lead the team with each one having a turn as manager for a number of games. Wrigley thought that exposing players to multiple ways of thinking would benefit his troops. But the results were disastrous. The Cubs managed to finish seventh in 1961, but lost a franchise-record 103 games in 1962, finishing above only the expansion New York Mets and six games behind the first-year Colt 45’s. Although they were quite young, future Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams joined veteran Ernie Banks in the everyday lineup. George Altman was the leading hitter with a .318 average and second baseman Ken Hubbs was NL Rookie of the Year.
2. Bobby Valentine, Boston, 2012 69-93 .426
As has been the case since the turn of the century, the Red Sox are expected to contend every year. Valentine’s tenure landed the Sox in last place, 26 games out of first place and threatened to cause lasting damage. The .426 winning percentage was the lowest of Bobby V’s managerial career in a full season.
3. Ozzie Guillen, Miami, 2012 69-93 .426
After a term as the White Sox most successful skipper since Al Rosen of the 1950s, Guillen was hand-picked to lead the new-look, newly-named Miami Marlins as they opened a new stadium and were stocked with pricey free agents. The season was a disaster from the beginning. From racial misspeaks to friction with players to mounting losses, Guillen’s time in Miami could not have gone much worse.
4. Bob Geren, Oakland, 2007-11 334-376 .470
He finished one season at an even .500 (2010) followed by three losing years. The A’s won the division under Ken Macha the year prior to Geren’s arrival, and won it again under Bob Melvin the year after his departure.
5. Larry Bowa, San Diego, 1987-88 81-127 .389
The rookie skipper led the Padres to their first last-place finish in six years, and it would be another half dozen seasons before they would finish at the bottom of the NL West again. He began the 1988 season with a 16-30 record, and Jack McKeon ended the campaign with a 67-48 ledger.
6. Jim Davenport, San Francisco, 1985 56-88 .389
The 1985 season is the low-water mark for the franchise between 1944 and the present. Oops. The Giants have had just four managers since Davenport.
7. Don Heffner, Cincinnati, 1966 37-46 .446
Heffner took over a team accustomed to contending and led the Reds to an eighth-place standing before being dismissed midseason.
8. Ted Turner, Atlanta, 1977 0-1 .000
After the Braves dropped 16 straight games, owner Ted Turner told manager Dave Bristol to take some time off and that he would manage the team for what was originally thought to be about 10 days or so. Turner’s one stint in the dugout yielded nothing more than the Braves’ 17th consecutive defeat. The next day, Turner was told by National League President Chub Feeney, backed by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, that anyone with ownership in a team was not allowed to manage. Turner didn’t make a pitching change (Phil Niekro pitched a complete game in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh) and used a pinch-runner for his catcher and two pinch-hitters in the ninth inning. Third base coach Vern Benson managed the next game before Bristol returned for the remainder of the season.
9. Vern Rapp, Cincinnati, 1984 51-70 .421
The Reds were on pace for a six-game decline from a disappointing 1983 season when Pete Rose replaced Rapp in August.
10. Moose Stubing, California, 1988 0-8 .000
The tenure was short, but Stubing holds the dubious mark of the most games managed since 1900 without a win. Stubing finished his playing career — which consisted of two weeks in August of 1967 — hitless in five plate appearances with four strikeouts.
11. Alan Trammell, Detroit, 2003-05 186-300 .383
After the 119-loss debacle in 2003, the team slightly improved, but didn’t come within 20 games of first place in the AL Central.
12. Karl Kuehl, Montreal, 1976 43-85 .336
Gene Mauch left an improving expansion franchise on the cusp of a .500 record for the first time in Expos history, but Kuehl wrecked the club. The Expos were on pace for 108 losses when Kuehl was relieved of his only job as manager.
13. Manny Acta, Washington Nationals, 2007-09 158-252 .385
Acta lost 89 games his first season in Washington, followed that with a 102-loss season, and was on pace to lose 114 games when he was fired in 2009.
14. Jim Riggleman, San Diego, 1992-94 112-179 .385
In two seasons at the helm in San Diego, Riggleman oversaw the two worst seasons for the Padres from 1987 until now, finishing last in the seven-team NL West in 1993, and was running in last place in the four-team division when the strike ended the 1994 season.
15. Joe Torre, New York Mets, 1977-81 286-420 .405
Hired as a player-manager in 1977, Torre guided the Mets to four of their 14 worst seasons.
16. John McNamara, California, 1983-84 151-173 .466
Gene Mauch won 93 games the year before McNamara arrived, then 90 and 92 the following two years. Mac topped out at 81.
17. Al Pedrique, Arizona, 2004 22-61 .265
His abysmal winning percentage is easily the worst in franchise history, with the next worst that of A.J. Hinch at .420.
18. Bill Plummer, Seattle, 1992 64-98 .395
Jim Lefebvre managed the Mariners to the first winning season in its 15-year history the year before Plummer was hired. The new manager sent the team down the drain with a decline of 19 wins, matching the team’s 64-98 record as an expansion team in 1977. Lou Piniella brought a winner back in 1993 with a 18-game improvement.
19. Maury Wills, Seattle, 1980-81 26-56 .317
Wills owns the worst winning percentage in Mariners history. And Seattle has had some pretty bad teams, especially in the early years.
20. Eddie Haas, Atlanta, 1985 50-71 .413
The Braves finished first, second and second in three years under Joe Torre. Haas immediately took them to fifth. The Braves lost 12 of the manager’s final 13 games, then immediately launched a five-game win streak under new boss, Bobby Wine.
21. Jeff Torborg, New York Mets, 1992-93 85-115 .425
Expectations were high in New York in 1992, with many experts predicting a division title. Aces David Cone and Dwight Gooden were joined by free agents Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla in a star-studded clubhouse. The Mets finished fifth, 18 games below .500. Torborg began the following season 13-25 and was fired. While the Mets improved after his dismissal, the 1993 season remains the club’s worst season since 1965.
22. A.J. Hinch, Arizona, 2009-10 89-123 .420
His Arizona tenure was bookended by a second-place 2008 team and a division champion in 2011.
23. Terry Francona, Philadelphia, 1997-2000 285-363 .440
The Phillies topped out at eight games below .500 and a third-place finish in 1999 under Francona, who took the experience of some hard lessons to Boston.
24. Bob Boone, Cincinnati, 2001-03 190-238 .444
Boone took over a franchise coming off back-to-back second-place finishes. He proceeded to steer the club to its worst finish between 1982 and the present. He launched what would become nine straight losing seasons.
25. Brad Mills, Houston, 2010-12 171-274 .384
It’s true that the Astros were embarking on a major rebuilding program. But the team regressed from 76 wins to 56 to a pace for 52 when Mills was mercifully relieved of his duties.
26. Dave Bristol, Atlanta, 1976-77 130-192 .404
The 1970s was a bad decade for the Braves. They finished in the upper division just twice and last four times. Bristol oversaw two of the last-place finishes and was replaced by Bobby Cox. Bristol managed for four different franchises and was replaced by Sparky Anderson, Cox, Frank Robinson and Del Crandall.
27. Bucky Dent, New York Yankees, 1989-90 36-53 .404
Winning barely 40 percent of his games, Dent owns the worst winning percentage of any Yankees skipper since 1912. (That’s two years before Babe Ruth debuted with the Red Sox.)
28. Butch Hobson, Boston, 1992-94 207-232 .472
The Red Sox finished first in 1990, then second in 1991. Hobson took over in 1992 and led the Sox to their first last-place finish since 1932, repeated only by Bobby Valentine’s troops in 2012.
29. Ralph Houk, Detroit, 1974-78 363-443 .450
From 1971-88, the Detroit Tigers had just four losing seasons. Houk managed all four, finishing in the lower half of the AL East all five seasons he was at the helm.
30. Charlie Metro, Kansas City Royals, 1970 19-33 .365
After the Royals won 69 games in their inaugural season under Joe Gordon, Metro had the team on pace for just 59 wins when he was replaced by Bob Lemon. The following season Lemon led the team to a winning season and second place in the AL West.
31. Buddy Bell, Detroit, 1996-98 184-277 .399
Bell followed the Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson and led the Tigers to their worst season since 1952. The 109 losses were the most in team history at the time.
32. Dave Trembley, Baltimore, 2008-10 187-283 .398
Although the club was floundering when he was hired, Trembley’s first full season was also the first for the Orioles in last place in the five-team AL East. The situation didn’t improve as Trembley saw nothing but the cellar after that.
33. Russ Nixon, Atlanta, 1988-90 130-216 .376
Of all the Braves’ managers with at least 30 games since 1930, Nixon’s winning percentage ranks last.
34. Jerry Narron, Texas, 2001-02 134-162 .453
How could a team with Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez finish in last place in the AL West? And 21 games behind third-place Seattle.
35. Dave Miley, Cincinnati, 2003-05 125-164 .433
Miley is the only Reds manager since World War II to manage as many as 250 games with a winning percentage below .440.
36. Ken Macha, Milwaukee Brewers, 2009-10 157-167 .485
Macha’s two sub-.500 seasons were sandwiched by the Brewers’ wild-card team in 2008 and the 2011 NL Central division champs.
37. John Russell, Pittsburgh, 2008-10 186-299 .384
Of the 20 years of losing suffered in Pittsburgh, Russell was in charge during the worst and third-worst seasons. His first team was one game worse than the year before and the team proceeded to decline by five games in his next two seasons.
38. Mel McGaha, Kansas City Athletics, 1964-65 45-91 .331
The 13 years the A’s spent in Kansas City were all losers. Eight games below .500 in 1958 was the high-water mark. Two of the three worst seasons involved McGaha, who finished the 1964 season, then started 1965 with a 5-21 mark.
39. Davey Lopes, Milwaukee Brewers, 2000-02 144-195 .425
The former Dodgers’ All-Star second baseman took over a team that had won 74 games, led them to 73 and 68 wins and got off to a 3-12 start in 2002 when he was dismissed in favor of Jerry Royster.
40. Johnny Keane, New York Yankees, 1965-66 81-101 .445
The 1964 American League champs hired Keane away from the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals after the season. But Keane got just 46 games from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle batted .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs. The Yankees finished sixth despite Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Al Downing combining to start 105 games with a 48-36 record.
41. Don Gutteridge, Chicago White Sox, 1969-70 109-172 .388
From 1949 through 2013, the 1970 season ranks as the low-point in White Sox annals.
42. George Bamberger, New York Mets, 1982-83 81-127 .389
Bamby’s two last-place clubs were followed by Davey Johnson’s six straight seasons of first or second place. His .389 winning percentage is the Mets’ lowest for post-1967 managers.
43. Stump Merrill, New York Yankees, 1990-91 120-155 .436
The two seasons in which Merrill spent time in the Yankees’ dugout just happened to be the two lowest win totals in non-strike seasons for the Yankees between 1967 and, well, now.
44. Joe Adcock, Cleveland, 1967 75-87 .463
The .463 winning percentage was the Indians’ worst since 1946. It followed .537 and .500 seasons, and preceded a .534 season under Al Dark.
45. Billy Herman, Boston, 1964-66 128-182 .413
Herman’s two ninth-place teams morphed into an AL champion the season after he was gone.
46. Jim Lemon, Washington Senators, 1968 65-96 .404
In his only stint as a manager, Lemon’s team was 11 games worse than the year before, and 20 games worse than the following season.
47. Jim Marshall, Oakland, 1979 54-108 .333
The .333 winning percentage remains the franchise’s worst showing since 1954, the club’s final season in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City.
48. Paul Richards, Chicago White Sox, 1976 64-97 .398
Richards’ second stint as White Sox field boss turned out to be the second-worst season on the South Side between 1950 and today.
49. Frank Howard, San Diego, 1981 41-69 .373
It must have been difficult to manage through the strike-interrupted season of 1981. But the Padres joined the Blue Jays as the only teams to finish in last place in both the first and second halves, going a miserable 18-36 after the strike.
50. Jim Marshall, Chicago Cubs, 1974-76 175-218 .445
This was certainly not a disaster — especially by Cubs standards — but it was the three worst seasons on the North Side from 1967-79.
To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its Sprint Cup Series driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next: Hollywood Casino 400 (Kansas Speedway)
Race: 400 miles, 267 laps (1.5-mile oval)
April 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth
A-List (Pick two, start one)
Are you out of starts for Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth? Because I'm out of starts for Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. It doesn't matter. I'm still picking them for this column. I'm opening new Yahoo accounts just for that purpose.
I realize there are people who hate Jimmie Johnson. They hate his winning ways. They hate that mostly full beard that seems to fill in with ease. They hate that he's better than Dale Earnhardt Jr. And they hate that I'm picking him for like the 93rd consecutive week. Sorry. I have to.
Johnson knows Kansas better than Dorothy. He's won two races there and hasn't finished worse than 14th at the track since Joe Nemechek went to Kansas' Victory Lane. Yes, Nemechek. Johnson owns an absurd 7.4 average running position at the 1.5-mile track and has spent just 11.4 percent of his laps in the last 11 races outside the top 15. Sure, go rogue and pick someone else. It won't work.
It'll frankly be a surprise if Matt Kenseth doesn't contend for the win Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Not to him of course — Kenseth isn't the type to call his shot — but to any else aware of how past performance is a nice predictor of future success.
Kenseth is the two-time defending winner on Kansas’ new pavement, with the most recent coming on a cold April weekend. Kansas is going to be cold again this weekend, but Kenseth shouldn't have trouble. He does own the second-best average running position of all A-List drivers at the track (9.5) but that's not the best reason to pick him. The best reason? Consider where the trophies from Kansas, Las Vegas and Chicagoland have all gone this season.
Also consider: Jeff Gordon (9.7 average running position), Kevin Harvick (12.7 ARP)
There are a lot of reasons to avoid Kyle Busch this weekend. Two of them are the pair of spins he took in the spring race at the track thanks to his No. 18 just simply never finding the right handle. He ultimately didn't finish when the second spin collected Joey Logano and caused a jolting crash.
But Busch is riding a wave success in the Sprint Cup Series right now after he's scored three top-5 finishes to start the Chase. He also had a car capable of winning at Chicago before his teammate, Kenseth, swept in for the glory. Picking Busch this weekend is all about how well he's run lately, not about his past Kansas record.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr., still driving blindly toward a very uncertain future in the Sprint Cup Series, sure could use a second win in 2013 to boost his profile. It would add a dose of good news to the driver most slapped around (though least deserving of it) from the fallout of Richmond's spin-gate.
Kansas could be just the place. Truex has finished second, second and fourth in the last three Kansas races. He led in two of them for a total of 219 laps. In April, he posted the third-most fastest laps of the race (27) with only race-winner Kenseth and third-place Johnson notching more.
Greg BiffleI've not been very high on Greg Biffle making a legitimate run in the Chase thanks to his mostly ho-hum regular season. I still feel the same way three races in.
But Biffle could be an unexpected contender this weekend. Consider that his average running position in the last 11 Kansas races is 8.2 — good for second-best in the series. He's also a two-time winner on the 1.5-mile track. Biffle's win this season came at Michigan, a track with pavement only one year older than Kansas. But do be warned: Biffle started 11th and finished 19th at Kansas in April. Ho-hum.
Carl Edwards finished 17th at Kansas Speedway in April. That's enough to think he didn't have a front-running car, right? Wrong. Edwards was a top-5 car much of the day in the spring race before he was one of several victims of a caution flag that waved as the final round of green flag pit stops was beginning. In fact, Edwards was the third-best driver in the race by average running position. He led 19 laps.
More encouraging for Edwards this weekend may be how well his car handled early in the race at Atlanta on the new tire compound Goodyear unveiled that weekend. He qualified second and led 68 laps in the early stages before falling back. The new tire type returns for the first time Sunday at Kansas.
Also consider: Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch
C-List (Pick two, start one)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The same caution flag that bit Edwards and other drivers in the spring Kansas race also consumed Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s best chance yet to record his first Sprint Cup Series win. Stenhouse wound up 11th at the finish after leading 26 laps just before the race's final pit stop.
With the Chase at full steam, it's unlikely that Stenhouse will find a way to break into the top 5 at the end of Sunday's race, but it's a good bet that he'll be the top scoring C-List driver by the end of the 400 miles.
Danica's second half of her rookie Sprint Cup season grew more disappointing when she struggled to a finish six laps down at Dover last week. It's plainly obvious that her experience and knowledge to go fast in stock car racing is still far below what it takes to compete in the top division. However, Kansas might be a track where a savvy C-List pick of the No. 10 could earn a finish close to 20th. Patrick finished 25th at Kansas in June and rolled off a 20th-place run at Chicago just three weeks ago.
Also consider: David Gilliland, Casey Mears
The 2013 college football season is only five weeks old, but there is plenty to learn from the first month of action.
Quarterback play is always under the microscope in any season. But performance under center is at an all-time high, especially as more teams continue to implement spread offenses.
Improved quarterback play is an easy solution for a struggling team, and after five weeks, there are a handful of programs poised to surpass their win total from last year, largely due to the performance under center.
Missouri’s James Franklin struggled with injuries last season but has rebounded with a strong start to 2013. Although the Tigers have yet to play in an SEC game in 2013, Franklin’s improvement should allow Missouri to return to the postseason.
Utah’s Travis Wilson, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase are all benefactors of coordinator changes. And Washington’s Keith Price has benefited from more consistency from his offensive line, while Oregon State’s Sean Mannion has settled into the starting role after sharing time with Cody Vaz last year.
To help illustrate the improvement by these quarterbacks, we examined their stats through the first four or five starts (however many that team has played this year) and compared it to their 2012 start.
College Football's Most-Improved Quarterbacks from 2012 to 2013
James Franklin, Missouri
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards Per Comp|
Due to offseason shoulder surgery, Franklin was never 100 percent last year. In nine games, he threw for 1,562 yards and 20 scores and the dual-threat ability that made him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the Big 12 in 2011 was gone (122 rush yards). The senior is off to a better start in 2013 and already has 14 passing plays of 20 yards or more after recording only 18 last year. Missouri has yet to play a SEC game in 2013, but Franklin looks like a different quarterback and as the numbers above indicate, he’s a big reason why this team is averaging 45.5 points a game.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards Per Comp|
High expectations surrounded Mettenberger in his first season as LSU’s starting quarterback in 2012. However, the former Georgia passer struggled, finishing 2012 with 2,609 yards and 12 scores and just over 200 passing yards per game (200.7). So far, the hire of Cam Cameron has paid huge dividends for the Tigers. Through five games, Mettenberger leads all SEC quarterbacks with 28 completions of 20 yards or more and ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency. Although the senior’s completion percentage is down slightly, he is averaging almost four more yards per attempt.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards Per Comp|
Much like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Scheelhaase’s improvement can be directly tied to a change at coordinator. Bill Cubit was hired to coordinate Illinois’ offense after he was fired as Western Michigan’s head coach, and the veteran assistant has made a huge impact in just four games. Scheelhaase has raised his completion percentage by nearly five points and is averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game. The competition will get tougher, but Scheelhaase needs just one touchdown to surpass his total from last year.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards Per Comp|
Considering Mannion’s performance through five games, it’s hard to believe Oregon State had a quarterback battle in the spring. Injuries derailed Mannion’s 2012 campaign, but he has been one of college football’s top quarterbacks in September. The junior leads the nation with 2,018 passing yards and is completing 67.2 percent of his throws. Mannion also has 13 passing plays of 30 yards or more. With a struggling defense, Mannion and Oregon State’s offense may need to win a lot of shootouts in Pac-12 play.
Keith Price, Washington
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards Per Comp|
Price had an outstanding sophomore season, throwing for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns, while completing 66.9 percent of his passes. However, due largely to a struggling offensive line, Price wasn’t the same quarterback in 2012. In 13 games, he threw for 2,726 yards, 19 scores and tossed 13 picks. Price’s passing efficiency was nearly 40 points lower in 2012 after recording a 161.9 mark in 2011. Thanks to some tweaks on offense and better play by the line, Price has found his 2011 form. He ranks first in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally in 2013 with a 72.3 completion percentage. Price is more comfortable this season and as a result, Washington is poised to have its best season under coach Steve Sarkisian.
Travis Wilson, Utah
|Year||Games||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp %||TD||INT||Avg/G||Yards per Comp|
Note: For Wilson's 2012 stats, we used his first four starts.
The addition of Dennis Erickson as Utah’s offensive coordinator has made a huge difference for Wilson. In his first four starts last season, Wilson had a solid completion percentage (66.9%) but threw five picks and was averaging just 10.1 yards per completion. Wilson has been a different quarterback this year and ranks third in the Pac-12 in total offense per game (342.3). The sophomore also has five rushing scores and averages eight yards per carry. Utah missed out on a bowl last year but should return to the postseason, largely due to the emergence of Wilson in 2013.
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The shortest season in major sports moves into its second month, and there’s still a ton to learn.
The ACC has two frontrunners in Florida State and Clemson, but neither have been able to get out of their own way in the past. The best of the two could be decided later this month, but a big win for either team will mean little if the Boston Colleges, NC States and Wake Forests of the world continue to be stumbling blocks.
The consensus is that Oregon and Stanford are the one-two punch in the Pac-12. Washington and UCLA will learn if there is room for any other teams among the league’s elite. Either that, or the Huskies and Bruins will find they’re not ready for the national spotlight.
And then there’s the offense-centric SEC, where Ole Miss’ daunting schedule continues into October and Florida tries to move on without two key players.
September was great, but October is when the weather cools and the first BCS standings are released. Here’s a guide to your appointment viewing for the next four weeks.
October’s Top 10 College Football Games
1. Oct. 19 Florida State at Clemson
The ACC Atlantic race and likely the ACC’s only hope of producing a national championship contender hinges on two things: This game in Death Valley and the ability of both teams to avoid their traditional stumble against a league also-ran. Florida State fell behind Boston College by two touchdowns in the second quarter before surging to a 14-point win, and Clemson won ugly in a Thursday night game against NC State two weeks ago. With the way quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston are playing, this also could be a game to determine postseason hardware. One thing to watch: Maryland could be a spoiler this month, facing Florida State this week and Clemson in College Park on Oct. 26.
2. Oct. 5 Washington at Stanford
The Huskies handed Stanford one of its two losses last season by defeating the Cardinal 17-13. That was before Kevin Hogan took over as starting quarterback for Stanford and before Washington found solid ground offense. The Huskies’ offense is much improved from last season, particularly along the line. Keith Price has been sacked only three times in four games (Washington allowed 38 sacks last season). And Bishop Sankey leads the Pac-12 in rushing. The Stanford defense, though, is just as physical and punishing as ever.
3. Oct. 12 Oregon at Washington
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will earn his pay this month. In the second leg in critical two weeks for Washington, The Huskies go from facing a methodical Stanford team to the track meet that is the Oregon offense. As for Oregon, this will be their stiffest test to date this season.
4. Oct. 19 UCLA at Stanford
After Washington, Pac-12 South contender UCLA will take its turn facing the Pac-12 North tandem. Stanford took both meetings last season, defeating the Bruins 35-17 in Pasadena and then 27-24 the following week in the Pac-12 title game. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had two of his three worst games in terms of passing efficiency last season against the Cardinal, so he may need to be the difference.
5. Oct. 26 UCLA at Oregon
This is Round Two in UCLA’s road swing from Mordor. Like Washington, UCLA faces Stanford then Oregon. The Bruins have lost four in a row to Oregon as the series returns to Eugene for the fourth time in five meetings (the last was a 49-31 loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game at Autzen Stadium). If the Heisman is going to come from the Pac-12, this could be the key game as Hundley faces Marcus Mariota for the matchup of the best dual-threat quarterbacks West of College Station.
6. Oct. 5 Ohio State at Northwestern
The biggest game in Evanston since at least when Pat Fitzgerald was on the field as a player instead of a coach. The Wildcats will hope Venric Mark is healthy, adding him to an offense that’s been dynamic without him for the first month of the season. With Mark, the Wildcats have the versatile playmakers and dual-threat quarterbacks who have given the Buckeyes trouble during their 17-game win streak.
7. Oct. 18 UCF at Louisville (Friday)
Louisville is cruising and the American Athletic Conference has given the Cardinals little reason to be intimidated by their upcoming schedule — three AAC teams are 0-4, and one has fired its coach. UCF, though, is the exception, The Golden Knights went toe-to-toe with South Carolina last week as the Gamecocks’ needed 28 consecutive points in the second half to put the Knights away. After Blake Bortles passed for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Gamecocks, he showed he might be ready to take on the Cards.
8. Oct. 12 Texas A&M at Ole Miss
The Rebels perhaps showed they weren’t ready to take on the SEC’s elite after losing 25-0 to Alabama, but the brutal schedule continues into October. This will be the first game in Oxford since the Rebels faced Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 7. Will the Grove be preparing for a triumphant 4-1 team or an Ole Miss team riding a two-game losing streak after the road trip to Auburn?
9. Oct. 12 Florida at LSU
Even in this new-look SEC where offense reigns, Florida remains built on tough, physical defense and an offense that prefers to control the clock. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his impressive group of receivers were able to pick up points against Georgia, but Florida may have the best pass defense in the league. For the Gators, they’ll find out quickly if injuries to Jeff Driskel and Dominique Easley have eliminated them from SEC contention.
10. Oct. 5 Georgia Tech at Miami
The ACC Coastal has had a quietly eventful two weeks with Georgia Tech defeating North Carolina and Virginia Tech taking out the Yellow Jackets less than a week later. Miami will try to notch its first major win in the division race when it hosts Georgia Tech — which could go from division frontrunner to 2-2 in a span of two weeks.
Other games to watch
Oct. 5 Maryland at Florida State
Oct. 5 Arizona State vs. Notre Dame (in Dallas)
Oct. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)
Oct. 12 Michigan at Penn State
Oct. 19 LSU at Ole Miss
Oct. 26 Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Oct. 26 Clemson at Maryland