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Frank Gore is going to get hurt. That's a certainty up there with death and taxes. And in the 49ers Week 3 game against the Bengals (which was a horrible game to watch, by the way), Frank made that certainty a reality when he turned an ankle.
Gore left the game intermittently and was spelled by the much more exciting Kendall Hunter.
According to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Gore is "good to go" for Week 4, but we recommend picking up Kendall Hunter anyway. Think of it like an insurance policy that's definitely going to pay off.
While both backs haven't really lit it up this season (Gore has a 2.5 ypc, while Hunter is only slightly better at 2.7), but Hunter brings a level of excitement and change of pace to the 49ers offense that Gore hasn't had this year. Call it a spark, or a hunger, but it seems that since Gore got his new contract, he hasn't had the same explosiveness that he has in recent years. Maybe he's just hitting the dreaded running back wall.
Either way, it will take an injury to Gore to make Hunter their full-time back (they paid Frank too much money to let him sit on the bench), but Gore will almost assuredly miss a few games as the season drags on, and when he does, you'll have a pass catching, exciting back to slot in your flex position.
San Fran's offense isn't going to light up anyone for 35 points, but in a PPR league, Hunter would make a great addition to your starting lineup if and when he gets the #1 back role.
This little Utah Utes fan really doesn't like the BYU Cougars. As you can see in this video, he starts bawling and crying when his dad plays a trick on him and tells him he didn't buy him a Utes Jersey, but he bought him a BYU jersey instead.
He immediately starts with the waterworks and let's everyone in the car know that is NOT a BYU fan. He's a Utah fan!
Someone should commend this kid's dad for making sure his son is a huge fan of his favorite college football team. He may want to tone down the crying, though, before he shows him off in public.
Adam Dunn used to be a good baseball player. He was one of those guys that you penciled in for 35-40 homers every year. Sure, eh struck out a few times, and sure, you'd never mistake his batting average for Ichiro's, but he was a guy who did one thing (hit homers) and he did it well.
But this season has been very different for the Chicago White Sox DH. His move to the American League had a horrific effect on his game. Maybe he was a guy who needed to play the field to keep his head in the game. Whatever the case, Adam Dunn had not only his worst season in the majors, but he has had one of the worst season's in major league history.
To put a cherry on it, and to tell you everything you need to know about Dunn's season, he is going to finish with a higher number of strikeouts than his batting average.
There are still two games to go, but Dunn currently has 174 Ks on the season, and is batting a whopping .160. Yes, one hundred and sixty. To put it in perspective, Dunn's career batting average (when you take this horrible season into account) is .244. He's fallen off .80 points. And he's playing in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors.
Dunn, who's currently wallowing in a 0-20 slump wuld need to go an epic 4-4 in the last two games to push his batting average higher than 174.
And that's not going to happen. With news that Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox just parted ways, I wonder if Dunn is feeling some of the blame for that break-up. I doubt the Marlins will make a bid for Dunn's services anytime soon.
With the first three weeks of the NFL season in the books, there are five teams — Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams — who have yet to win a game. According to research done by the NFL Network, teams that start the season 0-3 have a 2.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.
As far as the Colts and Chiefs go, injuries, mainly Peyton Manning for the Colts and Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for the Chiefs, have devastated their respective teams and the long-term prognosis for this season doesn't look too promising. The Dolphins and Vikings also appear to be long shots at best to turn things around and make the playoffs because of the teams in front of them. The Dolphins play in the AFC East with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, who are both trailing the undefeated Buffalo Bills right now, while the Vikings have two undefeated teams — Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers — in front of them.
So while Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins and Vikings fans may already be thinking about who they're going to draft next year (Andrew Luck?), Rams fans don't need to give up hope just yet. Because after all, they play in the NFC West.
Remember, this is the same NFC West that had a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team make the playoffs last year. The San Francisco 49ers (2-1) are the current division leaders thanks to a Week 1 win over the Seahawks, who in turn defeated the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to put both teams at 1-2.
The Rams meanwhile are playing one of the toughest early schedules in the league as they have lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. What this really means is that the Rams have yet to play any games against divisional opponents, while the Seahawks have already played two and the 49ers and Cardinals one each.
Every division winner makes the playoffs, regardless of record, so if the Rams can take care of business in their own division, they will greatly enhance their postseason chances.
Take last year for example. The Seahawks won the NFC West thanks in large part to a 4-2 divisional record, which was capped of by beating the Rams in Week 17. Now the flip side is you do need to win non-divisional games too as the 49ers also finished with a 4-2 divisional record last year, but went 2-8 outside of the division.
So for the Rams, their season could very will hinge on this Sunday's home game against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins (2-1) are coming off a tough loss last night to the Dallas Cowboys, but have played well overall to start the season.
If the Rams have any hopes of ending their three-game losing streak, it needs to start with quarterback Sam Bradford. Last year's No. 1 overall pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year, Bradford has struggled out of the gate this season. He has just two touchdown passes and his quarterback rating of 73.3 through the first three games is 29th in the league.
The only quarterbacks ranked behind him are the Colts' Kerry Collins, the Chiefs' Matt Cassel and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Luke McCown. The first two play for teams who are also 0-3, and McCown is no longer the Jags' starting quarterback, having given way to rookie Blaine Gabbert.
The good news for the Rams' offense is that even though Steven Jackson has carried the ball a total of six times in the first three games, the team has been able to maintain a somewhat consistent running game. The Rams currently rank 11th in the league in rushing yards per game thanks to Cadillac Williams.
As much as the offense has struggled, the defense has fared even worse. The Rams are second-to-last in the NFL in total defense, giving up an average of 426 yards per game. Much of the damage has been on the ground, where the Rams are last in league in rush defense at 174 yards per game. The Rams also are next-to-last in points allowed (32 per game), while the offense is 29th in points scored (12 per game).
So it's certainly fair to say that the Rams have a long ways to go if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. But besides playing in what appears to be one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, the Rams also have history behind them.
The last team to start the season 0-3 and make the playoffs was the 1998 Bills. After going winless the first three games, the Bills won five in a row and finished the season 10-6. The Rams also have had recent success against Washington, beating the Redskins 30-16 in Week 3 last season.
Should the Rams come up short against the Redskins, history shows that even then all hope may not be lost. The 1992 San Diego Chargers started the season 0-4, only to win 11 of their last 12 and their wild card game before losing in the AFC Divisional round.
However, considering that the Rams go on bye next week and then get the defending Super Bowl champion Packers in Green Bay in Week 6, followed by a date with the Cowboys in Dallas and a home game against the New Orleans Saints, it probably would be best to focus on this Sunday's game and not worry about making history.
Then again, as disastrous as an 0-7 start to the season would be, the Rams would still have six divisional games and nine games total remaining. If they were to go, say 7-2 in those games, that would leave them with a 7-9 record. And just ask the Seahawks where that gets you.
Ozzie was looking for a contract extension, but Jerry Reinsdorf wasn't willing to give him one, so Ozzie asked to be released from his current contract and Reinsdorf honored his request.
And while according to sources, Guillen is going to accept a job as manager of the Florida Marlins, we sincerely hope he stays in the game. Baseball is much more interesting with Ozzie Guillen with him, that it is without him.
If the Marlins do hire Guillen, who has a career record of 678-617, they will have to send two players to the White Sox for compensation.
And while a lot of Guillen's tenure with the Sox was marred by controversy (much of it he brought on himself), it can't be forgotten that he was the only major league manager in the last 90 years to bring a world series title to Chicago. Something the baseball fans of Chicago did not give him enough credit for.
Without pointing fingers of blame at why Guillen is gone (cough, Adam Dunn, cough, Alex Rios), we'd like to look back at some of our favorite Ozzie tweets. If you're not aware of Guillen's Twitter account, you should be. He uses it as part diary, part soapbox and part megaphone for asking God to help with traffic and let everyone know about his favorite TV shows. He never held anything back, and his spanglish and sheer disdain for punctuation made it one of the most insanely great twitter accounts on the web.
Here are some of our favorite Ozzie Guillen tweets. Click on the link to see screengrabs of all of them.
Tweet: Rose is a great dirty ass player
Tweet: What's wrong with our society I am seat at home watching tv and most of the commercial are for loose weight and diet please people
Tweet: Great sammy sosa is black again yessssssss
Tweet: Be ready chitown good restaurant yes open
Tweet: I hate this traffic in arizona lord drive me crazy
Tweet: Oh my god friday traffic in Atlanta is so bad
Tweet: Lake Shore drive is a parking lot oh my god
Tweet: To those idiots i no driving joey cora is driving i not that stupids
Tweet: Is too windy
Tweet: Cake boss is great show man this is funny
Tweet: Where is my man Arsenio Hall my favorite show in the 80s
Tweet: Sometime what I say people not listen only when is some the like to talk no the good thing
Tweet: I want a corona polar president right now please this traffic lord
Tweet: Its pretty frio in California cold trying to take pictures for you guy my hair dos not move because i use kiehls get goos stuff
Tweet: Just watching the game, eating my jello
Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 4 may be one-week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on to stash on your roster if you have the space.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee
Here's another QB that you don't want to waste your one waiver priority spot of the week on, but he has shown he can be an adequate fantasy QB; he is currently ranked 12th among fantasy QBs. Two caveats with Hasselbeck, however: He will be without stud WR Kenny Britt the remainder of the year, but his running game is also non-existent, meaning he will continue to air it out to whatever targets he can find.
Vince Young, Philadelphia
Young has not found the field to replace Vick in the three previous games due to the hamstring injury Young suffered in the preseason. And it's uncertain whether it would be Young or Mike Kafka to replace Vick were he out. I would not waste your first waiver priority on this spot, but Young is athletic, has a good deep ball and has plenty of weapons around him (Jeremy Maclin perhaps not included this week against visiting San Francisco due to a hamstring inuury) to succeed in Andy Reid's pass-happy offense.
Colt McCoy, Cleveland
He's probably not the greatest play this week with Tennessee coming to town and then a bye coming. However, McCoy returns from the bye to get a very favorable passing schedule of Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Cincinnati to close out the fantasy regular season. Without the greatest of weapons in Cleveland, McCoy has scored 15 points or more each of the first three weeks. It's not great, but it's consistent.
Curtis Painter, Indianapolis
Ryan Grant, Green Bay
He's probably not available in too many leagues, but I saw him dropped in a few leagues of mine and he is available in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues. He's not the greatest of plays because of James Starks, but the same can be said for Starks. Both of them need to be held on to because they are in a high-powered offense and each of them is injury prone. It stinks that they are just insurance policies for each other, but it's better than some of the other options out there. Just a heads up if you've seen him sent back into the FA pool in your leagues.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco
Ah, the dreaded (read: expected) Frank Gore injury occurred in Week 3. Gore. He injured his right ankle and is not sure of his availability in Week 4 against the Eagles. THIS is the reason you draft Hunter late. Yes, he had 26 yards on nine carries (2.9 YPC) which is terrible, but Gore's 17-for-42 (2.5 YPC) isn't getting it done, either. Hunter added two catches for 12 yards and is a dynamic presence for the 49ers, one that coach Jim Harbaugh needs to learn to use. Hunter also scored from seven yards out. Here's hoping Harbaugh will get Hunter away from the line of scrimmage and find ways to utilize his speed in open space — you know the modern NFL instead of the pounding it into the center of the line, closing your eyes and hoping your running back pops out the other side. That way's not getting it done with an offensive line that has a lot of money invested in it.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
I've told you to add him to your roster for the last three weeks now. The diminutive Chief is going to see a good portion of the Kansas City offense now that Jamaal Charles is on IR. He is still available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues, 60 percent of ESPN leagues and 77 percent of NFL.com leagues. Thomas Jones proved as useless as expected against the Chargers Sunday (14 carries 31 yards), while McCluster got 14 touches for 63 yards. And touches is how you have to evaluate McCluster. He had nine carries for 45 yards and five receptions for 17 yards. That's 11.3 fantasy points in a full PPR. Todd Haley looked to McCluster just four times— all passes — in the first half as Thomas Jones wasted time. Assuming Haley looks McCluster's way earlier — I know what they say about assuming and Haley — McCluster has a real shot at breaking out this year.
Willis McGahee, Denver
It was a tough match up against the Titans as expected, but he still scored 12.9 fantasy points thanks to one of his three receptions. He also added 52 yards rushing on 22 carries. He is expected to get the bulk of the carries, as we suspected as the preseason wore down, even when a fully healthy Knowshon Moreno is active. Green Bay and San Diego are up next before the Broncos' bye, not necessarily the most appealing match ups, but his pass-catching ability still makes him a decent flex play in PPR leagues and he could roll into a decent RB2 play in the easier match ups.
Daniel Thomas, Miami
This is probably the last week he will be on this list. He should've been drafted in most leagues but a terrible preseason squashed that for many. He then was inactive in Week 1. But the Reggie Bush as lead back experiment died a quick death, and the rookie from Kansas State has started to show his worth. After a 12.2-point debut against the Texans, Thomas came back with a 20.7-point effort against the Browns. He rushed 23 times for 95 yards and caught three passes for 27 yards, including a touchdown. Bush, meanwhile, had 11 carries and one catch. See where the trend is going here. The Dolphins aren't dynamic enough to use Bush properly and Bush isn't traditional enough to be used as a lead back.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
If the Jets' defense is going to continue to give up points, the Jets offense is going to have to continue to come back. And that is not done with Shonn Greene pounding the rock into the middle of the offensive line. It will be done with the pass-catching abilities of LT, who had five catches for 116 yards and 38 yards on six carries in the loss to Oakland. Pick him up and play him in games in which you think the Jets will trail — i.e. against Baltimore, New England, San Diego, Buffalo and New England four of the next six games.
Jason Avant and/or Steve Smith, Philadelphia
I wouldn't add either with a waiver priority. As a matter of fact, I would wait on news of Jeremy Maclin's hamstring injury before moving at all on either of the two. This is just a heads up. If Maclin were to miss Week 4 against San Francisco, then the door opens for either Avant or Smith. Avant has been targeted 16 times this season, catching eight for 102 yards; Smith, who didn't play in the opener, has eight targets, four catches for 56 yards. It may be a committee approach to replace Maclin if he's out, but it's a position that's been targeted 25 times to the tune of 19 catches, 260 yards and two scores through three games.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
The split between Brown and Emmanuel Sanders was what we eyed early on as the annoyance from a pass-happy offense. Well, Brown has jumped Sanders and looks to have jumped veteran Hines Ward. Brown has 23 targets, 10 catches and 156 yards to Sanders' 11 targets, six catches, 85 yards and Week 1 score. Ward has 19 targets, 12 catches, and 117 yards. It could be something that drives you crazy all season long as these three battle it out in the fantasy world to play opposite Mike Wallace, but Brown has carried his solid preseason into the regular season and looks to be having more plays called his way as opposed to the freelancing of Sanders.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
First, Mario Manningham (concussion) has already been cleared to play in Week 4. That's fine. The Giants still need a third receiving option. Domenik Hixon is out with an ACL. There is no fantasy-worthy TE. No. 1 Hakeem Nicks has battled knee injuries and was shut down completely against the Eagles. Then there's Manningham, his concussion and his drops in the Rams game the last time we saw him. Cruz stepped in Sunday and caught three balls for 110 yards and two scores. The slot position was golden for Eli Manning when Steve Smith manned it; if Cruz slides in there or stays on the outside, he should have success for the Giants.
Eric Decker, Denver
Decker was certainly a good add from the waiver wire last week after his 24.8-point performance. But he faced a tough match up against a Titans team that still has not allowed a 200-yard passer. Decker still managed a 10.3-point day in Athlon's .5 PPR scoring. He had seven catches off 12 targets and the Broncos are not going to shy away from the pass as Kyle Orton is 12th in the league with 110 attempts.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis
If Curtis Painter is the starting QB all Colts are going to be downgraded even more than they already are. The one spot of hope may be Painter's relationship with Garcon, He caught three balls for 53 yards when Painter stepped in for Kerry Collins and finished with six for 82 in the loss to the Steelers. I'm sure many owners across fantasy have bailed on Garcon through two weeks, and they should. But it's worth keeping an eye on the relationship between Garcon and Painter.
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis
He is available in 95 percent of Yahoo leagues but is Athlon's 39-best WR with 27.7 fantasy points scored. He has 20 targets, 12 catches, 157 yards and a score through three games. Mike Sims-Walker has one more target but has not done as much with the extra look — 10 catches, 133 yards no TDs. Gibson will continue to get the looks until Danny Amendola comes back, and even then it might open things up a little more for Gibson. He has at least 50 yards receiving in each of the first three games, and with the defense getting torched, he will always have opportunities.
Donald Jones, Buffalo
We told you about him Week 1 along with David Nelson. He hasn't been the most consistent of options, but you can't ignore targets. Jones got his biggest share on Sunday when Ryan Fitzpatrick looked his way 10 times and Nelson turned it into five catches for 101 yards. That comes after 11 targets, six catches and 27 yards and a score the first two weeks combined. Fitzpatrick has four passing options off the line of scrimmage — Nelson, Jones, Steve Johnson and TE Scott Chandler to go along with RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Jones is worth adding in deep leagues or if you are really getting killed at your WR spot by the likes of Kenny Britt, Jacoby Ford, Mario Manningham, etc.
Lance Moore, New Orleans
He shouldn't be on this list, but I saw he's available in 39 percent of Yahoo leagues. Perhaps he is already owned in all scoring systems where he's relevant — PPR leagues — but I'll give you some info about his season thus far anyway. After missing Week 1 with a groin and being eased in Week 2 (four targets, one catch, 6 yards), Moore blew up in Week 3 by catching all nine targets for 88 yards and a score. He will be inconsistent as a scorer each week, thanks Darren Sproles, but I think he will be the most consistent Saints WR option until Marques Colston gets back and screws it all up.
David Nelson, Buffalo
He is a top-20 receiver in Athlon's .5 PPR scoring. He was targeted eight times, catching six for 84 yards in the comeback win against New England. He has been targeted no less than six times, caught no less than four balls and had no less than 66 yards receiving each of the first three weeks. Also, he is still available in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Sidney Rice, Seattle
He made his Seahawk debut and didn't fare too bad against a putrid Arizona secondary. He was targeted 10 times, catching eight balls for 109 yards from his former teammate in Minnesota, Tarvaris Jackson, under their former offensive coordinator with the Vikings, Darrell Bevil. Not much, if any good, has come from the Seattle offense through two weeks, so it was nice to see some spark in Week 3. I still can't advocate anything out of Seattle right now — well, the 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Nirvana's Nevermind comes out today. I do advocate purchasing that — but Rice plays Atlanta, New York Giants, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dallas, Baltimore, St. Louis and Washington over the next eight games. Six of the eight are allowing over 20 fantasy points a game to WRs through three weeks.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore
It doesn't get much better than your first three catches as a pro going for touchdowns, but that's what Smith did Sunday against the Rams. He stepped in for an injured Lee Evans, who still doesn't know when he will return from his ankle injury. The Ravens wanted to add vertical weapons for Joe Flacco so he could stop it with the check downs, and that was certainly on display Sunday. Smith was brought in specifically to be that vertical threat. One thing to keep in mind: Evans was also traded for a fourth-round pick to be that vertical threat. When he returns, the Ravens are not going to just let him ride the pine. So there might be a split of their workload, but Smith is worth the play now.
Titus Young, Detroit
He continues to get targets and is a speedy playmaker for the Lions. He went from seven targets, five catches and 89 yards in Week 2 to eight targets, four catches and 51 yards in Week 3. This is probably more of a name to keep an eye on as I don't see him being rostered in too many leagues, but as Matthew Stafford looks to lean less on his tight ends and more to other receivers not named Calvin Johnson, Young and Nate Burleson could be in for big years. The problem is: They could alternate weeks doing it, thus making fantasy owners quite angry. Keep an eye on Young and Burleson.
Nate Washington, Tennessee
He certainly paid off as the Sneaky Start of the Week for Week 3, grabbing eight balls for 92 yards and a score. He will have to do that and more from now on with Kenny Britt out for the season. I'm not sure if Washington can operate as the No. 1, but he is certainly worth the add to see if it works out. The Titans are struggling mightily in the run game and QB Matt Hasselbeck seems to have no problem going to the air. Washington has been targeted 27 times through three weeks this season, catching 21 for 258 yards and Sunday's score.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo
I still think there are safer plays at a position so deep, but the problem with them is inconsistency. I would rather look for a player that is targeted at least six times a game on average and see what he can give me. Then there's Chandler. He hasn't received over five targets a game, but all he does is score. He's no different than playing the vulture-TD grabbing RB that LenDale White or Willis McGahee has been in the past. The Bills are going to move the ball and teams keep leaving Chandler wide open in the end zone. If Ryan Fitzpatrick's going to go to him, why shouldn't you?
Randy McMichael, San Diego
Simple: He's Antonio Gates replacement and Malcom Floyd is ineffective, groin injury or not. McMichael caught four of five targets for 51 yards in Gates' absence Sunday. If Gates, the game's top tight end, is going to be a game-time decision each week, then you need to either have insurance for him on your roster, or steal someone else's insurance. The position will be an effective one for fantasy owners, you just have to know who's playing it from week to week.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
He returned from a calf injury against the Panthers and was targeted just two times for 15 yards. I don't think he's an add just yet — hard to believe a guy with 10 TDs a year ago is still a "keep an eye on" player but he is available in 48 percent of Yahoo leagues. If healthy and motivated (here's hoping the big contract in the offseason didn't make him content), he can be a rookie QB's best friend for an offense that needs some help. MJD and Mike Thomas can't do it all, plus he plays in the AFC South and those teams aren't the greatest at defending the TE position — all were in the bottom half of the league against the position at at least seven fantasy points per game last season.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (4-0) – The 38-14 road win over Wyoming this weekend might have been the Huskers' most complete performance of 2011. Rex Burkhead topped the 100-yard mark and scored two touchdowns for the second straight week and Taylor Martinez added his seventh rushing score. Most importantly, however, the defense allowed only 304 total yards - without star defensive tackle Jared Crick. Pre-season All-Big Ten corner Alfonzo Dennard did return to the field with four tackles. Crick is expected to return this weekend for Big Red's first-ever Big Ten game in Madison against the No. 10 (by Athlon) team in the nation.
2. Wisconsin (4-0) – The Badgers rolled 59-10 over lowly South Dakota - pushing its averaging margin of victory for the season up to 40 points per game (194-34). Heisman candidate Russell Wilson actually improved his nationally ranked No. 2 QB-rating from 213.4 to 218.38 with 345 yards, three touchdowns and no intercpetions on 19-of-25 passing. Four different running backs visited the endzone as Wisconsin readies for the Cornhuskers visit to Camp Randall Saturday night in what looks to be a Big Ten title game preview.
3. Illinois (4-0) – The Fighting Illini outlasted the Western Michigan Broncos 23-20 for its first 4-0 start since 1951. Ron Zook deployed a trio of running backs, along with quarterback Nathan Scheehaase, to the tune of 296 yards rushing on 52 attempts. Scheelhaase took a couple of nasty hits and had a sore neck and shoulder during throwing drills on Sunday. He is expected to start against Northwestern this weekend as Illinois opens Big Ten play. It is the fifth straight home game for the Illini.
4. Michigan (4-0) – Some were calling for the upset from Brady Hoke's former employer, but San Diego State was outclassed on Saturday by the Maize and Blue 28-7. Denard Robinson ran 21 times for 200 yards and three scores as Michigan jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead. The much-maligned Wolverine defense played bend-but-don't-break football, allowing 376 yards. But with timely turnovers and staunch play on its own half of the field, it kept SDSU out of the endzone all but once. Michigan should start 5-0 as the Gophers of Minnesota come to town this weekend.
5. Penn State (3-1) – The Nittany Lions welcomed 84-year-old head coach Joe Paterno back to the sidelines with a dominating 34-6 win over Eastern Michigan. Penn State's two quarterback system - featuring Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin - finally got rolling and produced the first passing touchdowns of 2011. The duo combined for 335 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-30 passing. The Nits defense held the normally potent Eagles rushing attack to only 68 yards - 221 yards below its season average. However, it came at a steep price as star linebacker and defensive leader Michael Mauti has been lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Penn State visits Indiana this weekend.
6. Michigan State (3-1) – After a brutal offensive showing against Notre Dame in Week Three, the Spartans bounced back with a 45-point, 481-yard win over Central Michigan. Le'Veon Bell scored three first half touchdowns as Sparty went into halftime leading 31-0. The defense forced four interceptions and held the Chippewas to a paultry 112 yards of offense and a solitary third quarter touchdown. Michigan State now heads to the Horseshoe to battle Ohio State in its Big Ten opener.
7. Ohio State (3-1) – True freshman Braxton Miller, the nation's No. 2 ranked Class of 2011 quarterback, played poised football in his first career start. He threw two touchdown passes to Devin Smith, ran for 83 yards on 17 carries, didn't turn the ball over and directed the Buckeye offense to a 37-17 win over Colorado. Tailbacks Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde got in on the action as well as Ohio State rushed for 226 yards on 47 attempts. It was a key weekend of experience for Miller as OSU rebounded from its debacle in Coral Gables last weekend and is now preppped for fellow 2011 Big Ten co-champs Michigan State to come to town this weekend.
8. Iowa (3-1) – James Vandenberg threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing score as Iowa rolled over UL-Monroe 45-17. Marvin McNutt caught seven passes for 100 yards and two first-half touchdowns while Marcus Coker ran for 113 yards on 18 carries and visited the endzone twice himself. Iowa played two complete halves of football for the first time in three weeks and will need to continue to improve if it wants to walk into Beaver Stadium two weekends from now and beat Penn State. The Hawkeyes are on bye this Saturday.
9. Northwestern (2-1) – The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Wildcats after a Week Three loss to Army. Starting quarterback Dan Persa, who has yet to play in 2011 due to lingering effects of Achilles' surgery late last season, is hopeful he will start this weekend against Illinois. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said last Thursday that he would be shocked if Persa didn't play against the Illini.
10. Purdue (2-1) – The Boliermakers were on bye this weekend, and like Northwestern, probably came at a great time. Quarterback Robert Marve played in three series in the Week Three 59-0 win over Southeast Missouri State. He is recovering from ACL surgery and is expected to see more snaps this weekend against Notre Dame. For a team that has been riddled with injuries, two weeks of rest to prepare for the Irish was likely a welcomed experience. Especially considering Purdue's strength of schedule ranks dead last amongst FBS programs according to the Sagarin ratings.
11. Indiana (1-3) – Another a week of football and another brutal loss for the Hooisers as North Texas rolled-up 427 yards of offense in a 24-21 win over IU. Indiana fans, however, might get used to seeing the name Kiel under center. After falling behind 24-0, the Hooisers stormed back behind back-up quarterback Dusty Kiel's two fourth-quarter touchdown strikes and 145 yards through the air. Kiel's younger brother, Gunner, is the No. 2 rated QB prospect in America and is committed to IU. With losses to Ball State, North Texas and Virginia already, National Signing Day 2012 can't come fast enough for Indiana. Penn State comes to Bloomington this Saturday.
12. Minnesota (1-3) – The Golden Gophers have accomplished an unenviable sweep of the Dakotas. After losing to South Dakota in 2010, Minnesota was outplayed at home this weekend by North Dakota State 37-24. Jerry Kill ineffectively rotated quarterbacks MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell as the offense never found a rhythm. A wild and emotionally crushing interception returned for a touchdown on the final play of the first half gave NDSU a 28-14 halftime lead. The Gophers never recovered as Minnesota takes a slight "lead" in the the battle for the bottom of the Big Ten. Kill and company visit Michigan this weekend.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (4-0) – If Alabama and LSU continue to play like it has through the first four weeks of the season, both teams should enter the Nov. 5 matchup undefeated. The Crimson Tide easily handled Arkansas on Saturday, defeating the Razorbacks 38-14. Alabama’s defense turned in a top-notch effort, holding Arkansas to only 226 total yards on offense. AJ McCarron seems to have wrestled control of the No. 1 quarterback spot, completing 15 of 20 throws for 200 yards against the Razorbacks. The Crimson Tide travel to Gainesville to take on Florida this Saturday.
2. LSU (4-0) – The gap between LSU and Alabama is virtually zero. The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 1 in Athlon’s weekly 120 rankings, while LSU is No. 2. The Tigers gave up 463 passing yards to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, but forced four turnovers and never allowed the Mountaineers to establish a rushing attack. LSU should have no trouble moving to 5-0, as they host Kentucky this Saturday.
3. Florida (4-0) – The competition steps up this week against Alabama, but so far, the Gators have looked like the best team in the SEC East. The defense has suffocated opponents, allowing only 231.8 yards and nine points per game. Quarterback John Brantley hasn’t been flashy, but has 752 passing yards through four weeks and looks very comfortable in the new offense. Florida will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide on Saturday night.
4. Arkansas (3-1) – The Razorbacks’ high-powered offense never found its rhythm in Saturday’s loss to Alabama. Quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 22 of 35 passes for 185 yards and two scores, but the rushing attack managed only 17 net yards. Arkansas’ defense also suffered a couple of key injuries, including end Tenarius Wright, cornerback Isaac Madison and safety Tramain Thomas. Arkansas takes on future SEC rival Texas A&M this Saturday in Arlington.
5. South Carolina (4-0) – Quarterback play is going to drive coach Steve Spurrier crazy all year. Stephen Garcia had an awful performance against Vanderbilt on Saturday, throwing four interceptions on 30 attempts. With the question marks about quarterback play, running back Marcus Lattimore will have to carry this team to the SEC East title. The Gamecocks host Auburn and Kentucky in their next two matchups, before a three-game road stretch – at Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas.
6. Auburn (3-1) – It was a rather pedestrian performance, but the Tigers defeated FAU 30-14 on Saturday night. The Owls are one of the worst teams in the FBS, so it was a surprise Auburn only won by 16 points. Running back Michael Dyer managed only 68 yards on 14 attempts, while quarterback Barrett Trotter threw for 178 yards and two scores. The Tigers are about to embark on a very difficult four-game stretch – South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and LSU – that could define their season.
7. Mississippi State (2-2) – Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech was expected to be an easy victory for Mississippi State. However, Louisiana Tech pushed Mississippi State into overtime, but was unable to push for the upset. Quarterback Chris Relf has struggled in his last two games, throwing for only 260 yards and one touchdown. Getting Relf and running back Vick Ballard on track will be two keys to watch in Saturday’s game against Georgia.
8. Georgia (2-2) – Don’t write the Bulldogs off in the SEC race just yet. Georgia got off to an 0-2 start, but has rebounded with wins over Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss to even the record at 2-2. The next four games will decide whether this team is a factor in the conference title race or if the pressure continues to build on coach Mark Richt. The Bulldogs host Mississippi State this Saturday, before road trips against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. If Georgia can get by its next three games, the Oct. 29 showdown against Florida will have a huge impact on the SEC East title race.
9. Tennessee (2-1) – The Volunteers had their only bye week of the season on Saturday. Tennessee will host Buffalo in a non-conference matchup this week, in a game the Volunteers should have no trouble winning. The Bulls are improved from last season, but should still pose little threat to Tennessee. Expect quarterback Tyler Bray to have another big game on Saturday night.
10. Vanderbilt (3-1) – Finding an offense was a challenge for Vanderbilt last season and so far, it appears the Commodores have found few answers. Vanderbilt had opportunities against South Carolina, but was unable to take advantage of four turnovers. The Commodores have a bye week to find some answers on offense, before traveling to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama on Oct. 8.
11. Kentucky (2-2) – The Wildcats kicked off a difficult three-game stretch with a 48-10 loss to Florida. Once again, Kentucky’s offense was non-existent. Quarterback Morgan Newton had another so-so performance, completing 16 of 33 throws for 124 yards and two picks. The Wildcats also turned the ball over four times. Kentucky begins a two-game road trip with a date in Baton Rouge against LSU this Saturday. If the Wildcats want to make a bowl, finding some offense over the next couple of games will be critical.
12. Ole Miss (1-3) – The Rebels pulled out a few tricks in an effort to upset Georgia, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs easily took care of the Rebels, winning 27-13 to drop Ole Miss to 1-3. For a team desperate for a victory, the schedule isn’t easy over the next three weeks. The Rebels travel to Fresno State this week and take on Alabama and Arkansas in conference matchups. Coach Houston Nutt is on the hot seat and a loss against Fresno State may not be the final nail in the coffin, but it’s certainly going to add even more pressure on him to produce.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Virginia Tech (4-0) – With Florida State falling to Clemson, the Hokies move up from No. 2 into the top spot. Virginia Tech is coming off a solid 30-10 win over Marshall, but the schedule difficulty is getting ready to pickup. The Hokies host Clemson and Miami over the next two weeks, which will play a role in establishing a pecking order in the ACC. Virginia Tech is still the favorite to win the Coastal Division, but Georgia Tech looks like a bigger threat as each week passes.
2. Clemson (4-0) – Thanks to wins over Auburn and Florida State, the Tigers have made a significant jump in the power rankings over the last two weeks. Clemson’s 35-30 win over Florida State was huge in the ACC Atlantic race and should give coach Dabo Swinney a little boost in job security. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech on tap this Saturday. After four games at home to begin the season, it’s time to see what the Tigers are made of on the road.
3. Georgia Tech (4-0) – The Yellow Jackets continued their hot start to 2011, defeating North Carolina 35-28 on Saturday. Georgia Tech is 4-0 for the first time since 1990 and the upcoming slate is favorable – at NC State, Maryland and at Virginia. Yes, some of the competition faced hasn’t been great, but the Yellow Jackets rank first nationally in scoring and total offense.
4. Florida State (2-2) – Even with quarterback EJ Manuel sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Seminoles had a chance to win against Clemson. However, Florida State could not overcome 11 costly penalties and struggled to establish the rushing attack once again. The Seminoles have a bye this Saturday, which should allow for Manuel’s return to the lineup on Oct. 8 at Wake Forest. Losing to Clemson is a setback in the ACC Atlantic race, but Florida State has plenty of time to dig out of this early hole.
5. North Carolina (3-1) – The Tar Heels suffered their first defeat of 2011, dropping a 35-28 decision to Georgia Tech. Like the Yellow Jackets’ first three opponents, North Carolina struggled to find an answer on defense for the option attack. The Tar Heels allowed 312 rushing yards and three scores to Georgia Tech. North Carolina steps out of conference for a trip to East Carolina this Saturday.
6. Miami (1-2) – One of the most surprising scores from Week 4 was Miami’s defeat to Kansas State. The Hurricanes were coming off an impressive victory over Ohio State one week prior, while the Wildcats had started the year with an awful performance against Eastern Kentucky. Miami’s defense struggled to stop Kansas State’s rushing attack, allowing 265 yards and two scores on the ground to the Wildcats. The Hurricanes should have an easy victory over Bethune-Cookman this Saturday.
7. Wake Forest (2-1) – The Demon Deacons had a bye in Week 4 and return to the heart of ACC play with a trip to Boston College on Saturday. Wake Forest needs just one victory to equal its win total from 2010. There’s a lot of football to be played, but the Demon Deacons are one of the most-improved teams in the ACC.
8. Maryland (1-2) – The Terrapins started of 2011 on the right foot by defeating Miami in the season opener. However, there have been few positives over the last two games. Maryland needed a furious rally in the second half to have a chance to beat West Virginia, and was thoroughly handled by Temple on Saturday. Expect the Terrapins to bounce back into the win column this week, as Towson visits College Park.
9. NC State (2-2) – The Wolfpack have yet to record a win over a FBS team this season. NC State defeated Liberty in Week 1 and South Alabama in Week 3, which means this team will have to earn seven wins to get bowl eligible. New quarterback Mike Glennon has been fine, but the offensive line and rushing attack haven’t provided much help. The Wolfpack host Georgia Tech this Saturday.
10. Virginia (2-2) – After opening the year 2-0, the Cavaliers have lost back-to-back games. Although Southern Miss is one of the top contenders in the Conference USA race, it’s a game Virginia should not lose. Freshman quarterback David Watford saw his playing time increase on Saturday, throwing for 81 yards and one touchdown, while adding 22 yards on the ground. Look for Virginia to get back into the win column against Idaho this Saturday.
11. Duke (2-2) – After defeating Tulane 48-27 on Saturday, the Blue Devils are riding a two-game winning streak. Quarterback Sean Renfree was solid in the victory over the Green Wave, completing 21 of 30 passes for 278 yards and a score. Duke hits the road for a difficult non-conference matchup against FIU this Saturday. The Blue Devils still have hopes of making a bowl, but they have to win against the Golden Panthers to keep those dreams alive.
12. Boston College (1-3) – The Eagles are the last team in the ACC to earn their first win of 2011. In Saturday’s victory over Massachusetts, senior running back Montel Harris made his return to the lineup. Harris rushed for 27 yards on nine carries. Boston College still has hopes of going to a bowl, but Saturday’s game against Wake Forest is a must-win.
Here's a recap of how Athlon Sports Week 3 Start or Sit suggestions worked out.
This is how I work out fantasy football scoring in my mind: I want to average 16 points from my QBs, RBs, WRs and Flex and average 10 points from my TEs, Ks and DSTs. It rarely works that way, but if you could get the skill spots to average 16 and the other three to average 10, that's 132 points in a 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 FLX, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST setup; it's a score that should win you most weeks.
So if a player scored at least 16 or 10, I consider it a good start; if he scored less than that, it's a good sit.
Week 3 Accuracy
(according to the 16 & 10 average theory)
Starts called correctly: 7 of 21
Sits called correctly: 15 of 19
Total correct: 22 of 40 (55 percent)
Season Total: 65 of 116 (56 percent)
Sneaky Start of the Week
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee vs. Denver — 8 catches, 92 yards, 1 TD (19.4 fantasy points)
Unexpected Sit of the Week
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants at Philadelphia — 3 catches, 25 yards (4.0)
Cam Newton (CAR) vs. Jacksonville — 158 yards, 1 TD, 27 rushing yards, 2-point conversion (17.02)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) vs. New England — 369 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (22.76)
Kevin Kolb (ARI) at Seattle — 252 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 16 yards rushing (13.68)
Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. Green Bay — 302 yards, 2 TDs (23.24)
Eli Manning (NYG) at Philadelphia — 254 yards, 4 TDs (33.86)
Jason Campbell (OAK) vs. NYJ — 156 yards, 10 yards rushing (7.24)
Ryan Mathews & Mike Tolbert (SD) vs. Kansas City — Mathews 98 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 4 catches, 51 yards receiving (28.9), Tolbert 19 yards, 3 catches, 24 yards receiving (5.8)
Ben Tate (HOU) at New Orleans — 82 rushing yards, 1 catch, 8 receiving yards (9.50)
Daniel Thomas (MIA) at Cleveland — 95 yards, 3 catches, 27 receiving yards, 1 TD (19.7)
Joseph Addai (IND) vs. Pittsburgh — 86 yards, 1 TD, 1 catch, 2 receiving yards (15.3)
Mark Ingram (NO) vs. Houston — 38 yards, 1 TD, 2 catches (10.5)
Willis McGahee (DEN) at Tennessee — 52 yards, 3 catches, 2 receiving yards, 1 TD (12.9)
Jabar Gaffney (WAS) at Dallas — 5 catches, 60 yards (8.5)
A.J. Green (CIN) vs. San Francisco — 4 catches, 29 yards (4.9)
Deion Branch (NE) at Buffalo — Zero catches (0.0)
Dwayne Bowe (KC) at San Diego — 4 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD (14.7)
Devin Hester (CHI) vs. Green Bay — 3 catches, 62 yards receiving, 45 return yards (8.83)
Mario Manningham (NYG) at Philadelphia — Did Not Play (concussion)
Fred Davis (WAS) at Dallas — 1 catch, 23 yards (2.8)
Tony Gonzalez (ATL) at Tampa Bay — 2 catches, 18 yards, 1 TD (8.8)
Evan Moore and Benjamin Watson (CLE) vs. Miami — Moore 2 catches, 19 yards (2.9) Watson 5 catches, 64 yards (8.9)
Jermaine Gresham (CIN) vs. San Francisco — 4 catches 51 yards (7.1)
Jeff King (ARI) at Seattle — 0 catches (0.0)
Lance Kendricks (STL) vs. Baltimore — 2 catches, 25 yards (2.7)
John Kasay (NO) vs. Houston — 6 fantasy points (Ranked T-20th)
Jason Hanson (DET) at Minnesota — 17 fantasy points (Ranked 2nd)
Nick Novak (SD) vs. Kansas City — 9 fantasy points (Ranked T-14th)
David Akers (SF) at Cincinnati — 9 fantasy points (Ranked T-14th)
Shaun Suisham (PIT) at Indianapolis — 13.5 fantasy points (Ranked 4th)
Mike Nugent (CIN) vs. San Francisco — 6 fantasy points (Ranked T-20th)
Arizona at Seattle — 12 fantasy points (Ranked T-8th)
San Diego vs. Kansas City — 6 fantasy points (Ranked T-22nd)
Tennessee vs. Denver — 8 fantasy points (Ranked T-18th)
Chicago vs. Green Bay — 7 fantasy points (Ranked T-20)
Houston at New Orleans — 4 fantasy points (Ranked T-26th)
New Orleans vs. Houston — 4 fantasy points (Ranked T-26th)
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
Run DMC ran wild against the visiting Jets, with 19 carries for 171 yards and two trips to the end zone — a 2-yard power dive and a 70-yarder that showed off McFadden’s burst to the edge, open-field moves and long-stride long-distance speed (as well as the downfield blocking of a few Raider receivers). Oakland’s 34–24 upset victory served as sweet revenge for New York’s 38–0 win in the Black Hole two seasons ago. Meanwhile, McFadden continues to establish himself as one of the best backs in the game — with 477 total yards and four TDs in ’11.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Peyton may be sidelined, but Eli is making sure the Manning family continues to set the standard for quarterback play. The Super Bowl XLII MVP picked apart the Eagles’ secondary during a 29–16 victory in Philly. The NFL’s new active Iron Man started his 113th consecutive game (106 regular season, 7 postseason), completing 16-of-23 passes for 254 yards, four scores — two to second-year wideout Victor Cruz — and zero INTs in a winning effort.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans
Hasselbeck celebrated his 36th birthday in style, completing 27-of-36 passes for 311 yards, two TDs and zero INTs during a thrilling 17–14 win over Denver. The 13-year veteran lost wideout Kenny Britt (knee) in the first half and received little help from Chris Johnson (21 rush yards). As a result, Hasselbeck took the Titans on his shoulders — completing passes to 11 different receivers, the last connection being a 4-yard score to tight end Daniel Graham, a former Bronco whose first catch of the season proved to be a game-winner.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers
After playing in only five games last year, Finley is making up for lost time early on this season. The 6'5", 247-pounder — who Aaron Rodgers calls the “best tight end” in football — had seven catches for 85 yards and three acrobatic TD grabs during a 27–17 victory at Chicago in the 183rd meeting of the NFL’s oldest rivals. The Packers have won three straight against the Bears dating back to Week 17 of last season.
Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers
The shampoo pitchman cleaned up several of the Steelers’ offensive mistakes with one play that would be called “unbelievable” if made by any safety other than the routinely high-flying Polamalu. After Colts’ third-string quarterback Curtis Painter entered the game, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year got off to a running start on a perfectly-timed blitz, then seemingly jumped over an Indy O-lineman to recover a fumble forced by James Harrison and return the ball 16 yards for a crucial fourth-quarter TD in a 23–20 victory on Sunday night.
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
We are only four games into his first season as the offensive coordinator at Florida, but the sample size is big enough to declare the hiring of Charlie Weis a success at Florida.
Weis, the former head coach at Notre Dame and most recently the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, has breathed new life into a Florida offense that stagnated for much of Urban Meyer’s final season in Gainesville. Fresh off of a 48–10 win at Kentucky, the Gators rank 22nd in the nation in total offense (461.8 ypg), up from 82nd last season (350.9 ypg).
The 2011 Gators are getting it done with the big play. Last season, Florida had 180 plays from scrimmage that went for 10-plus yards (ranking 50th in the nation) and 49 plays that went for 20-plus yards (tied for 78th in the nation). This year, under Weis’ guidance, those numbers are way up — 75 plays of 10-plus yards in only four games (tied for fifth nationally) and 23 plays of 20-plus yards (12th in the nation).
Weis is putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers, which is why most of the Gators’ big plays are coming in the running game. Chris Rainey already has 17 runs of at least 10 yards — five more than he had all last season. And fellow running back Jeff Demps currently leads the nation with eight rushes of 20 yards or more.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a defensive coach, praised the way his offensive coordinator is using Rainey and Demps after the duo each topped 100 yards vs. Kentucky.
“The thing that concerns you (as a defensive coach) is that Charlie does a great job of creating space plays for them that creates a lot of one on ones,” says Muschamp. “One missed tackle against those two guys, and they can take it the distance. They are great guys, have great speed, great in the open field, catch the ball well, run the ball hard, they are competitive and tough. They have all the intangibles that good football players have.”
Now comes the hard part.
Rainey, Demps and the rest of the Florida offense are about to embark on as difficult of a two-week stretch as possible, with dates against No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 LSU looming in the next two weeks. A year ago, the Gators were swept by the two SEC West powers thanks largely to an offense that managed only 281 yards against Alabama and 243 against LSU.
Weis will have a chance to earn his reported $765,000 salary in the coming weeks.
Also Read: Our SEC Power Rankings for Week 4.
AROUND THE SEC
• Vanderbilt’s Trey Wilson leads the nation with 109 yards in interception returns, while fellow starting cornerback Casey Hayard is tied for third with 96 yards in returns. The Commodores as a team have intercepted 14 passes, five more than the No. 2 team in the nation, Ohio. One more stat: Vanderbilt has intercepted 11.5 percent of its opponents’ passes.
• Alabama has given up 15 points or less in 23 of its 31 games since the start of the 2009 season.
• Alabama is giving up 1.8 yards per rushing attempt to lead the league. Kentucky is last at 5.1 per attempt.
• Ole Miss quarterbacks Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt combined to complete 12-of-30 attempts in the Rebels’ loss to Georgia. In two SEC games, Mackey and Stoudt are 27-of-60 with seven interceptions.
• Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell is living up to the hype. The Columbus, Ga., native is tied for fourth in the SEC in rushing with 411 yards, an average of 102.8 per game.
• SEC teams have combined to convert 33 of their 64 fourth down attempts. South Carolina and Kentucky lead the league with 10 fourth down tries each; the Gamecocks are 6-of-10, while the Cats are only 2-of-10.
but also allowed seven drives of at least 30 yards. In their first three games, the Tigers gave up a total of eight drives of at least 30 yards.
Jacoby Ford wants to play football. His hamstring is feeling better and that's good for his fantasy owners. The Oakland Raiders offense, which just put 34 points on the notoriously defensive-minded New York Jets, is becoming a west coast version of the New England Patriots.
In fact, the Raiders may have one of the best offenses in the NFL right now. Because with Darren McFadden running all over the place, the Raiders offense is much more balanced thant the ultra pass-heavy Patriots offense.
And Ford's return is only going to make them better because he immediately becomes their #1 receiving option.
So with Ford coming back, what does that mean for the other fantasy options on the Raider team? Let's break it down:
Darrius Heyward-Bey - Downgraded
Heyward-Bey had a great chance to make his mark as an important part of the Raiders offense against the Jets, but he didn't live up to expectations. With Ford and Louis Murphy sidelined, it was Darrius' time to shine, but he just fizzled, with one reception for five yards. It's true he had shutdown corner Darrelle Revis on him all game, but he's going to have to show a little something if he wants to make an impact.
Jason Campbell - Upgraded
More weapons means more points for his fantasy owners. Campbell has a great running game and a plethora of weapons at his disposal. He could be a sleeper and is the perfect example on why you should always wait on a quarterback when you're drafting. With the Raiders clicking like they are, it doesn't seem to matter if they're on the road or facing one of the top defenses in the league. They are going to put up points and Campbell is a starter-worthy fantasy quarterback. No one will be talking about Pryor too much if they keep this up.
Louis Murphy - Downgraded
He's going to lose some catches. But then again, he wasn't really going to make a lot of catches anyway. So this one is pretty simple. Muphy is worth keeping an eye on, but don't expect him to have a huge season.
Denarius Moore - Hold
Denarious continues to put up numbers and Raiders coach Hue Jackson likes what he sees. Jackson said "he's turning intoa fine football player" after Moore put up a TD and o 57 total yards and mentioned that Moore's play on the field will get him more playing time. If you have him, keep him because he put up better numbers than Heyward-Bey against the Jets and the Raiders really like him. He could be their full-time WR#2 if he continues down this path.
Darren McFadden - Upgraded
If Jacoby Ford can be a deep threat to keep one less guy at the line of scrimmage, then it's only going to give the beast that is Run DMC more space to eat up yards and touchdowns. Darren McFadden could be a top-2 back at the end of 2011 if he keeps running the way he has in the first three games.
Chaz Schilens - Downgraded
This probably goes without saying, but if you were using Chaz to fill in for an injury, you should probably just drop him and take a flyer on someone else. With Ford back in the lineup, Chaz drops basically off the fantasy football map.
-- Pete Thomas
The debate rages each season in the college football world – who is the nation’s best team? Most polls have had either Oklahoma, Alabama or LSU ranked in the top spot this year, and you can make a good case for each one being No. 1. The Sooners have won all three of their games by double-digits, including a victory at Florida State. The Tide defense may be the best in the country, and Trent Richardson is an elite running back. LSU had the most impressive September, beating up Oregon in the neutral-site opener and then winning at Mississippi State and West Virginia.
Who should be ranked No. 1?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
We’ve got Alabama No. 1 in our poll, but you can make a very strong case that LSU is the best team in the nation at this point. We had Alabama No. 1 in our preseason ranking, and the Tide have done nothing to prove they don’t still deserve that top spot. They have been dominant in all four games, highlighted by a quality win on the road at Penn State and a very impressive 38–14 win over Arkansas Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. I understand why some people have LSU No. 1; the Tigers have been equally impressive against a slightly more difficult schedule. But again, it goes back to the fact that we had Alabama No. 1 in the preseason and this team has played exceptionally well in every game. This debate will be settled on the field when LSU visits Alabama in early November. Should be the game of the year.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I started the season with Oklahoma at the top, and the Sooners have done nothing wrong in winning their three games. Injuries are mounting for Bob Stoops’ club however, and I would not say that OU is the most impressive team in the nation – so far. That team would be LSU, who seems completely unaffected by playing big games in tough atmospheres. Les Miles’ bunch has the best September resume, so I’ll put the Tigers in the top spot – for now. If Alabama follows its demolition of Arkansas with a convincing win at Florida, it will be difficult to stem the Tide. The good thing is that Alabama and LSU play on November 5, while Oklahoma will face a tough Big 12 slate over next two months – so we will see this debate play out on the field.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma has a very good win over Florida State, but I think the best team resides in the SEC – Alabama. The Crimson Tide flexed their muscles a bit against Arkansas, limiting the high-powered Razorback offense to just 14 points. Alabama has room to improve, especially on the offensive line and on defense with the pass rush. However, the Crimson Tide appear to have found their quarterback with sophomore AJ McCarron and running back Trent Richardson is one of the best players in college football. Alabama also catches LSU in Tuscaloosa this year, which helps to give the Crimson Tide a slight edge in that matchup. Alabama isn’t going to be flashy, but with a shutdown defense and Nick Saban at the helm, the Crimson Tide are the best team in college football.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I began the season thinking Alabama was the most complete roster in the nation packaged with the best head coach in the country. Yet, with its performance against Florida State, particularly on defense, the Oklahoma Sooners had pulled into a dead heat for No. 1. The Crimson Tide raised the stakes this weekend. As LSU's defense was giving up 533 yards in Morgantown, Alabama brought the Razorbacks' high-powered attack to its knees. The Hogs mustered only 17 yards rushing and Tyler Wilson threw for just 185 yards. Meanwhile, AJ McCarron was efficient (15 of 20, 2 TD, 0 INT) and Trent Richardson rolled up 211 yards from scrimmage. Give me the Tide - if they can survive Gainesville this weekend.
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oregon (3-1) – The Ducks have clearly put the LSU loss behind them as they have scored at least 56 points in three straight games after beating Arizona 56-31 in the desert Saturday night. LaMichael James topped 200 yards for the second straight week, rushing for 288 yards against the Wildcats. Darron Thomas continues his sterling play, accounting for four touchdowns and not turning the ball over for the third straight week. Overall, the Ducks rushed for 415 yards at nearly nine yards per carry. Oregon gets some downtime with a bye week this weekend before a Thursday night showdown with Cal on October 6.
2. Stanford (3-0) – The best unbeaten team in the nation no one talks about had a bye week in Week Four. Andrew Luck and the Cardinal will be well rested for a home game against the UCLA Bruins this Saturday. Stanford beat the Bruins 35-0 last fall.
3. Arizona State (3-1) – The Sun Devils survived dust storms and questionable ankles to pull off their first win over USC at home in six tries. The strange, sand-filled weather couldn't stop ASU tailback Cameron Marshall from anouncing his presence as a Pac-12 star. Listed as questionable for the game after turning his ankle in the 17-14 loss to Illinois, Marshall took his first carry 70 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. He added two more scores and finished with 141 yards on 25 carries. Matt Barkley mounted a comeback, taking the lead 22-21 late in the third quarter. But Marshall and the Devils defense took over, scoring the final 21 points of the game for the first ASU win over the Trojans since 1999. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was incredibly efficient, completing 25 of his 32 attempts. Saturday night proved that Arizona State is the favorite to represent the South in the inaugural Pac-12 title game.
4. Washington (3-1) – After a valiant (but losing) effort against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Washington showed its mental toughness and intestinal fortitude with a 31-23 win over Cal at home. The Golden Bears worked the ball to the Washington two-yard line in the final minute, but an incomplete pass and two failed rushing attempts left Cal a final fourth-down chance. When Zach Maynard's attempt sailed over the head of Keenan Allen, Husky Stadium exploded in celebration. Keith Price continued his solid play by completing 19-of-25 passes for 292 yards and three more scores while Chris Polk added 145 yards from scrimmage and two scores. The Huskies are 3-1 for the first time since 2006 and face a tough road test at Utah this weekend.
5. USC (3-1) – After falling behind 21-6 late in the second quarter to Arizona State, the Men of Troy mounted a courageous comeback with 17 unanswered points to take the lead late in the third. The comeback was capped by a ten-yard touchdown run by starting tailback Marc Tyler (who rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries). But USC could not stop Sun Devils tailback Cameron Marshall, and Matt Barkley's interception with just under seven minutes left in the game was returned for a touchdown and sealed the victory for ASU. USC returns home this weekend to face Arizona - who has lost three straight.
6. California (3-1) – Zach Maynard completed 23 passes for 349 yards against Washington, including a 90-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to brother Keenan Allen. Yet, it was his final pass attempt that flew over Allen's head on the penultimate (Washington took a knee with 21 seconds left) play of the game that was the difference in the 31-23 loss to the Huskies. Maynard and Allen have developed as a potent tandem, connecting 10 times for 197 yards and the lone score. The loss is the start of a difficult stretch for Cal as the Bears get a bye week before visiting Oregon and hosting USC and Utah in their next three.
7. Utah (2-1) – Utes fans got an extra week to celebrate their 54-10 shellacking of BYU in the Holy War two weekends ago. The bye week gives Kyle Whittingham and company extra time to prepare for their upcoming Pac-12 slate. Utah will play its second Pac-12 game this weekend when Washington comes calling.
8. Arizona (1-3) – The Wildcats are reeling after three straight blowout losses at the hands of clearly superior opponents. After losing Saturday night to Oregon 56-31, Arizona has been outscored by an average of 25 points per game during its current three-game losing streak. Nick Foles continues to produce big numbers, throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns on 55 pass attempts. However, the Cats could not stop the run as Oregon ran for 415 yards on 47 carries — good for 8.8 yards per carry. Arizona has played three straight top-ten opponents, but the journey doesn't get much easier as Mike Stoops could be fighting for his job in the Coliseum this weekend against USC.
9. UCLA (2-2) – The Bruins have struggled in 2011, but began the Pac-12 season 1-0 with a 27-19 road win over Oregon State. Richard Brehaut got the start at quarterback and led the offense with 146 passing yards while accounting for two touchdowns. Rick Neuheisel divvied up 49 carries in the backfield to the tune of 211 yards and three scores. Derrick Coleman got 20 attempts (100 yards), Malcolm Jones got nine (38 yards), Johnathan Franklin received six (36) and Brehaut got eight (21). Don't expect the Bruins to stay unbeaten in conference play for long, however, as they head to Palo Alto this weekend to face Stanford.
10. Colorado (1-3) – The Buffaloes were simply outclassed by the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend 37-17. Tyler Hansen threw for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns but never got the offense rolling. The Buffs were 3-of-13 on third downs, committed nine penalties for 83 yards and fumbled the ball twice. The good news for Colorado: Jon Embree's best chance for a conference win will likely come this weekend in Boulder when Washington State visits.
11. Washington State (2-1) – The Cougars were on bye in Week Four, and they may have their starting quarterback, Jeff Tuel, under center as early as October 15 after he cracked his collarbone in Week One. So even though the break comes at a great time, it still appears back-up Marshall Lobbestael will have to play well if the Cougars expect to win their Pac-12 opener against Colorado this Saturday. Lobbestael has throw for at least 360 yards in each of his last two games and eight touchdowns.
12. Oregon State (0-3) – It is shocking to see the Beavers hold down the last spot on this list, but after losing at home to a struggling UCLA Bruins team 27-19, it is hard to see any movement. The team is still without freshman dynamo Malcolm Agnew and his pulled hamstring, but quarterback Sean Mannion seems to have stabilized the quarterback position. After rotating with the more athletic Ryan Katz through the first two games, Mannion threw for 287 yards and a score while Katz watched from the sidelines. Oregon State travels to the desert to face Arizona State in Tempe this Saturday.
Beating the Chiefs was one thing. Defeating the Raiders at home was another. But beating the Patriots means the Buffalo Bills have arrived and it's time to start taking them seriously.
After 11 years of misery, the Buffalo Bills are finally giving their loyal but win-starved fan base something that they haven’t had since the turn of the millennium: a reason to show up. These Bills are resilient, they’re tough, and they’re fun to watch. When’s the last time you could say that about this sad-sack franchise that had become emblematic of America’s decaying rust belt?
Let’s run down this startling list of accomplishments coming out of yesterday’s 34–31 win over the Patriots:
• The Bills became the only team in modern NFL history to win consecutive games in which they trailed by 18 points or more. Against the Genius (Bill Belichick) and the Golden Boy (Tom Brady), the Bills erased a 21–0 first-half deficit.
• Against the Buffalo defense, Brady threw as many interceptions (four) as he did for the entire 2010 season. That interception total matched Brady’s career-worst for a single game.
• The Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak against the AFC East kingpins, and they snapped New England’s 10-game regular-season winning streak.
• For the first time since 1992 and the heyday of Jim Kelly’s fast-break offense, the Bills have opened a season scoring 30 or more points in their first three games.
“It’s the biggest win of my career. I can’t think of any bigger,” said linebacker Chris Kelsay, who has suffered along with Bills Nation for the duration of a career that began in 2003. “To beat these guys at home, in front of our fans, with the way they’re behind us despite being down early, it's huge. I'll never forget it.”
Budding folk hero Ryan Fitzpatrick outdueled Brady, completing 27-of-40 passes for 369 yards and two scores and posting a higher passer rating (92.6 to 86.0). After the Patriots had tied the score at 31, Fitzpatrick briskly led the Bills into scoring position, as the team took advantage of an overturned Fred Jackson touchdown to kill the remaining clock and kick the winning field goal from the 1-yard line.
Another long-term sufferer with the franchise, kicker Rian LIndell, supplied the winning chip shot. “That’s the loudest I've ever heard it in here,” Lindell said. “Certainly they’ve been the team to beat. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
In a shocking role reversal, Brady sounded like a guy whose team had missed an opportunity to take down the division favorite. “We played a good football team and made too many mistakes," said Brady. “It’s never easy. ... We had too many turnovers, too many penalties that allowed them to get some easy plays. ... I just wish we would have made a few less mistakes.”
If it’s any consolation, Brady continues to pile up yards at a historic pace. He has 1,326 yards passing through three games, breaking the record of 1,257 set in 2006 by New Orleans QB Drew Brees.
• The Detroit Lions are an equally shocking 3–0 for the first time since 1980 after picking up a key division win in overtime against the Vikings. Like the Bills, they erased a huge deficit, digging out of a 20–0 halftime hole in the greatest second-half comeback in franchise history. Unlike the Bills, they did it on the road. Not to overstate things, but Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson could become the most dynamic pass-catch combo of their generation.
• The Niners and Bengals anesthetized an announced crowd of 43,363 in a 13–8 snoozer. Andy Dalton finally looked like a rookie, throwing two fourth-quarter picks after going the season’s first 11 quarters without one.
• The Dream Team’s 1–2. The Eagles lost to the Giants 29–16, and Michael Vick’s ticked off after getting battered — he has a broken right hand — in a chippy divisional game. “I felt I got hit late. No flag,” Vick said of a shot from Chris Canty. “At some point something catastrophic is gonna happen. Not to blame the refs, but more precautions should be taken. I’m on the ground all the time in the pocket.” His concern is no doubt shared by Philly fans; judging from Mike Kafka’s performance in relief and Vince Young’s nagging hammy, Vick is indispensable.
• On a day of shootouts, none was better than Saints-Texans. Drew Brees put 23 points on the board in the fourth quarter alone as New Orleans erased a 26–17 fourth-quarter deficit. Everyone eager to anoint the Texans as the class of the AFC South had better take notice. This is what the Texans do.
Going into this NFL season the general consensus among the so-called "experts" was that the AFC East would be a two-team race between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins lagging considerably behind. Well, to this point, the Bills aren't following the script, if you will, as they are atop the division standings joining the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and another team on the rise, the Detroit Lions, as the only undefeated teams remaining.
The Bills got to this point by beating the Patriots 34-31 on Sunday in Buffalo, snapping a 15-game losing streak to their divisional foe. Just like they did against the Oakland Raiders last week, the Bills came storming back after falling behind and basically beat the Patriots at their own game — plenty of offense and key turnovers.
Behind Tom Brady and Wes Welker, the Patriots jumped out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Bills never gave in and responded with 17 unanswered points, and then scored 17 more in the fourth quarter, capped off by Rian Lindell's game-winning 28-yard field goal as time expired.
Brady (387 yards passing, 4 TDs) continued to add to his record-setting early-season numbers, as he broke the NFL record for most yards passing in the first three games. But he also was picked off four times, which matched his career worst for interceptions in a game. Three of the interceptions came in the second half, including one by Drayton Florence that was returned for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick more than held his own against Tom Terrific as the recently-minted "Amish Rifle" threw for 369 yards and two scores of his own. More importantly, Fitzpatrick threw just two picks and directed the Bills' fourth-quarter comeback.
It's no surprise that the Patriots have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL as they lead the league in total offense and passing yards. What is surprising is that the Bills currently rank third (tied with the Dallas Cowboys who are playing the Washington Redskins tonight) in total offense, fourth in rushing yards per game and is No. 1 in points scored. That's a far cry from last year, when they finished 25th in total offense and 28th in points scored.
And while neither defense is anywhere near the top of the rankings right now in terms of total yards or points allowed, one thing that does have to be of concern for Bill Belichick is the fact that his Patriots are dead last in the league in passing defense. Through three games, the Pats have given up a mind-boggling 377 yards per game through the air. For comparison, the Jets have given up roughly half that many passing yards (189) per game.
And what of the Jets, you ask? Well Rex Ryan and Gang Green are licking their own wounds coming off a 34-24 defeat to the Raiders in Oakland. The Jets have been stingy when it comes to pass defense, but are having problems stopping the run as Darren McFadden gorged them for 171 yards on nine yards a carry yesterday.
Mark Sanchez has been fairly effective early on, but the Jets' inability to get anything going on the ground (100 total yards rushing, four yards per carry), meant Sanchez dropped back early and often to the tune of 43 pass attempts. The flip side of a pass-heavy game plan combined with injuries on the offensive line is that Sanchez was sacked four times and hit another six by the Raiders — the exact same totals the Cowboys had on him in Week 1.
Sanchez, who may have suffered a broken nose in yesterday's game, has already finished each game with a possible injury, a disturbing trend to say the least. Contrast that with Fitzpatrick, who has been sacked just twice in the first three games or Brady, who has gone down just three times.
Granted, it's just three games, but the early-season results are certainly encouraging when it comes to the Bills and people are starting to pay attention. The Bills will have their chance to continue to impress as match ups with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants loom following next week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Looking further ahead, the Bills will get their first crack at the Jets in Week 9 with a chance to go 2-0 against the supposed top two teams in their division. And who knows, if the Bills can sustain their early-season success, perhaps their regular-season finale on New Year's Day against the Patriots will, for the first time in many years, actually matter. If that's the case, you can bet everyone will be watching, especially the so-called "experts."
Torrey Smith had a career day on Sunday. And it happened to come on his very first start.
The Ravens wide receiver blew up for five receptions for 152 yards and a staggering three touchdowns. If the fantasy team you played this weekend had him in the starting lineup for some reason, you should probably quit fantasy football forever.
So, with his explosion of points, Torrey Smith will be the number one added player on fantasy waiver wires this week. And he should be; catching lightning in a bottle is how you win fantasy leagues (look at Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick last year).
The other negative is that Torrey left the game with a tweaked hamstring (or it could have just been cramps from running all over the field.) Apparently the injury isn't a big deal, but keep an eye on this closely to see if it will affect his ability to play next week.
But let's not go overboard and blow your entire waiver wire allowance (if you're in a blind bid league) for Torrey. And here's why:
1. Touchdowns are hard to predict.
Touchdowns come and go. They come in bunches, and then they don't show up for weeks. Torrey had three on his first three catches. And that's not going to happen again. (If it does, then I'll eat my hat.)
2. He averaged a staggering 30 yards per catch
That, too won't happen again. The touchdowns and yards per catch add up to a career day that even Jerry Rice would be hard pressed to duplicate. Torrey Smith is not Jerry Rice. That average will get cut into a third if Torrey has a good year. So keep your expectations realistic. Don't pay for a wide receiver who's on pace for 50 touchdowns and 9 billion yards receiving. Pay for a rookie with some upside.
3. Joe Flacco had a career day
In another hint that these kind of numbers won't last, Joe Flacco, the guy throwing to Torrey had the best day of his career with 389 yards passing. The stars aligned for Torrey on Sunday.
So don't take all these negatives the wrong way. We're all for adding Torrey Smith to your fantasy team, but just make sure you don't overpay for him.
Update: It's official, Kenny Britt tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Kenny Britt was having a great season. Until he turned awkwardly on his knee after a catch against the Broncos and apparently tore his ACL and MCL on a freakish play where he didn't hit or touched.
Britt will have an MRI today to confirm the bad news that the Titans fear (there's still a slight chance that he just injured his knee, but it doesn't look good), but fantasy owners had been enjoying a breakout season by the Titans troubled wide receiver for the first two games. Britt was one of the leading receivers in the NFL who produced solidly and had developed a rapport with new Titan quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
So if you're a Britt owner, what do you do now? Here's five players to go after on your waiver wire so you don't drop to the bottom of your standings.
Titus Young, wide receiver, Detroit Lions
It looks like there's enough of the Detroit offense to go around. After Young went without a catch on week 1, he had five receptions for 89 yards in week 2 and 4 catches for 51 yards in week 3. And it should be said that the Lions didn't play particularly well in week 3, but they were also down most of the game, forcing them to throw more often than they normally would have. But either way, the signs are encouraging that Young is clicking with Matthew Stafford. Pick him up as he could be a grow into a dependable WR3, and if Nate Washington or Calvin Johnson miss an time with injury, he could shoot up to a WR1.
Jason Avant, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
I know what you're thinking: Isn't Michael Vick out for the next month? He is, but Vince Young should be a more than capable back-up who can come in and run the Eagles pass-heavy offense. But what makes Avant so intriguing is that Jeremy Maclin is likely out for week four, leaving many more looks to Avant, who has played pretty well already this season. Pick him up because that Eagles passing offense is very fantasy friendly. And if you can get a piece of it for even a little while, it will pay dividends. Steve Smith could also play a role in picking up Maclin's slack, but Avant knows this offense better.
LaVelle Hawkins, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
Whenever a star player goes down, the most obvious target is the guy replacing him. But the problem with the Titans is that's not so obvious. LaVelle Hawkins and Damian Williams will be vying for time, but it looks like LaVelle Hawkins will be the guy to get the first shot at filling in for Britt's shoes. Keep a close eye on this because if it doesn't look like Hawkins can get it done, Williams will quickly get his own chance.
Torrey Smith, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
Torrey went off on Sunday with 5 receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns. The one thing we know for sure, he will never put up these kinds of numbers again in his life. And he will most likely be a waiver wire darling this week. But if you can snatch him, hey, it's always worth a flyer to see if Flacco has found a new favorite target. Expect something closer to a 2 catches for 47 yards line for the rest of the year, but you can't win if you don't gamble on guys like this. He's exactly what the wiaver wire is for.
Randy McMichael, tight end, San Diego Chargers
Well, Antonio Gates minor foot injury that he was expected to play through just got a lot worse. It's now a torn plantar fascia. No one knows exactly what this is going to mean to Gates season (or if he's even going to play next week.) McMichael doesn't have a great history of blowing up for fantasy owners, but the San Diego offense is a powerhouse, and if he's half of what Gates is, then he's worth starting in your 12+ team leagues every week.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma (3-0) – Coming off a huge win over Florida State, all eyes were on the Sooners to see if they could avoid a letdown against Missouri. Oklahoma fell behind early, but rallied for a 38-28 win over the Tigers. Despite missing receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Franks, quarterback Landry Jones managed to throw for 448 yards and three scores. The Sooners host Ball State this Saturday, but a date against Texas looms large on Oct. 8.
2. Oklahoma State (4-0) – The Cowboys rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit to score a key conference win over Texas A&M. Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden was huge in Saturday’s victory, throwing for 438 yards and two scores. Receiver Justin Blackmon also came up big, catching 11 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. The Cowboys are off in Week 5 and return back to the field on Oct. 8 against Kansas.
3. Texas (3-0) – The Longhorns were off on Saturday, but remained in the spotlight due to conference realignment. Although Texas discussed heading to the Pac-12, it will stay in the Big 12 – for now. Texas hits the road to open up conference play against Iowa State this week. The Cyclones defeated the Longhorns 28-21 in Austin last season, so Texas will out for revenge, but has to be careful not to overlook Iowa State with Oklahoma ahead in Week 6.
4. Texas A&M (2-1) – For the third year in a row, the Aggies blew a halftime lead against Oklahoma State. Texas A&M held a commanding 20-3 lead after the first two quarters, but turnovers allowed Oklahoma State to jump back into the game. The Aggies also struggled to find an answer for Cowboys’ quarterback Brandon Weeden. There are several weeks remaining to sort out the Big 12 race, but this is a slight setback for a team that had hoped to make a BCS bowl trip this year.
5. Baylor (3-0) – The Bears completed the non-conference portion of their 2011 schedule with a 56-31 win over Rice. Quarterback Robert Griffin was stellar once again, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns. Griffin has thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) through three games and has emerged as one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman. The Bears open Big 12 play with a road date at Kansas State. Baylor has never beat Kansas State in Manhattan.
6. Missouri (2-2) – The Tigers jumped out to an early lead, but couldn’t keep Oklahoma’s powerful offense down for long. Missouri quarterback James Franklin turned in a solid performance, completing 16 of 33 throws for 291 yards and one touchdown. He also notched 103 yards and two scores on the ground. The Tigers have two respectable losses (Arizona State and Oklahoma) and head into the bye week with plenty to build upon. Missouri will return to the Big 12 play on Oct. 8 at Kansas State.
7. Kansas State (3-0) – Thanks to a surprising victory in Miami, the Wildcats make the biggest jump in the power rankings, moving from last to seventh. After a sluggish performance in the opener against Eastern Kentucky, it appears Kansas State has made big progress over the last three weeks. Coach Bill Snyder continues to work miracles in Manhattan, and Saturday’s victory was one of the most surprising scores from Week 4. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Kansas State, as Baylor and Missouri visit Manhattan the next two weeks.
8. Iowa State (3-0) – The Cyclones did not play in Week 4. Iowa State will be back on the gridiron this Saturday, hosting Texas in a battle of undefeated teams. The bye week came at a good time for Iowa State, as quarterback Steele Jantz was banged up in the victory over Connecticut. The Cyclones need Jantz at 100 percent if they want to make it two in a row over the Longhorns.
9. Texas Tech (3-0) – The Red Raiders take a bit of a dive in the power rankings this week, thanks to a 35-34 win over Nevada. Texas Tech needed a last-minute touchdown pass on fourth and goal from quarterback Seth Doege to beat the Wolf Pack. The good news is the Raiders are undefeated entering Big 12 play. However, receiver Darrin Moore suffered an ankle injury against Nevada and his status for Saturday’s game against Kansas is uncertain.
10. Kansas (2-1) – The Jayhawks had their only bye week of the season on Saturday and will be back in action against Texas Tech this week. The Kansas defense needs to find some answers, especially after allowing 66 points to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets are rolling on offense, the Jayhawks still need to be better on this side of the ball in conference play.
Michael Vick's broken right hand will keep the Phildelphia Eagles' quarterback out of the lineup for the next 3-4 weeks.
Vick broke his non-throwing hand when he was hit by a borderline late-hit by Giants DT Chris Canty.
The Eagles have a bye in week 7, which means there's a good chance that they have to find a replacement until week 8. The Eagles play the 49ers at home in Week 4, then go on the road to the surprising 3-0 Buffalo Bills in week 5 and to division rival Washington in week 6.
So aside from the lowly 49ers, the Eagles will most likely be without Vick for two difficult road games.
And now it seems that all the preseason prognostications are coming true. Vick has only one full season under his belt and he's the type of player who plays the game with reckless abandon. His body takes a beating every game when his offensive line is decent, but this year, the Eagles' offensive line woes have opened him up to even more abuse than normal.
And for a guy who's only 5'10" and not built like a bowling ball (think Mike Tolbert) all these hits are taking a toll quicker than most thought.
Vick's broken hand will leave the Eagles with a big question: who will fill in for their injured star?
Mike Kafka, who came in when Vick went down with a concussion in week two to play better than expected, didn't fare so well against the Giants. He came in and put up two interceptions and did not look good.
But this is why the Eagles signed Vince Young. They knew that Vick was going to go down at some point, and now this is his chance to step in and take the reigns. Vince is still nursing a hamstring injury, but the Eagles have to hope that he can step in and make sure the offense doesn't miss to much of a beat.
The reason they signed a guy like Young is because he plays the quarterback position similar to Vick, in that they're both quarterbacks that defenses have to worry about taking off and running. A guy like Kafka plays a more classic quarterback position, which completely changes the offensive playbook, while Young can come in and run the same exact offense Vick did (almost.)
This is a huge test for the so-called Dream Team. But so far, this season has been a nightmare for the 1-2 Eagles.
Michael Vick's hand isn't broken after all. Updating a previous news item earlier today, the Eagles' quarterback has a contusion and deep bruise instead of what was originally diagnosed as a fracture.
During the Eagles game against the Giants, the team gave Vick's hand an X-ray, and the result appeared to be a broken bone. But apparently blood vessels can sometimes make bones look broken.
Right now Vick's hand is swollen, but he will probably miss no more than one week. And there's an outside chance he could play this week. They just need the swelling to go down and for some of the sensitivity (ie pain) to go away before Andy Reid and his staff make a call on whether he can play or not.
It's been a rollercoaster couple of weeks for Vick and the injury report. His status was up in the air last week after he sustained a concussion against the Falcons, but he ended up playing. Don't count Vick out again this week, after it was initially thought he'd miss a month.
By Steven Lassan and Mitch Light
Texas A&M has announced its intentions to apply for membership in the SEC. The Aggies intend to join the SEC in time for the 2012 season. However, the conference can't stay at 13 teams forever. Which teams could be on Mike Slive's wish list to be team No. 14?
SEC Expansion Candidates
Pros: If the SEC doesn’t want to be viewed as a “conference killer”, Louisville could be an easy and safe choice as the 14th team. The program draws well when it wins and has proven it can compete at a high level nationally. Great fit geographically. Puts SEC into a large pseudo-Southern city. Great basketball team with sparkling new arena. Football stadium is relatively new and in great shape.
Cons: The SEC is unlikely to expand within its current footprint for a 14th team. Kentucky would likely object to an in-state rival joining the conference. Program draws well but doesn’t have a lot of fans outside of the city of Louisville. A longshot to join the SEC.
Pros: The SEC would like to expand to new markets, and Maryland definitely fits that criteria. The Terrapins could help attract the Washington, D.C. market – a potentially lucrative area for the SEC.
Cons: Program has struggled to keep its head above water in the ACC, which has been considerably weaker than the SEC in recent seasons. Would not be the best fit geographically.
Pros: Would attract new large metro areas for the SEC with St. Louis and Kansas City. Seems like an odd match at first, but actually a good geographic fit. Football program has raised its profile in recent seasons; should be able to compete in the SEC. Would give Arkansas a geographic rival.
Cons: Very few. The Tigers seem committed to the Big 12, but will that change in the coming weeks? Depending on how expansion plays out with the other conferences, Missouri could be courted by the Big Ten.
Pros: If the SEC can’t land North Carolina, then why not target its in-state rival? The Wolfpack could be the wildcard in terms of SEC expansion. Seems to be a good fit culturally for the SEC and would bring the conference into North Carolina, a state SEC schools like to recruit in. Program has a ton of potential and could be very competitive, with the right coach in the SEC.
Cons: Very few. The Wolfpack are a charter member of the ACC – would they be willing to leave that conference behind? Would they want to separate from North Carolina?
Pros: If the SEC wants to get into North Carolina, the Tar Heels would be atop the wish list. SEC schools like to recruit in North Carolina and this would open the door for the conference to expand its footprint. With the right coach, North Carolina can be very competitive in the SEC. The resources are there to compete for conference championships.
Cons: Expansion seems to be all about football – would North Carolina basketball want to leave the ACC? The Tar Heels are also a charter member of the ACC, which could make it more difficult to leave. Would North Carolina want to leave behind in-state rival NC State in conference expansion?
Pros: Adding the Hokies would be a huge catch for the SEC. This would bring the conference into Virginia, one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. Great fit culturally and geographically. Program recruits well and draws well. When the SEC adds a 14th team, it’s about new markets and expanding its reach. Virginia Tech fits both criteria and is a perfect fit for the conference.
The SEC reportedly rejected West Virginia's application for membership last week. However, don't write off the Mountaineers just yet.
Pros: Very competitive in the Big East in football and basketball. A new area for the SEC to expand its footprint. The SEC doesn’t want to be viewed as a “conference killer,” and West Virginia could be an easy target from the Big East. The Mountaineers have SEC-like support and wouldn’t be too much of a stretch geographically. Could help the SEC expand its recruiting into Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Cons: The Mountaineers won’t bring in a huge television market, but that’s the only drawback for the SEC.
Rumored candidates, but slim chance they join the SEC
Clemson – Has a great rivalry with South Carolina, but would not bring the SEC any new markets. The Gamecocks probably wouldn’t want another school from the same state in the conference.
Florida State – Although Florida State might be the best addition in terms of a football powerhouse, the Seminoles remain an unrealistic target. Could Florida block any potential application for Florida State into the SEC? Just like Clemson and Georgia Tech, the Seminoles wouldn’t add anything to the footprint of the SEC.
Georgia Tech – Any negatives for Georgia Tech are largely the same as Clemson and Florida State – the Yellow Jackets don’t bring the SEC any new markets.
Oklahoma – All signs point to Oklahoma being more interested in the Pac-12 than the SEC.
Texas – Getting two teams into Texas would be a nice addition for the SEC, but it’s unlikely the Longhorns would be ready to give up their television network and go for equal revenue sharing.
Also Read: Should Missouri Join the SEC?
by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
After a lengthy process, Texas A&M has officially said goodbye to the Big 12 and is off to the SEC. The Aggies nearly made the move in the summer of 2010, after Texas and a couple of other Big 12 teams nearly left to create a Pac-16 conference. However, there’s no turning back now: Texas A&M is the 13th member into the SEC.
Although the Big 12 was patched together last summer, the hard feelings from the 2010 realignment phase couldn’t be completely mended. Texas A&M was still unhappy over Texas’ Longhorn Network and even though it can’t show high school games, the divide was simply too deep.
The Aggies will join the SEC in time for the 2012 season, but will have to pay an exit fee to the Big 12. With the Big 12 surviving after a potential breakup last week, the buyout for Texas A&M is still being negotiated.
Texas A&M is the third school to depart the Big 12 since the end of the 2009 season, with Nebraska joining the Big Ten and Colorado joining the Pac-12.
What It Means for the SEC
The SEC didn’t need to expand, but acquiring Texas A&M is a solid acquisition for commissioner Mike Slive. The Aggies are a good geographic fit in the SEC West and getting into Texas will only help expand the reach of the conference.
Although SEC teams already dipping into Texas for prospects, expect this move to help open more doors on the recruiting trail.
The Aggies decision to join the SEC sets up an interesting 2012 season. Texas A&M is the conference’s 13th member and some scheduling issues will have to be worked out.
Also, what does the SEC plan to do about team No. 14? Although reports have indicated the SEC would be fine playing with 13 teams for a year, it’s unlikely the conference would continue with that model for long.
Expect North Carolina, NC State, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Missouri to be on the wish list for the SEC.
What it means for the Big 12
The long-term viability of the Big 12 is unknown. Although the conference was held together last week, it's uncertain if the Big 12 will exist in 10 years. After losing three schools, the conference has taken a hit in reputation and needs to make a splash in expansion. As long as Texas and Oklahoma want to stick together, the Big 12 will likely exist. However, it cannot continue to lose teams and expect to remain one of the top BCS conferences.
The Big 12 has already discussed potential replacements, which include Arkansas, BYU and Notre Dame. Arkansas and Notre Dame? Forget about it. BYU makes a lot of sense, especially since it seems to be the most competitive option in terms of available teams for football.
If BYU doesn’t go to the Big 12, the conference could look at Air Force, Houston, SMU, TCU or West Virginia or Louisville from the Big East. Although the Big 12 was expected to stay at 10 teams last season, the conference is expected to consider expanding to 12 teams.
Good or Bad Move for Texas A&M?
Many people are not sold this is a good move for Texas A&M, but this decision does make sense on a couple of levels. The Aggies can move a little out of Texas’ shadow and are in a conference with more stability. Also, the SEC has an equal revenue sharing model and should be able to bring in another huge television contract with its next deal. The Aggies fit the geographic model of the conference and should become rivals with Arkansas and LSU.
Although Texas A&M is joining a conference with more stability, the downside is the overall competition. The Aggies are moving into the toughest conference in college football. And the path to a national and conference title was easier in the Big 12.
Texas A&M’s All-time Record Against SEC Schools
Alabama – Crimson Tide lead overall series 3-1
Arkansas – Razorbacks lead overall series 40-24-3
Auburn – Aggies lead overall series 2-0
Florida – Series is tied 1-1
Georgia – Aggies lead overall series 3-2
Kentucky – Series is tied 1-1
LSU – Tigers lead overall series 27-20-3
Ole Miss – Aggies lead overall series 4-0
Mississippi State – Bulldogs lead overall series 3-2
South Carolina – Never played
Tennessee – Volunteers lead overall series 2-0
Vanderbilt – Never played
History of Teams Joining the SEC
Alabama - 1932
Arkansas - 1991
Auburn - 1932
Florida - 1932
Georgia - 1932
Kentucky - 1932
LSU - 1932
Mississippi State - 1932
Ole Miss - 1932
South Carolina - 1991
Tennessee - 1932
Vanderbilt - 1932
Distance from College Station to SEC Schools
Alabama (Tuscaloosa) - 629 miles
Arkansas (Fayetteville) - 503 miles
Auburn - 756 miles
Florida (Gainesville) - 925 miles
Georgia (Athens) - 896 miles
Kentucky (Lexington) - 981 miles
LSU (Baton Rouge) - 340 miles
Mississippi State (Starkville) - 571 miles
Ole Miss (Oxford) - 615 miles
South Carolina (Columbia) - 1,035 miles
Tennessee (Knoxville) - 936 miles
Vanderbilt (Nashville) - 770 miles
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 4 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. West Virginia (3-1) – The Mountaineers gave one of the best teams in college football their best punch, but came up short. West Virginia’s passing attack shredded LSU for 463 yards and two scores, but quarterback Geno Smith also threw two picks. The Mountaineers’ offensive line came into this game under fire, but played well and did not allow a sack. West Virginia is home against Bowling Green this Saturday.
2. South Florida (4-0) – The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 closed a bit this week. However, the Mountaineers will hold onto the top spot for now. The Bulls easily dispatched UTEP on Saturday, defeating the Miners 52-24. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is off to a great start this season, throwing for 1,071 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception. South Florida opens up Big East play this week, as they travel to Heinz Field to take on Pittsburgh.
3. Cincinnati (3-1) – What a difference a year makes. After finishing near the bottom of college football in turnover margin, the Bearcats are ranked No. 1 in the nation through four weeks. It’s no secret Cincinnati is back in contention for the Big East title, as eliminating turnovers was a huge step in the right direction for this team. The Bearcats hit the road for a tricky non-conference matchup against Miami (OH). The RedHawks are off to an 0-3 start, but were picked as one of the MAC’s top teams in the preseason.
4. Pittsburgh (2-2) – The fourth quarter has not been kind to the Panthers over the last two weeks. Pittsburgh blew a 24-10 lead over Iowa in Week 3 and lost a 12-7 lead to Notre Dame on Saturday. The offense continues to sputter, as quarterback Tino Sunseri continues to struggle with his deep ball and the offensive line has allowed 19 sacks through four games. Pittsburgh is back at home this week, as they host South Florida in a Thursday night showdown at Heinz Field.
5. Syracuse (3-1) – Sometimes you need a little luck to win games. Syracuse was the benefactor of a horrible call in Saturday's game against Toledo, which improved the Orange to 3-1 on the year. The officiating crew incorrectly ruled an extra point was good, even though replays seem to clearly show it was off to the left. Although there's no guarantee it would have changed the outcome of the game, it's still a careless mistake that officials can't afford to make. Syracuse hosts Rutgers in the Big East opener for both teams this Saturday.
6. Rutgers (2-1) – The Scarlet Knights were a trendy upset pick in Week 4, but took care of business against Ohio. The offense has been under scrutiny all year, but collected 410 yards against the Bobcats. Receiver Mohamed Sanu delivered with a big performance, catching 16 passes for 176 yards and two scores. The Scarlet Knights hit the road for the Big East opener against Syracuse this Saturday.
7. Louisville (2-1) – The Cardinals had a bye last Saturday. The off week came at a good time for this team, as quarterback Will Stein suffered an injury against Kentucky, but the bye will give him time to return to full health for Saturday. The offensive line could get a boost with the return of center Mario Benavides. The junior has returned to workouts, but will likely be a gametime decision for Week 5. The Cardinals host Marshall this Saturday.
8. Connecticut (2-2) – The Huskies snapped a two-game losing streak with a 17-3 win over Buffalo. It was another lethargic performance on offense, as Connecticut managed only 293 yards. Quarterback Johnny McEntee completed 12 of 21 passes for 213 yards and two scores and did not throw an interception for the first time in two games. The offense may have found a new weapon in receiver Nick Williams, who caught two passes for 113 yards and one touchdown. Connecticut hosts Western Michigan this Saturday.