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Usually when you pull off a huge slam dunk, you don't expect the hoop to come back and turn the tables on you. This time it did.
It is Week 9, the fifth week of bye weeks, and some big names go on vacation this weekend. You need to find someone on the waiver wire to step in and hold down the fort for a week, or maybe more in some cases.
WEEK 9 BYES: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota
Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford are the only viable fantasy quarterbacks on bye this week. This is the week of desperation at the quarterback position. If you are looking for just enough points to get by, to be respectable at the position, perhaps max out at about 15 points then this is the list for you.
Curtis Painter, Indianapolis
Atlanta allows the 11th most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and there’s no reason to think the Colts won’t be trailing the Falcons in their game this week. Painter scored 15.9 fantasy points after throwing for 250 yards and two picks against the Titans on Sunday. He has scored at least 15.9 points in three of his five starts.
Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee
The Titans play host to a Bengals team that is fifth best against fantasy quarterbacks. But this is how you have to look at the Titans after Sunday’s game against Indianapolis: Throwing is the only way they are going to have success. If the ground game couldn’t get going against the porous Colts run defense then when is it going to get going. Javon Ringer and Chris Johnson are good receiving options out of the backfield (read: easy points for Hasselbeck) and the receiving corps and Jared Cook are solid enough to help you out for a week. Hasselbeck has had his worst two outings of the year in back-to-back weeks, scoring 6 and 12 against Pittsburgh and Indy.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
Tennessee is 14th worst against fantasy quarterbacks. The Titans have allowed at least 15 points per game to the position in every game since Week 3. Cedric Benson will be back from his suspension and the Titans have not been that great against the run in recent weeks. While Tennessee looks to shut down Benson, Dalton will be getting you the 15-plus points you need.
Colt McCoy, Cleveland
If you are really desperate to find a QB this week, then McCoy is your man. He continues to put the ball in the air, although he doesn’t get much for it. He has scored at least 13 fantasy points in all but one start (Seattle). This week, the Browns travel to play a Houston team that is fourth best against quarterbacks, allowing the 13 points per game that McCoy is good for.
Carson Palmer, Oakland
OK, the debut was terrible. But he was on a couch watching the NFL seven days prior and the next Sunday Palmer was the QB for the Raiders. He had a bye week to try and get acclimated to the playbook and with the numerous weapons he will have at his disposal. Now the Raiders return to play Denver, the 32nd ranked team against fantasy quarterbacks, in the Black Hole. Palmer is still available in 73 percent of Yahoo leagues.
WEEK 9 BYES: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota
Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew are the only backs of note that are on byes this week. The rest of the waiver wire will be the players that have emerged lately via injury or opportunity.
Javon Ringer, Tennessee
He split carries with Chris Johnson against Indianapolis and got more production then the $53 million man. Ringer seems to have more room to run when the ball is in his hands, whereas the line of scrimmage completely collapses when CJ gets his hands on the ball. But if they are going to be splitting carries for a team that is built to run (not built well), then Ringer is the one to have instead of CJ.
Reggie Bush, Miami
He just ran for 103 yards on 15 carries and added four catches for 17 yards against the hosting Giants. Now the Dolphins travel to Kansas City, which is a bottom 10 fantasy defense against running backs. If Daniel Thomas (hamstring) is out again, then Bush gets the workload again. Bush is as frustrating as they come, but the Chiefs are also bottom 10 against receivers. So there is the opportunity for the Dolphins to keep up in Kansas City.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis
This is a complete flier. Brown scored against Tennessee on Sunday as a goal line back on 4-yard TD run. If Joseph Addai (hamstring) is still bothered by the injury, then Brown gets to continue the split with rookie Delone Carter. There is also the fact that the Colts are playing an Atlanta team coming off its bye; and teams coming off the bye this season are playing poor football, particularly against the run.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland
The Browns draw the No. 3 team against fantasy running backs this week in Houston, so again, this is another flier. If Peyton Hillis (hamstring) is out again and Montario Hardesty (calf) is hampered by his injury then Ogbonnaya is next man up. You’d have to be desperate, but he did score 8.6 points against San Francisco’s No. 1 rush defense on Sunday. He carried 11 times for 37 yards and caught four balls for 16 yards.
WEEK 9 BYES: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota
It’s a light week for losing receivers. So you should be pretty good with what you have already. Gone this week are Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
He was spectacular on Sunday, catching nine balls for 67 yards and a score. And if you have return yards in your league, he gave you 93 of those. He is a trusted receiver for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, so say the 15 targets against the Patriots. And he will certainly be called upon this week as the Steelers try to avenge the Week 1 loss to Baltimore.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh
Sanders did a fine job as a flex play against the Patriots. He was targeted eight times, catching five balls for 70 yards. Monitor Hines Ward’s (ankle) health this week as Sanders is not as viable with the veteran in the lineup. But like Brown, Sanders will probably be looked at often to help the Steelers try and upend the Ravens this week.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Still just a deep threat, but when the pass is on he is one helluva deep threat. The rookie caught three balls for 57 yards on nine targets, including the deep pass that setup the Ravens’ game-winning field goal. If you are content with playing the big-play guy and hoping he produces, Smith is a really, really poor man’s DeSean Jackson or Mike Wallace.
Dezmon Briscoe, Tampa Bay
Briscoe had 10 targets, catching six for 73 and a score against the Bears in London. The Bucs spread it around too much to depend on a single receiver, but Briscoe was an emerging talent in the preseason and pushing for the No. 2 spot at the start of the year. The Bucs get New Orleans, Houston and Green Bay as the first three games off last week’s bye. Those are three games I expect them to be out of early, increasing the chances Briscoe could produce in fantasy garbage time. He is available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu, Seattle
Baldwin went 5-for-73 and bounced back from a zero-point effort against Cleveland to score 9.8 against Cincinnati. Obomanu caught four balls for 107 yards against the Bengals. Now the Seahawks get a Dallas team that was just blown out of the water and are a bottom 10 fantasy defense against receivers. If you are really struggling, look to pick up one of these two. But I just find it hard to trust any Seahawk right now.
Damian Williams, Tennessee
He was tied for second on the team with five targets against the Colts. He caught four of them for 60 yards. As I said earlier, the Titans are going to have to rely on the pass and Williams is the No. 2 option behind Nate Washington. He is inconsistent, but he has had 20 targets, 11 catches for 131 yards and a score the last three games. Tennessee plays a top 10 fantasy defense against receivers when the Bengals come to town this week, but Williams could be a good option in deep leagues.
Austin Collie, Indianapolis
He caught five balls for 44 yards. In a full-PPR league that’s a 9.4-point day. The Colts came out firing quick passes and if they continue to do the same, Collie could help you out as a PPR threat only.
Steve Breaston, Kansas City
He had scored at least 8.9 fantasy points in the last three games leading up to Monday night’s San Diego game. Breaston and the Chiefs will play host to Miami this week, the eighth worst fantasy defense against receivers. The Dolphins allowed three Giants receivers to combine for 19 catches 229 yards and two scores.
Early Doucet, Arizona
His double-digit scoring streak stopped at two weeks, but he did score nine fantasy points against Baltimore thanks to a TD on two catches for 20 yards. The Cardinals get the Rams next, 29th against fantasy receivers.
Greg Salas, St. Louis
He is still just a full-PPR threat only, but five catches for 47 yards against the Saints was good for 9.7 points. I’d take that from a flex as crazy as this season’s been. Now the Rams travel to play an Arizona team that is 28th against fantasy receivers.
WEEK 9 BYES: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota
Another position where the bye doesn’t really kill you. Gone are Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Brandon Pettigrew and Visanthe Shiancoe. These are neither pillars of the position nor models of consistency.
Brent Celek, Philadelphia
Is he finally going to be relevant again? If so, he picked a great time to re-emerge. After a 7-94-1 line against Dallas on Sunday, Celek and the Eagles draw a Bears team that is the worst in the league against the tight end position. Chicago has allowed 14 catches for 108 yards and a score to the position in just the last two weeks.
Jake Ballard, New York Giants
He had seven targets against Miami, catching four of them for 55 yards. This was the first time in a month he hasn’t posted double-digit fantasy numbers. The Giants travel to New England this week and the Patriots have allowed double-digit days to Jason Witten and Heath Miller in the last two games.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
The Steelers threw all over the Patriots on Sunday, and Miller was a big beneficiary. He caught seven balls for 85 yards and posted back-to-back double-digit weeks for the first time this season. If Hines Ward is still out, then Miller becomes more of a target. So monitor Ward’s health this week before moving in on Miller. Plus, the Steelers this week draw the Ravens, No. 1 against fantasy tight ends. The Ravens have allowed no scores and no more than three catches to the position this season.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo
Is he back? Remember this no-name when he caught four touchdowns on nine catches and 12 targets in the first three games? Well, he was back against Washington, scoring two times on two catches and two targets. He’s had just six targets in the last four games, catching all six for 44 yards and Sunday’s two scores. But you might want to hold off this week for two reasons: 1.) You can’t count on his consistency. 2.) The Bills play a Jets team that has surrendered just one TD this season and that came to Antonio Gates.
Ed Dickson, Baltimore
He went 6-for-46 against Arizona on Sunday and now gets a Steelers team that is middle of the road against fantasy tight ends. It’s hard to tell what Ravens offense you are going to get from one week to another, but if you are really struggling at filling the position this week, then you could do worse than Dickson. Keep in mind also, Dennis Pitta is in the mix at the TE position. He caught six balls for 44 yards against the Cardinals, his most productive day of the season in the Ravens’ comeback win.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Clemson (8-1) – Despite suffering their first defeat of 2011, the Tigers hold onto the top spot in the power rankings. Taking the whole season into account, Clemson is still the No. 1 team in the ACC. The Tigers were unable to get their high-powered offense on track in the loss to Georgia Tech, scoring a season-low 17 points and turning the ball over four times. Clemson controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic race, but the Nov. 12 showdown against Wake Forest looms large. Should the Tigers win that game, they will win the division title and clinch a spot in the conference championship game.
2. Virginia Tech (8-1) – Saturday’s 14-10 victory over Duke won’t win any style points, but the Hokies moved one step closer to winning the ACC Coastal. Quarterback Logan Thomas threw for only 191 yards and one score, but the offense got another big effort from running back David Wilson with 148 yards on 23 carries. The defense has been hit hard by injuries, but registered one sack and forced four turnovers. The Hokies are off next Saturday, and their next game will be a big one – at Georgia Tech.
3. Georgia Tech (7-2) – Thanks to Saturday’s 31-17 upset win over Clemson, the Yellow Jackets are back in the ACC Coastal race. Georgia Tech’s offense was among the best in college football through the first six weeks of the season, but sputtered in losses over Virginia and Miami. However, the offense got back on track against the Tigers, getting 176 rushing yards from quarterback Tevin Washington. Running backs Orwin Smith and David Sims also pitched in, combining for 105 yards and three touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets are off this Saturday and return to action on Nov. 10 against Virginia Tech.
4. Florida State (5-3) – Clemson’s loss to Georgia Tech helps to keep the Seminoles’ slim ACC title hopes alive, but that’s not the biggest story in Tallahassee. Florida State is riding a three-game winning streak and none of those matchups have been close. The Seminoles earned their second shutout of the year in Saturday’s 34-0 win over NC State. Quarterback EJ Manuel has been on fire since his return from a shoulder injury, tossing 25 completions for 321 yards and two scores against the Wolfpack. The Seminoles have a short week of rest, as they travel to Boston College for a Thursday night matchup.
5. Miami (4-4) – One step forward, one step back. That’s been the motto for the Hurricanes this year. After posting wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Miami appeared ready turn a corner under first-year coach Al Golden. However, the Hurricanes were upset by Virginia 28-21 on Thursday night, moving their record to 4-4. Miami faces Duke this Saturday, before traveling to Florida State on Nov. 12.
6. North Carolina (6-3) – After all of the offseason turmoil surrounding this team, it’s time to give a little credit to interim coach Everett Withers. The Tar Heels beat Wake Forest 49-24 on Saturday to get bowl eligible, and have a shot to finish the year with eight or nine wins. A big test awaits Withers and North Carolina this Saturday, as it faces in-state rival NC State. The Tar Heels have lost their last four matchups to the Wolfpack and have not won in Raleigh since 2005.
7. Wake Forest (5-3) – After a 4-1 start, the Demon Deacons have been sliding down the power rankings over the last three weeks. Wake Forest has lost two out of its last three games and posted only a 24-23 win over Duke on Oct. 22. Running back Josh Harris made his return from a hamstring injury on Saturday, but mustered only nine yards on three carries. The Demon Deacons need Harris back at 100 percent to have a shot at knocking off Clemson for the ACC Atlantic crown. Wake Forest hosts Notre Dame this Saturday, before traveling to Death Valley to take on Clemson on Nov. 12.
8. Virginia (5-3) – One of the most surprising scores from the ACC in Week 9 was the Cavaliers’ 28-21 upset win over Miami. Considering Virginia was coming off a loss to NC State, and Miami had won two in a row, not many expected the Cavaliers to win on the road. Quarterback Michael Rocco was efficient, completing 11 of 20 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while the rushing attack was led by Kevin Parks and Perry Jones for 152 yards. Virginia needs one win to get bowl eligible and it should come in the next two weeks, as it plays Maryland and Duke.
9. NC State (4-4) – The Wolfpack had their two-game winning streak snapped at Florida State on Saturday. NC State’s offense posted a season-low 166 total yards and was shut out for the first time since Nov. 24, 2007. The Wolfpack need to win three out of their last four to get bowl eligible, and the road is favorable with North Carolina, Boston College and Maryland remaining. NC State has owned the Tar Heels under coach Tom O’Brien, winning the last four matchups in the series.
10. Duke (3-5) – The Blue Devils suffered another tough defeat, losing 14-10 to Virginia Tech on Saturday. Three of Duke’s losses have come by four points or less, which will likely cost it a shot at a bowl game this year. Developing a rushing attack has been a problem for years in Durham, and the Blue Devils rank last in the ACC with only 100 yards a game. Coach David Cutcliffe has this team closer to contending in the conference, but Duke is still likely to miss the postseason once again.
11. Boston College (2-6) – It took eight games, but the Eagles finally have a win over a FBS school. Boston College surprisingly handled Maryland on Saturday, easily winning 28-17. Quarterback Chase Rettig threw for only 32 yards, but the rushing attack carried the day for the Eagles. Rolandan Finch rushed for 237 yards and two scores, while Andre Williams chipped in 72 and a touchdown on 16 attempts. The win came at a good time for the Eagles, as they host a red-hot Florida State team on Thursday. Boston College can still get to a bowl, but it will need to win its final four games – Florida State, NC State, at Notre Dame and at Miami. Needless to say, it won't be easy.
12. Maryland (2-6) – Even with the coaching change, there wasn’t expected to be a huge drop-off with the Terrapins this year. However, not much has gone right for Maryland this year, and things got even uglier with Saturday’s 28-17 loss to Boston College. The Terrapins were gashed for 366 yards on the ground, while neither quarterback (Danny O’Brien or C.J. Brown) managed to get the offense on track. Barring a four-game winning streak to close out the year, the Terrapins won’t make a bowl game. Coach Randy Edsall has been getting a lot of criticism for the 2-6 start, but it’s way too early to suggest this was a bad hire by Maryland.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With nine weeks in the book, it's time to take a look at how teams project to the postseason. There's going to be a lot of changes over the next couple of weeks, especially as teams battle just to get to six wins.
|New Mexico||Dec. 17||MWC vs. Pac-12||Wyoming vs. Pittsburgh*|
|Idaho Potato||Dec. 17||MAC vs. MWC||Ohio vs. Fresno State|
|New Orleans||Dec. 17||C-USA vs. Sun Belt||UL Lafayette vs. Marshall|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 20||Big East vs. C-USA||UCF vs. Syracuse|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 21||MWC vs. WAC||Nevada vs. San Diego State|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 22||MWC vs. Pac-12||TCU vs. UCLA|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. WAC||Hawaii vs. Southern Miss|
|Independence||Dec. 26||ACC vs. MWC||Air Force vs. Wake Forest|
|Little Caesars||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs. MAC||Toledo vs. Illinois|
|Belk||Dec. 27||ACC vs. Big East||Cincinnati vs. North Carolina|
|Military||Dec. 28||ACC vs. Navy||Navy vs. Virginia|
|Holiday||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Baylor vs. Arizona State|
|Champs Sports||Dec. 29||ACC vs. Big East||Notre Dame vs. Florida State|
|Alamo||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas A&M vs. Washington|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||BYU vs. C-USA||BYU vs. Tulsa|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Big East||Rutgers vs. Missouri|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Miami vs. Mississippi State|
|Insight||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Texas vs. Penn State|
|Car Care||Dec. 31||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Texas Tech vs. Ohio State|
|Sun||Dec. 31||ACC vs. Pac-12||Georgia Tech vs. California|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||C-USA vs. SEC||Houston vs. Tennessee|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 31||Army vs. Pac-12||Utah vs. South Florida*|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Virginia Tech vs. Auburn|
|TicketCity||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. C-USA||SMU vs. Iowa|
|Outback||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||South Carolina vs. Michigan State|
|Capital One||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||Georgia vs. Michigan|
|Gator||Jan. 2||Big Ten vs. SEC||Florida vs. Wisconsin|
|Rose||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Nebraska vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Oklahoma vs. Oregon|
|Sugar||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||LSU vs. Boise State|
|Orange||Jan. 4||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. West Virginia|
|Cotton||Jan. 6||Big 12 vs. SEC||Arkansas vs. Kansas State|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 7||Big East vs. SEC||Vanderbilt vs. Louisville|
|GoDaddy.com||Jan. 8||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois|
|National Title||Jan. 9||BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2||Alabama vs. Oklahoma State|
* Current standings and projections indicate some conferences may fail to fulfill their tie-ins for 2011.
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) – The recipe for success against Michigan State was simple: Establish the ground game, don't ask Taylor Martinez to do to much and rattle Kirk Cousins. Nebraska rushed for 190 yards, Martinez needed only 13 pass attempts and Cousins played flustered all game long in the Huskers' 24-3 win over Sparty. Rex Burkhead (who should be on more Heisman ballots) was the star of the offense with 36 touches for 157 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, while the Blackshirts defense made life miserable for Cousins. The Michigan State quarterback threw an INT on MSU's first drive and connected on only four of his first 16 attempts. Cousins finished 11-of-27 for only 86 yards and was lucky to toss only the one pick. Nebraska held Michigan State to 3-of-14 on third down, and controlled the clock with 80- and 89-yard third quarter scoring drives. Nebraska is now in full control of the Legends Division and is 6-0 against Sparty all-time. Northwestern comes to town this weekend.
2. Michigan State (6-2, 3-1) – "What a difference a week makes," Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio told the AP after Saturday's 24-3 loss to Nebraska. With the Legends Division championship essentially on the line, the Spartans played uninspired football. Quarterback Kirk Cousins once again played poorly on the road (86 yards, 0 TD, INT), the offensive line couldn't create running lanes (30 att., 101 yards, 3.4 ypc) and the receivers were not getting open. After beating Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Spartans couldn't win arguably the most important game of the month and will now need Nebraska to lose if they expect to get to Indianapolis in December. Things get easier for Michigan State, however, as the Spartans get Minnesota at home this weekend with Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern still left on the schedule.
3. Wisconsin (6-2, 2-2) – Pick your poison, Badgers fans: bad luck or miscommunication? A week after a lucky Hail Mary beat them with no time left on the clock, Wisconsin fell to Ohio State on another 40-yard touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds. Freshman Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith in the end zone with 20 seconds on the clock to beat UW 33-29. The Badgers, as is customary in the Horseshoe, could not run the football with any success and instead turned to Russell Wilson. The talented quarterback led Big Red to three touchdowns in the final 19:23 of play to take a 29-26 lead with 1:18 left in the game. Miller made the biggest play of all, however, by evading tacklers, rolling right and heaving it to a wide-open Smith for the game-winner. Wisconsin gets Purdue at home this week as its Leaders title hopes have shrunk to a glimmer.
4. Michigan (7-1, 3-1) – This is what Maize and Blue fans expected when they hired Brady Hoke. The Wolverines dominated the Boilermakers 36-14 by handing the ball to a tailback 20 times and by playing great defense — something that hasn't happened at Michigan in years. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for a career-high 170 yards and scored twice to keep the Big Ten title hopes alive in Ann Arbor. The defense held Purdue to 89 yards rushing (106 yards below their average) and 3-of-13 on third downs. Michigan controlled the game with more than 36 minutes of possession and 339 yards rushing. Denard Robinson finished 9-of-14 for 170 yards and 63 yards rushing on 15 carries. Michigan now has back-to-back road trips against Iowa and Illinois before hosting Nebraska and Ohio State to finish.
5. Penn State (8-1, 5-0) – Who has the best record in the conference? Yup, the Penn State Nittany Lions. The only Big Ten team left unbeaten in conference play overcame poor weather, six fumbles and a game-tying field goal attempt to beat Illinois 10-7. After a Silas Redd touchdown run with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter, Illinois drove to Penn State's 25 yard-line. But a Derek Dimke 42-yard field goal plunked off the right upright as time expired, giving Joe Paterno an NCAA D-I all-time record 409th win. While Penn State owns the best record in the league at 5-0, the Nits have yet to play Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, so there is plenty of work left to be done.
6. Ohio State (5-3, 2-2) – The Ohio State University is still alive for a BCS bowl bid after an electrifying 33-29 win over the Badgers. Buckeyes fans watched true frosh quarterback Braxton Miller, with a little help from an inspired Boom Herron (33 att., 160 yards), come of age Saturday night. The talented youngster was impossible to tackle all night long, scoring twice on the ground to go with his 99 yards rushing. Yet, the biggest play he made all night involved his right arm. Miller, after Ohio State surrendered a 26-14 fourth-quarter lead in less than three minutes, slid right along the line of scrimmage past UW defenders before throwing across his body to a wide-open Devin Smith in the end zone with 20 seconds left on the clock. The 40-yard touchdown pass gave Ohio State the win — and kept OSU's Big Ten title hopes alive in the process. The Bucks tour the Hoosier State over the next two weeks with Indiana and Purdue as the next two before finishing with huge games against Penn State and that school up North.
7. Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – The Illini's 6-0 start feels like a decade ago. Illinois lost its third straight game this weekend when a Derek Dimke 42-yard field goal attempt struck the right upright with no time remaining in snowy Beaver Stadium. The defense has played solid football of late, but the offense has laid three eggs in a row. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 63 yards and led the team to 286 total yards of offense and 3.8 yards per carry on 50 attempts. Still, Illinois had its chances. Penn State needed a fourth-down pass interference penalty to score its only touchdown with 1:08 left, and Dimke missed the game-tying field goal by inches. Illinois fans, after four total touchdowns in three games, are left to wonder "what if" about 2011. Michigan and Wisconsin come to town next.
8. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) – Iowa had a chance to enter November as a co-leader atop the Legends Division but choked on apple sauce in Minneapolis. Iowa outgained Minnesota 446 to 371, picked up six more first downs, turned the ball over only once and won the time-of-possession battle but lost the only statistic that matters in the 22-21 loss. Marcus Coker had his best game since his breakout bowl performance, running for 252 yards on 32 carries. It was the Hawkeye defense that couldn't get the job done in crunch time as they watched MarQueis Gray's fourth-down two-yard sprint to the endzone win the game for Minnesota with 2:48 left in the game. Iowa is now one game behind the Michigan schools and Nebraska in the Legends standings with all three left on the schedule. The Wolverines come to Iowa City this weekend.
9. Northwestern (3-5, 1-4) – The Wildcats were one yard away from the rare 300-300 game in their 59-38 win over Indiana this weekend. With 317 yards rushing and 299 yards passing, Northwestern picked up its first Big Ten win of the season. Backup quarterback Kain Colter is developing into a quality receiving option for Dan Persa, catching six passes for 115 yards against the Hoosiers. However, tight end Drake Dunsmore, with his 112 receiving yards, was the star of the offense as four of his seven catches went for touchdowns. The Wildcats now visit Nebraska.
10. Purdue (4-4, 2-2) – The Boilermakers have alternated wins and losses every single week of the 2011 season. So after a 36-14 thumping at the hands of Michigan, conventional wisdom would point to a win for Danny Hope's bunch this weekend. A trip to Camp Randall to face what has to be the nation's most unlucky (and likely angriest) team puts the trend in jeopardy. Purdue allowed 339 yards rushing to Michigan and mustered only 89 yards on the ground. Expect more of the same this weekend.
11. Minnesota (2-6, 1-3) – Throw out the records when the Floyd of Rosedale is on the line. For the second straight year, Minnesota has upset the Iowa Hawkeyes in dramatic fashion. MarQueis Gray, who scored in last season's upset as a running back/wide receiver, led the way in the 22-21 win as the man under center this time. Gray completed 11-of-17 passes for 193 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions to go with 62 yards rushing and the game's winning touchdown run with less than three minutes to play. Jerry Kill has Mr. Gray to thank for his first Big Ten win of 2011.
12. Indiana (1-8, 0-5) – The good news in Bloomington is that Indiana scored a season-high 38 points on offense. The bad news in Bloomington is that it allowed a season-high 59 points to Northwestern. The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. Quarterback Tre Roberson is the lone bright spot, as the freshman rushed for 121 yards, threw for 169 yards and scored two touchdowns.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (8-0) – Let the countdown to Saturday begin. The Crimson Tide had a bye in Week 9 and will be rested and ready to go for Saturday’s matchup against LSU. The No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown is easily the most-anticipated game of 2011. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat for the SEC West title and a spot in the national championship game. Alabama has won two out of the last three against LSU, but lost last season’s matchup in Baton Rouge.
2. LSU (8-0) – As mentioned several times in the power rankings this season, there’s really no separation between Alabama and LSU. However, Saturday will finally provide some insight into both teams. The Tigers have steamrolled all of their opponents this season, with the smallest margin of victory being 13 points (Oregon and Mississippi State). LSU defeated Alabama 24-21 in last year’s matchup.
3. Arkansas (7-1) – The Razorbacks escaped Nashville with a hard-fought 31-28 win over Vanderbilt. Arkansas trailed 21-7 in the second quarter, but rallied behind the steady play of quarterback Tyler Wilson and a fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Jerry Franklin. Arkansas has won four in a row and its only loss this year was to Alabama on Sept. 24. The Razorbacks have a favorable stretch upcoming, as their next three games are at home, starting with Saturday’s matchup against South Carolina.
4. South Carolina (7-1) – Without running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks are going to have to win ugly the rest of the year. Saturday’s 14-3 victory over Tennessee is probably a sign of things to come. Freshman Brandon Wilds did an admirable job filling in for Lattimore, rushing for 137 yards on 28 attempts. South Carolina faces a key road test at Arkansas this Saturday. The Gamecocks still own the edge in the SEC East, but a loss to the Razorbacks would put Georgia in the driver’s seat.
5. Georgia (6-2) – Saturday’s 24-20 win over Florida was huge for Georgia’s SEC East title hopes. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start, but the defense stepped up in the second half, while aggressive play calling allowed the offense to score two touchdowns on fourth-down tries. Not only was the win a big one for the SEC East race, it’s huge for coach Mark Richt and should cool the talk of him being on the hot seat. The Bulldogs step out of conference for a matchup against New Mexico State this Saturday.
6. Auburn (6-3) – Thanks to Saturday’s 41-23 victory over Ole Miss, the Tigers are bowl eligible. Considering the personnel losses entering this year, winning seven or eight games is a good season for coach Gene Chizik. Running back Michael Dyer is just 11 yards short of reaching 1,000 for the year, while also recording three 100-yard games in SEC play. The Tigers are off this Saturday, before returning to action on Nov. 12 at Georgia.
7. Florida (4-4) – Will Muschamp is having a rough first season in Gainesville. The 24-20 loss to Georgia on Saturday was Florida’s fourth loss in a row. And the Gators have only two wins in SEC play entering November. Outside of the Nov. 19 date against Furman, there’s not a guaranteed victory on the schedule. A much-improved Vanderbilt team visits the Swamp this Saturday, before traveling to South Carolina and hosting Florida State in the regular season finale. The ankle injury to quarterback John Brantley was costly for the Gators, but they are also struggling to establish their rushing attack in SEC play.
8. Mississippi State (4-4) – The Bulldogs finally broke through in SEC play, winning 28-16 over Kentucky. Quarterback play has been a source of concern Mississippi State this season, and coach Dan Mullen tried out a new strategy against the Wildcats. Chris Relf and Tyler Russell alternated series and the result was a solid statistical outing – 15 of 21 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Mississippi State steps out of conference this Saturday, taking on FCS foe Tennessee-Martin in Starkville.
9. Tennessee (3-5) – True freshman quarterback Justin Worley was thrown into the fire and the results were predictable. The Volunteers struggled to move the ball on offense, while Worley completed only 10 of 26 throws for 105 yards and two interceptions. The rushing attack continued to struggle, managing only 35 yards on 21 attempts. Tennessee steps out of conference for a matchup against in-state foe MTSU this Saturday. The Volunteers still have bowl hopes, but need to win three out of their last four games.
10. Vanderbilt (4-4) – First-year coach James Franklin isn’t into moral victories, but the Commodores have made solid improvement this season. Vanderbilt outplayed Arkansas last Saturday, but fell short, losing 31-28 to drop its record to 4-4 this year. The Commodores have found a spark on offense recently, as quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy have played well over the last two games. Vanderbilt is in a good position to get to a bowl game in 2011, as it needs two victories and Kentucky and Tennessee are very winnable.
11. Ole Miss (2-6) – The pressure continues to build on coach Houston Nutt, as the Rebels lost 41-23 to Auburn for their third defeat in a row. Ole Miss’ defense has been a sore spot all season and has allowed at least 41 points in two out of its last three games. If the Rebels are going to win a game in SEC play, it has to happen this Saturday at Kentucky. Ole Miss still has bowl hopes, but winning four in a row to finish out 2011 is very unlikely.
12. Kentucky (3-5) – The Wildcats continued to struggle in SEC play, suffering a 28-16 defeat to Mississippi State on Saturday. However, the news wasn’t all bad coming out of the loss. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith jumpstarted the offense in the second half, completing 26 of 33 throws for 174 yards. Although Smith performed well, the Wildcats still have a lot of offensive issues going into this week’s game against Ole Miss. If Kentucky doesn’t beat the Rebels in Lexington this Saturday, a victory in conference play appears unlikely.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Philly improved its record to 13–0 following a bye week under coach Andy Reid, with a 34–7 statement win over NFC East rival Dallas under the lights on Sunday night. “Shady” led the way, with 30 carries for a career-high 185 yards and two trips to the end zone. The Eagles outgained the Boys 495-to-267 yards, won the time of possession battle 42:09-to-17:51, snapped a five-game losing streak at Lincoln Financial Field and shut up Big D coordinator Rob Ryan — who previously called the team “all-hype” before admitting he was “outcoached” by Reid following the lopsided loss.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
After watching the hometown Cardinals win the World Series on Friday night, the Rams — who wore vintage 1999 throwback jerseys from the “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl days — went out and earned their first win of the year, an improbable 31–21 upset over the Saints Sunday afternoon. Jackson had 25 carries for 159 yards and two TDs, his first 150-plus yard effort and multi-TD game since 2008. With his 28th career 100-yard effort, Jackson passed Marshall Faulk for second in franchise history and now trails only Eric Dickerson (38).
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
A rookie quarterback shootout between the Vikings’ Christian Ponder and Panthers’ Cam Newton quickly became the A.P. show. Peterson bulldozed his way to 162 yards from scrimmage and two TDs — with 21 carries for 86 yards and a 9-yard score on the ground, as well as five catches for 76 yards and a 19-yard TD through the air — during a 24–21 win at Carolina. The NFL’s leading rusher and highest paid runner, Peterson has 798 yards and nine TDs through eight games so far this season.
Cliff Avril, DE, Lions
Tim Tebow was thrown to the Lions on Sunday and it wasn’t pretty. Detroit ended its two-game losing streak with a 45–10 blowout at Denver, in a game that featured several highlights — including Chris Houston’s 100-yard pick-six and Stephen Tulloch’s “Tebowing” celebration after sacking the Broncos quarterback. But Avril had perhaps the best overall game, recording two of the Lions’ seven sacks of Tebow, along with two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery returned 24 yards for a TD. Detroit’s defense applied constant pressure to Tebow, who only converted 2-of-17 on third and fourth downs.
Case Keenum seems to be setting records on a weekly basis. Houston’s senior quarterback is in his sixth-year of eligibility and is lighting up Conference USA scoreboards each game. Against Marshall two weeks ago, Keenum became the FBS career leader in total offense when he broke former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s record. Last week against Rice, Keenum set the all-time FBS touchdown pass record at 139 – breaking former Texas Tech gunslinger Graham Harrell’s mark of 134. However, many observers around college football were shaking their heads that Keenum was still tossing touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of the blowout win over the Owls. In a 73-34 rout, Keenum threw nine touchdowns against a Rice defense that ranks 118th (out of 120) in the nation.
Keenum’s nine-TD night: record-setting or ‘running it up’?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Keenum might have been in the game a little longer than was necessary, but Houston's defense did give up 34 points and I can't blame coach Kevin Sumlin for wanting to make sure no comeback could have occurred. Also, since this is Keenum's final year and he had a chance to make headlines in the record book, Sumlin and his staff want to make sure the senior gets a shot to enjoy the final few games of his collegiate career. The Cougars easily could have run the ball, but this is the offense they use. Houston can't easily get into the I-formation and run out the clock. I don't like when any team runs up the score, but it is Rice's job to stop Houston. If the Owls are going to give up a 10-yard pass and let the Cougars run 40 yards for a score, then that's on the defense. Houston probably could have pulled Keenum at the end of three quarters, but Rice also needs to do a better job on defense and not allow the Cougars to score so easily.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It was definitely running up the score, especially throwing downfield that much after the game was decided. Case Keenum has had an amazing career, and it’s good to see him bounce back after last season’s painful injury. His stellar play and Houston’s undefeated record were enough to get national attention; beating up on poor Rice does not impress anyone. Unfortunately, this was the third game in a row where Keenum has thrown a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a blowout contest against a losing team. I lost a little respect at the end of the Rice game for Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, who must have been channeling his inner-John Jenkins from the David Klingler era. Most around college football did not notice or will forget quickly when Sumlin most likely moves on to a bigger BCS job after this season, but there was nothing to be gained with nine touchdown passes against defenseless Rice.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Probably a little bit of both. From a philosophical standpoint, I firmly believe in letting the game play out. If you, as a defensive player or coach, don't appreciate someone running up the score, then it's your responsibility to stop them. So I never fault anyone for trying to score points – especially not a player who has accounted for more yards and more touchdowns than any player in NCAA history. But Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars know they can't just win every game to reach a BCS bowl game, but they have to win big. So it is tough for me to blame them for looking to post big numbers every time out there.
Of course, it makes things a bit easier when you have a quarterback who is posting the biggest numbers in NCAA history.
by Matt Taliaferro
Prior to NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, Tony Stewart stated that his inclusion in the playoffs may simply be wasting a spot in lieu of another, more worthy contender. Three victories later, the two-time Cup champion finds himself in the thick of the title hunt after a win in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
“I felt like there were some things that were missing,” Stewart said of his No. 14 team’s regular season performance. “I think our Chase run here — obviously Dover (25th) was not what we were looking for — but every race since then, we have been a contender. The result hasn’t always shown at some of these races. But we’ve been pretty solid in this Chase.
“I don’t know what changed. The guy beside me (crew chief Darian Grubb) is the guy to ask that. He’s the guy that’s orchestrating it, organizing the people to do the job. It doesn’t matter what it is that’s changed — the good thing is that it has and it changed at the right time when we need it. That’s all you can ask for.”
Stewart, winless in the 26-race regular season, snuck into the Chase seeded ninth, but swept the first two races at Chicagoland and Dover. His victory in Martinsville was the 42nd of his Cup career, placing him 16th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, two ahead of Mark Martin and two shy of Bill Elliott in 15th.
Stewart had to beat Jimmie Johnson to get to Victory Lane — an uneasy task considering Johnson is a six-time Martinsville race-winner who had led the previous 60 laps.
Stewart lined up to Johnson’s outside on the front row on a restart with three laps remaining and was able to make the line work, nosing ahead of Johnson coming off Turn 2 and clearing him in Turns 3 and 4.
“When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner (Turn 1) and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four,”?Johnson said of the final restart. “I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what’s going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today (and) he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that (getting physical).”
Johnson finished one car length back in second. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5.
The most notable finish of the afternoon — aside from Stewart’s win — was points leader Carl Edwards’ ninth-place showing.
On two occasions Edwards fell off the lead lap, the victim of an ill-handling car. However, he was able to make up both laps thanks to well-timed cautions that allowed him to get back on the lead lap over the event’s final 100 circuits. The result was Edwards maintaining the Chase lead by eight over Stewart.
Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, who entered the event 14 and 18 points behind Edwards, had late-race spins while running in the top 10 that damaged their playoff hopes. Keselowski now sits 27 points back in fourth, while Kenseth’s title bid took a damaging hit, as he is now 36 markers off Edwards’ pace.
Harvick’s fourth-place run allowed him to gain five points on Edwards, vaulting him from fifth to third in the standings.
But Stewart, who started the afternoon 19 points shy of Edwards’ points lead, was the undisputed benefactor of what was a chaotic race. He dodged and weaved his way through 18 caution periods, and applied verbal pressure — as well as the physical heat the point standings now profess — to the ultra-consistent Edwards:
“Carl Edwards better be real worried,” Stewart said with a sly grin in Victory Lane. “That’s all I’ve got to say. He’s not going to sleep for the next three weeks.”
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Stanford (8-0, 6-0) – It took nine weeks and three overtimes, but Stanford has finally taken over the top slot in Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Power Rankings. The 56-48 triple-overtime win over USC in the Coliseum extended the Cardinal's winning streak to 16 games, as quarterback Andrew Luck put his Heisman resume on display. He directed four late scoring drives — the most important coming directly after a pick-six with three minutes left in the fourth that had appeared to give the Trojans the win. Luck led a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 34 with 38 seconds left in regulation. Stanford scored touchdowns in all three overtime periods. The Cardinal travel to Corvallis to play Oregon State this weekend before the November 12 showdown in Palo Alto against the Ducks.
2. Oregon (7-1, 5-0) – Darron Thomas and LaMichael James were back on the field for the game against Washington State this weekend. However, neither played a big role in the 43-28 win over the Cougars. Thomas (8/13, 156 yards, TD, 2 INT) and the Ducks struggled to a 15-10 halftime score before Chip Kelly inserted Bryan Bennett at quarterback. Oregon proceeded to outscore the Cougs 28-18 in the second half for its 21st straight home victory. James led the team in carries (13 att., 53 yards), but Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas did the most damage. The pair of backups accounted for 269 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in three different ways (rushing, receiving, kickoff return). Darron Thomas is still the starter and did not appear to have any limitations mobility-wise. Oregon has a tricky game at Washington this weekend before heading to Stanford in two weeks.
3. Arizona State (6-2, 4-1) – After a loss to Oregon and a bye week, Arizona State showed why it will be the Pac-12 South's representative in the conference's first title game. Showing excellent offensive balance, the Sun Devils kept Colorado winless in the Pac-12 by thumping the Buffs 48-14. Arizona State rushed for 207 yards and four scores on the ground while throwing for 315 yards and two scores through the air. ASU leads the league in turnover margin at +1.5 per game and gets four winnable opponents to finish 2011: at UCLA, at Washington State, Arizona and Cal.
4. USC (6-2, 3-2) – Lane Kiffin and the Trojans can carry their heads high after a valiant 56-48 triple-overtime loss to Stanford. A timely penalty against T.J. McDonald and four fumbles — the only one USC lost ended the game — cost the Men of the Troy the win. The offensive line and the ground game were excellent (23 att., 148 yards, 2 TD) while Matt Barkley exhibited leadership and poise (284 yards, 3 TD). This team is clearly very talented and has showed marked improvement over the course of the season, so Washington (Nov. 12) and Oregon (Nov. 19) need to be careful or the Trojans will have something to say about the Pac-12 title after all. Next up, however, is a trip to Boulder to play the Buffaloes on Friday night.
5. Washington (6-2, 4-1) – After a demoralizing loss to Stanford, the Huskies got back into the win column with a 42-31 home win over Arizona. Junior tailback Chris Polk was on full display and has further cemented his long-term legacy as one of the Huskies' best. He became the first player in Washington history with 100 yards rushing and receiving and scored five touchdowns (4 rush, 1 rec.). After falling behind 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, Washington outscored the Wildcats 42-21 behind 38 touches for Polk. Keith Price struggled a bit with three interceptions and completed only 53.3% of his passes, but his defense forced four timely turnovers to keep Arizona at bay in the second half. The Huskies get a second chance to prove themselves this weekend as the Oregon Ducks come to Seattle.
6. Utah (4-4, 1-4) – After a slow first 20 minutes of action, one of the Pac-12's newest members finally got a conference win. The Utes thoroughly controlled the line of scrimmage in a 27-8 win over Oregon State. Utah averaged over five yards per carry on 44 attempts (225 yards) while holding the Beavers to only 32 yards rushing on 26 attempts. John White IV was the star of the offense, carrying the ball 35 times for a career-high 205 yards. His 114.4 yards per game are good for third in the Pac-12. The Ute defense forced four turnovers and sacked Sean Mannion six times. Kyle Whittingham will look to keep momentum going as Utah travels to Arizona this weekend.
7. UCLA (4-4, 3-2) – Head coach Rick Neuheisel might have saved his job in the Coaching Hot Seat Bowl with Cal's Jeff Tedford. UCLA caused five turnovers and rushed for 294 yards to hand the not-so-Golden Bears a surprisingly one-sided 31-14 loss. Quarterback Kevin Prince rushed for 163 yards while Johnathan Franklin (13 att., 45 yards, TD) and Derrick Coleman (16 att., 80 yards, 3 TD) did all the scoring. Freshman safety Tevin McDonald was the star of the defense as he intercepted his first three passes of his career. The Bruins are back on track to make a bowl game with winnable games against Utah and Colorado looming after this weekend's home test against Arizona State. Neuheisel needs to be playing in the postseason if he expects to return to Westwood in 2012.
8. California (4-4, 1-4) – Cal lost for the fourth time in five games as it was overrun in the second quarter by UCLA. The Bruins scored 17 points in the second frame en route to their 31-14 win over the Bears. Quarterback Zach Maynard, who has been wildly inefficient this season, threw four interceptions and completed only 46.7% of his passes while star wideout Keenan Allen had his worst statistical game of the year (7 rec., 83 yards). Cal committed five turnovers, allowed three sacks and converted only 2-of-12 third-down opportunities. With home games against Washington State and Oregon State next up on the slate, Jeff Tedford's tenure as the headman in Berkeley could be hanging in the balance over the next 14 days.
9. Arizona (2-6, 1-5) – The story has been writtern before for Arizona. Nick Foles threw for over 375 yards for the sixth time this season but lost the game for the fifth time. Foles threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns (and three interceptions) in the 42-31 road loss to Washington. After allowing 489 yards to the Huskies (244 to Chris Polk), Arizona ranks last in the Pac-12 in total defense (467.3 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (34.8 ppg). Utah visits the desert this weekend.
10. Oregon State (2-6, 2-3) – The Beavers were completely dominated in the trenches in the 27-8 loss to Utah. Oregon State was held to 32 yards rushing and failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark of the fourth quarter. Utah exploded for 21 points over a seven minute span and OSU never recovered. Things might only get worse for Mike Riley as the Beavers finish with a brutal stretch against Stanford, at Cal, Washington and at Oregon.
11. Washington State (3-5, 1-4) – After an exciting 3-1 start to the season for Paul Wulff, the Cougars have now lost four straight games after a 43-28 loss at Oregon. Washington State turned to backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael once again as Jeff Tuel missed another game due to injury (this time a calf issue). The Cougars played valiant football in the first half, trailing 15-10 at halftime, but got out-talented in the second 28-18. Wazzu will attempt to snap its losing streak this weekend against Cal in Berkeley.
12. Colorado (1-8, 0-5) – Jon Embree's bunch is still searching for its first Pac-12 victory after a 48-14 beatdown at the hands of Arizona State. The Buffs have allowed at least 45 points in four straight games, and things won't get any easier this weekend against USC on Friday night. The final month of the season could offer some solace, however, as Colorado gets Arizona, UCLA and Utah — who are a combined 5-11 in conference — to finish 2011.
Here's a little perspective for all the Tim Tebow haters out there, John Elway included: In Elway's fifth career start, he was 4-of-10 passing for 36 yards and no touchdowns, and he threw a pick-six before being yanked in favor of Steve DeBerg in a 31–14 loss to the Bears. The game dropped Elway's record as a starter to 2–3, and at that point in his career, he was 38-of-83 passing (45.7 percent) for 420 yards (84 yards per game) and one — one! — touchdown. His highest passer rating in any of his first five games? 58.8. I guess the Broncos should have declared the Elway experiment to be a failure and moved on to their "Suck for Esiason" strategy.
Here's a side-by-side comparison between Tebow and the man who will decide his future in the league (over their first five career starts):
Tim Tebow John Elway
Starting Record 2–3 2–3
Att-Comp 75-157 (47.7%) 38-83 (45.7%)
Passing Yards 984 427
TD-INT 8-4 1-5
Rushing Yards 327 41
I'm not saying that Tim Tebow is going to evolve into a two-time Super Bowl-winning, Hall of Fame quarterback. What I am saying is that declaring Tebow to be an NFL bust, which seems to be the prevailing sentiment right now, is premature, and that Elway would do well to remember his own horrendous start when publicly assessing his current quarterback.
There's no point in sugarcoating Tebow's performance yesterday; he was awful against Detroit in a 45–10 loss, completing 18-of-39 passes for 172 yards, throwing a 100-yard pick-six to Chris Houston and losing a fumble that Cliff Avril returned 24 yards for a touchdown.
But this rush to judgment is ridiculous, particularly when you consider that Tebow's offensive line essentially put his life in danger, surrendering seven sacks to the Lions' ferocious offensive front.
Tebow is not the classic NFL prototype at the position that Elway was, and he may never be an effective pocket passer. But he brings attributes to the position that make him worth the risk, particularly for a team that's going nowhere and doesn't possess a better option.
It's hard to play NFL quarterback; there are fewer than 32 guys on the planet who can do it competently. I may be crazy, but given Timmy's intangibles, I think this experiment could still work. The relentlessly optimistic Tebow agrees with me: "I'm just going to get up early and go to work and try to get better tomorrow and consistently improve and be the best person-slash-quarterback for this organization," he said. "We'll bounce back and have a great week of practice and get ready to go try and get a win next week."
• Ben Roethlisberger out-Brady'd Tom Brady, completing 36-of-50 passes for 365 yards and two scores in Pittsburgh's 25–17 win over New England and its NFL-worst defense. Brady dropped to 6–2 all-time against a team he normally dominates.
• The Dream lives on. Philly kept hope alive with a 34–7 demolition of the Cowboys in a game that was over before halftime. LeSean McCoy had the sixth-best rushing performance in Eagles history (185 yards).
• Over in the AFC South, the Haves had their way with the Have-Nots. Tennessee toyed with the Colts, winning 27–10, while the Texans shut down the NFL's worst offense in a 24–14 win over Jacksonville. Houston (5–3) remains a half-game ahead of Tennessee (4–3) in what could become one of the better division races.
• Maybe it was the throwback unis. The Rams got their first win, and it was a shocker: 31–21 over the Saints. Steven Jackson got loose for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and A.J. Feeley — yep, A.J. Feeley — was the winning quarterback.
— by Rob Doster
Watching Tim Tebow is becoming a very enjoyable pastime on Sundays. His erratic play and unpolished style make for TV that you can't take your eyes away from. Much like a car accident, you're just waiting for Tebow to toss a pick-6 or scramble around in the pocket while he gets sacked. So, to make this TV even more fun to watch, here's a Tim Tebow Bingo game you can play the next time you see Tebow take the field for the Broncos.
We were thinking about making this a drinking game, but we figured that you'd probably be way too wasted after just the first quarter. But all you binge-drinker out there can feel free to modify this however you see fit.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma State (8-0) – The stakes are high for the Cowboys and so far, they continue to answer the bell. If Oklahoma State can win out, it will likely play in the national title game. The Cowboys took another step towards an undefeated season, defeating Baylor 59-24 last Saturday. Quarterback Brandon Weeden had another steady performance, throwing for 274 yards and three scores. The rushing attack also shined, getting 152 yards from Joseph Randle and 104 from freshman Herschel Sims. The Cowboys look to improve their record to 9-0 this Saturday, as 7-1 Kansas State travels to Stillwater.
2. Oklahoma (7-1) – Don’t count out the Sooners from the national title race just yet. Oklahoma demolished Kansas State 58-17 on Saturday, moving it back to No. 6 in the BCS standings. Quarterback Landry Jones thrashed the Wildcats’ secondary for 505 yards, while receiver Ryan Broyles posted 14 receptions for 171 yards and one touchdown. The news out of Saturday’s game wasn’t all positive. Running back Dominique Whaley was lost for the year due to an ankle injury, which means Roy Finch, Brandon Williams, and Brennan Clay will need to shoulder the workload in the Oklahoma backfield the rest of the year.
3. Kansas State (7-1) – The Wildcats’ national title hopes are finished, but a 7-1 record entering November is better than most expected. Kansas State was unable to keep its undefeated season alive, losing 58-17 to Oklahoma last Saturday. The Wildcats simply don’t have the athletes or passing attack to keep up with the Sooners right now. Kansas State is still in good shape to finish in the top three of the Big 12, but the schedule is going to be difficult over the next three weeks. The Wildcats are at Oklahoma State this week, then face Texas A&M and Texas.
4. Texas (5-2) – How’s this for a surprising stat: Texas’ win over Kansas on Saturday was its first home Big 12 win since Nov. 21, 2009. The Longhorns easily dispatched the Jayhawks with a powerful rushing attack, getting 136 yards from Joe Bergeron and 119 from Malcolm Brown. Quarterback David Ash turned in an efficient performance, throwing for 145 yards on 14 completions. The Longhorns need just one win to get bowl eligible and that victory could come on Saturday against Texas Tech.
5. Texas A&M (5-3) – The Aggies had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 38-31 overtime loss to Missouri. Texas A&M’s offense had no trouble moving the ball against the Tigers, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill passing for 317 yards, while running back Christine Michael totaled 104 on the ground. However, the Aggies had three turnovers and struggled to contain Missouri quarterback James Franklin. Any outside hopes Texas A&M had of earning an at-large appearance in the BCS went out the window with the loss to the Tigers, and the schedule won’t get any easier this Saturday with a road trip to Oklahoma.
6. Missouri (4-4) – The Tigers evened their record at 4-4 with a big win in overtime against Texas A&M. Missouri quarterback James Franklin bounced back after a disappointing performance in Week 8, totaling 295 yards and four touchdowns against the Aggies. Although the Tigers have four losses, there’s really no shame in any of their defeats. Missouri’s defeats have come at the hands of Arizona State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Tigers return to Texas this Saturday, as they travel to Waco to take on Baylor.
7. Texas Tech (5-3) – Flat. That’s really the only way to describe the Red Raiders’ performance on Saturday night. After beating Oklahoma last week, it’s pretty clear Texas Tech did not have the same energy level against Iowa State and the results showed. The Red Raiders lost 41-7, and quarterback Seth Doege turned in his worst performance of the year with only 171 passing yards. Texas Tech looks to get back on track against Texas this Saturday. The Red Raiders still need one win to get bowl eligible and the road to getting another victory won’t be easy with Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining on the schedule.
8. Baylor (4-3) – The Bears have been sliding down the power rankings over the last few weeks. Baylor has lost three out of its last four games, including a 59-24 defeat to Oklahoma State last Saturday. The Bears moved the ball throughout the first half, but were unable to convert those opportunities into points. Quarterback Robert Griffin’s Heisman hopes have taken a hit with the losses, but the junior hasn’t been the problem. The Bears are struggling on defense, allowing 36.4 points a game and ranking 108th nationally in total defense. Baylor looks to get back into the win column this Saturday against Missouri.
9. Iowa State (4-4) – The Cyclones posted their first Big 12 victory of 2011, ambushing Texas Tech 41-7 in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were coming off a big win against Oklahoma, so there was certainly a letdown effect involved. However, Iowa State was impressive, getting key performances from quarterback Jared Barnett and running back James White. The Cyclones have won back-to-back games against Texas Tech by a combined score of 93 to 45. Iowa State should have a chance to win its second conference game of the season, as it hosts Kansas this Saturday.
10. Kansas (2-6) – Not much has gone right for the Jayhawks over the last few weeks, and they may have hit rock bottom in Saturday’s 43-0 loss to Texas. Kansas’ offense was atrocious, managing only three first downs and 46 total yards. Although it’s unfair to judge to coach Turner Gill after one-plus season, the losses are taking a toll on the fanbase. Unless the Jayhawks pull off an upset, they appear headed for a 2-10 finish and without a victory in Big 12 play.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Cincinnati (6-1) – The Bearcats remain atop the Big East power rankings for the second week in a row. Cincinnati is the only team without a loss in conference play, but return after its bye week for a tough trip to Pittsburgh. The Bearcats are catching the Panthers at a good time, as starting running back Ray Graham was lost for the year with a knee injury in last week's game against Connecticut. Starting with Saturday’s game, the Bearcats are about to embark on a difficult four-game stretch, which also includes matchups against West Virginia, Rutgers and Syracuse. Can Cincinnati maintain its lead and win the Big East title? This conference has been full of ups and downs this year, so the Bearcats can't feel too comfortable with five games remaining.
2. West Virginia (6-2) – The conditions weren’t exactly ideal for the Mountaineers’ pass-first offense, but they found a way to pull out the victory, extending their winning streak over Rutgers to 17 in a row. Quarterback Geno Smith passed for only 219 yards and two touchdowns, but West Virginia’s rushing attack helped pickup the slack on offense, led by 110 yards from Shawne Alston. The Mountaineers also took advantage of three turnovers by the Scarlet Knights, while the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. West Virginia controls its destiny in the Big East race and faces an improving Louisville team this Saturday.
3. Rutgers (5-3) – After a 5-1 start, the Scarlet Knights have taken a step back in the Big East race, losing their last two games. Rutgers led 31-21 at the half over West Virginia, but was unable to hold onto the lead and lost 41-31. The loss continues a recent string of misery in this series for the Scarlet Knights, as they have lost 17 in a row to the Mountaineers. One positive in the loss was the rushing attack, which got 96 yards and two touchdowns from Jawan Jamison. Rutgers hosts South Florida this Saturday, which is a must win if it wants to stay alive in the Big East race.
4. Pittsburgh (4-4) – A 35-20 win over Connecticut on Wednesday night moved the Panthers back to .500 this year. However, the win had a heavy price. Running back Ray Graham suffered a knee injury and is lost for the year. With Graham out, Pittsburgh will have to lean more on running back Zach Brown and quarterback Tino Sunseri. The Panthers need two wins to get bowl eligible, and has a difficult game against current Big East leader Cincinnati this Saturday. Without Graham, contending for the Big East title is very unlikely, but there's a good chance this team can still get to a bowl.
5. South Florida (4-3) – The Bulls had a bye in Week 9 and are back in action on Saturday at Rutgers. The off week came at a good time for South Florida, as it is riding a three-game losing streak and desperately needs to get things going back in the right direction. The Bulls have a tough two-game road stretch coming up, as they play at Rutgers this Saturday, followed by a date at Syracuse on November 11. South Florida still needs two wins to get bowl eligible, but there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule the rest of the way.
6. Louisville (4-4) – The Cardinals have been making a steady climb up the power rankings the last two weeks. Louisville has won two games in a row, including Saturday’s 27-10 effort over Syracuse. A big reason for the improvement has been quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The true freshman turned in an efficient performance against Syracuse, throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Center Mario Benavides’ return to the lineup has helped the rushing attack the last few games, and that continued against the Orange with Victor Anderson rushing for 93 yards and one score. The Cardinals travel to West Virginia this Saturday.
7. Syracuse (5-3) – One week after a big win against West Virginia, the Orange took a step back with a 27-10 loss at Louisville. Syracuse’s offense struggled to get on track, as quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for only 162 yards on 36 attempts, and running back Antwon Bailey managed only 70 yards. With the Orange trailing all game, Bailey was really never a factor, which snapped his streak of four consecutive 100-yard games. Syracuse still has Big East title hopes, but is in a big hole thanks to the loss to Louisville. The Orange play at Connecticut next Saturday.
8. Connecticut (3-5) – The Huskies were unable to build upon the momentum from their win over South Florida, losing 35-20 on Wednesday night to Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s defense had no answer for the Panthers offense, as quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 419 yards and added 40 more on the ground. Quarterback play has been an issue for the Huskies all year, and it wasn’t much better on Wednesday night. Johnny McEntee threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but completed only 51.5 percent of his throws. Connecticut looks to get back into the win column against Syracuse this Saturday. The game against the Orange will be a homecoming for Huskies' coach Paul Pasqualoni, who posted a 107-59-1 record in 14 years at Syracuse.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Boston College – The Eagles kept their slim bowl hopes alive with a 28-17 victory over Maryland on Saturday. The offense has been a source of concern all year, however, running back Rolandan Finch gashed the Terrapins for 243 yards and two touchdowns. The win over Maryland was Boston College’s first victory over a FBS team this year.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston – Thanks to some bad weather, the Cougars got off to a slow start in Thursday’s win over Rice. However, the final stat line was a one-sided affair. Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdown passes, and likely could have thrown a couple more had he played the entire fourth quarter. The Cougars remain unbeaten at 8-0 and with a favorable remaining schedule, has a chance to finish the regular season without a loss.
Georgia – Beating Florida has been a big issue for Mark Richt, but the Bulldogs scored a huge 24-20 victory over the Gators on Saturday. Georgia fell behind early, but the defense puts the clamps on Florida’s offense in the second half. The Bulldogs were aggressive on offense, scoring two touchdowns on fourth-down throws by quarterback Aaron Murray. Georgia still trails South Carolina in the SEC East race, but the Gamecocks face a difficult upcoming schedule playing Arkansas and Florida, while the Bulldogs get Auburn and Kentucky.
Georgia Tech – Having lost back-to-back games, most of the nation didn’t give the Yellow Jackets much of a chance against Clemson. However, Georgia Tech’s offense clicked behind quarterback Tevin Washington's running, and the defense forced four crucial turnovers. The Yellow Jackets still have a shot to win the ACC Coastal, but need to beat Virginia Tech on Nov. 10.
Louisville – Considering the amount of youth stepping into playing time this year, it was expected the Cardinals might need a couple of weeks to get everything figured out. The pieces seem to be falling into place for Louisville, as it has won back-to-back games, and all four losses have been by nine points or less. Saturday’s win over Syracuse puts the Cardinals at 2-1 in conference play, with a difficult upcoming stretch – at West Virginia, Pittsburgh, at Connecticut and at South Florida.
Minnesota – The Gophers have been awful this year, but Saturday’s win over Iowa was a step in the right direction. Minnesota’s rush defense struggled to stop Iowa’s Marcus Coker, but kept quarterback James Vandenberg in check. The Gophers also got a key performance from quarterback MarQueis Gray and a well-timed onside kick in the fourth quarter. Coach Jerry Kill has been feeling a lot of pressure for the slow start, but he’s the right man for the job. Give Kill and his staff another year to rebuild the roster, and Minnesota will be back in a bowl.
Missouri – Thanks to a difficult schedule, the Tigers have a mediocre 4-4 record. However, those losses came to Arizona State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State – a combined 28-4. Quarterback James Franklin bounced back after a disappointing performance against Oklahoma State, leading Missouri to a 38-31 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Tigers still need two wins to get bowl eligible and games remain against Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas.
Nebraska - The Cornhuskers jumped back into the mix for the Big Ten Legends title after a convincing win over Michigan State. Quarterback Taylor Martinez struggled to find his rhythm through the air, but the offense was carried by running back Rex Burkhead. Nebraska's defense had been a disappointment in the early part of 2011, but turned in its best effort of the year, holding the Spartans to only three points.
Ohio State – Whether or not Luke Fickell returns to the Ohio State sidelines next year remains to be seen. However, give Fickell and his coaching staff a lot of credit for the last two games. The Buckeyes have molded the offense around the strengths of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, while relying on a young, but talented defense to keep them in games. Ohio State’s 33-29 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday keeps it alive in the race to win the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Buckeyes need a lot of help to win the division, but after some concern they would not make a bowl, Ohio State is looking at eight or nine wins this year.
Oklahoma – After a disappointing loss to Texas Tech one week ago, the Sooners jumped back into the national title discussion with a 58-17 demolishing of Kansas State. Thanks a loss by Clemson, and the win over the Wildcats, Oklahoma is ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings. Although the loss to the Red Raiders was a blow, the Sooners just need to keep winning and they could still find themselves in position to play for the national title.
Penn State – The Nittany Lions aren’t going to win any style points for their victories, but they survived another close one on Saturday against Illinois to move their record to 8-1. Quarterback play continues to be an issue, but Penn State has been winning with a steady dose of running back Silas Redd, and a defense allowing only 12.4 points a game. The Nittany Lions have a difficult upcoming schedule – Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin – but are the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play entering November.
Stanford – The Cardinal kept alive their national title hopes with a 56-48 victory over USC on Saturday night. The Trojans pushed Stanford to the brink, leading by a touchdown with just over three minutes to go. However, thanks to the steady performance of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal sent the game into overtime. Stanford forced only one USC fumble, but it was a big one, as the turnover sealed the victory and preserved a chance to play for the championship. Stanford still has a big test upcoming, as Oregon will visit the Farm on Nov. 12.
UCLA – One week after an awful showing against Arizona, the Bruins bounced back with a dominating 31-14 win over California. The UCLA defense forced five turnovers, while quarterback Kevin Prince led the offense with 163 yards on the ground. The Bruins still have a shot to win the Pac-12 South, but desperately need a win over Arizona State this Saturday.
Virginia – Not many people expected to see the Cavaliers win on the road at Miami, especially after losing to NC State one week ago. However, Virginia used a balanced attack on offense, some aggressive calls by coach Mike London, while the defense held Miami running back Lamar Miller under 100 yards. The Cavaliers need just one win to get bowl eligible, and they should get to six wins with games against Maryland and Duke remaining.
Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers have earned a spot in this column over the past couple of weeks. Western Kentucky continued to turn heads in Sun Belt play with a 31-28 victory over UL Monroe. The win over the Warhawks was the Hilltoppers’ fourth in a row and keeps them within range to Arkansas State for the top spot in the conference.
Baylor – There’s no shame in losing to Oklahoma State, but the Bears had plenty of missed opportunities in Saturday’s game and lost 59-24. The loss to the Cowboys was Baylor’s third in four games and has quieted the Heisman buzz surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin. The junior hasn’t been the issue, but the Bears need to do a better job of punching in opportunities on offense and find some consistency on defense. Baylor has allowed at least 55 points in each of its last two games.
California – After a 3-0 start, there was some promise and hope that the Golden Bears were going back in the right direction. Not anymore. California has lost four out of its last five games, and now faces a quarterback controversy after a poor performance by Zach Maynard on Saturday night against UCLA. With games against Washington State and Oregon State upcoming, California should find a way to get bowl eligible. However, the losses have done nothing to quiet the pressure on coach Jeff Tedford.
Clemson – The Tigers suffered their first defeat of the year, losing 31-17 to Georgia Tech. The loss effectively ended any hopes Clemson had of competing for a national title, but it still controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic. The offense was able to move the ball through the air, but four turnovers were just too much to overcome. Even though national title hopes are over, the Tigers can still finish with an 11-1 record at the end of the regular season. And there’s plenty of returning talent to get excited about the possibilities of 2012.
Iowa – The Hawkeyes were quietly keeping within range of Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska in the Big Ten Legends Division. That was until Saturday afternoon. Iowa suffered a disappointing 22-21 loss to Minnesota, dropping it to 5-3 and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Although it’s too early to count out the Hawkeyes in the division race, losing to a Minnesota team with one win is unacceptable.
Kansas – The Jayhawks turned in one of the worst offensive performances of 2011 in Saturday’s loss to Texas. The Kansas offense managed just 46 total yards, three first downs and committed two turnovers. Yikes. Turner Gill should get another year to turn things around, but these losses are not sitting well in Lawrence.
Maryland – It’s been a disappointing season in College Park and things only got worse with the 28-17 defeat to Boston College on Saturday. The loss to the Eagles was Maryland’s fourth defeat in a row and they have only one win over a FBS team this season (Miami). Also, there’s a quarterback controversy again between Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown, while the defense ranks last in the ACC in points allowed. Needless to say, coach Randy Edsall’s dream job has not provided a honeymoon in year one.
Michigan State – The Spartans had a chance to claim full control of the Big Ten Legends Division with a win over Nebraska on Saturday. However, Michigan State was unable to get anything going on offense, while the defense was worn down by a relentless Cornhusker rushing attack. The Spartans remain squarely in the mix to win the division, but will need some help in the form of a Nebraska loss in the next few weeks.
Texas Tech – One week after beating Oklahoma, the dreaded letdown bug bit the Red Raiders. Texas Tech looked flat and out of sync, as Iowa State posted a 41-7 win in Lubbock. Although it’s just one loss, a look at the Red Raiders’ schedule shows just how important Saturday’s defeat could be. Texas Tech still has games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining. Making a bowl game is going to be no easy task.
Wisconsin – Back-to-back losses have effectively ended any hopes the Badgers’ had of playing for a national title. Wisconsin looked like the No. 1 team in the Big Ten through the first six weeks of the season, but has been sliding down the polls with the recent losses. Although the defense ranks 11th nationally in yardage allowed, this group has not delivered in the final moments of the last two games. The Badgers can still win the Big Ten Leaders Division, but need two losses by Penn State and one by Ohio State.
Looking Ahead to Week 10
A small sample of what’s ahead
Northern Illinois at Toledo (Tuesday)
Two of the best teams in the MAC meet for a Tuesday night shootout.
Temple at Ohio (Wednesday)
Winner of this game should have the inside track to winning the MAC East.
North Carolina at NC State
Tar Heels look to snap a four-game losing streak to Wolfpack.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Can the Panthers stay alive in Big East race without running back Ray Graham?
Louisville at West Virginia
Cardinals improving, but Mountaineers still in control of Big East title destiny.
Notre Dame at Wake Forest
First meeting between these two teams.
Vanderbilt at Florida
Much-improved Commodores should give Florida all it can handle.
Missouri at Baylor
Bears have lost three out of their last four, while Tigers coming off big win in College Station.
Texas Tech at Texas
Winner of this Texas matchup will get bowl eligible.
Michigan at Iowa
Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Legends Division title hopes took a hit with puzzling loss to Minnesota.
South Carolina at Arkansas
Can Gamecocks’ banged up offense score enough points to beat Razorbacks?
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
Cowboys in good shape to make a run at a national title, but every week is a must-win.
LSU at Alabama
Without question, this is the must-see game of 2011.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma
Sooners aren’t finished in national title race, but they can’t afford another loss.
Oregon at Washington
Can the Ducks get LaMichael James and Darron Thomas back on track?
Injuries from Week 9
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson (broken nose) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell (shin) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Richard Samuel (sprained ankle) – probable for Week 10
Georgia OG Dallas Lee (leg) – out for remainder of 2011
Kentucky QB Morgan Newton (ankle, shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
Miami QB Jacory Harris (arm) – expected to play in Week 10
Oklahoma RB Dominique Whaley (ankle) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham (knee) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh WR Cam Saddler (sternum) - out for the remainder of 2011
Stanford TE Zach Ertz (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Tennessee S Brent Brewer (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Texas WR Jaxon Shipley (knee) – questionable for Week 10
USC RB Marc Tyler (shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
USC LB Dion Bailey (concussion) – questionable for Week 10
Holding up signs at ESPN's College Gameday show has been a tradition for years now. ESPN does their best to screen out the innapropriate ones, but it seems impossible to get them all. Here are some of the funniest ones to have made it on TV.
Remember when Philip Rivers did a lot with a little a season ago? Where’s that Rivers been?
Hopefully, fantasy football players (at least the one with Rivers on their rosters) will see his re-emergence Monday night in Kansas City.
The San Diego stud is currently fantasy’s 18th best quarterback with 45.14 points. He has not scored above 21 points all season long and has had two sub 10-point performances. Rivers had no single-digit games last season and was plus-21 in nine of the first 15 games.
He had two multi-interception games a season ago, he already has four this season. Rivers has thrown two picks in four games, one against Denver and only came out of a game unscathed against Miami.
Last season, Rivers was without all-world tight end Antonio Gates for six games and without No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson for the basically the first 14 weeks. Rivers still finished as the eighth best fantasy QB with a hodge-podge of receivers and just 1,400 yards rushing from the top two backs combined.
This season, Gates was completely shutdown by New England in Week 2 and has missed three games with the lingering foot issues he’s battled with. He has 13 catches for 128 yards and one TD. Jackson has been hobbled by a hamstring and has four games under 10 fantasy points. As a result, Gates is the 34th best fantasy TE and Jackson is the 16th best WR (thanks to a 34.2-point game against the Patriots).
The Chiefs are tied for 26th in the league with 12 passing touchdowns allowed, and after allowing eight touchdowns in the first two weeks, it has given up four in the last four weeks. They are also third in the league with 11 interceptions and are 10th in the league in completion percentage allowed (57.7). In a year in which 300-yard passing games have become the norm, Kansas City has not surrendered one yet.
This will be the second meeting of the season between the AFC West rivals. In Week 3, without Gates, Rivers threw for 266 yards on 24-of-38 passing with no scores and two picks.
Gates and Jackson appear to be healthy for Monday night’s game against a resurgent Kansas City squad.
So what Rivers are we going to get?
Probably the same one we’ve seen most of the season.
The Chiefs are surging. Their defense is playing well, just ask the Raiders’ quarterbacks. Their offense, although in flux most of the season, is playing adequate enough to keep them in the game. They are at Arrowhead in prime time.
It’s doubtful that you have many better options at quarterback on your roster. You drafted Rivers high. He is healthy (according to what he says) and he still has Gates, Jackson and a pass-catching back in Ryan Mathews. You go with Rivers this week, but I’m not expecting the Rivers of old to show up this week.
I sure am hoping I’m wrong, however.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
No Hines Ward for the Pittsburgh Steelers may mean a bigger day for two of the talented wide receivers we liked in the fantasy preseason and hoped we would have heard more from by now -- Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
And their potential emergence as consistent receivers could not have come at a more perfect time as the Steelers draw the New England Patriots in Week 8.
Ward is looking doubtful to play in Sunday’s game after injuring his ankle in Week 7. Sanders would start in his place and Brown’s role would grow even more than it has.
Brown has been quite a favorite of QB Ben Roethlisberger this season. He is second behind Pittsburgh’s No. 1 WR, Mike Wallace, in targets, receptions and yards. Brown has 48 targets, 25 catches for 364 yards. Sanders has 27 targets, 13 catches for 173 yards and two scores. Wallace leads the way with 51 targets, 36 catches for 730 yards and five scores.
Brown has received eight-plus targets four times, including his best week of the season against Arizona last Sunday. He was targeted nine times, catching seven balls for 102 yards. Sanders received his highest target total of the season last week against Arizona and it produced his best week so far (5-46 and a TD).
Roethlisberger bounced back from a poor outing against Jacksonville by throwing for 361 and three scores against the Cardinals. He has thrown for eight touchdowns and just one interception in the last three games after throwing for three scores and five picks in the first four games.
Chances for a shootout this week are high.
The Patriots are last in the NFL in pass defense (322.2 YPG, which is 33.3 yards ahead of the next team), are giving up the fourth most points to fantasy quarterbacks and the most points allowed to fantasy receivers per game. However, New England is 11th best against fantasy running backs. The Pats also possess the best passing offense in the NFL and the Steelers are ninth. The Steelers do have the No. 2 pass defense in the league (171.9), but Tom Brady has had plenty of success against them in the past.
If you had given up on Brown or Sanders over the past few weeks, that is understandable. They have not necessarily been the most dependent. But the combination of Ward probably missing the game, the hot streak Roethlisberger has been on and the fact the Steelers are playing the Patriots’ defense makes this too appealing a match up to not have either of them on and active on your fantasy roster for Week 8.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Matthew Stafford has battled a sprained right ankle injury that he suffered on the final offensive play of last week’s loss to Atlanta. His status for Sunday’s game at Denver has been iffy all week long, but it looks like he will be a go for the Week 8 contest. He was a full participant in Friday’s practice after being limited the previous two days.
And even if he is a go, you might want to look somewhere else despite the Detroit Lions playing a Broncos pass defense that has been very friendly to opposing fantasy quarterbacks.
The Lions have a bye after Sunday’s game and they certainly need it to get some of the kinks worked out. Three of the last four weeks for Stafford have been sub par fantasy performances.
After having scored 23-plus fantasy points in the first three weeks, Stafford began a run of three out of four games at 16.5 points or less, including last week’s 11.32 effort at home against Atlanta.
The lack of a running game for the Lions has certainly hurt their offensive performance. They are 27th in the NFL at 92.7 yards per game with just three rushing scores. It’s pretty easy for defenses to key in on Stafford when they don’t have to respect the ground aspect of Detroit’s game.
Stafford is sixth the league in pass attempts per game at 38.4, and after having been sacked six times in the first five weeks (five coming in Week 3 against Minnesota), Stafford has been dropped eight times in the last two weeks.
Luckily for fantasy owners, Stafford has not turned the ball over the last two weeks, but you just wonder when it all will catch up with the Lions. The last two weeks, he has completed 56 and 46.9 percent of his passes, and four times altogether this season he has completed 59 percent or less.
He may get a reprieve this week vs. Denver‘s suspect pass D, but the Broncos are a different team when defensive back Champ Bailey is in the lineup.
The Broncos are 14th in the NFL with 16 sacks, but have just three interceptions. They are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68 percent of their passes (ranking them 31st in the league), throw for 247.5 yards per game and are tied for 20th in the league with 11 touchdown passes allowed.
Then there’s Bailey.
He missed Weeks 2-4 with a hamstring injury. In that time, the Broncos allowed Cincinnati to have two double-digit fantasy receivers, Tennessee to have one and Green Bay to have three. San Diego No. 2 receiver Malcom Floyd caught three balls for 100 yards and a score in Week 5 while Vincent Jackson was held to 3-for-34.
With Bailey in the lineup, the Broncos allowed Jason Campbell to throw for 105 yards and a score in Week 1, Philip Rivers to throw for 250 yards and a score in Week 5 and Matt Moore to throw for 197 yards and a score in Week 7.
So is Stafford going to play like Campbell and Moore or like Rivers?
Well, the ankle injury, the lack of a running game, only one consistent threat at receiver in Calvin Johnson, a Broncos team which is also solid against tight ends (only two scores and 19 catches all season) and it being a road game, I would look away from Stafford and seek a better option if available.
Bye weeks may not make that possible, but Denver’s a different Denver with Bailey and Stafford’s a different Stafford then he was a few weeks ago.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Andre Johnson was supposed to play in Week 8. But things don't always play out the way they're supposed to for fantasy football owners.
After practicing on Wednesday and Thursday and looking like he was on pace to start this Sunday for the first time since week 4, Johnson suffered what seems to be a significant setback on Friday. Johnson was held out of practice and the general talk around the Texans' locker room was that his surgically-repaired hamstring is holding him back from getting onto the field.
Texans' coach Gary Kubiak tried to stay positive saying that Andre was "real close" to getting back to playing, but Johnson himself only deemed his hamstring at 70-75%.
What makes this news even worse is that the Texans have a bye in week 10. The smart move, no matter how great Johnson is feeling next week, would be to hold him out not only in week 8, but in week 9 as well, giving him a full three weeks to get back to 100%.
The Texans play the lowly Jaguars in week 8 and the even lowlier (that's a word, right?) Cleveland Browns in Week 9. After destroying the Titans last week, it seems like the Texans could take care of the Jags and Browns without Johnson, giving him plenty of rest to come back fully refreshed.
While this is the smart move in real football terms, it's also a killer move for Johnson's fantasy owners. Those who spent a first round draft pick on Andrew will be without him for 6 weeks, basically half of a fantasy season.
If Johnson owners have been able to keep their heads above water and stay in the playoff hunt, they will also be the team no one wants to play as they get one of fantasy football's leading scorers back right in time for the playoffs.
The Big Ten has been known for elite running backs for years and years. From Mike Hart to Ron Dayne to Eddie George to Anthony Thompson to Archie Griffin to Alan Ameche and Howard Cassady in the '50s, the conference has produced some of college football’s top runners for generations. But what about this season? Montee Ball is a touchdown machine at Wisconsin; Rex Burkhead has been a star for Nebraska, while Penn State’s Silas Redd and Iowa’s Marcus Coker are putting up very respectable numbers. And the two best runners in the Big Ten might not even be running backs, as Michigan’s Denard Robinson and NU’s Taylor Martinez both rank in the top six of the league in rushing yards.
Who is the top runner in the B1G?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Since the questions asks about the bets “runner” not “running back,” I think you have to go with Denard Robinson, Michigan’s dual-threat quarterback. Montee Ball is having a terrific season at tailback for Wisconsin, but I believe if you asked any coach in the league who is the more dangerous player with the ball in his hands, the answer would be Robinson. The man they call Shoelace is second in the league in rushing, just behind Ball, with 108.8 yards per game, and his 6.4 yards-per-carry average ranks first in the league for players with over 50 crushing attempts. Robinson has been clutch with the ball in his hands as well; 15 of his 27 rushing attempts on third down have resulted in a first down. He might not be a prototypical quarterback — or running back — but Robinson has to be considered the best pure runner in the Big Ten.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think the answer has to be Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. He may score 30 touchdowns this season, and the Badgers limited him against their non-conference opponents (although Ball did have multiple scores in all four of those games). It’s easy to credit UW’s solid offensive line for his success, but a powerful back like Ball can make any line look good. He’s no more part of a “system” than Denard Robinson at Michigan or Taylor Martinez at Nebraska. While both of those quarterbacks deserve praise for their production and highlight-reel runs, I’m taking the big Badger when you really need a positive play. After scoring 18 TDs last year while sharing carries, Ball has continued his end zone onslaught this season with 17 rushing scores in seven games. And unlike Robinson, Ball’s numbers have improved in Big Ten play with 62 rushes for 408 yards (6.6 ypc) and eight scores in just three league games. While I think Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead and Penn State’s Silas Redd deserve consideration along with the two QBs, I’ll take my chances with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The change in coaching staffs has limited his ability to run just a bit, but I’d take Michigan’s Denard Robinson as the best in the Big Ten. The junior has to be one of the best athletes playing college football, possessing dynamic all-around skills, speed and electric playmaking ability. Robinson finished 2010 with 1,702 rushing yards, but is likely to fall short of that mark in 2011. The junior has 716 yards and nine scores on the ground through six weeks, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Also, Robinson has largely carried the offense, as Michigan has struggled to find a go-to running back. There’s the danger of Robinson taking too much of a beating as the year progresses, but the junior is far too dangerous on the ground to prevent Michigan from utilizing his skills. Robinson may not be the power back that Wisconsin has with Montee Ball or the shifty playmaker Nebraska has with Rex Burkhead, but he gets my vote for the Big Ten’s top runner.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Penn State's Silas Redd is leading the Big Ten in rushing at 852 yards and might be the most valuable tailback in the league considering he is the entire Nittany Lion offense (and they are 7-1). Michigan's Denard Robinson is likely the most explosive and electric runner of the football - with the bigger, more physical Taylor Martinez not too far behind him in that category. But Robinson touches the ball 60-80 times per game, has the option to gain yards on pass plays and could never run the football 20 times between the tackles without completely breaking down physically. Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is the most complete, most underrated and possibly best all-around running back in the league. But Wisconsin's Montee Ball is leading the league in yards per game (108.1) and has scored nine more touchdowns than anyone else in the league. And if you needed any more proof of his value to UW, the Badgers outscored Michigan State 28-7 when Ball was in the game and were outscored 31-3 when he was not last weekend. Plus, his name is Ball after all.
With respect to Big Ten running backs, the best pure runner in the conference is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Over the past two seasons, Shoelace has scrambled 368 times for 2,418 yards (6.6 ypc) and 23 TDs in 19 games. That's an average of 127.3 rush yards and 1.2 TDs per game on the ground in 2010-11. No one in the country can top that. To put those numbers in perspective, Alabama's Trent Richardson (989 yards, 17 TDs in 8 games in 2011) is averaging 123.6 yards and 2.1 TDs per game this year. And all Richardson does is run; Robinson also plays quarterback — leading, play-calling and passing when he's not running at a feature back's workhorse pace. Hail to the Victor, Denard X is the best runner in the B1G.
Due to injuries and due to byes this week there are a number of fantasy owners scrambling to find a one-week waiver wire replacement in their lineups for Week 8. Nowhere does this seem as prevalent as at the running back position.
And just because they are out there, just because they are perhaps going to get the bulk of the work, there are plenty of running backs whose match ups this week just aren’t worth the headache.
Here’s a look at the names I left off of the Week 8 Waiver Wire story and why you should avoid them, too.
Montario Hardesty, Cleveland (at San Francisco)
There is still question as to whether Peyton Hillis and his bad hamstring will get the bulk of the work or whether it will be Hardesty. It took Hardesty 33 carries to get to 95 yards a week ago against Seattle. Now the Browns travel to face the top defense against fantasy running backs. The 49ers have not allowed more than 64 yards rushing to a single back this season (Cedric Benson 17-64), and have allowed no touchdowns to a running back. Cleveland has the 29th-ranked rushing offense in the NFL (91.2 YPG) with just two scores.
Advantage: San Francisco
Bernard Scott, Cincinnati (at Seattle)
Scott is not a workload back. He has averaged 4.5 touches per game and has just 98 yards of offense this season. Cincinnati is 21st in rushing offense (105.3 YPG) with four rushing scores. Now the Bengals travel to play a Seattle team that’s No. 11 in the NFL against the run and seventh best against fantasy running backs having allowed just four scores and no back to reach 100 yards.
Jackie Battle, Kansas City (vs. San Diego)
Despite having allowed two 100-yard rushers in the last two weeks, the Chargers are still No. 8 in the NFL against fantasy running backs. They are holding that position because they have allowed just two rushing touchdowns this season. This will be the second meeting against the Chiefs. In Week 3, Kansas City was limited to 80 yards and no scores on 26 carries from four backs. He is probably the safest of the replacement players you would need this week, but his small bit of success has come against a Colts and Raiders rush defense that has been generous to fantasy backs all season long.
Advantage: San Diego
Maurice Morris, Detroit (at Denver)
The Lions’ ground game has been non existent for pretty much all but one game. They are ranked 27th in the NFL at 92.7 yards per game and three rushing touchdowns. Morris still has Keiland Williams to contend with for carries, and neither will be focused on enough to be fantasy worthy this week. And now the Lions travel to play a Denver that has actually been pretty solid against fantasy running backs. The Broncos are X against fantasy running backs. They have surrendered 100-plus yards twice (Week 1 vs. Darren McFadden and Week 5 vs. Ryan Mathews) but have not allowed a rushing TD. Morris is no McFadden or Mathews.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis (at Tennessee)
The Colts are ranked 25th in the NFL at 94.1 yards rushing per game with four rushing touchdowns and are 30th in points scored by fantasy backs per game. With Joseph Addai hobbled by a hamstring injury, Indianapolis has leaned on rookie Delone Carter more than Brown. His TD two weeks ago against Cincinnati is the only thing that made him a blip on the fantasy radar again. Yes, the Titans have been gashed the last two weeks by running backs. But that was the Texans and Steelers. The Colts do not possess the run game of either of those two teams. Advantage: Tennessee
LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona (at Baltimore)
Beanie Wells has been taking limited reps this week, but it’s still uncertain whether he and his knee will be healthy enough to play at the Ravens this week. Alfonso Smith will get the starting nod against the NFL‘s No. 3 rush defense (85.8 YPG). Baltimore is the No. 2 ranked fantasy defense against fantasy running backs; they have allowed just one touchdown rushing and only Maurice Jones-Drew last week, on 30 carries, has eclipsed 100 yards. The Cardinals are ranked 24th in the league in rushing (98.0 YPG) with seven scores. But Stephens-Howling gets his production through the air, and it’s too sporadic to be counted on. The 5-7 back has carried five times for 16 yards and has four catches for 87 yards and a score this season. Advantage: Baltimore
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Seven weeks into the NFL season, there are 22 teams with a record of .500 or better, which means they can claim to be in the thick of the playoff race as the NFL season nears its halfway point. But none of them are in the most interesting race – the one happening way down at the bottom of the league.
Like it or not, the race for Andrew Luck – better known in most places as “Suck for Luck” – began the moment the first NFL teams hit 0-3 this season.. The Stanford quarterback will almost certainly be the prize of the 2012 draft and some scouts consider him to be as safe a bet as Peyton Manning (1998) or John Elway (1983).
What down-on-their-luck – no pun intended – NFL team wouldn’t want that?
Given the number of truly miserable, pathetic teams near the bottom of the NFL standings this season, the race for the No. 1 overall pick figures to be fierce and it likely will be won by a 2-3-win team. So if a team has two wins through the first six or seven games of the season (like Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Denver and Carolina) they’re probably already out of it.
For the five winless or one-win teams that are in it, though, the “Suck for Luck” race could get real interesting down the stretch. Here’s how the race the teams don’t want to talk about shapes up … with a projected order of finish (in draft order) and what the team will likely do with their pick:
1. Indianapolis Colts (0-7)
Anyone who witnessed their 62-7 destruction at the hands of the Saints last Sunday night knows they have the special combination of horrible defense, terrible running game and bad quarterback to make everything click towards a winless season. WR Reggie Wayne looks done. RB Joseph Addai has been hurt and aside from a couple of big plays from QB Curtis Painter to WR Pierre Garcon, the passing game has no juice.
They have five division games left, plus games against the Falcons, Ravens and Patriots. Except for their Nov. 27 home game against the Panthers, what game do you expect them to win?
The pick: There has been some recent talk that the Colts would pass on a quarterback in next year’s draft because Peyton Manning has too many theoretical good years left. I don’t see that happening. I think they’ll need about seven seconds to write Luck’s name on the card and turn it in, and they’ll never seriously consider a trade offer. Manning’s neck injury makes him a question mark for the future. Besides, he’s 35 anyway. Even if returns for a couple of years, then the second-best quarterback of this generation could have a hand in grooming the best quarterback of the next one.
2. Miami Dolphins (0-6)
Based solely on talent, this is the worst team in the NFL and their coach, Tony Sparano, has known he’s on borrowed time since the Dolphins owner, Steven Ross, made a run at Jim Harbaugh during the offseason. They just became the first team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 merger to blow a 15-point lead in the final three minutes of a game. They do have some winnable games, though (Washington, Oakland at home) and they’ve played some close ones. They’ll find a way to screw up getting the No. 1 overall pick.
The pick: It would be just their luck that they can’t suck enough to finally replace Dan Marino. They need a quarterback, though, and will have no choice but to use this pick on the second best one in the draft – maybe Oklahoma’s Landry Jones? Then they’ll have to keep their fingers crossed that whoever it is doesn’t turn into Akili Smith or Ryan Leaf.
3. Arizona Cardinals (1-5)
They are riding a five-game losing streak, QB Kevin Kolb is struggling to adjust to life as a starter, and RB Beanie Wells has been in and out with injuries. Their schedule also features the NFC East, where four teams may be in the race right until the end. If Wells is healthy, they should drop down this list, but without him teams can concentrate too much on Kolb and WR Larry Fitzgerald..
The pick: You want to get Kolb more comfortable as a starting quarterback? Go draft the best available offensive tackle in 2012. There should be a few good ones, and if the Cards finish third they’ll have their pick.
4. St. Louis Rams (0-6)
After nearly winning the awful NFC West last season, the Rams have fallen flat on their faces thanks to a ridiculous string of injuries that included RB Steven Jackson, QB Sam Bradford and WR Danny Amendola. Yes, they’re winless in a terrible division, but to realize how deceiving that is you have to look at whom they’ve played – all four NFC East teams, Green Bay and Baltimore. They haven’t played a single team in their crummy division yet. When they do, life gets easier. But first they need to fall to 0-7 against the Saints and resist the urge to fire Steve Spagnuolo.
The pick: Bradford has simply been getting killed when he’s been able to play and that’s a direct reflection on a bad offensive line. This is another team that needs a tackle over a quarterback. If they somehow landed the No. 1 overall pick, they could engineer one of the biggest trades in NFL history. But getting a top tackle would be fine, too.
5. Minnesota Vikings (1-6)
They’ve showed signs of life since replacing Donovan McNabb with Christian Ponder, which is exactly what you don’t want to do in the race for a top draft pick. They still have holes at every position except for running back and they still have the Packers, Falcons, Lions and Saints on their schedule. They have enough issues, though, that five wins seems to be their ceiling, which locks them into a top-five pick.
The pick: A quarterback would’ve been an intriguing option for them until Ponder started playing and looking good. Now he needs some help around him. A big receiver would be nice, so the passing game can click and take some of the enormous pressure off Peterson. Don’t be surprised, though, if Leslie Frazier looks to rebuild his defense first.
By RALPH VACCHIANO
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Here's a look at every game of the Week 9 college football schedule.
No. 60 BYU at No. 39 TCU
BYU will be playing on Friday night for the third time this season. The Cougars were lucky to win their previous two Friday games, edging UCF and Utah State by a combined 11 points. They will need to play their best game of the season to win in Forth Worth.
TCU 30, BYU 20
No. 77 Washington State at No. 4 Oregon
Oregon continued its assault on Pac-12 defenses last week in a 45–2 win at Colorado. The Ducks are averaging 46.3 points and 535.5 yards in league play.
Oregon 49, Washington State 14
No. 32 Baylor at No. 5 Oklahoma State
Nothing is guaranteed, but the Cowboys, up to No. 3 in the latest BCS rankings, could very well play for the national championship if they keep on winning. And beginning with this Saturday, three of the Pokes’ most difficult games — Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma — will be played in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State 51, Baylor 31
No. 6 Clemson at No. 24 Georgia Tech
Those of us waiting for Clemson to have a Clemson moment and lose to an inferior team when it’s least expected might be waiting for a long time.
Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 27
No. 7 Stanford at No. 21 USC
USC is coming off arguably the finest showing of the brief Lane Kiffin era, a 31–17 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. The Trojans will make Stanford sweat, but the Cardinal will do what they always seem to do — win by double digits.
Stanford 37, USC 23
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 53 Vanderbilt
The Commodores are stout on defense and especially strong in the secondary, but Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks’ deep wide receiving corps will be too tough to slow down.
Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 17
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 12 Nebraska
Iowa and Michigan are still in the picture, but there’s a very good chance that the winner of the Michigan State-Nebraska battle in Lincoln will represent the Legends Division in the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game.
Nebraska 24, Michigan State 21
No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 66 Duke
Tajh Boyd is the obvious choice for first-team All-ACC honors at quarterback, but Logan Thomas needs to be in the conversation. Over the last three weeks, he has completed 66.7 percent of his passes and has averaged over 328.7 yards of total offense without throwing an interception.
Virginia Tech 33, Duke 10
No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 33 Ohio State
Not many people expected these two teams to be a combined 3–3 in the Big Ten at this point of the season.
Wisconsin 21, Ohio State 17
No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 13 Kansas State
Kansas State won five straight in this series from 1993-97 but has only won one time since, a 35–7 beatdown in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game.
Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 21
No. 15 South Carolina at No. 44 Tennessee
Tennessee is a mess right now. The Vols are 0–4 in league play, have lost each of their last two games by 31 points and will be sending out a true freshman (Justin Worley) at quarterback this weekend.
South Carolina 28, Tennessee 17
No. 92 Colorado at No. 16 Arizona State
The Buffs have lost their four league games by an average of 29.0 points and have been outgained by a staggering 244.3 yards per game. Not good.
Arizona State 39, Colorado 10
No. 41 Missouri at No. 17 Texas A&M
Missouri, a disappointing 3–4, has yet to record a quality win. The Tigers will have ample opportunities to do so over the next month, with road trips to A&M and Baylor followed by home dates with Texas and Texas Tech.
Texas A&M 31, Missouri 27
No. 58 Iowa State at No. 18 Texas Tech
The losing team has scored at least 34 points in each of Texas Tech’s last five games. Iowa State has scored more than 26 points only once this season.
Texas Tech 47, Iowa State 28
No. 19 Georgia vs. No. 40 Florida (at Jacksonville)
Georgia has defeated Florida only three times in the past 21 games. This Gator club, however, could be the least imposing of the last two decades. The offense has issues — even if John Brantley is back at quarterback — and the defense has given up an average of 206.3 yards rushing in the last three games.
Georgia 27, Florida 17
No. 62 Purdue at No. 20 Michigan
Purdue is playing very well of late. The Boilers lost at Penn State, 23–18, two weeks ago, then returned home and upset Illinois, 21–14. Michigan hasn’t played since losing at Michigan State, 28–14, two weeks ago. It could be a struggle, but take the Wolverines at home.
Michigan 24, Purdue 20
No. 37 Illinois at No. 23 Penn State
About a month ago, I threw out the possibility that Illinois, with its relatively soft Big Ten schedule, could run the table. I was wrong.
Penn State 17, Illinois 10
No. 90 Kansas at No. 25 Texas
Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 defense (550.9 ypg) and is giving up over 125 yards more than the No. 9 team, Texas Tech.
Texas 38, Kansas 7
No. 61 Arizona at No. 26 Washington
Arizona played its finest game of the season in the debut of interim head coach Tim Kish, smacking UCLA, 48–12, on a nationally televised Thursday night broadcast. The Cats will have to play even better to hang with Washington.
Washington 38, Arizona 24
No. 73 Navy at No. 27 Notre Dame
Navy is 2–5 but has lost two games by three points and two others by one point. Notre Dame is 4–3, with two losses by four points or less. One more fact: Navy has won three of the last four in this series, including the last two in South Bend.
Notre Dame 31, Navy 27
No. 30 Wake Forest at No. 42 North Carolina
Wake Forest, which is 4–1 in the ACC, is a seven-point underdog at North Carolina, which is 1–3 in the ACC. The Heels’ schedule might have been a bit harder, but there is nothing really on their resume that suggests they should be a touchdown favorite.
Wake Forest 24, North Carolina 21
No. 29 West Virginia at No. 46 Rutgers
This is an important game for West Virginia. The Mountaineers need to play well and prove that last week’s stunning no-show against Syracuse (49–23 loss) was an aberration.
West Virginia 31, Rutgers 17
No. 55 NC State at No. 31 Florida State
NC State picked up a much-needed win last week, beating Virginia 28–14 on the road. It was the Pack’s first win against a BCS conference opponent this season.
Florida State 30, NC State 20
No. 78 Ole Miss at No. 34 Auburn
The Tigers have scored 17 points or less in four straight games, their longest such streak (in the same season) since 1999. They should have no problem topping the 17-point mark this weekend.
Auburn 31, Ole Miss 14
No. 36 Southern Miss at No. 93 UTEP
Southern Miss has been known for its offense under Larry Fedora, but the Golden Eagles were terrific on defense last week, holding SMU to 330 total yards en route to a 27–3 win.
Southern Miss 37, UTEP 17
No. 38 SMU at No. 54 Tulsa
Houston is the team to beat in C-USA West, but both Tulsa (3–0) and SMU (2–1) are in the conversation. This is a must win for SMU.
SMU 37, Tulsa 34
No. 43 Iowa at No. 101 Minnesota
The Gophers don’t play Indiana so we won’t know for sure which is the worst BCS conference team in the nation. The smart money, though, is on Minnesota.
Iowa 47, Minnesota 17
No. 45 Mississippi State at No. 84 Kentucky
These two teams are a combined 0–7 in the SEC and are struggling to put points on the board. Kentucky has scored a total of 20 points in three SEC games. Mississippi State scored 34 against Auburn but managed a total of 28 in its ensuing three league games.
Mississippi State 20, Kentucky 7
No. 47 Syracuse at No. 71 Louisville
Syracuse was surprisingly dominant in a 49–23 win over West Virginia last Friday night. The Orange must now prove they can get it done in back-to-back games.
Syracuse 24, Louisville 20
No. 48 California at No. 68 UCLA
The Rick Neuheisel era hit a low point last week in a 48–12 loss at Arizona. The Bruins gave up 254 yards on the ground to a Wildcat team that was ranked 119th in the nation in rushing.
California 21, UCLA 20
No. 74 Oregon State at No. 50 Utah
Oregon State has played better of late and now has a healthy Malcolm Agnew in the backfield. Utah has scored 14 points or less in each of its four Pac-12 games.
Oregon State 24, Utah 14
No. 57 Northwestern at No. 100 Indiana
Both teams have lost five straight games. Northwestern, however, has been competitive; four of the five losses have come by 10 points or less.
Northwestern 41, Indiana 14
No. 97 Wyoming at No. 59 San Diego State
San Diego State is home to the nation’s No. 1 rusher, Ronnie Hillman (138.8 ypg). Wyoming is ranked No. 100 in the nation in stopping the run.
San Diego State 41, Wyoming 17
No. 86 Boston College at No. 63 Maryland
It hasn’t quite been a “dream” season for Maryland’s first-year head coach, Randy Edsall. The Terps are 1–3 in the ACC and have only one win vs. an FBS opponent.
Maryland 27, Boston College 24
No. 64 Air Force at No. 120 New Mexico
New Mexico has lost its last two games by a total of 118–7. The Lobos’ best shot at a win this season will come on Nov. 12 when UNLV visits Albuquerque.
Air Force 41, New Mexico 0
No. 65 Nevada at No. 110 New Mexico State
Nevada is in control of the WAC race, with a 2–0 mark (only undefeated team) and a victory over Fresno State.
Nevada 31, New Mexico State 18
No. 99 North Texas at No. 67 Arkansas State
Arkansas State is 5–0 against non-BCS conference teams. It might be time for ASU fans to make reservations for the New Orleans Bowl.
Arkansas State 28, North Texas 17
No. 107 UAB at No. 70 Marshall
UAB broke into the win column last week with a surprising 26–24 victory over UCF. The winning streak, however, will likely end at one.
Marshall 27, UAB 17
No. 115 Tulane at No. 72 East Carolina
Tulane sunk to a new low last week, losing at home to Memphis, 33–17, in the first game without Bob Toledo.
East Carolina 44, Tulane 0
No. 114 Memphis at No. 79 UCF
Memphis is 1–0 in its last one road game.
UCF 37, Memphis 10
No. 80 San Jose State at No. 88 Louisiana Tech
San Jose State is playing well, with three wins in its last four games, but Louisiana Tech is probably better than its 3–4 record indicates. The Bulldogs have lost to four solid teams — Southern Miss, Houston, Mississippi State and Hawaii.
Louisiana Tech 30, San Jose State 20
No. 81 Hawaii at No. 113 Idaho
The Warriors are 1–3 on the mainland this season, with the only win coming at Louisiana Tech. Idaho has yet to beat an FBS team.
Hawaii 31, Idaho 13
No. 82 UL-Lafayette at No. 112 Middle Tennessee
UL-Lafayette saw its six-game losing streak snapped in surprising fashion — a 42–23 loss at Western Kentucky.
UL-Lafayette 27, Middle Tennessee 24
No. 89 Ball State at No. 87 Western Michigan
Western Michigan must regroup after a shocking 14–10 loss at Eastern Michigan. The Broncs were good enough to win at UConn and scare Illinois (23–20), but couldn’t find a way to win in Ypsilanti.
Western Michigan 31, Ball State 27
No. 95 Buffalo at No. 108 Miami (Ohio)
Buffalo trailed Northern Illinois 31–10 heading into the fourth quarter last week. The Bulls scored three straight touchdowns, including two in the final five minutes, but missed a game-tying extra point with 2:35 remaining.
Buffalo 28, Miami (Ohio) 24
No. 98 Bowling Green at No. 116 Kent State
Something doesn’t quite add up about Kent State’s defensive stats. The Golden Flashes rank No. 22 in total defense yet only rank No. 73 in scoring defense.
Bowling Green 31, Kent State 3
No. 102 Colorado State at No. 117 UNLV
UNLV is responsible for one of the more surprising scores of the season. The Rebels are 1–5 on the season and rank among the worst in the nation in total offense and total defense yet defeated Hawaii, 40–20, back in Week 3.
Colorado State 27, UNLV 17
No. 104 Western Kentucky at No. 105 UL-Monroe
The Hilltoppers opened the season with four straight losses but have rebounded to win three straight. Tailback Bobby Rainey has averaged 161.0 yards during the winning streak.
Western Kentucky 27, UL-Monroe 24
No. 109 Army at Fordham
The Black Knights will be without starting quarterback Trent Steelman, who hurt his foot in a 44–21 loss at Vanderbilt.
Army 38, Fordham 14
No. 111 Central Michigan at No. 119 Akron
Central Michigan, which has lost to Eastern Michigan and Ball State in recent weeks, is in desperate need of a win. The Chips should get one.
Central Michigan 31, Akron 10
Last week — 38–13
Season — 345–70
by Nathan Rush
Albert Pujols’ last game as a St. Louis Cardinal is Game 7 of the World Series. The stage is set for a Michael Jordan or John Elway hero’s exit. But instead of retiring a champion, Pujols will dive into the free-agent pool in search of a 10-year, $300 million contract.
Still, winning a second World Series would be a walk-off home run for Pujols, who will be pursued this offseason by the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and any other team that could use a first baseman whose average season over his first 11 years includes batting .328 with a 1.037 OPS, 40 HRs, 121 RBIs and 117 runs over 155 games. But he’s only won two Gold Gloves, so he’s not perfect.
Pujols is not an A-Rod regular season fantasy player who disappears in the clutch, either.
During the Cardinals’ unbelievable postseason run, Pujols has hit .364 with a 1.174 OPS, five HRs, 16 RBIs and 13 runs in 17 games. He single-handedly won Game 3 of the World Series for St. Louis, going 5-for-6 with three HRs, six RBIs and four runs in a 16–7 blowout at Texas. In the process, Pujols tied Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson for the World Series single-game home run record.
In St. Louis’ surreal Game 6 comeback, Pujols doubled in the bottom of the ninth inning to start a rally that ended with the three-time MVP and Lance Berkman crossing the plate to tie the game 7–7 following a David Freese triple. Pujols’ only hit and run-scored in the game came with Derek Jeter-type timing. Freese was the hero, for sure. But without Pujols, the Cardinals don’t pull off an 11-inning, 10–9 win for the ages.
What more do Cardinals fans want? Another World Series win? For Pujols to re-sign? Let’s not get greedy — or say that’s what Albert is.
Pujols was the 402nd overall pick of the 1999 MLB Draft. Since breaking into the bigs in 2001, he’s crushed for 445 HRs and 1,329 RBIs. The team that signs Pujols won’t get that type of production. They’ll curse the 40-year-old making $30 million a year and not producing in a major market. As painful as the thought of losing Pujols may seem to Cardinals fans, his next breakup will be worse.
Tonight, Pujols is in St. Louis, in his prime, with a chance to win the World Series. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“This is pretty special,” said Pujols. “This is what baseball is all about. Having an opportunity to go to a Game 7 in a World Series is unbelievable. Amazing. I don’t even know what to say.”
Say thank you, St. Louis. Put the champagne on ice and enjoy Pujols’ last game as a Cardinal. Win or lose, re-sign or walk, Albert Pujols has been worth every penny.
Whether he continues to be is another story.