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They have celebrated one conference championship in the history of Kent State’s football program. One. Oklahoma, this ain’t. In 1972, the Golden Flashes won five of their last six, including a season-ending triumph over Toledo that clinched the title and earned a Tangerine Bowl berth.
It couldn’t have come at a more important time in school history.
Until the championship — and for many, after it still — Kent State had been known for one thing: the horrific deaths two-plus years earlier of four innocent students at the hands of National Guardsmen trying to stop a rally on campus protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Today, the haunting lyrics of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio” continue to resonate, and those who were there remember.
“All that stuff that happened at Kent State united the students,” says Alabama head coach Nick Saban, a member of the ’72 title team and a student at the time of the shootings.
“They were looking for something to identify with. There was probably more interest in the football program at that time than ever before.”
We often overemphasize the restorative power of sport in times of tragedy. The Golden Flashes’ title didn’t bring back the dead. It couldn’t fill the holes in the hearts of survivors. But it was a positive at a time when the name “Kent State” stood for something catastrophic and divisive.
Saban was there, playing safety. So was head coach Don James, who would lead Washington to a national title nearly two decades later. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was a two-time all-conference tight end on the team, and Hall of Fame linebacker and four-time Super Bowl champion Jack Lambert patrolled the middle of the defense. It was a remarkable confluence of talent at a school not necessarily known for it at a time that absolutely needed it.
“I think everybody felt like something really good had to happen at Kent State,” James says. “The school needed positive publicity, and the community wrapped its arms around the sport.”
The four men took interesting paths to the school, but their arrivals helped shape Kent State’s history and contributed greatly to the school’s healing process. In the late 1960s, James was working as defensive coordinator at Colorado under Eddie Crowder and met Mike Lude, then a scout with the Denver Broncos. When Lude took the athletic director’s job at Kent State, he called James and offered him the head coaching position. James had grown up in Massillon — only about 35 miles from the KSU campus — and his brother had earned a degree from Kent, so the move made good sense.
Lambert wanted to go to Miami (Ohio), but coach Bill Mallory wouldn’t recruit him. Said he was too small. And, in fact, Lambert played quarterback in high school. So, the Mantua, Ohio, native ended up at Kent State. Talk about a perfect housewarming present for James. After sitting out the ’70 season (freshmen weren’t eligible until 1972), Lambert became a force as a sophomore.
“He was ideal,” James says. “He came into my office one day and said, ‘I know you’re concerned about our academic eligibility and going to class, but in my case don’t worry. Football is too important for me to mess that up.’
“What a great competitor.”
Kent State wasn’t Saban’s first choice, either. In fact, he was all set to go to the Naval Academy. But in the spring before he was to report to Annapolis, he “decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do.” Saban didn’t have too many other scholarship opportunities, so he was left to decide between Miami (Ohio), Ohio and Kent State. He chose the Golden Flashes.
“They were the absolutely worst program of the bunch,” Saban says. “But I had an uncle in Canton, which was only 30 miles away, and since I was a shy kid from (Fairmont) West Virginia, I wasn’t comfortable not knowing anybody.”
Pinkel wasn’t too keen on straying so far from home. That’s why the Akron native chose Kent State, which sits about 15 miles from his home. He arrived in ’70 and played three seasons for James. He also had the distinction of rooming with Lambert. “I like to lie and tell people that I knocked his teeth out,” Pinkel says with a laugh.
The Golden Flashes weren’t cracking too many people in the mouth during the first half of the 1972 season. They started the year 1–3–1 and looked ready to assume their historic spot near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference standings when they visited 3–0–1 Bowling Green.
“We had to beat Miami, Bowling Green and Toledo to win the league, and the other coaches were saying we could never do it, because we weren’t good enough,” James says.
But the Golden Flashes were good enough. They bumped off Bowling Green, 14–10, and despite a loss to Northern Illinois, closed the year with a 21–10 spanking of Miami (Ohio) on the road and a resounding 27–9 win at home against Toledo to conclude the season and clinch the title. The crown was worth a spot in the Tangerine Bowl, where Kent State lost to Tampa, 21–18, in the school’s second and last postseason appearance.
“We had a lot of good young players,” says Saban, who was a senior on the championship squad. “We had a good young quarterback (freshman Greg Kokal), and as the season went on, we got better and better. We were pretty good at the end.”
Because Saban was a year older than Pinkel and Lambert, he was on campus when the shootings occurred. In fact, he had an English class with Allison Krause, one of the people shot to death on May 4, 1970. He had thought about attending the rally, which included 3,000 Kent State students, but decided to eat lunch first and wasn’t present when the National Guardsmen opened fire.
The incident impacted him, and Saban has admitted that every May 4, he “really thinks about” what happened. He considers often the impact James had on him as well. After graduating with a business degree in 1973, Saban became a graduate assistant under James before joining the staff full-time.
“He was a fantastic person and class guy,” Saban says of James. “He was systematic about everything he did and defined what the expectations he had for everything in the organization were. He worked hard and did things the way I thought they should be done. He did a good job developing players there and a good job recruiting players.”
James didn’t recruit Pinkel, but he certainly benefitted from the All-MAC tight end’s accomplishments. Pinkel caught 34 passes in 1972 and 36 in ’73 at a time when the passing game was nothing like it is today. “He had great hands, ran well and was smart,” Saban says. “He was a good character guy and an outstanding player.”
Pinkel was an honorable mention All-American in 1973, when the Golden Flashes went 9–2. Even though that record was better than the ’72 edition’s accomplishment, it wasn’t good enough for another MAC championship. Still, 18 Kent State players were on the All-MAC lists, and the Golden Flashes allowed a mere 11.9 points per game. Only a 20–10 loss to undefeated Miami prevented them from repeating as league champs. “They were a much better team than the 1972 team,” Saban says.
Pinkel bounced around a couple NFL camps, but like Saban, returned to Kent State to be a graduate assistant in ’74 and ended up spending 15 years on James’ staffs at Kent and the University of Washington.
“If Pinkel gave the NFL a little more time, he could have made it,” James says. “He could block and had excellent hands.”
And then there was Lambert, the nine-time Pro Bowler and seven-time first-team All-Pro linebacker on some of the Steelers’ greatest teams.
James tells a story about coaching in a postseason all-star game after Lambert’s senior year. He warned fellow coach Dick MacPherson that the team would have to practice with at least helmets and shoulder pads, because “we have a guy who won’t let anybody go through his area.” McPherson insisted on practices in sweats only, but after seeing Lambert in action during the first workout, told the team to wear helmets and pads for the rest of the practices.
“He was one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around,” Pinkel says about Lambert. “He was a smart guy. He was a very dedicated football player.”
Lambert was so tough that he played a game with two hip pointers, a bruised chest and a swollen elbow. James once said that Lambert felt responsible every time the opponent gained an inch. “I came to Kent with a background of putting your game face on Thursday, not Friday,” James says. “His game face was on every day.”
For four years under James, Kent State had the right attitude, and Lambert, Pinkel and Saban were big parts of it. At a time when a wounded campus needed something around which it could rally, the Golden Flashes provided it with a championship and some great moments that allowed a healing school to be known for something more than tragedy.
“Winning that championship had a profound impact on the university as far as its attitude,” Pinkel says. “I’m proud of that.”
This article originally appeared in Athlon Sports monthly, available in newspapers nationwide.
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 8 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) – Almost by default, and after an easy 41-14 win over Minnesota, the Cornhuskers take over the top spot in Athlon Sports' Big Ten Power Rankings. Big Red rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns on 56 attempts while allowing a measly 254 yards of total offense to the Gophers. Rex Burkhead topped the century mark for the fourth time in five games and has scored a touchdown in every game this fall. With the Michigan State Spartans coming to town this weekend, not only is the top spot on this list on the line, but a Big Ten championship and potential BCS Bowl bid also hang in the balance in Memorial Stadium.
2. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) – In what was the most exciting game of the 2011 season, the Spartans and Keith Nichol inched their way past the Wisconsin Badgers 37-31 on a 44-yard Hail Mary with no time remaining. Michigan State now brings the nation's No. 2 total defense, and the Big Ten's top rush defense, into Lincoln to square off with the Big Ten's top rushing offense. A second straight Big Ten championship is likely on the line when Sparty heads to Nebraska this weekend.
3. Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) – The Badgers suffered arguably the most painful loss in school history on Saturday night when a deflected Hail Mary heave from midfield was caught by Keith Nichol before a goalline tug-of-war went the way of the Spartans. The Badgers jumped to an early 14-0 lead, but an injury to the nation's leading scorer Montee Ball — and some inexplicable special teams blunders — allowed the Spartans to roll off 23 unanswered points. The Badgers, with Ball back in the lineup, scored 14 fourth-quarter points to tie the game before the heartbreaking heave ended their national championship hopes. Wisconsin still controls its own destiny but has to rebound quickly as it heads to Ohio State and the Horseshoe this weekend.
4. Michigan (6-1, 2-1) – Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines sat back and watched the madness this weekenad as Brady Hoke's bunch prepares for a brutal stretch run in Big Ten play. The Maize and Blue host Purdue this weekend before finishing with road trips to Iowa and Illinois and home tests against Nebraska and Ohio State.
5. Penn State (7-1, 4-0) – Is there a quieter 4-0 conference team in the nation than Penn State? The Nittany Lions control their own destiny after taking care of business on the road against Northwestern 34-24. The Nits played balanced offensive football (192 yards passing, 197 yards rushing) and stuck with one quarterback, Matt McGloin, for the entire game. He played quality football by passing for 17-of-26 passes for 192 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Tailback Silas Redd ran for a career-high 164 yards and a touchdown of his own while the defense kept the Wildcats to only 94 yards rushing on 37 carries. Penn State now hosts Illinois and Nebraska before finishing 2011 with road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
6. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) – Without playing a game, the Buckeyes were one of the Big Ten's biggest winners in Week 8. With the Badgers losing, the Bucks now control their own Leaders Divison destiny. They will have two weeks to prepare for a visit from a Wisconsin team that is reeling after the devastaing defeat at the hands of the Spartans. With a win over Illinois already under their belt and the Badgers, Nittany Lions and Boilermakers still left on the schedule, Ohio State still has a very real shot at playing in Indianapolis in December.
7. Illinois (6-2, 2-2) – The Fighting Illini have played uninspired football two weeks in a row, and it has dropped them nearly out of the Leaders Divison race. With a 21-14 loss to Purdue, the Illini are now sitting in fourth (really fifth, since Ohio State owns the tiebreaker) place in the division. Nathan Scheelhaase struggled to complete passes all game and finished with only 16 yards on 13 carries (he is the team's leading rusher). The dynamic quarterback has rushed 29 times for 65 yards over his last two games as his team has posted only 21 points over the last two weeks. If it were not for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the score would have been much worse. Illinois now travels to Penn State to face the Big Ten's top scoring defense.
8. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Iowa kept its Leaders Division title hopes alive with a 45-24 win over Indiana this weekend. After struggling two weeks ago against Penn State, quarterback James Vanderberg has played flawless football. He had as many touchdowns (4) as he did incompletions this weekend and has totalled 26-of-38 passing for 477 yards and six touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' last two wins. With division games with Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska still looming, Kirk Ferentz and company must travel north to Minnesota this weekend and get a win.
9. Northwestern (2-5, 0-4) – After two heartbreaking losses to Army and Illinois, Northwestern has struggled to stop anyone in three straight losses to Michigan, Iowa and Penn State. The Wildcats allowed Penn State tailback Silas Redd to set a career high in yards and actually made Matt McGloin look like an efficient passer. It has been a rough season for Northwestern, but the Wildcats should be able to get back on track this weekend with a trip to Bloomington.
10. Purdue (4-3, 2-1) – The Boilermakers might have saved Danny Hope's job by pulling the 21-14 upset over Illinois last Saturday. Caleb TerBush played efficient football, completing 16-of-25 passes for 178 yards, two scores and no interceptions. The Boilers led 21-0 for essentially the entire game, and the final score was not really indicative of how easily they handled the dynamic Illini offensive attack.
11. Indiana (1-7, 0-4) – The Hoosiers lost 45-24 against Iowa this weekend and have yet to defeat an FBS opponent under new head coach Kevin Wilson. In Tre Roberson, Indiana started a true freshman at quarterback for the first time in school history. Roberson showed reasons for optimism as he completed 16-of-24 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown while rushing 16 times for 84 yards on the ground. However, as if starting 1-7 weren't hard enough for Wilson, the IU coaching staff learned this week that the No. 2 quarterback recruit in the nation, Gunner Kiel, has reopened his recruitment and will likely end up at Notre Dame or Alabama instead of Bloomington.
12. Minnesota (1-6, 0-3) – There isn't much to say about a 41-14 home loss to Nebraska. Minnesota now ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense, scoring defense, turnover margin, passing efficiency and sacks. The Gophers are 11th in the Big Ten in rushing offense, passing offense, rushing defense and total defense. With Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois left on the schedule, it is hard to see the Gophers winning again in 2011.
It seems like most of the recent Big East conversation has revolved around expansion, departures or just remaining a viable league. Meanwhile, the gridiron race to wear the conference crown and go to the BCS has become one of the most exciting and unpredictable in college football. Most pundits had West Virginia winning the league in the preseason, but the Mountaineers’ 49-23 loss at Syracuse has created championship optimism throughout the conference. Cincinnati stands alone without a loss in league play, while South Florida is the only winless team in conference games. Rutgers has a 2-1 league record, while the other five schools — Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh — all stand at 1-1. The race for the Big East title should be a wild one and probably won’t be decided until the season’s final weekend on December 3.
Who is your favorite to win the Big East?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though West Virginia is coming off a disappointing road loss to Syracuse, I still think the Mountaineers are the team to beat. There’s no question the offense is capable of scoring 35-40 points a game, but it needs more help from the offensive line and rushing attack. Quarterback Geno Smith didn’t have much time to throw against Syracuse, and that has been a reoccurring problem this year. The defense lost a handful of key contributors from last season’s team and it has shown so far. The Mountaineers rank seventh in the Big East in scoring defense and last in stopping the run. Clearly, there are some areas that need to be addressed. And the schedule isn’t overly easy the rest of the way, as West Virginia travels to Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida. The Bearcats seem to be West Virginia’s toughest competition in order to win the Big East, but I’m going to say the Mountaineers find the right answers on both sides of the ball and end up with the conference title.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I will make a surprise pick and take the best defense in the league — the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They lead the Big East in scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense and are second in total defense. Rutgers is fifth nationally in turnover margin and leads the conference in sacks. The Knights also get primary challengers West Virginia, Cincinnati and South Florida all at home, with only one Big East road trip left on the schedule (at UConn). Give me Daa Rutgaaars — with WVU a close second. But I guess we will find out the actual answer to this question on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET when the Mountaineers travel to Piscataway.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
This is a very difficult conference to predict from week to week, but I’ll take the Cincinnati Bearcats because of their overall balance. UC quarterback Zach Collaros is a solid passer, and he adds a ton to the run game that already has an outstanding tailback in Isaiah Pead. The Bearcats do give up too many pass yards on defense, but they allow less than 20 points per game. West Virginia is probably still considered the favorite by most, but the Mountaineers’ slow starts are concerning. If they fall behind early against Cincinnati, it may look like Friday night’s loss at Syracuse. It will be a tough November for Butch Jones’ club having to play at Pitt, at Rutgers and at Syracuse, in addition to hosting WVU at Paul Brown Stadium. But I think Cincinnati’s balance with its high-powered offense will carry the Bearcats to the BCS.
Mark Ennis – Big East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
What a difference 17 days or so makes. Going into USF's Thursday night trip to Pittsburgh, I'd have picked them as the clear favorite to win the Big East. Now, they might be playing the worst football in the conference. In fact, the Bulls are the only team that realistically can't win the conference right now. Cincinnati has control of the Big East race and should be the favorite to win the conference for the third time in four years, but I still think West Virginia will win it. The two teams play at Paul Brown Stadium in two weeks and if the Tennessee and South Florida games indicate anything, it's that Cincinnati is susceptible to quality passing attacks. I think West Virginia got a wake-up call in the Carrier Dome on Friday night and is a better football team than it showed. Barring another mental lapse, the Mountaineers will win out. If they do that, Syracuse only has to drop one more Big East game and West Virginia will head back to the BCS.
Four years ago, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan felt like he was starting over. Four years later, he has lost his big guys again. But the transition to a new year should be smoother. “In 2007, we lost three lottery picks and our entire starting five,” he says. “We’ve got some good players coming back for this next season.”
Florida struggled after the back-to-back national championship teams, and it wasn’t until last season that it was able to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. But the frontcourt that helped UF reach the Elite Eight last season was wiped out because of graduation.
This will be a guard-heavy team that has to have some younger players develop if it is to compete for a second straight SEC Championship.
“We’ll be a better shooting team than we were a year ago,” Donovan says. “But the big question is going to be our frontcourt depth. We’ve got to find some guys who can go and get some rebounds.”
Donovan lost not only his frontcourt starters but also his entire coaching staff. Larry Shyatt, a big factor in Florida’s success over the last seven seasons, is back at Wyoming as the head coach. Rob Lanier went to Texas as an assistant, and Richard Pitino returned to Louisville to coach with his father.
Donovan brought in John Pelphrey, the former UF assistant who was let go by Arkansas; Norm Roberts, who has head coaching experience at St. John’s; and Matt McCall, a former director of operations at Florida.
“I like the guys we brought in because we have guys who have been in the fire as head coaches,” Donovan says. “John certainly gives me a comfort level having worked with him in the past.”
Gators Key Stat: 25
The Gators have enjoyed 25 NCAA Tournament wins under Billy Donovan. The school had seven NCAA wins before his arrival in Gainesville.
Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus are gone. They combined to average 32.0 points and 19.4 rebounds a year ago.
Now, the Gators will lean on center Patric Young and forward Erik Murphy to produce down low. Young was often the first guy off the bench for the Gators a year ago and led the team in blocked shots.
He spent the summer playing for the USA U19 team and needs to develop more moves around the basket to be effective. He also needs to stay out of foul trouble given Florida’s lack of depth. Murphy saw limited action as a sophomore — he played 10-plus minutes in only seven SEC games — but had some nice moments. He showed a nice touch from outside, shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
Florida hopes that sophomores Casey Prather and Will Yeguete can provide quality minutes at small forward. The two combined to average 13.8 minutes per game a year ago. Depth may also come from Cody Larson, a 6'8" forward who redshirted last year, and incoming 6'10" freshman Walter Pitchford.
Florida returns its two leading scorers from a year ago in guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. Boynton is a streaky shooter but a lock-down defender. Walker earned the nickname “Big Shot Erv” after making so many clutch shots during Florida’s run a year ago. Together they averaged 28.8 points per game, and either one could play the point or shooting guard.
The talent on the perimeter doesn’t stop with those two, however. Mike Rosario averaged 16.5 points per game at Rutgers in two seasons before transferring and sitting out last year. Scottie Wilbekin enrolled in school a year early and played an important role off the bench. And incoming freshman Brad Beal has already been projected as potential 2011 NBA Lottery pick. The Missouri native can drive it to the basket and is an excellent 3-point shooter.
“We’re going to play some three-guard sets,” Donovan says. “We’ve got some guys who can really shoot it. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to work them all in.”
This will be a different team than the one that lost in overtime to Butler in the Elite Eight a year ago. That was an inside-out team. This group will be more perimeter-oriented. Still, the Gators will go only as far as their big men take them.
In the rugged SEC, the Gators will have plenty of firepower, but if they can’t rebound or defend inside, it’s not going to matter. Young may be the answer inside. If he takes a big step forward, Florida will be back as an SEC contender.
SEC Prediction: 3rd
NCAA Tournament Prediction: Sweet 16
by Matt Taliaferro
And then, there were five. So it seems. Maybe. The one thing that is beyond debate is Clint Bowyer’s continued strength on NASCAR’s plate tracks. Bowyer made a last-lap pass of teammate Jeff Burton in the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to earn his first win of the 2011.
It was Bowyer’s second victory in the last three Talladega events and third straight finish of first or second. It was also his final plate-track start for team owner Richard Childress, as Bowyer will head to Michael Waltrip Racing at season’s end.
“It’s just so important to me to be able to cap off such a good relationship with Richard,” Bowyer said. “Everybody at RCR — it’s like family over there. (It) meant a lot for me to be able to win before we end this deal.
“The stars were lined up today with having the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet (paint scheme) on the racecar. If I won the race, it was going to be Richard’s 100th win. Too many things meant to be for it not to be. I’m excited that it was.”
Childress stood to pick up his organization’s 100th win one way or another. Bowyer and Burton, who combined to lead 51 laps on the afternoon, led the field to green with two laps remaining following a vicious wreck involving Regan Smith, Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose, Denny Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The duo’s restart was flawless, and they quickly drafted away from a snarling pack of cars jockeying for position.
“Right at the split second I touched his bumper, one of the Red Bull cars hit me in the butt,” Bowyer said of the final restart. “It just launched us out there. The rest was history. I was able to get up through the gearbox, shove him (and) it got us away. At that split second, they came to a halt and split up and were racing two- and three-wide. We were able to drive off into the sunset.”
The tandem of Dave Blaney and Brad Keselowski — who worked with one another all day — finish third and fourth. Brain Vickers and Kasey Kahne were fifth and sixth.
Points leader Carl Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle stayed hooked together throughout the afternoon, as well. The Roush Fenway pair lagged back, staying out of harm’s way and avoiding three accidents in the race’s final 25 laps. Edwards increased his lead in the championship standings with an 11th-place showing. Matt Kenseth, who slipped to an 18th-place result, is second, 14 points back. Keselowski’s top-5 run slots him third, 18 points behind Edwards, while Tony Stewart’s seventh-place finish has him 19 markers out of the Chase lead.
“I don't know that I’ve ever been excited about 11th place,” Edwards said. “This race was one that is nerve-wracking for everyone. We came in here with a small points lead and we’re leaving with a bigger one. That’s a huge day for us.”
Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a sixth consecutive Sprint Cup championship may have taken a fatal blow. Johnson and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. were paired as drafting partners, but when it came time for one final run to the front, they stalled out, finishing 25th (Earnhardt) and 26th (Johnson).
“As we went to make our switch, the pack was organized and with the green-white-checkered situation, there’s not a lot of time to get organized,” said Johnson, now 50 points behind Edwards. “We lost our momentum there and got to the outside and kind of stalled out up on the top and finished far worse than we had hoped to.
“We’ll just keep fighting. Every position counts. Every spot counts. And I want to finish as high as I can in the points. If it isn’t the championship, I want to finish as high as I can possibly finish.”
Chris Johnson, the once speedy Tennessee Titans running back used to be a game breaker. Then, this offseason, he signed a giant new contract. And something seems different. He doesn't have that same explosiveness he used to. And he's definitely not putting up the same numbers he did in previous years, back when he was a hungry young runner, looking to establish himself in the National Football League.
So, while his decline in production has seemed to dovetail with his increased paydays, let's take a look at how much Chris is earning this year in relation to how many yards he's putting up.
While his contract with the Titans is complex, for the sake of argument, let's use the 6 year, $56 million dollar numbers used by NBC's Mike Florio that puts Johnson's earnings at $9.3 million per year.
Total Yards Rushed in 2011: 268
Dollars for Every Yard Rushed in 2011: $13,013.05
Total Receiving Yards for 2011 Season: 143
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $24,388.11
Total Combined Yards for 2011 Season: 411
Dollars Per Combined Yard: $8,485.40
In contrast, let's look how these numbers stack up for Adrian Peterson (a back who also signed a big contract) this year. Peterson's deal was even bigger from the Vikings, as it breaks down to 13.3 million per year over the first three years (or roughly $833,333 per game). Using those numbers, here's how much Adrian has earned this year on a per-yard basis.
Total Yards Rushing in 2011: 712
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed in 2011: 7,022.47
Total Combined Yards in 2011: 761 (AP has 49 receiving yards)
Dollars Per Combined Yard in 2011: $6,570.30
In contrast, here's what Matt Forte is earning per yard this year. Forte has not signed a new contract and is scheduled to make $600,000 in 2011, or $37,500 per game.
Total Rushing Yards in 2011: 672
Dollar For Every Rushing Yard in 2011: $390.625
Total Receiving Yards in 2011: 419
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $626.49
Total Combined Yards in 2011: 1,091
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $240.60
As you can see, Johnson is making twice as much as Peterson in terms of rushing yards, and earning $2,000 more for every yard he's gotten from the line of scrimmage.
Matt Forte, who's having an MVP season and is outgaining both of them in total yards by a wide margin, is earning a tiny % of what the Johnson and Peterson are earning.
At $9.3 million a year, that means Chris Johnson earns $581,250 for every game. Not a bad payday. So let's look at how many dollars that is for every yard gained in each individual game this year.
Game 1: At Jacksonville
Rushing Yards: 24
Dollars For Every Rushing Yard: $24,218.75
Receiving Yards: 25
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $23,250
Total Yards: 49
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $11,862.24
Game 2: Against Baltimore
Rushing Yards: 53
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $10,966.98
Receiving Yards: 12
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $48,437.50
Total Yards: 65
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $8,942.30
Game 3: Against Denver
Rushing Yards: 21
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $27.678.57
Receiving Yards: 54
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $10,763.88
Total Yards: 75
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $7,750
Game 4: At Cleveland
Rushing Yards: 101
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $5,754.95
Receiving Yards: 11
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $52,840.90
Total Yards: 112
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $5,189.73 (A great deal!)
Game 5: At Pittsburgh
Rushing Yards: 51
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $11,397.05
Receiving Yards: 14
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $41,517.85
Total Yards: 65
Dollars For Every Combined Yard: $8,942.30
Game 6: Against Houston
Rushing Yards: 18
Dollars For Every Yard Rushed: $32,291.66
Receiving Yards: 27
Dollars For Every Receiving Yard: $21.527.77
Total Yards: 45
Dollars For Every Combined Yards: $12,916.66
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 8 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oregon (6-1, 4-0) – No LaMichael James, no Darron Thomas, no problem. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett and junior tailback Kenjon Barner, the Ducks rolled to an easy 45-2 victory over Colorado in Oregon's first trip to Folsom Field in over 20 years. The Ducks still piled up 371 yards rushing while holding an injury-riddled Buffs team to only 231 yards of total offense. Bennett finished 11-of-20 passing for 156 yards and two scores to go with 11.5 yards per carry on six attempts (69 yards). Barner also scored twice and topped the 100-yard mark for the second straight game with James. With Stanford looming on November 12, resting Thomas and James for a second straight week might be the smart decision as the Ducks host Washington State this weekend.
2. Stanford (7-0, 5-0) – As it turns out, Andrew Luck doesn't have to be Superman for Stanford to completely dominate an opponent. Behind a stellar ground game, the Cardinal topped Washington, its toughest competition to date, 65–21 at home this weekend. Luck was efficient (16-of-22, 169 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT), but Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro led an offensive line that plowed the way for a single-game school rushing record 446 yards on 44 carries. Stanford is now winning by 36 points per game and has set an NCAA record with 10 straight wins by at least 25 points. The Cardinal have won 15 straight. Luck now takes his Heisman and National Championship hopes on the road to The Coliseum to take on the Trojans of USC.
3. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) – The Sun Devils had an extra week to think about the 41-27 loss at the hands of the Ducks two weekends ago. With two weeks to prepare for lowly Colorado (1-7, 0-4), Arizona State should be well on its way to clinching the first-ever Pac-12 South title. Especially considering the rest of the schedule: at UCLA, at Washington State, Arizona and Cal at home.
4. USC (6-1, 3-1) – Matt Barkley began the 31-17 win over Notre Dame by completing his first eight passes and finished with three touchdowns and 224 yards as the Trojans outgained Notre Dame 443-267 in total yards. After falling behind 17-0, the Irish clawed their way back into the game, and behind back-up quarterback Dayne Crist (Tommy Rees left with a knee injury), drove to the USC 1-yard line with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. However, instead of a 17-17 game, Crist mishandled the snap, and Jawanza Starling scooped up the loose ball and returned it 80 yards for a Trojan touchdown to make the score 24-10. USC, an 8.5-point underdog, held on for what head coach Lane Kiffin called "our team's biggest win since we've been here." USC hosts Stanford this weekend.
5. Washington (5-2, 3-1) – Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price and the Washington Huskies are going to be a very good football team in the very near future. But they are not ready to compete for Pac-12 titles yet. A 65-21 loss to Stanford this weekend proves that. The Huskies allowed 615 yards of total offense, including 446 rushing yards, to arguably the hottest team in the nation. Price and tailback Chris Polk were their usual productive selves, but the defense let the Dawgs' faithful down, allowing 10.1 yards per carry on 44 attempts on the ground. The Huskies get a winnable game at home against Arizona before the second barometer game of the year when Oregon comes to town.
6. California (4-3, 1-3) – Zach Maynard was at his best on Saturday when he completed 19-of-29 passes for 255 yards, another Keenan Allen touchdown connection and no turnovers. More importantly, the Bears defense showed up by shutting the Utes out until the 11:16 mark of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the 34-10 final score gave Jeff Tedford his much-needed first conference win, and with UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State as the next three, the Bears have a great chance at bowl eligibility.
7. Utah (3-4, 0-4) – The rude introduction to BCS conference play continues for the Utes after a 34-10 loss at the hands of the winless in conference Cal Golden Bears. Utah was held to 13 yards rushing on 26 carries while quarterback Jon Hays was sacked four times and intercepted three times. The Utes shedule is not terrible down the stretch at all — Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State, Colorado — but they will have to play better football than they did on Saturday if they expect to get to a bowl game.
8. Arizona (2-5, 1-4) – In one of the more inspiring and shocking outcomes of Week 8, Arizona completely dismantled the then 2-1 UCLA Bruins. Nick Foles was his usual self, throwing for 291 yards and three scores, while the defense made the biggest statement under the guidance of interim head coach Tim Kish (the defensive coordinator). The Wildcats allowed 37 yards rushing on 25 carries and forced five UCLA fumbles. It was Arizona's first win since Week 1 against Northern Arizona. The Wildcats now travel to Washington to take on the Huskies.
9. UCLA (3-4, 2-2) – So much for that job-saving 3-1 Pac-12 start for Rick Neuheisel. On national television in a must-win situation, the Bruins laid a complete egg. Arizona led 42-7 at halftime as the Bruins were utterly uncompetitive against a team that had yet to win a Pac-12 game. UCLA had been averaging 194 yards rushing per game before the pathetic 37-yard showing on Thursday night. The Bruins will host Cal on Saturday.
10. Oregon State (2-5, 2-2) – After a pathetic 0-4 start, the Beavers have now won two of their last three after a quality 44-21 win over Washington State. True freshman Malcolm Agnew ran 23 times for 103 yards and a score while quarterback Sean Mannion contiunes his growth process. He completed 26-of-34 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Riley's squad is showing signs of life and could get over .500 in conference play with a road win over reeling Utah this weekend.
11. Washington State (3-4, 1-3) – The Cougars once again appeared to have lost starting quarterback Jeff Tuel, who led the game at halftime with an apparent injury (he was 11-of-13 for the game). Marshall Lobbestael stepped in but could do nothing to help a porous Wazzzu defense that allowed 551 yards of offense to Oregon State. The 44-21 loss to OSU was a must-win if Paul Wulff wanted to get his team to the postseason — or get himself a contract extention. Both now seem to be out of reach with a brutal upcoming schedule: at Oregon, at Cal, Arizona State, Utah and Washington.
12. Colorado (1-7, 0-4) – The depleted Colorado Buffalos have now lost five straight and are technically 0-5 in conference play after a humiliating 45-2 loss to Oregon (the 36–33 loss to Cal was not techincally a conference game). Colorado now ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, scoring offense, scoring defense, kick returns and sacks allowed. They are 11th in total offense and rushing defense. Welcome to the Pac-12, Boulder.
Peyton Manning and the Colts: Where Did It Go Wrong?
This article originally appeared in Athlon Sports' monthly. Available in newspapers nationwide.
Of all the jobs in this country that pay six figures, it’s hard to imagine one with less responsibility over the last decade or so than backup quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Best anyone could tell, there were really only two requirements for the job.
The first was some level of ability to play quarterback, though the extent of that ability never really seemed to matter. Between 1998 and 2010 — a span of 208 regular-season games — the Colts’ backup threw a total of 209 passes, with virtually none of them coming in a meaningful situation. In five of those 13 years, the Colts’ second-string quarterback never saw the field.
But the second requirement, it seemed, was far more important than the first. Forget experience, talent or even price. For the Indianapolis Colts, the most important quality in a backup quarterback was to be somebody Peyton Manning liked.
Surely the Colts, for all those years, could have done better than the likes of Brock Huard, Jim Sorgi and more recently, Curtis Painter — all of whom were essentially hand-picked by Manning to be his backup. At the time those quarterbacks played for the Colts, collecting salaries ranging from $480,000 to nearly $900,00 per year, it’s doubtful they would’ve gotten jobs as good anywhere else in the NFL. But with Manning so durable and the Colts so successful, making the playoffs 11 out of the last 12 years, no “just in case” was ever necessary.
As long as Manning was happy and healthy, the Colts didn’t have to worry about any insurance policies. Drafting a quarterback prospect to develop, like the Green Bay Packers did with Aaron Rodgers at the start of Brett Favre’s twilight, was never seriously considered for the win-now Colts. Signing a capable veteran would’ve only set up a potential clash of egos with Manning, who was used to getting complete deference and friendship, not locker room tension, from his backups.
And given Manning’s impact on the organization — he made the Colts constant contenders, he won them a Super Bowl after the 2006 season and even got them a new stadium that will host next year’s Super Bowl — perhaps that deference was completely appropriate.
Manning organized the offseason workouts, he called the plays, he OK’d the personnel moves. It’s impossible to overstate Manning’s sphere of influence with the Colts. He was, quite simply, the star around which everything and everyone orbited.
But for all the wins and all the glory that Manning brought the Colts, he has now brought them this: After starting training camp with legitimate hopes of another division title, they are now quite possibly the worst team in the NFL.
How did an organization so steeped in consistency and excellence suddenly sink to the bottom of the league? Look no further than the Colts’ undying belief and unwavering trust in No. 18.
On July 30, in the immediate aftermath of the NFL lockout’s resolution, Manning agreed to a new five-year contract with the Colts worth $90 million. Presumably, it would be the last contract for the 35-year old Manning before riding off to the Hall of Fame, perhaps with the title of greatest quarterback ever. The Colts were not expected to win the Super Bowl this season, but an eighth AFC South title in nine years seemed a reasonable goal. With a healthy Manning, Indianapolis was talented enough to make the playoffs again, at least.
Manning’s health, however, had been something of a question mark recently. For much of last season, Manning struggled with issues in his back and neck, eventually leading to surgery in May — his second in the span of a year — to correct a bulging disc. Though the rehab would prevent Manning from doing much offseason training, a typical six-to-eight week recovery period would put him on track for training camp and, at worst, get him back on the field by preseason. When Manning signed his contract, he gave no public indication that his recovery might spill over into meaningful football time.
Then training camp started, and Manning wasn’t at practice. Then preseason games started, and Manning wasn’t playing. And then, as the regular season approached and Manning still wasn’t ready, it became apparent what was happening.
The Colts had been blindsided.
On the morning of Sept. 9, Manning went in for another surgery on his neck — this time a “single level anterior fusion,” a much more invasive procedure — confirming that he would miss games for the first time in his NFL career. The fact that Indianapolis kept Manning on the active roster was designed to provide some hope that he might be able to come back, perhaps in Week 10 or 11, and push the Colts back into the postseason. The reality, of course, was that Manning would likely miss the entire season and might never play again.
And it was obvious the Colts were unprepared.
So confident were the Colts that Manning would be back that they spent the entire offseason without putting a second of consideration into a Plan B. They didn’t use any of their five draft picks on a quarterback. Once the post-lockout free agency period started in September, they didn’t pursue anyone to have on the roster just in case Manning’s progress stalled. Indianapolis would open 2011 with the same quarterback depth chart as they had in 2010: Manning the starter and Painter, who took zero snaps in 2010, the backup.
Maybe Manning wasn’t realistic about the pace of his recovery or expectations for his health at age 35. Maybe, as he maintains, he felt like he was close to being ready for weeks but just couldn’t quite get over the last hurdle. Either way, the Colts take their cues from Manning when it comes to the quarterback position, and their failure to have a suitable backup plan leads directly back to him.
By the time it became apparent that Manning’s status for the regular season was in jeopardy, the best option left for the Colts was bringing 38-year old Kerry Collins out of retirement. The results have been nothing short of dreadful. In the first three weeks of the season, the tandem of Collins and Painter combined for 541 passing yards, two touchdowns and five turnovers. The Colts’ offense, typically a model of precision, is now one of the worst in the league.
And Manning isn’t coming back, not this year, and maybe not ever. With neck and back injuries, especially once they become a recurring problem, you just don’t know.
But if there’s a consolation to this mess, it’s that Manning may unwittingly give the Colts a reason to do what they should’ve been done long ago. With their franchise quarterback turning 36 in March, it’s time to start grooming Manning’s successor. Stanford’s Andrew Luck, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, will likely be the No. 1 pick next May, and the Colts may lose just enough games this season to get him.
All those years, the Colts never worried about life after Manning. Now, suddenly, it’s staring them in the face.
By Dan Wolken. Dan is a national sports columnist at The Daily, the first daily newspaper built specifically for the iPad and soon to be available on other tablet devices.
One of the primary reasons we started this site is our belief in the power of coaching. Talent of course matters as evidenced by taking a quick look at the last decade of national champions in college football. However, even teams with every advantage possibles struggle, at least relatively so, when they don't have the right General running the army. For a few cases in point, consider the following:
Prior to the Nick Saban and Les Miles eras taking over at LSU in 2000, the Tigers won 55.36% of their games from 1980-1999. Since 2002, LSU has won 77.70% of their games.
Prior to Bob Stoops taking over at Oklahoma in 1999, the vaunted Sooners won 67.76% of their games from 1980-1998. Since 1999, the Sooners have won 81.33% of their games.
Prior to Mack Brown taking over at Texas in 1998, the Longhorns won 63.64% of their games from 1978-1997. Under Brown, Texas has won 79.19% of their games.
- Prior to Pete Carroll taking over at USC in 2001, the Trojans won 61.37% of their games from 1981-2000. The Trojans won 83.62% of their games under Carroll.
Coaching matters and in our opinion, it matters above all else. For the ultimate example in how much coaching matters, we turn to Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Coach Snyder's Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start this season, with impressive victories over Texas Tech, Baylor, and Miami. However, we don't want to focus on one year. We want to focus on Coach Snyder's body of work as the prime example of how a single coach can change the entire identity of a football program. Let's consider a few things first with regards to the history of the program:
|Kansas St.||1896-1988 (93 years)||299||510||36.96%||1|
|Team||Years||8+Win Seasons||8+ Loss Seasons|
|Team||WP% in 5 Years Prior to Snyder|
These numbers culminated in 1989, leading to....
That year, Bill Snyder was hired and began his tenure as head coach at Kansas State. Now, let's fast forward and take a look at how the Wildcats have fared under Snyder's leadership:
|Coach||Team||Years||Overall WP%||Bowl Appearances|
|Bill Snyder||Kansas State||1989-2005, 2009-Present||65.68%||13*|
|*Assuming a Bowl Appearance for 2011 given the Wildcats are bowl eligible after first six games|
|Coach||Team||Years||8+ Win Seasons||8+ Loss Seasons|
|Bill Snyder||Kansas State||1989-2005, 2009-2010||10||1|
Finally and most impressively:
|Coach||Team||Years||11+ Win Seasons|
|Bill Snyder||Kansas State||1997-2003||6|
We knew Bill Snyder was a good coach, but after digging into the numbers, we are simply astounded by the coaching job he has done for the Wildcats. Given the state of the program prior to his arrival in Manhattan (KS), it is nothing short of miraculous. This season, the Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start and appear to have at least two more victories on the docket and a really great chance at a 9-win season. Over the last four years, the Wildcats have had an average recruiting class of 80.25 (out of 120 teams), so it's pretty safe to assume that Snyder is not recruiting his way to victories. If he is not recruiting his way to victories, then how is Snyder doing what he is doing? This year may be a great example of how Snyder does what he does. Let's look at a few numbers:
|Coach||Team||Year||Scoring Off. Natl. Rank||Avg. Scoring Def. Natl. Rank|
|Bill Snyder||Kansas St.||2011||58 (out of 120)||21 (out of 120)|
So, from the looks of it, Kansas State has a very average offense with an above average defense. Typically, teams with these kind of national rankings aren't 6-0 with victories over Miami (avg. recruiting class of 20.25 over last four years), Texas Tech (avg. recruiting class of 34.25 over last four years), and Baylor (avg. recruiting class of 49.75 over last four years). After digging around for a while, we think we may have stumbled on to the reason for the Wildcat's fast start:
|3rd Down Efficiency - Offense||3rd Down Efficiency - Defense||3rd Down Differential||Turnovers Lost||Turnovers Gained|
So, the Wildcats have a 16.37% positive difference between how often they convert on third downs and how often they prevent their opponents from converting. Additionally, they have forced almost twice as many turnovers as they committed. From our standpoint, the above numbers really demonstrate coaching in action. Third down efficiency numbers are great indicators of coaching because they point to strategy, play calling, and execution.
As complicated as football can be, in the end it really isn't any more complicated than finding ways to score more points than your opponent. If you can find ways to keep your offense on the field more than your opponent, you have drastically improved your chances of winning the game. Offensive scheme, positive 3rd down efficiency differential, and positive turnover margin are all major contributing factors to overall success. The 2011 Kansas State team is certainly proof of that.
So, why is Bill Snyder a great coach and leader? Our best answer is that we don't know. The late, great leadership and management guru Peter Drucker once said the following about leadership: "Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." From everything we have had read and know about Bill Snyder, he is a rather boring guy. He certainly doesn't fit the "energetic, motivating, recruiter" profile so many AD's seem enamored with these days.
However, from our standpoint, Snyder's somewhat plain style is just as much of a Red Herring as is a coach's energetic style. As Mr. Drucker noted, leadership should be defined by results not attributes. When you consider the results Bill Snyder has produced at Kansas State, it's hard not to place him the upper echelon of leaders and coaches in the history of college football.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
The Rangers beat the Cardinals 4–0 in Game 4 of the World Series. The real home run hitter of the day was Murray, who took 25 carries for a franchise-record 253 yards and a 91-yard TD, the second-longest run in the Cowboys’ storied history, during a 34–7 victory over the Rams. The rookie out of Oklahoma owns a single-game rushing record previously held by Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett — who still boasts the longest run in Dallas (and NFL) history, with a 99-yarder in 1983.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans
The state of Tennessee is Foster’s second home. Whether he’s playing in Knoxville or Nashville, the former Volunteer is ready to run. The top-ranked player in fantasy football this preseason, Foster looked the part during a 41–7 road win over the Titans — with 25 carries for 115 yards and two TDs, as well as with five catches for 119 yards and a 78-yard TD. The Texans moved into first place in the AFC South with the largest margin of victory in franchise history.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
“Pay Forte” is a popular sentiment on both sides of the pond following 25 carries for 145 yards and one TD during a 24–18 Bears win over the Buccaneers. The 6'2", 218-pound fourth-year running back out of Tulane ran all over the pitch at Wembley Stadium in the NFL’s fifth annual regular season trip to London, England.
Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
Kansas City’s ball-hawking defense hauled in six INTs for 113 return yards and two TDs in a 28–0 skunking in the Black Hole at Oakland. After picking off Raiders quarterback Kyle Boller three times in the first half, the Chiefs turned their attention to the recently acquired Carson Palmer, who promptly threw three INTs of his own. Flowers picked off Boller early on, then took Palmer’s first INT back for a 58-yard TD.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
New Orleans set a franchise record for points during a 62–7 Big Easy win over Indianapolis. Brees led the march, completing 31-of-35 passes for 325 yards, five TDs and zero INTs in a lopsided game that was viewed a must-see Sunday night rematch of Super Bowl XLIV and a homecoming for Peyton Manning when the schedules were released in April. The Saints’ balanced attack also had 236 rushing yards — led by the running back trio of Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas — winning the time-of-possession battle, 38:19-to-21:41.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 8 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Cincinnati (6-1) – Thanks to a 37-34 win over South Florida on Saturday, the Bearcats are the new No. 1 team in the Big East power rankings. Quarterback Zach Collaros made several clutch plays in the victory, finishing with 389 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats struggled to stop South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, but also forced four turnovers. Cincinnati has won five in a row and is the only Big East team without a loss in conference play. The Bearcats are off this Saturday, before returning to action on Nov. 5 at Pittsburgh.
2. West Virginia (5-2) – Due to a 49-23 loss to Syracuse, the Mountaineers relinquish the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for the first time this season. There weren’t many positives in the loss, as both sides of the ball had issues for West Virginia. Quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions, but didn’t get much help from the rushing attack or offensive line. The Mountaineers’ defense also struggled to get stops, allowing Syracuse to collect 443 yards of total offense. West Virginia hits the road for a matchup against Rutgers this Saturday.
3. Rutgers (5-2) – The Scarlet Knights make a slight drop in this week’s power rankings. Rutgers had its four-game winning streak snapped on Friday night, losing 16-14 to Louisville. Winning the turnover battle has been huge for the Scarlet Knights this season, but they were on the losing end of that statistic against the Cardinals. Freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw three interceptions, while Louisville only turned the ball over once. Rutgers is still in good shape in conference play, especially with West Virginia visiting Piscataway this Saturday.
4. Syracuse (5-2) – The Orange were heavy underdogs on Friday night, but pulled off one of Week 8’s big upsets by beating West Virginia 49-23. Quarterback Ryan Nassib posted a solid performance, throwing for 229 yards and three scores. The defense did a good job of pressuring West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, along with forcing him into two interceptions. The win on Friday gives Syracuse its first back-to-back wins over the Mountaineers since 2000-2001. The Orange play at Louisville this Saturday.
5. Pittsburgh (3-4) – The Panthers had a bye in Week 8 and will return to action on Wednesday night against Connecticut. Pittsburgh is reeling just a bit, as it has lost back-to-back games and still needs three wins to get bowl eligible. If the Panthers want to get into the postseason, beating the Huskies are a must. Coach Todd Graham has been frustrated with the production from his offense, but will be sticking with Tino Sunseri as his quarterback. Sunseri has struggled, but hasn’t received much help from his offensive line.
6. South Florida (4-3) – A promising 4-0 start has suddenly been washed away with three straight losses. The Bulls looked like one of the top teams in the Big East early this year, but are likely out of the conference race due to the recent losses. South Florida is coming off a 37-34 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, which makes it the only team in the Big East without a conference win. The Bulls have a bye this Saturday, which comes at a good time for a team that is desperate for wins just to get bowl eligible.
7. Louisville (3-4) – The Cardinals are starting a handful of young players, and it appears things are starting to come together. Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak, defeating Rutgers 16-14 to earn its first Big East win in 2011. The Cardinals finally got their rushing game on track, getting 108 yards from sophomore back Jeremy Wright, while Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson combined for 78 more. Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress, completing 10 of 18 throws for 122 yards and one score. Louisville still has a lot of work to do in order to get bowl eligible, but a win over Syracuse on Saturday would help postseason hopes.
8. Connecticut (3-4) – The Huskies had a bye in Week 8 and are back in action on Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s off week came at a good time, as the team upset South Florida to earn its first Big East win of 2011. With the Huskies having some momentum, the bye week allowed them some time to look back and fix some of the mistakes from the first half. The offense is still a concern, particularly at quarterback with Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings getting snaps each week. Connecticut is unlikely to repeat as Big East champs, but returning to a bowl game is still within reach.
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.
Alabama/LSU – As expected, both teams passed their Week 8 tests with flying colors, and the countdown to Nov. 5 can officially begin. The Alabama-LSU matchup has to be the most-anticipated game of 2011 and credit both teams for getting to this point undefeated.
Arizona – The Wildcats have had a brutal schedule to start the year and after coach Mike Stoops was fired, it would have been easy to pack it in. However, Arizona responded with a blowout win over UCLA on Thursday night, which keeps its slim bowl hopes alive for another week.
Cincinnati – Are the Bearcats the new frontrunner in the Big East? Cincinnati defeated South Florida 37-34 on Saturday, which moves the Bearcats to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in Big East play. Coming into this year, there was no question about Cincinnati’s offense, but the defense had to step up and so far, it has answered the bell.
East Carolina QB Dominique Davis – Davis set two NCAA records in Saturday’s win over Navy. The senior completed his first 26 attempts to break the single-game NCAA record, and dating back to East Carolina’s last game, had a streak of 36 completions in a row (also a NCAA record). The Pirates are off to a slow start, but still have a chance to get bowl eligible this year.
Eastern Michigan – The MAC is out of the national spotlight on most Saturdays, but let’s give a little credit to the job coach Ron English has done in Ypsilanti. The Eagles defeated Western Michigan to sweep the Michigan MAC schools and move to 5-3 this season. The five wins in 2011 are the most at Eastern Michigan since a 6-5 finish in 1995. With games against Buffalo and Kent State remaining on the schedule, the Eagles have a shot to get bowl eligible.
Florida State – Sure, the Seminoles might be a disappointment this year after the high expectations placed on them in the preseason, but they didn’t fold after losing three straight. Florida State has rallied with back-to-back 41-16 wins, beating Duke and Maryland to move to 4-3 this season. The Seminoles still have a chance to win out and finish with a solid 9-3 season.
Houston QB Case Keenum – Keenum broke the NCAA’s career record for total offense in a 63-28 blowout win over Marshall. The senior finished with 376 yards and six touchdowns. Keenum isn’t finished breaking records, as he needs just 802 passing yards to break Timmy Chang’s NCAA mark and five touchdown tosses to pass Graham Harrell in the record books.
Michigan State – Sometimes you have to be a little lucky to win a conference title. The Spartans capped off one of the weekend’s best games with a Hail Mary touchdown catch by receiver Keith Nichol to give them a 37-31 win over Wisconsin. So far, Michigan State has survived a difficult stretch (at Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin), but this Saturday’s game against Nebraska is huge for their conference title hopes.
Stanford – The Cardinal expected to get a test from Washington, but easily handled the Huskies for a 65-21 victory. Quarterback Andrew Luck had a solid performance, while the rushing attack wore down the Washington defense. The Cardinal still has some obstacles to clear for an undefeated season, including games against USC and Oregon, but it looks like Stanford will be in good position to play in one of the BCS games this year.
Texas Tech – The Red Raiders were a huge underdog against Oklahoma, but went into Norman and pulled off one of the year’s biggest upsets. Quarterback Seth Doege torched Oklahoma’s secondary, while Texas Tech’s defense kept receiver Ryan Broyles in check. With Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining, the Red Raiders have a difficult schedule, but should have a lot of confidence after their Week 8 upset.
UAB – The attendance at Thursday night’s UAB-UCF was horrendous, but let’s give a tip of the cap to the Blazers. UAB finally broke into the win column with a 26-24 win over the Knights.
USC – The Trojans have been somewhat of an afterthought on the national level this year. Due to the NCAA sanctions, USC can’t play in a bowl and is ineligible to participate in the conference title game. However, that hasn’t stopped the Trojans from figuring into the conversation as one of the best 25 teams in college football. USC posted a 31-17 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, which moves the Trojans to 6-1 this year.
Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers began the year 0-4 but have rallied with three consecutive wins. Coach Willie Taggart has made noticeable improvement during his tenure at Western Kentucky and will have this team in contention for the Sun Belt title in the next couple of years.
Buffalo – The Bulls scored a touchdown with less than 20 seconds to go to pull within one point of Northern Illinois. However, the extra point was missed, giving the Huskies a 31-30 victory.
Georgia Tech – Three weeks ago, the Yellow Jackets looked like the class of the ACC Coastal. Now, Georgia Tech is on the outside looking in. The Yellow Jackets have back-to-back losses, and their high-powered offense has struggled in both games. Quarterback Tevin Washington has to throw the ball better if the Yellow Jackets want to have a shot at winning all of their remaining games.
Illinois – After jumping out to a 6-0 start, the Fighting Illini has lost two in a row. Losing to Ohio State is one thing, but getting handled on the road by Purdue was a surprise. With Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin the next three weeks, Illinois could have a five-game losing streak going into the season finale against Minnesota.
Kansas – The Jayhawks were easily handled by rival Kansas State on Saturday, opening the door for even more criticism on head coach Turner Gill. Kansas isn’t likely to make a coaching change in the offseason, but Gill needs to show big progress in 2012.
New Mexico offense – It’s no secret the Lobos are bad. However, the offensive numbers in Saturday’s loss to TCU were embarrassing. New Mexico managed only 85 yards and only five first downs against the Horned Frogs, which were both season lows. The Lobos only hope for a win appears to be on Nov. 12 against UNLV.
Notre Dame – The Irish had a four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, losing 31-17 to USC. While the Trojans are a good team, it’s clear the Irish weren’t ready for the preseason BCS hype placed on them in the preseason. Notre Dame can still salvage a 9-3 season, but beating Wake Forest and Stanford is no sure thing.
Oklahoma – The Sooners watched their national title hopes lk disappear with Saturday’s 41-38 loss to Texas Tech. Oklahoma’s offense did not have running back Dominique Whaley, and quarterback Landry Jones struggled at times with his accuracy, but it was a surprise to see this team have only seven points at halftime. Without cornerback Jamell Fleming, the Sooners’ pass defense was awful, allowing Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege to throw for 441 yards. There’s a chance Oklahoma could work its way back into the national title picture, but it will need a lot of help. Considering the preseason expectations surrounding the Sooners, Saturday night’s loss was a huge disappointment.
Ole Miss – Inserting Randall Mackey as the starting quarterback appears to have jumpstarted the Rebels’ offense, but it wasn’t enough to beat Arkansas. Ole Miss makes this list, thanks to blowing a 17-7 lead at halftime over Arkansas. The Rebels have now lost 10 consecutive SEC games.
South Florida – After a 4-0 start, the Bulls looked like they were ready to emerge as one of the top contenders in the Big East. However, the last three weeks have been a disaster. South Florida lost a 37-34 shootout to Cincinnati, leaves it as the only winless team in Big East play. The Bulls’ look to snap their three-game losing streak on Nov. 5 at Rutgers.
Tulane – It’s an automatic mention in this section when you lose to Memphis.
West Virginia – Just when you think you have the Big East figured out, it all changes and its back to the drawing board. The Mountaineers seemed to be the clear No. 1 team in the conference going into Week 8, but was defeated handily 49-23 by Syracuse. West Virginia can still win the conference, but this team has more concerns than expected.
Wisconsin – There’s really no shame in losing at East Lansing, but Saturday night’s defeat could cost Wisconsin a shot at the national title. With Oklahoma’s loss to Texas Tech, the door would have been open for the Badgers, provided they were able to finish the season unbeaten. Wisconsin can still claim the Big Ten title, but playing for a national championship is unlikely.
Looking Ahead to Week 9
A small sample of what’s ahead
Connecticut at Pittsburgh (Wednesday)
It might not be a matchup between top 25 teams, but hey, it’s midweek football.
Virginia at Miami (Thursday)
Canes look to get revenge for last season’s upset loss at Virginia.
BYU at TCU (Friday)
Cougars have won five in a row, but TCU will be a step up in competition.
South Carolina at Tennessee
Can the Gamecocks generate a rushing attack without Marcus Lattimore?
Clemson at Georgia Tech
Is this the final hurdle for Clemson to clear for an undefeated regular season?
Illinois at Penn State
Nittany Lions quietly putting together a solid season.
West Virginia at Rutgers
Winner of this game keeps the pressure on Cincinnati in the Big East race.
NC State at Florida State
Wolfpack need three wins to get bowl eligible – can they pull off the upset?
Wake Forest at North Carolina
Demon Deacons need a win to keep the pressure on Clemson in the ACC Atlantic race.
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Sooners looking to get back on track with a win and keep slim national title hopes alive.
Baylor at Oklahoma State
With Oklahoma’s loss, the Cowboys are now the frontrunner in the Big 12.
Michigan State at Nebraska
Another week, another key Big Ten matchup for the Spartans.
Missouri at Texas A&M
Future SEC matchup?
Florida at Georgia
Bulldogs remain in the mix for SEC East title, but need a win over Gators.
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Can the Badgers bounce back after last week’s last-second loss to Michigan State?
Stanford at USC
Trojans’ defense will be tested by physical Stanford offense.
Injuries from Week 8
Army QB Trent Steelman – leg – questionable for Week 9
Cincinnati CB Dominique Battle – sprained knee – questionable for Week 9
Clemson RB Andre Ellington – foot – probable for Week 9
Colorado QB Tyler Hansen – concussion – questionable for Week 9
Georgia Tech C Jay Finch – knee – questionable for Week 9
Iowa WR Keenan Davis – sprained ankle – questionable for Week 9
Kentucky RB Raymond Sanders – high ankle sprain – out for Week 9
Miami OT Jonathan Feliciano – leg – unlikely to play in Week 9
Navy QB Kriss Proctor – elbow – questionable for Week 9
Northwestern QB Dan Persa – ankle – probable for Week 9
Oklahoma State WR Hubert Anyiam – foot – out for remainder of 2011
Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon – concussion – probable for Week 9
South Florida WR Sterling Griffin – ankle – questionable for Week 10
USC K Andre Heidari – sprained ankle – questionable for Week 9
Virginia Tech LB Bruce Taylor – sprained foot – questionable for Week 9
Washington State QB Jeff Tuel – shoulder – questionable for Week 9
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 8 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma State (7-0) – Thanks to the loss by rival Oklahoma, the Pokes rise to the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for the first time this year. Many expected Saturday’s contest against Missouri to be a trap game, but Oklahoma State won easily 45-24. The Cowboys are in control of their destiny in the BCS with the Big 12 title, but there are a lot of games to be played. Oklahoma State hosts Baylor this Saturday.
2. Kansas State (7-0) – The Wildcats remained unbeaten with a 59-21 blowout win over rival Kansas on Saturday. Kansas State is 7-0 for the first time since 1999, but the competition gets a lot tougher the next few weeks. The Wildcats host Oklahoma this Saturday, before playing Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas the next three weeks. Even if Kansas State loses its next four games, Bill Snyder should still earn national coach of the year honors for the job he has done with this team in 2011.
3. Oklahoma (6-1) – Most wrote off the Sooners’ sluggish performance against Kansas as a post-Texas hangover. Apparently, that wasn’t the case. Oklahoma watched its national title hopes take a big hit, as it was upset 41-38 by Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have had success beating the Sooners in Lubbock, but the victory in Norman snapped Oklahoma’s 39-game home winning streak. The Sooners can still win the Big 12 title, but have to quickly regroup with Kansas State ahead this Saturday. Cornerback Jamell Fleming was a key absence in the loss to Texas Tech and is unlikely to play this week against the Wildcats.
4. Texas A&M (5-2) – After back-to-back disappointing losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma State in early October, the Aggies have quietly put together a solid three-game winning streak. Texas A&M defeated Iowa State 33-17 on Saturday, which moved the Aggies to 5-2 overall. The one-two punch of running backs Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray has been difficult to stop, as Texas A&M has at least 200 rushing yards in each of its last four contests. The Aggies host Missouri this Saturday.
5. Texas Tech (5-2) – The Red Raiders scored one of the biggest upsets of 2011, defeating Oklahoma 41-38 in Norman. Quarterback Seth Doege had a huge game, throwing for 441 yards and four scores, while the defense held Oklahoma to only seven points in the first half. With a difficult upcoming schedule, it was important for Texas Tech to pickup a little bit of momentum. The victory over Oklahoma was also a key notch in coach Tommy Tuberville's coaching tenure at Texas Tech. How close are the Red Raiders’ from being undefeated? Their two losses this year have been by a combined 12 points (Kansas State and Texas A&M). Texas Tech hosts Iowa State on Saturday.
6. Texas (4-2) – With the season halfway finished, the bye week came at a good time for the Longhorns. The coaching staff should be able to correct some of the mistakes, particularly on offense, that the young players are making. Co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin would like to get quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy off to a good start this week and figure out whether both will play each game or if one can assume the job full-time. Texas looks to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday, as it hosts Kansas. Although the Jayhawks are unlikely to pose much of a threat to Texas, a solid performance would help boost the confidence of the young players before a difficult stretch of upcoming games – Texas Tech, at Missouri, Kansas State, at Texas A&M and at Baylor.
7. Baylor (5-2) – The Bears had a bye in Week 8 and will return to action on Saturday at Oklahoma State. Baylor has had very little success against the Cowboys in recent years, with its last win in this series coming in 2005. The Bears last victory in Stillwater was in 1939. Expect plenty of points in Saturday’s game, as neither team has been very good at stopping the pass.
8. Missouri (3-4) – The Tigers were a trendy upset pick going into Week 8, but Oklahoma State left Columbia with an easy win. Missouri didn’t have an answer for Cowboys’ quarterback Brandon Weeden and a deep group of receivers. Tigers’ quarterback James Franklin didn’t have his best game, tossing three picks and completing 14 of 27 throws. Missouri’s bowl hopes are hanging in the balance with five games remaining. The Tigers travel to College Station to play Texas A&M this Saturday, and the schedule won’t get any easier with Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech its next three opponents.
9. Iowa State (3-4) – The Cyclones dropped their fourth game in a row, losing 33-17 to Texas A&M in Ames. Quarterback Steele Jantz hasn’t been 100 percent since suffering a foot injury against Connecticut in Week 3, and his play has suffered. After an early interception against the Aggies, Iowa State turned to Jared Barnett under center. The redshirt freshman finished with 180 passing yards and 66 on the ground, and is expected to start in Iowa State’s Week 9 game at Texas Tech.
10. Kansas (2-5) – The Jayhawks’ 2011 season took another ugly turn with Saturday’s 59-21 loss to rival Kansas State. Kansas appeared to be on the right track after starting 2-0, but has lost five in a row and weren't competitive in four of those losses. Coach Turner Gill turned around an awful Buffalo team, and knew he had a lot of work to do when he came to Lawrence. However, Gill didn’t exactly get a ringing endorsement from the athletic director after Saturday’s game, and the pressure is on Kansas’ coaching staff to find some answers over the next couple of weeks.
Remember when Felix Jones was one of those fantasy football preseason draft darlings.
"He put on weight!" you said.
"Marion Barber is gone, so he's going to get the goal line carries" you said.
"The only back who could eat into his playing time is Tashard Choice." you said.
Oh, if we could only hear everything fantasy footballers said before, during and right after a draft.
Because the truth is, Felix Jones has had a poor season, even by Tashard Choice standards. He hasn't put up rushing numbers, he only has one touchdown, he only has one 100 yard rushing game. And he hasn't even put up a lot of catches, for a guy who was going to kill it in PPR leagues.
And now he's in a protective boot, and could miss another three weeks. But that's not the worst news.
When back-up to the back-up DeMarco Murray blew up for a Cowboys' record-setting 253 yards against the Rams, that sound you heard was the hot air coming out of Felix Jones owners.
Yes, the Rams are bad. But 253 yards from one guy is insane. As bad as St. Louis has been all year, no one's put up 200 yards on them.
All this points to a changing of the guard in Big D. Murray will be going up against an almost equally anemic run defense in the Eagles this weekend, before seeing the Seahawks stout defense in week 9. If Murray puts up two more solid weeks, it's almost impossible to imagine that the Cowboys would give the majority of touches back to Felix.
And now that Tashard Choice injured his shoulder against the Rams, DeMarco Murray will have the backfield all to himself. This is his chance to take the starting job and literall run away with it. Because Felix had plenty of chances to be the big dog in Big D, but DeMarco is now in the perfect position to have his day.
Beanie Wells has a knack for getting injured. And his fantasy owners are worried this week, when he took that knack to the next level when he re-injured his surgically-repaired right knee in the Cardinals game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So now what? Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn't know the severity of Wells' injury, but we're guessing it's not going to be good news for fantasy footballers.
Wells injured his knee in the second quarter and did not return. Not a good sign.
So while most fantasy owners handcuffed Beanie with LaRod Stephens-Howling, Howling got exactly zero carries filling in for Wells. He did catch two passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, but the lack of carries is very concerning.
Alfonso Smith, instead, got the replacement carries, posting 17 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Smith is the waiver wire back to get this week, as he's the guy to get the majority of carries and touches if Wells is out for an extended period of time.
LaRod Stephens-Howling looks to be the change of pace, third down back who may get a few catches here and there, but probably won't touch the ball enough to be worth a roster spot, even in PPR leagues. (But if you're desperate, I guess you could do worse.)
But before you blow a waiver wire pick on Smith, make sure Beanie is out. The Cardinals play the Ravens tough defense next week, before getting the soft Rams run defense in week 9.
The Indianapolis Colts are taking this "Suck for Luck" thing to Mt. Everest-style heights. Indy put on perhaps the worst performance by an NFL team since the expansion-era Bucs, showing that they're fully prepared to stage a season-long tickle-fight with the Dolphins for a chance at drafting the best QB prospect since the guy standing on the sidelines in a Colts cap. Indy's 62-7 loss to New Orleans in the Superdome was a clear statement that they're in the Luck sweepstakes for keeps.
How bad were the Colts? Let us count the ways. They surrendered 557 yards of offense, providing the Saints with nearly equal opportunities on the ground (236 yards) and through the air (321 yards). The Saints matched the NFL record for points in a single game since the merger, and the 55-point margin was surpassed only by the Patriots' 59–0 win over the Titans in 2009. Indy mustered only 252 yards, much of it in garbage time, and turned the ball over three times, throwing a pick-six to Leigh Torrence to close the scoring.
Drew Brees was brutal in his efficiency, throwing more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four). For the night, Brees was 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five scores, slicing the Colts defense with short timing passes in becoming only the second player since the merger to throw for 300 yards, five TDs and no picks in a game three times. The one-sided spectacle was enough to give interested spectator Archie Manning flashbacks to his days as quarterback for the Aints.
"I was real proud of how we played tonight, how we handled the week of practice," said Saints coach Sean Payton, who coached from the booth while nursing a broken leg. "We spent a lot of time during the week just talking about us beginning to play our best football, because we really felt while we were 4–2, we hadn't done that."
Meanwhile, the Colts seem a bit resigned to their status as NFL doormats.
"That team played better than we did in every area and we just got whooped across the board," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's one of those things that once you don't do the little things right, there is a lot of bad things that happen to you. Obviously, I have to take responsibility for our team and the way that they played."
Uh, Coach, you might not want to do that. Not if you want a shot at standing in the vicinity while Manning tutors Luck next season. Now that would be job security.
• The Titans were nearly as bad as the Colts, allowing the Andre Johnson-less Texans to roll up 518 yards while mustering only 148 themselves in a 41–7 Texans rout. Chris Johnson continues to hear it from the home folks, who rained down boos on Johnson's 10-carry, 18-yard performance. Seems like Titans fans have the impression they're not getting their money's worth.
• My colleague Nathan Rush has said all that needs to be said about Tim Tebow's performance. It wasn't terribly pretty, but Tebow did what he does: He won. One of these games, he might even complete 50 percent of his passes.
• You might think that the 1–6 Vikings have bottomed out given their heartbreaking 33–27 loss to Green Bay. But the men in purple might have themselves a quarterback. Christian Ponder's numbers were horrendous at first glance, but the kid showed heart. Of course, when your counterpart is nearly perfect, it's tough to win. Aaron Rodgers was 24-of-30 for 335 yards and three TDs in his continuing assault on the record books.
• Most valuable non-QB in the league? How about Matt Forte? The Bears running back is the first player since 2004 to surpass 1,000 yards from scrimmage in seven games after rushing for 145 yards and catching passes for 38 more in a 24–18 win over Tampa Bay in London.
• On a day of steaming deuces, few stunk worse than the Saint Louis Rams. After entering the season with hopes of a division title, the Rams fell to 0–6 with a 34–7 loss to the Cowboys, allowing DeMarco Murray, of all people, to set the Cowboys single-game rushing record with 253 yards.
• Carson Palmer's debut with the Raiders couldn't have gone worse. Palmer was 8-of-21 for 116 yards and three interceptions as Oakland lost to the Chiefs 28–0. Kyle Boller, whom he replaced, was just as bad, throwing a pick-six on the Raiders' first possession, one of his three first-half interceptions. Palmer may be regretting his decision to climb off the couch, although the Raiders have a bye week to figure things out.
by Nathan Rush
Superman saved the day again. Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to an 18–15 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins.
With Urban Meyer watching on the sideline and a sea of blue No. 15 jerseys — both Broncos and Florida Gators — in the stands, Tebow led Denver to 18 unanswered points in a come-from-behind victory that was sealed by a 52-yard field goal from Matt Prater.
It may have taken chants of “We want Tebow!” from the crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a massive digital billboard reading “Broncos Fans to John Fox: Play Tebow!!” north of downtown Denver at the intersection of 58th and Logan, and a miserable 6–21 record in the last 27 starts of Kyle Orton, but it has finally happened — Tebow was named the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos for Week 7.
Why it took so long for owner Pat Bowlen, two-time Super Bowl champion-turned-executive VP of football operations John Elway and Coach Fox to turn to the No. 25 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, who knows?
Presumably, the decision-makers want to distance themselves from all moves made by Josh McDaniels, who was fired after a 3–9 start to last season. McDaniels is, after all, the slash-and-burn emperor with no clothes who traded away Jay Cutler and drafted Tebow.
But after a 1–4 start to the 2011 season, pride should be thrown out the window in favor of production. That is, unless Stanford legend Elway wants to lose as many games as possible in order to ensure the No. 1 overall pick to draft current Cardinal icon Andrew Luck.
But even if the Broncos don’t get the top pick, Luck could always pull an “Elway” and demand a trade to Denver — which is what Elway did to the Baltimore Colts in 1983.
If the Broncos want to win this year, Tebow is the only way to go. And Sunday afternoon in South Florida was just another example of that fact — which the fans in Miami seem to have an easier time accepting than the decision-makers in Denver.
Tebow was the main attraction on “Gator Day” at Sun Life Stadium, where the 2008 BCS national title-winning Florida team was honored at halftime.
A slow start put the Broncos in a 15–0 hole. But the powerful 6'3", 236-pound dual-threat lefty leader lifted the team to a 15–0 fourth-quarter run — commanding touchdown drives of 80 and 56 yards to force overtime and ultimately hand the winless 0–6 Dolphins their 12th loss in their last 13 home games.
“It’s tough to say, but man, Timmy did a great job,” said Miami rookie center Mike Pouncey, a teammate of Tebow’s at Florida.
“Hopefully the critics will get off him about what he can’t do and talk about the things that he can do, and that’s figure out a way to win the game, no matter what.”
Tebow finished the game with 161 passing yards, two TDs and zero INTs, as well as eight carries for 65 yards and the overtime-forcing two-point conversion on the ground. He has now thrown for 894 yards, eight TDs and three INTs, while rushing for 329 yards and seven TDs in 13 career games.
Rightfully labeled a “winner,” Tebow has a 2–2 record in four NFL starts. The Broncos are 4–14 in all other games since drafting Tebow.
Still, there seems to be a league-wide reluctance to acknowledge Tebow’s success and potential. Worse, there is an eagerness to shoot down or pick apart the young signal-caller — whose simultaneously brutish and instinctual skills admittedly resemble a leather-helmeted old school throwback more than a radio-headset-wearing modern day pocket passer.
But, as anyone who has met the remarkable 24-year-old can attest, the Tebow aura is real, his “it” factor is off the charts and his winning enthusiasm is contagious. Elway may continue to lead the Tebow doubters, but it would be hard to find a Denver teammate who isn’t standing loyally behind their new quarterback.
“First off, I have to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and my teammates … they believed in me for more than 60 minutes,” said Tebow, immediately after the win.
“You can’t lose confidence in yourself or you’ve lost already. When you get knocked down, you’ve got to keep getting back up.”
After this week’s win in Miami, it’s Tebow time in Denver — even if Elway doesn’t believe in Superman.
Sam Bradford has been downgraded to out against the Dallas Cowboys due to his high ankle sprain. But, while you may want to, now is not the time to give up on the Rams quarterback.
The two reasons to keep him are 1) the addition of Brandon Lloyd and the Rams' remaining schedule. Will these two things make a difference for your fantasy team?
Yes, but it is still going to take some time. You are probably teetering on giving up on Bradford because he has failed miserably to live up to expectations this season, but hold on a little longer.
The trade for Brandon Lloyd with the Denver Broncos brings a receiver Rams’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels certainly brought out of nowhere last season when he was head coach in Denver. St. Louis also activated Mark Clayton from the PUP list this week, a receiver that Bradford clicked with instantly last season. A knee injury last year sidelined Clayton to this point. Danario Alexander seems to be a reliable deep threat after having battled with his own injuries. And rookie Greg Salas has become a favorite target in the slot role where we all expected someone, either Danny Amendola to be the new Wes Welker.
Bradford has underwhelmed us this season to say the least. He is the 31st ranked quarterback heading into Week 7, scoring just 59.28 points in Athlon’s scoring format (6 points all touchdowns and 1 point per 25 yards passing). He has just one game in the teens which was a 19.74-point effort against a depleted New York Giants secondary.
One of the caveat’s about owning Bradford this season was the fact the Rams had a tough schedule the first half of the year. But if he can stay healthy (currently battling a high ankle sprain and may not play this week) and get acclimated with the new targets, that schedule against the pass certainly lightens up.
After Dallas, the Rams play six of their seven games against teams currently in the bottom half of the league against fantasy quarterbacks, including New Orleans (24th), Arizona (22nd), Cleveland (5th), Seattle (17th), Arizona (22nd), San Francisco (19th) and Seattle (17th). Keep in mind when your fantasy schedule matters most, the final two playoff weeks 15 and 16, the Rams play two of the top teams currently against fantasy passers in Cincinnati (3rd) and Pittsburgh (2nd).
But back to this week.
As a sidebar, if you are VERY desperate, A.J. Feeley may be a decent spot start in Bradford’s sted as the Rams should be trailing and due to Dallas’ track record against fantasy quarterbacks thus far.
Dallasv has allowed all but one opposing QB to score 19-plus fantasy points (Mark Sanchez (22.7), Alex Smith (20.26), Matthew Stafford (19.5), Rex Grossman (13.6) and Tom Brady (21.26).
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough
It is not that often that fantasy kickers get any glory as we always tell you to wait until the last or second-to-last pick of your drafts to select the position. But Sebastian Janikowski brings what no other kicker in the league does on a consistent basis - the long ball. If your league awards bonus points for distance kicks, then Janikowski is the man to have. Through six weeks, he already has five 50-plus field goals and 12 field goals altogether.
The Raiders play host to Kansas City this week and then go on their bye. So if you are a fantasy player that doesn’t hold two kickers on your roster you were probably set to dump him next week anyways. But if you like the consistency he has brought you with the long ball over the years and 2.6 PATs per game he is averaging this season, you might have considered holding on to him through the bye week.
Janikowski was added to the injury report on Thursday, and the Raiders were trying out kickers on Friday.
It doesn’t help as a fantasy player that some of the better kickers are on bye weeks themselves. David Akers (3rd), Mike Nugent (9th), Stephen Gostkowski (9th), Rian Lindell (11th), Alex Henery (14th) and Lawrence Tynes are all idle this week.
Some of the top-20 options available are Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth, Minnesota’s Ryan Longwell, Miami’s Dan Carpenter, San Diego’s Nick Novak, Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri and Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee.
All of the aforementioned have scored at least 44 fantasy points this season (in Athlon’s format), and here is a breakdown of their Week 7 match ups.
Connor Barth (52 fantasy points) vs. Chicago (in London)
The Bears are 17th in the league at eight points allowed per game to kickers. It could be a soggy field, could bog down the offenses. This could be a field goal kicker kind of day.
Ryan Longwell (47 points) vs. Green Bay
The Packers are 4th in the league at six points per game to kickers. I don’t see much work for Longwell as rookie Christian Ponder gets the start against the Super Bowl champs.
Dan Carpenter (46 points) vs. Denver
Carpenter has the most potential as the Dolphins face a Denver team that has allowed a league-leading 10 points a game to kickers.
Nick Novak (46 points) at New York Jets
The Jets are middle of the road at 16th, allowing 7.8 points per game to kickers. I see this as a pretty good match up for Novak and the Chargers. They should be able to move the ball, but if they can’t punch it across the goal line in steps Novak.
Adam Vinatieri (44 points) at New Orleans
The Saints are 23rd in the league at 8.2 points per game to kickers. It’s indoors, so that’s always good. I doubt the Colts can go toe to toe with the Saints offensively, but they might move it enough to make Vinatieri relevant.
Josh Scobee (44 points) vs. Baltimore
The Ravens are No. 1 in the NFL against kickers, surrendering just 4.6 points per game. Say no to Sco.
If I’m on the waiver wire to replace Janikowski this week (and I am in three leagues), then I go Carpenter first then Novak, Barth and Vinatieri.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough
A look at every game on the schedule, along with a consensus pick of Athlon’s editors.
Chargers (4-1) at Jets (3-3)
On the surface, New York’s split stats are telling — the Jets are 3–0 at home, 0–3 on the road. But this will be the first team with a winning record that Rex Ryan’s club has hosted. Their previous three wins have come against the Cowboys, Jaguars and Dolphins — teams with a combined 3–13 record. Meanwhile, their road losses were against the Raiders, Ravens and Patriots — teams with a combined 13–4 mark.
Jets by 1
Texans (3-3) at Titans (3-2)
Tennessee has the worst running game in the NFL, averaging a sinister 66.6 yards per game. Nearly everyone blames this lack of success on Chris Johnson, who has run for a measly 250 yards (3.0 ypc) and only one TD since inking a four-year, $53.5 million deal following a prolonged preseason holdout. There’s reason for hope, however; CJ2K has 622 rush yards (5.9 ypc) and four total TDs in six career games against AFC South rival Houston.
Titans by 1
Redskins (3-2) at Panthers (1-5)
The quarterback situation in Washington is so bad, the fans are actually chanting “We want John Beck.” Presumably, any passer is better than Rex Grossman on an off day. Carolina has no such problems, as Cam Newton is the face of the franchise and the motor that powers the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing attack (297.3 ypg).
Panthers by 3
Bears (3-3) vs. Buccaneers (4-2)
The NFL hits London, England, for the fifth straight season. Tampa Bay’s “home” game will be at historic Wembley Stadium, which seats 86,000 for American football games.
Bears by 1
Seahawks (2-3) at Browns (2-3)
Seattle coach and Twitter titan Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) has been jokingly recruiting NBA superstar LeBron James (@KingJames) to play football. The 6'8", 250-pounder won’t play. But if LBJ did, his debut would be in Cleveland.
Browns by 3
Falcons (3-3) at Lions (5-1)
Detroit must regroup following its first loss of the season and the strange postgame scene that followed. Atlanta is 0–2 vs. the NFC North this year, losing by a combined score of 55–26.
Lions by 6
Broncos (1-4) at Dolphins (0-5)
Since Dan Marino retired after the ’99 season, Miami has started 16 different quarterbacks — Moore, Thigpen, Henne, Pennington, Beck, Green, Lemon, Culpepper, Harrington, Frerotte, Rosenfels, Feeley, Griese, Lucas, Huard and Fiedler. Since John Elway retired following the ’98 campaign, Denver has started 11 different passers — Tebow, Orton, Simms, Cutler, Jackson, Kanell, Plummer, Beuerlein, Frerotte, Miller and Griese. Both teams just want Luck.
Broncos by 3
Steelers (4-2) at Cardinals (1-4)
Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt square off for the first time since Pittsburgh beat Arizona, 27–23, in Super Bowl XLIII. Unfortunately for Cards fans, Kevin Kolb is no Kurt Warner.
Steelers by 8
Chiefs (2-3) at Raiders (4-2)
Following Jason Campbell’s season-ending broken collarbone, Oakland made the bold move to trade for quarterback Carson Palmer, who had been quasi-retired as a result of his refusal to play for Cincinnati. Rather than roll the dice with Kyle Boller and Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders ponied up and paid the steep price to secure the 31-year-old two-time Pro Bowler.
Raiders by 8
Packers (6-0) at Vikings (1-5)
Aaron Rodgers has a 3–3 record vs. Minnesota — going 2–0 against Brett Favre last season, 0–2 in Favre’s first season in purple and 1–1 against the Vikes as a first-year starter in ’08.
Packers by 13
Rams (0-5) at Cowboys (2-3)
It’s a multi-sport St. Louis at Dallas weekend, as the Cardinals are also on the road to take on the Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series in prime time on Sunday night.
Cowboys by 8
Colts (0-6) at Saints (4-2)
What would normally be a Peyton Manning homecoming love fest on Sunday Night Football is now likely a Big Easy victory for the Saints.
Saints by 15
Ravens (4-1) at Jaguars (1-5)
Ray Lewis leads the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense (14.2 ppg) on the road to take on the second-worst scoring offense (12.0 ppg).
Ravens by 9
There are only ten undefeated teams left in college football. Four of those squads — Stanford, Oklahoma State, LSU and Wisconsin — will face challenging upset bids on Saturday. The Cardinal host Washington, as Huskies quarterback Keith Price has thrown for at least three touchdowns in every game this season. LSU will entertain Auburn without suspended stars Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware. Wisconsin travels to Michigan State, where the Spartans just defeated instate rival Michigan. Oklahoma State heads to Missouri, and the Tigers have won 10 in a row at home in Columbia.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Washington has a good chance to knock off Stanford on Saturday. Sure, the Cardinal is undefeated, but their schedule hasn’t exactly been the most difficult in college football. Stanford’s defense has held up well, despite the loss of All-American linebacker Shayne Skov, but Washington will provide a difficult test. The Huskies are struggling on defense, which could hinder their upset chances. However, Washington has the firepower on offense with quarterback Keith Price, running back Chris Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse. Also, the Huskies are hungry for a marquee win under coach Steve Sarkisian. I am picking Stanford to win, but think this one is much, much closer than some may expect.
Missouri has the best shot at taking down an unbeaten when it hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin has been taking strides forward every week as a dual-threat playmaker — passing for 1,488 yards, 10 TDs and four INTs, while scrambling for another 390 yards and seven TDs on the ground this season. Defensively, tackle Sheldon Richardson has stepped up his game since transferring from junior college. The 6'4", 290-pounder has yet to make a major splash on the Big 12 stage, however. Coach Gary Pinkel's club is capable of hanging around against top competition, with three respectable losses — a 37–30 overtime defeat at Arizona State, a 38–28 loss at Oklahoma and a 24–17 loss at Kansas State. With home-field advantage and an improving roster, Mizzou has a good shot at taking down undefeated O-State.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Despite the suspensions, I firmly believe that Auburn won't be able to score enough points to top LSU on the road. I also don't think Washington can slow Andrew Luck (although, they will cover the 20-point spread) on the road. That leaves Michigan State and Mizzou at home against Wisconsin and Oklahoma State respectively. While Michigan State has played well at home against Bucky, the loss of William Gholston along the defensive front against that mammoth UW offensive line makes it hard to call for the upset in East Lansing. That leaves the Tigers of Mizzou, who are looking for on-field respite from conference affiliation talk. The fact that Brandon Weeden has never faced Gary Pinkel might give Missouri just enough of an edge to pull the upset.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’m not predicting any of the four unbeaten teams will fall this weekend, but I think the best shot may be Auburn to upset LSU. In the other three games, I don’t see the underdog team stopping the All-America-level quarterbacks — Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson. Auburn’s defense has played well recently, and coordinator Ted Roof generally does well against pro-style attacks. LSU should counter that with plenty of Jordan Jefferson runs, but they will miss physical runner Spencer Ware. The LSU defense is solid, but it did give up 27 points to Oregon and 533 total yards to West Virginia. Coordinator Gus Malzahn has a similarly wide-open offense, and Auburn should get top receiver Emory Blake back in the lineup. If Michael Dyer and the AU run game can control the clock, this game could go down to the wire in Baton Rouge.
By RALPH VACCHIANO
Donovan McNabb took a seat last week, perhaps putting an end to his stellar NFL career. He was a shell of his former self, but more importantly the Vikings are 1-5 and they have a fresh, young quarterback collecting dust on the sidelines.
Scenes like that play out all the time in the ever-changing world of the NFL, where it’s always been a young man’s game and the next great generation is always just around the corner. That’s certainly been true for quarterbacks, where it seems a new bumper crop is produced every few years. It’s been more than eight years now since the 2003 draft gave us Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers and Matt Schaub.
Once the new, hot fresh faces of the NFL, now they’re all smacking hard into 30.
Even Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are “veteran” quarterbacks now, which tells you how quickly the winds can change. The next generation is already warming up in the bullpen with players from the 25-and-under set started for nine of the 32 NFL teams. From Cam Newton, to Matthew Stafford, to Mark Sanchez, to Colt McCoy, there’s a new crop ready to be harvested.
Here’s a look at the kids – all the under-25 staring quarterbacks in the NFL at the moment -- and how they rank among themselves as they begin what they all hope will be long careers in the league:
1. Matthew Stafford, 23, Detroit – He’s shaken off two injury plagued seasons to fulfill all his promise so far. In six games he’s 5-1 with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Last year he had six TDs and one interception in three games, so that mistake-free football isn’t an aberration or a surprise. He’s arrived, and as long as he’s healthy the Lions will be tough to beat.
2. Josh Freeman, 23, Tampa Bay – He finds a way to win (4-2 this year) even though he doesn’t have the most talented team around him. It’s a bit alarming that he’s only thrown five touchdowns (and six interceptions) this year, but in the last there games he only had two picks, so maybe he’s settled down. He’s big, tough and accurate. Maybe the most underrated of the bunch.
3. Cam Newton, 22, Carolina – So much for rookie quarterbacks struggling with no offseason, huh? Two 400-yard games, another at 374, a completion percentage near 60 (58.5). He still throws way too many interceptions (nine through six games), but he’s just getting started. He’s strong and confident in the pocket. He can run. He’s really on his way to erasing all doubts.
4. Sam Bradford, 23, St. Louis – He’s taken a somewhat alarming step back after last year, in part because of the dismal team around him. Still, it’s a quarterback’s job to figure out a way to win and the Rams are 0-5 and Bradford has only thrown three touchdown passes so far. The needle is still pointed up, but even though he’s taking a beating behind a porous line, he’s got to do better than a 53.1 percent completion ratio.
5. Mark Sanchez, 24, New York Jets – He may be young, but he’s in his third year which means the learning curve should be over. Yet despite two trips to the AFC championship game, he’s still shown few signs that he can carry his team. His completion percentage sits at 56.1 percent and he’s got just nine touchdown passes in six games despite some talented receivers. He was supposed to be so much better by now. So is this all there is?
6. Andy Dalton, 23, Cincinnati – Another rookie who is defying the odds, when it first looked like he might spend the season watching and learning. The Bengals are a surprising 4-2, he’s got a 62.4 completion percentage and has more touchdowns (7) than interceptions (5). Another good start for a rookie who had no time to learn.
7. Colt McCoy, 25, Cleveland – They sure are letting him throw a lot – 217 times in five games. And he’s still avoiding mistakes, which is impressive. He’s thrown only three interceptions so far, putting him way ahead of the nine he threw in eight starts last year. The competition hasn’t been the best and the Browns are only 2-3, but he’s already exceeded some expectations.
8. Blaine Gabbert, 22, Jacksonville – He looks most like a rookie, of all the rookie quarterbacks. He’s also on a bad team and got off to a late start. So don’t be alarmed by a completion percentage under 50 (48.8) or only four touchdown passes. It could be worse. He’s only thrown two interceptions, which is far ahead of the usual rookie rate.
9. Christian Ponder, 23, Minnesota – He mopped up last week, going 9 of 17 for 99 yards and gets his first start this Sunday. For now he’s at the bottom of this list only because his grade is incomplete.
Jerome Harrison now joins of the ranks of "guys who learned they had brain tumors because of football."
The last example of this was the famous Tony Gonzalez hit on then unknown photographer Mickey Pfleger. The hit knocked Pfleger unconscious and because he went to the hospital and had a brain scan, doctors discovered an enormous brain tumor and were able to catch it in time. In other words, the Tony Gonzalez hit saved Pfleger's life.
And now we have a similar situation with Jerome Harrison, who may have just had his life saved because of a physical performed during the Harrison for Ronnie Brown trade (which is now voided.)
A lot of dominoes had to fall for the life-saving Jerome Harrison for Ronnie Brown trade. So let's look at a few of the details and history that needed to happen for this trade to take place, and hence, for doctors to find Jerome Harrison's brain tumor and save his life.
7. Kevin Smith Tears His ACL In 2009
If the Lions starting running back at the time hadn't torn his ACL at the end of 2009, then Detroit probably wouldn't have made a point of trading up to go after Jahvid Best to replace him. (Why they went after an injury-prone back to fill the role of an injured back is another argument for another time.)
6. Jahvid's Concussions Drop Him In The 2010 Draft
Jahvid Best was supposed to be the next Chris Johnson. A super fast track star who could make guys miss and take it to the house on any given play. But after suffering two concussions in college one against Arizona State and another against Oregon State), his draft stock fell. Hard. Originally thought to be an early to mid first rounder, his injuries scared teams off and he fell to the end of the first round. The Lions traded up to get the 30th pick in the first round to snatch up Best (they took Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick.) If NFL teams weren't concerned about Best's injuries, he would have gone much higher, giving the Lions no chance at drafting him.
5. The Lions Draft Jahvid Best in 2010
Considered an injury risk coming out of Cal, Best seemed like he was a concussion away from happening in the new NFL. After suffering a couple concussions in college (one of them was brutal), combined with the NFL's increased concerns about player's concussions in recent years, Jahvid is one of the biggest running back injury concerns in the league. If the Lions opt for a more sturdy back, then the dominoes that fell into place for the Harrison deal has a far smaller chance of happening.
4. Mikel LeShoure's Tears His Achilles In the 2011 Preseason
Mikel LeShoure was supposed to be the back-up for Jahvid Best. And if he doesn't go out for the season with a torn achilles in the preseason, the Lions don't sign Jerome Harrison (who played for the Eagles last year) to play the role of back-up on Detroit.
3. Jerome Harrison and Ronnie Brown's Poor Play in 2011
Let's face it, if Harrison had been playing great, the Lions would have never traded him. And the same goes for Ronnie Brown and the Eagles. The Detroit Free Press had labeled the running game behind Best a "downer" and "unimpressive." The only reason this trade was made, was that Harrison played for the Eagles last year, so he knows the system. The Lions were hoping a change of scenery and offensive scheme would help Brown, while the Eagles were hoping the same for Harrison, who had played sparingly, but pretty well for them last year.
2. The Lions Played the 49ers in Week 6
To further the point about Best's concussion, the fact they were playing the 49ers seemed to increase Best's chances of getting hurt. According to the Mercury News: The 49ers have a history of knocking running backs out of games in the fourth quarter this year. In addition to Best, they've also hurt Tampa's LeGarrette Blount and Dallas' Felix Jones. If the Lions were playing another team, Best may have not suffered a concussion and the Harrison-Brown trade may have never happened.
1. Jahvid Best's Concussion in Week 6
It's ironic that a brain tumor was found because of a head injury to another player. But that's the case here. If Jahvid Best doesn't suffer a concussion in the 4th quarter of the Lions loss to the 49ers, then this trade never happens. The only reason the Harrison for Brown trade took place was that the ions thought Ronnie Brown was a better insurance policy than Harrison if Best ended up missing the rest of the season. The mandatory physical this trade caused found the tumor in Jerome Harrison's brain. Doctors think they have caught it so early that he will not only recover fully, but that he may be able to play again.
In summary, Jerome Harrison may have had his life saved because Kevin Smith tore his ACL in 2009, which caused the Lions to draft running back Jahvid Best in 2010. The Lions were able to draft Best because his draft stock fell due to his own concussions. When Mikel LeShoure tore his achilles, the Lions signed Harrison to back-up Best, who suffered his second concussion of the year when the Lions played the 49ers--a team who has a history of knocking running backs out of games. With the injury-prone Best's future in question this season, the Lions attempted to swap the poor playing Harrison for the equally poor playing Brown, causing the physical that found his tumor.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
1. LSU vs. Alabama (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Bama leads 45-24-5
This one pretty much has it all: Coaching and fanbase storylines, divisional and conference title implications, Heisman Trophy candidates and a potential BCS National Championship berth. Despite dominating for most of this rivalry and winning two of the last three, LSU has had Bama’s number for the better part of a decade – winning six of the last eight meetings. These are arguably the two best defenses in the nation and will both make things tough on the running game. Therefore, whichever quarterback can convert key third and longs in the fourth quarter will likely set his team up for a national title run. These are two of the best rosters in the nation, but the edge goes to the better coach and home-field advantage. This has been targeted as the biggest game of the season nationally and through seven weeks, nothing has changed. This will be the brightest and most important spotlight of the 2011 college football season.
Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 3
2. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (Week 14)
Dec. 3, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 81-17-7
Dan Beebe and the Big 12 had to highlight one game on Championship Saturday after losing its title game and The Bedlam Series was an easy choice. Not only will in-state bragging rights be on the line for the 105th time, but the Big 12 title – and potential BCS National Championship – could be at stake as well. Oklahoma State appears to be the prime contender to Oklahoma in the league and will have a chance to prove it on the final weekend of the regular season. The Sooners have won eight straight in the series including last year’s 47-41 that featured 967 yards of total offense and 725 combined passing yards. Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden combined for 105 pass attempts, six touchdowns and six interceptions. Fans can expect fireworks once again from the Bedlam Series.
Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 3
3. Oregon vs. Stanford (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Stanford leads 44-29-1
The Pac-12 conference title will likely be on the line when Oregon flies south to Palo Alto. Stanford has owned the all-time series, but over the last decade the Ducks have dominated. Oregon dropped 52 points on the Cardinal last fall and has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Ducks have struggled against power teams (Ohio State, Auburn, LSU) over the last two years and the Cardinal will have as close to a power rushing attack as there is on the West Coast. Will the Ducks’ front seven be able to pressure Andrew Luck and slow the ground game? And can the Cardinal keep the Ducks from scoring 52 points again?
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 4
4. Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 28-21
These two have swapped victories in the last six meetings including a tight 10-point win by Michigan State a year ago that cost the Badgers the outright conference title. Kirk Cousins converted a few key goalline fourth downs to give Michigan State its first share of a conference title since 1990. Wisconsin brings the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense and the top rated rushing attack, passing attack and total offense in the Big Ten to East Lansing. Jerell Worthy and the nation’s No. 2 defense will be prepared along the Spartan front. Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson will likely hold the key to success. Whichever quarterback can complete passes down the field in the vertical passing game will likely lead his team to victory.
Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 4
5. Alabama vs. Auburn (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Bama leads 40-34-1
The Iron Bowl is one of the single greatest football games of the season each and every year. And while the 2011 edition might lack the national appeal of last season’s unbelievable come-from-behind Tigers victory, there will be no loved lost come November 26. Auburn has rebuilt quicker than expected and while there is loads of young potential running around the Plains, Alabama has too much veteran talent to miss an opportunity at payback. Especially when a BCS national championship could be at stake.
Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 10
6. Oregon vs. Washington (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Washington leads 58-40-5
Two of the best uniforms in the nation will take the field in what should be a visual show in the richly colored Pacific Northwest. The scoreboard shouldn’t be short on color either as the winner of this game has averaged 43 points per game over the last nine meetings. In fact, the winner of this game has scored less than 42 points only twice (31 in 2004, 34 in 2006). The Ducks have won seven straight meetings and will likely post another crooked number. However, Steve Sarkisian has plenty of talent with Keith Price playing well ahead of schedule. The Huskies are the primary challenger to Oregon and Stanford in the North.
Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7
7. Clemson vs. Georgia Tech (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Tech leads 48-25-2
The rematch of the 2009 ACC championship game could be a preview of the 2011 ACC title bout. Tech won that game - and had won six out of seven - but Clemson handled the Jackets with relative ease last fall 27-13 in Death Valley. This one will be in Atlanta and will feature the top two offenses in the ACC. Tech (at 347 yards rushing per game) leads the conference in scoring, rushing and total offense while the Tigers rank No. 2 in all three categories. How each defense plays quarterback Tevin Washington, who leads the ACC in passer efficiency, and Tajh Boyd, who leads the conference in total offense, will likely be the determining factor.
Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 3
8. Arkansas vs. LSU (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: LSU leads 34-20-2
Arkansas has taken three of the last four from LSU, including a thrilling 50-48 win in Baton Rouge over the eventual National Champions in 2007. It is the Hogs only win in its last eight trips to the Bayou. The battle for control of the line of scrimmage will either make Jarret Lee and Jordan Jefferson’s job much easier or much more difficult. Should Arkansas win that match-up, it will be because Tyler Wilson and the excellent talent around him made plays down the field. The Hogs still has shown holes along the offensive line, so picking up yards on the ground against LSU sans Knile Davis will be a difficult task.
Athlon’s Prediction: LSU by 9
9. Michigan State vs. Nebraska (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Nebraksa leads 5-0
The Spartans are still looking for their first ever win over Nebraska, and with one in 2011, they could find themselves playing in December in Indianapolis. After a quality win over archrival Michigan, Sparty fancies itself as the primary contender in the Big Ten Legends Division. The last meeting between the two took place in the Alamo Bowl in 2003 and Nebraska has outscored Michigan State 181-34 in the five meetings with an average margin of victory just under 30 points. Nebraska possesses two of the top five rushers in the Big Ten and Michigan State is allowing a league best 186.2 yards per game.
Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 4
10. Ohio State vs. Michigan (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 57-43-6
The greatest rivalry in all of college football will be renewed for the 107th time when these two Midwest powers lock horns in the final week of the regular season. Despite the prestige, tradition and nostalgia created from watching the Maize and Blue battle with the Scarlet and Gray, this rivalry has been totally one-sided of late. Ohio State has won seven straight and nine of the last ten. Brady Hoke and Denard Robinson clearly has Michigan pointed in the right direction and has the Wolverines in a position to surprise. However, the Buckeyes will only get better until the final week of the season and will still be able to control the trenches. Michigan will beat OSU in the near future, it just isn’t likely to happen in 2011.
Athlon’s Prediction: Buckeyes by 3
11. Texas vs. Texas A&M (Week 13)
Nov. 24, All-Time Series: 75-37-5
These two bitter rivals have only upped the ante with Texas A&M’s move to the SEC. The Aggies hate the Longhorns for a variety of reasons – not the least of which has been on the field domination by the Horns. Texas has won eight of the last 11 meetings, but TAMU currently holds the bragging rights with a 24-17 win last fall to go with three wins in the last five match-ups over Big Brother. Aggie fans still have Big 12 title hopes while Texas fans are reeling after two losses to the Sooner State. If Texas rebounds quickly and the Aggies can stay the course, the Lone Star Showdown could carry more weight than just eternal conference bragging rights. Otherwise, this will be a Turkey Day hangover game filled with nothing but Aggie one-liners and Burnt Orange hatred.
Athlon’s Prediction: Aggies by 7
12. Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech (Week 11)
Nov. 10, All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads 5-3
The actual and football IQ will be off the charts in this Coastal contest. The home team has won the last three games in this budding rivarly, with all three games decided by one score or less. This Thursday night primetime get together in Atlanta will likely decide the Coastal's representative in the ACC title game. The battle within the battle will be intriguing as the Paul Johnson's ACC-leading rushing attack will go nose to nose with Bud Foster's ACC-leading rush defense. Get the ice-packs ready for this one.
Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 4
13. Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 18-11
Crimson and Cream faithful certainly have this one circled on the calendar this fall. Not only is Texas A&M is still one of the top contenders to the Sooners’ title hopes, but they also are programa non grata in the Big 12 and upset OU in last year’s bout. The Aggies entered the fourth quarter with a narrow 19-17 lead before two big play touchdowns from Cyrus Gray and Ryan Swope broke open the game. Landry Jones was sacked four times as the Sooners were held in check on the ground. TAMU held Oklahoma to 72 yards rushing on 44 carries. Without Von Miller, the game moves to Norman with revenge on the mind of Bob Stoops.
Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 10
14. West Virginia vs. Rutgers (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: WVU leads 32-4-2
To say that the West Virginia Mountaineers have owned this series is an understatement to say the least. The Mounties have won 16 straight games against Rutgers dating back to a 1994 17-12 win by the Knights in New Brunswick. Greg Schiano's bunch hasn't played a great schedule, but with a dominating performance against Pitt (34-10) and an double-overtime win over Syracuse, the Knights are atop the Big East standings. With a win at Lousiville this weekend, Rutgers could make this the first of many title elimination games.
Athlon's Prediction: West Virginia by 10
15. Florida vs. Georgia (Week 9, Jacksonville)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: UGA leads 46-40-2
In one of the more exciting football games of the season, the Gators topped the Dawgs 34-31 in overtime last fall. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should be just as intense in 2011. Murray set a career high with his first 300-yard passing game (313) and tied his career best with three touchdown tosses. He also set a career mark with three interceptions (he had eight total in 2010). Georgia has eyes set on Atlanta in December and winning every game might be its only way back to the title game. And this is biggest conference test left for the Dawgs.
Athlon’s Prediction: Dawgs by 10
16. Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 53-18-5
Ohio State won 21 straight meetings with the Badgers from 1960 to 1980. Since then, Wisconsin has held its own in the blossoming rivalry 11-14-1 in the 26 games since. In fact, these two teams have split the last six, eight and 10 games played. But Ohio State has won the last two in Columbus in convincing fashion (at least on the scoreboard) 69-30. Russell Wilson will be playing in the most hostile environment of his career when he walks into the Shoe and will need his running game if he expects to leave Columbus with a win. However, the Bucks have totally stymied the Badgers’ potent rushing game in the last two meetings on the Banks of the Olentagy’s. Sconie has mustered only 130 yards on 81 carries in the two losses. Ohio State is still stiff on defense, but keeping up with a team that averages over 50 points per game will be a tall order for true freshman Braxton Miller.
Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 7
17. USC vs. Notre Dame (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 43-33-5
One the nation’s most prestigious rivalries will be renewed for the 82nd time when USC heads to South Bend this weekend. The Irish got off the schneid last season when they outlasted the Trojans 20-16 in Los Angeles as it was the first victory for Notre Dame over USC since 2001 (0-8). In a series that has featured second halves like Anthony Davis' and fourth quarter “heroics” like the Bush Push, this reunion is a must-see each and every season. Both teams appear to be improved from a year ago and customary year-long bragging rights will be on the line.
Athlon’s Prediction: Irish by 3
18. USC vs. Oregon (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: USC leads 37-18-2
This game should have been one of two potential Pac-12 championship game previews. USC is the best team in the South but will not be allowed to play in the inaugural conference title bout. That doesn’t really affect the players on the field, however, as these are arguably the most talent-laden rosters in the conference. Despite being dominated for the better part of the century, Oregon has reestablished its home field advantage in this budding rivalry, winning five of the last seven meetings in Eugene. The Ducks have also won three of the last four overall reunions, including a 53–32 shellacking in 2010.
Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7
19. Oklahoma vs. Kansas State (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 70-17-4
Six of the 17 all-time series wins by the Wildcats have come with Bill Snyder at the helm (6-9 overall), including the 35-7 Big 12 title game rout in 2003 - and you can bet Bob Stoops still has nightmares about No. 43. The Sooners have done everything asked of them thus far as they march towards a potential Big 12 and National Championship. However, Kansas State has beaten the likes of Miami, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech over the last month and boasts the league's No. 2 scoring defense. Ty Zimmerman, Arthur Brown and Meshak Williams will have to be at thier best if they expect to pull the upset.
Athlon's Prediction: Sooners by 10
20. Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Oklahoma State leads 35-22
From 1990 to 2002, Oklahoma State got completely shutout by Bill Snyder (9-0). But since then, the Pokes have won three out of four and the last two in Stillwater. However, those two losses were by a combined six points and KSU averaged 36.5 points per game. Okie State boasts a tremendous offense, maybe the best in the nation, but the defense has had its issues - it's ranked 100th nationally in total defense. The Wildcats will be coming off of a battle with Oklahoma the week before, and if they somehow upset the Sooners, this game takes on added importance. If Kansas State cannot beat Oklahoma, it could be a long two weeks for Wildcats fans.
Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma State by 14
21. Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: Pittsburgh leads 61-39-3
The Backyard Brawl is the Big East’s top rivalry and there could be plenty on the line when these two teams meet in late November. The new coaches in this rivalry aren’t particularly fond of one another, so there will be some added spice to this matchup. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wasn’t happy with Pittsburgh’s Todd Graham during their time in Conference USA accusing Tulsa of faking injuries to slow down Houston’s high-powered offense. The Mountaineers have won the last two matchups in this series and three out of the last four in Morgantown.
Athlon’s Prediction: West Virginia by 10
22. Nebraska vs. Michigan (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-2-1
Nebraska had a rough enough schedule through September and October, but won’t get any breaks in the final three weeks of the regular season either. In back-to-back weekends, the Huskers have to play in front hostile 110,000-seat crowds in Happy Valley and Ann Arbor. It was 1962 the last time Big Red visited the Big House. The Wolverines lost the first Legends Division elimination game this weekend in East Lansing, but still could push for division supremacy. However, the Wolverines have yet to prove it can match wills along the line of scrimmage with the Big Ten’s elite. And stopping the Rex Burkhead-Taylor Martinez combo takes strength up front.
Athlon’s Prediction: Nebraska by 4
23. Iowa vs. Nebraska (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 26-12-3
These two heartland powers really haven’t met since World War II. The border rivals met regularly during the World War I era as well as in the 30s and 40s, but have played only six times since 1946. The renewal of what is now an intra-divisional rivalry could still carry with it divisional implications - whole ear of corn, so to speak, could be on the line in the season finale in Lincoln. The Hawkeye offense, with the exception of its trip to Happy Valley, has been solid under James Vandenberg’s leadership, scoring at least 31 points in every other game the Hawks have played this season. If both can reach Thanksgiving without sustaining another loss, this game could hold major Big Ten title ramifications.
Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 7
24. South Carolina vs. Arkansas (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 12-7
This will be the third in a brutal late season road swing for the Gamecocks. After visiting Mississippi State and Tennessee the previous two games, Steve Spurrier will have to have his team prepped for another nasty environment in Fayetteville. Especially after getting torched by Ryan Mallett and company in Columbia a season ago. Stephon Gilmore and the USC secondary will have to play better against Tyler Wilson than it did against Mallett (or anyone else in 2011 for that matter) – who completed 21 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a score in the 40-21 drubbing. With their star tailback to grind out first downs on the ground, it is hard to see a Connor Shaw-led Gamecock team scoring enough points to beat Tyler Wilson and the Hogs.
Athlon’s Prediction: Hogs by 7
25. Florida State vs. Florida (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Florida leads 33-20-2
This will be the first matchup of new blood between Florida’s Will Muschamp and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. The two coaches became close friends during their time as assistants under Nick Saban and will certainly have to put aside personal feelings to square-off in this rivarly. The Gators were embarrassed in Tallahassee last year and will be looking to return the favor, while ruining Florida State’s bragging rights in the Sunshine State. Normally this game carries heavy national title implications, however, bowl eligibility could be on the line for one (or both) if the respective ships aren't righted immediately.
Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1
26. Stanford vs. USC (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: USC leads 58-27-3
If Oregon is the most talented roster in the Pac-12, then these two teams are the clear challengers when it comes to raw ability. Unfortunately the budding disdain between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh has come to an end. But Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are still around and are still two of the most talented passers in the country. The Cardinal power rushing attack will test the uncharacteristically porous Trojan front seven from 2010, while Barkley and super-soph Robert Woods will offer a formidable test for the veteran Stanford secondary. Stanford has won three of the last four meetings, including the last two trips to the Coliseum.
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 1
27. Washington vs. Stanford (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Times Series: Washington leads 40-37-4
This series was dominated by the Huskies from 1977 through 2003, but Stanford has reversed the trend of late. The Cardinal have won five of the last six meetings in cluding a 41-0 thumping last season in Seattle. With Keith Price now leading the U of W ship with electric efficiency, the 2011 battle figures to be much closer. However, Stanford still has the nation’s best player and will be on The Farm for this one.
Athlon’s Prediction: Stanford by 13
28. Wake Forest vs. Clemson (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 58-17-1
Wake Forest has lost four of the last five against Clemson and has not won in Death Valley since 1998. However, the Demon Deacons, behind excellent quarterback play, have established themselves as the top challenger to Clemson in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a fourth win in six years over Florida State). One could easily make the case that Tanner Price and Boyd have been the two most important signal callers in the ACC this fall. On paper, the supporting cast for Clemson seems to be a major advantage, but this has been true of nearly every game Jim Grobe has coached at Wake Forest. The Deacs will not be intimidated by the hostile environment and NFL talent of the Clemson Tigers.
Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 7
29. Notre Dame vs. Stanford (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 17-8
This game has a chance to dramatically impact the overall national title landscape in the penultimate week of the regular season. If things fall right for both, an at-large BCS bowl bid could be on the line. The Irish struggled out of the gate with turnovers but have righted the ship behind improved play by Tommy Rees. On the flip side, Andrew Luck has been as good as advertised and has the Cardinal destroying opponents by 34 points per game.
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 6
30. Miami vs. Florida State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Miami leads 31-24
This series was dominated by Miami in the early 2000s, but Florida State has won four of the last six games. The Seminoles have lost the last two games in Tallahassee, including a 38-34 shootout in 2009. Florida State thoroughly handled the Hurricanes last year, winning 45-17, easily the most lopsided final in this series since a 47-0 win by the Seminoles in 1997. The Hurricanes have shown improvement under Al Golden and Jacory Harris is starting to look like an actual BCS quarterback. The Noles dealt with a brutal three-game winning streak but have gotten their swagger back with a dominating win over Duke. This game lacks the luster that the preseason rankings might have indicated, but the passion and intensity will be running high in Tallahassee when these two historic rivals get together.
Athlon’s Prediction: Seminoles by 7
Athlon Sports Mid-Season Awards and Evaluations:
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
At the midpoint of the 2011 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big 12.
Coach of the Year — Bill Snyder, Kansas State
This one is easy. Snyder, in his second stint at Kansas State, has guided the Wildcats to a 6–0 start, with each of the last four wins coming as an underdog (and each coming by seven points or less). K-State visits rival Kansas this weekend before embarking on a difficult four-game stretch that includes home games with Oklahoma and Texas A&M and visits to Oklahoma State and Texas.
Freshman of the Year — Malcolm Brown, Texas
A top-five national recruit, Brown has given Texas its most dependable running threat from the tailback position since Jamaal Charles. He has run for over 50 yards in all six games and has topped the 100-yard mark twice, against UCLA (110) and Oklahoma State (135).
Newcomer of the Year — Arthur Brown, Kansas State
A top recruit in the Class of 2008, Brown transferred back home to the state of Kansas after spending two seasons at Miami (Fla.). The 6-1, 223-pound linebacker leads the Cats with 45 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss.
Offensive Player of the Year — Landry Jones, Oklahoma
It’s nearly impossible to pick the best player from a list that includes Jones, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Broyles. We went with Jones, who leads the Big 12 in passing yardage (362.8 ypg) and has thrown 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Defensive Player of the Year — Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
We no longer have to use the word “potential” when describing Alexander. The defensive end is having a monster senior season, with 9.5 tackles for a loss (tied for the league lead) and 6.5 sacks (second in the league).
Midseason Disappointment — Missouri
The Tigers are 3–3 overall and 1–2 in the Big 12. Their three losses have come against quality competition — Arizona State, Oklahoma and Kansas State, all on the road — but they also don’t have anything close to a good win. Statistically, Missouri has been solid on both sides of the ball, but Gary Pinkel’s club just hasn’t been able to make the big play at the right time.
Midseason Disappointment — Bryce Brown, Kansas State
The Wildcats were hoping that Brown, a transfer from Tennessee who was once considered the top prep running back in the nation, could slide right into the starting job filled so well last season by Daniel Thomas. But Brown, the brother of K-State linebacker Arthur Brown, was a non-factor for the Wildcats — he had three carries for 16 yards in the opener — before leaving the team a few weeks ago.
Midseason Surprise — Kansas State
Just like picking Bill Snyder for midseason Coach of the Year honors, this is the easy choice. The Wildcats have done the seemingly impossible — win four straight games as an underdog. K-State is already 6–0 and has yet to play Kansas and Iowa State. The school’s first 10-win season since 2003 isn’t out of the question.
Midseason Surprise — Henry Josey, Missouri
Josey was part of a tailback-by-committee at Missouri last year as a freshman. This season, he has emerged as the primary ball-carrier and leads the league with 717 yards on only 74 carries for a 9.7-yard average — the best in the country for a player with at least 40 attempts.
What Athlon Sports got right — We thought Oklahoma would be really good (which it is) and thought Kansas would be really bad (which it is). We picked OU No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 2 in the nation and forecasted a perfect 12–0 regular season. We tabbed Kansas last in the Big 12 and predicted an overall mark of 3–9 and a league record of 1–8.
What Athlon Sports got wrong — Kansas State is the only team that really jumps out at this point. We picked the Cats to finish ninth in the league with a record of 2–7.
Athlon projects the wins and losses for each team for the rest of the season. Here’s how we think the final standings will look before bowl season.
1. Oklahoma 12-0 (9-0)
2. Oklahoma State 11-1 (8-1)
3. Texas A&M 9-3 (7-2)
4. Texas 8-4 (5-4)
5. Kansas State 8-4 (5-4)
6. Baylor 7-5 (4-5)
7. Missouri 6-6 (4-5)
8. Texas Tech 5-7 (2-7)
9. Iowa State 4-8 (1-8)
10. Kansas 2-10 (0-9)
Three Things to Watch
The Best Bedlam Ever? - Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the first BCS rankings. Both teams will be favored in every game leading up to the Dec. 3 showdown in Norman. Just think how big this game will be if both the Sooners and Pokes remain undefeated.
The Texas Quarterback Situation - Garrett Gilbert began the season as the starter. He was benched and eventually left the program. David Ash and Case McCoy have each started, as well. Ash, a true freshman, played wire to wire against Oklahoma State, completing 22-of-40 for 139 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. McCoy and Ash both figure to play down the stretch, but you know Mack Brown would like one player to seize the starting assignment.
Will Kansas win a Big 12 game? - Turner Gill’s first season in Lawrence didn’t go well. His second season has been worse. The Jayhawks are 2–4 overall, with only one win over an FBS opponent (45–42 over Northern Illinois at home). They have given up 42 points or more in each of the past five games, including 66 to Georgia Tech and 70 to Oklahoma State. Will KU go winless in the Big 12 for the first time since 2002, Mark Mangino’s first season? The guess here is yes. The best chance to win a game figures to be on Nov. 5 against Iowa State, but that game is in Ames. It could be a long two months for Gill and the KU program.