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The Sun Devils were literally on their last gasp when a backup quarterback changed the entire complexion of the season for Todd Graham with two throws.
Trailing for most of the game, Arizona State's back-up quarterback Mike Bercovici flipped the Pac-12 South on its head with two long touchdown passes, the last of which came on the final play of the game from 46 yards out.
USC scored with just over three minutes to go, giving the Trojans a nine-point lead with 3:02 left in the game. Berocvici then led a one-play drive by connecting with Cameron Smith from 73 yards out to answer immediately.
Following a USC three and out, the Sun Devils got the ball back with 23 seconds left and their season hanging in the balance. A loss to USC would have all but knocked Arizona State out of the Pac-12 South race after getting thumped by UCLA last weekend.
Bercovici moved his team to the USC 46 yard line in three plays, facing an obvious Hail Mary situation.
For the second time in a few weeks, a school from Arizona was just under 50 yards away from victory trailing a school from California with one play remaining in the game. And exactly like Arizona's 47-yard Hail Mary against Cal, Arizona State's prayer was answered when all-everything wideout Jaelen Strong snatched Bercovici's heave out of mid-air for the game-winning touchdown.
The affable and well-spoken Sun Devils back-up signal caller finished with 510 yards and five touchdowns in just his second start after throwing for 488 a week ago against the Bruins.
Yes, it was a miracle completion. Yes, it was a historic comeback. Yes, it was an amazing way to cap what turned out to be a wild day in college football. Yes, Arizona State — which threw for 510 yards and ran for 31 — needs to find more balance on offense. But most importantly, it salvaged the Sun Devils season and gave Graham's bunch hope in the Pac-12 race.
Arizona State is now 2-1 in the Pac-12 while USC falls to 1-1, essentially a game behind ASU due to the all important tie-breaker. With UCLA also losing in Week 6, the improbable comeback creates a logjam in the South Division. Only Arizona, who has yet to play a division game, is left unbeaten in the conference (2-0) and only Colorado has more than one league loss (0-3).
After last weekend, it appeared to be a two-horse race in the South. Seven days later, everyone but Colorado is still very much in the hunt. And the season is just starting to heat up.
Hear my interview with Sun Devils star Mike Bercovici:
Giving up 28 unanswered points to a healthy Oregon team on the road temporarily knocked Michigan State out of the national conversation a month ago.
The Spartans defense made sure it didn’t happen again.
Though Michigan State’s 27-22 win over Nebraska was closer than it needed to be, the Spartans defense proved again it is the cornerstone for a team with lofty postseason aspirations.
Nebraska ended the game on a 19-0 run and had the ball in Michigan State territory with a chance to take a lead in the final 1:07, but the Spartans held thanks to a Trae Waynes interception to seal the game.
Despite a fourth quarter outburst, this was the signature defensive performance of the season for Michigan State so far.
Michigan State dared Nebraska to win with the pass and the result was two interceptions and five sacks. Of Nebraska’s first 12 possessions, eight ended in punts. Three ended in turnovers.
Ameer Abdullah, who entered the game with back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, was held to a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries. The run game that steamrolled Miami and Illinois managed just 1.3 yards per carry.
“Coming in, we knew Abdullah was a great back,” Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough told the media. “He's quick, he was going to try to cut back on us, so we preached all week that we all got to swarm to the ball. We all know schematically what we want to do, and I think for the most part we achieved it. The big thing was we wanted to get heads to the ball, and I think we did that.”
After the win, though, Michigan State may still have questions.
The Spartans let off the gas in the fourth quarter, allowing Nebraska to claw its way back on two touchdown drives and a punt return for a touchdown. The game was needlessly dramatic, and combined with Oregon’s come-from-behind win, Michigan State may wonder if it can hold up for a full four quarters against a quality opponent.
The dominance of the defense early also masked some issues on offense. Quarterback Connor Cook was a mere 11-of-29. The Spartans turned the ball over three times, but Nebraska converted none of its takeaways to points.
That brings up the next question: Who on Michigan State’s remaining schedule will truly challenge the Spartans if they slip up again? There’s a Nov. 8 home date against Ohio State and then, what? Michigan? Maryland? Penn State?
“It is good that you have a close game,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told the media. “I don't like them, but it's good to have a close game and win it in the end.”
You can call it Magnolia State Magic. You can call it the best sports day in the history of the state.
But don’t call it a fluke.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss, historically two of the least-successful programs in the SEC, both enjoyed program-changing wins that will vault them into the top-five in many national polls.
Mississippi State’s victory was less surprising but far more dominant. The Bulldogs, playing without their starting center (Dillon Day) and top wide receiver (Jameon Lewis), rolled up 559 yards of total offense on its way to a 48–31 win over Texas A&M. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has emerged as arguably the top dual-threat quarterback in the country (and yes, that includes Marcus Mariota). The junior has been remarkably consistent, throwing for at least 200 yards in every game and rushing for more than 75 in each of the last four games. He has averaged at least 8.4 yards per passing attempt in every game this season, including 11.2 against LSU and 10.4 against Texas A&M.
The other quarterback in the state also enjoyed a banner day. Bo Wallace threw for 251 yard with three touchdowns and — most important — zero interceptions in Ole Miss’ stunning 23–17 win over Alabama. With the eyes of the college football world focused on Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Wallace threw two touchdown passes in the final six minutes to lead his team to the improbable victory.
“He made some big-time plays,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said of his senior quarterback. “He just played so solid. On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us.”
You can debate which team from the Magnolia State deserves to be ranked higher — Mississippi State has more quality wins (LSU, A&M) while Ole Miss as the best win (Alabama) — but there is no denying that both the Bulldogs and Rebels have earned their spot (for now) near the top of the college football food chain.
With the spotlight of the college football world on the state of Mississippi, the epic struggles of the LSU defense went largely unnoticed this past weekend.
But the folks in Baton Rouge, who are used to seeing the Tigers field a dominating defense, are ready to hit the panic button. LSU was torched by Auburn for 566 yards (298 on the ground, 268 in the air) en route to a 41–7 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn averaged 7.7 yards per snap and converted 6-of-12 on third down. It was total domination.
LSU, which has ranked in the top five in the SEC in each of the past four years, has given up an average of 568 yards in its two SEC games — losses at home to Mississippi State and at Auburn. The Tigers had allowed 500 yards to an SEC opponent only twice in the previous six seasons.
This team’s overall defensive stats in 2014 are still respectable — LSU ranks fifth in the league at this point — but the numbers are skewed by a extremely soft non-conference schedule. The Tigers allowed an average of 231.0 yards in wins over Sam Houston State, ULM and New Mexico State. Against quality competition, the results have been quite different. They gave up 268 rushing yards in the opener against Wisconsin and 550-plus total yards to both Mississippi State and Auburn.
Les Miles attempted to rationalize his team’s defensive struggles after the Auburn loss, putting some of the blame on the Tigers’ inept offense.
“I’m disappointed (in the defense), but I am realistic too,” he said. “When you put your defense back on the field repeatedly, the offense needs to do its job. And the defense needs to get off the field.”
The numbers, however, don’t back up Miles’ claim. The LSU defense was only the field for 74 plays on Saturday night — not a huge amount against a Gus Malzahn offense. Auburn averaged 7.7 yards on those 74 plays, including an alarming 6.1 per rush. As a team, LSU ranks last in the SEC in rushing defense.
“We have to be more physical at the point of attack,” linebacker Kendall Beckwith said. “That’s all there is — just be more physical and be more aggressive.”
Teams seemingly at a crossroads will intersect when Cincinnati and New England face off tonight at Gillette Stadium on NBC. The Bengals (3-0) come off of their bye refreshed and close to full strength, while the Patriots (2-2) are still picking up the pieces from the 41-14 shellacking they got from the Chiefs on Monday night.
A matchup of defending division champions, Cincinnati topped New England 13-6 in Week 5 last season. In that game, not only did the Bengals’ defense hold the Patriots to just 248 total yards and two field goals, it also put an end to Tom Brady’s streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Cincinnati -1
Three Things to Watch
|Cincinnati 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ BAL||W 23 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||vs ATL||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||vs TEN||W 33 - 7||Recap|
|10/5||@ NE||L 17 - 43||Recap|
|10/12||vs CAR||37 - 37||Recap|
|10/19||@ IND||L 0 - 27||Recap|
1. Monday Night Hangover for New England?
No matter how you slice it, Monday night in Arrowhead Stadium represented one of the lowest points in the 14 seasons Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been paired together as head coach and starting quarterback. And it’s not just in the 41-14 score, which is the second-largest margin of defeat in the 221 games (including playoffs) Brady has started, it’s how the Patriots lost. In the first half alone Kansas City outgained New England 303-98, as a defense that ranked among the best in the NFL entering this contest looked helpless to stop the Chiefs’ running or passing games. The futility and frustration carried over to the second half, as the home team kept pouring it on and Brady and the offense struggled to get anything going. Brady didn’t even finish the game, as he was pulled in the fourth quarter after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Patriots were thoroughly dominated in every facet of the game, something that has happened rarely during Belichick’s tenure, but the reality is this is a team with plenty of question marks, most of them coming on offense. This Brady-led unit is 29th in the league in yards gained (298.5 ypg) and 30th in passing (201.0 ypg), something that seems unfathomable considering the future Hall of Famer’s track record. The offensive line clearly has issues and lacks cohesion, the running game has struggled to find any consistency (97.5 ypg) and no one other than Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have consistently made plays in the passing game. The mood was somber, to say the least, within and outside of the team following the Monday night meltdown. And a bad situation could only get worse depending on how the Patriots respond in a short week against an undefeated Cincinnati team that’s coming off of a bye.
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ MIA||L 20 - 33||Recap|
|9/14||@ MIN||W 30 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs OAK||W 16 - 9||Recap|
|9/29||@ KC||L 14 - 41||Recap|
|10/5||vs CIN||W 43 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ BUF||W 37 - 22||Recap|
2. Cincinnati at Full Strength?
The Bengals are not only undefeated entering this game, they also are a slight favorite on the road in the house that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady built. This duo is 96-17 at home, including playoffs, in their 14 seasons together. Cincinnati also gets to face a dejected and discouraged Patriots team that’s still smarting from their last loss, while the Bengals are coming off of a bye. Besides giving them a chance to rest and an extra week to prepare, the bye allowed some key players to return to practice. Head coach Marvin Lewis hopes to have Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict back after he suffered concussions in back-to-back games and not playing at all in Week 3. Burfict is the heart and soul of this defense and led the NFL in tackles last season. His return would make a stingy defense (league-leading 11 ppg allowed) even better. On offense, the passing game could get a boost if wide receiver Marvin Jones gets back on the field. Second on the team last season in receiving yards (712) and touchdowns (10), Jones has been out since breaking a bone in his foot early in the preseason. His presence would not only provide quarterback Andy Dalton with another receiving threat, it also would give the Bengals a reliable red-zone target to take some of the pressure off of A.J. Green and help fill the absence of injured tight end Tyler Eifert. Some other injured starters and key reserves could be returning as well, a potentially scary proposition for the rest of the league considering the Bengals went 3-0 without the likes of Burfict, Jones, etc. on the field.
3. Which Team Gains the Most Ground?
New England’s struggles running the ball have already been documented. The Patriots are 23rd in the NFL in that category right now, but the Bengals haven’t fared that much better. Even with the dynamic duo of explosive Giovani Bernard and bruising Jeremy Hill leading the way, Cincinnati is just 15th in the league in rushing (121.7 ypg) and is actually averaging fewer yards per carry (3.6) than New England (3.7). The difference, however, lies in the contributions of the respective passing games. The former is 11th with 262.3 yards per game, while the latter is languishing in 30th (201.0 ypg). This is a big reason why the Bengals are seventh in the league in total offense and scoring nearly 27 points per game while the Patriots are 29th and managing just 20 points per contest. Regardless, both teams would like to establish the run tonight, especially considering the respective defenses have struggled some in this department. Cincinnati is allowing 113.3 yards per game, including 149 in Week 3 to Tennessee. New England meanwhile coughed up 207 to Kansas City in the Monday night meltdown. The team that does the best job of staying “grounded” tonight more than likely leaves Gillette Stadium as the victors.
When looking at both teams’ current circumstances, Cincinnati appears to be getting New England at an opportune time. The Patriots are wounded, especially when it comes to their pride and team morale, and there seem to be more questions than available answers. On top of this, Bill Belichick’s team is dealing with a short turnaround after playing a Monday night game and has had to deal with a hungry media crush that’s more concerned about reporting on the Patriots’ pending demise. On the other side are the Bengals, undefeated, coming off of their bye well rested and as close to full strength as they’ve been this season. While I don’t think New England is headed for the basement of the AFC East, I do believe that Cincinnati is a better team at this point in their seasons. Marvin Lewis’ team adds to the misery of Patriots fans, as the Bengals capitalize on being an extremely rare road favorite in Gillette Stadium.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, New England 20
Dak Prescott did it again.
Mississippi State entered the season with a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams and reputation of futility against the powers of the SEC.
Now, the Bulldogs seem invincible against ranked teams.
Prescott completed 19-of-25 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in a 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M. Prescott also rushed for 77 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.
Mississippi State has defeated a pair of top 10 teams this season in LSU and Texas A&M, and despite closer final scores, the Bulldogs had both games well in hand by the third quarter thanks to Prescott.
“He’s going to get more attention now with his performance, but that’s what we expect from him. In order to keep winning, he’s going to have to keep playing at a very, very high level,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “I think he handles it well.”
National Defensive Player of the Week: Cole Luke, Notre Dame
To beat Stanford, Notre Dame would have to find a way to upstage arguably the top defensive team in the country. Cornerback Cole Luke led the way in that effort with two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in the 17-14 win over the Cardinal.
National Freshman of the Week: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Reports of the demise of Ohio State’s Big Ten season were premature. Ohio State might not be in the national title hunt without Braxton Miller, but the Big Ten is a feasible goal. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett completed 18-of-23 passes for 267 yards with four touchdowns in a 52-24 win over Maryland, a team that entered the game in the top 20 of pass efficiency defense. Barrett also rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
National Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss
How does a team beat Alabama with merely 323 yards of offense? A stout defensive effort will do it. Ole Miss shut down Alabama where it works best — in the run game and in the passing game to Amari Cooper — for 23-17 win. Wommack’s defense held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry and held Cooper to 10.1 yards per catch and no touchdowns in the win.
Conference Players of the Week
ACC: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 17-of-29 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-0 win over NC State. Watson also rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Big 12: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin completed of 20-of-39 passes for 318 yards in a 37-33 win over Oklahoma. Boykin also rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries.
Big Ten: Michigan State wide receiver Tony Lippett caught three passes for 104 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for a 32-yard touchdown on a reverse.
Pac-12: Utah defensive end Nate Orchard had four sacks and 11 tackles in a 30-28 win over UCLA.
American: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch was 18-of-24 for 311 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-14 win over Cincinnati. Lynch also rushed for 45 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Conference USA: UAB running back Jordan Howard rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in a 42-39 win over Western Kentucky.
MAC: Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix completed 32-of-58 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns in a 42-41 win over UMass. Hendrix also rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to end Miami’s 21-game losing streak.
Mountain West: Utah State quarterback Darell Garretson completed 19-of-25 passes for 321 yards with three touchdowns and a rushing TD in a 35-20 win over BYU.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten completed 21-of-36 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-14 win over ULM. Knighten rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
A wild week for college football reshaped the playoff race and naturally the Heisman race followed.
Despite a gallant effort, frontrunner Marcus Mariota was on the losing end Thursday against Arizona, meaning the race is wide open again.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott filled the void for the week, but a handful of players who were off the radar — Arizona’s Anu Solomon, TCU’s Trevone Boykin among them — can’t be ignored.
The Heisman race is an end-of-season award, but the race is part of the fun. Here are the contenders who added momentum or lost it in the last week.
Prescott has gone from dark horse to potential frontrunner with another standout performance in a convincing win over a top 10 team. Against LSU and the Texas A&M, he’s 34-of-49 for 524 yards with four touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers and Aggies.
Hill didn’t have a great game against Arkansas — his 51.2 percent completion rate was the lowest of the season — but he found a way to win. The bottom fell out against Mississippi State as Hill threw three interceptions, giving him five picks in the last three games. He still passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns, but his candidacy has cooled.
Ole Miss’ standout secondary kept Cooper in check, at least by his standards. Cooper still got his nine catches, but he was held to a season-low 91 yards. He was kept out of the end zone for the first time since the opener and didn’t have a catch longer than 30 yards.
Auburn wanted to prove Marshall could thrive as a passer. Check that box. Marshall completed 14-of-22 passes for 207 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-7 rout of LSU. He remained a threat in the run game with 119 yards and two scores. Next up: A showdown with Mississippi State and Dak Prescott.
The Heisman is the least of BYU’s concerns as Hill was lost for the season after sustaining a broken leg in a 35-20 loss to Utah State. Hill was off to his best season as a passer, completing two-thirds of his passes for 975 yards and seven touchdowns in five games.
Redshirt freshmen have won the last two Heisman trophies, and Solomon may be the best contender to continue the trend. He out-dueled clubhouse leader Marcus Mariota late into the night Thursday by completing 20-of-31 passes for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Solomon led a game-winning drive against the No. 2 team with 2:58 to go.
Mariota didn’t play poorly against Arizona, but the makeshift offensive line isn’t doing him any favors. Mariota no longer plays for an undefeated team, though his 276 yards and two touchdowns could have been enough to win Thursday. With Oregon’s struggles, this might not be the Ducks’ only Pac-12 loss this year.
Another great quarterback. Another bad offensive line. Mariota has some company in the Pac-12 in Hundley. The UCLA quarterback completed 16-of-21 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked 10 times in a 30-28 loss to Utah.
How’s this for an out-of-nowhere contender? Boykin proved his early numbers were legitimate with a masterful performance against Oklahoma. The junior accounted for a career-high 395 yards of total offense (318 passing, 77 rushing) and two passing touchdowns to upset the Sooners.
Knight was able to pick on the TCU defense for big pass plays early. Oklahoma put more emphasis on the pass late in the game, and Knight couldn’t keep up. He completed 14-of-35 passes for 309 yards with two interceptions, including the decisive pick six early the fourth quarter.
In the grand scheme of things, Petty will be judged on how he plays against Oklahoma (and now TCU, perhaps). A 7-of-22 performance for 111 yards and two touchdowns was a shockingly low total for the prolific Baylor quarterback.
Abdullah has had plenty of success against the Michigan State defense the last two seasons. That changed Saturday. After back-to-back 200-yard games, Abdullah rushed for a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries in a 27-22 loss to Michigan State. Abdullah rushed for two touchdowns but didn’t account for a run longer than nine yards.
In a huge weekend, Gurley made sure he wasn’t overlooked. The 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a rout of Vanderbilt is pretty standard for Gurley, but now he has the longest pass of the year for the Bulldogs with a 50-yard completion, 11 yards longer than any QB on the roster.
Gordon may be the nation’s most important player — it’s scary to think where Wisconsin would be without him. Gordon rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries against Northwestern giving him 693 yards in three weeks. The Badgers still lost 20-14 to the Wildcats.
Week 6 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 6
LOOK AT THAT MULLET pic.twitter.com/yTZ93Fz29A— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) October 3, 2014
Um. Houston's sideline cards are interesting. pic.twitter.com/SY8Y4acb79— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) October 3, 2014
Week 6, you sweet bastard. Scooby Wright's sack-fumble + Arizona's W has set the tone. https://t.co/pFj0bSUuWX— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) October 3, 2014
Syracuse drop so bad they still played the celebration horn: https://t.co/Lx5WYc0wjT— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 4, 2014
Is that really the Little Caesars mascot talking trash? "Pizza, pizza!" pic.twitter.com/Ic4HcOw5ix— Matt Murschel (@osmattmurschel) October 4, 2014
Kickoff at Indiana. pic.twitter.com/WjJElSBgu9— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) October 4, 2014
Meanwhile at UNC RT @HokiesJournal Larry Fedora: "There's not one single person out there who's done what they were coached to do this week"— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 4, 2014
Ole Miss FIRED UP. http://t.co/cewhCWhwB1— VICE Sports (@VICESports) October 4, 2014
In case you didn't see Marques Gayot's bodyslam tackle on the fake punt: https://t.co/39o0Je5Pv7— Matt Porter (@mattyports) October 5, 2014
Excited Rutgers bro wanted to get to the camera and puzzled Kyle Flood as he was shoved away by an officer http://t.co/199NHfBN3N— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 5, 2014
The Week 5 Lone Star State Showdown should feature both workhorse running backs, while the Browns also hope to have their No. 1 ball-carrier in the lineup. Here are some of the key running back and quarterback injuries to keep an eye on.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans
Probable – Back
Romo didn’t practice on Wednesday, but that’s becoming the normal routine for the veteran. He was a full go on both Thursday and Friday and is Probable for today’s Lone Star State showdown with the Texans. The Cowboys are aiming for their fourth straight win and Romo hasn’t shown any reason during this streak to not start him.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
Probable – Hamstring
Foster was a game-time decision last week for the second straight game, but unlike Week 3 against the Giants, he ended up playing vs. the Bills. He wasn’t every effective as a rusher, however, finishing with just six yards on eight carries although he did catch seven passes for 55 yards. The Probable designation for this week is certainly encouraging, but don’t mistake that to mean he’s back to 100 percent. Foster was limited in practice this week, which is nothing new, but neither is him being a late scratch prior to kickoff. Unless something happens between now and 1 p.m. ET, Foster should be in your starting lineup. But it wouldn’t hurt to have Plan B ready, just in case.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans
Probable – Knee
The Browns are coming off of their bye and should get their No. 1 RB back. Tate sprained his knee in Week 1 and has been out since, but he was a full go at practice on Friday and is listed as Probable. If Tate does play, he will reclaim his starting role, which will likely decrease the number of touches rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell get. If you have Tate, you can employ him as a RB2 while West and Crowell are back to flex options. Two things to keep in mind, however, are 1) Tate’s leash may not be that long considering how productive West and Crowell were during his absence (Crowell in particular seems to be generating the most buzz from Browns camp) and 2) Tate himself didn’t sound that optimistic that he would be ready to go on Sunday, apparently worried that his knee could swell up prior to game time. If the player is worried about his knee, shouldn’t his fantasy owners be a little wary as well?
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns
Probable – Wrist
Locker missed last week’s game due to a sore wrist, but it was business as usual this week. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has already announced that Locker will be his starter today with Charlie Whitehurst serving as the backup. The Titans have lost three games in a row by an average of 22 points and not surprisingly, Locker has struggled (TD, 4 turnovers in past two games) during this stretch. It’s not a bad bye week with only Miami and Oakland off, so you’re probably better off using someone other than Locker, even if you’re in a 2-QB league.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Questionable – Thumb
McCown hasn’t had surgery yet to repair his injured thumb, which has prevented him from even throwing the football. So even though he’s listed as Questionable there’s no reason to expect him to play. He hasn’t practiced all week and Mike Glennon led the team to a thrilling, come-from-behind road win in Pittsburgh last week. Even more so than last week, I think Glennon merits serious QB2 consideration.
Already Ruled Out:
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions – Bell got his bell rung last week against the Jets and he wasn’t even cleared for contact until Friday. After missing an entire week of practice, the team decided to err on the side of caution and hold him out. Reggie Bush figures to be a very busy man today against the Bills, especially since fellow running back Theo Riddick has also been ruled Out (hamstring) and All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson is listed as Questionable. George Winn and fullback Jed Collins will be the only other backs active for the Lions today, barring a late signing, for those in deeper leagues that may have an interest.
Carolina’s backfield is a mess entering Week 5 while Arizona got some good and bad news on the injury front coming out of its bye. Here’s the latest on those situations and the playing status of some other key running backs.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
Probable – Foot
He’s still being limited in practice, but the hope is that the bye week allowed for Ellington’s foot to heal some. Either way, he’s listed as Probable and will be out there against the Broncos. Ellington’s owners are also hoping that the time off will benefit his production too, especially in what could end up being a relatively high-scoring affair with the Broncos. Ellington is a safe RB2 with the upside for much more.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
Probable – Ankle
Talk about your triumphant returns. Just two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, Charles was back on the field Monday night, scoring three touchdowns to fuel the Chiefs’ rout of the Patriots. He did tweak his leg or get a cramp at one point, but was able to return and apparently made it through OK. He was limited earlier this week in practice, but was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable for this afternoon’s game. Charles is a must-start RB1, and if Monday night showed anything, it appears there are enough touches available for Knile Davis to remain a safe flex option too.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
Probable – Thigh
Even though he was declared “ready,” Pierce did not see a single snap in last week’s win over Carolina. Whatever the reason for that decision, it did allow Pierce another week to recover, which seems to have paid off. Pierce was a full participant this week in practice and is listed as Probable. However, Pierce’s expected return only complicates the Ravens’ backfield picture since Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro have each been productive when given an opportunity. If I were to handicap this situation, I would categorize Pierce as a risky RB2, Forsett as a relatively safe flex option and Taliaferro as the odd man out for this week but still someone worth keeping an eye on. I told you it was complicated.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears
Doubtful – Knee; Out – Ankle
The Panthers are digging deep to fill out their backfield, as injuries have clearly taken their toll. Mike Tolbert (leg fracture) is on IR while Williams, who missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a hamstring injury is now dealing with a high ankle sprain and has already been ruled Out. Stewart sprained his knee two weeks ago, but was back at practice on Wednesday. It was just a brief appearance, however, and he wound up just watching practice the next two days. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no reason to count on having Stewart today. Carolina’s starting running back instead will be Darrin Reaves, an undrafted free agent from UAB who was elevated from the practice squad a few weeks ago. Backing up Reaves will be journeyman Fozzy Whittaker and recent free-agent acquisition Chris Ogbonnaya. Reaves should see the bulk of the carries, but even as porous as Chicago’s run defense has been early on, I’m not sure I would want to take a chance on an unproven guy who was doing scout team work just two weeks ago.
Already Ruled Out:
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals – The bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder will sideline Palmer for a third straight game, as Bruce Arians announced on Friday that Drew Stanton would start against Denver. After showing some signs of progress during the team’s bye week, Palmer experienced a setback earlier this week, which caused him to go seek a second medical opinion. While Palmer has said he doesn’t need surgery and this isn’t considered a season-ending injury, there’s not much else he can do other than hope his shoulder responds to treatment. In the meantime, Stanton has been steady in leading the Cardinals to back-to-back wins. He’s not likely to put up huge numbers on a weekly basis, but today’s matchup in Denver could be profitable, especially if the game develops into some short of shootout. Depending on your options, Stanton could merit QB2 consideration this week.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers – Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL in Week 2 while Woodhead was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg in Week 3. Donald Brown will carry the load for the time being with undrafted rookie Branden Oliver listed next on the depth chart.
An ankle injury continues to bother one NFC North top target, while another should be at full speed for Week 5. And these aren’t the only key wide receiver injuries you need to pay attention to.
A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, WRs, Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Probable – Toe; Doubtful – Ankle
The fact that Green is even on the injury report after his bye week is a little disconcerting, but he is listed as Probable and was able to practice in at least a limited fashion every day. He should be safe to trot out as a WR1. Meanwhile it looks like Jones’ season debut will have to wait at least one more week. Jones has yet to play since breaking a bone in his foot early in the preseason, and now apparently he’s dealing with some sort of ankle issue. The bottom line is Jones did not practice at all this week so there’s little reason to expect him to play for the first time since early August. Mohamed Sanu should retain some possible WR3/flex value as the Bengals’ No. 2 WR.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, WRs, Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills
Questionable – Ankle; Probable – Hamstring
Despite being Questionable a week ago, Johnson suited up against the Jets. He ended up being an extremely talented decoy (2 targets, 2 rec., 12 yds.), as it became apparent Megatron was nowhere near 100 percent. He’s still not there yet either, as Johnson missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday before returning on Friday. He’s officially listed as Questionable, but head coach Jim Caldwell did hint at the possibility of Johnson missing a game at some point if it would help him heal. For now, Johnson should remain in your lineup, but keep an eye out for any updates related to his status prior to kickoff (1 p.m. ET). Tate meanwhile did not practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday due to a hamstring injury. Caldwell said he didn’t think the issue would prevent Tate from playing and his presence is even more important with Johnson ailing. Tate should be a relatively safe WR2 with upside today at home against the Bills.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers
Probable – Ankle
After being Questionable for three straight weeks, Marshall is listed as Probable for today’s game in Carolina. He practiced fully all three days and considering he’s still yet to miss a game, there should be absolutely no hesitation when it comes to plugging him into your lineup.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
Questionable – Hamstring
Decker’s hamstring continues to give him and his owners fits. Two weeks ago he left early after re-aggravating it, but was back on the field last week and caught a touchdown pass in the home loss to Detroit. However, after practicing on Wednesday, he was not able to participate either Thursday or Friday and head coach Rex Ryan has already announced Decker will be a game-time decision. The apparent regression is not a good sign and the Jets are on the West Coast for a 4:25 pm. ET kickoff, so caution is certainly warranted here. If you can, wait until kickoff before making your final decision. If not, I would strongly consider benching Decker this week, especially given the Jets’ struggles with their passing game.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles
Questionable – Knee
Coming out of the bye, Austin was still limited in practice this week by his knee injury. He’s listed as Questionable, but even if he plays, I see no reason to take a chance on starting Austin. Before the injury, he wasn’t doing much of anything (3 rec., 34 yds.) and it’s pretty clear a guy who needs his speed and elusiveness to make plays isn’t close to being 100 percent healthy.
Already Ruled Out:
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers’ first-round pick is expected to miss two to four weeks after injuring his groin last week. Louis Murphy will replace Evans in the starting lineup and the veteran made a few plays (6-99) to help the Bucs come back and beat the Steelers. Murphy is nothing more than a wait-and-see option for now with Vincent Jackson the Tampa Bay WR you want to own and rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins increasing his stock.
Texas could be without its top wide receiver for the big in-state showdown in Week 5. Are there any other fantasy-relevant wideouts who may not be on the field today?
Harry Douglas, Devin Hester and Julio Jones, WRs, Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
Out – Foot; Probable – Ankle; Probable – Ankle
The Falcons’ wide receiver corps just likes to keep things interesting, as evidenced by fact that three of them appear on this week’s injury report. Even though it’s a somewhat crowded list, it’s pretty easy to sort out. Douglas is Out because of a toe injury while Hester and Jones are both Probable and should play. Hester and Jones were both able to practice fully on Friday and as far as Jones is concerned, he’s a must-start WR1. Hester is the more interesting case, as he’s more known for his return skills. However, it looks like he’s found a home in Atlanta as the team’s No. 3/4 wideout, as Hester has scored an offensive touchdown in each of the past two games and caught five passes for 70 yards in last week’s loss to the Vikings. In leagues where special teams contributions count in the scoring, Hester certainly has appeal, but I also could make an argument me for employing him as a WR3/WR4 this week, especially with Douglas out.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
Questionable – Ankle
Johnson had been listed on the injury report previously with an ankle injury, but it has yet to keep him from playing. What’s curious about this week, however, is that after saying his ankle was fine, Johnson did not practice Wednesday, was limited on Thursday and sat out Friday’s session. Johnson’s toughness has been vouched for in this space previously, but the possibility he could sit this one out cannot be taken lightly. The 1 p.m. ET kickoff should give Johnson owners enough time to chew on the updates regarding his Questionable status before deciding to start him or not.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans
Probable – Shoulder
Bryant’s on the injury report, but he was a full practice participant all week. The Cowboys are looking to keep their hot streak going against in-state foe Houston and will need all the production they can get from Bryant to beat the Texans. Bryant’s Probable and he better be in your starting lineup.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Probable – Groin
Wheaton showed up on the injury report this week with a groin issue, which limited his practice participation on Wednesday and Thursday. However, he was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable, so he should be out there today. The matchup with a generous Jaguars’ defense is certainly appealing, but be careful to not put too much trust in Wheaton. Antonio Brown is clearly Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, Heath Miller is still one of his most trusted ones and Le’Veon Bell is a factor coming out of the backfield. Wheaton’s talent and potential are certainly appealing, but he’s yet to catch a touchdown and the big plays (only three catches of 20-plus yards) just haven’t been there. Wheaton’s ceiling remains high, but right now he’s safest when employed as a WR3/flex option.
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons
Questionable – Hamstring
Will we finally see Beckham on the field? A hamstring injury has caused him to miss the first four games, but the mere fact that Beckham is Questionable and not already ruled Out is certainly encouraging. Even if he does play, how much remains to be seen, as it appears that Beckham has a lot of catching up to do in the eyes of the coaching staff. So while it is certainly too risky to start Beckham this week, he’s one to keep an eye on as there’s a reason the Giants drafted him in the first round.
Already Ruled Out:
Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars – Lee will miss a third straight game due to a hamstring injury, while Shorts will probably be sidelined for an extended period of time with his own hamstring issue. Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson will serve as the Jags’ starting wide receivers and could be fantasy options depending on your depth at the position. Hurns is the more appealing option based on numbers (3 TDs), while Robinson’s value increases in PPR leagues. Of course how each fares today will depend largely on how Blake Bortles does in his first start at home against Pittsburgh.
San Francisco’s top tight end looks very iffy for Week 5, while Cleveland should get its back on the field. Here are the key tight end injuries you need to know about before setting your lineup.
Delaine Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns
Probable – Shoulder
Walker was Questionable last week, but not only did he start, he also paced the Titans in receiving (5-84-1) yet again. This week he practiced some Wednesday and Thursday before being a full go on Friday. He’s listed as Probable and Walker definitely needs to be in your lineup.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Questionable – Back
It has certainly been a rough stretch for Davis. After missing Week 3 due to an ankle injury, a Questionable Davis was back on the field last week despite being a game-time decision. Unfortunately, he was not out there long after taking a big hit to his back. This latest injury prevented him from practicing at all this week so I think it’s safe to add “very” in front of his Questionable designation. Other than a strong Week 1 showing (2 TDs), Davis hasn’t done that much when he has been on the field. Benching him would probably be the safest course of action until he gets a little healthier.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Probable – Knee
Pretty much the only reason Gronkowski remains in this space is because of his stature. The truth is Gronk appears to be in the best health he’s been in a while, as he got in a full week of practice. He’s listed as Probable and even with Tom Brady and the Patriots’ struggles on offense, Gronk needs to be in your lineup. After all, he caught a touchdown pass from rookie Jimmy Garoppolo in garbage time in the Patriots’ Monday night meltdown against the Chiefs.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
Probable – Shoulder
Although he’s not fully healed, Cameron returned to practice following the Browns’ bye week, is listed as Probable and should see his first action since Week 1. Cameron has said he will probably have to deal with a separated AC joint in his shoulder the rest of the season, but as long as he can tolerate and manage the pain, he will be out there. Cameron entered the season as a top-10 TE and should get back to that territory relatively soon, as long as his shoulder doesn’t get worse.
Niles Paul and Jordan Reed, TEs, Washington Redskins vs. Seattle Seahawks (Mon.)
Questionable – Concussion; Questionable – Hamstring
Is a TE controversy looming for Washington? Perhaps, but it doesn’t look like it will be this week. Paul and Reed are both listed as Questionable for Monday night, but the former increased his participation in practice during the week while the latter wasn’t even a part of Saturday’s session. Paul appears on track to return after suffering a concussion last week against the Giants, whereas Reed will probably miss another game. Paul’s borderline TE1 potential remains, as does the risk associated with a player coming back from a concussion who won’t play until Monday night.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Questionable – Ankle
Injuries have limited Seferian-Jenkins’ impact as a rookie, as he’s played in just two games. He’s Questionable again this week because of an ankle injury, but he did get in a limited practice session on Friday, which should help his chances of playing today. It’s hard to trust a rookie who’s been in and out of the lineup, but when’s he played he’s been somewhat productive, averaging 17.5 yards per reception. The 1 p.m. ET kickoff should at least allow an opportunity to check in on ASJ’s status before deciding whether to take a chance on starting him this week or not.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers vs. New York Jets
Questionable – Hamstring
Green was active last week, but he didn’t see a single target even though Philip Rivers attempted 39 passes and threw for 377 yards. The good news is Green seems to be getting better, as he was able to practice fully on both Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Questionable, and seems to be a fairly safe bet for being active against the Jets. Whether he’s “active” on the field remains to be seen, however, as Antonio Gates’ consistent production seemingly continues to limit Green’s opportunities. Unless you start two tight ends in your lineup, Green should probably be left on your bench.
Already Ruled Out:
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings – Rudolph had surgery for a sports hernia last week. The expectation right now is that he will be out a minimum of six weeks, which would put a potential return around mid-November. If you have room, I would keep Rudolph; just understand this will be a prolonged absence.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars – Lewis is on the injured reserve/designated for return list because of a high ankle sprain. Unless you have an IR spot and/or are smitten with Lewis, there’s no reason to hold onto him or even stash him away.
Another week, another Hail Mary in the Pac-12. Arizona State used a Hail Mary touchdown pass from backup quarterback Mike Bercovici to receiver Jaelen Strong to defeat USC on Saturday night.
Last week, USC used a Hail Mary pass before halftime to help defeat Oregon State, but the Trojans were on the wrong end of pass defense this week.
Check out Strong’s touchdown catch (along with some bad pass defense from USC):
With the game clock running out, junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong catches a Hail Mary! Pic by: Rob Schumacher pic.twitter.com/vkCseTvTdL— 12News (@12News) October 5, 2014
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the ACC’s rising stars, and the true freshman delivered a huge performance in Saturday’s win over NC State.
Watson completed 17 of 29 passes for 267 yards and two scores and added a highlight-reel touchdown run in the second quarter.
Check out Watson going airborne to score a touchdown in the second quarter of Saturday’s win over NC State:
Texas A&M suffered its first loss of the year on Saturday, dropping a 48-31 matchup in Starkville to the Bulldogs.
Receiver Speedy Noil was one of the team’s bright spots, catching three passes for 50 yards and two scores.
Noil’s touchdown catch in the third quarter was one of the weekend’s best receptions, as the freshman caught the ball just short of the goal-line and stretched to reach into the endzone:
BYU’s loss to Utah State on Friday night was costly, as the Cougars lost quarterback Taysom Hill due to a leg injury for the rest of the season, and its hopes of an unbeaten record and a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff are finished.
Hill was tackled and landed awkwardly on his leg at the end of the second quarter, and the junior was carted to the locker room just prior to halftime.
The junior suffered a fractured leg on the tackle and won’t return in 2014. Hill was a darkhorse Heisman candidate in the preseason and started to gain consideration for a spot among the top 5-10 in most rankings after a hot start to the year.
In five games, Hill threw for 975 yards and seven touchdowns this year and rushed for 463 yards and eight scores on the ground.
With Hill sidelined for the remainder of 2014, Christian Stewart will assume the No. 1 job under center. Stewart has completed 10 of 29 passes for 172 yards but also tossed three picks so far this year.
Hill wasn’t the only key injury suffered for BYU on Friday night, as safety Dallin Leavitt, offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley and linebacker Alani Fui left the game due to ankle ailments.
After a 4-0 start, BYU appeared to be on its way to an unbeaten season, as the schedule was favorable and there were few tossup games remaining on the schedule.
But the Cougars are a different team without Hill, and a loss to Utah State effectively ends any hope Bronco Mendenhall’s team had of making a run at college football’s four-team playoff.
It was a longshot for BYU to make the playoff, but an unbeaten season would have allowed the Cougars to at least push for a spot in one of college football’s elite bowl games.
Hill’s absence changes BYU’s outlook for the rest of the year, as games against UCF, Nevada, Boise State and California move into the tossup category or the Cougars even more to slight underdog status in a few. BYU still has enough on both sides of the ball to push for a 10-2 or 9-3 record, especially with running back Jamaal Williams capable of carrying the offense on the ground.
With Friday night’s loss, BYU is likely headed to the Miami Beach Bowl to take on an opponent from the American Athletic Conference on Dec. 22.
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill left the first half of Friday night’s game against Utah State with a significant ankle injury. Hill landed awkwardly on his ankle on a tackle against the Aggies, and the Heisman candidate was carted to the locker room prior to halftime.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall did not have an update at halftime, but BYU's Twitter account indicated Hill suffered a fractured leg and is out indefinitely.
Before the injury, Hill completed 8 of 11 passes for 99 yards and one score. He also added 35 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Coming into the Friday night matchup against Utah State, Hill had 876 yards and six touchdowns through the air and rushed for 428 yards and seven scores.
Hill was considered among the top 10-15 candidates for the Heisman Trophy after a strong start to the season.
Hill’s backup is senior Christian Stewart. The Utah native has very little experience in his career, and BYU’s offense would clearly take a step back without Hill in the lineup.
Here’s the play where Hill was injured against Utah State:
Here's the play where BYU QB Taysom Hill injured his left leg. He was carted off the field. http://t.co/o7ihOhEAiZ— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 4, 2014
Ugly scene for Cougars as QB Taysom Hill suffering what appears to be a serious left leg injury http://t.co/35Y6uzOwwI— Vanquish The Foe (@VanquishTheFoe) October 4, 2014
BYU QB Taysom Hill has a left leg fracture. He will not return. Further evaluations will be carried out later.— BYU Game Notes (@BYUGameNotes) October 4, 2014
Each week, Geoffrey Miller's "Five Things to Watch" will help you catch up on the biggest stories on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' upcoming race weekend.
Kyle Busch has to continue Kansas improvement
Kyle Busch never made it to lap 400 in his first three Sprint Cup starts on the new pavement Kansas Speedway laid down in mid-2012. The car never handled well and he wound up wrecking in all three races.
"The racetrack is the worst racetrack I've ever driven on," Busch said after his crash at the track a year ago. "The tire is the worst tire I've ever driven on.”
After the track didn’t change and Goodyear’s only made a slight change on the right side tires for Kansas’ May race, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers brought a new mindset to the 1.5-miler.
“Dave and I worked together to start over, from how we set up the car to how I approached it,” Busch said of the spring preparation. “We didn’t get the finish we wanted, but we ended up 15th, I think, with a clean racecar.”
It was a marked improvement – the 15th even came after a pit road speeding penalty – and has Busch set up for a weekend at Kansas that might not derail his championship bid like the crash a year ago.
“I’ve been terrible at places like Martinsville, Pocono, Michigan and others, but we’ve had some solid finishes at those places by trying different things,” Busch said. “So we’re hoping we can build on what we learned there in the spring and improve our finish and run a smart race.”
Winless since April, Kevin Harvick has to be Kansas favorite
Kevin Harvick knows he’s given up a lot of chances at victory this season thanks to myriad issues. It’s plenty fresh on his mind after stumbling again at Dover just last week with a win in reach – a disappointment that continued a winning drought from April 12.
Sunday, he could expect to change that.
Harvick has been the best driver at Kansas in the last three races run at the track. He won at the track a year ago and has two poles in the span. His average finish of fifth is the best in the series, just like his average laps led – 65.5.
“We expect to be fast and just have to have some good luck,” Harvick said. “That is really what it’s all about for us. The car will be fast, it’s just about getting it all to come together.”
Kansas and Charlotte carry mighty Chase advancement weight
The second round of the Chase may feature the third and second-most important races of this new championship format, all because of the one that looms as the round finale.
At least six of the eight drivers who will advance to the third round will have to race in via the second round culmination at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 19. For those eligible drivers, Talladega will be 500 miles at a nerve-wracking level well above the typical craziness that is Sprint Cup restrictor plate racing because advancement will seemingly depend on not getting a car torn up in a big crash.
The odds of a clean Talladega race for any driver just aren’t very good. Last week, Jeff Gordon estimated 80 percent of races for drivers at the 2.66-mile superspeedway include involvement in a crash. It’s hard to dispute that number after recent Cup restrictor plate races have featured crashes with car counts nearing half of the field.
And so that unpredictability will greatly impact decision-making and strategy calls both Sunday at Kansas and next Saturday night at Charlotte. A win in either of those races equals a Get Out of Jail Free card for eligible Chase drivers at Talladega.
Expect that to mean more teams will be willing to risk it with fuel mileage or tire strategy calls for two reasons. First, wins are more valuable in this round than in the first one when conservative strategy was a strong way of advancing. And second, the craziness of a Talladega could also work inversely to the looming elimination danger by letting a team who somehow emerges from the wreckage unscathed to hit the Chase lottery.
Edwards plans to play role of hometown risk-taker
One driver who fully intends to participate in Chase risk-taking is Carl Edwards – both because he really, really wants a hometown win at Kansas and because he knows his Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 will need a bounce of good fortune to keep advancing.
Edwards didn’t get that bounce, per se, at Kansas in 2008 when he literally drove his car into the wall after a dive-bomb attempt on the final lap to pass Jimmie Johnson for the win. Johnson passed Edwards as he lost speed and still won the race.
“Yeah that was fun. I was really upset we didn't win,” Edwards said Friday. “That is how bad I want to win (at Kansas). Looking back that was probably a stupid move. We were racing for a championship and I intentionally ran the thing into the wall.”
Edwards advanced to the second round of the Chase with non-descript finishes of 20th, 17th and 11th while teammate Greg Biffle was eliminated. Chase or not, Edwards is going for broke on Sunday.
“I guarantee you the last run if we have a shot to win I won't be thinking about points or anything like that – which I probably should be – but this place is just special,” Edwards said.
Kyle Larson getting closer to first win with seven rookie races left
If it seems like Kyle Larson has had his name near the front of the first three Chase races a lot, you’re not being deceived.
Larson, in his first Cup season driving Chip Ganassi’s No. 42, has scored the third-most points of any driver in the series since the Chase began. Only Brad Keselowski (128 total points) and Joey Logano (127) have more than Larson’s 122. Larson, of course, narrowly missed Chase eligibility.
Still it’s been a heck of a summer and early fall for the rookie. Dating to New Hamsphire in July, Larson has only one finish worse than 12th from when he blew a tire at Michigan and finished 43rd. In the three Chase races at Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover, Larson has finished third, second and sixth.
A win can’t be far behind. If you’re wondering about this weekend, know that Larson started fifth and finished 12th at Kansas in the spring.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
No NBA player has ever graced the imagery of U.S. postage. But that all changes this December, when Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain — perhaps the most dominant baller to ever hit the floor — has a couple dedicated to him. One of the stamps has him in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, and in the other he’s with the long-defunct Philadelphia Warriors.
Chamberlain is of course famous for scoring 100 points in one game in 1962, and for being the league’s all-time leading scorer until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke his record in 1984. His all-time record of 23,924 rebounds has not been surpassed, however. The 7’1” big man was in a league of his own through multiple eras of basketball — save for when he played against Bill Russell, his close friend who always thwarted him with his Boston Celtics dynasties.
But perhaps you’ve heard of Chamberlain for another reason. Namely, his claim to have slept with over 20,000 women in his lifetime. Consider that number an early bar for these stamps to clear: Can they adorn that many envelopes?
The oblong stickers are taller than most, just as Wilt was. They’ll be officially unveiled at a ceremony in Chamberlain’s hometown of Phladelphia, during halftime of a 76ers game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not a lot of professional athletes have graced postage before — the honor is usually reserved for players from America’s oldest favorite sport, baseball. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio are among those previously commemorated, as well as boxer Joe Louis.
The crusade to get Chamberlain as the face of your rent checks and letters to grandma was begun by sportswriter Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune, back in 2008. The wheels of U.S. postage apparently spin as slowly as those of most bureaucracies, so if you’re planning to mount your own stamp campaign, you’d better get started.
— John Wilmes
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 6, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State vs. Clemson ($6100)
Brissett threw for 359 yards and three scores last week against Florida State. He has been very consistent this year and could find success against Clemson in what could be a shootout.
1) RB Marshawn Williams, Va Tech vs. North Carolina ($3700)
Williams appears to be coming on and could see even more carries with Shai McKenzie out for the season. The UNC defense is terrible and could give up plenty of chunk plays to William this week. Look for Williams to find pay dirt this week.
2) RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia vs. Kansas ($4100)
Shell has scored in three straight games and looks to have locked up the starting RB job for the Mountaineers. He could have a very big day against a putrid Kansas defense. Expect Shell to easily hit value this week.
3) RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State ($4200)
Roland has scored three rushing touchdowns in the last two games and appears to be rounding into form. He has a juicy match up with the Cyclones 111th ranked rush defense. Look for Roland to find his way into the end zone for the third straight week.
1) WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss vs. Alabama ($4300)
Treadwell finally awoke from his slumber last week with 123 yards and two scores against Memphis. He has a tough match up this week with Alabama, but could be leaned on heavily. His price is enticing, so be sure to look his way.
2) WR Mike Williams, Clemson vs. NC State ($4600)
Willams recorded 122 yards and two scores last week against North Carolina. He comes in at a great price this week and has huge potential against NC State. He could be a nice plug and play option this week.
1) TE Steven Walker, Colorado State vs. Tulsa ($3000)
Walker has been productive in filling in for Kivon Cartwright. He could find plenty of open space against a miserable Tulsa defense. He looks like a nice punt option.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Mike Bercovici, Arizona State vs. USC ($5200)
Bercovici threw for 488 yards and three scores against UCLA last week while filling in for Taylor Kelly. He likely won’t hit those numbers this week, but could post solid numbers and hit value against the Trojans.
1) RB Jordan Howard, UAB vs. Western Kentucky ($4300)
Howard ran for 100 yards last week and could easily hit that mark this week against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers rush defense ranks 116th in the nation and routinely gets gashed. Look for Howard to break a couple of long runs this week.
2) RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State vs. Nebraska ($4700)
Langford has been plagued by blow out games this year and has not got into any type of rhythm as of yet. He could see a ton of carries this week against Nebraska and could easily find the end zone a couple of times.
1) WR D’haquille Williams, Auburn vs. LSU ($4700)
Williams has scored in three of four games this season and is the top option in the Tigers passing game. He has a tough match up this week against LSU, but could easily hit value in this SEC showdown.
- By Todd DeVries and Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 3:
• A great weekend in college football is yielding some great cheerleader showdowns.
• Tomorrow, Mississippi is the center of the college football universe. Given that the Rebs and Bulldogs play in one of the SEC's least populous states, their ascendancy is impressive.
• The helmet worn by Auburn's Chris Davis on the immortal kick-six is going up for auction. Harvey Updyke may buy it to use as a bedpan.
• The Royals flashed serious leather in their win over the Angels.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
|Game 1||Oct. 3||6:30||Los Angeles|
|Game 2||Oct. 4||9:30||Los Angeles|
|Game 3||Oct. 6||TBA||St. Louis|
|Game 4*||Oct. 7||TBA||St. Louis|
|Game 5*||Oct. 9||TBA||Los Angeles|
Perhaps the marquee pitching matchup this postseason will be Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers vs. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals in Game 1. Should the series go five games, the two aces will likely face off once again in a rematch in Game 5. But when these two teams met in the NLCS a year ago, the two Cy Young candidates combined for three losses, as St. Louis won in six games. The Cardinals won the first game, 3-2 in 13 innings and Game 2, 1-0, as NLCS MVP Michael Wacha pitched a gem, outdueling Kershaw. We can expect another series of close games that likely won’t be decided until Game 5. The Dodgers won four of the seven regular season matchups, winning three of four in Los Angeles in late June.
There are threats up and down the Dodgers’ lineup. There is very little margin for error for the St. Louis pitchers…The Dodgers will also be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. In Game 1 of last year’s NLCS, Hanley Ramirez was hit by a pitch and suffered a rib injury that severely limited his effectiveness the rest of the series. He was 0-for-9 with four strikeouts over the final three games.
Beyond the Wainwright-Kershaw matchup, the Redbirds have an advantage in starting pitching given the questionable availability of Hyun-Jin Ryu. Dan Haren is the Dodgers’ likely fourth starter…St. Louis also has a deeper bullpen than Los Angeles. If the Cardinals get to the Dodgers’ pen early, that could spell doom for the men in blue…With Seth Maness and Sam Freeman in front of Carlos Martinez, Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal, manager Mike Matheny may have a quick hook this series.
Adam Wainwright won his final four starts of the season with a 0.55 ERA over 33 innings. Opponents batted just .197 over those four games…Meanwhile, Kershaw’s numbers are off the charts. In 17 of his 27 starts this season, he allowed one run or less. He gave up more than three runs just once…The eight projected starters are batting .200 off of Wainwright in their careers; .292 off of Lance Lynn; .358 off of John Lackey; and .452 off of Shelby Miller…Dodgers’ second baseman Dee Gordon led the National League with 64 stolen bases this season. The combination of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina has allowed just six stolen bases over the past three seasons. During that time, seven runners have been nailed.
Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn’t pitched since leaving his start on Sept. 12 after one inning due to shoulder issues. In Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS with the Dodgers down two games, Ryu shut out the Cardinals over seven innings on three hits and a walk. His availability for this series would be a huge boost for Los Angeles…Relievers Carlos Martinez and Pat Heshek will likely be used in high-leverage situations, possibly even in the ninth inning. Other than Wainwright, the Cardinals’ starters — Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller — don’t pitch deep into games, which will put Martinez and Neshek in key roles.
Dodgers in 4
|Game 1||Oct. 3||3:00||Washington|
|Game 2||Oct. 4||5:30||Washington|
|Game 3||Oct. 6||TBA||San Francisco|
|Game 4*||Oct. 7||TBA||San Francisco|
|Game 5*||Oct. 9||TBA||Washington|
The Nationals stormed through the second half and finished with the league’s best record. Much of their success was due to pitching. The starting pitching down the stretch was tremendous, and having a deep bullpen took pressure off of the starters to get deep into games. The lineup core is the same as took the field two seasons ago as favorites against St. Louis in the NLDS. Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth no doubt still feel that sting and are determined not to drop this series. The Giants, led by the calm Bruce Bochy, methodically and quietly go about the business of winning. The Giants exercised tremendous patience at the plate in their wild card win over Pittsburgh. If they become the free swingers we are accustomed to seeing, this could be an easy series win for the Nats. Washington won five of the seven meetings this season, including three of four at San Francisco.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. When Gio Gonzalez is the forgotten man in the starting rotation, it must be pretty good. Stephen Strasburg ended the season with three scoreless outings, Jordan Zimmermann tossed a 10-strikeout, one-walk no-hitter in his final start, and Doug Fister won 16 games after missing the first month of the season.
This team has had success in the postseason before, winning two of the previous four World Series. The manager and the players know how to win big games. At home, or on the road, this team will not be rattled. This team can be streaky offensively, especially Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and even Buster Posey to some degree. If that trio gets hot, this will be a tough lineup to get through.
Gregor Blanco, who will lead off for the Giants, carries a low .251 OBP leading off games this season…Pablo Sandoval’s batting average off of the Nats’ first three starters is .424 in 33 at-bats…Stephen Strasburg ended the season with 20.1 scoreless innings…San Francisco’s Game 2 starter Tim Hudson made two starts against Washington this season, winning both with a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings. The righthander is 18-5 with a 2.35 ERA in 31 career starts vs. the Nats…Washington pitchers were 19-8 in September with a 2.55 ERA, and that includes a 22-hit, 15-run debacle in the second game of doubleheader against Miami on the final Friday of the season…Over his last seven starts, Gio Gonzalez owns a 4-1 mark with a 2.36 ERA and .191 batting average against. And he’s the Nats’ Game 4 starter.
San Francisco’s Game 1 starter Jake Peavy gives the Giants an excellent opportunity to steal a game in Washington. The Giants won eight of Peavy’s 12 starts after coming over from Boston, including his last six. Over his last nine outings, Peavy has a 1.35 ERA and opponents are batting .218…It will be interesting to see what kind of memory Washington reliever Drew Storen has. After saving 43 games in 2011, he missed significant time in 2012, making just 37 appearances, all after the All-Star break. He entered the deciding Game 5 in the ninth with a two-run lead before a couple of walks and hits by Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma wrecked the Nats’ season. He did not regain the closer’s role until last month when he had 10 saves in September. Will the 2012 NLDS memory haunt him in this series?
Nationals in 4