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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 2:
• 50 Anastasia Ashley Instagram photos. You're welcome.
• Jon Gruden might like to have last night's final call back. Of course, it's the kind of ending that game deserved.
• A dude tried to flee from police on a skateboard. New X-Games event?
• Cool holiday story: Andre Johnson's 80-second shopping spree for underprivileged kids.
• Jets coach Rex Ryan took this latest loss pretty hard.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets started out their first year with their new/old moniker on an exciting, “buzzy” note. Since then, it’s been nothing but downhill.
Currently on a nine-game losing streak, the Hornets are lost. And many have speculated that their maverick off-season acquisition is a big part of their new malaise. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson is, by all accounts, a handful as a personality in the locker room, and the Hornets have appeared ill-equipped to wrangle him in recent days. So much so that their front office is already considering moving the mercurial shooting guard. Here’s the word from the wire, via Grantland’s Zach Lowe:
“The Hornets are searching for upgrades on the wing and at power forward, per those sources, and they are willing to talk turkey on basically anyone other than Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. Free agents signed this past offseason can't be traded until December 15, and few would be surprised if the Hornets make and take calls on Lance Stephenson ahead of that trigger date.
“The Hornets viewed Stephenson as a dose of perimeter dynamism for a plodding offense built around Walker's pick-and-roll work and Professor Al's post-up trickery. The 2013-14 version of that offense didn't really have a third leg — a creative off-the-dribble threat waiting on the weak side when smart defenses snuffed out the good stuff. Stephenson didn't promise to solve Charlotte's fatal spacing issues, but with Indiana he was an average 3-point shooter and a bullying rim attacker on the pick-and-roll.
“It hasn't worked. ... Stephenson is an easy scapegoat, and that's partly his own doing. His body language has been horrible, and that degrades morale. He pouts when he doesn't get the ball on the weak side, flapping his wings and looking skyward as if his teammates have wronged him. He steals rebounds, and he hot dogs with the ball at times.”
While a deal involving Stephenson is unlikely at this premature moment, a few more weeks of losing and bad P.R. for Charlotte could push the needle to “move now” territory quickly. Stay tuned for updates.
— John Wilmes
College football’s playoff committee has released four sets of rankings, and the debate about the top four teams will continue every week until the final matchups are released. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.
Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.
Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports
Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
Post-Week 14 Playoff Projection
Takeaways From Expert Poll Results
* Alabama holds a sizeable lead for the No. 1 spot in the playoff projection. The Crimson Tide received 16 of the 21 first-place votes and ranked below second on just one ballot.
* Oregon passed Florida State by a small margin (four points) for the No. 2 spot. The Seminoles have more first-place votes (three) than the Ducks (two), but Oregon claimed 11 second-place rankings to edge Florida State.
* TCU dominated Texas on Thanksgiving, and that result swayed some of the voters to flip the Horned Frogs and Baylor. The Bears own a head-to-head win over TCU, but trail in Athlon’s playoff projection by eight points. Style points in Week 15 could be important.
* With a win over Arizona State, combined with UCLA’s loss to Stanford, Arizona jumped to No. 7 in this week’s poll. The Wildcats are still alive for a playoff spot if they beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night.
* The battle to claim a playoff spot seems to be down to seven teams: Florida State, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, Ohio State and Arizona. Perhaps there’s a crazy scenario where another team could jump into the conversation with losses by all four of the top teams in this week’s poll, but the formula for the first playoff poll seems simple. If Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win this weekend, all three teams will be in. The fourth spot will be up for grabs between Baylor, Ohio State and TCU if the top three win in Week 15.
Group of 5 Rankings
1. Boise State
The Broncos are in the driver’s seat for the Group of 5 bowl spot in one of college football’s premier games. Boise State ranked No. 23 in last week’s playoff rankings and should move up after defeating Utah State last week. The Broncos host Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship on Saturday night.
The Tigers clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a victory over UConn last week. Memphis pounded UConn 41-10 in Week 14 and finished the regular season at 9-3 overall. Coach Justin Fuente’s team could claim the outright league title if UCF loses to East Carolina, leaving Memphis and Cincinnati (if it beats Houston) tied at 7-1 overall in conference games. The Tigers beat the Bearcats earlier this year.
Next in Line: Cincinnati, UCF, Northern Illinois, Marshall
Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 15
UCF at East Carolina
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Detroit)
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 (Friday)
Arizona vs. Oregon (Santa Clara)
9 p.m. ET, FOX (Friday)
Iowa State at TCU
Noon ET, ABC
Louisiana Tech at Marshall
Noon ET, ESPN2
Houston at Cincinnati
Noon ET, ESPN
Alabama vs. Missouri (Atlanta)
4 p.m. ET, CBS
Kansas State at Baylor
7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (Charlotte)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Indianapolis)
8:17 p.m. ET, FOX
Fresno State at Boise State
10 p.m. ET, CBS
The final week of the 2014 college football season has arrived, and the bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its sixth set of rankings on Tuesday this week, and there’s one more poll coming from the committee next Sunday after the Week 15 action.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
With 14 weeks in the books, it’s time to take a look at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year.
Teams on the projection bubble and missing our projections this week: Oklahoma State, MTSU, Temple, UAB and Ohio.
College Football's Post-Week 14 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| UL Lafayette vs.|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs.|
| UTEP vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
| Colorado State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Bowling Green vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Central Michigan vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
| San Diego State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Western Kentucky vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. |
| Rice vs.|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Rutgers vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs. |
| Virginia Tech vs.|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| Miami vs.|
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| NC State vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Duke vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| North Carolina vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Boston College vs.|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs.|
| Tennessee vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs.|
| Clemson vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| Texas vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Maryland vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs.|
| Notre Dame vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Minnesota vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American vs.|
| Houston vs.|
|Taxslayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Oklahoma vs.|
|TicketCity Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Washington vs.|
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
| Memphis vs.|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Northern Illinois vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Ohio State vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Boise State vs.|
|Orange||Dec. 31||ACC vs.|
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
| TCU vs.|
|Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 14|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Oregon vs.|
|Sugar||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Alabama vs.|
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
Bold indicates team has accepted bowl bid.
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill all of its allotted tie-ins.
Nebraska is the best job in the Big Ten West.
But it’s the fourth-best job in the Big Ten.
After seven consecutive seasons with at least nine wins, Nebraska has parted ways with head coach Bo Pelini. The fiery and often abrasive head football coach had plenty of moments that caused fans and administrators to shake their heads. But he also won 67 times in 94 games, including three division titles in two different conferences.
Only Alabama and Oregon join Nebraska with at least nine wins in each of the last seven seasons. But if Wisconsin and Michigan State can win Big Ten titles and Rose Bowls, why can’t the Cornhuskers?
Self-awareness is a highly underrated characteristic and, after firing a coach who won a lot of games, the question becomes does Nebraska know where it’s located in the college football hierarchy?
Nebraska has the biggest and baddest stadium in the division. It has the richest tradition and history of success in the division. And it has more financial resources than any school in the Big Ten West. Competing for and winning division titles is absolutely something Cornhuskers fans should expect nearly every season.
But long gone are the days of three national championships in four years. Nebraska is no longer a top 15 job and may never be a national power again.
The entire landscape of college football has been rapidly evolving for two decades and none of that evolution has helped Nebraska. The facilities arm race once dominated by Nebraska is nothing more than conducting business as architectural limits are being pushed in places like Oregon and Texas A&M. Nebraska was one of the first schools to understand the importance of strength and conditioning and now every major program employs five-star chefs and personal trainers.
Podcast: Who should be Nebraska's next head coach?
Most importantly, recruiting is a totally different beast as technology has made the world a smaller place and given rise to layers of new programs. Nebraska used to be one of only a handful of programs that was on national television every weekend. Now, Rutgers is on national TV every Saturday. Would Mike Rozier (Camden, N.J.) or Rich Glover (Bayonne, N.J.) go to Nebraska if they were big-time prospects today? Would Florida native Tommie Frazier ever get out of the Southeast?
“The recruiting landscape is much more competitive today,” said Sean Callahan, publisher of HuskerOnline.com. “There really wasn’t a perennial West Coast power in the 90s like there is today with USC, UCLA and Oregon.
“Nebraska was a power in the state of Texas as well. Baylor, TCU and the SEC weren’t the recruiting powers in the state of Texas like they are today. Recruiting parity wasn’t a factor like it is today.”
Moving to the Big Ten was a financial and cultural windfall for the Cornhuskers, especially considering how weak the Big 12 appeared to be at the time. But it hasn’t helped recruiting. Population trends indicate that the Big Ten footprint is producing fewer and fewer big-time athletes and getting them to Lincoln is proving to be difficult.
The Johnny Rodgers and Dean Steinkuhlers of the world are no longer growing on in-state trees. According to 247Sports, Michael Decker of Omaha-North is the top prospect in The Cornhusker State in the Class of 2015. He’s ranked the 753rd-best prospect nationally.
“One of the biggest problems Nebraska faces today is getting recruits on unofficial visits,” said longtime recruiting guru Bill King, host on SiriusXM College Sports Nation Ch. 91. "The unofficial visit has become increasingly more important and you can’t get people to come to Lincoln on their own dime. They just don’t want to go.”
Nebraska has the tools and built-in support to compete at a high level in the Big Ten. Pelini wasn’t able to break through with a conference crown, was embarrassed in too many big games, never finished ranked in the top 10, never made it to a BCS bowl and his brutish personality never fit in the Midwest town.
But it may be unrealistic to expect more than nine wins a season from any coach at Nebraska.
“It’s very unlikely that the new hire wins more than Pelini. It probably will be a guy they like more but the end result isn’t likely to be better,” King said.
Said Callahan: “If you know what you are doing and have a plan in the place, you can routinely contend in the Big Ten West."
Both King and Callahan know what Nebraska fans need to accept. The days of competing for national championships are over in Lincoln.
In Tom Osborne’s prime, Nebraska was a one-of-a-kind program that dominated college football with advanced thinking and a fertile recruiting base. Now, the Huskers are just another solid Big Ten team and Osborne is busy trying to decide whether TCU or Baylor belongs in the College Football Playoff.
Rivalry week delivered on excitement but only one major alteration in the playoff race.
Mississippi State is out (we assume) after losing the Egg Bowl. Championship week, though, may go a long way to clinching that final spot — or more depending on upsets.
The selection committee has said since Day One that conference championships will factor into their decisions, but to what degree isn’t certain. There’s no rubric that awards points for league champions.
We may find out this week how much a conference championship is worth. Or a share of a conference title. Or none in the event of upsets of Alabama, Oregon or Florida State in a conference title game.
The Week Ahead: Dec. 5-6
All times Eastern
Listen to the Week 14 recap podcast:
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
MAC championship in Detroit
When and where: Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... a rematch of last year’s title game wraps up an otherwise quiet year of MACtion. The MAC has lacked star power and hasn’t has a ranked team all year. Still, we should applaud the two teams playing for the title. Drew Hare isn’t Jordan Lynch, but he’s been an efficient dual threat quarterback for an NIU team on the fringes of consideration for a major bowl game. With back-to-back losses entering this week, Bowling Green hasn’t been the overwhelming favorite Athlon projected, but first-year coach Dino Babers has his team in the league title game despite losing his starting quarterback, Matt Johnson, in the first game of the season.
Vegas says: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2
Arizona vs. Oregon
Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara
When and where: Friday, 9 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... Oregon has a Pac-12 title, a playoff spot and a potential Heisman on the line against a team that’s had the Ducks’ number. Oregon is 22-3 the last two seasons and two of those losses are to Arizona, including the Ducks’ only loss this season. In the first meeting this season, Oregon’s offensive line was in shambles, so the Ducks are looking to prove that was the problem back on Oct. 2. Arizona, though, is out to prove its win over Oregon and some of its close calls (Cal, Washington) are no fluke. With games against three ranked teams to round out the season, Arizona could also find itself a playoff contender with the right breaks. And lastly, this game could feature the Heisman winner (Marcus Mariota) vs. the national defensive player of the year (Scooby Wright).
Vegas says: Oregon by 13 1/2
Iowa State at TCU
When and where: Saturday, noon, ABC
We’re watching because... stranger things have happened, but not many. This Iowa State team isn’t the same as the one that spoiled Oklahoma State’s bid at a national title game. The Cyclones are winless in the Big 12, but we’re still keeping one eye on TCU in its finale.
Vegas says: TCU by 33
Louisiana Tech at Marshall
Conference USA championship
When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN2
We’re watching because... these two teams combined to score 142 points last week. Also, we haven’t taken the time to properly acknowledge the wild season Louisiana Tech has had. Second-year coach Skip Holtz has turned Louisiana Tech from 4-8 to 8-4 with a C-USA West division title yet still found time to lose to Northwestern State and Old Dominion.
Vegas says: Marshall by 12 1/2
Alabama vs. Missouri
SEC championship in Atlanta
When and where: Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Missouri won’t be a pushover as Alabama tries to seal the No. 1 seed in the playoff. The Tigers pulled away from Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second half and then located their run game just in time to defeat the hottest team in the SEC in Arkansas last week. Worth noting: Missouri leads the SEC in sacks while Alabama allows the fewest sacks in the league thanks in part to Blake Sims’ ability to move around.
Vegas says: Alabama by 14
Kansas State at Baylor
When and where: Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... Baylor is looking for one last statement to get into the playoff. While most of the playoff contenders are simply looking to hold serve, Baylor has a chance to push its way past TCU and into the top four against a top 15 Kansas State team. The Bears will be watching Bryce Petty closely after their start quarterback sustained a “mild concussion” against Texas Tech. Baylor’s defense may be just as much of a concern after giving up four long touchdown drives in the final 16:38 against the Red Raiders.
Vegas says: Baylor by 8 1/2
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
ACC championship in Charlotte
When and where: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Georgia Tech may be the team best-suited to capitalize on Florida State’s uneven play this season. The Seminoles have been pedestrian against the run this season (seventh in the ACC in yards per play) and now prepare for the Georgia Tech option. Jameis Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season, and now he’ll face a team that is second only to Louisville in the ACC in picks. And if Florida State needs to make yet another second-half comeback, Georgia Tech may be able to limit possessions. The Yellow Jackets are allowing the fifth-fewest plays per game this season (63.6).
Vegas says: Florida State by 3 1/2
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Big Ten championship in Indianapolis
When and where: Saturday, 8:17 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... the season-ending injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett has made Ohio State the mystery team in the playoff conversation. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin to win the Big Ten, will the selection committee give the Buckeyes a vote of confidence? Suffice to say, much of Ohio State’s outlook depends on new starting quarterback Cardale Jones. Issue No. 1 for Ohio State, though, is containing Melvin Gordon.
Vegas says: Wisconsin by 4
Fresno State at Boise State
Mountain West championship
When and where: Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Boise State is likely one win away from playing in a major bowl game. The Broncos are 10-2, but this is hardly the same Boise State team that challenged for BCS games. Consider this: Two top-10 Boise State teams played in the MAACO Bowl and this unranked, two-loss Broncos team may end up in the Fiesta Bowl if it can dispatch a 6-6 Fresno State team.
Vegas says: Boise State by 19 1/2
When it comes to reborn players, Gerald Green is near the top of the genre. The 28-year-old was selected No. 18 overall, straight out of high school in Houston, by the Boston Celtics. He followed that with a six-team stretch that saw him struggle to find minutes or a defined NBA role. The extreme, eye-popping athleticism that got him into the league without any NCAA action appeared to be languishing by the 2012-13 season, when he played a reserve role with the Indiana Pacers and averaged less than 12 minutes per game in their playoff run.
Things have been different with the Phoenix Suns, though. Under the leadership of head coach Jeff Hornacek — last year’s runner up for Coach of the Year honors — Green’s springy style has blossomed. Watch as he creates one of our early season’s chief highlights last night, ooping it to himself for an emphatic finish against the Orlando Magic:
Green is now an indispensable rotation player for his team, running all over the floor in the Suns’ uptempo system and liberally shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip. He pairs with tiny dynamo Isaiah Thomas to make the Suns’ second unit nearly as devastating as their turbo-charged starters, led by the two-headed guard monster that is Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Green’s memorable flourish, this time, unfortunately came in a Phoenix loss. The Suns dropped the game 93-90 to the young, feisty Magic, who were led by the combined 39 points and 18 rebounds of Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. The Suns also got a chance to say hello to an old ally — Channing Frye, a floor-stretching big man who provided invaluable veteran resolve to last year’s 48-win Suns squad, which narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs.
— John Wilmes
Bo Pelini is out as the Nebraska head coach.
Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light debate the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coaching vacancy in an Athlon Sports roundtable.
How good is the Nebraska job? Where does it rank nationally? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Is this still an elite job?
Are expectation levels too high in Lincoln or is it fair to compete for national championships on a regular basis at Nebraska?
Who are the coaches with Nebraska ties and are any of them worthy candidates? Who among them would be interested in the job? Is Craig Bohl qualified?
Who are the top Mid-Major (Group of 5) head coaches who are viable candidates? Is Jim McElwain heading to Florida or in the mix at Nebraska? Are Justin Fuente, Matt Wells or Troy Calhoun good fits?
Who are the top coordinators: Pat Narduzzi or Scott Frost? Is Frost ready? Would Narduzzi be a home run?
Would any current Power 5 coaches be interested in the job? Would Jerry Kill, David Cutcliffe, Steve Addazio, Mark Richt or Kyle Whittingham have any interest?
And finally, our hosts give their top three dream candidates and predictions for the job. They do not necessarily overlap. Each panelist makes a bold prediction as to who will be the next head football coach at Nebraska.
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox breakdown all of the action from Thanksgiving Weekend. Championship games are set in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12. Ohio State is dealing with a huge injury, the ACC wins the rivalry series with the SEC, Nebraska makes a coaching change and the Pac-12 South race ends in dramatic fashion. We debate it all and offer our playoff predictions on this week's edition of the Cover 2 Podcast.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of football. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 13 of the NFL season.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt became the first player with 10+ sacks (10.5) and 3+ touchdowns (4) in a single season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Watt is the first NFL player with at least three offensive touchdowns (three receiving) and two or more touchdowns on takeaways (one interception return, one fumble return) in a season since Joe Golding of the Boston Yanks in 1948. Watt is the only player in NFL history with three touchdown catches, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble recovery-touchdown in the same season.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers extended his NFL record streaks to 360 consecutive passes and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception in the Packers' 26-21 win against New England. His last interception at home came on Dec. 2, 2012.
The game was also the first time Rodgers and New England quarterback Tom Brady faced one another. It is only the second time in NFL history that a pair of quarterbacks with at least 200 touchdown passes started against one another for the first time. The other instance was December 14, 1974, between Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Fran Tarkenton.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes without an interception in the Saints’ 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. Brees has seven career games with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history.
Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win against Washington. The Colts are the first team to score at least six touchdowns of 30 yards or more in the same game since Washington (seven) did so on November 27, 1966, against the New York Giants.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and eclipsed 4,000 yards (4,011) for the season. He joins Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons. Luck has a career-high 34 touchdown passes and joins Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only players in franchise history with 30+ touchdown passes in a season.
Minnesota scored two touchdowns on blocked punts in a 31-13 win over Carolina. Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Everson Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Vikings are the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half.
Jacksonville's 25-24 win over the New York Giants included a 21-point comeback that was the largest in the franchise's history. It also marked the fourth time in 2014 a team won after trailing by at least 21, which is tied for the most of any season in NFL history. Blake Bortles became the third rookie starting quarterback to help his team overcome a deficit of at least 21 points to win since at least 1970, joining Matthew Stafford (November 22, 2009) and Vince Young (November 26, 2006).
St. Louis rookie running back Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards with two touchdowns and had 47 receiving yards with one touchdown in the Rams’ 52-0 win over Oakland. Mason, who had rushing touchdowns of 89- and 8-yards and a 35-yard touchdown reception, is the fourth player in NFL history with an 85+ yard TD run and a 35+ yard TD catch in the same game. The other three to accomplish the feat are Jim Spavital (November 5, 1950), Joey Galloway (November 12, 1995), and Chris Johnson (September 20, 2009).
St. Louis' 38 points at halftime were the most the Rams had in any full game since Week 12 of last season. The 38-point deficit at the half was the largest in Raiders history. They went on to suffer their second-largest shutout in franchise history behind a 55-0 loss to the Houston Oilers in 1962.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 yards in the Seahawks' win against San Francisco, marking the fourth regular-season game in which he has run for 100 yards against the 49ers in the last five years. All other players in the league combined have had only five 100-yard rushing games against San Francisco over that five-year span. Lynch also ran for 109 yards in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco in January.
Kansas City, which lost 29-16 to the visiting Denver Broncos, still does not have a receiving touchdown by a wide receiver this season, while every other team in the league has at least five.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won eight straight regular-season starts against Kansas City, tying the mark held by Craig Morton when he was with the Giants and Broncos (1974, 1977-79).
Philadelphia remains the only unbeaten team on Thanksgiving of teams playing at least five such games. The Eagles moved to 6-0 with their win at Dallas.
Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson became the fastest NFL player to reach 10,000 receiving yards when he did so in his 115th career game, passing St. Louis' Torry Holt. Megatron had 11 catches for 146 yards and two scores in the win over Chicago.
Johnson also broke Cloyce Box's record for the most touchdown catches on Thanksgiving (7) in NFL history with his two against Chicago. Box played for the Lions from 1949-54.
Chicago's 13 rushing yards in the loss to Detroit tied the Bears' fewest since the 1970 merger. The Bears also had 13 rushing yards against Green Bay in 2011. It was the fewest ever for a team in a Thanksgiving game.
The Miami Dolphins look to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt when they take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Dolphins (6-5) need a win to not only keep pace with the AFC East-leading Patriots (9-3), but also to join the pack of five teams sitting at 7-5 jockeying for one of the Wild Card spots. The Jets (2-9) are really just playing for pride and draft positioning from here out.
This is the first of two meetings this month between these longtime divisional rivals, as they will close things out Dec. 28 in Miami. Because New York’s game against Buffalo last week had to be moved to Monday night due to the snowstorm, the Jets will become just the fourth team in history to play consecutive games on a Monday. This could be a good sign of things to come for Rex Ryan’s beleaguered team, as Miami has lost five straight Monday night games. Then again, perhaps not since the Dolphins’ last Monday night win was against, that’s right, the Jets back in Week 5 of the 2009 season.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -7
|Miami 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs SD||W 37 - 0||Recap|
|11/9||@ DET||L 16 - 20||Recap|
|11/13||vs BUF||W 22 - 9||Recap|
|11/23||@ DEN||L 36 - 39||Recap|
|12/1||@ NYJ||W 16 - 13||Recap|
|12/7||vs BAL||L 13 - 28||Recap|
|12/14||@ NE||L 13 - 41||Recap|
|12/21||vs MIN||W 37 - 35||Recap|
Miami’s Key to Victory: Play Four Quarters
It may sound cliché to remind an NFL team that a game lasts 60 minutes, but these Dolphins have had their problems in the fourth quarter. In each of Miami’s past three losses, the Dolphins coughed up late leads and two of these were in road games. In Week 6, Aaron Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown pass with just three seconds left to cap Green Bay’s 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback in Miami. About a month later in Detroit, it was the Lions’ Matthew Stafford snatching victory from the Dolphins’ hands, by way of a game-winning touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining. But perhaps the cruelest blow came last week in Denver. Miami entered the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a 28-17 lead after outplaying the defending AFC champions on their own turf for the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately Peyton Manning and unheralded running back C.J. Anderson owned the final period, as the Broncos scored 22 unanswered points and wound up winning 39-36. It should be pointed out that the Packers, Lions and Broncos are by far better teams than tonight’s opponent. But the Dolphins can’t afford to treat any team, including the 2-9 Jets, lightly, as they need to win just to keep pace with the pack of Wild Card-contending teams. And as Miami is well aware by now, sometimes it’s not how you start that’s most important. It’s how you finish.
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ KC||L 10 - 24||Recap|
|11/9||vs PIT||W 20 - 13||Recap|
|11/24||@ BUF||L 3 - 38||Recap|
|12/1||vs MIA||L 13 - 16||Recap|
|12/7||@ MIN||L 24 - 30||Recap|
|12/14||@ TEN||W 16 - 11||Recap|
|12/21||vs NE||L 16 - 17||Recap|
|12/28||@ MIA||W 37 - 24||Recap|
New York’s Key to Victory: Run, Run, Run
No matter how you slice it, the situation looks bleak for the Jets. Rex Ryan is a lame-duck head coach and because of injury, he has to turn the offense back over to the quarterback (Geno Smith) he benched four games ago. The Jets were embarrassed on this same stage a week ago and it’s really hard to find any aspect of the team to have a ton of confidence in. For example, even though the defense is ranked among the top 10 in total (324.8 ypg) and rushing (86.2 ypg) defense, New York is 28th in scoring (27.5 ppg) defense. An inefficient and turnover-prone offense can be assigned some of the blame here, which brings us back to the quarterback. The reason Smith was benched in the first quarter of the Jets’ Week 8 43-23 home loss to the Bills was that he had thrown more interceptions (three) than completions (two). For the season, Smith has more turnovers (12) than touchdowns (8), which is why it would behoove New York to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. That means a healthy dose of Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and maybe even wide receiver Percy Harvn coming out of the backfield. The Jets are averaging 136.5 yards rushing per game, which places them near the top of the league. On the other hand, one consistent theme in Miami’s losses has been its struggles stopping the run. Overall, the Dolphins are giving up an average of 104.1 yards rushing per game. However, in their five losses that number jumps to 134.4, including the 201 they surrendered to the Broncos last week. Given the discrepancy between New York’s rushing and passing production, the return of a benched quarterback and a potential weak spot in Miami’s defense, it’s pretty clear that the Jets would be wise to take the air out of the ball tonight and take their chances.
Miami needs to bounce back from another fourth-quarter collapse and get a win on the road to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt. New York is in the thick of the race for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft and has to settle for playing the role of spoiler the rest of the way. The Jets are a mess on offense and will be missing one of their best defensive linemen (Muhammad Wilkerson) tonight. Because of last week’s tough loss to the Broncos, I don’t expect the Dolphins to take the Jets lightly. These two teams are no strangers to this stage, as this will be their 13th time playing on Monday night. New York leads these matchups 7-5 and Miami hasn’t won a Monday night game in more than five years, but I think both of these streaks come to end tonight against an overmatched Jets team.
Prediction: Miami 27, New York 17
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 1:
• Johnny Football had an eventful day: a fumble for a Bills TD, but also a rushing touchdown.
• Tom Brady let his feelings be known as the clock wound down on the Packers' win over New England. Hey, at least the guy still cares after all these years.
• Alabama fell behind against Auburn, but Nacho Guy wasn't worried.
• Gerald Green threw himself a sweet alley-oop.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s race back into playoff contention began in earnest over the weekend, as Russell Westbrook returned from a hand injury to lead his team to a dominant, morale-boosting 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks. Westbrook controlled the game thoroughly in every moment he was in it, tallying 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t close. Russ’s emphatic dunk early on said pretty clearly that the Thunder are a frightening foe once again:
Reigning MVP Kevin Durant was still watching from the sidelines, excitedly cheering on his Thunder and looking like he badly wanted to join them. Durant’s been practicing with the team, so it’s only a matter of weeks before he returns. It’s a fun time to be an OKC fan: The team suffered greatly without its stars — going just 4-10 — but it’s still early enough for their hole to be manageable. A mere five-game deficit in the standings separates them from the conference’s eighth playoff seed.
Over in the Eastern Conference, Westbrook’s buddy Derrick Rose found rhythm with his Chicago Bulls. Behind the All-Star level play of Jimmy Butler and the out-of-hibernation mania of Joakim Noah, Rose and the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets over the weekend to finish their annual circus road trip with a 4-3 mark despite a litany of injuries to key players.
The Bulls now sit near the top of the Eastern Conference, where there may be a vacancy soon. During a 106-102 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Toronto Raptors lost shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who suffered a torn tendon in his left groin, as reported by ESPN and AP. The Raptors currently lead the East with a 13-3 record, but having DeRozan (arguably their best player) out for an indefinite period of time will make it hard for them to keep pace.
— John Wilmes
College basketball coaches often shrug at the way conference realignment has relegated their sport to an afterthought, but it’s had at least one benefit to the game.
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge already was one of the most interesting events of the basketball year. Now it’s even better.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame joined on the ACC side a year ago. Louisville is in this season for the ACC. Maryland has moved over to the Big Ten at the same time Nebraska has become surprisingly relevant on the national stage.
The result is a slew of important on-campus non-conference games this week, a welcome sight after watching Thanksgiving tournaments in empty gyms or hotel ballrooms.
Yet the most important game of the bunch though comes from charter members of each league when Duke faces Wisconsin in Madison in a game that could end up a Final Four or national title rematch.
Michigan State at Notre Dame
7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Michigan State needs more from veteran Branden Dawson, who hasn’t scored in double figures since a Nov. 21 win over Loyola (Ill.). He’s shooting 7-of-22 from the field in his last three games. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is getting exactly what it needs in the return of Jerian Grant. The senior guard has picked up where he left off in last year’s shortened season. Grant is averaging 18.7 points and seven rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor.
Virginia Tech at Penn State
7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Buzz Williams is learning just how much of a challenge he has in turning around Virginia Tech, which has already dropped games to Appalachian State and Northern Iowa. The Hokies will have a challenge in stopping Penn State guard D.J. Newbill, who has averaged 28 points in his last five games.
Iowa at North Carolina
7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Tar Heels and Hawkeyes have two of the more challenging non-conference schedules in the country. Iowa has already dropped games to Texas and Syracuse at Madison Square Garden (and faces Iowa State on Dec. 12). North Carolina bounced back from a loss to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis to beat UCLA and Florida (the Heels will visit Kentucky and face Ohio State on a neutral court before Christmas). North Carolina’s Marcus Paige will try to bounce back from a 8-of-24 performance from 3-point range in the converted ballroom down in Atlantis. This game, though, could be a battle of the bigs between Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson of North Carolin and Adam Woodbury, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff of Iowa.
Virginia at Maryland
9:15 p.m., ESPN2
Maryland is off to a 6-0 start, including a win over Iowa State, in a critical year for coach Mark Turgeon. Virginia, though, is as stifling on the defensive end as ever. The Cavaliers are allowing 43.6 points per game and haven’t allowed more than 56 in a game all year. And, yes, we are less than nine months removed from Maryland’s last game against Virginia, the Terrapins’ final game as a member of the ACC.
Georgia Tech at Northwestern
9:15 p.m., ESPNU
Both teams figure to be bottom feeders in their respective conferences. This game won’t do much to counter that opinion.
Duke at Wisconsin
9:30 p.m., ESPN
The headline game of the challenge is a top-four matchup between two teams with national championship aspirations. Duke has been great so far this season, but the young Blue Devils will have a major test against a Final Four-tested Badgers team that can match them at each position. One of the key matchups will be between the two All-America centers in Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky. Both have contrasting styles, Okafor with his post game and Kaminksy with his outside shooting. Also keep an eye on wing Justise Winslow, who has in some ways matched Okafor’s start to the season, against Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.
Athlon Staff Picks
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Nathan Rush|
|Nebraska at Florida State||Nebraska||Florida State||Nebraska||Florida State|
|Rutgers at Clemson||Clemson||Clemson||Clemson||Rutgers|
|Pittsburgh at Indiana||Pitt||Pitt||Pitt||Pitt|
|Minnesota at Wake Forest||Minnesota||Minnesota||Minnesota||Minnesota|
|Syracuse at Michigan||Michigan||Michigan||Michigan||Michigan|
|Illinois at Miami||Miami||Miami||Miami||Miami|
|NC State at Purdue||NC State||Purdue||Purdue||NC State|
|Ohio State at Louisville||Louisville||Ohio State||Louisville||Louisville|
|Michigan State at Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Michigan State||Michigan State||Michigan State|
|Virginia Tech at Penn State||Penn State||Penn State||Penn State||Penn State|
|Iowa at North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina||North Carolina|
|Virginia at Maryland||Virginia||Virginia||Virginia||Virginia|
|Georgia Tech at Northwestern||Northwestern||Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech||Northwestern|
|Duke at Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Wisconsin||Duke|
|Final tally||ACC 9-5||Tie 7-7||Tie 7-7||ACC 8-6|
It does not matter which division you put them in, as the Wisconsin Badgers just have a knack for playing for the Big Ten championship game. In the four years the Big Ten has held an organized championship game, Wisconsin will be making their third appearance in Indianapolis this week. Perhaps it is time to respect Wisconsin as one of the top programs in the conference - if we have not done so already.
When the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams and opened the doors to a conference championship, many were quick to suggest the game would be dominated on a regular basis by Ohio State and Michigan. Perhaps this will be true over a longer period of time, but Michigan has yet to play in the game and Ohio State is making just its second appearance in part due to one year of a postseason ban. The Buckeyes came up short in their first Big Ten championship game trip a season ago, losing to Michigan State. Now, without quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes must find a way to slow down a red-hot Wisconsin running game, with their own Heisman candidate running back Melvin Gordon leading the devastating charge.
For Wisconsin, this is an opportunity to proclaim once more to be the team to beat in the Big Ten. Though the Badgers have seen plenty of success in the Big Ten over the last few years, the state of the Big Ten continues to be measured on a national scale based heavily on the status of Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin had a chance to change that slightly with a season-opening game against LSU, but the Badgers saw that win in Houston slip away in the second half. Now is a time for some redemption with a third Big Ten title in four years.
As it turns out, Wisconsin is being shown some respect heading to the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only have the Badgers climbed the rankings enough to hang just outside the top ten in the major polls, but Wisconsin has been tabbed the betting favorite heading to the Big Ten title game. The injury to J.T. Barrett carries some influence in that betting line for sure, but Wisconsin will issue no apologies for that situation.
Winning an outright championship was a rarity in the Big Ten until the introduction of the Big Ten championship game. No school other than Ohio State or Michigan has ever won three outright conference championships in a four-year span. Minnesota did it when the Big Ten was known as the Western Conference with just nine members (Michigan State had not joined the conference yet and Chicago was in its final days as a conference member). If it happened before the Allies claimed victory in World War II, it does not count for much in today’s game. Perhaps the Badgers are looking to establish dominance in the new era of the conference.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Running backs made a strong return to prominence in the 2014 college football season, and no other conference saw running backs take the spotlight the way the Big Ten did. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah entered the season as two of the most recognized running backs in the country, and more than lived up to the hype. With Gordon and Abdullah in the conference, it was easy to overlook the work done by Indiana running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman may be the nation’s most overlooked running back.
Two running backs rushed for 2,000 yards this season. Gordon at Wisconsin you already know. The Badgers running back leads the nation with 2,260 yards and he has a shot at the single-season rushing record with a Big Ten championship game and bowl game still to play. The other 2,000-yard rusher this season is Indiana’s Coleman, and his rushing total may be even more impressive.
Indiana’s offense was dealt a blow with various injuries this season, which put the pressure to keep the offense doing anything squarely on the shoulder pads of Coleman. He was up to the task, running for 100 yards in all but one game this season. He rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State and 132 yards against Michigan State. Though the Hoosiers were unable to string together enough wins to go to a bowl game, it was not for a lack of effort from Coleman. He just needed more of a supporting cast or a defense to get to the postseason.
Those who watch Big Ten football may be much more familiar with Coleman, but in a year that seemed to be heavy on running back depth in the Big Ten, missing out on hapless Indiana and their running back star must have been common for the casual college football fan. The Big Ten will see Gordon fly to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and Nebraska’s Abdullah is a household name. The Big Ten also saw Jeremy Langford be a big piece of top 10 Michigan State’s offense all season long. Minnesota’s David Cobb also had an impact for a Gophers team making a push for a division title. Coleman’s biggest flaw was playing on a losing team, which is often the case for talented players most people may not know much about.
If Coleman returns to the Hoosiers in 2015, he will no longer be flying under the radar. Running backs may have had a strong season in college football, but the importance of the running back has taken a hit in the NFL Draft. Maybe that will be enough to keep Coleman in Bloomington for another year. If so, then Kevin Wilson’s offense will have a valuable piece to work with in 2015.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
California ran into a brick wall on its path to the postseason in 2014, but the program appears to be in solid hands with head coach Sonny Dykes.
Cal ended its 2014 season sitting on five wins, one win shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. The first season under Dykes may have looked like a mistake with just one win to celebrate in 2013, but Dykes has shown Cal has potential to compete in the Pac-12 using his coaching style and system. It just took some time for that to become a reality.
The difference one season under Dykes made was undeniable. In his first season at Cal, the Bears ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring with just 23.0 points per game in 2013. That matched the 2012 scoring average of Cal, but the win total went down in the process as Dykes took over. No team in the Pac-12 improved its average scoring output in 2014. The Bears finished the season ranked second in scoring average, behind only Oregon, with an average of 38.3 points per game.
As expected, Dykes has used the passing game to lead his program. When Dykes took over, the Bears improved from ninth to third in the Pac-12 in passing offense, adding about 121 passing yards per game in 2013 compared to 2012. This season the Bears added even more to the passing game with 346.0 passing yards per game. Only Washington State and Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense had more passing yards per game. Cal may not be running the ball as much as it did before Dykes was named the head coach, but the running game did improve this season compared to 2013. The Bears rushed for nearly 150 yards per game this season, up from 123.7 ypg in 2013. More importantly, California more than doubled its rushing touchdown total in 2014, going from just 10 in 2013 to 22 in 2014.
Next season, Cal should be in line for a bowl trip if everything continues to develop the way it has this season. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff will return an experienced junior with nearly 4,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in 2014. Leading receivers Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs could all be back as targets next season as well. Throw in a potential senior running back in Daniel Lasco, with his 1,115 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and the ingredients of a healthy and potent offense are in place. There will be a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line, but Dykes is going to have an offense that will be ready to take the next step in 2015. If the defense can start to improve the way the offense has, getting to six wins should easily be within reach next season.
Cal’s defense allowed a Pac-12 worst 39.8 points per game in 2014. With four losses decided by one score, Cal does not need to be Stanford on defense to get back to the postseason. Trimming just five points from two losses would have resulted in two more wins. Cal is close to being a bowl team, and this is the first step. At Cal, the focus will not be on winning a Pac-12 title, or even a Pac-12 North title, but a step in the right direction. Dykes is leading Cal in the right direction.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
NC State added about a touchdown per game to its scoring average. At the same time, it trimmed three points off its defensive scoring average. The result? An increase of four wins and a bowl trip in Dave Doeren’s second season in Raleigh.
Year two under Doeren got off to a solid start, although it took advantage of a weak non-conference schedule. The Wolfpack picked up wins out of the gate against Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian. A 4-0 start is always nice, regardless of the competition, but it was not until a home date with Florida State in late September we got a true glimpse of the potential NC State would come to show off this season. NC State caught Florida State sleeping in Raleigh, but as so many teams have found out this season, putting Florida State to sleep for good is an incredibly difficult task. NC State showed plenty of firepower, but Florida State had just a little bit more in a 56-41 decision.
It looked as though NC State had already hit a wall. A week after the wild setback against the Seminoles, the Wolfpack were shutout on the road at Clemson, 41-0. Two more double-digit losses in ACC play to Boston College and Louisville appeared to drop NC State back to some reality that Doeren had plenty of work to still do. As it turned out, that is when NC State did get to work.
NC State forced three turnovers in a road win at Syracuse. Another setback against ACC Coastal champion Georgia Tech followed, but NC State finished on quite the high note in the regular season. The Wolfpack blew away Wake Forest to clinch bowl eligibility, and wrapped up the regular season with another in-state blowout victory against North Carolina, 35-7. Any time a North Carolina school can go undefeated against in-state opponents, it is a cause for celebration.
There is no question Doeren is leading NC State down a positive path, although there is much work to be done before making any plans to challenge Florida State, Clemson and perhaps Louisville for the Atlantic Division. Ending the season with a bowl victory would be nice, but the focus on 2015 should already begin.
NC State will lose a bunch of talent from the starting offense, and perhaps more if some juniors leave with a year of eligibility remaining. The defense will look to fill a bunch of holes as well. Playing in a bowl game can help give new faces some extra reps to prepare for the future, and that should not be overlooked. NC State looks to be heading to a rebuilding year, but it does not have to be if Doeren’s Wolfpack make the most of extra bowl practices and the bowl game.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Very few players have been scrutinized as much as Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace in the past few seasons.
The opinion of Dr. Bo Wallace — the nickname given to him by his cult-like followers on the Twitterverse — fluctuated from “Good Bo” to “Bad Bo” seemingly with every pass.
Wallace had some issues early in the fall — he threw three interceptions in a Week 1 win over Boise State — but there was far more good than bad in the first half of the season. In fact, Wallace did not throw a pick in his first four SEC games, all wins by Ole Miss.
Then, as the scheduled toughened up a bit and injuries began to mount on the Rebel offense, Wallace’s production dipped. He did throw for 339 yards with no interceptions in a narrow loss to Auburn, but he managed only 176 yards at LSU and threw two costly INTs in the end zone in a stunning 30–0 loss at Arkansas last week.
Wallace and the Rebels, once ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, limped — figuratively and literally — into the final regular-season game of the season riding a three-game SEC losing streak. Ole Miss was only a slight underdog, but you would be hard-pressed to find many outside of Oxford who were forecasting a Rebel victory.
Well, Wallace, who has made a career of defying the odds, led his team to an improbable 31–17 win over Mississippi State that gave Ole Miss its first winning SEC season since 2008. The quarterback who couldn’t land an SEC offer coming out of Pulaski, Tenn., threw for 296 yards on a bad ankle to deliver arguably the most satisfying win of the Hugh Freeze era. Sure, beating Alabama was nice, but knocking rival Mississippi State out of the CFB Playoff picture was a great way to walk off the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium or the final time.
“I knew this game would define my legacy,” said Wallace, who somehow flirted with the 300-yard mark despite completing only 13 passes. “I had to win this game to be remembered like I want. ... I hope they’ll remember as a guy who gave his all ever single game and won a lot of games.”
There’s one simple stat that tells the story of Alabama’s 55–44 Iron Bowl victory. And at first glance, it appears that Auburn did quite well executing its offense in the red zone. After, all the Tigers scored on seven of their eight trips inside the Alabama 20-yard line. But five of those seven scores ended in field goals, including four of fewer than 25 yards. Auburn had seven possessions that went 60 yards or more — an amazing feat against the Alabama defense — but only two of those seven ended with a touchdown.
“I think the name of the game really was that when we got in the red zone, we had to kick field goals,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We kicked five of them and didn’t score our touchdowns. We had enough yards to score a whole bunch of points and that was probably the name of the game.”
Alabama, on the other hand, converted its opportunities into touchdowns, finding the end zone on all five of its trips into the red zone.
The Tide was especially efficient in the second half; after Alabama’s first drive of the third quarter ended with a Blake Sims interception — his third of the game — it proceeded to score a touchdown on its final five possessions of the game. A 36–27 deficit gradually turned into a 55–36 lead.
“We started making some plays on offense can got the momentum of the game back,” coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama’s outstanding execution in the second half resulted in some gaudy final stats. Despite running only 61 plays — the second-fewest of the season — the Tide accumulated 539 yards of offense and averaged 8.84 yards per play, the most against an SEC opponent since they went for 9.1 in a 52–7 win at Ole Miss in 2011.
Nebraska fired coach Bo Pelini after the Cornhuskers closed the 2014 regular season with a 9-3 record. Pelini’s record in Lincoln was an impressive 67-27, but the program never took the next step under his watch. Nebraska won at least nine games in each of Pelini’s seven seasons and had four finishes in the final Associated Press poll. However, the Cornhuskers never played in one of college football’s premier bowl games or won a conference title.
Nebraska is one of the top 25 jobs in college football, but there are also drawbacks to coaching in Lincoln. The state does not produce enough in-state talent to win a national championship, which means the coaching staff has to recruit Texas and surrounding areas for talent.
Even though this job may not be as elite as some would suggest, Nebraska has all of the necessary resources to win a Big Ten title – and it’s the best program in the Big Ten West Division.
13 Candidates to Replace Bo Pelini at Nebraska
Steve Addazio, Head Coach, Boston College
Addazio has quickly emerged as one of the top coaches in the ACC over the last two years. Boston College is 14-11 under Addazio’s watch and has finished .500 in league play in both seasons. Prior to Addazio’s arrival, the Eagles went 6-18 from 2011-12 and missed out on bowl appearances in both years. Making Addazio’s two years in Chestnut Hill even more impressive is his ability to win with the available talent and mesh with graduate transfers (quarterback Tyler Murphy), while the program reloads and builds an identity through recruiting. Addazio’s style of play (run-first mentality and toughness) would translate well in Lincoln. Prior to taking over at Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and served as an assistant at Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Podcast: Who should be Nebraska's next head coach?
Craig Bohl, Head Coach, Wyoming
To borrow a term from another Big Ten program, Bohl seems to be a “Nebraska man.” He’s a Lincoln native, played under Tom Osborne from 1977-79 and worked on the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff from 1995-02. Bohl was hired as North Dakota State’s head coach in 2003, and he led the Bison until 2013 when he was hired at Wyoming. Bohl’s record with the Bison was a stellar 104-32 and included three consecutive FCS Championships from 2011-13. Bohl led Wyoming to a 4-8 mark in 2014.
Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun currently coaches at his alma mater (Air Force), so it’s not a guarantee that he wants to leave for another job. Calhoun is 58-44 in eight seasons with the Falcons and guided the program to six consecutive bowl appearances from 2007-12. Air Force missed out on a bowl and went 2-10 in 2013, which was Calhoun’s worst season with the program. However, the Falcons rebounded to 9-3 and could reach 10 victories if they win a bowl game. And considering Nebraska’s history with the option offense, Calhoun’s ties to that style of play would be attractive to the fanbase. Calhoun also has stops on his resume from stints in the NFL (Houston and Denver) and in college with Ohio and Wake Forest.
Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz is coming off a successful debut at Georgia Southern, as the Eagles finished 9-3 in their first season on the FBS level. Barring an appeal that’s approved by the NCAA, Georgia Southern won’t be eligible for a bowl game, but a 9-3 record with a Sun Belt title is an impressive debut from Fritz. Prior to Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-14 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. The Kansas native could be in the mix for the opening with the Jayhawks after the program fired coach Charlie Weis earlier this year.
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
As a former Nebraska quarterback, Frost is already a popular name in the search to replace Bo Pelini. Frost is only 39 years old, and a younger coach could spark energy into a program that is looking to move back into the national title mix on a yearly basis. The Lincoln native doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but he spent one season as a graduate assistant at Nebraska (2002), a year in the same capacity with Kansas State (2006) and two seasons at Northern Iowa from 2007-08. Frost was hired by former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to tutor the wide receivers in 2009, and he served in that capacity until the start of the 2013 season. Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator after Kelly left for the NFL, and the Ducks’ offense continues to be one of the best in the nation under his watch. Oregon averaged 45.5 points per game in 2013 and has a 45.9 mark entering the Pac-12 Championship.
Justin Fuente, Head Coach, Memphis
Fuente inherited a mess after the failed Larry Porter era at Memphis. But in just three years, the Tigers went from 4-8 to winning a share of the American Athletic Conference title in 2014. Fuente’s record at Memphis is just 16-20, but the program has clearly made progress under his watch and finished 9-3 in its second season playing in the American Athletic Conference. The Oklahoma native is no stranger to coaching in the Midwest, as he spent five years under Gary Patterson at TCU and worked from 2001-06 at Illinois State.
Mike Gundy, Head Coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy is 82-44 since taking over as Oklahoma State’s head coach in 2005. Considering he works at his alma mater, Gundy isn’t necessarily looking to leave Stillwater, but reports have indicated there could be friction between the head coach and athletic director Mike Holder. Under Gundy’s direction, the Cowboys have played in eight consecutive bowl games and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. Gundy’s name also popped up in connection with the opening at Florida.
Mark Hudspeth, Head Coach, UL Lafayette
Hudspeth has been successful at two different head coaching stops, including a 35-16 mark with UL Lafayette over the last four years. The Ragin’ Cajuns are also poised to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance after an 8-4 mark in 2014. Prior to taking over at ULL, Hudspeth worked as an assistant at Mississippi State for two seasons (2009-10) and worked for seven years as the head coach at North Alabama (66-21). Hudspeth also has stops in his career at Navy, Delta State and Central Arkansas. Hudspeth is due for a promotion to run a Power 5 job, but his background suggests he would be more interested in SEC openings.
Jerry Kill, Head Coach, Minnesota
Nebraska fans are certainly familiar with Kill after Minnesota claimed back-to-back victories against the Cornhuskers in 2013-14. The Kansas native has a good job at Minnesota, but it’s much easier to win at a higher level at Nebraska. Kill wouldn’t necessarily be the most exciting hire for a program that wants to return to national prominence. However, there’s no doubt Kill knows how to win games. He went 38-14 in five years at Saginaw Valley State, 55-32 in seven seasons at Southern Illinois, 23-16 at Northern Illinois and is 25-25 in four years with the Golden Gophers. Kill’s career record is 152-98, and he has elevated the Minnesota program over the last two seasons.
Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Colorado State
McElwain is one of the rising stars in college football’s coaching ranks. In three years with Colorado State, McElwain is 22-16 and has the Rams poised to earn back-to-back bowl appearances. Colorado State is also 15-3 in McElwain’s last 18 games, which includes wins over Power 5 opponents in Boston College, Washington State and Colorado. Prior to taking the top spot in Fort Collins, McElwain served as an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008-11, coordinated Fresno State’s offense in 2007 and worked with the Raiders in 2006. He also has stops as an assistant at Michigan State, Louisville, Eastern Washington and Montana State. McElwain is primed to eventually move up the coaching ranks, but there’s a potential issue with his buyout. All signs point to McElwain’s buyout at Colorado State checking in at a hefty $7.5 million this year.
Joe Moglia, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Moglia might be a better fit in the longshot category, but he’s an intriguing name to remember in coaching searches this offseason. The former Ameritrade CEO spent two years as a volunteer assistant at Nebraska (2009-10) and was hired as Coastal Carolina’s coach after a four-game stint with the Omaha Nighthawks. In three years with the Chanticleers, Moglia’s record is 31-9 and has guided the program to three consecutive FCS playoff appearances.
Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State
Would Nebraska venture into the defensive assistant ranks once again for a coach? If so, Narduzzi would be a home-run hire for athletic director Shawn Eichorst. The Connecticut native reportedly turned down the UConn job last year, but it’s only a matter of time before he runs his own program. Narduzzi has coordinated some of the nation’s top defenses at Michigan State, including the 2013 season when the Spartans led the nation by holding opponents to four yards per play. Prior to coordinating Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi called the defensive signals at Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) and has stops as an assistant at Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.
Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach
Schiano sat out the 2014 season after he was fired after two years as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Despite the failed stint in the NFL, Schiano is expected to get back in the mix for college jobs, as he recorded a 68-67 record at Rutgers, which included six bowl appearances over his final seven years. Schiano’s record with the Scarlet Knights was just one win over .500, but he inherited a program that won only nine games in the four years prior to his arrival.
Other Names to Watch/Longshots
Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst has ties to Wisconsin from a stint under Barry Alvarez in the program’s athletic department from 2006-11. Eichorst and Aranda didn’t work together at Wisconsin, but it’s probably a safe bet Eichorst has kept a close watch on the Badgers over the last few years. Aranda helped to coordinate a defense that led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed per game (16.8) in 2014. A rising star in the coaching ranks but likely a year or two away from taking a head coaching job.
Al Golden, Head Coach, Miami
Golden has ties to athletic director Shawn Eichorst, as they worked together in Miami from 2011-12. However, Golden could be a tough sell in Lincoln after a 28-21 start to his tenure in Coral Gables. Additionally, the Hurricanes are coming off a 6-6 record and went 3-5 in a mediocre Coastal Division.
Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers
All signs point to Harbaugh coaching somewhere other than San Francisco in 2015. Will it be Michigan, the Raiders or the Jets? Hard to see Harbaugh going to Nebraska, but he’s a name to watch in all coaching searches this offseason.
Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense ranked as the best in the Big Ten by averaging 44.1 points per game. Herman and coach Urban Meyer were instrumental in the development of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and will have to do the same for Cardale Jones after Barrett’s injury against Michigan. Herman has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International. Expect Herman to get a look for openings outside of the Power 5 leagues.
Jim Tressel, Former Ohio State Head Coach
Tressel has been out of coaching since he resigned at Ohio State after the 2010 season. While the end of his tenure with the Buckeyes was rocky with NCAA problems, Tressel is a proven winner with a 241-79 career record. Is he ready to get back into coaching? Or is Tressel comfortable serving in an administration role at Youngstown State?
Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson
Venables is familiar with Nebraska from his time as a player and coach at Kansas State. And Venables has emerged as one of the nation’s highest-paid defensive coordinators and has guided Clemson’s defense to finishes inside of the top three in the ACC in scoring defense over the last three seasons.
Nebraska has fired coach Bo Pelini. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst will hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss Pelini's firing and what's next for the program. Pelini will not coach Nebraska in a bowl game.
Pelini went 67-27 in seven full years with the Cornhuskers and won at least nine games in each season.
However, the expectations are high at Nebraska. Pelini never won a conference championship and never led the program to one of college football’s top bowl games.
Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has dismissed Head Football Coach Bo Pelini effective immediately. Press conference 1pm.— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) November 30, 2014
Coach Pelini served our University admirably for seven years and led our football program’s transition to the Big Ten Conference. -Eichorst— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) November 30, 2014
A potential Super Bowl XLIX preview pits Tom Brady’s New England Patriots (9-2) against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers (8-3) this afternoon on CBS in the first matchup between these two QB legends. Rodgers has been nearly unstoppable at Lambeau Field this season, where he has thrown for 1,413 yards, 18 TDs and zero INTs on his way to a perfect 5–0 record. Most Packers fans would like to forget Tom Brady’s first and only trip to Title Town, when he threw four TDs in a 35–0 shutout victory in 2006.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Green Bay -3
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs DEN||W 43 - 21||Recap|
|11/16||@ IND||W 42 - 20||Recap|
|11/23||vs DET||W 34 - 9||Recap|
|11/30||@ GB||L 21 - 26||Recap|
|12/7||@ SD||W 23 - 14||Recap|
|12/14||vs MIA||W 41 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ NYJ||W 17 - 16||Recap|
|12/28||vs BUF||L 9 - 17||Recap|
New England’s Key to Victory: Piercing the Lambeau Mystique
The Patriots are walking into a true hornet’s nest on Sunday. Lambeau Field may provide the best home-field advantage in the NFL. This season, Green Bay is 5–0 on the tundra, outscoring those five opponents 219–85 — an average score of 44–17. In their last two home games, the Packers have shown no mercy, dispatching Chicago 55–14 (after building a 42–0 halftime lead) and Philadelphia 53–20 (after holding a 30–6 halftime advantage). Clearly, it’s incumbent upon the Patriots to weather the early storm. In their last loss, a 41–14 Week 4 blowout at the hands of the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Patriots fell behind 27–0 in the third quarter. A similar start against the Packers will be a death knell for the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak.
|Green Bay 2014 Schedule|
|11/9||vs CHI||W 55 - 14||Recap|
|11/16||vs PHI||W 53 - 20||Recap|
|11/23||@ MIN||W 24 - 21||Recap|
|11/30||vs NE||W 26 - 21||Recap|
|12/8||vs ATL||W 43 - 37||Recap|
|12/14||@ BUF||L 13 - 21||Recap|
|12/21||@ TB||W 20 - 3||Recap|
|12/28||vs DET||W 30 - 20||Recap|
Green Bay’s Key to Victory: Disrupting Brady’s Rhythm
The last time the Packers played an elite quarterback, Drew Brees carved up the Green Bay defense in a 21-point Saints win. If Tom Brady gets in a similar groove, it will be a long afternoon for the Packers. After four interception-free games in a row, Brady has tossed four picks in the last three games, giving the Packers a glimmer of hope that they can get him off his game. “When you're playing against these quarterbacks like Brady, it's like having a coach on the field," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Kind of like what Aaron does where he calls a lot of the game and has the flexibility to change things on the field. You have to be on top of your game in terms of the alignments, the disguise, those pre-snap reads. So, hopefully you don't let them get into a rhythm, because he's as good as there is.”
Two of the hottest teams in the NFL provide the main course for a Thanksgiving weekend feast. It’s worth noting, though, that New England has navigated a tougher schedule and can claim Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis among its victims. If the Patriots’ cobbled-together running game can find room to run against Green Bay’s 30th-ranked rush defense, the P-men should run their winning streak to eight.
Prediction: New England 27, Green Bay 24
The Kansas City Chiefs will try and tighten up the AFC West race when they host the Denver Broncos tonight on NBC. The Chiefs (7-4) trail the Broncos (8-3) by a game in the win column, but two in divisional play (1-2 vs. 3-0), so a victory tonight would only add to the intrigue over the last month of the regular season.
Denver has defeated Kansas City five straight times and a win in Arrowhead Stadium would definitely put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for a fourth straight AFC West crown. Each of the last two meetings between these teams has been decided by a touchdown. Denver beat Kansas City 24-17 at home back in Week 2.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Denver -2.5
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ NE||L 21 - 43||Recap|
|11/9||@ OAK||W 41 - 17||Recap|
|11/16||@ STL||L 7 - 22||Recap|
|11/23||vs MIA||W 39 - 36||Recap|
|11/30||@ KC||W 29 - 16||Recap|
|12/7||vs BUF||W 24 - 17||Recap|
|12/14||@ SD||W 22 - 10||Recap|
|12/22||@ CIN||L 28 - 37||Recap|
Denver’s Key to Victory: Keep Charles in Check
The Broncos’ defense has done a good job against the run all season. Denver enters this game ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. Ironically, the most yards the Broncos have given up on the ground this season were to the Chiefs, who rushed for 133 in Week 2. In that game it wasn’t Jamaal Charles who did the damage though, as he departed early with an ankle injury. Instead it was Charles’ backup, Knile Davis, who finished with 79 yards on 22 carries (3.6 ypc) and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns. Alex Smith added 42 yards on five carries, as the Chiefs outrushed the Broncos 133 to 88. Charles wound up missing just one game and has re-established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous running backs. Since Kansas City’s bye in Week 6 Charles has averaged 96.2 yards rushing per game. He’s also scored eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving) in these six games. Denver’s defense is pretty banged up, especially at linebacker, but its focus does not change – contain Charles. Even with one game missed because of injury, Charles has accounted for more than a quarter (962 total yards) of Kansas City’s total offense (3,593). Limit Charles and you have taken a big piece away from the Chiefs’ attack.
|Kansas City 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs NYJ||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|11/9||@ BUF||W 17 - 13||Recap|
|11/16||vs SEA||W 24 - 20||Recap|
|11/20||@ OAK||L 20 - 24||Recap|
|11/30||vs DEN||L 16 - 29||Recap|
|12/7||@ ARI||L 14 - 17||Recap|
|12/14||vs OAK||W 31 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ PIT||L 12 - 20||Recap|
Kansas City’s Key to Victory: Force Peyton to Pass
Make Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play quarterback, throw the football? At first it probably sounds like crazy talk, but hear me out. As prolific and potent Denver’s passing attack is, the Broncos are a better team when they are balanced on offense. Against Seattle, New England and St. Louis, Manning averaged an impressive 364.7 yards passing per game – and lost all three. Turnovers (5 INTs) obviously played a role, but another common thread was Denver’s inability to run the ball, averaging a measly 35.7 yards rushing per game. Contrast that to last week when C.J. Anderson ran for 167 of the Broncos’ season-high 201 yards, which helped fuel Denver’s comeback (trailed 28-17 with 2:11 left in the third quarter) win against Miami at home. A consistent running game only makes the Broncos’ aerial attack more dangerous, as it opens up play-action and usually results in coverage mismatches Manning can exploit. When you force Manning to throw, it allows defenses to focus on pass coverage and applying pressure. Case in point, despite all of the passing yards against the Seahawks, Patriots and Rams, Manning’s completion rate was 62 percent for those three games and Denver managed just 16 points per game. Compare that to a 72 percent completion rate and 35.5 points per game in the Broncos’ eight wins. As strange as it sounds, the Chiefs’ best strategy tonight may be to focus on shutting down Anderson, a second-year undrafted free agent, and instead take their chances against the five-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. It’s a strategy that has worked for other teams, so why not Kansas City?
If Kansas City hadn’t lost to Oakland last week, tonight’s game would be a battle for first place in the AFC West. As it stands now, the Chiefs must beat the Broncos at home or the division title could basically be decided. Denver has yet to lose in divisional play (3-0), while Kansas City is just 1-2. By sweeping the Chiefs, the Broncos can essentially eliminate Andy Reid’s team from title contention. What’s more, Kansas City hasn’t beaten Denver since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos in 2012. Some of the games have been close, but it’s been a continuation of the dominance Manning has had against the Chiefs since coming into the NFL. Manning is 12-1 against Kansas City in his career, including 2-0 in the playoffs when he was in Indianapolis. Manning aside, I just don’t think the Chiefs have enough firepower of their own to overcome Denver’s rejuvenated running game or a defense that excels in the same department. Manning won’t have to carry the team in this one, as a well-rounded effort extends the Broncos’ winning streak against the Chiefs to six.
Prediction: Denver 27, Kansas City 20
Alabama is known for its elite defenses under coach Nick Saban, but in order to win the Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn and keep its national title hopes alive, the Crimson Tide leaned on the offense and receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper earned Athlon Sports Week 14 Player of the Week honors by catching 13 passes for 224 yards and three scores in a 55-44 shootout victory over Auburn. The junior caught 13 of quarterback Blake Sims’ 20 completions, as the Tigers’ secondary simply had no answer for the receiver that should win the Biletnikoff Award in December.
Cooper and quarterback Blake Sims guided Alabama back from a 26-20 halftime deficit in the highest-scoring game in Iron Bowl history. The Sims-Cooper connection helped to power an offense that averaged 8.8 yards per play and scored on each of its final five drives of the second half.
Cooper caught two of his touchdowns after halftime, including a 75-yard bomb from Sims to cut Auburn’s lead to 36-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Iron Bowl totals – 13 catches for 224 yards and three scores – each tied a season-high for Cooper.
Cooper heads into the SEC Championship with 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdown catches.
Defensive Player of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Wright continued to state his case as the best defensive player in college football this season with a huge performance in the win over Arizona State. The sophomore helped the Wildcats clinch the Pac-12 South title by leading the team with 13 tackles (five for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Wright’s forced fumble came on Arizona State’s third offensive play from scrimmage, which was returned by Anthony Lopez to give Arizona an early 7-0 lead. Wright heads into the Pac-12 Championship with 139 total tackles, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss
The Rebels reclaimed in-state bragging rights and the Egg Bowl trophy after a 31-17 victory over Mississippi State in Oxford. The offense generated 532 yards, but the defense – and coordinator Dave Wommack – deserves accolades for holding Mississippi State to just 17 points and 5.3 yards per play. The 17 points scored by the Bulldogs tied a season-low, and the 5.3 yards per play mark was the second-lowest total recorded by coach Dan Mullen’s team in 2014. Mississippi State’s offense accumulated 445 total yards, but Wommack’s defense stepped up when it mattered. The Rebels stopped two drives on downs and limited the Bulldogs to just one red zone conversion score on three opportunities. Ole Miss also recorded three sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Wommack’s defense also refused to allow Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott any room on the ground, limiting the junior to 48 yards on 24 attempts. Injuries took a toll on the Ole Miss defense in 2014, but the Rebels stood tall against their in-state rival.
Freshman of the Week: Kyle Bolin, QB, Louisville
Bolin became an unlikely hero in Louisville’s 44-40 victory over Kentucky. After a knee injury sidelined starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, Bolin entered the game in the second quarter and jumpstarted the offense. The redshirt freshman from Lexington attempted just seven passes prior to Saturday’s game but showed poise against Kentucky’s pass rush and helped to guide coach Bobby Petrino’s team back from a 13-0 deficit to a huge victory in the rivalry matchup. Bolin completed 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards and three scores, with all three of his touchdown tosses traveling at least 33 yards.