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All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-12-fantasy-football-injury-updates-fred-jackson-tony-romo-lamar-miller-pierre-thomas

Buffalo’s Week 12 game got moved to Monday night, and the Bills may or may not have their leading rusher back in the fold. Elsewhere, the Saints should get one of their RBs back on Monday night, while the Dolphins’ QB-RB combination is a little banged up and Tony Romo should be feeling pretty good coming off of the bye.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Probable – Back
Even though the Cowboys were coming off of a bye, Romo still didn’t practice on Wednesday. Don’t worry, there’s no reason for concern here, as that’s been the normal routine this season. The important thing is that Romo got an extra week to let his back recover, something that Jerry Jones has already been quoted as saying couldn’t have come at a better time. Romo is Probable and is safe to employ this week. The Giants’ secondary is pretty beat up, so it’s possible that Romo is able to make some plays down field, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys continue to lean heavily on the ground game.


Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets (Detroit, Mon.)

Questionable – Groin
Jackson returned from a groin injury two weeks ago, but may have jumped the gun too soon. Not only did he get just three carries, he also wasn’t able to make the quick turnaround and ended up being inactive for the Bills’ Thursday night game last week. A massive snow storm in Buffalo earlier this week disrupted the Bills’ preparation for what was supposed to be a home game against the Jets. Instead, the game was moved to Monday night in Detroit. The good news is that Jackson was able to practice some, but he’s officially listed as Questionable. Even if he does play, he will share carries with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon. The Jets are fourth in the league in rushing defense, so between the unusual circumstances leading up to this game and the matchup, this is a backfield-by-committee full of possible flex options and nothing more.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos

Questionable – Shoulder/Knee
Miller has been battling a shoulder injury for the past few weeks, but he’s added a knee issue to his woes. He went from a full practice participant on Wednesday to limited on Thursday. He’s officially listed as Questionable, but reports are that Miller will play this afternoon. He went from just 10 yards rushing two weeks ago to 86 last Thursday, but Denver’s run defense is third in the league. Miller’s still safe to use, but he should be viewed more as a RB2/flex this week.


Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, RBs, New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens (Mon.)

Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Shoulder; Out – Forearm; Probable – Rib/Shoulder
Every Saint running back appears on the injury report, but for the most part it’s good news. Robinson has already been ruled out, but the other three are Probable. Ingram is the workhorse and a top-10 RB1 this week. Thomas hasn’t played since Week 7, but after practicing on a limited basis, he’s expected to be out there Monday night. Thomas could still be limited, but his return could mean fewer touches for Cadet. As far as this trio goes, Ingram is the only must-start back in the bunch. Both Thomas and Cadet are risky plays, even as flex options.


Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos

Probable – Shoulder
Tannehill was limited some in practice because of a left shoulder issue, but he’s listed as Probable and will be out there this afternoon. He’s been sacked 15 times in the past five games, so the wear and tear is starting to add up. Tannehill could be an intriguing option this week given his matchup against Denver, but he has been inconsistent over the past several weeks. Proceed with caution unless you are in a 2-QB league.


Already Ruled Out:


Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos – Ball returned last week after missing five games with a groin injury, only to re-aggravate it before he even touched the ball. He and Hillman, who is nursing a foot sprain, didn’t practice at all this week and both have been ruled out for this afternoon’s game. That leaves C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to carry the load. Anderson has been the Broncos’ most productive back the past two games and he remains the more appealing fantasy option. Miami’s among the league leaders in rushing defense, but Anderson should see enough targets to maintain RB2 status with upside. Thompson’s primary role is that of short-yardage and goal-line back, which makes him a little riskier to rely on.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Fred Jackson, Tony Romo, Lamar Miller, Pierre Thomas
Post date: Sunday, November 23, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-12-injury-updates-brandon-marshall-calvin-johnson-delanie-walker

Plenty of wide receivers and tight ends appear on the Week 12 injury report. From Foxboro to Green Bay and even Jacksonville, Athlon Sports has the injury situations on the top fantasy targets covered like a shutdown cornerback.


Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, WRs, Detroit Lions at New England Patriots

Probable – Ankle; Probable – Hip
Johnson didn’t practice on Wednesday and was listed as being limited on Thursday and Friday. However, this has pretty much been his normal routine this season, so all you should worry about is his Probable designation. The same pretty much goes for Tate (right), who wasn’t listed on the injury report the first two days before being a limited practice participant on Friday. He too is Probable, as it looks like this is mostly a case of giving your top guys some extra rest. Johnson is back among the elite starting WRs while Tate remains a solid WR2 option.

Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, WRs, Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Ankle
Neither Jeffery nor Marshall practiced on Wednesday, but both were out there on Thursday and Jeffery was a full go on Friday. The bottom line is both are Probable and as long as neither suffers some sort of setback during warmups they will play today. Jeffery and Marshall are both WR1 material with the latter slightly ahead in fantasy points due to twice as many (8 to 4) touchdown catches. Jeffery may actually be the slightly safer bet this week than Marshall considering he was able to do more in practice. Regardless, both tall, rangy targets should be started.


Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles

Probable – Concussion
Walker did not pass the league-mandated tests following his concussion two weeks ago, so he was not able to play on Monday night. He has since cleared the last hurdle, as he was a full participant in practice this week. Walker is Probable and will be back out there today. The Titans’ top pass-catcher and a top-10 fantasy TE, Walker needs to be back in your starting lineup.


Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots vs. Detroit Lions

Probable – Thigh
Edelman injured his thigh last week against the Colts, resulting in him playing a season-low 35 snaps. He was limited in practice all week, but is listed as Probable and pronounced himself ready to play on Thursday. Edelman will be out there today, but the combination of Rob Gronkowksi’s re-emergence and more support from the running game has resulted in fewer opportunities for Edelman. He is still one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets, but Edelman is more of a WR2/3/flex at this point.


Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

Questionable – Rib
Jennings missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a rib injury that clearly affected him last week. He was back on the field on Friday and is listed as Questionable. The expectation is that Jennings will play, but I’m not sure I would want to trust any Viking offensive player in my lineup right now, especially a wide receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson has been a huge disappointment this season while Jennings has barely been a top-60 fantasy WR. With Jennings already iffy, there’s no reason to even consider using him this week.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

Probable – Abdomen/Groin
Rudolph was in action last week for the first time September, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the box score. Rudolph wasn’t even targeted in his first game since Week 3, but the big takeaway is that he made it through no worse for the wear. Rudolph was a full go every day at practice this week, so this time his Probable tag is a mere formality. However, Rudolph is still probably too risky to put back into your starting lineup since it appears the Vikings are slowly working him back into their game plan.

Already Ruled Out:


Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns – The good news is that Cameron was finally cleared by a neurosurgeon and returned to practice on Friday. The bad news is that’s not enough to get him back on the field, as Cameron’s already been ruled out for a fourth straight game. Cameron could be back next week though, so you may as well hold onto him for little longer.


Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts – Allen suffered an ankle injury last week and wasn’t able to practice at all. It’s no surprise he’s been ruled out, especially since the Colts promoted Weslye Saunders from the practice squad earlier in the week. With Allen sidelined, Coby Fleener vaults into top-10 territory, coming off of a huge (7 rec., 144 yds.) game last week.

Fantasy Football Week 12 Injury Updates: Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Delanie Walker, Julian Edelman
Post date: Sunday, November 23, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-12-fantasy-football-injury-updates-julius-thomas-emmanuel-sanders-larry-fitzgerald-mike

Denver and Arizona both could be without one of their top targets for Week 12. Here is the rundown on the WR and TE injuries you need to be aware of in the late afternoon games.


Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins

Probable – Concussion
Sanders left last week’s loss in St. Louis because of a concussion, but not before he caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. After not practicing at all Wednesday or Thursday, Sanders was not only cleared to return to practice on Friday, he also was cleared to play. He’s listed as Probable, so it appears that the No. 5 fantasy WR will be available for duty today. In fact, with tight end Julius Thomas considered Questionable (ankle), it’s possible that Sanders will see more than the nine targets he’s been averaging.

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins

Questionable – Ankle
Thomas injured his ankle last week against the Rams, joining teammate Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) on the injury report following the game. Unlike Sanders, Thomas wasn’t able to practice, although he did take part in some individual drills. Thomas is officially listed as Questionable, which means he has a 50-50 shot at playing. He could wind up being a game-time decision, so at minimum make sure you have a viable backup plan (game kickoffs at 4:25 p.m. ET) in case Thomas is unable to play. Jacob Tamme could be that guy, as he would be next man up, but his track record and upside aren’t on the same level compared to Thomas.


Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Questionable – Knee
Fitzgerald injured his knee on a big hit last week and he was later diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. Not surprising, he didn’t practice this week. If anything, his Questionable designation could end up being more wishful thinking, but head coach Bruce Arians said Fitzgerald would be a game-time decision. Fitzgerald has played in 110 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest active streak among WRs, and he said earlier this week that’s he’s optimistic he will be able to play. Fitzgerald’s positive outlook aside, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also Fitzgerald’s numbers are down (two 100-yard games, 2 TDs), so it’s not like he’s a legitimate, must-start WR1 anymore. At best, Fitzgerald is a WR3 with quite a bit of upside, but I’m not sure his track record is enough to consider starting him this week against the defending Super Bowl champions at home.


Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos

Probable – Calf
Wallace was limited in practice by a calf injury, but he’s listed as Probable so he looks like a safe bet to play. Wallace has been the Dolphins’ most productive target this season and he could be called upon even more with tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) considered doubtful. Wallace is a legitimate WR2 starting option.

Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers

Questionable – Back
Cook didn’t practice on Wednesday and was only able to participate some both Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Questionable for today’s game and there’s always the chance that the cross-country flight only made his back issue worse. There’s also the fact that Cook is part of the NFL’s 27th-ranked passing offense, has eclipsed 19 yards receiving just once in his past four games and is facing a San Diego defense that’s giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to TEs. Does that sound like a TE you want to rely on this week?

Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos

Doubtful – Hamstring/Knee
Clay has been dealing with a knee injury all season, but this time it’s a hamstring issue that could wind up sidelining him. Clay apparently suffered the injury during practice and was unable to get back out there. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s really no reason to wait that long to make a decision. Bench Clay and take your chances with someone else.

Already Ruled Out:


Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins – This time it’s the right hamstring that’s going to cause Reed to miss at least one game. A left hamstring injury earlier this season cost Reed four games, which unfortunately has been the story of his young career. With Reed out, Niles Paul will get the call once again. He was productive earlier in the season, but given Washington’s offensive issues and all of the controversy surrounding Robert Griffin III, it may be best to steer clear of this situation.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Wallace
Post date: Sunday, November 23, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Virginia Cavaliers, News
Path: /college-football/virginia-wr-canaan-severin-makes-nifty-one-handed-td-catch-against-miami

Virginia receiver Canaan Severin may have grabbed the catch of the year in the ACC during Saturday’s game against Miami.


Severin made a one-handed catch for a score in the second quarter, which gave the Cavaliers a 10-7 lead.

Check out Severin’s catch, which came just as a Miami defender was poised to make a play on the ball for an interception:



Virginia WR Canaan Severin Makes Nifty One-Handed TD Catch Against Miami
Post date: Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 20:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-wr-darren-carrington-makes-tricky-catch-against-colorado-deflection

Oregon cruised to an easy win over Colorado in what could be the final home game for quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Ducks didn’t need much help to beat the overmatched Buffaloes, but receiver Darren Carrington made one of the catches of the year in the Pac-12 with this reception off a deflection.

Check out Carrington’s reception:


Oregon WR Darren Carrington Makes Catch Against Colorado on Crazy Deflection
Post date: Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 20:09
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-ol-connor-kruse-records-rushing-attempt-against-rutgers

A play in Saturday’s Michigan State-Rutgers game was truly a dream for an offensive lineman.


Connor Kruse is a former walk-on and a senior contributor for the Spartans. And in Saturday’s easy win over the Scarlet Knights, Kruse had the chance to record a rushing attempt on an end-around in the fourth quarter.

Yes, that’s correct: An offensive lineman had a chance to run the ball.

It’s the year of offensive linemen and offensive plays. Remember Arkansas’ Sebastian Tretola touchdown pass against UAB? Kruse’s rush wasn’t a huge success, but it’s an opportunity for the big lineman to get a chance to shine on Senior Day.

Michigan State OL Connor Kruse Records Rushing Attempt Against Rutgers
Post date: Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 16:19
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-13-fantasy-value-plays

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at 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.comLearn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)






1)    QB Cody Thomas, Oklahoma vs. Kansas ($5800)

Thomas scored 25 DK fantasy points last week against Texas Tech and could have an even better game versus Kansas. The Jayhawks defense is nothing special and could yield plenty of big plays to Thomas this week.


2)    QB Justin Holman, UCF vs SMU ($5700)

Holman threw three touchdowns last week against Tulsa and could match that total this week with SMU on the slate. The Mustangs pass defense is ranked 121st in the country.





1)    RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Boston College ($4500)

Cook had 92 yards and two scores last week against Miami and appears to be taking over the Seminoles backfield. He could find the end zone again this week and looks like a solid punt option.


2)    RB JC Coleman, Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest ($4900)

Coleman had 95 yards rushing last week in relief of the injured Marshawn Williams. He could see all the carries he can handle this week against Wake Forest, as he is basically the only healthy back on the VT roster.


3)    RB Akeel Lynch, Penn State vs. Illinois ($4200)

Lynch had 130 yards and a score last week against Temple and could have another big day versus Illinois. He may run all over an Illinois run defense that ranks 121st in the country. His price is very appealing this week.





1)    WR Tony Lippett, Michigan State vs. Rutgers ($5500)

Lippett’s price is depressed after having two sub-par games in a row. This looks like the perfect match up for a bounce back performance from Lippett. He is a top flight fantasy wide out at a very low price.


2)    WR Tyler Baker, Washington State vs. Arizona State ($4200)

Baker is averaging 21 DK fantasy points over the last three games. He looks to be a great punt option this week as long as River Cracraft remains sidelined due to injury.


3)    WR D’Vario Montgomery, Iowa State vs. Texas Tech ($5100)

Montgomery is averaging almost 22 DK fantasy points over the last four games. Look for plenty of production again this week.


4)    WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston vs. Tulsa ($4700)

Greenberry had 130 yards and a score last week and appears to finally be waking up. He could post a big stat line against Tulsa.


5)    WR Vince Sanders, Ole Miss vs. Arkansas ($4300)

Sanders looks to be seriously underpriced this week. He looks to be the top receiving target with Laquan Treadwell out for the season. Expect him to easily hit value this week.





1)    TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest ($3200)

Hodges has scored in the last two games and could make it three in a row against Wake Forest.




1)    QB Brad Kaaya, Miami vs. Virginia ($5800)

Kaaya threw for 316 yards and two scores last week against Florida State. He is getting better week by week and could find success against Virginia on Saturday night.  





1)     RB Don Jackson, Nevada vs. Fresno State ($5900)

Jackson is rolling right now with four rushing scores in the past two games. Expect another trip or two to the end zone for Jackson against a toilet paper soft Fresno defense.


2)    RB Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, UNLV vs. Hawaii ($5800)

Lawrence had 143 yards and a score last week and gets a juicy matchup with Hawaii. Look for this Rebel to rack up a solid game this week.


3)    RB Josh Quezada, Fresno State vs. Nevada ($4700)

Quezada could be in for a big game if Marteze Waller misses the game with Nevada. His price is nice and could easily reach value with an increased work load.


4)    RB Rodriguez Moore, Cincinnati vs. UCONN ($4200)

Moore has performed well over the past few weeks and comes in at a very cheap price. He looks like a terrific punt option this week against the Huskies.





1)    WR Devante Davis, UNLV vs. Hawaii ($5100)

Davis is hard to refuse at this price. He has a high ceiling against a weak Hawaii defense. Look for Davis to show why he is a stud wide out.


2)    WR Jordan Payton, UCLA vs. USC ($4800)

Payton has had a very consistent season and his price never seems to rise. Look for him to see plenty of targets against USC and pay off for DFS players smart enough to use him.


3)    WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State vs. Washington ($4700)

Bolden is averaging nine receptions and 105 yards receiving over the last three games. His price looks much lower than what his recent production states.





1) TE Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt vs. Miss State ($3200)

Scheu has shown decent consistency and has scored in the last two games. He could find some open seams against the Bulldogs.


By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount,

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College Fantasy Football: Week 13 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 01:50
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nbpa-director-michele-roberts-not-messing-around

The NBA Player’s Association hasn’t exactly been a politically fearsome group in recent years. The players demonstrably lost out financially in the 2011 lockout, behind their befuddled, lazy director at the time, Billy Hunter. LeBron James and others haven’t been tight-lipped about realizing that much. James, this October, said the league’s owners claiming to be losing money on their teams is a strategy that “will not fly this time.”

The new $24 billion TV deal ensures that the union is entitled to fight for more money. And new union director Michele Roberts looks determined to wage that battle. The replacement for former do-nothing Hunter, Roberts has been on the job since just July, but she’s already made a strong impression.

“She’s serious, she is impressive,” one player agent who met with Roberts told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney. “She is coming at this from an outsider’s perspective. With Billy, he accepted that the system we have is what it is, and all we can do is try to protect as much ground as possible. Michele is a clean slate, she flat-out sees some of the things we accept as wrong. She’s itching for a fight on this stuff, because she thinks we’re right.”

Now, Roberts and the union are disputing the league’s decision to suspend Charlotte Hornets forward Jeff Taylor for 24 games without pay, citing the penalty as “excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA contemplates a minimum 10 game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period. … While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters.”

This is merely the first example of likely more intense friction between Roberts and Silver. We’re all waiting for the atomic showdown that seems inevitable when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2017. If Roberts continues her hard line until then, there’s a good chance we’ll see another work stoppage in the league.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 14:20
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-21-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 20:


TV's sexiest sportscasters, including Amanda Pflugrad (pictured).


Mike Golic kept his promise to pose like Kim Kardashian after Notre Dame's loss to Northwestern. Warning: The image above is just a glimpse. The full version cannot be unseen.


Raiders Sio Moore and Khalil Mack were saved from infamy by a timeout.


Latavius Murray fantasy owners had a great night. What? There aren't any?


Tom Brady continues to display his ownership of Facebook.


Don't you be flopping around Joakim Noah.


Good news for Adrian Peterson's kids: No more switches.


Finally, some humor from the Bill Cosby situation.


The Maple Leafs rebelled against their angry fans by foregoing the postgame stick salute.


Watch a 100-year-old woman see the ocean for the first time.


Paula Deen and Katy Perry have the same face. Mind, blown.


• CP3 feeds Blake Griffin for a one-handed jam.


--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 11:12
Path: /nba/toronto-raptors-made-vince-carter-cry-their-tribute

Vince Carter looked like the rightful heir to Michael Jordan for a good minute. When the 17-year veteran debuted with the Toronto Raptors in 1998-99 (the season after Jordan’s second and seemingly final retirement), he took the basketball world into his hands almost immediately. Carter’s hyper-stylistic dunking skills were the can’t-miss trend of the game. Canada, suddenly, was becoming a capital of the game on the shoulders of its surprising star.

But since Carter fled Toronto by forcing a trade to the New Jersey Nets in 2004, there hasn’t been a lot of love between him and his former city. Upon return visits, the player formerly known as “Half-Man, Half-Insanity,” “Vinsanity,” and “Air Canada” has been booed by crowds at the Air Canada Centre. It even happened as recently as last January, when Carter rolled into town as a Dallas Maverick — one of the six teams he’s played for in his career.

But now, as a 37-year-old journeyman with the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter and his his first NBA city seem to have come to terms. During the Grizzlies’ recent trip to Toronto — a 96-92 Raptors victory — a tribute video was shown. It brought Carter to tears, and the fans to a standing ovation. It was finally time, all parties seemed to agree, to bury the hatchet.

Especially now that the Raptors have finally moved from their superstar’s exodus. Boasting one of the deepest rosters in basketball, the exciting new Toronto squad is 9-2, good for first place in the Eastern Conference. The memory of Carter can now rest in the shadow of current award contenders like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. Vinsanity is no longer a symbol of the city’s basketball failure, but a ghost of warm nostalgia.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-vs-ucla-bruins-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

The annual battle for bragging rights in Los Angeles resumes on Saturday night when USC visits the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA. In addition to the intra-city rivalry, positioning within the Pac-12 South is up for grabs. Both teams still have South Division title hopes and are part of a four-team group at the top of the division with two losses.


Since a two-game losing streak in early October, UCLA has rebounded with four consecutive victories. The Bruins won two of those games by three points or less (California and Colorado) but dominated Arizona (17-7) and won at Washington (44-30). UCLA was pegged by some as a potential playoff team at the start of the year, and while it’s a longshot the Bruins reach that level, coach Jim Mora’s team has played better in recent weeks and has a realistic shot to finish 10-2 with an appearance in the Pac-12 title game.


USC has experienced its share of inconsistencies this year, losing by six points to Boston College, by four to Arizona State on a last-second Hail Mary and a 24-21 defeat at Utah. However, coach Steve Sarkisian’s team defeated Arizona 28-26 in mid-October and has scored at least 38 points in three out of its last four games. Depth is still an issue for the Trojans. However, this roster has a talented starting 22 and would be a tough out for Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship (if these two teams meet in early December).


USC owns a 46-30-7 series edge over UCLA. The Bruins have won two in a row over the Trojans, including a 35-14 blowout victory at USC last season. However, the Trojans won five straight in this series from 2007-11.




Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: UCLA -4


UCLA’s Key to Victory: Limit Big Plays in USC’s Passing Game


Considering the offensive firepower in the Pac-12, it’s easy to overlook what USC has done this year. Sarkisian has continued to push the right buttons in quarterback Cody Kessler’s development, as the junior has passed for 2,919 yards and 29 scores this season. Additionally, Kessler has tossed only three picks and is completing 70.2 percent of his passes. The Trojans have connected on 16 passing plays of 30 yards or more, with receiver Nelson Agholor catching five of those throws. Agholor has back-to-back games of at least 200 receiving yards and has at least 100 yards in four consecutive matchups. The junior isn’t the only option for Kessler, as freshman JuJu Smith and junior George Farmer are also viable targets. Running back Buck Allen was held under 100 yards against California, but he recorded six 100-yard efforts in a row prior to last Thursday. UCLA’s secondary will have its hands full trying to stop Agholor on Saturday night, especially with a pass rush that has generated just 13 sacks in Pac-12 contests. The Bruins have allowed only 12 passing scores in seven Pac-12 games this year. If UCLA can’t get to Kessler, its secondary is going to have trouble containing Agholor and the passing attack for all four quarters. But even if Kessler throws for 300 yards, the Bruins have to limit the overall damage and prevent any big plays.


USC’s Key to Victory: Keep QB Brett Hundley in the Pocket


It’s no coincidence UCLA’s recent uptick on offense has been paired with quarterback Brett Hundley’s surge in rushing yardage. Hundley recorded only 122 yards on the ground through the first five games but has 442 yards over the last five contests. Hundley rushed for 131 in a huge win over Arizona, while the junior added 110 on 12 attempts in an overtime victory at Colorado. Hundley’s ability to make plays with his legs is critical with a young offensive line still developing in 2014. The Bruins have allowed 30 sacks this year, but this unit has played better in recent weeks, allowing only six sacks on Hundley since Oct. 18. USC will challenge the UCLA offensive line, as the Trojans have recorded at least two sacks in seven consecutive games. End Leonard Williams is among the nation’s best defenders and has forced three fumbles in 10 contests. USC's defensive line should have an edge over UCLA's offensive line, which is where Hundley's mobility could come into play. However, the Trojans need to keep him in the pocket to limit his rushing yards and chances at making plays when things break down around the line of scrimmage. If USC wins the battle at the point of attack, UCLA's offense is going to have a hard time scoring points on Saturday night. 


Final Analysis


This is a tough game to get a read on in terms of a prediction. UCLA seems to have turned a corner in recent weeks, while USC has had trouble finishing games. Statistically, both defenses are fairly even. UCLA limits opponents to 5.19 yards per play, while USC holds offenses to a 5.15 per-play average. The Trojans are better in terms of points allowed, limiting opponents to 22.9 each contest, while the Bruins allow 29.6 per game. USC has had more success at forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback, which are two areas of focus for Sarkisian’s team on Saturday night. UCLA has won two in a row in this series and can make it three if it protects quarterback Brett Hundley and allows him to make plays on the ground, while the defense has to find a way to slow down quarterback Cody Kessler and receiver Nelson Agholor. As we mentioned above, this one is a coin flip. And perhaps home-field advantage is worth a point or two in UCLA’s favor.  


Prediction: UCLA 31, USC 30
USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-12

Aaron Rodgers continues to lead the pack in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 12, while a couple of elite signal-callers look to bounce back from disappointing showings. Rodgers led the Packers to their second straight 50-point effort last week and he now has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in the past two games. Meanwhile, neither Peyton Manning nor Drew Brees enjoyed quite as much success, with the duo combining for just two touchdowns, two picks and two losses last week. Manning has some banged-up playmakers, but he will try and get back on track at home against Miami, while Brees and the Saints look to do the same on Monday night against Baltimore. Elsewhere, Andrew Luck should post good numbers against the Jaguars, while Tom Brady and the Patriots host the Lions and the NFL’s No. 1 defense.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1Aaron RodgersGBat MIN
2Andrew LuckINDvs. JAC
3Peyton ManningDENvs. MIA
4Drew BreesNOvs. BAL (Mon.)
5Tom BradyNEvs. DET
6Jay CutlerCHIvs. TB
7Tony RomoDALat NYG
8Colin KaepernickSFvs. WAS
9Russell WilsonSEAvs. ARI
10Mark SanchezPHIvs. TEN
11Ryan TannehillMIAat DEN
12Matthew StaffordDETat NE
13Philip RiversSDvs. STL
14Matt RyanATLvs. CLE
15Josh McCownTBat CHI
16Joe FlaccoBALat NO (Mon.)
17Kyle OrtonBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
18Andy DaltonCINat HOU
19Alex SmithKCat OAK (Thurs.)
20Eli ManningNYGvs. DAL
21Robert Griffin IIIWASat SF
22Brian HoyerCLEat ATL
23Zach MettenbergerTENat PHI
24Blake BortlesJACat IND
25Teddy BridgewaterMINvs. GB
26Ryan MallettHOUvs. CIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-12

The NFL’s leading rusher is back from bye so it’s only fitting that he regains his position atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 12. DeMarco Murray is ahead of Arian Foster by nearly 300 yards for the league lead and is coming off a bye ready to face a Giants defense that’s given up nearly 500 yards on the ground in the last two games. As good as Murray has been this season, no running back’s been better fantasy-wise the last four weeks than Jamaal Charles. Following last week’s 159-yard, two-touchdown effort against Seattle, Charles has 402 yards rushing and six touchdowns in his last four games. His strong play should continue this week, as the Chiefs take on the Raiders Thursday night. Oakland is giving up the eighth-most fantasy points to RBs. Another thing to watch in Week 12 is the possible returns of both Arian Foster (groin) and Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle). Alfred Blue (156 yards vs. CLE) and Jeremy Hill (152 vs. NO) both filled in admirably last week, but their Week 12 value is directly tied to whether or not they get another start.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1DeMarco MurrayDALat NYG
2Jamaal CharlesKCat OAK (Thurs.)
3Matt ForteCHIvs. TB
4Arian FosterHOUvs. CIN
5Eddie LacyGBat MIN
6Marshawn LynchSEAvs. ARI
7LeSean McCoyPHIvs. TEN
8Justin ForsettBALat NO (Mon.)
9Mark IngramNOvs. BAL (Mon.)
10Denard RobinsonJACat IND
11Rashad JenningsNYGvs. DAL
12Jeremy HillCINat HOU
13Andre EllingtonARIat SEA
14C.J. AndersonDENvs. MIA
15Alfred MorrisWASat SF
16Frank GoreSFvs. WAS
17Ryan MathewsSDvs. STL
18Isaiah CrowellCLEat ATL
19Tre MasonSTLat SD
20Lamar MillerMIAat DEN
21Joique BellDETat NE
22Steven JacksonATLvs. CLE
23Trent RichardsonINDvs. JAC
24Chris IvoryNYJvs. BUF (Detroit)
25Jonas GrayNEvs. DET
26Shane VereenNEvs. DET
27Giovani BernardCINat HOU
28Jerick McKinnonMINvs. GB
29Fred JacksonBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
30Bishop SankeyTENat PHI
31Terrance WestCLEat ATL
32Charles SimsTBat CHI
33Darren SprolesPHIvs. TEN
34Reggie BushDETat NE
35Branden OliverSDvs. STL
36Bryce BrownBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
37Darren McFaddenOAKvs. KC (Thurs.)
38Latavius MurrayOAKvs. KC (Thurs.)
39Alfred BlueHOUvs. CIN
40Daniel HerronINDvs. JAC
41Juwan ThompsonDENvs. MIA
42Bobby RaineyTBat CHI
43Roy HeluWASat SF
44Chris JohnsonNYJvs. BUF (Detroit)
45Knile DavisKCat OAK (Thurs.)
46Carlos HydeSFvs. WAS
47Andre WilliamsNYGvs. DAL
48Ben TateMINvs. GB

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-12

Antonio Brown is on bye so for at least this week, he will cede the No. 1 spot on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 12 to Demaryius Thomas. Brown leads the position in fantasy points, but Thomas isn’t too far behind after stringing together seven straight games with at least 100 yards receiving. Thomas could be busier than usual Sunday against Miami, depending on the health of teammates Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) and Julius Thomas (tight end). While Thomas and Brown have been setting the pace this season, no wideout has been more valuable fantasy-wise the past four weeks than rookie Mike Evans. Tampa Bay’s first-round pick leads his peers with 97.1 fantasy points (Athlons scoring) the past four weeks, including 658 yards receiving and five touchdowns in the last three games alone. Last week, Evans torched Washington for 209 yards and two scores and this week he will get his shot against a Chicago defense that’s yielded 12 touchdown passes in the last three games.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1Demaryius ThomasDENvs. MIA
2Jordy NelsonGBat MIN
3Dez BryantDALat NYG
4Calvin JohnsonDETat NE
5A.J. GreenCINat HOU
6Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. TEN
7Brandon MarshallCHIvs. TB
8Randall CobbGBat MIN
9T.Y. HiltonINDvs. JAC
10Alshon JefferyCHIvs. TB
11Julio JonesATLvs. CLE
12Mike EvansTBat CHI
13Josh GordonCLEat ATL
14Odell Beckham Jr.NYGvs. DAL
15Emmanuel SandersDENvs. MIA
16Sammy WatkinsBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
17Roddy WhiteATLvs. CLE
18Golden TateDETat NE
19Mike WallaceMIAat DEN
20DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. CIN
21Jordan MatthewsPHIvs. TEN
22Torrey SmithBALat NO (Mon.)
23Andre JohnsonHOUvs. CIN
24Vincent JacksonTBat CHI
25DeSean JacksonWASat SF
26Reggie WayneINDvs. JAC
27Julian EdelmanNEvs. DET
28Percy HarvinNYJvs. BUF (Detroit)
29Anquan BoldinSFvs. WAS
30Keenan AllenSDvs. STL
31Michael CrabtreeSFvs. WAS
32Mohamed SanuCINat HOU
33Brandon LaFellNEvs. DET
34Michael FloydARIat SEA
35Marques ColstonNOvs. BAL (Mon.)
36Cecil ShortsJACat IND
37Kendall WrightTENat PHI
38Allen HurnsJACat IND
39Eric DeckerNYJvs. BUF (Detroit)
40Doug BaldwinSEAvs. ARI
41Rueben RandleNYGvs. DAL
42Kenny StillsNOvs. BAL (Mon.)
43Steve SmithBALat NO (Mon.)
44Larry FitzgeraldARIat SEA
45Kenny BrittSTLat SD
46Terrance WilliamsDALat NYG
47Malcom FloydSDvs. STL
48Dwayne BoweKCat OAK (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-12

Rob Gronkowski fared better than Jimmy Graham last Sunday, so for now the pecking order will remain the same as it relates to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 12. Gronk caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game in the Patriots win over the Colts, while Graham was held to just three catches and 29 yards in the Saints’ home loss to the Bengals. At least both of these big targets are healthy, something that can’t be said of Julius Thomas. The NFL’s leader in touchdown catches (12), Thomas left last week’s loss in St. Louis early because of an ankle injury. He didn’t practice on Wednesday, but the Broncos are holding out hope he will be able to go on Sunday against the Dolphins. Based on his No. 4 ranking below, we are optimistic about his chances of playing, although it’s pretty much a given he will be at less than 100 percent. Be sure to have a replacement ready to go in case Thomas isn’t able to suit up.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1Rob GronkowskiNEvs. DET
2Jimmy GrahamNOvs. BAL (Mon.)
3Antonio GatesSDvs. STL
4Julius ThomasDENvs. MIA
5Martellus BennettCHIvs. TB
6Larry DonnellNYGvs. DAL
7Jason WittenDALat NYG
8Travis KelceKCat OAK (Thurs.)
9Coby FleenerINDvs. JAC
10Delanie WalkerTENat PHI
11Owen DanielsBALat NO (Mon.)
12Mychal RiveraOAKvs. KC (Thurs.)
13Charles ClayMIAvs. GB
14Zach ErtzPHIvs. TEN
15Kyle RudolphMINvs. GB
16Jared CookSTLat SD
17Jordan ReedWASat SF
18Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat CHI
19Jace AmaroNYJvs. BUF (Detroit)
20Vernon DavisSFvs. WAS
21Scott ChandlerBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
22Eric EbronDETat NE
23Jermaine GreshamCINat HOU
24Dwayne AllenINDvs. JAC

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-12

Jacksonville is back from bye, but Oakland has the worst offense in the NFL, which is why Kansas City checks in at No. 1 in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 12. The Chiefs are tied for third in the league in sacks (30) while the Raiders are last in total (276.5 ypg) and scoring (15.2 ppg) offense and tied for fourth in giveaways (20). It sure sounds like a recipe for good things from Kansas City’s DST this week. But don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the Jaguars. Jacksonville still leads the way in fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs, which is why Indianapolis is a top-10 option even though the Colts gave up 502 yards (246 rushing) and 42 points to the Patriots last week.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1Kansas City Chiefsat OAK (Thurs.)
2Buffalo Billsvs. NYJ (Detroit)
3San Francisco 49ersvs. WAS
4Green Bay Packersat MIN
5Seattle Seahawksvs. ARI
6Arizona Cardinalsat SEA
7Philadelphia Eaglesvs. TEN
8Indianapolis Coltsvs. JAC
9Denver Broncosvs. MIA
10Houston Texansvs. CIN
11New England Patriotsvs. DET
12Baltimore Ravensat NO (Mon.)
13San Diego Chargersvs. STL
14Dallas Cowboysat NYG
15St. Louis Ramsat SD
16Detroit Lionsat NE

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-12

Green Bay’s offense and defense have both been on a roll lately, which is why Mason Crosby is near the top of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 12. The Packers have averaged more than 50 points per game over their last three, so it should be no surprise that Crosby has produced double-digit fantasy points in each. Points shouldn’t be that much of an issue for Green Bay this week against Minnesota, making Crosby a very appealing option. The only kickers we like better this week are Adam Vinatieri (at JAC) and Stephen Gostkowski (vs. DET). What’s one thing all three kickers have in common? They get to clean up after the NFL’s top three scoring offenses. Good gig to have.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh


1Adam VinatieriINDvs. JAC
2Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. DET
3Mason CrosbyGBat MIN
4Cody ParkeyPHIvs. TEN
5Dan BaileyDALat NYG
6Justin TuckerBALat NO (Mon.)
7Phil DawsonSFvs. WAS
8Steven HauschkaSEAvs. ARI
9Cairo SantosKCat OAK (Thurs.)
10Caleb SturgisMIAat DEN
11Chandler CatanzaroARIat SEA
12Randy BullockHOUvs. CIN
13Greg ZuerleinSTLat SD
14Dan CarpenterBUFvs. NYJ (Detroit)
15Brandon McManusDENvs. MIA
16Robbie GouldCHIvs. TB

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-tennessee-volunteers-game-preview-and-prediction

The SEC is light on must-see games for Week 13, but the Missouri-Tennessee matchup in Knoxville has plenty of intrigue and importance in the overall league picture. The Tigers need two victories to claim the East Division once again, while the Volunteers need one more win to get bowl eligible in coach Butch Jones’ second year.

Both teams have been playing at their best over the last few weeks. Missouri has a four-game winning streak, which started after a 34-0 loss to Georgia on Oct. 11. The Tigers won at Texas A&M last Saturday and have allowed more than 14 points only once during this four-game streak. Tennessee has a two-game winning streak, but Jones’ team has been playing better since the insertion of sophomore Joshua Dobbs into the lineup. The Volunteers knocked off South Carolina in overtime (45-42) on Nov. 1 and then defeated Kentucky in commanding fashion (50-16) in Knoxville last Saturday.

Standout Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams are not expected to play due to an suspension resulting from an off-field incident. Johnson is one of the top defenders in the SEC and is the team’s top tackler (101).


These two teams have only played twice in previous years. Missouri owns a 2-0 edge over Tennessee, winning 31-3 last year and 51-48 in 2012.


Missouri-Tennessee is the Talk Back game of the week. Visit to watch the game with former Missouri receiver Justin Gage and former Tennessee receiver Joey Kent. Hop in and ask a question.


Missouri at Tennessee


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Tennessee -3.5


Missouri’s Key to Victory: Balance on Offense

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk was pegged by some as a potential All-SEC candidate in 2014. The sophomore has experienced his share of ups and downs this year but has 19 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and is coming off his best performance (252 yards, 57.5%) in a SEC game this year. Five of Mauk’s 10 interceptions have come in losses, so it’s critical the sophomore limits his mistakes against a Tennessee defense that’s forced 19 turnovers through 10 games. In last week’s victory against Texas A&M, Missouri posted a season high of 587 total yards on offense and averaged 6.6 yards per play. The Tigers were balanced in their offensive approach, with running back Russell Hansbrough nearly eclipsing the 200-yard plateau (199). Mauk is still developing in his first year under center and should have an infusion of confidence after a good showing against the Aggies last Saturday. Tennessee’s secondary has allowed only eight passing scores in six conference games this year and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 53.5 percent of their throws (SEC-only games). The Volunteers have struggled to stop the run in conference action (191.7 ypg), and that’s a matchup Missouri should look to exploit after Hansbrough’s game against Texas A&M. In a tough road environment, it’s not easy to ask Mauk to shoulder all of the offensive load. That’s why the Tigers need to establish balance and let Hansbrough have his share of touches against a struggling run defense.


Tennessee’s Key to Victory: Protect QB Joshua Dobbs


Sophomore Joshua Dobbs has been on fire since ditching his redshirt against Alabama. He finished 19 of 32 for 192 yards and two scores against the Crimson Tide and threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 166 yards and three scores against South Carolina. In last week’s 50-16 win over Kentucky, Dobbs added 48 yards on the ground and completed 19 of 27 passes for 297 yards and three scores. The sophomore has clearly progressed as a quarterback since the end of 2013, but Missouri’s defense should provide a stiff test on Saturday night. The Tigers are tied with Alabama in SEC games by holding opponents to just 4.2 yards per play – the best mark in the SEC. Led by defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Tigers rank second with 32 sacks in 10 games. With an active pass rush, the secondary doesn’t have to cover for long, but this unit will have talented sophomore Aarion Penton back in the lineup after a one-game suspension due to an off-field incident. Tennessee’s offensive line is the biggest weakness on an offense that is filled with talent at running back and receiver, along with an emerging star at quarterback. Missouri’s pass rush will look to keep Dobbs in the pocket and not allow the sophomore to make plays with his legs on the outside. Will the Tigers get to Dobbs? Or can the sophomore escape the rush and continue his hot play of recent weeks?


Final Analysis


Just how light is the slate in the SEC this Saturday? Only three games feature matchups between two conference opponents. The rest are one-sided non-conference affairs. That’s why the spotlight in the SEC should be on this game. Tennessee and Missouri seem to be playing their best ball of the season at the right time, and there’s plenty at stake. The Tigers seem to be finding the right mix on offense, and their pass rush should find a way to get to Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs. It’s tough to pick a winner considering how well the Volunteers have played over the last few weeks, but Missouri has the edge on defense and seems to be finding the right answers on offense. Expect a close game, with the Tigers winning late in the fourth quarter.


Prediction: Missouri 27, Tennessee 24  
Missouri Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-louisville-cardinals-game-preview-and-prediction

Louisville and Notre Dame both enter Week 13 at 7-3, and each program still has plenty left at stake despite sporting a three-loss resume. The Orange Bowl is a possibility for both programs, with the Cardinals having a better shot at a trip to Miami than the Fighting Irish. In order for Louisville to reach the Orange Bowl, coach Bobby Petrino’s team needs to win out and have Georgia Tech lose its finale against Georgia. There are a couple of other dominoes that needs to fall, but a 9-3 Louisville team could be the ACC’s highest-ranked team outside of Florida State.

Notre Dame has lost two in a row and three out of its last four matchups. Offense certainly hasn’t been a problem for the Fighting Irish during that span, as coach Brian Kelly’s team has scored at least 31 points in four out of the last five games. However, turnovers and a struggling defense have been problematic for the Fighting Irish. Louisville lost to Florida State 42-31 on Oct. 30, but the Cardinals rebounded by defeating Boston College 38-19 on Nov. 8.


This will be the first meeting between Louisville and Notre Dame.


Louisville at Notre Dame


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -3


Louisville’s Key to Victory: Get the Ball to DeVante Parker and Michael Dyer


Both teams enter this matchup with some uncertainty under center. Louisville lost quarterback Will Gardner to a season-ending knee injury against Boston College, which elevates true freshman Reggie Bonnafon into the starting lineup. Bonnafon already has three starts under his belt this year and has completed 51 of 92 passes for 662 yards and four scores. The true freshman also has 138 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Bonnafon should see plenty of opportunities to exploit a Notre Dame defense that has struggled in recent weeks. The Fighting Irish did not allow an opponent to score more than 17 points in each of their first five games. However, Notre Dame’s defense has allowed its last five opponents to average at least 5.6 yards per play, and this unit allowed 40 in a loss to Northwestern, 55 in a loss to Arizona State and 39 in a victory over Navy. While Bonnafon’s performance in a road tough environment will be under the spotlight, his supporting cast should chip in plenty of help. Running back Michael Dyer faces a rush defense allowing 150.6 yards per game. Receiver DeVante Parker has recorded 490 receiving yards since returning from a foot injury against NC State. Petrino and coordinator Garrick McGee can ease Bonnafon into this game with a heavy dose of Dyer and play-action passes downfield to Parker. And keep an eye on Bonnafon’s mobility. The true freshman’s mobility could be an underrated part of Louisville’s offense on Saturday.


Notre Dame’s Key to Victory: Limit the Turnovers


The Fighting Irish’s outlook on Saturday could be as simple as winning the turnover battle. Coach Brian Kelly’s team has recorded a negative turnover margin in four out of the last seven games, including a -4 mark against Arizona State. Notre Dame also had a costly fumble in the final minutes against Northwestern last Saturday. Quarterback Everett Golson is dealing with a sprained shoulder but is expected to play. Golson is to blame for some of the Fighting Irish’s problems with turnovers, as the junior has tossed 12 picks in 2014. The rash of turnovers this season has to be a major concern for Kelly against Louisville’s defense, which leads the ACC with 25 takeaways this year. Safety Gerod Holliman has intercepted 13 passes in 10 games and has been one of the nation’s top defenders through the first 12 weeks of the year. Golson has an array of options at receiver to choose from, including William Fuller (61 receptions, 13 TDs), Corey Robinson (13.7 ypc, 34 rec.) and running back Tarean Folston (5.1 ypc, 668 yards) is also capable of churning out 100 yards on the ground. Louisville should have linebacker/defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin back on the field after the standout senior missed the victory over Boston College due to a hamstring injury, which is a boost to the defense’s pass rush and overall depth in the front seven. Notre Dame’s offense is one of the best Louisville has played this year, and if Golson can limit his mistakes, the Fighting Irish should be able to move the ball on a unit that limits opponents to just 4.4 yards per play.


Final Analysis


Week 13 is full of matchups that are difficult to evaluate. With rivalry games coming in Week 14, teams may be looking ahead to next week, and there are a lot of even matchups on the schedule. The Louisville-Notre Dame meeting in South Bend fits that mold. These two teams are fairly even, and there’s uncertainty for both offenses with the quarterback position. If the Cardinals continue to force turnovers and Bonnafon doesn’t many any big mistakes, Louisville has a good shot to leave South Bend with a victory. Golson's health is a major concern for coach Brian Kelly, but Notre Dame's biggest issue remains turnovers. Will the Fighting Irish avoid a loss due to its own mistakes? The guess here is Notre Dame bounces back after disappointing loss to Northwestern and edges the Cardinals for a 27-24 victory.


Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Louisville 24
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Louisville Cardinals Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-vs-ole-miss-rebels-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

Arkansas and Ole Miss each have two regular season games remaining, and there’s plenty at stake for both programs. The Rebels still have faint SEC West title hopes if they win their last two games and Auburn defeats Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Razorbacks finally earned a win in SEC play under second-year coach Bret Bielema with a 17-0 victory over LSU last Saturday. Arkansas needs one more victory to get bowl eligible and has two winnable games left on the schedule.


Ole Miss is coming off a bye week after an easy 48-0 win over Presbyterian. Prior to the victory over the Blue Hose, the Rebels played six consecutive games against tough competition, including matchups against LSU (in Baton Rouge), Auburn, Alabama and Texas A&M. Arkansas’ win over LSU last week came after a timely bye on Nov. 8.


Ole Miss owns a 31-28-1 series edge against Arkansas. The Rebels have won the last two meetings against the Razorbacks. The previous four matchups between these two teams have been relatively close, including a three-point victory by Ole Miss in 2012 and a five-point win by Arkansas in 2011.


Ole Miss at Arkansas


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Ole Miss -3.5


Arkansas’ Key to Victory: Win the Turnover Battle


Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC with a +13 turnover margin. The Rebels are +10 in SEC-only games, but coach Hugh Freeze’s team was -1 against Auburn. There are few glaring holes in the Ole Miss roster, and with Arkansas still developing its passing offense, coach Bret Bielema’s team will need a few breaks. The Razorbacks are even in turnover margin this year but has forced only 14 in 10 games. The defense needs to force at least two turnovers to win on Saturday, especially if they can put the offense in position to take advantage of short fields for scores. There’s a small margin for error for Arkansas on Saturday. The Razorbacks will be able to hit a few big plays on the ground, but can their passing attack deliver? And when Ole Miss has the ball, can the defense force quarterback Bo Wallace into a few mistakes?


Ole Miss’ Key to Victory: Stop the Run

Arkansas has been better with its passing attack in 2014 than it was last year. However, make no mistake: This offense is still a run-first group behind a massive offensive line and running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. The Razorbacks rank fourth in the SEC with 232.9 rushing yards per game, but that number dips to 151.8 per contest in SEC-only matchups. Collins and Williams could find running room limited against an Ole Miss defense that has limited SEC opponents to 140.2 yards per game in 2014. The Rebels have also limited conference opponents to five rushing scores in six games. The late bye week should help the Ole Miss defense, which was banged up through the brutal midseason SEC schedule. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen may need to throw early (and have success) to prevent the Rebels from stacking too many defenders in the box. Allen has tossed only five interceptions this year and has raised his completion percentage from 49.6 (2013) to 58 percent. The junior has made strides as a passer, but Arkansas still needs to develop more options at receiver. Expect Ole Miss to gameplan to put Allen in several third-and-long situations.


Final Analysis


There’s no doubt Arkansas is trending in the right direction. And the Razorbacks are hungry to get to a bowl, which makes Saturday’s matchup a dangerous one for an Ole Miss team that’s still alive in the West Division. The Rebels also have to be cautious about a lookahead factor. With a huge game against Mississippi State next week, Ole Miss can’t afford to look past an improving Arkansas team. Despite the Razorbacks picking up a win in SEC play last week, the Rebels are the better team and will find a way to win and keep their title hopes alive.


Prediction: Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 20
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Ole Miss Rebels Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-13-picks

I was 3-4 with top picks and 3-3 in trendy picks last week and it has dropped me below .500 for the first time all season. And I’m not sure where to go this weekend to make up for it.


You’ll notice one of two themes this weekend in college football. A) Huge point spreads in top 25 mismatches and B) Impossibly difficult to predict rivalry games with heavy title implications. This might be a good week to sit on the bench.


So I'm going to try the underdogs...


Last Week: 6-7

Year-to-Date: 44-45-1


Missouri (+4) at Tennessee

The Tigers are playing for a trip to the SEC Championship Game and Tennessee is missing its two most important leaders on defense (A.J. Johnson, Brian Randolph for the first half). Mizzou has won nine straight true road games outright and should be able to win the line of scrimmage battle on both sides. Prediction: Missouri +4


Ole Miss (-3) at Arkansas

The Rebels are a much more balanced offensive team than LSU and should be able to take advantage of the Hogs' defensive issues more so than the Tigers. Ole Miss is 6-3-1 against the number this year and Arkansas could be exhaling after finally winning an SEC game under Bret Bielema. Prediction: Ole Miss -3


Listen to the Week 13 preview podcast:

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Maryland (+5.5) at Michigan

Laying 5.5 points means Michigan must score six to win and that has been easier said than done this year. The Wolverines scored 10 points against Northwestern, 11 against Michigan State and 18 against Penn State in three of the last four games. Look for a low-scoring affair in Ann Arbor. Prediction: Maryland +5.5


Boston College (+19.5) at Florida St

This was Florida State’s toughest game of the year last fall and while the game isn’t in Chestnut Hill and isn’t featuring Andre Williams, the points are still too much to pass up. The Noles don’t blow people out and are 3-7 against the spread this season. Prediction: Boston College +19.5


Stanford (-6) at Cal

Cal is 7-3 against the spread and is playing its archrival at home with a shot at going to a bowl game. The Bears need no more motivation than that. Stanford struggles to score and has struggled to cover (4-6 ATS this year). Take Cal to cover and possibly win outright. Prediction: Cal +6


Air Force (+5.5) at San Diego St

The Falcons have won four in a row, seven of their last eight overall and are posting big numbers on offense in the process (37.8 ppg in last four). The Aztecs have lost two of their last three and AFA could win outright. Prediction: Air Force +5.5


W. Michigan (+1) at C. Michigan

This is a pure trend pick as WMU is leading the nation with a 9-1 record against the spread. Central has a decent defense but is 5-6 against the spread this year and I’m not going against the trend. Play with caution. Prediction: W. Michigan +1


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Colorado (+32.5) at Oregon
B. College (+19) at Florida St
Vanderbilt (+30) at Miss. St
Indiana (+34.5) at Ohio St
Okla. St (+28.5) at Baylor
Ole Miss (-3) at Arkansas
USC (+3.5) at UCLA
Rutgers (+22) at Mich. St
Wash. St (+16) at Ariz. St
Arizona (+4) at Utah
Wisconsin (-10) at Iowa
Missouri (+4) at Tennessee
Kansas (+25) at Okla.
Minnesota (+10) at Nebraska
Georgia St (+40.5) at Clemson
Louisville (+3) at Notre Dame
Last Week:4-118-74-116-9
Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 13 Picks
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-minnesota-golden-gophers-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

Nebraska and Minnesota head into Week 13 needing a victory to keep their Big Ten West Division title hopes alive. The Cornhuskers lost to Wisconsin 59-24 in a record-setting performance by running back Melvin Gordon, while the Golden Gophers fell short in their upset bid over Ohio State (31-24).


At 5-1 in conference play, Wisconsin is the clear favorite in the West Division. However, the Cornhuskers and Golden Gophers aren’t out of the title mix, but a win is a necessity on Saturday to keep alive in the West.


Minnesota owns a 30-22-2 series edge over Nebraska. The Golden Gophers won last year’s meeting in Minneapolis by 11 (34-23). Although Minnesota owns an edge in the overall series, Nebraska is 2-1 against the Golden Gophers since joining the Big Ten.


Minnesota at Nebraska


Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Nebraska -10


Minnesota’s Key to Victory: The Passing Game – Offense and Defense

In Minnesota’s three losses this year, quarterback Mitch Leidner is 31 of 75 for 476 yards. He’s also tossed six interceptions in defeats and only one score. For the Golden Gophers to win in Lincoln, Leidner needs to be more efficient and do a better job of limiting his mistakes. Nebraska will stack the box to prevent running back David Cobb from having a huge day, which leaves Leidner with some one-on-one matchups on the outside that he can exploit. In addition to Leidner, Minnesota’s pass defense will be critical on Saturday. The Golden Gophers’ secondary has intercepted 13 passes this year (tied for third in the Big Ten) and is playing against a quarterback (Tommy Armstrong) that has tossed seven picks in Big Ten games. Limiting running back Ameer Abdullah on the ground, forcing Armstrong to throw and then making a play or two for turnovers would significantly help the Minnesota upset odds.


Nebraska’s Key to Victory: Stop the Run

Nebraska’s No. 1 priority on Saturday is to fix the issues that allowed Wisconsin to rush for 581 yards on 53 attempts last week. Was the performance against the Badgers a one-week speed bump or a sign of things to come? Prior to last week’s game, the Cornhuskers allowed two Big Ten opponents to rush for at least 143 yards but limited rushers to 3.7 yards per carry for the season. But after playing Wisconsin, Nebraska’s season total ranks 11th (conference-only games) against the run. Minnesota’s David Cobb isn’t on the Heisman radar like Melvin Gordon, but the senior is capable of recording 150-175 yards. In 10 games this year, Cobb has 1,350 yards on 254 attempts. The senior has rushed for at least 118 yards in each of his last three games, including 194 yards against Purdue and 145 against Ohio State.


Final Analysis


These two teams are very similar in terms of style and on the stat sheet this year. Both teams prefer to establish their ground attacks, with All-Big Ten running backs leading the way. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah has only 70 yards in his last two games, but he should eclipse the 100-yard mark against a Minnesota defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry in conference play. After Melvin Gordon gashed Nebraska last Saturday, the Cornhuskers should be motivated to stop Minnesota’s David Cobb – or Cobb could have a huge effort against a defense struggling with confidence right now. Even though these two teams are similar, the edge in talent goes to Nebraska. And it certainly doesn’t hurt the Cornhuskers have more of a threat in the passing attack and will be at home on Saturday.


Prediction: Nebraska 31, Minnesota 20
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/can-melvin-gordon-break-barry-sanders-single-season-rushing-record

A running back setting himself apart from others in Wisconsin history takes a monumental feat.


The Badgers have the all-time leading rusher (Ron Dayne), career rushing touchdown leader (Montee Ball, who is also tied for the single-season record) and now the single-game rushing leader (Melvin Gordon).


Gordon’s 408 rushing yards against Nebraska last week, though, puts him in reach of the biggest prize for any running back, much less a Wisconsin running back — Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record.


Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards in 11 games in 1988 for Oklahoma State, a mark that’s been seriously challenged only once since then. UCF’s Kevin Smith came 61 yards short of tying Sanders in 2007.


To put Gordon’s season in perspective, only four running backs have come within 500 yards of Sanders’ record: Smith in 2007, Iowa State’s Troy Davis by 443 yards in 1986, Boston College’s Andre Williams by 451 yards last season, and TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson by 470 yards in 2000.


Before we delve deeper into Gordon’s shot at Sanders’ record, consider this: In 1988, the record for single-season passing in 1988 belonged to BYU’s Jim McMahon (4,571 yards in 1980). That mark has been exceeded 22 times since.


Back to Gordon: The Badgers running back sits at 1,909 rushing yards through 10 games and could play as many as 14 games if the Badgers clinch a trip to the Big Ten title game Saturday.


While Gordon won’t match Sanders’ mark of 238.9 rushing yards per game, he does have a chance to catch Sanders in a couple of other ways. And perhaps what’s most remarkable, Gordon could do it by rushing below his own season average.


Here’s a look at the records in Gordon’s sights in the final three or four games:


• Counting a Big Ten title game and a bowl, Gordon would need to rush for 720 yards in the final four games to pass Sanders. That’s an average of 180 yards per game. Gordon averages 190.9.


• Let’s say Wisconsin loses each of its last two games and misses the Big Ten title game. Gordon would need to average 240 yards in games against Minnesota and Iowa and in the bowl game. He’s exceeded that total three times this season.


• But if we’re going to say it's possible Gordon could average 240 yards in three games, what if those three games include the Big Ten title game? That would mean Gordon has a chance to break Sanders’ record before the bowl game — and before the Heisman voting. Since Ron Dayne in 1999, only two running backs have won the Heisman (Mark Ingram in 2009 and Reggie Bush in 2005).


• While Sanders’ rushing yards per game average is out of reach, Gordon can better Sanders in the per-play department. Sanders holds the record for backs with more than 280 carries with 7.64 yards per attempt. Gordon averages 8.56 yards per carry on 223 attempts. That would surpass Nebraska running back Mike Rozier’s record of 7.81 yards per carry for backs with at least 215 attempts.


• And as ESPN’s Brett Edgerton notes, Gordon could beat Sanders to the 2,000-yard mark.



• So what about those Big Ten marks? Dayne holds the Big Ten record for single-season rushing with 2,109 yards in 1996. If Gordon’s season averages hold up, he’ll break that record sometime in the first half of the regular-season finale against Minnesota.


• Moreover, Gordon might have the Big Ten’s single-season rushing yards per game record all but wrapped up. Gordon, at 190.9 yards per game, is already well ahead of the record set by Michigan State’s Lorenzo White in 1985 (173.5).

Can Melvin Gordon Break Barry Sanders' Single-Season Rushing Record?
Post date: Friday, November 21, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Charlotte Hornets, Jeff Taylor, NBA
Path: /nba/commissioner-silver-brings-24-game-hammer-down-jeff-taylor-domestic-violence

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hasn’t been on the job for a year yet, but he’s already made a strong impression. 

Most of that is due to his swift, judicial action in regards to the Donald Sterling scandal. His lifetime ban of Sterling branded Silver as a man of conviction, and now he’s extending that reputation with his harsh penalizing of Jeff Taylor, the Charlotte Hornets forward who was found guilty, last month, of misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property. Taylor confessed to the crimes in court by pleading guilty.

Silver hit Taylor with a 24-game, no-pay suspension for his behavior. In a press release, Silver described his decision thusly: "This suspension is necessary to protect the interests of the NBA and the public's confidence in it. Mr. Taylor's conduct violates applicable law and, in my opinion, does not conform to standards of morality and is prejudicial and detrimental to the NBA.”

The NBA, as you likely know, is not the sport most plagued by the issue of domestic violence, Ray Rice and others have made stretches of the 2014 NFL season almost unpalatable with the unsavory details of abuse. Mr. Taylor, unlike Rice, is not terribly important to his team, or to his league’s image. He’s a relative unknown, and it’s worth wondering whether the Commish would bring such a steep punishment upon someone who the common fan has actually heard of before. Such an occurrence would actually do damage to the sport’s image; hitting Taylor hard, to the contrary, is a way of making highly attentive fans aware that Silver means business. But those outside the hard core of NBA followers probably won’t ever hear about this event. 

Silver hasn’t done anything to suggest he’s anything less than a progressive moral warrior, yet. His early record with touchy issues has actually been quite laudable. But his real P.R. test will come when he has to make a choice about one of the more beloved faces of his game — not an already reviled character like Sterling, or an anonymous one like Taylor.

Information from AP reports was used here.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Wildcats, College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/meet-arizona-linebacker-scooby-wright-barely-recruited-one-nations-best

One of the few places Scooby Wright will find his given name is on his high school diploma.


So ingrained is the nickname Scooby that when he was announced at his graduation ceremony at Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif., many of his friends were taken aback to see him rise when “Phillip Wright III” was called to receive his diploma.


“And these were friends from fourth or fifth grade,” Wright told Athlon Sports.


Wright almost never goes by the name Phillip. Not even his parents — even when frustrated or trying to get his attention — use his full name.


He’s had his nickname since he was a baby when his father called his son his “little Scooby Doo.”


By season’s end, he’ll be the first Scooby to earn All-Pac-12 honors and perhaps other awards. Earlier this week, Wright was named a finalist for the Nagurski and Lombardi awards.


Wright ranks first nationally in tackles for a loss per game (2.2), third in sacks per game (1.2), fourth in tackles per game (11.8) and tied for first in forced fumbles (five).


With numbers like that, Wright may be on the verge of rare rise from recruiting obscurity to national prominence.


If Wright is a consensus All-American this season, he’ll be the sixth defensive freshman or sophomore since 2009 to earn that honor.


The others on the list are a who’s who of college and NFL stars: South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Boston College’s Luke Kuechly and Texas’ Earl Thomas.


If Wright joins that group, he’ll complete a meteoric two-year rise. He wears the Scooby nickname with pride but also his recruiting rating. On Twitter, Wright is @TwoStarScoob.


Though he’ll be decorated at the end of his sophomore college season, Wright nearly finished his junior high school season without a scholarship offer. He participated in camps but received only the cursory two-star rating by the recruiting services.


“He kind of was baffled why he wasn’t being recruited more,” Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin said. “There was one coach who said, ‘Hey, go check out Sacramento State or check out UC Davis.’ Those are good schools, but it was an insult to him because he thought he was better than the guys they were recruiting.”


The longtime coach at Cardinal Newman, Cronin remembers Wright around the school for several years before he was a freshman. Wright’s father is the softball coach at Santa Rosa Junior College, and his sister, six years older, played college softball at Illinois.


Confidence was never an issue for Wright, as he promised as a freshman that he’d be a Division I linebacker.


That was tested, though, in his junior year. His classmates in other sports were starting to receive scholarship offers, but Wright was not among them.


Cardinal Newman was not a football hotbed, so recruiters weren’t in the area consistently. Before Wright, the last alum to play high school football at a high level was offensive lineman Al Netter, who went to Northwestern and now plays for the San Francisco 49ers.


Though he was a productive high school player, Wright didn’t exactly look the part. Cronin estimates Wright weighed about 195-205 pounds at the time. His recruiting profiles listed him at 6-1, 225 pounds. As a junior, he barely had a 30-inch vertical. By the time he was a senior, that improved to 38 inches.


His Arizona profile lists him now at 246 pounds.


“Everyone always questioned my athleticism,” Wright said. “(But) I went to the Nike training camp with supposedly the best guys in the West Coast. I went and competed with the best of them and stood out but never really heard anything back.”


Wright was so far removed from recruiting that when the first offer came, he was nowhere to be found. While Wright was “probably at the beach that day,” Cronin was the first to learn that Arizona stumbled upon his highlights and couldn’t let him slip away.


The first contact came at the end of his junior year when he spoke to then-Arizona assistant Tony Gibson, who is now defensive coordinator at West Virginia.


“The first time I talked to them was when coach Gibson said, ‘we’re going to offer you,’” Wright said.


The scholarship offer wasn’t without risk, though. As happens in recruiting, secrets don’t stay secret for long. Once reports of an Arizona offer hit recruiting news sites, other schools might have taken a closer look — and not just Sacramento State and UC Davis.


“I thought this guy looks like a really good player,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We thought, if we offer him, it’s going to bring attention to him and we’re going to have to fight a bunch of folks.”


Other schools started to pay attention, but Arizona made sure Wright didn’t feel forgotten. And Wright didn’t forget that out of the hundreds of highlights he sent, Arizona was one of the few to respond and the only one that didn’t hedge.


“Other schools said we’ll get back to you or send us film from your senior year,” Wright said. “But there was none of that with Arizona. They said we’re going to offer you now. We want you.”


The flyer on Wright paid quick dividends for Arizona. He started as freshman, picking up 83 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss and earning Athlon Sports second-team Freshman All-America honors.


If any school wishes it would have pounced on Wright early, it’s probably Oregon. Anything that would have kept Wright out of an Arizona uniform.


In Oregon’s two losses to Arizona in the last two seasons, Wright has been the pivotal player. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota has been one of the most sure-handed quarterbacks in the country the last two seasons, but Wright has plucked two turnovers in two seasons from the Heisman contender.


Last season, Wright intercepted a Mariota pass, plucking the ball out of the air after teammate Shaq Richardson, falling out of bounds, deflected the ball to keep it in play. The first-quarter interception set the tone as Arizona upset the fifth-ranked Ducks 42-16.


In a Thursday night game on Oct. 2, Wright sacked Mariota, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble as Oregon drove down the field for the game-tying score. Arizona upset the No. 2 Ducks 31-24.


Wright, who two years earlier had gone ignored by colleges, couldn’t go to the student rec center the following Saturday without being noticed by other students.


“Once he got on campus, we found that he could handle a lot physically and mentally,” Rodriguez said. “He’s just a football player whether you put him at defensive end or linebacker. We could put him at fullback because he’s great there, too.”

Meet Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright: From Barely Recruited to one of the Nation's Best
Post date: Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 15:26