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by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jimmie Johnson Looked like the typical Chase race for Johnson ... until he was bit by the fuel bug. Still, how many teams do you know can run out of fuel on the final lap and still finish 10th?
2. Kevin Harvick True to form, “The Closer” was running down Tony Stewart in the closing laps at Chicago. However, this time he came up short. Still your championship leader, though.
3. Jeff Gordon We’ll give Gordon a mulligan for being so far off at Chicagoland. The way he was running, you know he was thinking, “Where’s Menard when you need him?”
4. Carl Edwards Edwards was one of a few Chase drivers who benefited when gas tanks started running dry. Mainly because his did not.
5. Brad Keselowski Keselowski’s unlikely run continues. Like Edwards, he was the beneficiary of a race finishing on fumes. Were he allowed to use his 30 bonus points, he’d be the points leader.
6. Tony Stewart Smoke finally nabbed his first victory of 2011. And give him credit — his pit crew was solid, the car was fast and it got good mileage. This one was no fuel mileage fluke.
7. Ryan Newman Newman finds himself sixth, just 14 points out of the Chase lead, after an eighth in Chicago. Odds are he’ll be one of the drivers to beat this weekend.
With the Pac-12’s decision not to expand and the Big 12 surviving for now, BYU will be a team in high demand. The Big 12 is currently at nine teams with Texas A&M’s departure to the SEC and the conference is expected to explore expansion to provide stability.
The Cougars are in their first season of football independence, but will that last? BYU should be target No. 1 for any Big 12 expansion and an invite to join for 2012 could be coming in the next couple of months.
In addition to BYU, the conference is rumored to be interested in West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati from the Big East. SMU, Houston and Air Force have also been mentioned. However, considering the Big East teams recently met to commit to the conference and SMU, Houston and Air Force don’t add much to the conference, BYU stands out as the clear option for any Big 12 expansion.
Not only is BYU a great fit geographically, but it would be competitive right away in the Big 12. Competing in the Big 12 is a step up from the Mountain West, but the Cougars would have the opportunity to play for an automatic bid into the BCS every year.
There’s no question BYU should accept a bid to the Big 12 if it’s offered. Although the Cougars would be ditching Independence after one year, it’s the smart thing to do.
The Cougars can schedule nationally as an Independent, but the Big 12 can provide just as much exposure with its new television contract. Playing on ESPN, ABC, FX and Fox will be a solid showcase for any program.
The Big 12 had some issues with Texas’ Longhorn Network, but BYU’s television network – BYUtv – wouldn’t be an issue. BYUtv won’t be televising any high school games or highlights and the network is geared mostly for educational purposes.
If the Big 12 calls – and it should – BYU would be foolish to say no.
Consider this: If the Big 12 breaks apart in 10 years, BYU can always go back to being an Independent.
What’s BYU got to lose? Joining the Big 12 (if offered) is a no-brainer for the Cougars.
If the Cougars turn down a spot in the Big 12, they would be making a big mistake.
Who knows what conferences could look like in 10 years? If super conferences are really around the corner, BYU would be on the inside, rather than the outside if they are an Independent.
by Matt Taliaferro
Just days ago, Tony Stewart called himself an underdog in the Chase for the Championship. Two weeks prior, he wondered aloud whether his No. 14 team even deserved a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs. On Monday, Stewart proved he’s no underdog — and he surely belongs in the company of title contenders — as the two-time Cup champion kicked off the Sprint Cup Series’ Chase by saving enough fuel to outlast the field in the GEICO 400 from Chicagoland Speedway.
Stewart, who co-owns the Chevrolet-backed Stewart-Haas Racing organization, entered the Chase in a four-way tie for last in the 12-driver field. However, his No. 14 team had shown encouraging signs of competitiveness since a head-scratching 28th-place run at Bristol on August 27, with a third at Atlanta and a seventh in last weekend’s regular season finale in Richmond.
“I’m not sure one weekend can do that,” Stewart said in reference to a change of outlook. “But I feel better about it, obviously. We’ve had three good weekends in a row. Today doesn’t change my mind, but the last three weeks definitely make me feel better about it.
“We’ve still got nine hard weeks to go. And we have some tracks that have been a struggle this year, so we’ve got a long way to go but this gets us off to the right start.”
Stewart’s No. 14 crew did not get off to a good start at Chicago. Although he said the car felt good in practice, they only qualified 26th. A methodical march through the field found him at the front after a restart with 62 laps remaining. But a long green-flag run over the event’s final 50 laps had every crew chief on pit road calculating fuel mileage to the last drop.
Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth swapped the lead numerous times over the final run, but when Truex pitted for fuel, Stewart only had to feather the throttle and hold a pretty wheel — even with Kevin Harvick in hot pursuit.
A number of Chase contenders — including Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch — ran out of gas on the last lap, while others — Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch — had just enough to bring it home.
As such, Harvick, Earnhardt, Edwards and Keselowski rounded out the top 5.
“I felt like we had saved a fair amount of gas under caution in the first 15, 18 laps, and (I) never really had to push my car very hard and just kind of maintained the pace that I was running,” Harvick said. “And as we got a couple of gaps we were able to shut it off five or six times. And when Gil said ‘Go,’ I guessed it about right, (because I) ran out off pit road there after we took the checkered flag. Good calculation by the guys and good solid day.”
Like Stewart, it was Harvick’s third consecutive top 10. He capped off the regular season with a win in last weekend’s Richmond race and entered the Chase tied for the No. 1 seed with Kyle Busch.
Harvick maintained the position with his second-place finish, and sits seven points in front of Stewart in the standings.
Denny Hamlin took the biggest points hit in the Chase. After squeaking in as a wild card entry, Hamlin’s day quickly deteriorated when he was forced to pit on lap 86 with a vibration, falling two laps off the pace. After earning one lap back, a shredded left front tire dropped last season’s Chase runner-up three laps off the pace. He finished 31st and finds himself 41 points out of the Chase lead — almost one full race worth of points.
The other Chasers finishes included Kurt Busch (sixth), Newman (eighth), Johnson (10th), Kenseth (21st), Kyle Busch (22nd) and Jeff Gordon (24th).
West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino are known for their high-octane offenses, but both coaches will face difficult tests on Saturday. Alabama and LSU have arguably the best two defenses in the nation, and no one would be surprised if both teams were undefeated when the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa on November 5 in what could be the college football game of the year. However, this weekend should be challenging for both Nick Saban and Les Miles. Alabama had a major scare last year against the Hogs, while the atmosphere in Morgantown and Holgorsen’s offense could be a lethal combination for LSU.
Better shot at an upset: West Virginia or Arkansas?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I'll go with West Virginia, mainly because the Mountaineers are at home. I really like Arkansas, even without Knile Davis, but it's too tall of an order to think that the Razorbacks can win in Tuscaloosa. West Virginia, on the other hand, will have the advantage of the home crowd, which should be at a fever pitch after prepping all day long. After two sluggish performances, WVU played its best game of the season last week en route to a 37–31 win at Maryland. Quarterback Geno Smith was fantastic, throwing for 388 yards against a solid Terrapin defense. He will have to be at his best on Saturday against a ferocious LSU defense. The key to the game, in my opinion, will be red zone scoring. West Virginia will have to score touchdowns when (and if) they get into the red zone and will have to limit LSU to field goals. The Mountaineers will have a hard time winning this game if LSU scores at least three touchdowns.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I believe Arkansas could keep it close against Alabama and possibly pull off the upset in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks had a 20-7 lead in the middle of the third quarter of last year’s game, but two Ryan Mallett fourth-quarter picks let the Tide come back for a 24-20 victory. New quarterback Tyler Wilson must avoid the turnovers (Mallett had three picks) that killed Arkansas in that loss to Bama. The improved Hogs defense should be able to contain the Tide’s conservative offense fairly well, unless Jerry Franklin and crew are dealing with short fields resulting from turnovers. As far as LSU, I think Miles’ bunch will handle the crazy atmosphere in Morgantown and grind out another win. While I see the big boys – Alabama and LSU – both winning, Petrino’s bunch has a good chance if they take care of the football.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’d be very surprised if Arkansas or West Virginia won this Saturday, so I’m going to say neither. The Razorbacks had a good chance to knock off Alabama last season, but couldn’t close the deal in the second half. Although Tyler Wilson is a capable replacement at quarterback, the rebuilt offensive line will be tested by a very good Alabama defense. If I had to give an edge between West Virginia or Arkansas, I think the Mountaineers’ have a slightly better chance. However, considering the struggles of West Virginia’s offensive line, I’m not sure they will be able to get on track offensively. Additionally, LSU’s secondary is one of the best in college football, which will be a difficult test for quarterback Geno Smith.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Frankly, I don't like either one to get the win, but I will go with West Virginia as the more likely candidate. The Mountaineers have yet to play an entire game of football as it stumbled out of the gates against both Marshall and Norfolk State before flipping the switch at halftime. It finally put together an electric first half against Maryland, but slowed to a grinding halt in the second, allowing the Terps to make a big comeback. The game is in Morgantown and the atmosphere will be downright nasty, so if the Mountaineers can put two couch-igniting halves together, LSU could find itself returning to Baton Rouge with an L.
This article on college football realignment originally appeared in our 1998 college football annual. As the college football landscape continues to go through realignment and the whispers of superconferences are still heard (despite the PAC-12's decision to not expand right now), we can learn about the current state of college football by looking back at its history.
The Future of College Football
--by Tony Barnhart
As we peek over the horizon toward the 1998 football season, college football is not unlike the California coast. It is beautiful. It is calm. It is peaceful. All is well.
But just when we’ve finally become comfortable with the fact that it’s okay for the Big Ten to have 11 teams, or that, logistically, it’s easier for Miami to play a home-and-home with Cuba than with any of their comrades in the Big East, there are sign that yet another significant shift is on the way. It is no longer a question of if, but of when this monumental change to the layout of college football’s landscape will take place.
“I’ve said for a while now that I think there will be another reorganization among conferences but when it will is anyone’s guess,” says SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, who is also the boss of the College Bowl Alliance. “My sense is that people are just biding their time, trying to get prepared to make a move when things start happening.”
If the conferences learned only one thing in the last mad scramble of the early ’90, it is this: You snooze, you lose.
Driving the Business
From this core philosophy there have emerged two undeniable truths which have driven the business of college football in the 1990s:
• There are a finite number of television dollars out there and, like it or not, the majority of them will go to those conferences that can deliver the largest number of viewers on any given Saturday. So when your competition for those dollars-i.e., another conference-expands to strengthen those numbers, you stand pat at your own peril.
• Conferences expand not only to improve television number, but also to increase their power base. That power can be used to impact NCAA legislation pertaining not only to football, but to other sports and even the ultimate structure of college athletics. It’s the athletic equivalent of the Cold War as conferences feel they must continually build up their arsenals to assure their survival.
“Sometimes expansion makes more sense politically than it does economically,” says Jim Delaney, Commissioner of the Big Ten. “You have to be aware of those things and take the appropriate action.”
No one knows exactly when the next round of athletic arms buildups will occur. But rest assured, the conferences will be ready to jump into action at the first rumble.
“My wish is that the structure of college football could remain stable a while longer,” says Mike Tranghese, the Commissioner of the imperiled Big East.
“But I’m not naïve enough to believe that it will. There are some powerful forces at work here.”
To understand what is about to transpire, it is beneficial to go back to December 1989, when the entire landscape of college football was changed forever with only one move.
The Big Ten, for so long the big boy on the block when it came to TV, took a bold step by extending an invitation to Penn State, second only to Notre Dame as a successful football Independent. Penn State accepted, and six months later it became official. The Big Ten had added an 11th member in a development that would make the rest of college football world sit up and take notice.
Suddenly, the Big Ten not only had the large Midwestern television markets of Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, but it could also now deliver eastern markets like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Penn State would not begin Big Ten play until the 1993 season, but the reaction to the move was immediate and ramifications could be felt from coast to coast.
“That was the first domino to fall,” says Kramer. “There was no stopping what was about to happen next.”
The other major players in college football, afraid that the Big Ten had now become too powerful, quickly scrambled to improve their own positions:
• Penn State’s decision to seek the shelter of a conference was a sobering signal to a number of Eastern Independents. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech, and Boston College all banded together-and convinced Miami to join them-to form the Big East. They couldn’t play a conference schedule in 1991, but Miami won the championship because it had the highest national ranking.
• By 1992, the SEC had added two teams (South Carolina and Arkansas) to form the first 12-team league that would be split in two divisions. Then, to the derision of many skeptics, the SEC launched the idea of a conference championship game. Those skeptics quickly changed their turn upon learning that the conference championship game generated an extra $4.5 million each year for the SEC.
• That same year, the ACC, over the protests from the traditionalists in its ranks, added Florida State and immediately improved its television clout.
That was the first wave of change. Then came another watershed event in February of 1994. The CFA television package with ABC and ESPN, which included all the major conferences except the Big Ten and Pac-10, fell apart when the SEC bolted and signed its own five-year $125 million deal that would begin in 1996.
After that, it became every man for himself as the conferences scrambled for their share of the pie.
• The Southwest Conference, which was formed in 1914, had to face reality. With eight schools all in the same state, it just didn’t have the muscle to compete in this brave new world. So its four most powerful members (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor) joined the Big Eight to form the Big 12.
• Three other SWC members (SMU, Rice, TCU) joined the WAC, which took the expansion idea to another level. Along with the three SWC teams, it added Independent Tulsa and Big West defectors San Jose State and Nevada-Las Vegas.
Beginning in 1996, the WAC was a 16-team league which covered nine states and four time zones.
Since all this shuffling, each of the conferences has cut its own television deals. The conferences banded together to form the Bowl Coalition, which begat the Bowl Alliance, which this season begat the Super Alliance.
For the first time this season, all the major conferences will work together in the postseason to put together a 1 vs. 2 game for the national championship. Each season, it seems, both the product and process become more refined.
What Happens Next?
Conference commissioners and others directly involved in the college football business are reluctant to discuss their issue in great detail. They don’t want to tip their hands on what their potential moves might be once the changes begin. But here, based on a number of interviews with the movers and shakers of college football, is a reasonably clear picture of what the next set of major shakeups in the sport will probably be.
On this point they all agree: The first move will again be made by the Big Ten.
When Penn State became the 11th member back in 1993, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the Big Ten added a 12th school and, like the SEC and Big 12, went to divisional play and a lucrative conference championship game.
And there is no secret about which school the Big Ten would like to tap as its 12th member. It is, of course, the mother lode of college football properties: The University of Notre Dame.
Conventional wisdom says that Notre Dame will never give up its Independent status as long as it has the lucrative and exclusive television contact with NBC. Chances are that will remain true. While the other Independents were finding safe shelter among the conferences, Notre Dame still has the clout to do it alone.
A key here: In order to remain an Independent, Notre Dame has to eventually come to some understanding with the Bowl Alliance so that in the down years, the Irish don’t get stuck in the Independence Bowl, as they did in 1997. A few more trips to Shreveport and Notre Dame will run screaming into the arms of the Big Ten. The bet here is that ND and the bowls get things worked out and the Irish remain independent.
After taking its best shot at Notre Dame, the Big Ten will return to the strategy which originally brought Penn State into the fold, that of adding to its impressive lineup of powerful television markets. Can you say New York? Can you say Syracuse University? Yes, I thought you could.
In public, the folks at Syracuse will tell you they feel just dandy about being in the Big East. But in their heart of hearts, they know that if the Big Ten calls, they must listen. This Big East, with the competitive demise of Miami and with waning interest among the bowls, has at best a shaky football future.
Even Tranghese, whose job it is to hold the Big East together, has told Syracuse that it must listen to the Big Ten because he can’t guarantee what the future will bring.
So friends, mark it down. Syracuse will jump to the Big Ten and since there’s already a Big 12, what they will call this conference is anybody’s guess.
Oh, by the way. After Syracuse jumps, all hell is going to break loose.
“You hope nothing drastic happens but you can’t live with your head in the sand either.” Says Tom Mickle, the associate commissioner of the ACC. “You have to have some idea of your next move if things start happening.”
There are some disagreements on a few points, but roughly, this will be the sequence of events once Syracuse jumps to the Big Ten:
• The Big East will be out of the football business and Trandhese will begin to scramble, looking for homes for its football-playing members. Some of those schools will find a new home in the ACC.
• The ACC will have another major philosophical battle over expansion. The traditionalists will argue that the ACC doesn’t have to follow the pack, that they can go at it alone with nine members. They will argue that it will only hurt the conferences if it had to further divide the league’s most precious commodity-tickets to the ACC Basketball Tournament.
But the ACC has had significant turnover among its athletic directors since the discussions of 1991, further weakening the power of the traditionalist. The pragmatists will rule the day, and the ACC will bring in three Big East refugees: Miami, Boston College, and Rutgers.
Miami is a no-brainer. Academically, it is in tune with the other ACC members and all indications are that under Butch Davis, the football program is cleaning up its act. It would also give the ACC two of Florida’s big three school and anchors on both ends of the state.
The ACC will pass on Virginia Tech and West Virginia, schools with greater geographical proximity to current members, in favor of strengthening its position in the larger eastern television markets. The Boston and New York markets are too rich to pass up.
• Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh will begrudgingly accept invitations to Conference USA. The remaining Big East member, Temple, should recognize this turmoil as its cue to get out of the football business.
• The Pac-10, never wanting to be outdone by the Big Ten, becomes hot to trot for expansion. It will make another run at Texas and Texas A&M, which it did unsuccessfully several years ago. But once again, the Texas state legislature will remind the schools that it controls the purse strings, and that no Texas team is going to be a member of a left-coast conference.
When that effort fails, the Pac-10 will reach out and finally touch Colorado, which has long wanted to be a member, because the Buffs practically live in California when it comes time to recruit. Plus, the lifestyle and attitude of Boulder is more akin to Seattle and Los Angeles than Lincoln, Neb. And Manhattan, Kan.
For its 12th team, the Pac-10 will look around the West for another school that plays strong football. Bringham Young, which to its considerable anger got left out of the Alliance bowls with a 13-1 record in 1996, will make the jump.
• With Colorado gone, the Big 12 will think long and hard about a replacement and will finally invite Southern Methodist. SMU, which went to the WAS when the Southwest Conference folded, is on the way back in football under second-year coach Mike Cavan. The school is about to build a new, on-campus football facility, and Cavan has been given the financial commitment by the administration to make the Mustangs competitive once more. The Dallas market is one the Big 12 cannot ignore.
• The SEC will stand pat with its 12 teams and high television revenue, unless Arkansas uses this opportunity to get out. The Razorbacks left the Southwest Conference just before it folded and financially, has benefitted enormously from being in the SEC. Competitively, however, the Hogs have struggled in football. They won an SEC West title in 1995, but other than that, it’s been a tough road. Arkansas football is struggling. Back in the days when it was winning Southwest Conference championships, the state of Texas was its most fertile recruiting ground. One of the keys to recruiting Texas is going into that state and winning, which it did. When Arkansas stopped playing in Texas, it stopped getting players from that talent-rich state.
Word from inside Arkansas and inside the SEC is that Arkansas will never leave its current home as long as Frank Broyles is the athletic director. Last year the SEC divided over $58 billion in revenues among its 12 members. The bounty would not be as great in the Big 12.
• The WAC, which turned into an unwieldy 16-team league in the previous round of expansion, will lose three members in the next round, and add a school from the Big West (we guess Nevada over Utah State and New Mexico State). The conference will miss BYU, its most celebrated program, and struggle without any major media markets.
• Conference USA does the most work of all, in hopes of getting a better television contract. In addition to picking up Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech from the Big East, C-USA will also get Rice and TCU from the WAC, forming a 14-team league that stretches from West Point, NY (Army) in the East, to Fort Worth, TX (TCU) in the Southwest. It truly will be a Conference USA.
• Many independents, particularly in the south, will find life alone in Division I-A difficult at best. Scheduling problems and being completely shut out of bowl money will drive the remaining indies to unify. Middle Tennessee will move from I-AA to I-A in 1999 and join other southern independents Central Florida, Southwestern Louisiana, Northeast Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, and Arkansas State to form a league, and hopefully generate bowl clout.
One scenario would have this league champion playing the Big West champ in the Humanitarian Bowl. Or perhaps the Music City Bowl in Nashville would be a good fit.
The SEC and Mid-America Conferences stand pat. The Big East folds.
Not only does BYU shake the less-revenue-producing schools from the lower division of the WAC, but at last gains a legitimate shot at Bowl Alliance bid.
Although a bit heavy with 14 teams, markets like Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Fort Worth are huge pluses. Garnering an Alliance spot is a must for conference legitimacy and C-USA will get a guaranteed spot. The addition of West Virginia gives the league a ready-made football power and large state school, which the league had been missing.
The Miami-Florida State game is now a conference game that the ACC can claim its own, obviously bringing TV money. The addition of the Boston and New York markets is key, and don’t overlook the fact that Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Guthridge love visiting the basketball-rich Northeast on a regular basis.
Anyone would love the move from the WAC, with conference games in California, Utah, and Hawaii, into a conference with four other teams in-state.
The conference championship game is enough to consider the conference a winner, but the Denver market is a plus.
• Big 10
Again, the conference championship game plus another eastern market with Syracuse
• UAB and South Florida
Two schools that did not even have football programs in 1990 will now be members of a Super Alliance conference
For obvious reasons.
• Big East
• Big 12
The media market of Dallas is nice with the addition of SMU, but losing the state of Colorado and the Nebraska-Colorado rivalry hurts.
Losing BYE practically assures the league to be shut out of the Super Alliance.
• Notre Dame
Slowly but surely, the conferences are squeezing the Irish out.
Peace at Last?
Once everything shakes out, all television contracts between the conferences and the networks will have to be renegotiated to reflect the worth of the new leagues. After that is done, and the multi-year agreements are in place, college football will again be at peace. But for how long?
“I’m hoping that after the next round, things are going to stay in place for a long, long time,” says Kramer. “But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. No way.”
The ACC absorbs Miami, Boston College and Rutgers from the Big East. In order to balance the divisions, the four North Carolina schools must be split. North Carolina and Duke for basketball purposes, are separated. North Carolina, as the strongest football program among the four, is placed in the North because the South includes Florida State, Clemson and Miami.
Old Big 10
New Big 10
Syracuse bolts enthusiastically for the Big Ten. The league will still be called the Big Ten even though it has 12 members. Geographically, the split doesn’t make sense, but the two divisions are balanced for both football and hoops.
Old Big 12
New Big 12
When Colorado jumps to the Pac-10, the Big 12 will consider Arkansas, but ask SMU to return from its WAC exile. All five Texas schools will be in the South Division. Missouri agrees to swap to the South because of basketball. The Oklahoma schools are not separated.
San Diego State
San Jose State
San Diego State
San Jose State
The WAC loses BYU, TCU and SMU to expansion. Nevada becomes the newest member.
Old Conference USA
New Conference USA
Colorado eagerly leaves the Big 12 for a conference just one time zone away and the guarantee of at least one home game in California every year. The conference invites BYU instead of Utah, giving the edge to football over basketball. The four California schools are split because of travel. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah (BYU) are adjacent states and closet to Los Angeles (UCLA, USC).
“...when [Dennis] Franchione bolted in 2000 to coach Alabama, TCU barely considered Patterson. He and his second wife were separated, and he hardly projected the smooth leader-of-men look so beloved of chancellors and players’ moms.”
The above passage is from S.L. Price’s recent SI article on Gary Patterson.
If you have ever read Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, you are familiar with what Gladwell calls the “Warren Harding Error.”
Warren G. Harding, regarded by many as one of the worst presidents in American history, received 60% of the national vote in the 1920 election, the highest percentage ever recorded in a U.S. presidential election.
So, how did the American people get it so wrong with Harding? According to Gladwell, people simply used the superficial clues to make a snap decision about a job that requires everything but superficial abilities.
As the quote at the beginning of this article indicates, athletic directors and university presidents are just as susceptible to the Warren Harding Error as the American voting populace.
Far too often head college football coaches are chosen because they look the part. In fact, from our observations, college football coaches are far too frequently hired using false and meaningless clues. Some of those clues include:
1. The school in question is their alma mater.
2. They are from the same area of the country.
3. They are fit and attractive.
4. They can “communicate.”
5. They have “energy.”
6. They have NFL experience.
7. They are young.
8. They just had a great year.
9. They have a “plan.”
10. They are a dynamic “recruiter.”
11. They will be able to relate to the fans.
12. Their interview went really well.
13. They have “integrity” (see Jim Tressel).
14. They can “motivate.”
The whole point of Coaches By The Numbers is to help fans, ADs, Chancellors, media, and anyone who pays any attention to college football and college football coaches in particular go beyond the gut and use additional analysis to make better informed decisions.
For a case in point, let’s turn to UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel.
After the 2007 season, the UCLA Bruins hired Rich Neuheisel to replace outgoing coach Karl Dorrell. He appeared to be the perfect candidate. If you asked someone to draw a picture of what UCLA’s head football coach should look like, they would more than likely draw Rick Neuheisel.
He played quarterback at UCLA.
He is fit and handsome.
He is a motivator.
He is a recruiter.
He looks great in a suit.
He can give one heck of a speech.
He can impress a booster at a cocktail party. He has won 10 or more games three times as a college coach. He won a Rose Bowl in 2000. He has NFL experience. What more analysis do you need?
We could keep going with some of the deeper analysis of Coach Neuheisel, but we think you get the picture: looks can be deceiving.
UCLA went with their gut and a guy that fit every meaningless attribute they considered important in their next head coach. They paid attention to where we went to school, how he looked, how he talked, his NFL experience, and the fact that 10+ years ago he had a decent season or two.
What they didn’t pay attention was the deeper analysis that could be done on Coach Neuheisel. For example, is NFL experience really important for college football coaches (see answer here)?
How do you possibly define or quantify a coach’s ability to “motivate.” Why does it matter if a coach went to the school he is coaching? Why does it matter if he can give a really good speech or dress up and impress a bunch of boosters?
Do soft factors like the ones discussed in this article matter? Of course they matter. The legendary investor Warren Buffett has often stated that he will not purchase a company if he doesn’t trust the character and integrity of its CEO. However, Buffett will not even think to question the character or integrity of the CEO if the balance sheet isn’t appealing. Buffett knows that you have to study the hard factors (the data) before you study the soft.
If you are thinking that analyzing football coaches cannot be done with data, then we humbly welcome you to Coaches By The Numbers: the home of 2+ million pieces of data on coaches and counting. With the information at hand and available for use, why in the world do so many decisions get made at the surface level and based on soft, unmeasurable factors?
Do fans watching a game in 2011 really care if Rick Neuheisel played quarterback for the Bruins in the early 1980′s? Do they care if he can give a rousing speech at the pep rally or after beating a mediocre Tennessee team in 2008? The answer is yes they do. However, they only care about these factors if they are accompanied by winning.
In the world of college sports, for better or for worse, winning covers all.
For example, Georgia Tech’s head coach Paul Johnson is known for his blunt manner, stubbornness, and acerbic wit. When Tech won 21 games, an ACC Championship, and a trip to the Orange Bowl in Johnson’s first two years as the Jackets’ head coach, the fan base was buzzing about how much they loved Johnson’s personality.
When he would stick it to a member of the media after being asked a ridiculously ignorant question about his “high school offense”, the message boards would light up with support for Johnson’s brutally honest personality. However, after last year’s 6-7 season and bowl loss to Air Force, fans were stating that Johnson was too stubborn and that his crabby personality was off-putting to fans, recruits, and the media.
The same could be said for Georgia’s Mark Richt.
In his first five years when the Dawgs were winning 80% of their games and SEC titles, the fans praised Richt’s cool, calm, and collected demeanor. In the last four years, with Georgia winning 64% of its games, fans have started to state that Richt is too calm and passive and not intense enough to win in the vaunted SEC.
Do you think people in Alabama are naming their kids Crimson Tide because of Saban’s shining personality and gentle manner? Or do you think winning SEC and National Championships might be the reason behind such fanatical behavior?
We could go on-and-on with these types of examples, but we think you get the picture.
To come full circle, let’s revisit the quote that started this article: “…..he hardly projected the smooth leader-of-men look so beloved of chancellors and players’ moms.”
There really is nothing smooth about Gary Patterson. In fact, he is outright awkward in just about every way. This being said, he has taken TCU to heights the TCU fan base no longer thought possible, and has done it without being a “motivator”, “recruiter”, “leader”, or “insert meaningless superlative here.” He is more than likely perfectly capable of all of these things, but above all else, Gary Patterson is one heck of a football coach and the hard data is definitely on his side.
Too many AD’s worry about winning the press conference when they should be worried about winning more games. Rick Neuheisel certainly won the press conference, but he hasn’t won much since.
So, the next time your school is in need of a new football coach, be sure the AD, President, and Board don’t treat the decision making process like they are buying an ice cream cone. Demand that they look beyond the surface of how boosters or media will receive him and dig a little deeper to see if the guy can really coach or not.
In the end, if you want to please boosters, fans, and the media, all you have to do is one thing: WIN!
Other CBTN Content:
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the Pac-12 holding off on expanding to 16 teams, Oklahoma and Texas will stay in the Big 12 – for now. However, the conference is expected to pursue expansion and likely attempt to get back to 12 teams.
Texas A&M is out the door and won’t be returning to the SEC, which leaves the Big 12 at nine teams for the 2012 season. The conference could choose to expand to only 10, but getting to 12 would provide more stability.
Which schools could be added to the Big 12?
Air Force: The Falcons are a hot commodity in realignment, as the Big East and Big 12 are likely in pursuit. Air Force has a national fanbase and has been a solid program in the Mountain West. Adding the Falcons would get the Big 12 back into Colorado. However, Air Force has struggled to find success in other sports and isn’t a home run target for the Big 12.
Big East: Although the remaining football schools in the conference have pledged to stick together, there’s no guarantee that happens. The Big 12 needs to take a hard look at getting West Virginia, Louisville, or Cincinnati. Maybe the Big East will survive, but it can’t hurt the Big 12 to try.
Boise State: If the Big 12 is serious about adding competitive options, the Broncos are a good fit and should be near the top. However, it's a longshot Boise State gets a call from the Big 12 with an invitation.
BYU: The Cougars are in the first season of Independence, but would be a great fit for the Big 12. BYU is one of the most competitive football options available and has a national fanbase. There are zero cons about adding BYU to the Big 12, but will the Cougars ditch Independence after one year for a conference still on shaky ground? If the Big 12 is serious about securing its future, BYU should be target No. 1.
Houston: With Texas A&M gone, the Cougars are an attractive target for the conference to get back into Houston. The facilities are in the process of an upgrade, and the program could be very competitive in the Big 12 with BCS money. Houston is a very solid choice for the conference, but may also be a target for the Big East. If the Big 12 wants to strengthen its footprint in Texas, Houston is a very good choice.
Notre Dame: A very, very unlikely candidate. However, the Big 12 will at least place a call to South Bend.
SMU: After suffering from the effects of the death penalty, the Mustangs are finally competitive once again. Coach June Jones has SMU on the right track, which certainly helps to make the program more attractive in realignment. Support isn’t great, but is located in Dallas. Would probably be behind Houston in the pecking order.
TCU: Are the Horned Frogs interested in departing the Big East? With the conference dealing with instability, TCU should be a prime target for the Big 12. However, would Texas let the Horned Frogs in?
The Big 12 was on its deathbed earlier this week, but has somehow survived for the second year in a row. Thanks to the Pac-12’s decision not to expand and add Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech, the Big 12 will continue to exist – for now.
Although the Pac-12 decided not to expand, the Big 12 isn’t going to become one harmonious group overnight.
Oklahoma and Texas still have several issues to work out, particularly what happens with the Longhorn Network and establishing equal revenue distribution.
However, the Pac-12’s decision at least buys the conference and its members a little time to work something out. Oklahoma and Texas reportedly wanted the Big 12 to survive, and now the Pac-12’s announcement gives both schools that opportunity.
Expect both sides to attempt to work out the issues over the next couple of weeks, but there may be a new commissioner involved. Reports out of Oklahoma on Tuesday indicated the Sooners want to see Dan Beebe ousted, and it’s likely other schools in the conference share that desire.
Although Beebe doesn’t deserve all of the blame, like anything that goes wrong, someone has to be the fall guy. The Big 12 needs a commissioner that is a strong leader and will strengthen the conference. And someone that isn’t afraid to push back on Texas, Oklahoma or anyone that might threaten the future of the Big 12.
A new commissioner can work wonders for any conference – see Larry Scott in the Pac-12. Again, Beebe can’t be blamed for everything that occurred, but it seemed he was too interested in giving into all of Texas’ demands and forgetting about the conference’s overall health. It’s interesting to note that none of these issues that popped up in the Big 12 do not occur in the SEC or the Big Ten. Both have equal revenue sharing and it’s about helping build a strong conference – not about individual schools.
Ousting Beebe as commissioner could be the first step in what will be an extended rebuilding phase. The Big 12 must explore expansion and target schools that are going to bring stability. BYU is the perfect target for the conference, but its uncertain if the Cougars will join. If BYU turns down the Big 12, then expect the conference to turn to the Big East, Conference USA and Mountain West for replacements.
The Big 12 also has a decision on whether it wants to expand to 10 or 12 teams. Getting back to 12 would bring more stability and a conference title game for more revenue. However, the Big 12 may not see enough viable candidates to expand back to 12.
Although the Big 12 survived for at least another year, can this group hold together for 10-15 years? Considering the instability the last two seasons and the rift between schools right now, it’s uncertain the conference will be around in 2025.
Since last summer, the Big 12 has lost three solid members – Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M. The conference cannot afford to lose Oklahoma or Texas, which is why it’s imperative those two work out any differences.
The Big 12 can become a long-term success, but if the issues aren’t resolved, we can expect to see the same type of scenario that played out over the last two weeks happen again. Sure, the differences might be pretty wide in some areas, and Texas may refuse to give in on certain things – namely the concerns over the Longhorn Network. However, if Oklahoma and Texas are serious about keeping the Big 12 as a viable conference, it’s time to resolve the differences.
College football was a big winner on Tuesday night with the Pac-12’s decision not to expand. Super conferences may eventually happen, but the Pac-12’s decision not to expand puts that on hold – for now.
If you want realignment talk to end, hope the Big 12 works out all of its issues. If you want super conferences, hope Oklahoma and Texas become more frustrated with the Big 12 and decide to leave. And who knows, maybe the Pac-12 will come calling once again. If Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott sees an opportunity in a couple of years, expect him to take it.
The Big 12 has lived to see another day, but how long will it survive? The next few months could decide whether Tuesday’s announcement by the Pac-12 is just a band-aid for the Big 12 or if this strengthens the conference and this is the last of realignment talk for the next 10-15 years.
--By Josh Kipnis
With October right around the corner, who are the most feared teams in the MLB? Surprising to most, the Yankees and the Phillies aren’t at the top of my list. In fact, the two hottest teams might not even make the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals are on fire right now. The Cardinals have won ten of their last twelve games, while the Rays are almost as hot, winning eight of their last eleven. Still, both teams remain in second in their wild-card races. So the question remains, do these two teams have enough magic in their wands to break into the playoff picture?
Tampa Bay Rays
On September 3, the Tampa Bay Rays were nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL wild-card race. Amazingly, the Rays have cut that down to a miniscule two; leaving people to wonder what manager Joe Maddon is sneaking into the Gatorade cooler.
Pitching: The Rays pitching staff has been solid all year long, ranked first in the American League in ERA. Right-hander James Shields, 15-11, has been a vital arm in their rotation, throwing an ML-leading eleven complete games. The biggest surprise this year has been rookie Jeremy Helickson, 13-10. The frontrunner for AL-Rookie of the Year, he ranks 5th in the AL with a 2.91 ERA. With three other double-digit winners completing the Rays’ rotation, opponents are lucky to get a hit, let alone a run.
Hitting: For the majority of the season the Rays have ranked 15th in the MLB in runs scored. In the month of September, however, Tampa Bay has jumped all the way to 6th. After struggling in the first half of the season, Evan Longoria leads the team with 28 HR and 92 RBI. Commenting on his recent performance, “No matter if you’re hitting .300 with 20 home runs, whatever it is at that point, you always want more.” It seems as if the entire team has adopted this attitude.
Upcoming Schedule: While everything, and I mean everything, has been going the Rays’ way lately, the final ten games of the season could very well turn for the worse. They have shifted into the 6th gear in September, but unfortunately there is a towering pinstripe wall just up the road. The Rays will have to face the New York Yankees seven out of their last ten games. The Yankees lead the season series 6-5.
With their hands full in the Bronx, the Rays are also going to need the Red Sox to continue their monumental struggle. Unfortunately for them, of Boston’s final ten games, seven are against the Baltimore Orioles. Sticking with the car analogy, it’s as if the Orioles are a 15-year old driver’s ed student, while the Rays sit in the passenger seat, bracing themselves to hit ongoing traffic.
Prediction: It is going to be too little, too late for the surging Rays. The Rays could very well take five or six games from the Yankees, but at this point it isn’t in their hands. The Red Sox are up 9-4 in their season series with the Orioles. Expect them to continue that success and take some built up stress out on Baltimore. If the schedule were different, I could find a way to say the Rays will do it, but the Orioles just don’t have it in them.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals find themselves just 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals have won their last four series’, three of which are against playoff-caliber teams. The Red (Hot) Birds took two of three from the NL-Central leading Brewers, swept a three game series against the Braves, and won three of four against the best team in baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies. Any team that can do that much damage, yikes.
Hitting: Although Albert Pujols had a shaky start to the season, he still has a chance to hit .300, 100 RBI, and 30 HR; it would be the 11th straight season putting up those numbers (Can you say machine?). While Berkman and Holliday have each cooled down, the Cardinals are still ranked in the top 6 in the league in runs scored, average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Not enough for you, check out their past two performances; they scored four runs on both Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.
Bullpen: The only aspect of their game worth improving upon right now is their bullpen. Still struggling to find the right man to close out their games, the Cardinals are 3rd in the MLB in blown saves with 25.
Upcoming Schedule: With nine remaining games on their schedule, the Cardinals get to play six more in St. Louis. Not only that, but they are against the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals final series of the season is against the Houston Astros who sit at the very bottom of the NL-Central.
The Braves next five games look just as easy as the Cardinals’, but they are all on the road as they face the Florida Marlins two more times and the Washington Nationals in a three game series. The final three games of their season are against the Philadelphia Phillies, who are up on the Braves in the season series 6-9.
Prediction: The Braves seem as if they have forgotten how to play baseball. In last night’s game, the Braves led 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs. Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins hit a high chopper to third base, but the curse hovering over the Braves played a trick on veteran Chipper Jones, who lost the big hop in the lights and allowed it to drop for a base hit. The next batter, Omar Infante, blasted a ball to deep left field, sealing the deal in walk-off fashion. I would not be all that surprised if they drop one more to the Marlins in the final two games of this series.
I’m going to have to say that the Cardinals will complete this comeback and snag the last playoff spot in the National League. The Cardinals have players who know how to win when the pressure in on. With their impressive wins, and the devastating losses the Braves are suffering, I think the Cardinals have what it takes to play ball in October.
Despite all of the rumors and uncertainty involving college football and realignment, Notre Dame has continued to maintain independence is priority No. 1. Although super conferences appeared to be on the horizon earlier this week, the Pac-12 decided not to expand and for now, the Big 12 will survive.
Although Notre Dame could be forced to join a conference in the future, the Irish were a big winner in the latest round of college football realignment. Notre Dame maintained its independence without much of a concern, thanks to what transpired across the conferences earlier this week.
The Big Ten, ACC, Big East and Big 12 have all expressed interest in adding the Irish for football, but those plans will have to wait until the next round of realignment.
Why does Notre Dame want to remain Independent?
National television audience: Although the Irish could make more television money on the Big Ten Network, no team has an advantage with a national audience like Notre Dame. A good chunk of games are on NBC, which gives the Irish an opportunity to be seen by millions of people every Saturday. Great for recruiting.
National Recruiting: Most teams and conferences base a lot of their recruiting in the region they are in. However, since Notre Dame plays a national schedule and is not affiliated with any conference, the Irish have a recruiting base that expands anywhere across the United States.
Scheduling: Playing in the Big Ten could actually be easier on Notre Dame’s schedule. However, the Irish prefer to have a national slate every year, which definitely helps visibility in recruiting. If Notre Dame joined the Big Ten, it could probably continue to schedule USC or Stanford, but some of the flexibility would be gone.
The landscape in college football is due to change in the future. However, the Irish are in a good position to choose their path.
Other sports outside of football will continue to compete in the Big East, barring any collapse of the conference. At least for the next couple of years, Notre Dame is set as an independent in football. And that’s exactly what it wants. While it may not be the most popular decision among college football fans, the Irish continue to maintain their belief independence is the best course of action for Notre Dame.
There’s little doubt the Irish cherish their independence and as each rumor about conference realignment pops up, things start to get a little uneasy in South Bend.
There will come a time where Notre Dame has to consider joining the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC or Big East. But not in 2011.
The Pac-12’s decision not to expand made the Irish a big winner on Tuesday night and barring a drastic change in the college football landscape, Notre Dame plans on remaining independent.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top ten Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.
Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place player receives one point.
Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles didn't post big numbers this weekend, but both helped lead the Sooners to the biggest win thus far by any team in the nation when Oklahoma left Tallahassee with a W. Both still find themselves in the top ten as Big 12 conference play begins.
The biggest mover has been Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. The nation's No. 2 passer has added a totally new dimension to an already potent Badger offensive attack. Wilson has UW leading the Big Ten in scoring offense (45 ppg) and total offense (505.7 ypg).
And the nation's leading rusher has been inching up the standings each week of the season...
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (85/90 total points, 7/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 57/85, 786 yards, 8 TD, INT, 8 att., 47 yards, TD
Just another ho-hum late-night performance by the best player in America. In a 37-10 thumping of Pac-12 foe Arizona on the road, Luck completed 20 of his 31 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 36 yards and didn’t turn the ball over – again. It marks the 15th time in his career that he didn’t throw an interception. Next Game: UCLA
|2.||Kellen Moore||QB||Boise St||75||-||5||2||2||-||9|
|3.||Marcus Lattimore||RB||South Carolina||73||1||2||4||1||1||9|
|4.||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||66||-||3||-||4||1||9|
|8.||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma St||28||-||-||-||1||-||8|
|11.||Michael Floyd||WR||Notre Dame||3||-||-||-||-||-||1|
|13.||Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma St||3||-||-||-||-||-||1|
|16.||David Wilson||RB||Virginia Tech||2||-||-||-||-||-||1|
|17.||Ronnie Hillman||RB||San Diego St||2||-||-||-||-||-||2|
|19.||Lamar Miller||RB||Miami, Fla.||1||-||-||-||-||-||1|
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (75 pts)
Season Stats: 60/76, 716 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT, 2 att., 2 yards
What's not to like about 455 yards and five touchdowns on 76-percent passing on the road against Toledo? It was Moore's 40th career victory in 42 career starts, as he finished with his second-highest yardage total of his career (507). This is what he will have to do week in and week out in order to make it to New York as the only test left on the schedule is TCU at home. Next Game: Tulsa
3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (73)
Season Stats: 87 att., 534 yards, 7 TD, 9 rec., 66 yards
Lattimore is the most talented running back in the nation and in a closer than hoped three-point win over Navy, he was the workhorse Cocks fans have grown to love. He carried 37 times for 246 yards and three scores in the win over the Naval Academy. Lattimore now leads the nation in rushing at 178 yards per game. Next Game: Vanderbilt
4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (66)
Season Stats: 41/49, 624 yards, 8 TD, 0 INT, 18 att., 116 yards
Most quarterbacks would be happy with 300 yards per game, a 2-0 record and a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, RG3 is operating at a 1:1 touchdown-to-INCOMPLETION ratio — which is downright unheard-of. His 244.52 QB-rating is still leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the country. Griffin III is the most dynamic human being playing quarterback in this great country (sorry Michael Vick) and is easily the most valuable college football player in the nation. Baylor's schedule doesn't get hard until October 15: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri. Next Game: Rice
5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (48)
Season Stats: 53/74, 574 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 att., -8 yards, TD
The numbers might not have been pretty (18-of-27, 199 yards, TD, 2 INT), but the result on the scoreboard is all that matters. Jones led his Sooner team into a rocking Doak Campbell stadium and pulled off the biggest win by any team in all of college football thus far in 2011. The first big conference test awaits this week. Next Game: Missouri
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (35)
Season Stats: 50/66, 791 yards, 8 TD, INT, 11 att., 110 yards, TD
The Wisconsin Badgers offense has never looked as dynamic as is does when No. 16 is under center. Wilson has led UW to a 3-0 record with an average margin of victory of 37 points. His 213.4 QB-rating trails only Griffin III, and he is averaging over 10 yards per carry on the ground. He produced his first 300-yard game as a Badger this weekend with his 347-yard, 3-TD performance over Northern Illinois. Next Game: South Dakota
7. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (29)
Season Stats: 27/55, 531 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 50 att., 352 yards, 2 TD
The most electric player in college football rushed for 198 yards in the 31-3 blowout win over Eastern Michigan. Shoelace has "struggled" throwing the ball this season, but there is clearly nothing wrong with his legs — or win/loss record thus far in 2011. Next Game: San Diego State
8. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (28)
Season Stats: 27 rec., 329 yards, 3 TD
The 2010 Biletnikoff winner posted modest totals of seven catches, 57 yards and a single score in the Pokes' 59-33 win over Tulsa (if anyone stayed up until 4 AM to watch the end of it). Blackmon will be needed in a big way this weekend as the Cowboys head to College Station. Next Game: at Texas A&M
9. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (26)
Season Stats: 50 att., 315 yards, 8 TD, 6 rec., 36 yards
Against lowly North Texas, Richardson had his best game of the season. He carried the ball 11 times for 167 yards (for an unreal 15.1 yards per carry clip) and three touchdowns. T-Rich will be in for his biggest test of the young season as the Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Next Game: Arkansas
10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (9)
Season Stats: 21 rec., 213 yards, TD
There is a large drop-off in the voting after Richardson. Broyles had a modest performance against Florida State, catching seven passes for 55 yards and returning a couple of punts. But his Sooners left Tallahassee unblemished and are now poised for a national title run. His 10.5 receptions per game are still good for second in the nation. Next Game: Missouri
By Nathan Rush
Panthers rookie Cam Newton held the NFL record for passing yards in Weeks 1 and 2 for about three hours, before Patriots three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady raised the bar even higher later in the afternoon.
Newton’s 854 passing yards in his first two games topped the previous NFL mark of 827 yards — set by the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” orchestrator Kurt Warner in 2000 — until Brady finished his day’s work, having compiled a gaudy 940 yards over the first two weeks of the season.
In the process, Newton and Brady became the sixth and seventh quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, to record back-to-back 400-yard passing games — in Weeks 1 and 2 of 2011, or any weeks of any season. The two join Dan Fouts (1982), Dan Marino (1984), Phil Simms (1985), Billy Volek (2004) and Matt Cassel (2008) in the prolific “400-400” club.
The fact that Newton is being mentioned in the same historical breath as sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer Brady speaks volumes. But it should not come as a complete surprise.
Newton’s meteoric rise has been astonishing. He is on an unprecedented three-year run, leading Blinn (Texas) College to the NJCAA national title in 2009; raising both the BCS national championship crystal and the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 2010; and becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Carolina Panthers and the face of Under Armour in 2011.
Newton has shown no signs of slowing down. He now owns the NFL single-game rookie passing yards record (432) and is the first Panther with back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Steve Beuerlein in 1999.
Newton’s NFL debut was widely publicized. The 6'5", 248-pounder completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards, two TDs and one INT, while scrambling for another TD during a hard-fought 28–21 loss at Arizona.
But his home debut in Charlotte may have been even more impressive, as Newton completed 28-of-46 passes for 432 yards, one TD and three INTs, while tucking the ball 10 times to run for 53 yards and a trip to the end zone in a 30–23 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champion Packers.
Despite jumping out to a 13–0 lead, Newton could not lead Carolina to victory, a fact that frustrated Newton, who was quick to point out that these are not last year’s 2–14 Panthers; Cam’s team doesn’t just hope to “compete,” they expect to “win.”
“We’re going to get it right. I’m not the person to just sit up here and say, ‘Well, we have next time.’ I’m not that type of person. I want it right now and I’m going to get it right now.”
And Newton’s attitude and aura were not lost on the Packers.
“I think someone said in the locker room that I’m kind of glad we played him early in the season,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “because when he figures it out fully, he’s going to be even tougher to stop.”
The first few weeks of the fantasy season are the most crucial for owners as we wait for the offenses to settle down. Once we get into October most of the solid free agent pickups are gone or everyone that is injury-free is established in their role on the team. So you see a lot of fantasy owners either bail or hold on for dear hope to some of their underperforming players.
Here's a look at who you need to keep and who you can release through two weeks of the 2011 season.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis — The schedule is brutal the first quarter of the season, and he lost PPR-slot target Danny Amendola. But the schedule should ease up just as he gets Amendola back, and he will be a helluva QB for you from Week 9 on.
Eli Manning, New York Giants — His receivers are hurt. He looks confused, always. But he does still find the end zone. He's a low, low end starter and certainly worth keeping as a byr-week replacement right now.
Joseph Addai and Delone Carter, Indianapolis — Someone has to run the ball on a consistent basis for the now terrible Colts. Addai re-signed and will be given that chance, even though rookie Delone Carter could be a vulture. This week will be a hard week to evaluate as the Colts are sent to the slaughter against the Steelers, but Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Cincinnati the next three weeks will be a good sample as to whether we can hold on to any of the Colt backs.
Ryan Grant, Green Bay — Still in a RBBC and one injury away from being the man, who can also catch out of the backfield, in a high-powered offense
Montario Hardesty, Cleveland — The Browns will face some tough run defenses the next two weeks in Miami and Tennessee and then get a bye. It opens up after the bye, and coach Pat Shurmur said this week that starter Peyton Hillis could be spelled by Hillis more often. There's a reason the Browns drafted Hardesty high last season, and they aren't going to let him just waste away on the bench.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco — This offense stinks, but the dynamic rookie is also one more Frak Gore injury away from getting more touches as a runner and pass catcher.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans — The highest rookie RB selected has had two tough matchups but will still get fed the ball, particularly around the goal line. Darren Sproles' emergence is a buzz kill, but in games the Saints control more, Ingram will be the man inside the 10.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver — Monitor his use and health. All offseason I felt the Broncos were just looking for a reason to make Willis McGahee the bell cow, and last week's hamstring injury that sidelined Moreno may have been it. McGahee carried 28 times, and might have just secured his role as the top back, leaving Moreno as the new Justin Forsett.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo — Not a huge fan of because the Bills don't seem to be huge fans of even though they used a top-10 pick on him. Like Grant, he is one play away from getting more touches and he has done alot with his 11 offensive touches so far at 8.2 yards per touch, including one score.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets — The Jets' offensive line is overrated and now Eric Mangold goes out for a couple of weeks. LT still has value as a flex option and is always a threat as a pass catcher.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina — Can a player that just signed a monster deal in the offseason be just on the fringe of being not fantasy worthy? This was a tough call to keep him on the "keep" list. He has shown nothing in the first two games, and this is with his rookie QB throwing for over 400 yards twice. Maybe lanes will open up as defenses realize Cam Newton can throw, but if he doesn't see production against Jacksonville, it might be time to bail. Better yet, if he does see production against the Jags, trade him.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis — Greg Salas did little and injured his ribs as the fill-in slot receiver Monday night against the Giants. Amendola should be back sooner rather than later, and will resume his role as the go-to target for Sam Bradford.
Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis — Both get one more week and that's about it. Of course that week is against Pittsburgh and might not be fair, but Collie went from three targets to 10 targets in the first two weeks. That is the only reason he is still on any of my rosters. But he produced just three catches for 24 yards on those 10 targets. If I don't get much more than that after this week, he's gone from all my rosters. Garcon has been targeted 11 times in two weeks, catching six balls for 67 yards. We are hoping there will be a second WR we can count on in Indy, but there is only so long we can wait before we have to find better options.
Marques Colston, New Orleans — He's not out for the whole season. He plays in one of the league's best offenses. And he often plays — at 6-3, 225 — in the slot a lot of the times. His injuries do stink, but you can't give up on a big receiver like that, in that offense.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego — Let's just pretend the Patriots set the blueprint for how to shutout stud TE Antonio Gates, who had no catches in Week 2. If that's the case and Gates starts to gets limited, then Philip Rivers has to go somewhere along with No. 1 Vincent Jackson. He's a big body, who can go up and get a ball, and in this offense receivers are too valuable just to let go.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland — Coach Hue Jackson insisted he was going to be used more this season. He was targeted on the first play of the Raiders' opener, caught it and then fumbled it. He injured his hamstring and missed Week 2. With the injury situation the Raiders are in at receiver, Ford is the last one you need to be dumping. He still should produce for a bad team.
Greg Little, Cleveland — Only because he is a rookie, big receiver in a West Coast offense does Little stay on the "keep" list. He has been targeted just eight times through two games, catching five for 50 yards and no TDs. You have to tell yourself he's a rookie and it will take some time. That had to be the mindset when you drafted him, so hang on.
Lance Moore, New Orleans — He returned last week from a groin injury and did little, but it was the first game back. With Marques Colston out currently and Drew Brees trusting Moore, he is still a good play in PPR formats. Darren Sproles may have stolen some, if not a lot of his thuner, however.
Chad Ochocinco, New England — If he does nothing over the next two-six weeks with TE Aaron Hernandez (MCL) out, then bail. If he does, then you have a good value until Hernandez returns.
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville — He's had two bad matchups against a now-solid Titans pass defense and then going up against the Jets. He has still garnered 11 targets, top 15 in the league throw two weeks. Regardless of the QB situation, you can't release a No. 1 receiver getting that many looks, particularly in a PPR setup. He gets Carolina this week, and also might get rookie Blaine Gabbert as his starter. Again, it's only in PPR leagues he has his greatest worth, so give it a few more weeks before bailing.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville — He's battling a calf strain and the TE class is deep enough to where you can probably pick up and drop them week to week. But Lewis will either have Luke McNown or rookie Blaine Gabbert throwing his way, and he is coming off a 10-TD performance from 2010. He will be targeted.
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit — He has only been targeted nine times through two weeks, while his QB, Matthew Stafford, has thrown for 599 yards and seven TDs. He may eventually get his so hold on to him for now; but also keep an eye on how the team uses fellow TE Tony Scheffler in the passing game along with RB Jahvid Best and No. 2 stud Nate Burleson.
Matt Cassel, Kansas City — Is there a Chief worth owning now? I couldn't, with good consience, put anyone other than Dexter McCluster, in a PPR only, in my lineup.
Chad Henne, Miami — A 170-yard, 1 TD, 1 INT performance. That's the Henne we've come to know and love. Not the 416 yards, 2 TDs he had against the Pats in the opener.
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis — He's not coming back anytime soon, folks. Why would he? And with everyone under the sun seemingly throwing for 300 yards and two scores these days, you have replacement options.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle — He plays in Seattle. Enough said.
Ryan Torain, Washington — He's third wheel behind Tim Higtower and rookie Roy Helu. A far fall from the offseason favorite to be the starting RB. Hard to see where he fits in.
Danny Woodhead, New England — I've never been a fan due to the inconsistency. You need a pretty deep bench to have a player like Woodhead, one who has 15 touches for 75 yards in Week 1 and then six touches for 27 yards and a 2-point conversion in Week 2.
Plaxico Burress, New York Jets — A random red-zone threat not consistent enough to be on a roster.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco — Never healthy. Poor QB play. Poor offense. No thanks.
Braylon Edwards, San Francisco — See Burress and Crabtree.
Lee Evans, Baltimore — Was held without a catch in the opener and had just two catches for 45 yards agains the Titans in Week 2. This is the Evans we've come to know and love.
Devin Hester, Chicago — Had nine targets and caught one in Week 2. There is no consistent Bear receiver to own. Cutler as a bye-week replacement and RB Matt Forte as an absolute PPR stud are all that are roster worthy right now.
Sidney Rice, Seattle — See Lynch. See Mike Williams below. See news of a torn labrum.
Emmanuel Sanders/Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh — Sanders has six targets, four catches, 64 yards and a a short touchdown for 14.4 fantasy points. Brown has 15 targets, catching six for 81 yards and 11.1 fantasy points. Those are hardly numbers you can count on for the a flex option. Maybe you can give them a run against Indianapolis, but if one doesn't emerge after that, it might be time to find a more solid flex play.
Mike Williams, Seattle — See Lynch. Run from all Seahawks.
Zach Miller, Seattle — We all winced when he left Oakland for Seattle and this is why: two games, six targets, three catches, 32 yards and no scores. Bye.
Lance Kendricks, St. Louis — Nine targets, two catches, 44 yards and no scores. That's not going to get it done when the class is this deep.
Todd Heap, Arizona — Some thought there would be a mini resurrection for Heap in Arizona and then Jeff King comes out of nowhere. It was supposed to be rookie Rob Housler stealing the thunder if anyone did. Neither have. Heap has four targets, three catches and 48 yards.
Chris Cooley, Washington — Even when he becomes healthy not many will remember because Fred Davis will have solidified the spot even more than he already has. Cooley's played in both games with five targets, two catches and 21 yards to prove he was there.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
Ask Athlon Fantasy Football for Week 3
Rashard Mendenhall for Josh Freeman and Ahmad Bradshaw? My starting QB is Jay Cuter and my backup is Kyle Orton.
— @Will_Chaklos on Twitter
I would hold on to Mendenhall. Freeman is the No. 24 fantasy QB in Athlon's scoring format (6 point TDs, 1 point for 25 passing yards) with 31.88 points having faced Detroit at home and Minnesota on the road, even trailing by 17 against the Vikings. Mike Williams has been all but non existent (5-46-1 on 14 targets through two games) and no other weapon has emerged for Freeman. Bradshaw is enticing, but Brandon Jacobs is not going to go away anytime soon. You might want to find a better QB backup. Cutler is liable to get flattened behind a still questionable offensive line, and who knows if Orton can hold his starting job all year with clamoring for last year's first-round pick Tim Tebow coming from the Orange Crush fanbase.
Fred Davis or Owen Daniels at TE in a non-PPR
— Chris Kaschok on Athlon Sports Facebook
If this is for this week, I would go with Fred Davis as the Cowboys' secondary is battered by injury, as well as the Dallas offense. The Cowboys are allowing the fifth-most points to TEs through two games. Houston takes on a Saints team this week that is fifth-best against the TE so far, having allowed just four catches for 57 yards and no scores to the position, including a shutout against Dolphin TEs last week.
For the season, you would think that Daniels being the No. 2 target in the past for QB Matt Schaub would make him the pick here. However, Daniels has been targeted just seven times, catching four for 37 yards and a score. If Davis stays on this pace, he will have 88 catches for 1,528 yards by season's end. Although that is doubtful, he is certainly more reliable than Houston's Owen Daniels right now. Davis has 13 targets for 11 catches, 191 yards and a score through two games. We've been waiting for Davis to emerge for years now, and even with the presence of Chris Cooley, it looks like this is the year he will do so.
I lost Jamaal Charles and Felix Jones. I have Dexter McCluster. Should I use my waiver pickup on Thomas Jones or Choice? Someone already has DeMarco Murray. It's a PPR.
— Mike Crowther on Athlon SportsFacebook
Vibes in KC are terrible and the schedule is brutal. McCluster could work out because the Chiefs should trail a lot and he can be versatile as a pass catcher and RB. Choice and Murray may split the load if Jones is out, but I'm not sure how long Jones will be out, if at all.
Is it time to cut ties with Austin Collie?
— Riq Gandolfi on Athlon Sports Facebook
I really, really wanted to say yes and then QB Kerry Collins targets Collie 10 times in Week 2 after having looked his way just three times in the season opener. Of course, Collie only caught three of those 10 targets for 24 yards and was zeros across the board in Week 1. The Colts should trail this week against the Steelers, and Collie should be able to find some room to work. If he doesn't get it done this week, then I would move along. But if you have a much, much better option in mind right now, go ahead and pull the trigger. Also addressed in the "When do you drop a player" feature.
Ryan Fitzpatrick in three career games against the Patriots: 3 TDs, 6 INTs, 676 yards, 2 lost fumbles and 8 sacks against? Bench?
— @AthlonBraden on Twitter
Start. The Bills got down early to a depleted Raiders team last week before scoring the monster comeback victory on the arm of Fitzpatrick. Yes, the Patriots have won each of their first two games easily, but that doesn't mean anything in regards to fantasy for the opposition. Chad Henne threw for 416 yards and two TDs and a INT in the opener and Philip Rivers threw for 378 yards, two scores and two INTs in Week 2. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 472 yards, seven scores and two picks in two games; no reason to think he'd slow down now.
I am in a PPR League with 12 teams and we start 10 players. I want to know which player would you start in your Flex Position? Danny Woodhead, Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Robert Meachem, Roy Helu?
I have Felix Jones as a starter also, I am a little worried about how much playing time Felix will get on Monday Night. Do you think it’s safe to start Felix Jones?
— James Wood, via email
It's Robert Meachem for me. I can't trust Woodhead or Spiller due the inconsistency in touches, and Helu may be closer to getting a heavier workload, but that's not a risk you can take this week with the Redskins playing on Monday night.
Meachem has been targeted 12 times in two games, catching nine balls for 80 yards and two scores. This should be a back-and-forth game between the two high-powered offenses, and Meachem should have plenty of opportunities.
Ingram has not been able to get it going yet after tough match ups against the Saints and Bears, and now he gets a Texans team that is third-best against fantasy RBs so far this season at 11.9 fantasy points per game and no TDs allowed. Ingram should be able to get it going after this week, but I'd sit him one more time.
As far as Felix Jones, all indications are that he will play on Monday. Now how good a match up it is, with Miles Austin out, Tony Romo injured and Dez Bryant having missed the last game, is another question. Washington has allowed the 10th-most points to fantasy RBs so far, so that's enticing, but you have to wonder how much the Skins can key on him with injuries elsewhere to the Cowboys. Plus, it's not like Jones has been that great this year, either — 96 total yards, four catches and one score.
Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
The Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders wide receivers made fantasy football owners in deep leagues stand up and take notice when they put up some big points on Sunday. But are they just flashes in the pan, or is there some long-term value for either of these deep sleepers? In other words, are they worth a waiver wire add?
David Nelson, WR, Buffalo Bills
The former Florida Gator receiver is big. At 6-5 he's been the recipient of Ryan Fitzpatrick's strong start with 14 catches through the first two games, 10 of which came on Sunday against the Raiders with a nice touchdown catch on top of it.
The good thing for Nelson right now is that the Bills are hurting at wide receiver. Stevie Johnson is fighting a groin injury, which he is going to attempt to play through, which of course puts him at more risk at aggravating it and missing extended time. The Bills other receiver, Roscoe Parrish, is out for the season leaving Nelson with a great chance to continue his success.
And to make his situation even better, the Bills are going to be losing a lot of their games, which means Fitzpatrick is going to have to put the ball in the air a lot and he's already proven he likes tossing the ball to his big target Nelson.
Go get this guy if he's available and start him this week. The Bills play New England this week, which means Team Fitz will be throwing the ball all day long against a Patriots defense that has been a little suspect and can't seem to get off the field through the first two games of the season.
David Nelson Fearless Prediction for Week 3: 7 receptions, 85 yards and a TD.
Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders
I like Denarius Moore less than David Nelson, but I still like him. The Raiders have been talking non-stop about how much they love Moore, and they should. He's a big receiver who's not afraid to go up and get the ball. He piled up a lot of yards (146) in Sunday's loss to the Bills, but what scares me a little bit was his number of catches. He only caught five balls, which means he may have gotten a little lucky to get so much yardage. He's not going to average 30 yards a catch every game, and I'd rather have a guy like Nelson, who gets more targets.
The other worrisome factor with Moore is that he only managed five catches when the majority of the Raiders receiving corps was on the bench. Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford were all out of the game, and if Moore was really going to step in and become the primary No. 1 receiver, I would have liked to seen a few more targets and catches for him.
The Raiders, as much as they like Moore, also like Ford and Heyward-Bey (for now). If Moore keeps playing like this he could be a solid WR3/Flex option all year long.
This week would normally be a great play for Moore as Heyward-Bey and Ford are dinged up, but the Raiders play the Jets this week, meaning Moore could find himself on Revis Island, which is never a good thing for fantasy owners.
Denarius Moore Fearless Prediction for Week 3: 4 receptions, 55 yards. 0 Touchdowns
— By Pete Thomas
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week Athlon's fantasy staff will dive into the NFL Fantasy world of Individual Defensive Players, or more affectionately known as IDPs. Weekly top performers, advice and waiver wire adds highlight the Athlon IDP Weekly Potpourri.
Week 2’s Top Defensive Backs
1. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay: 7 solo, 1.0 sack, INT, FF, 2 PD
I sure hope you heeded the IDP Waiver Wire’s advice last week and snagged this second year stud, because he was the top IDP defensive back in the NFL. In a secondary without Tramon Williams – and now without Nick Collins – Burnett becomes the top playmaker (sorry Chuck Woodson). His 14 solos stops in two weeks ranks him fifth amongst NFL DBs and is a must add in Week 3.
2. Roman Harper, S, New Orleans: 7 solo, 2.0 sacks, FF
Harper was a preseason top 10 IDP defensive back no matter what format you play in.
3. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay: 5 solo, 2 INT, FR, 2 PD
Playing against a rookie quarterback always makes for good fantasy numbers. Woodson benefited from some bad throws by Cam Newton and a forced fumble by Burnett. Woodson is a solid play, but don’t expect too many weeks like this one.
DB Waiver Wire Adds
Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore: 25.53 TFP (No. 3 DB)
Webb has had one of the more surprising starts to an IDP fantasy season in the NFL. He built on his 11 tackle opener with nine more solo stops against Tennessee. He is also the primary punt returner and back-up kickoff specialist, so in leagues with return yard, his special teams duties add some value.
Sean Jones, S, Tampa Bay: 22 TFP (No. 5)
The veteran safety has posted at least seven total tackles in each of his first two games and added a big sack this weekend. With talented corners helping him on the outside, Jones should be free to patrol the middle of the field all season long.
Patrick Peterson, DB, Arizona: 20.7 TFP (No. 8)
The uber-talented rookie proved his special teams skills in Week 1, but also has proven he be productive on defense as well. He has at least five solo stops in each of his first two career games and has 13 total tackles thus far. He also has 128 return yards and will add value in leagues that count those points. Once he adds the big play – INT, SACK, FF, etc – to his game, he could be a great value the rest of his career.
DB Injury Update
Eric Berry, S, Kansas City
Jon McGraw filled in admirably this weekend – at least in the fantasy world – with 10 tackles and an INT against Detroit. With Berry done for 2011, McGraw could pro
Patrick Chung, S, New England
The former Oregon Duck became the latest Patriot to injure his thumb. He left the field in the third quarter against the Chargers but returned with a hard cast on. Monitor the situation.
Nick Collins, S, Green Bay
The Pro Bowl Packer sustained a serious head/neck injury this weekend and was carted off the field. Mike McCarthy announced Monday that he will miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Charlie Peprah filled in for Morgan Burnett last fall and will do the same for Collins.
Jonathan Joseph, CB, Houston
The Cincinnati import has played well for the Texans but is questionable for Week 3 against New Orleans with an ankle injury.
Week 2’s Top Linebackers
1. Michael Boley, NY Giants: 3 solo, 3 asts, FR, TD, PD
Take his touchdown with a grain of salt. He has only 10 total tackles in two games.
2. Mason Foster, Tampa Bay: 7 solo, 3 asts, 1.0 sack, FF
It hasn’t taken long for this rookie to make his mark in the middle of the Bucs defense. He plays on three downs and is in a great position to continue his production all season long.
3. Desmond Bishop, Green Bay: 9 solo, 1 ast, 1.0 sack
The heart of the Packers linebacking corps has produced two weeks in a row. Look for this type of performance nearly every week from the former Cal Golden Bear star.
LB Waiver Wire Adds
Sean Lee, Dallas: 27.0 TFP (No. 1 LB)
I told you to pick him up last week – and I sure hope you did as he is now the No. 1 LB in IDP fantasy football.
Mason Foster, Tampa Bay: 20.5 TFP (No. 7)
The rookie is in a lucrative fantasy position for the foreseeable future. He has racked-up 17 total stops in his first two games and shows the ability to make the big play. He is consistent and should be a safe bet for 8-10 tackles each week.
Pat Angerer, Indianapolis: 20.5 TFP (No. 7)
The Colts’ defense will be on the field a lot in 2011 and Angerer figures to be the guy who will make the most stops. He was a tackling machine at Iowa and it appears he will continue that trend as his 21 total stops will indicate. His big-play ability is limited, but he should easily top 100 tackles.
Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta: 18.5 TFP (No. 14)
I called him out last week as a great waiver wire addition and he didn’t disappoint with a very serviceable 10 total tackle performance. He now has 16 total solos on the year and the Falcons' defensive line isn’t even healthy yet. Just wait.
LB Injury Report
Daryl Washington, Arizona
Missed last week’s game with mild calf strain, but should be back in the line-up.
Tamba Hali, Kansas City
The injury bug in KC has been insane. Hali left Week 2 game with an ankle issue.
Week 2’s Top Defensive Lineman
1. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Cleveland: 4 solo, 1 ast, 1.0 sack, FF, FR
This rookie has all the talent in the world and is worth an add after his excellent Week 2 showing. However, keep in mind, most teams he plays won’t be Indianapolis and most teams will be running against the Browns rather than passing.
2. Jason Hatcher, DE, Dallas: 4 solo, 2 sacks
Hatcher has never topped 27 tackles and never had more than 2.5 sacks in a season. While he certainly appears poised to set personal records, I cannot advise you to add him in anything but super-deep DL leagues.
3. Cullen Jenkins, DE/DT, Philadelphia: 3 solo, 1 ast, 2.0 sacks
With the injury to Trent Cole (and with how explosive Jenkins looked on Sunday night) the former Packer could be a sneaky good pick-up for the near future. However, Jenkins has constantly had injury issues of his own, so have a back-up plan ready to go.
Top DL Waiver Wire Adds
See Cullen Jenkins, Jabaal Sheard above.
Jean Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 20 TFP (No. 2 DL)
Once again, if you paid attention to last week’s IDP potpourri, then Pierre-Paul isn’t likely to be available in most IDP leagues. If he is, do not think twice about adding this future star.
Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore: 15 TFP (No. 9)
The world’s most dominant defensive tackle is one of few nose guards who is worth owning. He simply makes plays. He has 2 FR, a FF and 2 PD to go with above average tackle production from his position.
DL Injury Report
Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia
The dynamic rusher is questionable for Week 3 against the Giants with a hand issue.
Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver
He missed last week’s game with a shoulder issue. Monitor very closely.
Aaron Kampman, DE, Jacksonville
Knee injury already has him ruled out of Week 3 game against Carolina.
Other NFL Fantasy Content:
Corby Yarbrough's NFL Fantasy Week 3 Waiver Wire Report
Feel free to email (email@example.com or @AthlonCorby) or tweet us with any NFL Fantasy questions that you may have. Yarbrough will be answering all your fantasy questions every Wednesday of the regular season.
By Mitch Light
Take a look at Illinois’ remaining schedule in 2011 and tell me if I’m crazy for believing this football team can win 11 games. The Illini, already 3–0, still have five more home games, and three of their four road games are against the three weakest teams in the Big Ten — Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota. The other road game is at Penn State, a team that escaped Philadelphia with a 14–10 win over Temple last weekend. The home games are against Western Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. My guess is that Illinois will be favored in all but one remaining game, vs. Wisconsin.
So there you have it: The Illini, who don’t play Nebraska or Michigan State, could be playing for the inaugural Big Ten Leaders Division title when the Badgers visit Champaign on Nov. 19.
It’s always a bit dangerous to put too much faith in a Ron Zook-coached team, but this is a solid club that has a lot of key pieces in the right places. It all starts with Nathan Scheelhaase, the dual-threat quarterback who is off to a very strong start to his sophomore season. And as always, the Illini have a strong running game. The main man this year is senior Jason Ford, who is running behind a veteran offensive line. Defensively, the Illini lost some serious star power in tackle Corey Liuget and linebacker Martez Wilson, but this is still a very strong group that held Arizona State to 14 points in last week’s thrilling three-point win in Champaign.
So what happens if my not-so-outlandish scenario comes to fruition and Illinois takes advantage of a relatively soft Big Ten schedule? Could this be a top-10 team? Let’s take it one step further. What happens if Illinois wins all the games it’s capable of winning — including beating Ohio State at home and winning at Penn State — and then somehow knocks off Wisconsin at home in late November? Could the Zooker actually be 13–0 and headed to the BCS National Championship Game in a season in which he was mentioned on the Hot Seat in our preseason annual?
It’s possible. Dare to dream Illini.
AROUND THE BIG TEN
• Nebraska has nine plays from scrimmage of at least 40 yards, the most in the Big Ten. The Huskers also lead the league in plays of 20-plus yards (18) and 30-plus yards (12).
• The three leading rushers in the Big Ten are quarterbacks — Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (128.0 ypg), Michigan’s Denard Robinson (117.3 ypg) and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray (109.3 ypg).
• Wisconsin has only forced one turnover in three games. Three other teams have only forced one and two teams (Kansas and UAB) have yet to force a turnover.
• Northwestern only ran 57 plays from scrimmage in a 21–14 loss at Army after averaging 80.5 plays in wins over Boston College and Eastern Illinois.
• Michigan ranks seventh in the league in total offense (403.7 ypg) but leads the Big Ten in yards per play (7.7).
• Michigan State has now lost two straight games to Notre Dame in South Bend after winning six straight at Notre Dame Stadium.
The SEC has already unofficially secured Texas A&M from the Big 12 – could Missouri be next? The Kansas City Star is reporting Missouri has been extended an offer to join the SEC. However, the Tigers aren’t ready to act on the offer and are waiting to see what happens with the Big 12.
With the Big 12 on the verge of collapse, all 10 teams have been scrambling to secure a future home for 2012 and beyond. Missouri has been committed to making the Big 12 work, but the clock is ticking and the conference could be approaching its final hours.
The future of the Big 12 is squarely locked into Norman, Okla. and Austin, Texas. The Sooners have indicated heavy interest in joining the Pac-12, but could remain in the Big 12. Texas has also shown interest in the Pac-12, but may not be willing to fold its Longhorn Network into a conference regional network.
The Pac-12 could take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and get to 14 teams, but Texas is unlikely to stick with a watered-down Big 12.
Texas A&M has yet to officially be announced as a SEC member, but all signs point to the Aggies joining the conference next season. However, when Texas A&M joins, the SEC would be at 13 teams, which creates unbalanced divisions and why the conference is interested in Missouri.
The Tigers may seem like an odd fit for the SEC to some, but Missouri is bordered by Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas (three SEC states). And Columbia, Mo. is almost halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City – two key markets the SEC would love to tap into.
If the Tigers join the SEC, they could be placed in the West, while Auburn is moved to the East to balance out the divisions.
Although Missouri has an offer on the table, the report indicates saving the Big 12 is still priority No. 1. However, if the conference implodes, the Tigers would have an opportunity to join the SEC.
But would the Tigers accept an invite to the SEC?
Missouri was believed to have interest in joining the Big Ten during last year’s expansion craze.
If the Big Ten decides it needs to expand, would the Tigers be more interested in staying in the Midwest or joining the SEC?
There are still a lot of scenarios still to play out with conference realignment, but it appears Missouri is going to be attracting a lot of interest from a couple of conferences over the next couple of weeks.
1955. 1974. 1982. 2008.
It does not take very long to run through the bowl history of the Vanderbilt football program. However, James Franklin is not interested in the past. The energetic new boss of the Commodores has preached to his team that this is 2011, and he is out to change the culture of Vanderbilt on the gridiron. The beginning of the Franklin era has been promising, with the ‘Dores standing at 3-0 after punching Ole Miss in the mouth – 30-7 – on Saturday. VU leads the nation in interceptions with 10, and the defense has returned one pilfer for a touchdown in all three games. The schedule is always brutal in the SEC, but the Commodores look to be contenders for a fifth-ever postseason berth.
Will Vanderbilt make a bowl game?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I like what James Franklin is doing at Vanderbilt so far. The Commodores are off to a 3-0 start and have been recruiting very well. However, I think Vanderbilt’s bowl hopes will fall just short. The schedule is going to get a lot tougher over the next couple of weeks, as the Commodores take on South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. Army and Kentucky would appear to be sure wins, which gets Vanderbilt to five. However, I’m having trouble finding a sixth win on the schedule. Wake Forest is certainly winnable, but the Demon Deacons appear to be a much-improved team. Pulling off an upset against Tennessee or Georgia isn’t out of the question, but considering the offensive question marks surrounding Vanderbilt, I think it will fall just short of bowl eligibility.
Vanderbilt is off to a great start under first-year coach James Franklin, with wins over Ole Miss, Connecticut and Elon. If the Commodores are still standing after back-to-back brutal road trips to South Carolina (Sept. 24) and Alabama (Oct. 8), Coach Franklin has a realistic chance to lead VU to its first bowl berth since 2008 and only the school’s second since 1982. The home schedule is favorable, with winnable matchups against Army and Kentucky as well as vulnerable Georgia and Arkansas. Road games at Florida and at Tennessee will be tough. But if Jay Cutler’s alma mater is one win away heading into the season-finale at Wake Forest, expect the 'Dores to do their best impression of junior cornerback Trey Wilson (3 INTs for 103 yards and 2 TDs) and take it to the house with a bowl berth.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I can easily see Vanderbilt making a bowl game, but I’ll say the Commodores finish just short at 5-7. Coach Franklin does not want to dwell on the past, but there have been several good starts on West End that faded quickly. The energy that the new VU staff has instilled in the team is evident, but I still want to see how the Black and Gold respond to the black-and-blue portion of their league schedule. Running backs Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour have looked solid so far, and the Commodores have one of the better secondaries in the SEC. To get to the postseason, Franklin will need quarterback Larry Smith to make some plays in the passing game and the front seven to not get worn down during the SEC grind. If the ‘Dores can win three out of the following four – Army, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest – they will go bowling and start an exciting new era. I see the Commodores falling a game short in 2011, but the program is headed in the right direction.
By Mitch Light
There are two things you need to know about Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz.
The first: He might have the most normal name in his family. Jantz’ father is named Foxx, who has a twin brother named Wolf and another brother named Stig. Steele has brothers named Truk and Brogan.
The second, and far more important to Cyclone fans: He is a winner.
Jantz, a transfer from junior college who won the job in preseason camp, has led Iowa State to a 3–0 start by making the right plays at the right time. The Cyclones have won their three games — over Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn — by a total of eight points and have trailed in those three games a combined 10 times.
Jantz recovered from a slow start against UConn — he was intercepted three times in the first quarter — to rally Iowa State from a 10–0 deficit in the first half and a 20–17 deficit in the fourth quarter. The week before, ISU trailed Iowa on five different occasions, including twice in overtime, before winning 41–38 on the final possession of the third extra session.
Jantz, a native of Agoura Hills, Calif., has made plays with his legs as well as his arm. In the first two games, he combined to rush for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He was bottled up against UConn (negative-10 yards rushing on three attempt due in part to a leg injury suffered just before the half), but his ability to tuck the ball and run will cause problems for opposing defenses all season.
Iowa State is 3–0 for the first time since 2005 and one of only five 3–0 teams in 2011 that already has two wins over BCS conference opponents.
“The confidence continues to build as we find a way to win football games,” says Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. “I have a confident group of young men to begin with. They have to focus on improving and moving forward.”
Moving forward, Iowa State’s schedule will become far more difficult. After a week off, the Cyclones begin a five-game gauntlet that features home games with Texas and Texas A&M and road dates against Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. In addition, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma await in the month of November.
AROUND THE BIG 12
• Kansas has allowed 45 points or more in six of its last nine games vs. BCS conference opponents. The 2011 Jayhawks rank 119th in the nation in rushing defense and total defense.
• Of the five quarterbacks who have not yet thrown an interception on the list of top 25 leaders in passing efficiency, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege have the most touchdowns — eight each.
• Western Illinois had 44 total yards against Missouri last week and only one of the Leathernecks possessions lasted for more than three plays.
• Last Saturday against UCLA, Texas true freshman Malcolm Brown had what figures to be the first of many 100-yard games in a Longhorn uniform. Brown carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 1110 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career in Texas’ 49–20 win over the Bruins.
• Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 with 24 plays from scrimmage that have gone for at least 20 yards.
• Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones attempted only 27 passes in the Sooners’ win at Florida State. It was the fewest he has thrown since becoming the starter at OU early in the 2009 season.
• Texas A&M will not play a game outside College Station in the month of September for the first time since 1984.
There are still several dominos to fall in college football’s great realignment of 2011, but the picture is starting to clear just a bit. West Virginia has been rumored as a potential candidate for SEC or ACC expansion over the past few weeks, but it appears that talk can quiet down. According to CBSSports.com Brett McMurphy, West Virginia officials have indicated they have been turned down by the SEC and ACC for membership.
Considering the uncertain landscape across college football, there are a lot of teams searching for a new home or at least developing contingency plans. West Virginia was a rumored target to be the SEC’s No. 14 team and under consideration to be the No. 15 or No. 16 team into the ACC.
However, the options seem to be limited for a future home for the Mountaineers.
What happens to the Big 12 will play a key role in determining where several teams will end up.
The Mountaineers could decide to stay in a revamped Big East, if the Big 12 doesn’t break apart. While this option isn’t overly attractive, the conference does have a solid building block with West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut – provided none of those teams depart for the ACC. TCU is also scheduled to join the Big East in 2012. With that block of six teams to start with, the conference could look to add UCF, Houston, East Carolina and SMU from Conference USA for future members.
If the Big 12 breaks apart, there will be a lot of changes coming to all conferences. What’s left of the Big 12 – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri – could choose to merge with the remaining schools of the Big East. Although it’s not going to challenge the SEC, Big Ten or ACC in terms of overall strength, the conference would keep an automatic bid to the BCS.
In terms of overall competitiveness, the Mountaineers are one of the top options on the board for the ACC or SEC to expand. However, with the ACC’s desire to explore adding Connecticut and Rutgers, it’s clear the move is not about play on the field.
If adding Connecticut and Rutgers helps the ACC get a better television deal or helps to strengthen the conference's hold on the East Coast, then that’s what it will take. And don’t rule out the conference from making a run at Notre Dame. It’s a longshot that the Irish will join the ACC, but the conference will at least place a phone call to South Bend.
The SEC has already taken the steps to add Texas A&M, but will need a 14th team. Is the conference waiting to pounce on Missouri or Kansas?
Barring a change of direction, it appears West Virginia will not be joining the SEC or ACC. With today’s news, all signs point to the Mountaineers sticking around in a revamped Big East or Big 12.
Tony Romo is a man. We know that now. There's no discussion about his toughness or his ability to lead the Dallas Cowboys locker room after it was revealed that he had a punctured lung and two fractured ribs during Sunday's game against the 49ers.
He's tough, we get it.
But there's a fine line between tough and stupid in the NFL. And if Tony Romo puts his longterm health in jeopardy to play on Monday Night Football, then that would fall in the stupid category.
When Romo came back in the game last week, the extent of his injury was not know. The team doctors knew he had a couple broken ribs, but they didn't know he had a punctured luing. If they had known that, there would be no way they would have let him back in the game.
A punctured lung, much like cracked ribs, is an injury that can take a long time to heal. But the only real concern about playing with broken ribs is the pain factor. If you can play through the pain, then you can go ahead and play, there's no real long-term harm you can do to your body.
But a punctured lung is a totally different story. If Romo were to get hit the wrong way he could be put in a life-threatening situation. And while football is full of tough guys, it's just not worth it. Not for Romo's health, and it's not worth it to put the Cowboy's season in jeopardy.
It makes much more sense to give Romo another week to make sure he's healed enough to step on the field. Jon Kitna proved last year that he is a more than capable back-up. If given ample practice time he can be a slightly elevated game managing quarterback who can utilize all the weapons that the Cowboys have at their disposal on offense.
With Romo hurting this week (apparently rib injuries hurt more during the few days following the injury then they do right as the injury occurs), Kitna will already be practicing with the first team offense.
Let Kitna go in against the Redskins, and let Tony Romo sit this one out. We already know he's tough, don't put his life in jeopardy to prove it all over again.
The LPGA has received a priceless gift in the form of a giggly 16-year-old home schooler. A Tour that is starved for fan attention, marketing dollars and a charismatic American presence has had the good fortune of having Lexi Thompson fall into its lap.
Thompson became the youngest winner in LPGA history last weekend when she captured the Navistar Classic at age 16, dominating a strong field in winning by five shots. In the process, she grabbed, at least briefly, the attention of sports fans who wouldn’t know World No. 1 Yani Tseng if she hit them in the knee with a gap wedge.
Thompson’s remarkable maturity and infectious passion for the game could propel the struggling Tour past its tiny niche as a Golf Channel afterthought and into a legitimate presence on the sports landscape. Or at least ahead of the WNBA.
His enthusiasm tempered by the cautionary tale of Michelle Wie, whose too-much-too-soon saga and lack of maturity spoiled her premature arrival on the scene, LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan must play this carefully. He can’t hitch his wagon to a 16-year-old, but at the same time, he can’t ignore Thompson’s potential impact on his Tour and the sport itself.
Whan must weigh the Tour’s 18-year-old age requirement against its tenuous position in a struggling economy. In 2008, the Tour schedule included 34 events; in 2011, it’s down to 25, with 13 of them outside the United State. Thompson could be just the tonic this Tour needs.
Here’s a sample of what they’re saying about golf’s newest phenom:
“She is most known for how long she hits it and how far she flies it, but I think she doesn’t get enough credit for how smart she played today and how good her iron shots are and how good she is at scrambling.” — Tiffany Joh, who was paired with Thompson during the final round of the Navistar
I don’t want to be the commissioner responsible for freshmen in high school being in the position of having to decide their futures. — LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, who will be forced to rule on Thompson’s upcoming petition for membership in light of the Tour’s age requirement that participants be at least 18
“She has kind of proven she can play out here. She's proven she can handle the social part of it. I think they should give her full (membership).” — 51-year-old LPGA legend Juli Inkster, who was the oldest player participating at the Navistar
“It’s great to have all these fans out here. If it wasn’t for them these tournaments wouldn't go along. Having the little girls out here just looking up to me, that's what I've always wanted. I just want to portray to them that I'm following my dreams.” — Thompson, on the fan response to her win
"They give up their lives for us, you know, saving our country. ... Donating to them, you just have to. I mean, look what they do for us. It's just amazing that they do that. I definitely want to give back." — Thompson, who plans to donate $20,000 of her winner’s check to the Wounded Warrior Project
I'm pretty sure the Onion's Brendan Laroux Story, a movie about a no-legged and no-handed hockey player in a wheelchair is going to top Brian's Song, The Longest Yard and The Blindside as the greatest and most-inspiring sports movie in the history of film.
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
Published Sept. 20, 2011
The nationwide NCAA violations tour has added a new date in Columbia, South Carolina: The South Carolina Gamecocks.
USC, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Miami and now the South Carolina Gamecocks have caught the ire of the NCAA infractions committee after two years of potential violations.
Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks received the official NCAA notice of allegations Monday afternoon regarding its college football, basketball and track/field programs.
The NCAA claims that at least 12 student-athletes (10 football and two track) received just under $47,000 in benefits from the local Whitney hotel. The impermissible reduced rent supposedly included special provision for nine players to pay back the money at a later date. Two football players are reported to have paid the dramatically reduced rate ($14.59 versus $57) for over 400 days. The report indicates that the 10 football players spent a total of 1,717 days/nights at the hotel.
The Whitney Hotel’s general manager, Jamie Blevins, is a South Carolina booster.
The NCAA notice also claims that representatives of the University of South Carolina had illegal contact with potential recruits, including extra benefits. Delaware-based Student Athlete Management Foundation (SAM) – run by two South Carolina grads President Steve Gordon and treasurer Kevin Lahn – is reported to have provided $8,000 worth of benefits to prospective student-athletes. The disobedience is reported to have taken place between the spring of 2009 and February of 2011. These benefits include a boat cruise for nearly 50 football players, entertainment costs, meals, lodging and unofficial trips to campus.
Sharrif Floyd of Florida and Carolina’s Damiere Byrd have both already been served suspenions and repaid monies stemming from relationships with SAM.
It might be a total coincidence that these “impermissible” benefits took place during a period of extraordinary Gamecock recruiting. If you simply extrapolate and speculate, this period of time would heavily involve the two recruiting cycles in which the South Carolina Gamecocks signed the No. 1 player in the nation in the 2011 class, Jadeveon Clowney, and the No. 5 player in the nation from the 2010 class – and current NCAA rushing leader – Marcus Lattimore.
"We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA in all aspects of their review," said South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said in his official statement. "Any pertinent information from the NCAA that can help us strengthen our athletics program will be used as an opportunity to make positive change."
Both issues are considered “potential major violations,” and South Carolina has 90 days to respond to the NCAA notice of allegations before eventually appearing before the infractions committee.
It may only be just the beginning and it may not be as bad as it sounds, but with the way college football has been soaked in scandal for the last 18-24 months, it’s has to be tough for Gamecock fans not to be nervous.