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The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
The ACC has gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. This is why Virginia Tech's Corey Moore, Syracuse's Dwight Freeney, Miami's Vince Wilfork or Louisville's Elvis Dumervil won't be found below — because they never played in the league. However, names like Aaron Donald and Mathias Kiwanuka do show up since they played at least one season in the ACC. Even without the Wilforks of the world, the ACC has an impressive list of elite defensive linemen.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina (1999-01)
From a talent standpoint, few players have ever been able to match Peppers' freakish quickness and size. As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era. His 53.0 tackles for a loss are 13th all-time in league history as well. Peppers was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
2. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (2004-07)
The son of NFL great Howie Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10.0 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, an ACC-best 19.0 tackles for a loss and ACC-best 14.0 sacks in his final season in which he finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20.0 sacks before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
3. Aaron Donald, Pitt (2010-13)
Donald only played one season in the ACC but it was one of the, if not the, best by an ACC defensive lineman in league history. He swept the national awards by claiming the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik as essentially the most decorated defensive player of the BCS Era not named Manti Te’o. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 11.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His 28.5 TFLs were second only to Keith Adams’ ACC record 33 in 1999. His career 29.5 sacks would be eighth in ACC history and his 66.0 tackles for a loss would be a new career ACC record had he played his entire career in the league.
4. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (2008-10)
The No. 1 prospect in the nation battled a knee injury during his sophomore year but still posted 58 tackles — including 11 in the ACC Championship Game win over Georgia Tech — 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. However, Bowers exploded as a senior by leading the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5) to go with his 67 total tackles. Those 15.5 sacks were sixth all-time in ACC history. Bowers was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and claimed both the Nagurski Trophy and the Hendricks Award. More knee issues cost him on draft day as he slipped to the end of the second round where Tampa Bay selected him with the 51st overall pick.
5. Mario Williams, NC State (2003-05)
In just three seasons, the physical freak from NC State posted 25.5 career sacks — good for 18th all-time in ACC history — and 55.5 tackles for a loss — good for 10th all-time. In his final season, he led the ACC with 24.0 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks. As one of the most gifted athletes to ever play in any league, Williams was one of just two defensive players selected as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft during the BCS Era (Courtney Brown, 2000).
6. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State (1997-00)
Reynolds helped lead the Seminoles to three consecutive BCS National Championship Games, including the 1999 title. He was named the Lombardi and Willis Trophy winner after a 58-tackle, 12-sack season in 2000 as a senior and was a finalist for the national Defensive Player of the Year award. He was named a unanimous All-American and taken with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. His 23.5 career sacks are 24th all-time in ACC history and are the most by any Seminole during the BCS Era.
7. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (2003-06)
The 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished with 157 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 28.0 sacks in 46 career games. His 28.0 QB takedowns are 10th all-time in ACC history and are fourth by any player during the BCS Era. His 15.5 sacks in 2010 led the nation and are sixth-best in ACC history. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior and was taken fourth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Sadly, Adams passed away at age 26 due to cardiac arrest in January 2010 but he will be forever remembered as one of the ACC’s greatest defensive linemen.
8. Corey Simon, DT, Florida State (1996-99)
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in his final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies as a senior. One of the most dominant interior lineman in ACC history was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
9. Darnell Docket, Florida State (2000-03)
The four-year starter for Florida State was a starter and big-time contributor as a redshirt freshman in 2000 on a team that played for the national title. Eventually, Dockett was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 as a senior. He left Tallahassee with 247 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and an ACC-record 65.0 tackles for a loss. Dockett was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and has gone to three Pro Bowls since.
10. Calvin Pace, Wake Forest (1999-02)
A four-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Pace helped lead Wake Forest to a winning record in three of his four years and two of the team’s three bowl appearances between 1980 and 2005. Pace is eighth all-time in ACC history with 29.0 career sacks and is 12th all-time in ACC history in tackles for a loss with 54.0. He led the league in TFL as a senior (19.5) and was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
Just missed the cut:
11. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College (2002-05)
A two-time All-American, Kiwanuka was a first-team all-league pick in two conferences as he helped moved BC from the Big East into the ACC. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and posted 51 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 16.5 TFL in his senior year in the ACC.
12. Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
One of the freakier athletes to play in the ACC, Morgan was an instant impact guy as a freshman. By his junior season, the Jackets end was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. He posted an ACC-best 12.5 sacks that season and 18.5 tackles for a loss before leaving early to become a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
13. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (2010-12)
The Berlin, Germany, native played in all 14 games as a true freshman before becoming a dominant starter for two full years in Tallahassee. He led the ACC with 13.0 sacks and posted 18.0 TFL to earn ACC Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American honors in 2012. He was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
14. Shawne Merriman, Maryland (2002-04)
One of the most talented athletes to ever play in any league, Merriman was a impact player as a freshman in 2002. He constantly made plays around the line of scrimmage for three seasons in College Park for two teams that won at least 10 games.
15. Greg Gathers, Georgia Tech (1999-01)
Among every ACC player during the BCS Era, no one registered more sacks than Gathers’ 31.0 — which is good for fifth all-time in ACC history. His 57.0 tackles for a loss are eighth all-time in league history and fifth among BCS Era players.
Best of the rest:
16. Calais Campbell, Miami (2005-07)
Long, rangy player led league in TFL (20.5) in 2006 and was a second-round pick in 2008.
17. B.J. Raji, Boston College (2004-08)
Missed all of ’07 but was an All-American in 2008 and a first-round pick in the '09 draft.
18. Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech (2002-05)
Finished career 17th in ACC history in sacks (25.5) and fifth in tackles for a loss (59.5)
19. Robert Quinn, North Carolina (2008-10)
Monster end led ACC in TFL (19.0) in 2009 before being picked 14th overall in 2011 Draft.
20. Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
Freshman All-American finished with 19.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, 28.0 TFL and two ACC titles.
21. Ebenezer Ekuban, North Carolina (1995-98)
Only played defense for two years and led ACC in TFL in 1998 with 23.0. Was a first-round pick.
22. Andre Branch, Clemson (2008-11)
Led ACC in sacks (10.5) and tackles for a loss (17.5) for ACC champs in 2011.
23. Everette Brown, Florida State (2006-08)
Played 41 games posting 100 tackles, 46.5 for a loss and 22.0 sacks with five forced fumbles.
24. Clint Sintim, Virginia (2005-08)
Is 13th all-time in ACC history with 27.0 sacks, freshman All-American and second-round pick.
25. Quinton Coples, North Carolina (2008-11)
Finished 19th all-time in ACC in sacks with 24.0 and was a first-round pick in 2012.
Of all the first-round upsets in last season’s tournament people picked, almost no one took Harvard over New Mexico. La Salle was just as much of a surprising moving from the First Four to the Sweet 16.
And then there’s Florida Gulf Coast.
Surprises are tough enough to figure with the bracket in your hand. In our weekly roundtable, we’ll try anyway as January comes to a close.
Name a team outside the top 25 that could make a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.
David Fox: I’m going to pick a team that’s done little to deserve anyone’s vote of confidence in an office pool: Gonzaga. True, the Bulldogs have disappointed when it comes to March, no more than last season when the No. 1 seed Zags didn’t even reach the Sweet 16. That said, I like the way Gonzaga has flown under the radar this season. The schedule hasn’t been as tough as it’s been in recent years, but the Bulldogs still look like a team ready for a late run this season. Gary Bell Jr. and Sam Dower are getting healthy, and Mark Few has a standout inside-outside duo in point guard Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski. The end of the season will prove much about the Bulldogs: They face Memphis on the road and finish the West Coast Conference schedule with four consecutive road games. In short, though, Gonzaga is due.
Braden Gall: Give me the Colonials of George Washington. This team has some decent non-conference wins — Creighton, Miami, Maryland — and has three "no-shame" losses to Marquette, at Kansas State and at La Salle. GW has won four straight in the Atlantic 10, including one over VCU. In a league that would test any team in the nation, George Washington has all of the pieces to make a run in March. The Colonials have plenty of scoring with four players averaging in double figure. They are one of the better rebounding teams in the A-10 at No. 2 in margin. G-Dub leads the league in blocked shots per game (5.3) and has a point guard in Joe McDonald that is in his second full season and is showing marked improvement (2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio).
Mitch Light: The switch has flipped at Virginia. The Cavaliers were 9–4 overall after a shocking 35-point loss at Tennessee in late December. They proceeded to win six of their first seven games in the ACC, with the only loss by four points at Duke. Not surprisingly, this team is getting it done on the defensive end of the floor. The Cavs lead the ACC in defensive efficiency, allowing only 0.87 points per possession in league play, and they have been very good defending the 3-point shot. Offensively, Virginia’s numbers aren’t gaudy because it plays at a slow pace, but Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson are solid weapons who are capable of scoring 15 to 20 points in any given game.
The weekend in college basketball ended with another coaching milestone for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, one he extended Monday with a victory over Pittsburgh.
Saturday, though, will be perhaps just as notable. The first meeting between Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim since the 1998 NCAA regional semifinal will pit two coaches with at least 900 wins at their current schools, and both teams have national title aspirations.
When the two last faced each other Krzyzewski sat on 431 wins at Duke (and added one with a win over Syracuse) while Boeheim had 528 at Syracuse.
The career numbers lead our top stats this week, but other coaches, playeres and teams had key notables.
10 Key Stats from the Week in College Basketball
1,840. Combined wins at Duke and Syracuse for Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim
Krzyzewski and Boeheim have long been members of the 900-win club, but with Duke’s win over Florida State on Saturday, now both coaches have won 900 games at their current schools, the first meeting between two coaches who won 900 games at their current schools (Syracuse’s game at Duke on Feb. 22 also will be the Orange’s first game at Cameron Indoor). The two coaches haven’t faced each other since the Sweet 16 in 1998.
679. Wins for Rick Byrd at Belmont, the next most for an active coach at his current school
To put the 900 wins at a single school in perspective, the next active coach has a long way to go to catch up to Krzyzewski and Boeheim. Belmont’s Rick Byrd has 679 wins with the Bruins, who were the NAIA when he started in 1986. The next active coach with the most wins at a program that has been in NCAA Division I through the entirety of his tenure is Davidson’s Bob McKillop with 462 victories. Here are the complete leaders:
Active coaches, most wins at current school
939 Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
901 Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
679 Rick Byrd, Belmont*
512 Greg Kampe, Oakland*
462 Bob McKillop, Davidson
457 Tom Izzo, Michigan State
432 Billy Donovan, Florida
*part of his tenure was before school joined NCAA Division I
122.9. Michigan’s offensive efficiency rating this season on KenPom
Is it possible that Michigan’s offense is better this season without Trey Burke and, effectively, Mitch McGary? The Wolverines’ efficiency numbers say yes. Michigan’s offensive rating on KenPom is more than two points higher this season than last year: 123.0 compared to 120.3 in 2012-13. Think of that as 122.9 points per 100 possessions adjusted for the schedule. Michigan’s efficiency rating in Big Ten play is up from 112.3 last season to 119.2 this year. The Wolverines’ effective field goal rate is up from 54.6 percent to 56.2.
7. SEC opponents Florida has held to fewer than 50 points in the last two seasons
The mix of Florida’s defensive prowess and the lack of depth in the SEC has been a bad combination for competitive balance in the league. The Gators beat Tennessee 67-41 on Saturday for the seventh game in the last two seasons in which Florida held an SEC opponent to fewer than 50 points. Here’s the breakdown of points scored against Florida since 2012-13 in SEC play, including the conference tournament:
Opponent scoring in Florida's SEC games since 2012-13 (Florida's record)
49 or fewer: 7 (7-0)
50-59 points: 11 (11-0)
60-69 points: 7 (4-3)
70 or more: 2 (1-1)
3. Consecutive games with 20 second-chance points for Duke
Another Duke number and one that doesn’t totally involve Jabari Parker — though he set a Blue Devils’ freshman record with his 12th 20-point game of the season Monday. Duke’s offensive rebounding has been a showcase in the last three games, contributing to 20 second-chance points in a game for the third consecutive time. The Blue Devils outscored Miami, Florida State and Pittsburgh 71-24 combined on second-chance points in the last three games.
42.6. Minutes per game in Big East play for Providence’s Bryce Cotton
Let that one sink in for a minute, since Providence started Big East play, the Friars’ leading scorer is averaging more than a game played in each conference game. Providence played two double overtime games in conference play against Seton Hall and St. John’s, but Cotton also played 40 minutes in four league games. Providence clearly needs him on the court as Cotton has contributed to 91 of the Friars’ field goals this season either by scoring himself or through an assist.
3. Consecutive overtime games for Marquette
No question, this has been a long season for Marquette, but lately that’s literal rather than figurative. The Golden Eagles have played three consecutive overtime games against Butler, Georgetown and Villanova, losing to the Bulldogs and Wildcats and defeating the Hoyas. The record is four consecutive overtime games held by 1982 Jacksonville (3-1), 1985 Illinois (3-1) and 1988 Dayton (1-3). If there’s a chance Marquette’s streak can continue, the Golden Eagles will face the right opponent Thursday in Providence. The Friars have played four overtime games this season, the last two settled in double overtime.
5. Different leading scorers in the last five games for UCLA
If balance is what you like, try UCLA. Five different players have led the Bruins in scoring in the last five games: David Wear (18 points against Cal), Tony Parker (22 against Stanford), Kyle Anderson (28 against Utah), Norman Powell (19 against Colorado) and Zach LaVine (19 against Arizona State). Oddly enough, the Bruins’ leading scorer, Jordan Adams, hasn't led the team since Dec. 14 against Prairie View.
7. Big 12 teams in the top 25 this season, most for any conference
When Texas ended a two-season drought from the AP rankings this week, the Longhorns became the seventh Big 12 team to land in the top 25, the most for any conference this year. The seven ranked teams from the Big 12 (all but TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia) is more than double the representation for the Big East and SEC this season (three each). The ACC and Big Ten have had six teams each ranked the season. In this week’s poll, the Big 12 has No. 6 Kansas, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Iowa State, No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 25 Texas.
12. Double-digit rebound games for Ryan Spangler at Oklahoma
Ryan Spangler was going to have a tough time cracking the rotation at Gonzaga with Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, and Oklahoma offered him a chance to return to his home state. It’s tough to argue he made the right decision. He’s told reporters he has no hard feelings for Gonzaga, but we’ll throw out this stat anyway: With 17 rebounds in the 88-76 win over Oklahoma State on Monday, Spangler has 12 games this season with double-digit rebounds. Gonzaga players have hit double-figure boards seven times this season.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 28.
• January's not quite over, but here are the sports-related ladies who brightened up this cold, dark month, incluing Fox Sports 1's Leeann Tweeden.
• It's Super Bowl Media Day. Here's a reminder of what a joke it's been through the years.
• As if we hadn't all OD'd on Richard Sherman, MMQB gave him a column today. Of course, I'm the one linking to it.
• Team USA goaltender Ryan Miller's mask is pretty amazing. Looks like the Tea Party threw up on it or something.
• Chris Bosh takes a lot of abuse, but here he is doing his Carlton Banks dance and being funny and likable.
• Clay Travis has some fun with Google autofill. Unlike me, he's not afraid to type in his own name and see what Google does with it.
• One of the perks of James Franklin's new gig at Penn State: He scored an invite to tonight's State of the Union address.
• Fake or not, WWE has lost none of its ability to inspire passionate responses from its fans.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The top two teams in the NFL will conclude the 2013 season when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks meet in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday. It’s only fitting that the champions of the AFC and NFC have both posted 15-3 records to earn the right to play for the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium.
This is not the only significant number associated with this game, however. Here are some other noteworthy statistics, numbers and figures to analyze and dissect prior to kickoff.
7: Super Bowl appearances for Denver
The Broncos will play in their seventh Super Bowl this Sunday, tying them with the New England Patriots for the second-most in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers each have played in the Super Bowl eight times. Denver is looking to claim its third Lombardi Trophy, which would tie New England, the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins for the fifth-most. The Broncos have gone 2-4 in their previous Super Bowl appearances, the most recent ending in victories in 1998 (XXXII) and ’99 (XXXIII). This is just the second Super Bowl appearance for Seattle, who lost to Pittsburgh 21-10 in Super Bowl XL eight years ago.
4: Players on Denver’s active roster with Super Bowl experience
The most notable of course is Peyton Manning, who went 1-1 in the big game when he was with Indianapolis. Tight end Jacob Tamme was a teammate of Manning’s when the Colts fell to the Saints 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. Wide receiver Wes Welker came up short twice on Super Sunday (both times to the New York Giants) during his six seasons in New England, while cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the Arizona Cardinals lost a heart breaker to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII. Besides the players, Denver head coach John Fox also has experienced the NFL’s biggest stage before, leading Carolina to Super Bowl XXXVIII, where the Panthers lost to the Patriots on a last-second field goal. And the primary architect of this team, executive vice president of football operations John Elway, started five Super Bowls for the Broncos during his career, winning his last two. There’s also center Dan Koppen, who has been on injured reserve all season, but won two Super Bowl rings and played for a third during his nine seasons with New England.
0: Seahawks with Super Bowl experience
No player on Seattle’s roster has ever appeared in a Super Bowl, which is not that surprising considering the Seahawks entered this season as the fourth youngest team in the NFL. Seattle’s roster averages 25.3 years old compared to 26.3 for Denver’s, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Head coach Pete Carroll is 5-4 in his career in the playoffs but his teams had never made it past the Divisional round until this season.
25.5: Points per game differential between Denver’s offense and Seattle’s defense
The Broncos scored an NFL-record 606 points during the regular season (37.9 ppg), while the Seahawks were tops in scoring defense (14.4 ppg). Seattle is 15-2 this season when allowing 24 points or fewer, as the only team to score more than that was Indianapolis (34 points in Week 5). On the flip side, Denver is 15-2 when scoring at least 24 points per game. The only team that held the Broncos to 24 points or fewer was San Diego, who did it in both the regular season (27-20 win in Week 15) and the playoffs (24-17 loss in the Divisional round).
1991: Last time NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense and No. 1 scoring defense met in the Super Bowl
Super Bowl XXV back on Jan. 27, 1991 pitted the high-scoring, no-huddle, K-Gun offense of the Buffalo Bills against a ferocious, physical New York Giants defense that had given up just 12.6 points per game (including playoffs) that season. In a classic strength vs. strength matchup in Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Fla., points were hard to come by, but the Bills had a chance to potentially seal the deal on a 47-yard field goal attempt by Scott Norwood with just eight seconds remaining and the Giants leading 20-19. Unfortunately, Norwood’s kick went wide right, crushing the Bills’ championship dreams and giving the Giants and Bill Parcells their second Super Bowl victory in five years.
22: Career postseason starts for Peyton Manning entering Super Bowl XLVIII
Come Super Sunday, Tom Brady (26) and Brett Favre (24) will be the only two quarterbacks in NFL history with more career postseason starts than Manning’s 23. Manning will tie Joe Montana, who went 16-7 in the playoffs including four Super Bowl titles, and is hoping to push his career postseason record to 12-11. A win Sunday night also would make Manning the 12th quarterback to lead his team to multiple Super Bowl victories.
4: Career postseason starts for Russell Wilson entering Super Bowl XLVIII
Seattle’s third-round pick (75th overall) in the 2012 draft, Wilson will be making his fifth career postseason start with the opportunity to lead the Seahawks to their first-ever world championship. Wilson will become just the sixth quarterback to start in the Super Bowl in their first or second season in the NFL. He will join a group that includes Dan Marino (Super Bowl XIX), Kurt Warner (XXXIV), Tom Brady (XXXVI), Ben Roethlisberger (XL) and Colin Kaepernick (XLVII). Warner, Brady and Roethlisberger all wound up victorious on Super Sunday, while Marino and Kaepernick came up short.
85.4: Peyton Manning’s passer rating in the Super Bowl
In two previous Super Bowl appearances Manning has completed 56 of 83 passes (67.5 percent) for 580 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. That’s good for a passer rating of 85.4, which is nearly 12 points lower than his career mark of 97.2. His Super Bowl mark also is lower than his career 90.1 passer rating in 22 total postseason games. That said, this season has been the best, statistically speaking, by far in Manning’s 16-year career, as he posted a 115.1 passer rating during the regular season. That mark is surpassed only by the 121.1 he produced in 2004, the second of his soon-to-be five MVP campaigns. This postseason Manning has been at the top of his game, completing 57 of 79 attempts (72.2 percent) for 630 yards, four touchdowns and just one pick in wins over San Diego and New England. That’s good for an impressive passer rating of 107.0. Russell Wilson’s career passer rating is 100.6 in two seasons with a postseason mark of 96.9 (four career playoff games).
5.1: Marshawn Lynch’s career postseason yards per carry average
In six career playoff games, Lynch has rushed for 560 yards on 109 carries. He has averaged 5.1 yards per carry, has posted four 100-yard games and scored six touchdowns on the ground. In fact, if you take out his two yards on four carries before leaving with an injury against Chicago in the 2010 Divisional round, Lynch’s yards per carry average goes up to 5.3. This postseason, Lynch has picked up 249 yards on the ground on 50 carries in wins against New Orleans and San Francisco.
3.8: Yards per carry Denver’s defense has given up in two playoff games
In their two postseason wins, the Broncos have surrendered a total of 129 yards rushing to the Chargers and Patriots on 34 carries. Denver’s defense has held the opposition to just 3.8 yards per carry and yielded just two runs of more than 10 yards. In the regular season, the AFC champions tied with Seattle for seventh in rushing defense (101.6 ypg), yet have taken their run-stopping efforts to another level this postseason. And this unit has done so without the services of injured All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and cornerback Chris Harris.
26th: Seattle’s passing offense rank during the regular season
The Seahawks finished the regular season 17th in the NFL in total offense with 339 yards per game, but this was largely a byproduct of the league’s fourth-ranked rushing offense. Seattle averaged 136.8 yards rushing and just 202.3 yards passing per game. Just six other teams were less productive than the Seahawks through the air, as their 26th-ranked passing offense (based on yards) is the lowest of any team to ever reach the Super Bowl. Even the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 1990 New York Giants, two teams more known for defense than offense, ranked higher in passing offense (both finishing 22nd) in the regular season prior to them winning Super Bowl XXXV and XXV, respectively.
47: Total yards of offense produced by Percy Harvin this season
When Seattle acquired Harvin from Minnesota in March for three draft picks, many expected the all-purpose dynamo to serve as missing piece for the Seahawks’ offense. Besides the three draft picks, Seattle also signed Harvin to a six-year, $67 million contract. The early return on the Seahawks’ investment has been next-to-nothing, however, as Harvin had hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum. He didn’t return to the field until Week 11 when he caught one pass for 17 yards against the Vikings. Unfortunately, he aggravated his surgically repaired hip in that game and didn’t play again in the regular season. In the Divisional round against New Orleans, Harvin suffered a concussion in the second quarter and didn’t return. He was unable to clear the mandatory concussion protocol in time to play in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, but is expected to be on the field Sunday. So far this season, Harvin’s contributions have consisted of one rush for nine yards, four receptions for 38 yards and one kickoff return for 58 yards. The opportunity is clearly here for Harvin to help his team win a world championship, but is it too much to ask of someone who has been on the field a total of 38 offensive plays this season?
+25: Seattle’s turnover differential compared to Denver’s this season
The Seahawks led the NFL with a plus-20 (39 takeaways, 19 giveaways) turnover margin during the regular season. The Broncos tied for 13th with a zero turnover margin (26 of each), yet still tied Seattle for the league’s best record at 13-3. The Seahawks have forced four turnovers and committed just one miscue in their two playoff wins, while Denver has no takeaways and two giveaways in its two victories. Combined, Seattle is plus-23 in turnover differential entering Super Sunday with Denver coming in at minus-two. For what it’s worth, the record of the team with fewer turnovers in the Super Bowl is 35-3 all-time.
53: Previous meetings between Denver and Seattle
Sunday will be the 54th all-time matchup between the Broncos and Seahawks with most of the games happening when the two were in the AFC West from 1977-2001. Denver leads the all-time series 35-18, which includes one playoff game. Seattle beat its division rival 31-7 in a 1983 AFC Wild Card game that was played in the since-demolished Seattle Kingdome. The last time these two teams played was during the 2010 season when the Broncos defeated the Seahawks 31-14 at home.
38°: Projected high temperature for East Rutherford, N.J. on Super Sunday
As soon as the announcement was made in May 2010 that Super Bowl XLVIII would be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the weather became a storyline. The first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in the event’s 48-year history, fears of not-so-ideal conditions escalated last week when pictures of the field buried under a foot of snow hit the airwaves, Internet and social media. Less than a week out, however, it looks like the weather won’t be too much of a factor, other than it being really cold for the 82,500 in attendance. According to weather.com, Sunday’s forecast for East Rutherford, N.J., calls for a high temperature of 38 degrees, a low of 24 and no more than a 20 percent chance of precipitation (presumably snow/wintry mix) during the day. It also doesn’t look like the wind (5-7 mph) will be much of a factor either. NFL officials are prepared should the forecast change dramatically, but the game is expected to kickoff at 6:25 p.m. ET on Sunday and is pretty much guaranteed to be the coldest Super Bowl ever played. The current holder of this distinction is Super Bowl VI back on Jan. 16. 1972 when the temperature at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans was a frigid 39 degrees.
With the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences and the NFL's No. 1 offense (Broncos) and defense (Seahawks), set to face off in Super Bowl XLVIII there is no question that the best two teams will be playing on Super Sunday. This however has not always been the case when it comes to the biggest game of the season. Here is Athlon Sports’ list of the worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl in the game’s 48-year history. It probably goes without saying that each of these teams ended up on the short end of the scoreboard, right?
1. 1985 New England Patriots
Super Bowl result: Lost 46-10 to Chicago in Super Bowl XX
New England went 11-5 in the regular season to earn a Wild Card berth, getting hot at the right time. The Patriots won eight out of nine during one stretch and then rode its defense late in the season and in the playoffs. New England forced 16 turnovers in its three postseason victories, including six against Miami in the AFC Championship game. An opportunistic defense carried an inconsistent offense all season long, at least up until the Super Bowl.
Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Chicago scored 44 straight points and thoroughly dominated New England in posting the biggest victory in Super Bowl history at the time. For the game, the Patriots managed 123 total yards on offense, including just seven yards rushing, turned the ball over six times and gave up seven sacks.
2. 1979 Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl result: Lost 31-19 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV
Credit Los Angeles for taking full advantage of its schedule and division, as the Rams (9-7) won the NFC West even though they beat only two teams that finished with a winning record. The offense was marginal, as their quarterbacks combined for a 19:29 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season, and the team finished with a -8 turnover differential.
In the postseason, Los Angeles downed Dallas 21-19 in the Divisional round thanks to a tipped pass that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown with 2:06 remaining. In the NFC Championship game against Tampa Bay, the Rams' offense managed just three field goals, but that was more than enough thanks to a stifling defensive effort that held the Buccaneers to zero points, just five completed passes and seven first downs.
The first team to make the Super Bowl having won just nine games in the regular season, Los Angeles hung with defending world champion Pittsburgh for the first three quarters of Super Bowl XIV. The NFC champion Rams held a three-point lead at halftime and went ahead by two in the third quarter, only to watch the Steelers score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 31-19 win. If not for three interceptions by Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw, this game may not have ended up as close as it did.
3. 2003 Carolina Panthers
Super Bowl result: Lost 32-29 to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII
This Carolina team mastered the art of winning the close one. Champions of the NFC South with an 11-5 record, the Panthers won just two games in the regular season by more than six points. Seven of the victories were by three points or fewer, as the team’s point differential was +21, or 1.3 per game. The Panthers out-rushed their opponents, but this was mainly due to the fact they had nearly 100 more rushing attempts. Still the ground game produced just nine rushing touchdowns (opponents had 10), while quarterback Jake Delhomme posted a 19:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Panthers seemed to get all of the breaks in the postseason, starting with a 29-23 double overtime victory in St. Louis in the NFC Divisional round. Carolina squandered an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Rams that included St. Louis head coach Mike Martz opting to hold the ball for a game-tying field goal even though the Rams were inside the 20 with less than a minute remaining and still had one time out. Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime session, as John Kasay made his 40-yard attempt only to find out it didn’t count due to a delay of game penalty on the Panthers. He then missed the subsequent 45-yard attempt. Delhomme took matters into his own hand at the start of the second overtime period, hitting Steve Smith for the game-winning 69-yard touchdown only 10 seconds into it. Carolina’s defense came up big on the road in the NFC title game against Philadelphia, injuring Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and picking off four passes in the 14-3 win.
Carolina’s reward for earning the franchise’s first NFC crown was a Super Bowl XXXVIII matchup with New England. The game was scoreless until 3:05 left in the second quarter, when the teams combined for 24 points, including a 50-yard Kasay field goal that cut the Patriots’ lead to 14-10 at the half. All the other scoring took place in the fourth quarter, including Delhomme’s game-tying touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left, but Kasay proceeded to kick the ball out of the bounds. Tom Brady got the ball on the 40-yard line and six plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal with just four ticks remaining. While the final score may have been close, New England dominated the box score, out-gaining Carolina by nearly 100 yards (481-387) and nearly doubling the Panthers in first downs (29 to 17).
4. 2008 Arizona Cardinals
Super Bowl result: Lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII
The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.
The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the Cardinals’ division went a combined 13-35, as they beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team finished with +1 point differential in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being out-gained by the Eagles (454 to 369).
In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.
5. 1994 San Diego Chargers
Super Bowl result: Lost 49-26 to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX
San Diego won the AFC West with an 11-5 record, and its losses were by seven or fewer points except for one. That one game, you ask? It was a 38-15 loss to San Francisco in Week 15. Foreshadowing perhaps? This was not a powerful team by any stretch, as the Chargers’ point differential was +75, an average of less than five points per game, and the ground game averaged less than four yards per carry.
San Diego's defense carried the team throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs. The Chargers came back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to Miami in the AFC Divisional round, winning the game 22-21 on a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left followed by a missed 48-yard field goal by the Dolphins with one second on the clock. In the AFC Championship game, San Diego trailed Pittsburgh 13-3 at one point only to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. The Chargers needed one final goal-line stand with just over a minute left to finish the job, despite being out-gained by a wide margin (415 to 226) and having the ball less than 23 minutes.
San Diego entered Super Bowl XXIX against San Francisco as the biggest underdog ever (18.5 points) and lived up to that billing. Steve Young threw four of his Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes in the first half, as the closest the Chargers ever were to the 49ers in this one was 14-7 late in the first quarter. The 49ers led 42-10 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter before the Chargers scored two meaningless touchdowns. This game still holds the records for most combined points (75) and total touchdowns (10) in Super Bowl history, with the majority of the damage (49 and 7) done by game MVP Young and his 49ers.
6. 1987 Denver Broncos
Super Bowl result: Lost 42-10 to Washington in Super Bowl XXII
Denver took full advantage of a strike-shortened season, not to mention three games played with replacement players, to win the AFC West with a 10-4-1 record. Quarterback John Elway led one of the more productive passing offenses in the league, but the Broncos' rushing offense (3.9 ypc) lagged behind. The Broncos needed another miracle (see No. 8 below) to get past Cleveland in the AFC title game, this time at home. And just like what took place the previous season with "The Drive," the Browns delivered once again, as a late fumble sealed the Broncos’ 38-33 win and return trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Denver's third Super Bowl trip was anything but a charm. The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Washington in the first quarter, only to watch the Redskins storm back with 35 points in the second quarter. Washington finished with a Super Bowl-record 602 total yards, including a record 280 yards rushing, in the rout. Denver was out-gained by its opponent in all three of its playoff games, so perhaps the end result against Washington wasn’t all that surprising after all.
7. 1996 New England Patriots
Super Bowl result: Lost 35-21 to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI
Before the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady reign began in New England, the head coach-star quarterback pairing was Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe. However, this Patriots team relied more on defense than offense, as it won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. Bledsoe did throw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season, but the defense allowed over 4,000 through the air as well. The defense was much more stout against the run, giving up less than 94 yards rushing per game, but their own ground attack fared even worse (92 ypg).
New England got a major break in the playoffs when Jacksonville upset top-seeded Denver (13-3) at home in the Divisional round. The Patriots then dispatched of the upstart Jaguars 20-6 at home to earn the franchise’s second AFC championship. Even though the offense sputtered against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots hung around until the Packers scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Bledsoe threw four interceptions and the Patriots finished with a grand total of 43 yards rushing, as the Packers sealed the deal with MVP Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the latter part of the third quarter.
8. 1986 Denver Broncos
Super Bowl result: Lost 39-20 to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI
Denver got off to a 6-0 start to the season, but finished just 5-5. Still the Broncos’ 11-5 record was good enough to win the AFC West, thanks to a defense that led the conference in rushing yards allowed. The problem for the Broncos’ offense, however, was that it only generated 27 more yards on the ground than their defense gave up. After getting by New England 22-17 at home in the Divisional round, quarterback John Elway orchestrated “The Drive” late in the fourth quarter in Cleveland to get the Broncos to their second Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this one ended like the franchise’s first big game appearance (versus Dallas in Super Bowl XII in 1978), as the Broncos managed just 52 yards rushing and Elway got sacked four times (one went for a safety) in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
9. 1992 Buffalo Bills
Super Bowl result: Lost 52-17 to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII
This Buffalo team maintained the Bills’ run in the AFC, capturing the East division title with a 11-5 record, powered by the NFL’s top rushing offense and third-ranked scoring offense (23.8 ppg). The defense was average in terms of where it ranked in points allowed, but generally got the job done. A third straight trip to the Super Bowl almost didn’t happen, however, as Buffalo trailed Houston 35-3 early in the third quarter of its Wild Card game. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, filling in for an injured Jim Kelly, orchestrated what became known as “The Comeback” with the Bills pulling out a 41-38 victory in overtime.
Buffalo then easily defeated Pittsburgh and Miami by a combined score of 53-13 to reach their third straight Super Bowl, this time against Dallas. The Bills held a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, only to watch the Cowboys score the next 17 points and pile on 21 more in the fourth quarter. As talented and good as this Dallas team was, Buffalo could ill afford to give them many breaks, which they certainly did. The Bills turned it over a Super Bowl-record nine times, including five fumbles, which led to 35 of the 52 points the Cowboys scored.
10. 2000 New York Giants
Super Bowl result: Lost 34-7 to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV
After losing two games in a row in early November, New York’s record stood at 7-4. Undeterred, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that this team would not miss the playoffs. He made good on that promise as the Giants won their last five, albeit just one of those victories came against a team that finished with a winning record, to capture the NFC East title.
Similar to Baltimore, their eventual opponent in the Super Bowl, this Giants team was built around defense. The G-Men held opponents to 15.4 points per game and less than 1,200 yards rushing total (72.3 ypg) during the regular season. This was especially the case in the playoffs, as the Giants yielded a total of 10 points in wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota, including shutting out the Vikings in the NFC Championship game by holding them to 114 total yards and forcing five turnovers.
The problem for the Giants, however, was their offense and this was especially the case in Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense, considered one of the best in the history of the game, kept the Giants’ offense scoreless, as their only points in the game came on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ron Dixon in the third quarter. For the game, the Giants’ offense mustered a total of 152 yards and quarterback Kerry Collins was responsible for four (all INTs) of the Giants’ five turnovers.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
The Pac-12 is known for its offensive prowess and offensive fireworks but it also owns a trophy that is presented to the league's best defensive lineman. The Morris Trophy has been voted on by fellow players since 1980 in an effort to truly determine who that season's best D-lineman. And only three players during the BCS Era have won the award twice.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. That year, Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies as well. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time in league history) and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
2. Haloti Ngata, Oregon (2003-05)
Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He blocked seven kicks and led Oregon to a 10-win season in 2005 — just the school’s third such campaign in school history at the time.
3. Will Sutton, Arizona State (2009-13)
There are only two players in the history of the Pac-12 to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and Sutton is one of them (Washington’s Steve Emtman is the other) as he claimed both the 2012 and '13 honor. Sutton was an All-American after a huge junior season in 2012 before returning to help lead Arizona State to the best record in the Pac-12 and a South Division title. He won back-to-back Morris Trophies as well as the league’s best D-liner in both seasons. From his tackle spot, he finished with 19.5 career sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss.
4. Sedrick Ellis, USC (2004-07)
Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans to four straight conference titles and two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was one of three players to ever win the Morris Trophy twice during the BCS Era, earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was a unanimous All-American in '07. Ellis finished with 144 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 48 career games for the Men of Troy. USC was 47-5 during his four years and Ellis was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
5. Stephen Paea, Oregon State (2008-10)
This strong bull in the middle is one of the greatest players in OSU history. He was a two-time Morris Trophy winner in the Pac-10, one of only five players to ever accomplish the feat in league history (three during BCS Era). Paea earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and was named a consensus All-American. He finished with 129 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks in his Beavers career. One of the strongest players in NFL Combine history, Paea was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 draft.
6. Shaun Cody, USC (2001-04)
Cody made an instant impact, earning freshman All-American honors for the ’01 Trojans. He started as a sophomore for the Orange Bowl champs before anchoring the USC defensive line on back-to-back national championship teams in 2003-04. He was a consensus All-American who earned co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the league on a perfect ’04 squad. He finished his career with 130 tackles, 31.5 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks and four blocked kicks. Cody was a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2005 NFL Draft.
7. Rien Long, Washington State (2000-02)
The All-American who stayed in his home state is one of just four defensive players to win the Outland Trophy during the BCS Era. He was a first-team consensus All-American in 2002 after posting 13.0 sacks in 2002. He left early for the NFL Draft, where he was a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.
8. Dave Ball, UCLA (2000-03)
The Bruins' edge rusher led the nation in sacks in 2003 with 16.5 and finished with a school-record 30.5 career sacks — good for 12th all-time in league history. He was the Morris Trophy winner, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American that season as well. His 16.5 sacks in 2003 are good for seventh-best all-time in Pac-12 history and Ball went on to be selected in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
9. Bill Swancutt, Oregon State (2001-04)
Among players during the BCS Era, only Suggs has more sacks than Swancutt’s 37.0 QB takedowns — which is good for sixth all-time in league history. The same can be said for tackles for a loss as his 59.5 rank sixth all-time and second to only Suggs during the BCS Era. Swancutt was Pac-10 co-Defensive Player of the Year with Shaun Cody in 2004. He is Oregon State’s all-time leader in sacks, tackles for a loss as well as forced fumbles (seven). He was a sixth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
10. Kenechi Udeze, USC (2001-03)
Udeze posted 26 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks — good for second all-time to Tim Ryan (1989) in USC history and tied for second in the league during the BCS Era (Suggs) — during the Trojans' 2003 run to a shared national championship. He tied an NCAA record with 14 career forced fumbles and finished with 53.0 career tackles for a loss — a school record and 12th all-time in league history.
Just missed the cut:
11. Andre Carter, Cal (1997-00)
One of the league’s best, Carter is ninth all-time in league history with 55.0 tackles for a loss and 10th all-time with 31.0 sacks. He won the Morris Trophy in 2000 and was named a unanimous first-team All-American. The Nagurski finalist was the seventh overall pick of the 49ers in the 2001 NFL Draft.
12. Star Lotulelei, Utah (2010-12)
The man in the middle for the Utes didn’t miss a game in his three-year Utah career. Lotulelei was the 2011 Morris Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive lineman and earned All-American honors as a senior in '12. The Utah star defender finished with 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
13. Lawrence Jackson, USC (2004-07)
Twice Jackson led the Trojans in sacks and twice helped lead the Trojans to the BCS National Championship Game. He was a terror off the edge and finished tied for 12th in league history with 30.5 sacks and is tied for 18th in league history with 52.0 tackles for a loss. He started 51 of 52 possible career games and was an All-American in 2007 before becoming the 28th overall pick in the first round of the '08 NFL Draft.]
14. Brian Price, UCLA (2006-09)
The big defensive tackle was a freshman All-American before breaking out as a sophomore the following year (14.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks). As an upperclassman, Price was a two-time, first-team all-league performer, a consensus All-American and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year before getting picked with the 35th overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
15. Bruce Davis, UCLA (2004-07)
The hybrid end is second all-time in UCLA history behind only Dave Ball with 29.0 career sacks (17th in Pac-12 history). His 42.5 tackles for a loss rank third all-time in UCLA history behind Ball and Carnell Lake. Price totaled 33.0 tackles for a loss and 24.5 sacks over his final two seasons, earning All-American consideration both seasons. He was a third-round pick of the Steelers in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Best of the rest:
16. Nick Reed, Oregon (2005-08)
The Morris Trophy winner finished with 29.5 sacks and 51.5 tackles for a loss.
17. Riall Johnson, Stanford (1997-00)
Seventh all-time in sacks (36.0) after back-to-back seasons with at least 13 QB takedowns. Is 12th all-time with 53.0 TFLs.
18. Mike Patterson, USC (2001-04)
Anchored middle of the Trojans line on two national title teams, three-time all-conference.
19. Inoke Breckterfield, Oregon State (1995-98)
Morris Trophy winner left school as the all-time leader in TFL (55.5) and sacks (19.5). Both since broken.
20. Scott Crichton, Oregon State (2011-13)
Posted 51.5 TFL and 22.5 sacks in just three years. Freshman All-American and two-time all-league pick.
21. Mkristo Bruce, Washington State (2003-06)
Owns single-game league record with 5.0 sacks in 2006, 15th all-time with 29.5 sacks.
22. Justin Hickman, UCLA (2003-06)
A consensus All-American who led the league in sacks (12.5) and tackles for a loss (19.0) in 2006
23. Kenyon Coleman, UCLA (1997-01)
Won the 2001 Morris Trophy after returning from a knee injury. Three-time all-league selection.
24. D.D. Acholonu, Washington State (2000-03)
Is ninth all-time with 32.5 sacks and set a school record with 16.5 in 2003.
25. Dexter Davis, Arizona State (2006-09)
Played in ASU-record 50 games with 31 sacks — 10th all-time in league history.
College football’s 2014 season is still several months away, and spring practice won’t begin for many teams until March. However, it’s never too early to look ahead. With the official list of early entries into the draft finalized, a clear picture is starting to form on how the teams will stack up in 2014.
Texas A&M is just one school replacing key players, as quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans declared for the NFL Draft. Manziel’s replacement could be senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill or true freshman Kyle Allen.
Louisville is another team looking to fill a huge void under center. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to be one of the first players off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft, leaving big shoes to fill for the Cardinals. Sophomore Will Gardner is expected to replace Bridgewater, and he will have the luxury of throwing to standout receiver DeVante Parker in 2014.
In addition to Will Gardner and the quarterbacks at Texas A&M, we tried to identify 10 players under the spotlight replacing some of the biggest names in college football next year. This isn’t a complete list of replacements for the top players or departing All-Americans, but these players are just a small sample of names to watch next year.
10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in College Football in 2014
Kyle Allen/Kenny Hill/Matt Joeckel, QB, Texas A&M
Replacing a starting quarterback in college football is a difficult assignment for any team. But try replacing a Heisman winner that accounted for 9,989 yards and 93 touchdowns in two seasons. That’s the task facing Kyle Allen, Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel in College Station next season, as Johnny Manziel chose to leave for the NFL after two years. Hill ranked as the No. 24 quarterback in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports. He played in four games as a true freshman, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. Hill also rushed for 37 yards. Joeckel has the most experience of any quarterback on the roster, owning 49 career pass attempts. He started the season opener against Rice due to a one-half suspension for Manziel. While Hill and Joeckel own an edge in experience, Allen is the name to watch. The Arizona native ranks as the No. 10 overall prospect in the 2014 signing class by 247Sports and will enroll in time to compete in spring practice. Regardless of who wins the starting job, the supporting cast should be among the best in the SEC. If Allen quickly picks up the offense in spring practice, his talent will win out over the experience of Joeckel and Hill.
Ben Braden/Erik Magnuson, OT, Michigan
Michigan’s offense finished 2013 ranked a disappointing 10th in the Big Ten by averaging 373.5 yards per game. In order for the Wolverines to contend with Ohio State and Michigan State in the East Division in 2014, the offensive line has to improve. But that’s easier said than done, especially as the unit’s most consistent and best lineman have expired their eligibility (Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield). Lewan was a second-team Associated Press All-American and started 48 games in his career. The interior of the line was a huge problem in 2013 but losing Lewan and Schofield is an even bigger concern for new coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Filling Lewan’s place on the line could be Braden or Magnuson. Braden played in two games in 2013, while Magnuson made seven starts at guard. Considering all of the problems on the interior in 2013, Michigan’s problems aren’t limited to just one position. However, if Braden or Magnuson can’t anchor the left side of the line, the Wolverines’ offense will be stuck in neutral once again in 2014.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Since 2010, three Alabama linebackers have been selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, and departing senior C.J. Mosley is likely to increase that total in 2014. Is Foster next in the line of standout Crimson Tide linebackers? He was the No. 7 overall player in the 2013 signing class and played sparingly as a true freshman, recording 12 tackles in nine appearances. Foster was listed as the backup to Trey DePriest in the middle, but he will be tough to keep off the field next season. And at 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, Foster is already one of the Crimson Tide’s most physical defenders. Expect Foster to be a household name in the SEC next year.
Will Gardner, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater leaves big shoes to fill in the Louisville offense after throwing for 9,817 yards and 72 touchdowns over the last three seasons. But the Cardinals won’t slip too much on offense in their first season in the ACC. New coach Bobby Petrino is one of the top offensive minds in the conference, and receiver DeVante Parker decided to return for his final season at Louisville instead of entering the NFL Draft. Gardner is slated to replace Bridgewater this spring as the No. 1 quarterback. The Georgia native was a three-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and redshirted in his first season on campus after tearing his ACL. Gardner didn’t see a ton of action in 2013, completing only 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two scores. He did not record a pass attempt in the final five games of the season. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Gardner has the physical tools a coach wants in a quarterback. With Parker returning at receiver and Michael Dyer and Dominique Brown back at running back, Gardner won’t have to win games on his own next year.
Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
A staple of Stanford’s success over the last four seasons has been the offensive line. The Cardinal has owned one of the nation’s top groups during that span, but this unit has to be remodeled for 2014. Four starters are gone, including standout guard David Yankey and tackle Cameron Fleming. While offensive lines usually take a few games to jell, the Cardinal won’t be short on talent in the trenches. Left tackle Andrus Peat should be in the mix for All-America honors next year, while Garnett, Connor McFadden, Kyle Murphy, Johnny Caspers and Graham Shuler will battle to round out the starting five. Garnett was a key reserve in 2013 and made one start against Washington State. The Washington native was a four-star prospect by 247Sports in the 2012 signing class and played in all 14 games as a true freshman. Yankey will be missed, but Garnett is a future star on Stanford’s offensive line.
Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State
Florida State doesn’t lose much talent off its national championship team, but the Seminoles have a glaring concern at defensive tackle. Timmy Jernigan left early for the NFL after a standout junior campaign, leaving the defense with a group of talented, but largely inexperienced options. In addition to Jernigan, Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel also depart from the interior. Lawrence-Stample is the team’s top returning defensive tackle after starting six games and recording 15 tackles. The Florida native has played in 21 career contests and was rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports in the 2011 signing class. Lawrence-Stample doesn’t need to be Jernigan, but he also needs to have a bigger role in the defense next year. His 305-pound frame will be critical to stopping the run at the point of attack. Helping Lawrence-Stample on the interior will be Keith Bryant, Justin Hanks, Derek Mitchell and Desmond Hollin. There’s talent here, but how quickly will this group develop?
Darryl Render, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald closed out an outstanding career in the Steel City by winning the Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik and Outland trophies, along with garnering several first-team All-American honors in 2013. Donald’s production and attention he required from opposing offensive lines will be tough for Render to replace in 2014. However, Render has flashed plenty of ability over the last two seasons and should be a key cog in Pittsburgh’s line next year. As a true freshman in 2012, he made one start and recorded six tackles. Render was more active around the line of scrimmage as a sophomore, playing in all 13 games and registering 25 stops. With Donald and nose tackle Tyrone Ezell both out of eligibility, the interior of Pittsburgh’s line will have a different look next year. Render showed improvement as the 2013 season progressed, and all signs point to another year of growth in 2014.
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Spartans are losing a couple of key pieces from their Big Ten Championship defense, starting in the trenches with tackles Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds and continuing into the back seven with linebacker Max Bullough and in the secondary with Dennard and Isaiah Lewis. We could focus on any of those areas, but let’s put the spotlight on Waynes. Dennard was one of the nation’s top defensive backs over the last few seasons and a true shut down corner. Waynes started all 14 games for Michigan State in 2014 and finished the year with 50 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. With Dennard out of eligibility, Waynes will become the No. 1 cornerback for the Spartans. Is he up to the task of matching up against the top receiver against opposing offenses?
Myles Willis, RB, Boston College
Boston College was one of the biggest surprises in the ACC last season, finishing 7-6 under new coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles should be back in the mix for a bowl next year, but Addazio has some work to do on offense. Quarterback Chase Rettig, running back Andre Williams and receiver Alex Amidon all must be replaced. Williams led the nation with an average of 167.5 rushing yards per game. That type of production will be hard to replace, but Willis showed he is a capable replacement from a limited stint last season. The Georgia native rushed 60 times for 346 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. He was also a weapon on kick returns, taking one of his 30 attempts back for a touchdown. When Andre Williams missed time due to a shoulder injury at Syracuse, Willis rushed 17 times for 70 yards. Boston College should have a solid offensive line next year, and with a new quarterback taking over, the ground attack should be the focus of the offense. Willis is only 5-foot-9 and 187 pounds, so he isn’t likely to handle 250 or more carries. However, he should be a key cog in the Eagles’ offense next year.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Clemson’s passing game will look significantly different in 2014. Quarterback Tajh Boyd expired his eligibility, and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant left early for the NFL. But the news isn’t all bad for the Tigers. Coordinator Chad Morris didn’t leave for a head coaching gig, and the staff should feel confident in Boyd’s potential replacements (Deshaun Watson, Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly). With Watkins and Bryant leaving, Williams needs to step up and emerge as one of the top targets for the new quarterback. As a true freshman in 2013, Williams caught 20 passes for 316 yards and three scores. His best performance came against Citadel, catching three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Williams won’t be the only receiver returning for Clemson, as Adam Humphries and Charone Peake round out a talented trio of options. However, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds with plenty of upside, the Tigers are counting on Williams to be a breakout receiver in 2014.
The list of star players not present in East Lansing was staggering Saturday: Branden Dawson, Mitch McGary and Adreian Payne all were out for two teams that have been the walking wounded for most of the season.
Spartans point guard Keith Appling played, but his wrist was in such bad shape he could barely shoot.
That left Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris with the opportunity to fill the void.
The two guards went back and forth for most of the game in a matchup that often left them one on one, but in the end, it was the Michigan guard Stauskas who was blowing kisses into the crowd at the Breslin Center.
Stauskas finished with 19 points against Michigan State and 26 against Iowa on Wednesday for two of Michigan’s three consecutive wins over ranked teams. The week, in which Stauskas shot a combined 15-of-26 from the field, earned the sophomore Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.
“We knew he was going to have to pick his spots but he hit some daggers that were tough shots with Gary all over him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It was a great matchup of two really good players and that was a pretty efficient game by Nik.”
Athlon Sports College Basketball National Awards: Jan. 27
National Player of the Week: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas is making a strong push for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The sharpshooting Canadian after averaged 22.5 points last week as Michigan posted huge wins against Iowa in Ann Arbor and Michigan State in East Lansing. A 6-6 shooting guard, Stauskas hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points in the Wolverines’ comeback win over Michigan State on Saturday night. He is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 44.4 percent from three in Big Ten games.
National Freshman of the Week: Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Taylor, a freshman point guard, penetrated through the Baylor defense time and again en route to a career-high 27 points to lead Texas to a 74–60 win over slumping Baylor in Austin. The Longhorns, coming off the first losing season of the Rick Barnes era, improved to 16–4 overall and 5–2 in the Big 12. They have won three straight games over a ranked opponent for the first time in school history.
Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Treveon Graham, VCU
Graham scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead VCU to a 97–89 win over La Salle in double-overtime on Saturday in Philadelphia. Graham, a junior guard, sent the game into overtime by scoring the final six points of regulation, and he also scored six of the Rams’ seven points in the first overtime. His 34 points are the most scored by a VCU player in the five-year Shaka Smart era.
Other top performers:
Bryce Cotton, Providence
Surging Providence, winners of five straight games, is getting great play from Cotton, a senior guard who averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 assists (without committing a turnover) in the Friars’ wins over Butler and Xavier last week. Cotton has played every minute of each of the last five games, including 50 in a double-overtime win at St. John’s two weeks ago.
Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
With All-American Marcus Smart struggling through a dismal performance, Nash stepped up with a career-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds to lead Oklahoma State to an 81–75 win over West Virginia in Stillwater. Nash, a junior swingman, converted 10-of-13 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line.
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Petteway, a transfer from Texas Tech, scored a career-best 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists in Nebraska’s 82–78 win over Minnesota in Lincoln. A 6-6 swingman from Galveston, Texas, Petteway is averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 points for the Cornhuskers after averaging only 3.1 points as a freshman for Texas Tech two years ago.
James Siakam, Vanderbilt
Siakam scored a career-high 22 points and tied an SEC career high with 10 rebounds in the Commodores’ 66–55 win at Texas A&M. A junior forward from Cameroon, Siakam converted 6-of-10 from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line to lead the Commodores to their first road win of the season. His previous career high in an SEC game was nine points in a win over Missouri two weeks ago.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins played perhaps the finest game of his young career, scoring 27 points — including 19 in the first half — as Kansas avenged a shocking loss at TCU last season by pounding the Horned Frogs 91–69 in Fort Worth. Wiggins, a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, connected on 8-of-13 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line, and added five points and five rebounds. Wiggins, often criticized for his lack of aggression, has attempted 22 free throws in his last two games.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Williams-Goss poured in career-high 32 points — on only 15 field goal attempts — to help Washington rally from 12 points down in the second half to beat Oregon State 87–81 in Seattle. A freshman guard from Oregon, Williams-Goss hit 10-of-15 from the field (including 3-of-4 from three) and 9-of-10 from the foul line.
Scott Stallings (pictured above in a photo tweeted by the PGA Tour) narrowly averted a cumbersome six-man playoff when he two-putted for birdie on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to win the Farmers Insurance Open by a single shot over five fellow competitors and earn his third career PGA Tour win. But the talk of the weekend was Tiger Woods' missed secondary cut at a course where he has historically dominated. Here's a quick statistical rundown of the weekend's action.
1 Think putting is important? Stallings ranked first in the field in strokes gained, putting, with 2.794, more than making up for some weaker ball-striking stats.
156 With the win, Stallings leaps 156 spots in the FedExCup rankings, moving from 166 to 10.
2 Stallings' birdie on 18 averted a six-man playoff. In PGA Tour history, there have been two such playoffs, most recently at the 2001 Nissan Open won by Robert Allenby.
1 Stallings is the first player to win using the new Titleist Vokey Design SM5 wedge, which was just unveiled this week at the PGA Merchandise Show.
79 It doesn't count as a missed cut; it's officially a Made Cut, Did Not Finish. But Tiger Woods' Saturday 79 and missed secondary cut was the weekend's most shocking result. Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines seven times and won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open, on the storied SoCal layout. The 79, which included two straight double bogeys, was only the fourth over-par round in his 57 career rounds at the event. He failed to birdie even one of the 12 par 5s he played. Woods needed a 10-foot par putt on 18 to break 80.
Shot of the day: Billy Horschel holed a 95-yard approach for eagle on 18 at Torrey Pines.
The entire nation, if not the entire world, will be focused on MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. While the weather will certainly be one of the main storylines, especially if it takes a turn for the worse, this matchup between the champions of the AFC and NFC will be decided on the field by the 11 players from each team that will line up on either side of the football.
Here are five reasons why the Broncos will win the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy on Super Sunday:
1. Peyton Manning’s Pinnacle
Win or lose, Manning’s 2013 season will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the NFL. He already has rewritten the NFL record books, adding the single-season marks for both yards passing (5,477) and touchdowns (55) to his resume. He’s all but a lock to receive his record fifth MVP trophy and he’s entered exclusive company just by getting the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.
When he takes his first snap Sunday night, Manning will become just the 12th quarterback in the history of the game to start in three Super Bowls. Among those in that group, eight (Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, John Elway, Bob Griese, Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Staubach) have each won multiple Super Bowls. This is the next accomplishment Manning has lined up in his sights and should he be successful, it not only would cement his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, it also would put the finishing touches on what is arguably the greatest season ever by a signal-caller.
Much has been made about Manning’s performance in the postseason, but a victory over Seattle would move his all-time playoff mark to 12-11 and would give him a second Super Bowl ring. The comparisons between Manning and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway are unavoidable if not for the connection they now share. After leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins at the end of his career, Elway is now the man in charge of the franchise and was responsible for bringing Manning to Denver after Indianapolis released him in March 2012.
In two short seasons with the Broncos, Manning has reestablished himself as one of the game’s elite quarterbacks and led his team back to the Super Bowl. Elway walked away from the game after winning a second straight Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXIII. Could Manning do the same 15 years later? With him set to turn 38 years old in March and the lingering questions about his health less than three years removed from multiple neck surgeries, I suppose anything is possible. But whether this does end up being Manning’s final game or not, it only seems fitting that No. 18 walks off the MetLife Stadium turf Sunday night with the Lombardi Trophy in tow.
2. Experience Matters
Considering there are 12 years separating the two starting quarterbacks, it should surprise no one that Denver is an older team than Seattle. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Broncos’ average age is 26.3, while the Seahawks’ is 25.3. Now that one-year difference may not seem like a big deal, but entering the season Denver was the fifth-oldest team in the NFL, while Seattle was the fourth youngest, according to research compiled by ESPN.com NFL Insider Mike Sando.
The Broncos’ roster features eight players who have been in the NFL at least 10 years, while the Seahawks have one. Peyton Manning (16 seasons) is the oldest player on either team, but with age comes experience. Manning has played in two previous Super Bowls and 20 other postseason games. Contrast that to his counterpart, Russell Wilson, who has played in a total of four playoff contests.
Manning, 37, is set to become the second-oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history while Wilson will be the sixth quarterback to play on Super Sunday in his first or second season as a starter. Overall, the older quarterback holds a 26-21 edge in the Super Bowl, although the younger signal-caller has been on the winning side in 10 of the past 12.
That said, Manning and several of his teammates have been around the block more than one time. While Manning is looking for his second Super Bowl ring, guys like Champ Bailey (15 seasons), Quentin Jammer (12) and Shaun Phillips (10) are all looking for their first. Even Wes Welker, who went to two Super Bowls during his six seasons with New England, has yet to hold the Lombardi Trophy in his hands. And then there’s head coach John Fox, who led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII, only to lose to the Patriots by just three points.
There’s no question that the Seahawks are hungry and want to win this game. However, they also are fairly young as this is entirely new territory for the majority of this team, especially the quarterback and head coach. On the other side, Manning, Fox, Welker and a few other Broncos have already experienced this stage and know full well what it will take to finish the job next Sunday night.
3. Broncos’ Defense Peaking at Right Time
Seattle’s defense will garner a lot more attention entering Super Bowl XLVIII and understandably so. Not only were the Seahawks the No. 1 defense during the regular season, this unit is faced with the task of slowing down Peyton Manning and the highest-scoring offense in the history of the NFL.
However, this does not mean that Denver’s defense should be overlooked. For one, the Broncos have put up better statistics than the Seahawks so far this postseason. Denver has given up an average of 289.5 yards per game in its two playoff contests compared to the 358.5 surrendered by Seattle. The points allowed (16.5 ppg for Denver, 16 for Seattle) are similar, but if there’s one area that’s been totally different it’s rushing defense. The Broncos have yielded a total of 129 yards rushing while the Seahawks have given up 269. Seattle’s offense is built around the running game (136.8 ypg in regular season, 4th in NFL), so it’s critical that Denver’s defense continues its strong play against the run.
What’s even more impressive about the Broncos’ recent defensive surge is that this unit is doing it without the services of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and, for the most part, cornerback Chris Harris. Harris tore his ACL in the Divisional round win against San Diego, yet Denver still held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 320 yards of total offense and just 16 points in the AFC Championship Game.
I’m not saying that Denver’s defense is better than Seattle’s. There’s no question the Seahawks have more talent across the board, especially given the injuries the Broncos have suffered. However, Denver’s defense doesn’t have to stop Manning and company, Seattle does. The Broncos’ defense just needs to do its job against the Seahawks’ offense and lately that hasn’t been an issue for this unit.
4. Denver’s Stable of Weapons
Seattle’s defense finished the regular season tops in the league in both yards (273.6 ypg) and points (14.4 ppg) allowed. The Seahawks are also were No. 1in passing defense (172.0 ypg) in large part thanks to the efforts of their secondary, also known as the “Legion of Boom.”
Headlined by first-team All-Pros cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, Seattle’s secondary also includes safety Kam Chancellor, who was a second-team All-Pro. Besides being athletic and physical, the Seahawks’ defensive backfield features decent size with Sherman and Chancellor both measuring at 6-3.
Seattle’s defense has had its way with pretty much every team it has played, but the Broncos represent an entirely different challenge. For one, Peyton Manning is enjoying the best statistical season of his Hall of Fame career as the Broncos set a new benchmark for scoring (606 points) in the regular season. Then there’s the stable of weapons Manning has to throw to starting with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, but also including tight end Julius Thomas and running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.
Besides a track record of production, Denver’s pass-catchers bring some size of their own, as Demaryius and Julius Thomas and Decker all stand at least 6-3. This by itself could be a factor when it comes to winning one-on-one matchups with Seattle’s secondary. In addition, offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done a fine job of putting together effective game plans for Manning to execute on the field throughout this season and there’s little reason to expect anything different for this game, especially with two weeks to prepare.
This Super Bowl is somewhat unique in that it will be the first one in more than 20 years to feature the No. 1 scoring offense versus the No. 1 scoring defense. As good as Seattle’s defense has been, it has yet to face anything quite like Denver’s offense. Of the 18 games the Seahawks have played, half of them have been against teams that ranked 26th or lower in the NFL in total offense during the regular season. New Orleans (4th) was the only team among the top 10 offenses that Seattle played and Denver averaged nearly 60 more yards and 12 points more per game than the Saints.
Defense may win championships, but there has never been as explosive and productive an offense as the Broncos, who may have too many weapons for even the mighty Seahawks to contain.
5. The Broncos' Unfinished Business
Denver has been working towards this game since last Jan. 12 when its 2012 season came to a crushing end following Baltimore’s 38-35 double overtime victory in the Divisional round. Not only did the Broncos lose at home, they were forced to sit back and watch the Ravens accomplish what they were hoping to – win Super Bowl XLVII.
A year later, the collapse against Baltimore is all but a memory, as Denver took care of San Diego and New England at home for the right to face Seattle next Sunday. While the Broncos certainly celebrated with their fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High following the 26-16 win over the Patriots, the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which goes to the AFC champions, is not the hardware this team has been aiming for since the start of training camp back in the summer.
Just like John Elway 15 years ago, this Denver team wants to do all it can to ensure that Peyton Manning gets his second Super Bowl ring. Are you going to bet against a motivated herd of stampeding Broncos?
Big players make big plays in big games. And the Super Bowl is “The Big Game.” (Seriously, using the term “Super Bowl” without league permission is strictly prohibited.) Stars come out to shine in the Super Bowl. This year’s New York (but really New Jersey) setting at MetLife Stadium will only add to the glare of the international spotlight. Over 100 million people will watch the game worldwide. Companies have splurged as much as $4 million for 30 seconds of commercial airtime featuring the lovely Scarlett Johansson.
The combined Q Score of the entire Seattle Seahawks roster may not add up to that of laser-rocket-armed, mustachioed football cop, radio-audibling, ad wizard and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. But the Seahawks’ 53-man roster does boast the most talented and deepest lineup in the sport, which will ultimately earn them the most recognizable prize in all of sports — the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Hawks may not have Manning’s megawatt star power but they will soon have blinding bling Super Bowl XLVIII rings. Here are five reasons why the Seattle Seahawks will defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII:
1. Beast Mode
Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” has been registering on the Richter Scale lately, as the Seahawks’ power back has a combined 50 carries for 249 yards (5.0 ypc) and three TDs in victories over New Orleans (23–15) and NFC West rival San Francisco (23–17). To put Lynch’s violent running style in perspective, he broke six tackles on his most recent “Beast quake” seismic scoring run; Ravens running back Ray Rice broke nine tackles all season (per Pro Football Focus). Lynch likes the postseason as much as his beloved Skittles.
The 5-11, 215-pounder has 109 career playoff carries for 560 yards (5.1 ypc) and six TDs. Expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to keep playing “Beast” ball with his human earthquake. Brace yourself, Big Apple. Make sure there are no unexpected lane closures, New Jersey. “Beast Mode” is on its way.
2. Legion of Boom
“U mad, bro?” Seattle’s better is better than Denver’s better. The Hawks’ faster is faster than the Broncos’ faster. Hard-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor will have big-helmet Wes Welker making long-term business decisions coming across the middle. Ball-Hawk free safety Earl Thomas will make the gloved throwing hand of Peyton Manning pay for any cold-weather wounded ducks floating in midair. And, of course, there’s swagger-spewing shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman, who won’t need a boom mic for the Legion of Boom to make noise in the Super Bowl.
“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like … (insert Broncos receiver here) … that’s the result you’re going to get,” shouts Sherman, who nearly blew up the Internet after blowing up in a postgame interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews after a game-clinching tipped-ball for an INT in the NFC Championship Game. “Don’t open your mouth about the best, or I’ll shut it for you real quick. LOB (Legion of Boom)!”
3. Monsters in the Middle
No matter how good Seattle’s secondary is, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s front seven must stuff the run, shut down the underneath passing game, apply pressure on Manning and make the soon-to-be 38-year-old throw the ball 50 times in the cold. Like most Super Bowl-winning defenses, the Seahawks are stout up the middle — with so-underrated-he’s-now-bordering-overrated defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and middle backer Bobby Wagner.
The svelte 310-pound Mebane commands double teams yet still collapses the pocket — getting leverage, getting low, getting pressure. Wagner is a second-year stud who has recorded a combined 260 tackles, seven sacks and five INTs over his first two seasons as a second-round pick out of Nevada.
This will be a strength vs. strength matchup of the NFL’s top passing offense (340.2 ypg) against the NFL’s top passing defense (172.0 ypg). However, the Seahawks also owned the best scoring defense (14.4 ppg), total defense (273.6 ypg) and turnover margin (plus-20) en route to a 13–3 regular season record. In two postseason games, Seattle has allowed 16 points per game and posted a plus-three turnover margin.
4. Triple-Threat Dynamic Duo
Seattle’s pair of 25-year-old receiver-runner-returners — Percy Harvin (5-11, 184) and Golden Tate (5-10, 202) — is as compact, explosive and versatile as any in the league. Both can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield or in the Wildcat. Both have huge chips on their shoulder. Harvin missed nearly the entire season after signing a six-year, $67 million contract this offseason. Tate is a pending free agent who hopes to join Harvin’s tax bracket this offseason.
No one in Denver’s depleted secondary matches up well with wideouts like Harvin and Tate. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6-2, 193) is a long and lean outside-the-numbers corner who runs well against the new-age size-speed combo wideouts (a la Demaryius Thomas). But DRC isn’t the elite type of cover man who can line up all over the field to mirror Harvin or Tate. Champ Bailey was once that type of shutdown cornerback. But at 35 years old and with 15 years of mileage on his tires, Bailey can’t keep up like he once did. Champ is a Hall of Famer, no doubt. Everyone respects his body of work. But he’s not flame-retardant anymore; Bailey’s going to get burnt by Harvin and/or Tate.
5. Father Time, Old Man Winter
Peyton Manning will turn 38 on March 24. Russell Wilson just turned 25 on Nov. 29. There’s a reason only one quarterback — Denver’s 38-year-old John Elway in the final NFL game of his career vs. Atlanta in Super Bowl XXXIII — older than Manning has won the Super Bowl. Football is a young man’s game to begin with. And after a grueling 16-game regular season and multiple hard-fought playoff games, age catches up with even the greatest. Take Elway out of the equation and the five oldest quarterbacks in Super Bowl history are 1–4, with Johnny Unitas winning Super Bowl V and the other four (Kurt Warner, Rich Gannon, Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach) suffering losses.
Add the variable element of cold weather and age becomes even more of an issue. This year’s game could be a sloppy affair — at least if you trust the Farmers’ Almanac. The trusted source that dates back to 1818 is “red-flagging” early February in New Jersey, calling for “copious wind, rain, and snow” around kickoff. Manning has struggled in the elements lately. He threw for a season-low 150 yards in a Week 12 loss at New England this season and had three turnovers (two INTs, lost fumble) in a snowy playoff loss in Denver against Baltimore last year.
The weather should be no big deal for Wilson, who has thrived in the scattered showers of Seattle and the windy chill of Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Plus, the dual-threat can make plays with his legs, a club Manning certainly does not have in his bag of tricks. Maybe if the Broncos still had Von Miller to chase Wilson? But they don’t have their best pass-rusher. Health — both injuries and age — plays a huge role in crowning a Super Bowl champion. There is little debate that the Seahawks are the younger and healthier team.
Seattle is better from top-to-bottom than Mile High top-heavy Denver, a team with an MVP passer and a stable of fantasy football receivers but little else. The greatest fans in football, the “12th Man” — whose collective jersey has been retired in the Pacific Northwest — will have reason to make some noise after Super Sunday. You might even be able to hear the “12th Man” in New Jersey after the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII — at least once Richard Sherman is done talking.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 27.
• Once we get the Super Bowl out of the way, it will be Winter Olympics time, when we'll be treated to athletes like speed skater Allison Baver (pictured). Although she won't be dressed like that.
• In honor of Super Bowl week: The 10 best players who never won the big game.
• There was football played yesterday, of a sort. DeSean Jackson provided a Pro Bowl highlight and celebrated with his mom.
• Not all refs are evil, soulless monsters. This one helped a struggling kid get to his position on the ice. Well done.
• Trent Reznor took to Twitter to express his displeasure over being cut off at the end of the Grammys (language alert). Profanity aside, could not agree more. Here's a recap of the show as a whole, including the star of the evening, Pharrell Williams' hat. Or, if you prefer (and I do), here's The Onion's take on the evening.
• A girl in a cape and a bikini top did what she could to salvage the monstrosity that is the Pro Bowl.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
South Florida is coming off a 2-10 season, but the program has momentum. The Bulls are set to reel in one of the American Athletic Conference’s top recruiting classes and there’s a solid cast of returning talent for next season.
And to help this team turn the page for next season, South Florida has unveiled two new chrome designs for its helmets.
The first features a matte green with a large USF logo, while the other helmet is a gold chrome design similar to what Baylor wore this season.
Overall, this is a solid concept for South Florida and should only help second-year coach Willie Taggart raise the profile of his program this offseason:
First piece of armor for for the revolution.. GO BULLS!! 2014 here we come!!! pic.twitter.com/FXnvU4mxPV— Eric Mathies (@CoachMathies) January 25, 2014
Alabama is set to land one of the nation’s top signing classes in early February, but Nick Saban’s most important recruit of 2014 isn’t a freshman. Instead, that honor falls to Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker, who announced he will officially transfer to Alabama after completing his degree in Tallahassee.
Coker will graduate from Florida State in May and is immediately eligible to play in 2014.
Who is Jacob Coker?
Coker has spent the last three years at Florida State, serving as a backup to Jameis Winston and EJ Manuel. After redshirting his freshman season, Coker completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards and one touchdown in mop-up duty in 2012. As a result of Florida State’s dominant performance and big leads in the second half in 2013, Coker’s playing time increased. He completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards and one pick.
A knee injury suffered against Wake Forest prevented him from playing in the final five games of 2013. However, in a small sample size, Coker is averaging 14 yards per pass attempt and has completed 55 percent of his throws.
Coker wasn’t an elite prospect coming out of high school, ranking as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.
However, he was not an easy prospect to evaluate out of St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, Ala.). Coker played in a wing-T offense until his senior season and finished his career by throwing for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011.
Coker has good mobility for a quarterback that is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. During his senior year at St. Paul’s Episcopal, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry, while averaging 21.9 points per game as a member of the basketball team.
Obviously, it’s hard to evaluate a quarterback with zero career starts. However, there’s a lot to like about Coker.
At 6-foot-5, he has the size and arm strength coaches want in their quarterback. Coker also has good mobility and learned under a quarterback guru in Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Also, Coker gave Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston a battle for the starting job in preseason practices.
Alabama’s Quarterback Battle
With Coker officially added to the roster, Alabama has six quarterbacks slated to battle for the top spot in spring practice.
Blake Sims has the most experience of any quarterback in Tuscaloosa, but all signs point to someone different starting in the opener against West Virginia.
There’s also a wildcard factor to keep in mind. Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin, and it’s expected he will make a few tweaks to the offense.
Here’s a look at the quarterbacks and where they ranked in high school:
|Year of Eligibility||Games Played at Alabama||Passes Thrown at Alabama||Recruiting Rank|
|Jacob Coker||JR||0 (11 at FSU)||0 (41 at FSU)|
Graduate Transfer Quarterbacks and Success
While there’s no shortage of hype surrounding Coker, there’s also no guarantee this will work out for Alabama.
In the recent history of graduate transfer quarterbacks, there are some success stories, but also a lot of duds.
|Comp.||Att.||Comp. %||Yards||TDs||INTs||Rush Yds||Rush TD||W/L Record|
|Drew Allen, Syracuse||68||122||55.7||666||2||9||0||0||7-6 (2013)|
|Chazz Anderson, Buffalo||230||406||56.6||2,454||11||9||309||7||3-9 (2011)|
|Taylor Bennett, La. Tech||66||167||39.5||873||2||6||55||0||8-5 (2008)|
|Allan Bridgford, USM||112||207||54.1||1,133||6||11||-81||0||1-11 (2013)|
|Dayne Crist, Kansas||103||216||47.7||1,313||4||9||-66||0||1-11 (2012)|
|Kirby Freeman, Baylor||6||13||46.2||49||1||2||0||0||4-8 (2008)|
|Garrett Gilbert, SMU||268||506||52.9||2,932||15||15||346||8||7-6 (2012)|
|Nick Hirschman, Akron||3||8||53.3||162||3||0||-23||1||5-7 (2013)|
|Jacob Karam, Memphis||3||7||42.9||22||0||0||-16||0||3-9 (2013)|
|Ryan Katz, SDSU||99||163||60.7||1,348||13||4||287||4||9-4 (2012)|
|Adam Kennedy, Ark. St||218||315||69.2||2,363||11||6||524||4||8-5 (2013)|
|Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss||167||296||56.4||2,039||14||13||544||6||4-8 (2010)|
|Ben Mauk, Cincinnati||235||386||60.9||3,121||31||9||376||3||10-3 (2007)|
|Brandon Mitchell, NC State||86||151||57.0||1,011||7||6||274||2||3-9 (2013)|
|Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin||52||86||60.5||523||3||1||-82||0||8-6 (2012)|
|Greg Paulus, Syracuse||193||285||67.7||2,024||13||14||-12||1||4-8 (2009)|
|Sean Schroeder, Hawaii||175||344||50.9||1,878||11||12||-169||1||3-9 (2012)|
|Jameill Showers, UTEP||107||188||56.9||1,263||11||4||195||4||2-10 (2013)|
|Clint Trickett, W. Virginia||123||233||52.8||1,605||7||7||-29||1||4-8 (2013)|
|Jordan Webb, Colorado||144||265||54.3||1,434||8||8||-135||2||1-11 (2012)|
|Russell Wilson, Wisconsin||225||309||72.8||3,175||33||4||338||6||11-3 (2011)|
Alabama is loaded for another run at the national championship. With one of the nation’s top backfields and receiving corps returning, all that’s missing on offense is a quarterback. And of course, a left tackle must be found to replace Cyrus Kouandjio.
If Coker is as good as advertised, then the Crimson Tide is landing their biggest (and most important recruit) for 2014. Alabama is picked as the No. 2 team in Athlon’s very early top 25 for next season and is a slight favorite to win the SEC West over Auburn.
However, there’s also the possibility this move could backfire for Nick Saban. With six quarterbacks on the roster, one or two could transfer after fall practice. And if Coker struggles, Alabama would be losing potential replacements.
This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Crimson Tide. Coker has the talent to succeed in this offense. And it’s not like Coker is being asked to win games all on his own. After all, Alabama has one of the nation’s top defenses and supporting casts on offense. With two years of eligibility remaining, Coker is a better acquisition than a one-year graduate transfer.
There’s a lot of pressure on Coker’s shoulders to perform (and perform well right away), especially with Alabama in the thick of the SEC and national championship discussion for 2014. Despite the immense pressure on Coker’s right arm, all signs point to this being a potential move that plays a significant role in shaping the SEC and national championship picture.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
The Big Ten is all about physical line play on both sides of the ball. Stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback is one of the quickest ways to find yourself in B1G contention at year's end.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06)
The Wolverines' terror off the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation’s best lineman and defensive end respectively. He was a unanimous All-American before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Steelers. His 10 career forced fumbles are seventh all-time in Big Ten history and his work on the ’06 Michigan team that started 11-0 before losing to Ohio State in memorable fashion earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Woodley also was a finalist for the Bednarik, Lott, Outland and Nagurski awards as well.
2. Tamba Hali, Penn State (2002-05)
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks and added 65 total tackles for a team that lost just once (in the final second) all season. The undersized end was picked 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft and has blossomed into one of the league’s top edge players.
3. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin (2009-10)
The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 was dominant in his short stint in Madison. After originally signing with Central Michigan as a tight end, Watt emerged as a hidden gem for the Badgers. He posted an absurd 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a number of big blocked kicks (see Arizona State). He won the Lott Trophy given to the most impactful defensive player in college football in 2010 before being picked with the 11th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is arguably the best defensive end on the planet right now.
4. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10)
A beast off the edge cut from the same mold as Watt in terms of size and athleticism, few have ever been as productive as Kerrigan. The Boilermakers star is seventh all-time in Big Ten history with 33.5 sacks and his 14 forced fumbles are the most in league history by anyone (his seven forced fumbles in 2009 are tied for third all-time in league history). He was named ’10 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American. In his final season in West Lafayette, he won the Bill Willis Award by posting 70 tackles, 26 for a loss and 12.5 sacks.
5. Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin (2001-04)
“The Eraser” did it all for the Badgers during his time in Madison. He finished with 124 tackles, 25.5 for a loss, 18 sacks and seven forced fumbles. James won the 2004 Hendricks Award given to the nation’s best defensive end and the Bill Willis Award given to the nation’s top defensive lineman. The Wisconsin star was a consensus All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik award in ’04 as well. He was the 18th pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.
6. Courtney Brown, Penn State (1996-99)
The Outback Bowl’s MVP (1999) earned a long list of honors during his time at Penn State. He was a consensus All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. In 1999, he posted 29.0 tackles for a loss, third-best in Big Ten history. His 70 career tackles for a loss also rank third all-time in conference history while his 33 career sacks rank ninth. Brown was the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2000 NFL Draft. His lack of pro success doesn’t take away from his elite college career.
7. Will Smith, Ohio State (2000-03)
One of the most talented players to ever suit up in the Big Ten, Smith’s career had it all. He won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and finished his career with 167 tackles, 21 sacks and five forced fumbles in 37 starts (51 games). Smith was one of the stars on a Buckeyes defense that topped Miami for the 2002 BCS National Championship.
8. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (2009-11)
Mercilus didn’t blossom until his junior season but what a season it was. After playing every game of his first two years with little fanfare, Mercilus burst onto the national scene with one of the greatest single-seasons in Big Ten history. He led the nation in sacks (16.0, fourth all-time in Big Ten History) and his nine forced fumbles established a new conference record. He was a consensus All-American, won the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end and the Willis Award for the nation’s best defensive lineman. The Fighting Illini rush end was named the CFPA Defensive Performer of the Year and was the 26th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
9. Tom Burke, Wisconsin (1995-98)
One the Big Ten’s greatest sack artists helped lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl championship during his historic and record-setting senior season. Burke earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors by setting a conference record with 22 sacks (No. 2 is Lamanzer Williams with 18.5) and 31 tackles for a loss in 1998. He was a consensus All-American and third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. His five sacks against Iowa in ’98 are tied for second-best in Big Ten history. He claimed the Bill Willis Trophy that year as well.
10. Jared DeVries, Iowa (1995-98)
Only one player in Big Ten history has more sacks than DeVries’ 42 career QB takedowns and his name is Simeon Rice (44.5). Playing at the same time as Burke, the Hawkeyes' star end is the Big Ten’s all-time leader in tackles for a loss with 78 career stops behind the line of scrimmage. He was a consensus All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten performer. He was a third-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
Just missed the cut:
11. Devon Still, Penn State (2009-11)
Still became one of just two defensive tackles to ever win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors when he dominated the league in 2011. He posted 55 tackles, 17.0 for a loss and 4.5 sacks during his junior season, earning consensus All-American honors in the process. Still was a finalist for the Outland and Bednarik awards and became a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL Draft.
12. Michael Haynes, Penn State (1999-02)
Haynes was named the 2002 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after posting 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a senior. Those numbers were good for ninth and third all-time in league history. He was an All-American and picked in the first round by the Chicago Bears.
13. John Simon, DE, Ohio State (2009-12)
A stalwart of consistency for the Buckeyes, this workout warrior came to play every game. He wasn’t the most talented or the biggest but he was one of the best, finishing his career with 154 tackles, 42 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks. He was a captain, leader and played in 51 games during his time in Columbus. Simon was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
14. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (2007-10)
It took until his third year on campus as a redshirt junior, but Clayborn became a star along the Hawkeyes' defensive line. He led Iowa to an Orange Bowl bid and was named that game's MVP as Iowa earned its first and only BCS bowl win over Georgia Tech. He was a consensus All-American and eventually was picked in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
15. Jared Odrick Penn State (2006-09)
Odrick was the first defensive tackle to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors with his dominant 2009 campaign. The two-time All-Big Ten selection posted 41 tackles, 10 for a loss and six sacks during his All-American senior season. Odrick was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Best of the rest:
16. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (2009-11)
Freshman All-American who blossomed into a consensus All-American, starting nearly every game of his career.
17. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan (2006-09)
Led the nation in tackles for a loss as a senior (26.0), was an All-American and first-round draft pick.
18. Shaun Phillips, Purdue (2000-03)
Seventh all-time in Big Ten history with 33.5 sacks and ninth all-time with 60.5 tackles for a loss.
19. Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State (2003-06)
Consensus All-American who helped lead Ohio State to perfect regular season, Big Ten title and BCS title game.
20. Adewale Ogunleye, Indiana (1996-99)
His 34.5 sacks are sixth all-time in Big Ten history and his 64 tackles for a loss are seventh.
21. Anthony Spencer, Purdue (2003-06)
Led the nation with 26.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles as a senior before becoming a first-round pick.
22. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (2009-13)
Stud up the middle for a Gophers team that returned to the postseason for the first time in years.
22. Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin (1998-01)
Set Wisconsin single-game record with five sacks against Purdue in 2001. Two-time B1G Lineman of the Year.
23. Anttaj Hawthorne, Wisconsin (2001-04)
Started 41 straight games and earned All-Big Ten honors three straight years. Posted 42 TFL and 12 sacks.
25. Greg Middleton, Indiana (2006-09)
His 16 sacks in 2007 are tied for fourth all-time in Big Ten history. Peaked early in his career.
The weekend of college basketball delivered only one true marquee matchup, but the weekend didn't lack for news. Although Michigan and Michigan State delivered in every way we hoped it would, other teams made key strides on Saturday and Sunday.
Let’s start with Michigan, now the last remaining team undefeated in Big Ten play. Michigan State gave all it could, but the Spartans’ injuries in the end were too much to overcome.
Michigan, of course, has had its own players banged up, but the Wolverines have grown in the last few weeks to be a better team now without Mitch McGary than they were when he was healthy.
A scary thought for the rest of the league: Imagine a team with an improved Nik Stauskas and a matured Derrick Walton playing with the sophomore big man McGary. As it is, Michigan is already in charge of the league for the time being.
Elsewhere, Duke is starting to look more and more like the team we thought the Blue Devils would be this season. Where that places Duke in the ACC will be answered this week when the Blue Devils face Big East imports Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend
1a. Michigan is a Final Four threat
In his absence from the court, Mitch McGary found at least one way to stay useful — writing “Win the Game” on a white board. It seems to be working as Michigan is undefeated without McGary, including three consecutive wins over top-10 teams. Two of those have come in Madison and East Lansing after Saturday's 80-75 win at Michigan State. The Spartans were shorthanded, but Michigan was able to erase a second-half eight-point deficit with key baskets in transition down the stretch to seal the win. Guards Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton combined for 55 points and 15 of 17 free throws as Michigan took over the Big Ten lead ... two months after a loss to Charlotte and and the injury to McGary appeared to set Michigan back to the middle of the Big Ten.
1b. Gary Harris should be on All-America lists
Stauskas may be the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, but Harris is the league MVP. With Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson out and Keith Appling barely able to shoot with a wrist injury, Harris is keeping Michigan State in Big Ten contention. Harris matched Michigan’s guards basket for basket for most of the game to finish with 27 points. As the Spartans have taken their hits with injuries, Harris has averaged 19.9 points per game in Big Ten play.
1c. Tom Izzo is having an emotional year
After the loss to Michigan, Izzo said he’d never been prouder of a team in 30 years at Michigan State — high praise, considering the track record. Michigan didn’t take a lead until the final 3:12. Afterward, Izzo praised Appling’s toughness to play through injuries, and players told reporters the coach was nearly moved to tears in the postgame meeting. Only weeks ago, Izzo was exasperated as his team coughed up a 17-point lead in regulation against Ohio State before winning in overtime. For certain, this has been a roller coaster season for the veteran coach.
2a. We’re about to find out of Duke is a national title contender
Back on Jan. 11, Duke looked nothing like a team ready to contend for the Final Four. At that point the Blue Devils couldn’t defend, lost their toughest games of the season to Kansas and Arizona and dropped two ACC games to Notre Dame and Clemson. Since then, Duke has started to look the part of a title contender, but the major test will be next week at Pittsburgh (Monday) and at Syracuse (Saturday). The Blue Devils have shut down the 3-point line in three consecutive games and dominated the offensive glass Saturday in a 78-56 win over Florida State. Duke grabbed 27 offensive rebounds — led by Jabari Parker’s 10 — for a team offensive rebound rate of 61.4 percent.
2b. You’re going to hear the number 900 a lot for the next week
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joined Syracuse’s Jim Boehiem as the only major college coaches to win 900 games at a single school. Boeheim, Krzyzewski’s opponent next Saturday, has 938 wins all with the Orange.
2c. Duke’s defense has caught up
Parker was fantastic against Florida State, Rodney Hood contributed 18 points and Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon continue to give Krzyzewski third and fourth scoring options. Meanwhile, the leaky Duke defense has finally started to catch up. Since Duke sputtered in a win over Virginia on Jan. 13, the Blue Devils moved from outside of the top 100 in defensive efficiency on KenPom.com to No. 62 to start the week.
3. Wisconsin and Iowa State can take a deep breath
Two three-game losing streaks by previously undefeated teams ended when Iowa State and Wisconsin both won Saturday. The Cyclones ended their three-game losing streak with an 81-75 win over a quality Kansas State team. With DeAndre Kane having an off game, Iowa State’s frontcourt was dominant as Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang combined for 38 points compared to 10 total points for Kansas State’s starting forwards. Wisconsin’s win wasn't as much of a statement with a 72-58 win at Purdue, but the Badgers responded in the defensive end. Wisconsin struggled to guard anyone during its three-game losing streak but held the Boilermakers to 35.4 percent shooting and 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
4. Rick Barnes may be saving his job
Texas’ week started with Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Kansas State and continued with a 74-66 road win over Baylor on Saturday. When the season started, Barnes’ program appeared to be heading in the wrong direction — no Sweet 16 appearances since 2008 and a losing season in 2013 that ended with a CBI loss to Houston. Now, Barnes is a Big 12 coach of the year contender. Barnes’ recruiting has been scrutinized, especially in the state of Texas, but his freshman point guard who graduated from a Houston high school, Isaiah Taylor, scored 27 against Baylor. With no seniors getting regular minutes, the core of the team should be around for another year. The Longhorns have put together three consecutive wins over ranked teams heading into a game against Kansas on Saturday, the biggest game in Austin since January 2011.
5. Florida had the best defensive game of the weekend
The Gators had a couple of closer-than-they-should-have-been games against Auburn and Alabama in the last week. Their defensive effort against Tennessee made sure they had enough of a cushion to play walk-ons. Florida defeated the Volunteers 67-41, the eighth time in the last nine games the Gators held their opponent to 62 points of fewer. The Volunteers couldn’t manage to get good shots from the perimeter all game as Tennessee’s starting backcourt went 2 of 29 from the field and only got to the free throw line twice. Jordan McRae, who averages 19.2 points per game, scored only 5. Florida, who ranks ninth on KenPom.com in defensive efficiency, might not be seriously tested until they face Kentucky on Feb. 15.
6. North Carolina can make shots again
Time to check in on the North Carolina roller coaster. This time, the Tar Heels are on the upswing again with a 80-61 win over Clemson. No, the Heels don’t need to take a victory lap for beating Clemson at home, but this at least a positive sign for the time being. The Tar Heels scored 45 against Syracuse, 57 against Miami, 61 against Virginia and 67 against Wake Forest. The Heels were hitting their shots Sunday, converting 10 of 19 shots from 3-point range against a team ranked second nationally in defending the 3-point line. Carolina hit the 70-point mark with more than four minutes to go against Clemson, one of the top defensive teams in the country. North Carolina faces some of the weaker teams in the ACC between now and the Feb. 12 game against Duke, not that sustaining momentum has been a strong suit for this team.
7. Baylor is in a tailspin
Unless the Bears can turn things around in short order, Baylor is going to have trouble shedding its image of an underachieving team. With the 74-60 loss to Texas, Baylor fell to 1-4 in the Big 12 with its only win over TCU in Waco. Against the Longhorns, Baylor couldn’t find the basket. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip was 0 for 4 from 3-point range. Baylor shot 32.1 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from beyond the arc against Texas, yet another game where Baylor couldn’t get anything done in the offensive end in a Big 12 game. The Bears have non-conference wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado, but they’re going to need to get hot in conference play in a hurry.
8. Marcus Smart, Phil Forte were both awful Saturday yet the Pokes still won
Oklahoma State lost a key cog in the frontcourt in Michael Cobbins earlier this season. Then, the Cowboys struggled with their composure for much of the game against Kansas. And now, Marcus Smart had the worst game of his career Saturday against West Virginia. At some point, maybe Oklahoma State’s recent games should raise some concerns, but not quite yet. The reason, at least this week, was that Le’Bryan Nash and others proved capable of carrying the Pokes in an 81-75 win over the Mountaineers. Smart went 1 of 7 from the field against West Virginia, and the normally sharp-shooting Phil Forte was 1 of 9 from 3-point range. Good thing Nash made up for it with 29 points on 10 of 13 shooting.
9. Providence has arrived on the bubble
Time to start taking Providence seriously as an NCAA Tournament contender. The Friars defeated Xavier 81-72 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive Big East win after starting 0-2 in the league. Bryce Cotton may be one of the nation’s most overlooked players, but he can score with anyone (22.4 points per game in Big East play). Besides the Musketeers, Providence has defeated Georgetown and Creighton, but all three wins have come at home. Still, the Friars are in the top 50 in the RPI and on KenPom.com. All that’s missing is a big road win. The Friars will have that opportunity with three of the next four on the road.
10. Creighton is a little more than Doug McDermott
Hold McDermott to 14 points and 5 of 15 from the field, and most teams would feel pretty good. Not Georgetown. McDermott was tied for the team lead in scoring, but five Bluejays scored in double figures, including Will Artino and Devin Brooks off the bench. Forward Ethan Wragge’s 3-point prowess is well established, but Jahenns Manigat added 10 points in the 76-63. Creighton probably doesn’t want to risk a 14-point night from McDermott in March, but it’s nice to know the Bluejays can absorb that kind of game every once in a while. Meanwhile, Georgetown is falling apart. The Hoyas have lost four in a row, and center Josh Smith was declared academically ineligible during the week.
• The season isn’t going quite as well for Sean Miller’s brother Archie at Dayton. The Flyers looked like a potential NCAA Tournament team with an early 10-point win at Georgia Tech, wins over Gonzaga and Cal in Maui and an overtime win over Ole Miss. Dayton has lost three in a row in the Atlantic 10 in a 1-4 start in league play.
• No Spencer Dinwiddie, no NCAA Tournament for Colorado. The Buffaloes lost 72-51 to Arizona State, giving Tad Boyle’s team three losses in four games since Dinwiddie was lost for the season. Bad break.
• Not sure if Minnesota’s 82-78 loss at Nebraska on Sunday is reason to get off the Gophers bandwagon after Richard Pitino’s team defeated Wisconsin earlier in the week. Minnesota is still without Andre Hollins, and Nebraska defeated Ohio State in Lincoln earlier this season.
• After a win over Notre Dame, Wake Forest is 4-3 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have a shot at an NIT bid, major progress given the way Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure started.
This year's Super Bowl Media Day kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and will see throngs of news outlets from around the world descending on the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, for a blitz of Seahawks-Broncos coverage. Rarely are stories broken. In fact, the day is typically filled with pat answers and tired cliches. But every once in awhile, someone breaks the monotony and actually says or does something interesting. Here are ten of the best (or at least most notable) Media Day moments in Super Bowl history.
This one barely squeaks in, because there was no Media Day back then, and the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But Fred "The Hammer" Williamson set the bar for subsequent game-week trash talk, vowing to inflict harm on Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale. "Two hammers to Dowler, one to Dale should be enough," he said. Sadly, Fred was on the business end of a hammer himself: He got knocked cold by the knee of Packers guard Gale Gillingham.
Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was a man of so few words that he was known as the Sphinx. Prior to Super Bowl VI, he sat silently through Media Day, never uttering a single word, part of a year-long media boycott. The previous year, though, Thomas had made a pertinent observation about the Super Bowl: "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"
Dallas linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson offered up a memorable assessment of Terry Bradshaw's mental acuity, or lack thereof: "He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." Bradshaw proved he could spell TD, or at least toss them - four of them, in fact, in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win. "I didn't say he couldn't play," Henderson said afterwards. "Just that he couldn't spell."
Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett grew up in a household with blind parents, one of whom died when Plunkett was at Stanford. On Media Day, one intrepid reporter wanted to make sure he had his facts straight. He shouted: "Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"
The Super Bowl Media Day that produced an urban legend — the Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback" myth — did have an entertaining moment when notoriously under-educated Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley vowed to "catch the quarterback and hit him from behind, in between his two numbers, and cut his lights out." Reporters took the opportunity to remind him that John Elway wore No. 7.
The international nature of the Super Bowl, and the lack of football savvy among some of its international followers, was driven home at Media Day prior to the Niners-Bengals matchup when a Japanese reporter asked Joe Montana, "Why do they call you Boomer?"
Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan was so intent on proving that his Falcons didn't mind being underdogs to the Broncos that he wore a dog collar to Media Day, where he ripped Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for being "an ugly dude" who looked like Mr. Ed.
All this led to a hilarious back-and-forth between the two.
"Is he my friend? No," Sharpe said. "Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Did I ever view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, do I pick him up? No."
Buchanan's reply: "Shannon just runs his mouth saying anything, so we don't need to pay attention to him. He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game. We're not a team that's going to go out on the field and pull up our skirts and show our panties. I'm not saying we wear panties, but I'm saying we can't go out there and play like females and win the game."
Over to you, Shannon: "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser, but that's just what I heard."
A year after being involved in an incident at a Super Bowl party that resulted in two stabbing deaths, Ray Lewis showed up for Super Bowl XXXV and addressed the inevitable questions about the incident. "Yes I got money. Yes, I'm black and yes, I'm blessed," Lewis told the crowd. "But at the same time, let's find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that's dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis." Okay then.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu took the opportunity of Media Day to thank "Entertainment Tonight" for giving him a "Best Hair" award, adding, "I'd like to thank Pantene Pro V, or anyone else who wants to send me free shampoo and conditioner."
TV Azteca's Ines Gomez Mont showed up at Media Day in a wedding gown and asked several players to marry her, including Tom Brady. During Brady's press conference, she shouted out, "I'm the real Miss Brady." Brady, who was busy juggling Gisele Bundchen and Bridget Moynihan, replied, "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life."
College football’s Heisman Trophy won’t be awarded until next December, but it’s never too early to think about the frontrunners for next season.
Bovada has released its early odds for 2014, and there’s a familiar face at the top. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the favorite to repeat, with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota a 7/2 favorite.
Quarterbacks own five out of the top seven spots in the early odds. Running backs T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) and Todd Gurley (Georgia) are the only skill players in the top seven.
Also of interest: No wide receivers make the early odds for 2014.
Here’s the early list of favorites to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy from Bovada:
|Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)||2/1|
|Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)||7/2|
|Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State)||4/1|
|T.J. Yeldon (RB Alabama)||5/1|
|Bryce Petty (QB Baylor)||6/1|
|Brett Hundley (QB UCLA)||12/1|
|Todd Gurley (RB Georgia)||12/1|
|Mike Davis (RB South Carolina)||15/1|
|Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin)||16/1|
|Everett Golson (Notre Dame)||25/1|
|Trevor Knight (QB Oklahoma)||25/1|
|Duke Johnson (RB Miami)||33/1|
|Karlos Williams (RB Florida State)||33/1|
|Matt Johnson (QB Bowling Green)||66/1|
|Rakeem Cato (QB Marshall)||66/1|
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 24.
• I'm not one of those annoying people who watches the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials, but they can be enjoyable, as this slideshow of the hottest women of Super Sunday ads proves.
• While you were sleeping: Rafael Nadal curb-stomped Roger Federer. Again. Can Fed be the GOAT when he's 10-23 against Nadal?
• Some little kids re-enact the Erin Andrews-Richard Sherman interview. Little kids are the best (when they do stuff like this).
• The 10 best sports bars in the U.S. I'll have to do more research to see if I agree.
• GQ's guide to classy athlete behavior. I know this is satirical, but I could live with all these suggestions.
• Looking to borrow a clever insult? Enjoy this insult sampler from "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
• A fun throwback video from a year ago: Cooper Manning took to the streets of New Orleans, proving that he's just as awesome as his brothers.
• Wanna get away? A college goaltender gave up the winning goal while chatting up fans in the corner.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Not every recruiting class is created equal. Nor every NFL Draft class for that matter.
Depending on the state, region or position, each recruiting cycle offers different areas of strengths or weaknesses. As research about geography indicates, Louisiana, for example, has an elite collection of talent in the 2014 class.
There are many uncertainties in recruiting for obvious reasons. It cycles up and down, back and forth. Some classes may be loaded with elite linebackers. Some years all of the best talent comes from the West Coast. On and on and on.
One thing is certain, however. Every team needs at least a good quarterback to win a championship. This much is true on every level of football. But not every recruiting cycle is created equal. An in-depth examination of the modern era of football recruiting — since 2002, when Internet rankings became so prevalent — makes this painfully obvious.
While there are excellent players entering college every year, some are better than others. For example, the 2004 class of signal-callers is headlined by Brian Brohm and Pat White while the '08 class is headlined by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. All four were outstanding college quarterbacks but its safe to say Luck and Griffin are a different tier of overall talent.
So I’ve ranked each of the last 12 quarterback classes against each other and this is what I came up with…
1. Class of 2006
The Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Case Keenum
The Best of the Rest: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, TJ Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Thaddeus Lewis, John Skelton, Scott Tolzien, Nathan Enderle
This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second-rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS national championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada, led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII and nearly got SanFran back to another one in 2013. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth last season. This class has long been considered the best of the modern era and it appears nothing has changed.
2. Class of 2008
The Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Darron Thomas, Blaine Gabbert, Nick Florence, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor
The Best of the Rest:, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Colby Cameron, Sean Renfree, Ryan Nassib, Matt Scott, Zac Dysert, Alex Carder, Jacory Harris
When all is said and done, Luck and Griffin III might be better than anyone in the 2006 class, but the depth at the top may not be as elite. Jones is one of the most prolific passers in history while Klein, Thomas, and Pryor are electric athletes who used their legs. Manuel and Gabbert were both first-round NFL Draft picks as well. What makes this class great is its depth in the middle as names like Nick Florence, Matt Scott, Ryan Nassib and Seth Doege are underrated nationally in terms of production. In all, this group claims four first-round picks, one Heisman Trophy, multiple Heisman finalists, a bunch of conference championships, numerous BCS bowl games and one BCS title game appearance.
3. Class of 2009
The Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, Bryn Renner
The Best of the Rest: Logan Thomas, Keith Price, Zach Mettenberger, Brock Osweiler, C.J. Brown, Kolton Browning
There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Robinson and Lynch are the top two rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history with a combined 8,838 yards and 90 rushing TDs. Add to it Martinez' near 3,000 yards and 31 rushing TDs and you have three of the most dynamic running quarterbacks of all time. Boyd, Barkley and Murray are the most prolific passes in ACC, Pac-12 and SEC history respectively while Smith owns numerous passing records. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron (three if you count his redshirt season). The complete production, success and overall talent of this group gives it a slight nod over the established stars of the 2007 class.
4. Class of 2007
The Stars: Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Tannehill
The Best of the Rest:, Chandler Harnish, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Dan Persa, GJ Kinne
One guy gives this class a Heisman Trophy, a BCS national title and a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the group is underrated as well. Wilson and Weeden are NFL starters who broke all kinds of NCAA records and Wilson has already led his team to a Super Bowl. Moore is the winningest QB in history and is second only to Keenum in terms of career passing stats. Cousins is an extremely underrated leader and is the best QB in Michigan State history while Mallett, Lindley and Tannehill are all NFL players. Taylor and Nesbitt give this group plenty of athleticism as well.
5. Class of 2011
The Stars: Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan, Chuckie Keeton, Connor Cook, Rakeem Cato, Brett Smith
The Best of the Rest: Everett Golson, Jeff Driskel, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Jake Rudock, Marquise Williams, J.W. Walsh, Trevone Boykin, David Ash
In just three seasons, it is hard to argue the upside of the 2011 group. Manziel has a Heisman Trophy while Bridgewater could be the No. 1 overall pick in the May NFL Draft. Miller, Mariota and Hundley all have eyes on joining Manziel as a Heisman Trophy winner while Hogan and Cook are already defending conference champs and Rose Bowl participants. All five could have their teams in the national championship hunt as well in 2014. Toss in Golson, who's already played in a BCS title game, and three mid-major superstars in Cato, Keeton and Smith, and the '11 group is as dynamic and successful as any in the modern era. And it still has another big year ahead of it.
6. Class of 2003
The Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Kevin Kolb, Dennis Dixon, Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson
The Best of the Rest: John Beck, John David Booty, Kevin O'Connell, Tom Brandstater, Matt Flynn, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate
Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to a FCS school (Delaware) before eventually getting taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. But both are Pro Bowl-caliber talents and Flacco has already claimed a Super Bowl MVP award. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS national championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon won a lot of games with big numbers. If Russell wasn't arguably the biggest bust (literally and figuratively) in NFL Draft history, this class could make a case for being higher on the list.
7. Class of 2010
The Stars: Bryce Petty, Blake Bortles, Taylor Kelly, James Franklin, Connor Shaw,
The Best of the Rest: Tanner Price, Cody Fajardo, Devin Gardner, Stephen Morris, Tyler Bray, Sean Mannion, Connor Halliday, Chase Rettig, David Piland, Blake Bell, Shane Carden, Brandon Connette, Jake Heaps, Hutson Mason
Shaw is the arguably the most underrated SEC QB of all-time and is South Carolina's best signal-caller... ever. The same can be said for Bortles for UCF. Kelly and Petty return to teams eying conference championships in 2014 and could both find themselves in New York as Heisman finalists as well. Franklin rebounded from injury to prove he was an elite player for Mizzou. The '10 class has a host of big names that could still prove to be historic players for their schools should things pan out well in '14: Gardner, Mannion, Halliday, Bell, Mason. And, in case you missed it, Brandon Connette has scored more touchdowns than any player in Duke history.
8. Class of 2002
The Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan
The Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Phil Horvath, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson, Tyler Palko
At the top, this class had an elite trio. Young is the most unstoppable player I’ve ever seen on a college gridiron and carried his Texas team to a national title. Smith also led his team to the national title game and claimed Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. Brennan posted huge numbers at Hawaii in getting the Warriors to their one and only BCS bowl game. Stanton and Stocco were excellent Big Ten players but the depth of the class, or lack thereof, is what keeps it from being ranked higher.
9. Class of 2005
The Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Zac Robinson, Dan LeFevour
The Best of the Rest: Riley Skinner, Tony Pike, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield, Mike Kafka, Levi Brown, Matt Grothe, Tim Hiller, Jarrett Brown
The top five were great players for their schools but that is about all this class has to offer. Yes, Canfield, Kafka, Webb and Pike were NFL Draft picks but all are bench players. McCoy is the real star, finishing his career with more wins than anyone in history (until Kellen Moore) and leading Texas into the championship game. Sanchez had a great team at USC and was a top pick but has very little experience. Robinson and Daniel were, at the time of graduation, likely the top quarterbacks in program history. LeFevour is a big reason why Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are coaching at Notre Dame and Tennessee respectively.
10. Class of 2012
The Stars: Jameis Winston, Maty Mauk, Taysom Hill, Trevor Knight
The Best of the Rest: Tommy Armstrong, Travis Wilson, Jalen Whitlow, Nate Sudfeld
In just two short seasons, this group already claims a Heisman winner and a BCS national title as well as three emerging stars at Mizzou, BYU and Oklahoma. Additionally, expectation levels are high for a handful of other big-time talents like Cyler Miles at Washington, Will Gardner at Louisville, Chad Voytik at Pitt, Wes Lunt at Illinois and Tyler Cameron at Wake Forest. This group could rise or fall depending on how some of the unknowns work out over the next two seasons.
11. Class of 2004
The Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell, Daryll Clark
The Best of the Rest: Max Hall, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Stephen McGee, Brian Hoyer, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, CJ Bacher, Mike Teel, Rudy Carpenter
None of these names ever turned out to be NFL stars but there are some elite college players in this class. Clark, Brohm, White and Johnson all led their teams to historic seasons, conference crowns and BCS bowl wins. Harrell posted elite passing statistics while Hall, Henne, Painter and Wilson all started for at least three seasons at four of the most historic quarterback programs in the nation (BYU, Michigan, Purdue, Alabama).
12. Class of 2013
The Stars: Christian Hackenberg, Davis Webb, Jared Goff, John O'Korn
The Best of the Rest: Josh Dobbs, Anthony Jennings, Sefo Luifau
Nothing is really known about this class as of yet. However, names like Hackenberg, Webb, Goff and O'Korn have already set a solid benchmark with big-time production in their first seasons. Names that could easily find their way into the "Stars" or "Best of the Rest" category in 2014 include Jeremy Johnson at Auburn, Johnny McCary at Vanderbilt, Kevin Olsen at Miami, Mitch Trubisky at North Carolina, Anu Solomon from Arizona and Danny Etling at Purdue among others. As far as true freshmen go, however, this group has already established itself as very capable.
Recent weeks have presented the classic conundrum for those who spend time ranking teams: Do you rank a team based on what they have been all season, what they can be or what they are right now?
Tough life, right?
Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa State have seen winning streaks turn into losing streaks. Right now, clearly, they’re not very good, but the body of work suggests they’re still among the best in the country.
Teams like Kansas and Duke are starting to look more like the teams we thought we’d see this season, but — again — their body of work might suggest a lower ranking.
Maybe we’ll get more answers during the weekend, but probably not. Here’s a look at where teams standing heading into Saturday.
College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Jan. 24
All games Saturday unless noted.
1. Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
This weekend: Utah (Sunday)
The only weakness for Arizona? Try free throw shooting (66.7 percent). Otherwise, nada.
2. Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC)
This weekend: at Miami
The undefeated Orange got a bit of bad news this week with a season-ending injury to DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse’s best low-post player.
3. Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan
The Spartans will head into Saturday’s game against Michigan — also perfect in the Big Ten — without Adreian Payne (foot) and Branden Dawson (hand).
4. Florida (16-2, 5-0 SEC)
This weekend: Tennessee
Florida is 5-9 against Tennessee since the 2006-07 season, including the current three-game losing streak to the Volunteers.
5. Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12)
This weekend: at TCU
The Jayhawks have been rewarded for wins over four consecutive ranked teams with four days off and a date with lowly TCU.
6. San Diego State (17-1, 6-0 MWC)
This weekend: at Utah State
The Aztecs have a great defense, but they’re shooting 43.5 percent from 2-point range, ranking 326th nationally.
7. Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC)
This weekend: at Drake
Since the overtime scare against Missouri State, Wichita State has won their last three games by an average of 19 points.
8. Villanova (16-2, 5-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Marquette
Creighton exposed Villanova’s leaky 3-point defense in a major way. Teams are shooting 36.2 percent from 3 vs. the Wildcats.
9. Oklahoma State (15-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at West Virginia
The Cowboys played one poor half and one good half in Lawrence on Saturday.
10. Louisville (17-3, 3-1 American)
This weekend: UCF
Freshman point guard Terry Rozier has 14 assists and two turnovers in three games since taking over for an injured Chris Jones.
11. Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East)
This weekend: Georgetown
The Bluejays have the highest offensive efficiency rating on KenPom.com since at least 2003.
12. Iowa (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Northwestern
In the last two games, Aaron White has scored one point total in the first half ... and a combined 34 in the second.
13. Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0 A-10)
This weekend: Richmond
The Billikens were able to survive defensive lapses to beat a bad Duquesne team on the road Wednesday.
14. Michigan (14-4, 6-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Michigan State
Nik Stauskas is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games heading into huge showdown with rival Michigan State.
15. Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Maryland
The Panthers responded to a hard-fought loss at Syracuse by scoring 76 points and shooting 56.3 percent in a win over a salty defensive team in Clemson.
16. Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC)
This weekend: Florida State
Is Duke on its way back up? Jabari Parker is dominating again and the Blue Devils can defend again ... against NC State and Miami.
17. Wisconsin (16-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Purdue
The Badgers have allowed opponents to shoot 55 percent from the field during this three-game losing streak.
18. Iowa State (14-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: Kansas State
The Cyclones have lost three in a row, and it’s tough to find where the streak will end: Iowa State’s upcoming schedule is Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.
19. Kentucky (14-4, 4-1 SEC)
This weekend: Georgia
Alex Poythress has proven to be a key contributor off the bench, scoring 16 against Texas A&M on Tuesday.
20. Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0 American)
This weekend: at Temple (Sunday)
The Bearcats are in the midst of six-game stretch against the weaker teams in the American before facing Louisville on the road on Jan. 30.
21. UConn (15-4, 3-3 American)
This weekend: at Rutgers
The Huskies are shooting a stellar 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
22. Memphis (14-4, 4-2 American)
This weekend: USF (Sunday)
Shaq Goodwin is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in his last four games against AAC competition.
23. UMass (16-2, 3-1 A-10)
This weekend: at St. Bonaventure
The Minutemen’s close calls in A-10 play caught up with them in 55-52 loss to Richmond on Wednesday.
24. Minnesota (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Nebraska (Sunday)
The Gophers split a tough 11 days with wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Not bad for the young Pitino.
25. Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: Virginia Tech
The Cavaliers are quietly contending for the ACC regular season title. Virginia won’t play Duke again and gets Syracuse at home. Cavs must beat Pitt on the road next week.
More so than any other league in America, the Big 12 has had the most decorated wide receivers during the BCS Era. Only two players in the history of college football have ever won two Biletnikoff Awards and both of them played in the Big 12 during the 16-year BCS Era. In fact, 17 different times has someone caught more than 100 passes in the Big 12 (1996), and until 2013, no ACC player had ever topped 100 catches in a single season.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
Stats: 231 rec., 3,127 yds, 41 TDs
No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas, Texas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era. Certainly, Mike Leach’s system inflated the two-time consensus All-American’s numbers, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout was — and still is — easily the most talented Texas Tech receiver in program history.
2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
Stats: 252 rec., 3,564 yds, 40 TDs, 136 rush, TD
Similarly to Crabtree, Blackmon’s numbers are inflated due to an elite offensive system. But make no mistake, he is the one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. The Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview product also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford. At a program with a long track record of elite wideouts, Blackmon has to be considered the best. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era.
3. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Stats: 349 rec., 4,586 yds, 45 TDs, 97 rush, TD, 1,307 ret. yds, 2 TDs
No one in NCAA history caught more passes than the smallish local star from Norman, Okla. And it didn’t take long for him to become a star, catching seven passes for a freshman school-record 141 yards in his first collegiate game. He posted three straight seasons of at least 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the nation in both receptions (131) and punt returns (34) as a junior and is the Big 12’s all-time leading receiver in all three major categories. Broyles was a two-time consensus All-American.
4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2009-12)
Stats: 288 rec., 3,413 yds, 29 TDs, 1,031 rush, 6 TDs, 2,840 ret. yds, 5 TDs
Be it through the air, on the ground or in the kicking game, Austin was downright unstoppable. The diminutive talent won’t ever be confused with prototypical physical outside receivers, but with the ball in his hands, few were as productive. The Baltimore prospect was a two-time All-American and two-time Big East Special Teamer of the Year before moving to the Big 12. He posted back-to-back 100-catch/1,000-yard seasons and was a 1,000-yard rusher for his career. In fact, Austin’s signature performance came as a running back against Oklahoma as senior when he nearly set an NCAA record for all-purpose production with 572 yards (344 rushing, 82 receiving, 146 kick return). He scored four different ways during his unbelievable senior season and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. His 2,910 all-purpose yards set a Big 12 single-season record.
5. Roy Williams, Texas (2000-03)
Stats: 241 rec., 3,866 yds, 36 TDs, 243 rush, 3 TDs
Right out of the gate, Texas knew they had a great one in the massive 6-foot-3, 218-pound in-state star from Odessa. He was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and left school with the records for receptions, yards and touchdowns. “The Legend” never caught fewer than seven touchdowns or 800 yards in any of his four NCAA seasons. He is ninth all-time in Big 12 history in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and fifth in touchdown catches.
6. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (2007-08)
Stats: 182 rec., 2,315 yds, 22 TDs, 668 rush, 6 TDs, 2,626 ret. yds, 5 TDs
He only played two seasons but was outstanding from the first time he stepped onto the college gridiron. He was a consensus All-American both years, topped 1,000 yards receiving in both years, scored at least 10 total touchdowns in both seasons and topped 1,000 return yards in both seasons. He set an NCAA freshman all-purpose yardage record with 2,776 total yards for a 12-2 Tigers team. He posted 5,609 all-purpose yards in just two seasons, which ranks ninth all-time in league history and third among all Big 12 wide receivers, and might be the most underrated wideout of the BCS Era.
7. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (2000-03)
Stats: 293 rec., 4,414 yds, 42 TDs
Oklahoma State has one of the best wide receiver traditions in the nation and Woods was one of the first high-profile stars. Three seasons with at least 77 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns makes him one of the most prolific receivers in BCS history. And his NCAA-record seven touchdowns against SMU still stands today. The consensus All-American finished fourth in Big 12 history in receptions, second in yards and second in touchdowns.
8. Jordan Shipley, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,191 yds, 33 TDs, 162 rush, 843 ret. yds, 4 TDs
Colt McCoy’s go-to target made big plays in big games and was as dependable as any receiver in Big 12 history. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 when he caught 116 passes for 1,485 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns for an unbeaten Texas team that lost to Alabama in the national championship game. He is seventh all-time in receptions, eighth all-time in yards and seventh all-time in touchdown catches, barely trailing the aforementioned Williams for all of Texas' big three receiving records.
9. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (2007-09)
Stats: 147 rec., 2,425 yds, 29 TDs, 574 ret. yds, 3 TDs
He may not have Blackmon’s numbers, but Bryant might be the most talented Pokes wideout of all-time. He was named a consensus All-American after 87 receptions, 1,480 yards and 21 total touchdowns as just a sophomore. Had he not been suspended for most of the 2009 season, his numbers would’ve rivaled anyone’s on this list. His overall physical ability was painfully obvious and it led to him being taken with the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
10. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,236 yds, 31 TDs, 221 ret. yds, TD
Jason White's No. 1 target helped Oklahoma play in two national championship games. The Sooners had many elite wideouts but Clayton might have been the most dynamic (possibly, more so than Broyles even). His unstoppable junior season gets him onto this list alone: 83 rec., 1,425 yds, 15 TDs. He helped his team to three Big 12 championships, is sixth all-time in league history in yards and ninth all-time in touchdown catches.
Just missed the cut:
11. Kendall Wright, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 308 rec., 4,004 yds, 30 TDs, 425 rush, 2 TDs
There are just 15 receivers with 4,000 yards in their college careers and there are just 10 wideouts with at least 300 catches. There are just three such players with both (Ryan Broyles, Jordan White). Wright's offensive system certainly helped but he was as versatile, dependable and explosive as any player during this era.
12. Wes Welker, Texas Tech (2000-03)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,069 yds, 21 TDs, 562 rush, 2 TDs, 2,102 ret. yds, 8 TDs
Welker’s ranks 5,699 all-purpose yards rank seventh all-time in league history and trail only Ryan Broyles for No. 1 all-time among wide receivers. He is fifth all-time in receptions and sits just outside of the top 10 in terms of receiving yards. The do-everything prospect was excelling at versatility long before the all-purpose position was en vogue.
13. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State (2005-07)
Stats: 206 rec., 2,822 yds, 20 TDs, 267 ret. yds, 3 TDs
Nelson was a consensus All-American after catching 122 passes (No. 3 in Big 12 history) for 1,606 yards (No. 9 in Big 12 history) and 11 touchdowns in 2007 before leaving for the NFL. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and threw two touchdowns during that memorable season. He finished just outside the top 10 all-time in league history in receptions and yards.
14. Terrance Williams, Baylor (2009-12)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,334 yds, 27 TDs, 1,342 ret. yds
The consensus All-American posted one of the greatest single seasons in league history when he caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards (second in Big 12 history) and 12 scores in ’12 (with Nick Florence under center). Depending on if bowl stats are counted or not, Williams finished sixth all-time in yards and was just outside the top 10 in receptions and touchdowns.
15. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (2010-12)
Stats: 210 rec., 3,218 yds, 41 TDs
Like Austin, only one of his seasons took place in the Big 12, but it was a monster year. He caught 114 passes (sixth-best in Big 12 history) for 1,622 yards (seventh-best) and 25 touchdowns (Big 12 record). In fact, no Big 12 receiver has ever topped Bailey in single-season scoring and his 150 points ranks sixth all-time behind only Ricky Williams, Collin Klein and Joseph Randle among position players. His career yards would be top 10 in the Big 12 had he played all three seasons there. His 41 TD receptions would be tied for third in Big 12 history.
Best of the rest:
16. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2007-09): 219 rec., 3,240 yds, 31 TDs, 37 rush, TD, 651 ret. yds, TD
Two monster years before leaving early for the NFL. Seventh in yards and ninth in TD receptions.
17. Todd Blythe, Iowa State (2004-07): 176 rec., 3,096 yds, 31 TDs
Tied for ninth with 31 TD receptions and is 10th all-time in yards. Holds every major ISU record.
18. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (2009-12): 252 rec., 3,117 yds, 24 TDs
One year in SEC, but did most of his damage in the Big 12. Aggies' all-time leader in most categories.
19. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State (2003-06): 155 rec., 2,697 yds, 25 TDs
After two uneventful years at North Carolina, Bowman starred in Stillwater with two 1,000-yard seasons.
20. Danario Alexander, Missouri (2006-09): 191 rec., 2,778 yds, 22 TDs
Uninspiring career blossomed with monster 113-catch, 1,781-yard, 14-TD senior season.
21. Quan Cosby, Texas (2005-08): 212 rec., 2,598 yds, 19 TDs, 2,103 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Steady all-around performer for a team that went 45-7 in his four seasons (with a BCS title).
22. Quincy Morgan, Kansas State (1999-00): 106 rec., 2,173 yds, 23 TDs
Played only two years but topped 1,000 yards in both with 23 TDs in 24 games.
23. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M (2008-11): 233 rec., 3,092 yds, 34 TDs
One of the conference's all-time leaders in all three categories but never seemed to reach full potential.
24. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma (2005-08): 202 rec., 2,861 yds, 19 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, TD
Consistent playmaker as a receiver and return man on team that won three Big 12 titles.
25. Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech (2003-06): 198 rec., 2,859 yds, 30 TDs
Was injured his senior year or else his numbers could have been among the league’s best.
Five freshmen were among the midseason top 25 released by the Wooden Award earlier this week, but the nation’s top freshman — at least this week — was not among them.
Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon all made the watch list for the national player of the year. The Jayhawks’ Joel Embiid did not.
Granted, the voting took place before Embiid’s breakout against Oklahoma State on Saturday. And the midseason top 25 wouldn’t preclude Embiid from winning — “the players on the list are considered strong candidates” for the award, the Wooden Award release notes.
Whether Embiid is a contender by the end of the year we don’t know, but at least this week, he’s the freshman with the most momentum.
The Freshman 15: Jan. 24 Power Rankings
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The rumblings that Embiid may be outshining his other great freshman teammate have been going on for several weeks, but Saturday was the breakout. Embiid came two blocked shots short of a triple double against Oklahoma State with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. In one game, he proved he can not only finish, but start, an alley-oop.
2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis numbers as a passer — 5.5 assists per game, 1.3 turnovers — remain outstanding, but Pittsburgh learned he’s just as dangerous with the ball in his hands in crunch time Saturday. Ennis scored 16 points and clinched the 59-54 win with two driving layups and two free throws late.
3. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker never really went away as he continues to lead Duke in scoring. That said, his efficiency numbers dipped early in ACC play. In the last two games, though, he returned to his early season pace, converting 12 of 26 shots from the field against Miami and NC State. He averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in his two games last week.
4. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon keeps chugging along for the undefeated Wildcats. The forward is averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his last four while shooting 54.8 percent from the field.
5. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
No question, Wiggins was a virtual no-show in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State. But even considering his three points and two rebounds against the Cowboys, Wiggins averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in Kansas’ run of four consecutive games (and wins) against ranked teams.
6. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle emerged from a physical game with Tennessee’s frontcourt with only two rebounds, the only time in SEC play he failed to grab double-digit boards.
7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh is becoming a more effective player in the offensive end in recent games as the Hooisers need all the help they can get. Vonleh had double-doubles against Michigan State and Northwestern last week, but Indiana lost both games.
8. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
With the Volunteers dominating down low last week, John Calipari put the game in Harrison’s hands on the outside. The guard finished with 26 points, including 10-for-10 free-throw shooting.
9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Texas A&M stopped Harrison’s hot streak, holding him to 1-of-5 shooting. In the three games prior, Harrison averaged 14.7 points per game.
10. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
The book is clear on Kansas State: Shut down Foster and win. Foster is averaging 16.5 points per game in the Wildcats’ Big 12 wins. He scored 7 of and 8 points on a combined 6-of-24 shooting in losses to Kansas and Texas.
11. Jordan Mickey, LSU
Mickey came back from a dismal performance against Ole Miss to pick up 13 points and give rebounds against Vanderbilt and 14 points and 13 rebounds against Missouri.
12. Zach LaVine, UCLA
LaVine is averaging 13.6 points per game in Pac-12 play. He’s certainly getting more involved, taking at least nine shots in each game in conference play.
13. James Young, Kentucky
Young has been a little streaky, but the Wildcats’ guard/forward is averaging 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds.
14. Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
Woodard is coming off a lackluster game against TCU, but his presence in our freshman power rankings is long overdue. The point guard had 10 points and eight assists in a road win over Baylor on Saturday.
15. Terry Rozier, Louisville
Rozier hasn’t put up big scoring numbers since taking over the point guard role for an injured Chris Jones, but he has amassed 14 assists to two turnovers in three games as a starter.
This weekend will feature only two games between ranked teams, but one of them is a doozy.
After Michigan defeated Iowa on Wednesday and Michigan State dodged Indiana on Wednesday, the top two teams in the Big Ten standings will meet in East Lansing.
Especially in this league, staying undefeated in conference play in late January is a major feat. Just ask Ohio State and Wisconsin. Certainly the two coaches meeting Saturday at the Breslin Center are feeling a bit lucky to be playing for the Big Ten lead.
Michigan has played nine games this season without forward Mitch McGary, and John Beilein is adapting to playing without him for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Michigan State has had ongoing injuries issues that at some point or another have claimed Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris.
The matchup between the Michigan schools isn’t the only key game this week. The story of the month seems to be slumping teams — Wisconsin, Iowa State, Baylor and others are facing critical games this week to show if any of them can pull out of recent funks.
College Basketball Weekend Preview
All times Eastern
Game of the Week:
Michigan at Michigan State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
No one would dare say that the basketball matchup between the Wolverines and Spartans is bigger than the football game, but this is pretty close. Both teams are in Big Ten contention despite major injuries. Michigan has weathered the season-ending injury to Mitch McGary with wins over Wisconsin and Iowa in the last week. Thanks to the hot hand of Nik Stauskas (20-plus points in three consecutive games), Michigan leads the Big Ten in points per possession at 118 points per 100 possessions in conference games. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo only wishes he had injury concerns so simple. Adreian Payne is not likely to play with an ongoing foot injury, and Branden Dawson is out four to five weeks after sustaining a broken hand when he slammed his hand in frustration while watching game film. With those combined injuries, expect a backcourt battle in East Lansing.
Tricky Road Trip:
Xavier at Providence (Saturday, noon, Fox Sports 1)
Providence isn’t quite on the NCAA Tournament bubble yet, but the Friars are riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 81-68 defeat of Creighton at home. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Xavier’s Semaj Christon should be able to match each other shot for shot in what could be one of the best individual matchups of the weekend.
Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Iowa State, which has lost three straight games following a 14–0 start, desperately needs a win to remain relevant in the Big 12 title chase. Kansas State has been one of the league’s early surprises; the Cats are 4–1 in the Big 12, with the only loss coming on the road at Kansas. Bruce Weber’s team has been terrific on the defensive end, so defending Iowa State’s many set plays will be key in this game. After a last-second loss to Texas on Tuesday, Kansas State also needs a win for its psyche.
Streaking vs. Slumping:
Texas at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Texas has suffered major personnel losses in recent years, but Rick Barnes has the Longhorns in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beater against Kansas State on Tuesday has given Texas a four-game winning streak. Baylor, on the other hand, has too much talent to be 1–4 in the Big 12. With non-conference wins over Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky, Baylor’s NCAA résumé is solid, but at some point this team needs to start winning games in league play.
BYU at Gonzaga (Saturday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)
The West Coast Conference is looking more and more like a one-bid league, especially after BYU added a triple overtime loss to Portland on Thursday to defeats to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga also lost to the Pilots earlier this season, but the Bulldogs have found their stride. On Saturday, they'll look to contain guard Tyler Haws, who scored 48 points in 50 minutes of play Thursday.
Others to Watch
Florida State at Duke (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
This is an intriguing matchup between one of the nation’s top defensive teams in Florida State and a Duke team that is loaded with offensive weapons. Florida State is holding its opponents to 40.5 percent shooting on 2-point field goals, a figure that ranks sixth in the nation. Duke, which shoots 41.4 percent from three and 52.7 percent from two, ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency (123 points per 100 possession).
Tennessee at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Florida, off to a 4–0 start in the league, has emerged as the team to beat in the SEC. The Gators do just about everything well except shoot free throws, where they shoot 66.6 percent from the line. Tennessee features one of the most talented rosters in the league, but the Vols have some troubling losses — vs. UTEP on a neutral court and against NC State and Texas A&M at home. This team is searching for a quality win to pad its NCAA Tournament résumé.
Wisconsin at Purdue (Saturday 5 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Wisconsin has suddenly forgot how to defend the perimeter, as the Badgers have allowed all three opponents to top 50 percent shooting in three losses. The Badgers are entering must-win territory, especially against a lackluster Purdue team that has struggled to score at times this season. The Boilermakers are coming off a lost to Northwestern, but they had won three in a row before Tuesday.
Villanova at Marquette (Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Villanova must regroup after its stunning 28-point loss at home to Creighton on Monday night. Defending the 3-point line will obviously be a focus in practice for Jay Wright. Good thing Marquette is one of the worst teams in the country from the 3-point line (30.4 percent).
Georgetown at Creighton (Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Both teams had eventful games Monday night. Creighton set a bunch of shooting records at Villanova en route to a 96–68 stunner over the Wildcats. The Bluejays are 6–1 in league play in their first season in the Big East. Georgetown blew a seven-point lead in the final three minutes on its way to an 80–72 overtime loss at home to Marquette. The Hoyas, who have lost three straight games, dropped to 11–7 overall and 3–4 in the Big East.
Illinois at Indiana (Sunday, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Just a few weeks ago, Illinois was 13–2 overall and 2–0 in the Big Ten. Now, the Illini are 13–6 and 2–4 in the Big Ten. Barring a quick turnaround, John Groce’s team will have a tough time earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana regrouped from its embarrassing loss to Northwestern by giving Michigan State a fight on Tuesday in East Lansing, but it wasn’t enough for a win. The Hoosiers cannot afford to lose another home game to a team in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Clemson at North Carolina (Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPNU)
At some point, North Carolina has to turn a corner if the Tar Heels aren’t going to see their wins over Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky wasted on an NIT bid. The Heels have lost three of their last four, and the inconsistent offense faces one of the better defensive teams in the ACC in Clemson.
California at UCLA (Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
At one point Cal looked like it would be a viable No. 2 team in the league thanks to Oregon’s slump and Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury at Colorado. Then the Bears lost to USC 77-69 on Wednesday. UCLA is coming off a deflating loss of its own on the road to Utah.
Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light contributed to this report.