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Winning games and breaking records becomes secondary in short order when our loved one's health become a concern. So the most important stat from Week 9 in the NFL is that two NFL families — Denver and Houston — are focused on the health of their head coaches. The Broncos' John Fox will undergo heart valve replacement surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, at minimum. The Texans' Gary Kubiak had a scary episode at halftime of Sunday night's game with the Colts and was taken to the hospital. Both men are doing fine and should recover safely.
So no matter how important, interesting, historic and bizarre thet stats are from Week 9, two is the biggest number of the weekend. However, here are some others to consider:
7: Nick Foles' NFL single-game record TD passes
Seven also is the number of quarterbacks in NFL history who have ever thrown seven touchdown passes in a game. Foles was electric against the Raiders, throwing for 406 yards, those seven scoring strikes and only six incompletions in the 49-20 win over Oakland. And he played in just one series in the fourth quarter. Foles joins Sid Luckman (1943), Adrian Burk (1954), George Blanda (1961), Y.A. Tittle (1962), Joe Kapp (1969) and Peyton Manning (2013) as the only players in history to accomplish the 7-TD trick. So after 43 seasons without a single seven-touchdown game, the 2013 season has featured two such performances. Seven also is the same number of passing touchdowns the Raiders have through eight games this season.
3: Overtime NFL safeties
The Dolphins, who had lost four straight since a 3-0 start, were leading 17-3 late in the third quarter on Thursday night. Andy Dalton and the Bengals rallied to send the game into overtime tied at 20. With 6:38 left in the extra frame, star end Cameron Wake made the play of the season for the Fish when he sacked Dalton in the end zone to end the game with a walk-off safety. Wake finished with 5.0 tackles, 2.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks. It was just the third such overtime safety in NFL history. The Bears beat the Titans 19-17 in 2004 and the Vikings topped the Rams 23-21 in 1989. Dalton finished with 338 yards passing, his fourth consecutive and eighth career 300-yard effort.
55 and 610: Steelers franchise-record points and yards allowed
The depleted Patriots offense has struggled for most of the 2013 season. New England hadn’t scored more than 30 points in any game and had failed to reach 300 yards of offense in three of its last four. Yet, against a historically stingy Steelers defense, the Pats exploded for 55 points and 610 yards of offense. It was the most points and yards a Pittsburgh team had allowed in franchise history. The Steelers (2-6) haven’t been ranked outside of the Top 20 in points allowed in a season since 1991 when they gave up 21.5 per game. It is currently 23rd in scoring defense at 26.0 ppg. Since Dick LeBeau took over as defensive coordinator in 2004, the Steelers have finished outside of the top six in points allowed just twice — 11th in 2006 and 12th in '09.
22-4: Tony Romo's career record in November
The Cowboys got the ball with 2:44 left in the game, trailing Minnesota by three. Romo led a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to defeat the Vikings. It was his 22nd career win in 26 career starts in the month of November — the best record for a quarterback in the Super Bowl era (min. 20 starts). He finished with 337 yards passing and two touchdowns in the critical, come-from-behind win. Romo is fifth in the NFL in passing with 2,553 yards and third in touchdown passes with 20, while no one has attempted more passes than his 346.
8-33: Record of teams the Panthers have defeated
Cam Newton and the Panthers are 5-3 and poised to compete for a playoff spot this fall. Yet, the Panthers have yet to beat a team with a winning record, as the five teams Carolina has defeated are a collective 8-33. Tampa Bay (0-8), Minnesota (1-7), Atlanta (2-6) and the Giants (2-6) have combined to win four games in 27 tries. Only the Rams have more than two wins this fall (3-6). The record of teams the Panthers have lost to is a much more impressive 15-11, but even then the Panthers have played only one team with a winning record all season (Seattle).
21: Largest point deficit Seattle has ever overcome
With just over two minutes left in the first half, the winless Buccaneers had a 21-0 lead on the road against Seattle — due in large part to one of the plays of the year. Russell Wilson wasn’t fazed, however, as he led five scoring drives over the final 32 minutes of play to give the Seahawks their largest comeback victory in franchise history. The win gave Seattle its first-ever 8-1 start to a season and was Wilson’s 12th win in 12 home games. He is one of four players since the 1970 merger to start a career with 12 consecutive home wins.
$13.2 million: Josh Freeman and Matt Flynn combined 2013 salaries
According to spotrac.com, Josh Freeman will count for $8.43 million towards Tampa Bay’s salary cap this season and $2.83 million towards Minnesota’s. Matt Flynn is hitting Oakland’s cap for $1.2 million and Buffalo’s for $715,000. Both were healthy and able to play for the Vikings and Bills this weekend but neither took a snap. Instead, Jeff Tuel started for the Bills and Christian Ponder started for the Vikings. Tuel was 18-of-39 for 229 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a QBR of 16.8. Ponder was 25-of-37 for 236 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble and was sacked twice. That’s over $13 million worth of healthy quarterbacks sitting on the bench. There is a reason the Bills and Vikings are a combined 4-13 this season. To make matters worse, the Bills released Flynn on Monday, which means the team's investment in him was for naught.
0-5: Rob Ryan’s record against twin brother Rex
Rob Ryan has been coaching in the NFL since 1994. His twin brother, Rex, started coaching in the NFL the same year. After two decades, one is the head coach of the Jets and the other is the defensive coordinator for the Saints. They met for the fifth time this weekend where the Jets used a 17-point second quarter and motivated ex-Saint Chris Ivory (18 att., 139 yards, TD) to upset the Saints on Sunday in the New Meadowlands. With the win, Rex Ryan remained unbeaten in five games against his twin brother and has his Jets squarely in the AFC wild-card hunt. New York has alternated wins and losses in each of the first nine games, and with a loss next week, would become the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses in the first 10 games of a season.
10: Career game-winning drives led by Andrew Luck
In just his 24th career game, Luck performed yet another second-half miracle. The Colts' signal-caller threw three touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton over the final 15:05 of game time to erase an 18-point Texans lead to earn the divisional road victory and give Luck his 10th career game-winning drive. That is one game-winning drive every 2.4 games played and puts Luck on pace to shatter the NFL record in less than eight seasons. Let’s put his fourth-quarter heroics into perspective by looking at the NFL's all-time leaders in game-winning drives. These are literally the greatest to ever play the game — and Luck's pace is obliterating all of them:
College football’s coach on the hot seat carousel took an odd turn last week, as FAU’s Carl Pelini resigned over illegal drug use. Pelini’s resignation was the fourth coaching change of 2013, and the first since Miami (Ohio) parted ways with Don Treadwell.
Pelini’s dismissal certainly won’t be the last opening of 2013, but the carousel has been surprisingly quiet. But with several high-profile jobs hanging in the balance, December could see several changes among BCS jobs.
Eastern Michigan’s Ron English ranks as the No. 1 coach in Athlon’s hot seat rankings after Week 10. English has perhaps the toughest job in college football, but the Eagles have failed to make much progress under his watch.
Virginia’s Mike London ranks as the top coach from a BCS conference in this week’s hot seat watch. London has received the vote of confidence from his athletic director, but can he survive a 2-10 record? The Cavaliers made a bowl and finished 8-5 in London’s second season (2011). However, Virginia is just 6-15 over the last two years and is likely headed for a 2-10 finish.
After a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat Northwestern, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini slides down the hot seat rankings this week. Was the win over the Wildcats enough to save Pelini’s job? It’s possible, but let’s consider the Cornhuskers’ remaining schedule: at Michigan, Michigan State, at Penn State and Iowa. Getting to 8-4 or 9-3 should be enough for Pelini to save his job. However, a 7-5 or 6-6 finish would spell trouble.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Indiana's Kevin Wilson – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-8||Only two wins over FBS teams in last two years.|
|2||Mike London||2-7||2-10 finish appears likely for Cavaliers.|
|3||Charlie Weis||2-6||Jayhawks likely headed for winless Big 12 season.|
|4||Norm Chow||0-8||Warriors have allowed at least 30 points in every game.|
|5||Charley Molnar||1-8||Minutemen had no answer for Jordan Lynch.|
|7||Tim Beckman||3-5||Fighting Illini's struggles in Big Ten play continue.|
|8||Dan Enos||3-5||CMU has been off since Oct. 19.|
|9||Bo Pelini||6-2||Hail Mary TD a job saver for Pelini?|
|11||Garrick McGee||2-6||Blazers play Marshall and ECU in back-to-back games.|
|12||Dana Holgorsen||4-5||Win over TCU was huge for bowl hopes.|
|13||Kevin Wilson||3-5||Hoosiers need upset to play in a bowl.|
|16||Dave Christensen||4-4||Will defensive coordinator change help?|
|23||Dan Mullen||4-4||Five turnovers too much to overcome.|
|27||Will Muschamp||4-4||Will the Gators make a bowl game?|
|28||Bob Davie||2-6||Davie needs time to rebuild at New Mexico.|
|30||Paul Haynes||2-8||Disappointing year for Golden Flashes.|
|31||Joey Jones||3-5||All five losses have been by a touchdown or less.|
|34||Jim Grobe||4-5||WR Michael Campanaro a big loss for Wake.|
|39||Kyle Flood||5-3||Good rebound game by QB Gary Nova.|
|40||Matt Rhule||1-8||Temple playing better in recent weeks.|
|42||Terry Bowden||3-7||Zips making slow progress under Bowden.|
|48||Trent Miles||0-9||GSU making progress in Miles' first season.|
|50||Paul Chryst||4-4||Panthers have to protect QB Tom Savage better.|
|51||Willie Taggart||2-6||Bulls have found a QB in Mike White.|
|52||Bryan Harsin||4-4||Red Wolves still in mix for bowl.|
|55||Scott Shafer||4-4||Bowl hopes still alive with win over Wake Forest.|
|57||Brady Hoke||6-2||Wolverines simply dominated by Michigan State.|
|61||Larry Fedora||3-5||Tar Heels in good position to make bowl game.|
|67||Frank Beamer||6-3||Hokies need win over Miami to stay in Coastal mix.|
|74||Jerry Kill||7-2||Kill and Claeys have Golden Gophers on a roll.|
|77||Mike MacIntyre||3-5||Buffaloes more competitive under MacIntyre.|
|82||Larry Coker||4-5||Coker doing a great job of building UTSA.|
|104||Pat Fitzgerald||4-5||Injuries taking a toll on the Wildcats.|
|113||Bill Snyder||4-4||Wildcats seem to be putting the pieces together.|
|NR||Brian Wright||1-0||FAU could finish 6-6 this year.|
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Pac-12 Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
College Football Week 10 Recap
Stats to Know from Week 10
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 10.
10 Pac-12 Stats to Know
9: Stanford has handed Oregon its first loss of the season nine times
The big one is finally here: Oregon (8-0, 5-0) at Stanford (7-1, 5-1) Thursday night. Nine times since 1964 Stanford has given Oregon its first loss of the season. On two occasions, it was the Ducks’ only loss of the season — 2012 and 2001. Last year’s 17-14 overtime loss to the Cardinal ended a 13-game winning streak for the Ducks. The 2001 loss ended a 23-home game winning streak — the longest in the nation at that time.
293: Oregon’s Mariota has not thrown an interception since last Stanford meeting
Oregon quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota has protected the ball better than any starting QB through the air this season. On the way to 2,281 yards passing with 20 touchdowns on 225 attempts, the junior has no interceptions this season. His last interception — a Pac-12 record 293 attempts ago — came 13 seconds before halftime of the last Stanford meeting. Mariota does arrive at Thursday’s game with two lost fumbles suffered Oct. 19 against Washington State — his first fumble in 79 attempts since losing one against USC last season. Stanford is tied for 95th in the nation with 11 turnovers gained.
1 and 0: Stanford downed Oregon three times in the 2000s with QBs making their first appearance against the Ducks; then lost the next year
The Cardinal has defeated Oregon three times this century, all with quarterbacks playing against the Ducks for the first time. In 2001 it was Chris Lewis, stepping in after Randy Fasani sprained his knee in the second quarter. Lewis threw for two touchdowns and 189 yards on 12 completions with no interceptions in a 49-42 win. In 2009, it was freshman Andrew Luck also throwing two touchdowns on 12 completions with no interceptions and 251 yards in a 51-42 victory. Last season, it was Kevin Hogan, making his second career start, throwing for 211 yards with a fourth-quarter, game-tying touchdown, an interception and he added a rushing TD in Stanford’s 17-14 OT win. In each of the following seasons the Ducks bounced back. They did not face an injured Lewis the following year, instead surrendering just 92 yards and a touchdown on 12 completions with an interception against Kyle Matter and Ryan Eklun in a 41-14 win. Luck lost to Oregon his sophomore and junior seasons (52-31 and 53-30), combining for 597 yards passing six total TDs, four interceptions and a lost fumble. Hogan, 7-0 against ranked teams, has a chance to stop the trend Thursday and become the first Stanford QB to defeat Oregon in back-to-back seasons since Chad Hutchinson (1996 and ’97).
28.9: Stanford and Oregon combined for 28.9 percent on third and fourth downs in last year’s meeting
In last season’s meeting, Stanford was 6-of-17 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth, while Oregon was 4-of-17 on third and failed on both fourth-down tries — one at the Cardinal 7, which led to a 93-yard scoring drive by Stanford for the game’s first points. This season, Stanford is third in the Pac-12 in third-down conversions at 53-of-109 (48.6), while Oregon is fifth at 46-of-100 (46.0). On the defensive side, the Ducks rank second in the conference at forcing fourth down, having faced the most third-down attempts this season and allowing 33.1 percent to be converted (47-of-142). Stanford is fourth at 34.4 (42-of-122). Both teams rank ninth in the conference on fourth-down conversions at 40 percent. Oregon has attempted to move the chains four times as much as Stanford — 8-of-20 to the Cardinal’s 2-of-5. Defensively, Oregon is second best in the conference in stopping fourth-down attempts at 42.1 percent (8-of-19), while opponents have converted 52.4 percent against Stanford (11-of-21).
29.44-21.63 Stanford puts its top-ranked kick return game against Oregon’s 73rd-ranked return defense
If Stanford is looking for a spark against Oregon Thursday it could come in the return game. The Cardinal is No. 1 in FBS in kick return average (29.44), and go up against a Ducks special teams unit allowing 21.63 yards per return — good for 73rd in FBS. On the other side, Oregon is ranked 48th in kick returns (22.25), while Stanford is 10th best (17.78) at defending the kickoff. Stanford’s Ty Montgomery is tied for first in the FBS with two of his 21 kickoff returns taken back for scores. The junior averages 32.5 yards per return — .2 yards off No. 1 in the nation.
7: John Elway to have No. 7 jersey retired Thursday night
At halftime of the Stanford-Oregon game, the Cardinal will retire former quarterback John Elway’s No. 7. Stanford’s quarterback from 1979-82, Elway was a Heisman Trophy runner-up to Herschel Walker in 1982. The two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year (1980 and ’82) threw for 9,349 yards and 77 touchdowns at Stanford. Junior receiver Ty Montgomery and sophomore defensive Aziz Shittu both currently wear the No. 7 jersey. They will be the last players to do so. This will be the third Stanford football number to be retired — Ernie Nevers (1) and Jim Plunkett (16).
3: Cal’s Lawler scores his first career TD, then his second and third
California receiver Kenny Lawler collected the first touchdown of his career in the second quarter (17 yards) in Saturday’s 33-28 loss to Arizona. The freshman then followed with a 3-yard TD in the third quarter and a third score on a 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He finished with six catches for 72 yards. He is the first Bears receiver to catch three TDs in a game since DeSean Jackson vs. Minnesota in 2006.
60: Denker to Miller for 60 yards a season long for both
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker connected with Terrence Miller for 60 yards on a third-and-10 in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ 33-28 victory against Cal Saturday. The senior-to-senior, 60-yard hookup is the longest completion of Denker’s two-year career at Arizona and the longest reception of Miller’s five-year career. Miller went on to finish with five catches for 88 yards — the highest yardage total of any UA receiver this season.
0: Oregon State offense shutout in the second half for the first time
The Beavers were shutout in the second half for the first time this season after averaging 23.9 points per second half in their eight games leading into Friday’s game with USC. It was the first time OSU was shutout in the second half since a 23-6 loss to Cal on Nov. 12, 2011. After averaging 44.1 points over this season’s first seven games — good for ninth in the nation — Oregon State has dropped to 37.2 and 26th in the nation after scoring just 14 against USC and 12 against Stanford.
2: USC won back-to-back games in single season by at least two touchdowns for the first time since 2011
With its 31-14 and 19-3 wins over Oregon State and Utah the last two outings, USC has put together back-to-back, two-touchdown wins in the same season for the first time since November 2011. The Trojans were 40-17 and 42-17 winners against Washington and Colorado in 2011.
This preview and more on Kansas and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 5 Kansas Facts & Figures
Last season: 31-6 (14-4 Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Coach: Bill Self (300-59 at Kansas)
Big 12 projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Four senior starters from last season’s Sweet 16 squad were gone, and leading scorer Ben McLemore had bolted early for the NBA. When analysts predicted Oklahoma State would knock the Jayhawks from their perch atop the conference standings in 2013-14, no one argued.
At least not until Andrew Wiggins picked up a pen.
On May 14 — in the few shorts seconds it took him to scribble his name on a National Letter of Intent — Wiggins turned a fringe-top 25 team into a Big 12 and NCAA title contender. Kansas has always been able to lure high-profile recruits to its storied program, but never have the Jayhawks inked a player with as much hype as Wiggins, the nation’s No. 1-ranked prospect.
“We were going to have a good team no matter what,” coach Bill Self says. “But Andrew gives us a chance to be special.”
Wiggins wasn’t the only late addition that caused a buzz among Jayhawks fans last spring. After playing his first three seasons at Memphis, power forward Tarik Black decided to spend his final year of eligibility elsewhere. The 6-9, 262-pound Black averaged 8.1 points last season and 10.7 points as a sophomore, but Self doesn’t believe he’s come anywhere close to reaching his potential. Black is the physical, rugged type of player that Self loves, and his age and experience will be huge for a Kansas team that will be among the youngest in the country.
While Black will provide the muscle in the paint, look for sophomore Perry Ellis to account for a bulk of the scoring. Ellis was a role player for most of his freshman year before making huge strides near the end of the season. Ellis’ confidence has grown even more during the offseason. And it certainly helps that he’s been able to compete in practice with newcomers such as Black, Joel Embiid and Landen Lucas and returning backup Jamari Traylor.
Embiid may have the highest upside of any player on Kansas’ roster. The 7-0 Cameroonian has been playing the game for only a few years, but his eagerness to learn and his natural athletic ability lead many to believe he could be a top NBA prospect after just one college season. Self is also extremely high on Lucas, who has been one of Kansas’ top players in offseason workouts after redshirting last season.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
No player will be under as big a spotlight this season as Wiggins, a swingman who may be the best player the college game has seen since Kevin Durant. There simply isn’t much the 6-8 Wiggins can’t do. He’s skilled enough, big enough and long enough to play the 2, 3 and 4 positions. And athletically, he’s as elite as they come. One minute he’s swishing a heavily guarded 3-pointer or pull-up jumper, and the next he’s exploding past a defender and dunking while absorbing contact.
Joining Wiggins in the backcourt will be freshman Wayne Selden, a McDonald’s All-American who has been referred to as a “power guard.” Self loves the 6-5 Selden for his toughness, his knack for getting to the basket and ability to make shots.
Perhaps the only question mark for the Jayhawks comes at the most important position on the court: point guard. Naadir Tharpe averaged 19 minutes per game as a backup last season and has been praised for his leadership. Tharpe, though, is far from an all-conference-caliber guard, and Self is high on incoming freshman Frank Mason, who spent last season at a prep school after failing to qualify out of high school.
Andrew Wiggins, the likely No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, is arguably the highest-profile recruit in school history. Wayne Selden will be virtually impossible to keep off the court because of his toughness and ability to play multiple positions. Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp are deadly from beyond the arc. Joel Embiid is a tremendous shot-blocker and rebounder who could blossom into one of the country’s top big men. Tarik Black is a bruiser who adds a manly presence to an otherwise youthful squad.
Factoid: 1. Kansas has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament five out of the last seven years. The Jayhawks have also finished No. 1 in the Big 12 nine straight seasons.
As is the case every season, expect the Jayhawks to be in the hunt for the NCAA title. Granted, things may be a bit rocky at times for a squad that will likely have five freshmen in its eight-man rotation. With games against Duke, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Georgetown, Kansas’ non-conference slate is as difficult as its ever been under Self, who is cautioning folks to be patient. That’s a lot to ask of Kansas fans, who know good and well that with Wiggins, anything is possible.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Florida and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 7 Florida Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-8 (14-4 SEC)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Billy Donovan (415-166)
SEC projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Donovan hopes he won’t have to improvise as much in 2013-14, but the season is off to an inauspicious start. Will Yeguete, whose injuries necessitated Donovan changing lineups on the fly, missed the start of practice while recovering from knee surgery. Eli Carter, a heralded Rutgers transfer, was declared eligible to play this season, but he’s still rehabbing from a broken leg. And point guard Scottie Wilbekin only recently returned from a suspension.
That said, with the addition of two transfers and the return of senior Patric Young, the Gators’ frontcourt is stocked more than it has been in years. That’s a big reason why Florida is among a handful of contenders for the national championship.
Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6-8 redshirt sophomore forward, and Damontre Harris, a 6-10 redshirt junior forward/center, sat out last season after transferring from Virginia Tech and South Carolina, respectively. Along with Young, senior forward Casey Prather and Yeguete, the Gators now have a frontcourt full of big, athletic and physical players.
Finney-Smith, who some inside the program say would have been the Gators’ best overall player last season, started 30 games for Virginia Tech in 2011-12 and earned ACC All-Freshman honors after averaging 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He’s a slasher in the mold of former UF standout Corey Brewer, but with better size.
Harris spent two years at South Carolina and was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team after the 2011-12 season. He also averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and had 71 blocks.
Though those two are big additions, Donovan hopes people temper their expectations about how dominant UF’s frontcourt could be.
“When guys transfer and people are sitting out, the legend of those guys grows to an enormity and size that is probably not really reality,” Donovan says. “(But) those guys are good players. There’s no question they can help us.”
Harris and Finney-Smith join a solid group that is a little offensively challenged. The 6-9, 240-pound Young has averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in his two seasons as a starter. He has been inconsistent around the basket and hasn’t developed a jump shot to complement his post moves.
The 6-8 Yeguete is UF’s best interior defender and the key man at the top of the full-court press, but has averaged just 3.7 points per game in his career. He has missed a combined 17 games the last two seasons because of knee and foot injuries. The 6-6 Prather is coming off a career year (6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) despite having to play in the post because of Yeguete’s knee injury, but he’s a slasher without a jump shot.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
There’s a big question mark at point guard as Wilbekin is just leaving Donovan’s dog house. Aside from Wilbekin, freshman Kasey Hill is the only point guard on the roster. Hill is a smooth playmaker who changes speed well and gives the Gators more offense at the position than Wilbekin. However, Wilbekin was the Gators’ top perimeter defender.
Not having Wilbekin leaves sophomore Michael Frazier as the only guard with significant SEC experience. The 6-4 Frazier, who helped the United States win the gold medal in the under-19 age group at the FIBA World Championships this summer, played in 36 games last season and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after shooting 46.8 percent from 3-point range.
Sophomores Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker averaged 3.5 and 4.0 minutes per game, respectively, last season and will continue to be role players in 2013-14.
Kasey Hill is going to play a lot even if he doesn’t have to start because of Scottie Wilbekin’s suspension. Dorian Finney-Smith should start and has the ability to average a double-double. Damontre Harris is a defensive whiz who will eat into Patric Young’s minutes, which will help with Young’s fatigue issues.
Factoid: 3. Florida is the only school in the country that has made the Elite Eight the last three seasons. UF has made six trips to the Elite Eight since 2000.
This is one of Donovan’s deepest and most athletic teams. The Gators will be able to run with anyone in the country and can create havoc with their press because of their length. The wild card is when, or if, Wilbekin returns. If he does, UF is even better defensively and the offense is in the hands of a player with three years of experience in the SEC. If not, the Gators’ offense will depend on how quickly Hill adjusts to the college game.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Arizona and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 6 Arizona Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-8 (12-6 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Coach: Sean Miller (96-43 at Arizona)
Pac-12 projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Miller told them to keep the money.
“We’re moving on,” says Arizona’s coach. “We’ve got better things ahead of us.”
That’s the working description of Arizona basketball. Somehow, after losing All-Pac-12 seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, after watching in dismay as coveted prospects Grant Jerrett and Angelo Chol left school, Miller believes the Wildcats can improve on a 27-win, Sweet 16 finish.
Even though Arizona has gone to 26 NCAA Tournaments over the last 28 years, the Wildcats have rarely had more talent, top to bottom, on their roster. “Losing what we did would cripple a lot of programs,” Miller says. “But I believe we’ve established ourselves now to the point that we can handle it and move forward.”
The most identifiable player on Miller’s fifth Arizona team is apt to be freshman forward Aaron Gordon, MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and, two months later, MVP of USA Basketball’s U19 gold medal championship club.
“One of the reasons I chose Arizona was because I believe we can win the national championship,” says Gordon, a slashing, up-tempo transition player. “It’s all set up to be a great year.”
Center Kaleb Tarczewski started all 35 games as a freshman, shooting .538 from the field and becoming a physical force near the basket. He is likely to become more of a scoring threat as a sophomore; he averaged 6.6 in his rookie year.
He’ll be joined by sophomore Brandon Ashley, an athletic and versatile 6-8 combo forward with shooting range to 20 feet. Ashley shot .525 as a freshman, starting 22 games, and no longer will have to share time with Jerrett, who opted for the NBA Draft after one season.
Gordon will start at small forward, although he has the size and inside scoring instincts to play closer to the basket. Miller will have another strong option at small forward: Freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a McDonald’s All-American, projects as a defensive stopper with the versatility to guard opposing players at shooting guard, wing forward and power forward. His shooting touch will need some work, however.
Miller made the frontcourt more formidable when he added junior college big man Matt Korcheck, a spirited rebounder and defensive specialist who sat out the 2012-13 season. He replaces Chol, who transferred to San Diego State in an attempt to get more playing time.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Miller’s new point guard is Duquesne transfer T. J. McConnell, who was the 2011 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and a year later finished third in the NCAA in steals. He also shot .417 from 3-point range and enters the year as the acknowledged team leader.
“He’ll be their heart and soul,” says Hill, who was the UA’s leading player a year ago. “He’ll establish a toughness we haven’t always had.”
Nick Johnson, a two-year starter at shooting guard who averaged 11.5 points as a sophomore, must improve his perimeter shooting to help open the inside for Tarczewski and Ashley. Johnson was tied for third on the club in 3-point baskets last year, with 42. He has been more proficient as a penetrating, drive-to-the-basket player. They need him to do less of that with Gordon around.
The Wildcats have exceptional depth in the backcourt. Senior Jordin Mayes, who can play both positions, has played 102 college games, starting 16 times. Sophomore Gabe York will get an audition as the team’s off-the-bench distance shooting specialist.
As a package, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts were often ranked at or near the top of the nation’s recruiting classes. Some view Gordon as the leading freshman ever to arrive at Arizona. Hollis-Jefferson has the size, length and defensive mindset that Miller covets. In a normal recruiting class, Pitts would be a headliner. This year at Arizona he’s No. 3.
Factoid: 96. Arizona has won 96 games in Sean Miller’s four seasons, the most of any Pac-12 team in that period. Miller’s 48–24 Pac-12 record is also the best in the conference.
Arizona is unusually young, expecting to start a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors. Only one senior, Mayes, figures to make the eight- or nine-man rotation.
Nevertheless, Miller and UA fans see this as Arizona’s best chance to get to the Final Four since 2001 — it was agonizingly close in 2003, 2005 and 2011 — because Tarczewski and Gordon are viewed as likely entrees to the NBA Draft in June 2014.
Miller has established himself as a recruiter of impact. This shouldn’t be a now-or-never season for the Wildcats, but anything short of a league title and deep run into the NCAA Tournament would be disappointing.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Oklahoma State and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 8 Oklahoma State Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-9 (13-5 Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Travis Ford (104-64 at Oklahoma State)
Big 12 projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
And in turn, propping up the Cowboys for a run at a potential special season.
In Smart, Brown and Nash, the Cowboys boast the top three returning scorers in the Big 12 and a trio of likely NBA Draft picks.
And there’s more — much more — with Mike Cobbins, Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy all owning significant starting experience and Phil Forte back as the team’s top 3-point shooter and a sniper off the bench.
At this level, OSU projects as one of the Big 12 favorites and a squad capable of a long NCAA Tournament run.
“I think the ceiling on this team is really high,” Smart said. “We’ve got a lot of talent. A lot of experience. And we’re hungry.”
Related: Q&A with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart
The Cowboys lack bulk inside, yet can create problems with an athletic array of forwards, led by Cobbins and Murphy, and also Nash, who splits his time playing inside and out depending on the matchup. Since they want to push the pace and run — and so few teams boast legitimate true big men anyway — the Pokes’ collection of forwards is a better fit.
Cobbins led OSU in rebounding and blocked shots a year ago, taking over as the starter down the stretch in the Big 12. A high-percentage shooter who has worked at adding a reliable baby hook to his arsenal, Cobbins’ continued development has elevated his status as a scoring threat.
Murphy was forced into duty as a true freshman early last season due to injuries, and he responded well. Following a mid-season slump, he bounced back to provide quality depth, and he gives OSU its most physical inside presence.
Nash is most effective in the frontcourt on the offensive end, where his ability to slash and score at the rim gives defenders fits. After envisioning himself as a perimeter player early in his career, Nash now embraces his work in the post.
There’s hope that junior college transfer Gary Gaskins, another athletic big man at 6-10, can provide help off the bench. Marek Soucek, a 7-footer who is the Cowboys’ thickest post player, is finally adapting to the American game in his junior year, after arriving from the Czech Republic.
2013-14 Conference Previews
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Smart’s return, after he was projected near the top of the NBA Draft, stunned those outside and inside the program alike. The Big 12 Player of the Year as a freshman, he changed the culture of the program with his unselfishness and competitiveness. He ranked among the conference’s top five in scoring and assists and led the league in steals, leading OSU’s charge back to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence.
And he’s back to do it all, and more, again.
“You only get to be a college player for so long,” Smart says. “I love these guys, and I love this program and I’m excited about what we can do together.”
Brown took a major step in his third year, becoming a consistent and versatile scorer after previously being known strictly as a dunker.
Forte surpassed expectations, getting major minutes and giving the Cowboys a fourth double-digit scorer, as well as an outside threat capable of extending defenses. Williams, a lockdown defender, missed the first half of the season after shattering his wrist, then returned to play a limited role. Healthy again, he should be a major addition on the defensive end, but also as an explosive scorer.
Stevie Clark, a 4-star recruit, will spell Smart at the point and give the Cowboys another major offensive threat. Jeffrey Carroll, another freshman scorer, is trying to fight through the logjam at guard and find a role.
Stevie Clark ranks fifth in Oklahoma career high school scoring with 3,312 career points. Offsetting a slight build, 6-10 junior college addition Gary Gaskins is an explosive leaper who could help on the defensive end. Jeffrey Carroll and Leyton Hammonds are Texas prep stars who could find minutes hard to come by, with redshirt seasons possible.
Factoid: 94. The Cowboys return 94 percent of their point production from a year ago, including their top six scorers and four players who averaged double figures.
Smart sparked an OSU resurgence last season, putting the program back on the map. His return to lead a veteran and talented squad warrants national attention.
The Cowboys will have to manage rising expectations, deal with a challenging schedule and find minutes for a potentially deep rotation. But there’s motivation, too, after underrated Oregon sent OSU packing with a quick exit from last year’s postseason.
“We have unfinished business,” Brown says.
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This Q&A and more on Oklahoma State and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
His Oklahoma State team checked in at No. 8 in our countdown.
You decided to forego the NBA Draft. Did you ever expect so many people to weigh in with opinions on your decision?
The society we live in, people are always worried about what other people are doing. Why they did it. What made them do it. That’s just the world we live in, especially with social media and everything. I wasn’t really surprised. But at the same time, it is my business, my decision — not their’s — so it doesn’t matter what they think. Not trying to disrespect anyone, everyone has a right to their opinion. At the same time, it’s my life.
None at all.
After some people weighed in, criticizing your decision and saying you’d be picked lower in a better draft class, you took offense to it. Talk about your response to those doubts of you and your game.
The morning I announced I was coming back, we actually watched ESPN and Skip (Bayless) and Stephen A. (Smith) were going at it. Skip made some comments that pretty much said he didn’t think I could play with this year’s draft class. My whole life I’ve been told I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that. It’s a motivator. For him to say that, I felt a little disrespected. All respect to him, but I didn’t agree with what he said. I know coming in here, nobody thought I’d accomplish all that I did my first year. Like I said, it all comes down to how bad you want it and how hard you work. I bet on myself. I know what I can do. I believe in my ability. And I’m a competitor. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.
Talking about this team, what do you like about this team’s collection of players?
The chemistry of this team. We were a tight team last year, but this year, more than ever, we’re tighter. And that’s going to go a long way. We’re just as experienced. We have depth, a lot of veteran guys on this team who knows what it takes. That’s always good. I just like the way we connect with each other.
What is the ceiling on this team?
There is none, none at all. It all comes down to us. No excuses. We have everyone back. It all comes down to how the dice rolls and how we make the dice roll. It’s up to us. We control our own destiny.
What is your favorite enemy arena in the Big 12?
Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse. Being good friends with Phil (Forte) and his dad being an alum who played football at KU, that’s all we used to hear –— stories about KU. Basketball. Football. We grew up watching Kansas and hearing the stories about how historic it is and about the major tradition there and how intense it is, and how hard it is to win there. And everybody knows that, it’s one of the hardest places in the country to go win. And it’s one of the great atmospheres.
What’s your least favorite arena?
Texas Tech, just because of the atmosphere. It’s a nice coliseum to play in. It’s huge. It looks beautiful, but the atmosphere just isn’t there.
Who is the toughest guy in the Big 12 to defend?
I’d probably say Andrew Wiggins at Kansas. I’m sure I’ll end up on him some. That’s going to be a tough matchup for anybody to guard him. He’s a great player. He’s a big-time player.
Who’s the toughest guy in the Big 12 to score on?
Isaiah Austin. His length. He’s a great shot blocker. I know he blocked like six or seven shots a game. And that’s a big. He changes shots for his team. And it’s tough to score on him.
What other coach in the Big 12 could you see yourself playing for?
Bill Self. He’s a great coach. Everybody knows his track record, all that he’s instilled into that program. He knows what he’s doing and he does it well.
Your rise from a dangerous upbringing has become a national story, with details of how you survived in a rugged south Dallas neighborhood, eventually moving across town to blossom and become a big-time recruit. What kind of stuff did you see?
I saw my friends doing all kinds of drugs. Snorting. Smoking. I didn’t even know what it was. Psycho-type stuff. I’ve seen people get jumped and beaten … shot. I’ve seen police chases every day. I’ve seen gang members drive through apartments, while little kids are in the street, don’t give a care; little kids getting hit by cars. I saw my brother sell (drugs) to one of my friends.
How influential was your mother, Camellia, who moved the family out of those surroundings, in not only allowing you to have a basketball future, but in possibly saving your life?
I thank God every day for giving my mom the strength and the confidence to move us. To just drop everything — that’s where all my family was – to go to this place where we had no idea who anybody was or what to expect … she took a chance. That was a great chance she took.
And still, you believe that those early life lessons were good for you?
God does everything for a reason. He doesn’t bring us this far to leave us. For me to go through that, it was what he planned, in order to get me somewhere better and to do something better with my life. That’s exactly the way he planned it. And it worked out the way he wanted it. I definitely think that was a blessing.
Clearly, it’s working out the way you wanted it, too?
Now, I’m a D-I college basketball player at Oklahoma State. I’m living the life that most kids would chop off their right arm for, a paid scholarship to go to college for free. Kids’ parents are out here struggling to get them to college, my mom doesn’t pay anything. It’s a blessing. I thank God every day. I’m doing something productive with my life. My mom, she’s great. She’s really one of my heroes.
What did you learn from your latest international experience, playing on the gold medal Team USA U19 squad in the Czech Republic?
I learned how to be a little more elusive and tricky coming off ball screens and getting in the paint; making better decisions.
What was your reaction when you learned you were one of two college players invited to the Team USA Mini-Camp in Las Vegas, alongside a bunch of NBA pros?
I was ecstatic. It’s a prestigious event to be a part of. And to be one of two college players to go, and not any of the college players drafted this year, it’s an honor indeed to have on my track record as an individual, and for Oklahoma State. I got to go out there and represent my school and my family. I’m blessed. I thank God for giving me the opportunity for being there.
Having experienced a year of college basketball, how much better can you be as a sophomore?
There are no limitations. I’ve just got to work at it and want it. That’s with anybody though; anybody in college basketball. It’s all about how hard you work. I think I can become a pretty good player if I just stay focused, keep my eyes on the right things work hard. I don’t have to wonder what I’m in for any more, like a lot of incoming freshmen. I’ve been through it a year. I’ve been put in the fire in tough games. So I’m used to it and I know what to expect. So nothing will come as a surprise for me.
Someday, fans will look back and recognize the magnitude of what Jimmie Johnson has accomplished. Already a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, two races away from (potentially) number six, he’s done it in an era where parity amongst the top teams reigns supreme. At an organization built around Jeff Gordon, his co-car owner who also hired him, Johnson stole the spotlight along with the lofty goals Gordon once seemed capable of reaching.
But most race fans now read that first paragraph and immediately think of throwing up. To them, Johnson is the anti-Christ, a prime example of everything gone wrong with their beloved sport. A dominant win is treated as boring; his personality, no matter the scenario, is labeled generic and emotionless. While the sport’s other champions, like Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr., evoked passion in the fan base, Johnson — apart from his own group of loyalists — doesn’t move the needle. He’s the most polished, professional champion the sport has ever seen, yet it’s that same presentation which proves part of the problem.
Combine those feelings with Sunday’s Texas trouncing and you have a recipe for fan unrest. No wonder this race, in several circles, was labeled one of the worst within a Chase that’s actually seen TV ratings rise. What a weird problem for NASCAR to have, right? Build a showdown around Peyton Manning in the NFL or LeBron James in the NBA and your most successful star on paper draws record ratings. Put Johnson at his best, front and center?
Too much of NASCAR’s loyal fan base still wants to run.
“Through the Gears” we go, post-Texas …
FIRST GEAR: The title is a toss-up
Johnson, in leading 255 laps Sunday, took the upper hand in this seesaw title race. Just one week ago it seemed Matt Kenseth, fresh off out-pointing his rival at Martinsville, was poised to pull away at this intermediate track. Instead? It was Johnson’s first 1.5-mile victory of the season, as these men keep besting each other in ways that leave the pundits looking foolish.
Now we head to Phoenix with Johnson armed with the same seven-point lead he had last season over Brad Keselowski. But as we saw then, that margin is far from a guarantee come Homestead. Last year, the No. 48 team pulled up a rare stinker in this same situation; a blown tire in Phoenix and a mechanical mess in Homestead led to a third-place points finish. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus say they’ve learned their lesson, leaning on years of experience to make that a one-time aberration.
As for Kenseth, his mission at Phoenix is to keep himself afloat and Johnson in sight. With one career win at Homestead — one of the few places his rival hasn’t won — you’d think the No. 20 team would have the upper hand. But it’s a true toss-up going forward, folks.
SECOND GEAR: Will Dale Jr. always be second best?
Sunday marked Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fifth second-place run of the season. Yes, the No. 88 team has failed to reach Victory Lane, but that runner-up total is still his best with Hendrick Motorsports. In no previous season has Junior had more than three top-two runs with HMS; in six years with the organization, he’s only had a grand total of 10. Bottom line, this “close but no cigar” routine is actually a strong step in the right direction.
“We want to put forward a good account of ourselves in the Chase because you're in there for a reason and you don't want to be an also ran,” said Earnhardt, up to a Chase-high fifth in points. “So we feel like we're doing a lot of good work and getting really close to probably breaking through and getting a win.”
It’s an impressive rebound, considering an engine failure at Chicagoland left this team out of the title Chase before it began. Should these results hold through the final two races, Earnhardt will have his best points season since 2006, when he was driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Two more top-10 finishes in the final two races would also give him a new career high in the category (22). It’s clear the move into the No. 48 shop has paid dividends for Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte. Their chemistry has never been stronger.
At the same time, just like with everyone else at Hendrick, these days you get the feeling this run may be as good as Earnhardt could ever do there. Since Johnson entered the scene full-time in 2002, no other driver at HMS has won a Cup championship. Could Earnhardt, in the same shop as a possible six-time champion, suddenly rise up and steal a few? The way history has played out, you have to wonder. Turning 40 next year, the marketability of even an Earnhardt remains in question; it’s now been 12 years since his father’s death, where a whole generation of teenagers don’t “get” the name in quite the same way. Is this season a slow build towards a multi-win 2014 or are we seeing the peak of this partnership right now?
With two wins in Earnhardt’s now seven seasons with the team that remains an open question.
THIRD GEAR: The importance of pit roadIn looking at the final two races this championship, it more than likely could be won or lost in the pits. It almost happened Sunday, when a pit road speeding penalty doomed Kenseth to the tail of the lead lap in 16th. It took him 100 circuits or so and with the help of some cautions to work back inside the top 5.
Even Johnson, whose car was unstoppable, suffered from a 17.0-second stop that dropped the No. 48 from the lead to fourth. Texas, with its multiple grooves, offered an opportunity for him to quickly find his way back to the point. But Phoenix, with its newly-paved asphalt? That track position-race will offer no such freebie. In the spring, pole-sitter Mark Martin seemed unstoppable until a tire failure left him last on the lead lap. The No. 55 car was still fast; it was just simply impossible to pass. He wound up a mediocre 21st.
Considering that layout, this Sunday will be a head-to-head battle between crew chiefs Jason Ratcliff and Chad Knaus. Who will play poker with two-tire stops late in the race to keep track position? Can each mechanic develop a setup that will allow their driver to pass on restarts? Their minds, along with the speed of their crews, could make all the difference in this title race.
FOURTH GEAR: Fords forging ahead
Ever so quietly, teams are working on 2014 — and we’ve seen some steps forward by the Fords. Carl Edwards, after winning the pole, was competitive at Texas until blowing his engine. Penske Racing’s Joey Logano finished a strong third while teammate Brad Keselowski was fourth. The reigning champion is actually best of the non-Chasers, 14th in points, and has one win this postseason.
It’s been a slow, steady rebuild for the Fusions after starting out a step behind on NASCAR’s Gen-6. With Greg Biffle in a contract year, Penske showing signs of life and Edwards, now two years removed from championship heartbreak, I expect Ford to come out of the gate strong in Daytona.
It was a slow, steady drive you didn’t get to see on TV, but Parker Kligerman’s 18th-place finish in his Cup debut for Swan Racing was one of the better runs for an underdog we’ve seen this year. That car, once driven by David Stremme, had just four top-20 finishes in 2013 — none of which came on intermediates — and is woefully underfunded compared to the “big guns.” The Nationwide Series regular might have earned himself a Cup ride for 2014. … Jeff Burton, in published interviews, suddenly doesn’t seem so sure he’ll have an opportunity next year. That leaves Burton, 2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin (subbing for Tony Stewart) as three big-name drivers who all could potentially hang it up after Homestead. … It’s unclear whether NAPA Auto Parts will follow Martin Truex Jr. to his new ride at Furniture Row Racing. But if it does, that may mean good things for other drivers facing the unemployment line. Owner Barney Visser has always had his own money to sponsor the program and has always wanted to start a second team, even on a limited basis.
The NFL’s longest running rivalry resumes tonight when the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Packers (5-2) are in first place in the NFC North and have won five in a row overall, while the Bears (4-3) have dropped three of their last four games after opening the season 3-0. With the Bears dealing with so many injuries on both sides of the ball, it will be up to All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman and a patchwork defense to try and slow down Aaron Rodgers and a well-balanced Packers offensive attack.
This represents the 187th meeting, including playoffs, between these historic, long-time divisional rivals. This is the NFL’s longest running rivalry and although Chicago holds a slim lead (92-88-6) in these head-to-head matchups, the Packers have won six in a row overall and the last five played at Lambeau Field. Green Bay also has won 11 straight against NFC North opponents, a big reason why the Packers have won the last two division titles.
3 Things to Watch
Will Chicago’s Offense Click Without Cutler?
Jay Cutler will miss tonight’s game because of the groin injury he sustained in the Bears’ last game, a Week 7 loss to the Redskins. With Cutler sidelined, Josh McCown will make his first start since the end of the 2011 season. An 11-year veteran with more than 30 career starts under his belt, McCown filled in quite nicely after Cutler got hurt, completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in the 45-41 loss to Washington. McCown is a veteran who has not only faced the Packers before, he also has played at Lambeau Field. McCown’s first start in 2011 was on the road against Green Bay on Christmas Day. He threw for 242 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions that day, a 35-21 loss. McCown won’t be asked to do it all by himself, as running back Matt Forté will be heavily involved in the game plan, and he also has wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett at his disposal. Still, the Bears need McCown to execute the offense and take care of the football, because Chicago’s defense is too banged up and not playing well enough right now to expect it to be able to shut out the Packers entirely. Following Cutler’s injury, the initial time frame for his return was about four weeks. Cutler is making progress and has stated that his goal is to return sooner than expected. How well McCown fares on the road in a big divisional game could go a long ways in determining how the Bears approach Cutler’s recovery timeline.
Bear-ing Down on Defense
Chicago’s defense was one of the NFL’s best last season, ranking fifth in yards allowed and third in points allowed. This year’s unit has struggled under new coordinator Mel Tucker, ranking 27th in yards allowed (391) and 29th in points (29.4) entering Week 9. While there have been several key personnel changes, the biggest problem this season has been staying healthy. The Bears have lost both starting defensive tackles and a linebacker to season-ending injuries with Lance Briggs, the unit’s veteran leader, expected to be out more than a month. There is still talent left, but key parts like All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman are playing hurt and the Bears are relying on two rookie linebackers as starters. Chicago knows full well the task ahead of them, as Aaron Rodgers is 8-2 in his career against the Bears. One way or another, this Bears defense has to find a way to force Rodgers and company to earn their yards and points. Whether that be someone unheralded stepping up along the defensive line, the rookie linebackers flashing their talent and potential in select spots, or Tillman and fellow All-Pro corner Tim Jennings shutting down the Packers’ passing game, the 2013 version of the Monsters of the Midway need to make an appearance tonight if the Bears have any hope of winning.
Will the Packers Stick to the Script?
Green Bay has won four games in a row, although not in the fashion you may think. Aaron Rodgers is averaging less than 284 yards passing during this span with just seven touchdown passes. The Packers have been hit hard by injuries to its offensive skill players, as wide receiver Randall Cobb is out until the middle of December with a broken leg, tight end Jermichael Finley is out indefinitely with a spinal contusion and wideout James Jones has missed the last two games because of a sprained knee. Jones could possibly return tonight, but what the Packers have done during their winning streak is lean heavily on the running game. Green Bay is averaging more than 150 yards rushing per game during this streak and for the season is third in the NFL in rushing offense (141.4 ypg). The main engine has been rookie Eddie Lacy, who has 395 yards rushing over his last four games. He has gotten 22 or more carries in each of these contests and is averaging four yards per attempt. Lacy even got a helping hand from James Starks last week, who returned against Minnesota after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. Starks had seven carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Lacy went for 94 and a score in the 44-31 victory. The Packers have found something that works and there’s no reason to expect them to go away from that against a Bears defense that is giving up more than 117 yards rushing per game. Unlike past meetings, Rodgers doesn’t have to do it all against the Bears, which makes him and the Packers offense that much more dangerous.
Chicago Key Player: Matt Forté, RB
The Bears will miss having Jay Cutler under center tonight, but the real key to this offense is Forté. New head coach Marc Trestman keeps his No. 1 running back busy, as Forté is eight in the NFL in rushing yards (533) and entered Week 9 third at his position in receptions (35). Green Bay’s defense has done a very good job against the run thus far, ranking fourth in the league at 83.6 yards per game. However, Forté is much more than just a rusher and he needs to find a way to make plays tonight to not only help the offense move the ball down the field, but to make things easier on backup quarterback Josh McCown, who is making his first start since late in the 2011 season. Forté figures to be one busy Bear tonight, he also needs to be a productive one.
Green Bay Key Player: A.J. Hawk, LB
The Packers’ defense entered this game 11th in the NFL in yards allowed and 16th in points allowed. The unit has been very good against the run (4th, 83.6 ypg) and has been at its best during this current four-game winning streak. One of the reasons for their success has been the play of Hawk, who has stepped up his production in his eighth season in Green Bay. Hawk leads the team in tackles (59) by a wide margin and is tied for second with three sacks. He has posted double-digit stops in two of his last three games, which also is the amount of time his teammate, All-Pro Clay Matthews has missed with a broken thumb. Even though Hawk and company are facing Chicago backup quarterback Josh McCown tonight, they know that it won’t be easy, especially with the weapons the Bears have. It will be up to Hawk to take charge in stopping Matt Forté, both as a runner and a receiver, as well as protecting the middle of the field where McCown may look for one of his wide receivers or tight end Martellus Bennett. The Packers defense hasn’t missed a beat since Matthews went down and Hawk will try to maintain the status quo tonight.
Even with Jay Cutler at quarterback, Chicago would have had its work cut out against a Green Bay team that is playing exceptionally well right now. Josh McCown will get some things done, but the Bears don’t have enough firepower to keep up with a balanced Packers offense that has rediscovered its running game.
In the end, the Packers hammer the Bears on the ground, which allows Aaron Rodgers to pick and choose his shots through the air. The Bears hang in there, but fall too far behind and can’t make enough stops on defense as the Packers extend their winning streak to five with a seventh straight victory over the Bears.
Green Bay 34, Chicago 23
Something is beginning to look familiar about this NASCAR championship chase.
One season ago, Jimmie Johnson was engaged in a dogfight atop the Sprint Cup Series point standings and emerged from Texas with a seven-point lead over rival Brad Keselowski after a commanding 168 laps-led performance. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has a different adversary this year, but the results from a Sunday shootout in Texas were the same. In fact, they were even more impressive.
Johnson pulverized the field in the AAA Texas 500, leading 255 of 334 laps to snag his sixth win of the season and second of the Chase. In the process, the five-time champion leaves with an all-to-familiar seven-point advantage over his closest competitor, Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth.
Of course, last season Johnson lost his points lead the following week in Phoenix when a tire failed and he hit the wall. The ensuing 32nd-place finish found him 20 points behind Keselowski, a deficit he was not able to overcome.
“I hope history doesn’t repeat itself,” Johnson said.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine that happening twice to a team as prepared — and successful — as the No. 48.
“We really focus on what it is we need to do,” crew chief Chad Knaus explained. “We can all say that Phoenix was the culprit last year why we didn’t win the championship. The fact of the matter is we had a mechanical problem at Homestead that took us out of it. If we had won Phoenix and went to Homestead and still had a mechanical problem, we’d have lost the championship.”
Regardless of whether history does or does not repeat itself, Johnson’s performance put the sport on high alert. Even a slow pit stop on lap 238 that dropped Johnson from the lead to fourth couldn’t derail his efforts. Within 20 laps he had driven back to the point.
Concurrently, a pit road mistake by Kenseth seriously hindered his cause. Penalized for speed entering the pits on lap 173, Kenseth dropped from second to 16th and spent the remainder of the race making up ground.
“I sped trying to be aggressive, which was all on me,” Kenseth said. “Still came back and got a top 5. The day could have been a lot worse. It was a good day for us, really.
“If I hadn’t messed up, maybe we could have finished second.”
Second; not first. That’s how clear it was that Johnson was in another zip code.
Runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. and third-place Joey Logano said as much afterward.
“We had a fast enough car to keep track position, but the 48 was in another class and nobody had anything for him,” Earnhardt said.
“We can’t be disappointed with a third-place finish,” Logano said. “Just the 48 car was ridiculously fast.”
However, oftentimes in racing, the fastest car does not win. And that fact was not lost on Johnson:
“When you have a dominant car, it is so stressful because you’re just waiting for that thing that can get you, whatever it is. Chad said it once on the radio, ‘Just keep a positive mindset here, and things are going to work out.’ We did that. We stayed focused and got the job done.”
Even with last season’s championship defeat still fresh, don’t expect Johnson to consider this a knockout blow to a veteran such as Kenseth.
“At this point of the season if you’re in contention, you’ve got more pressure than you ever wanted — it’s just there,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if this puts any more (on Kenseth). They were able to get some points on us last week. We got some on them this week.”
And Kenseth, for his part, left with an optimistic outlook at the season’s final two events:
“The math works out if you win the last two races, so it’s still in our hands. It’s not like we have to have somebody have trouble. If we can go out there and outrun everybody for two weeks, we’ll just go with that mindset.
“We’re still in this thing after eight weeks and we’re going to try to get it.”
One more Texas-like performance out of Johnson and that math changes.
With Northwestern needing two more wins to get bowl eligible, the Nov. 16 game against Michigan will be huge for its postseason hopes.
And the Wildcats will play that game with a new uniform combination, which helps to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
Here’s a look at the uniform combination Northwestern will wear on Nov. 16 against the Wolverines:
#B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) November 4, 2013
Following the game, uniforms will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project. pic.twitter.com/l2Pg1SAiwB— #B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) November 4, 2013
Halfway around the world, while you were enjoying your extra hour of sleep on Saturday night, Dustin Johnson was busy earning what he called "the biggest win I've had in my career so far" — a three-shot triumph at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Against golf's most elite field (minus an absent Tiger Woods), Johnson withstood a final-round challenge from a couple of Ryder Cup stalwarts to post the eighth and most prestigious victory of what has been a stellar six-plus years on Tour.
Early in the final round, any Americans who happened to be watching had to be suffering some alarming Ryder Cup flashbacks. Paired with European Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, Johnson squandered his 54-hole three-shot lead, going 1-over for the first seven holes while Poulter and McDowell — and Sergio Garcia a few holes ahead — were firing howitzers, and it seemed as if Johnson would reprise his major heartbreak of years past. He stayed patient, though, and starting at No. 8 went on a tournament-clinching tear that was highlighted by an eagle chip-in at the short par-4 16th that effectively ended the tournament, much to the frustration of defending champion Poulter. "A little disappointed not to put my hands back on the trophy," said Poulter. "But 15 birdies and an eagle at the weekend is some pretty good golf. Dustin finished the job. It was good golf and it was good fun to play in that group."
And especially fun for Americans looking ahead to the 2014 Ryder Cup and seeing Johnson more than hold his own.
Here are the numbers from Johnson's weekend sojourn to China.
-24 Johnson's 24-under par 264 set the HSBC Tournament record.
2 For the second time in this calendar year, Johnson won his first tournament of the season. That's right — thanks to the PGA Tour's new wraparound schedule, the HSBC is part of the new 2013-14 season. Johnson added the HSBC to his season-opening Mercedes win back in January. In other words, Johnson just set a record that will never be broken.
3 With his eighth career win, Johnson is one of only three players under the age of 30 with four or more PGA Tour wins. Rory McIlroy (6) and Webb Simpson (4) are the others.
7 Johnson now has at least one PGA Tour victory in seven consecutive seasons (2008-current). Only Phil Mickelson (10 consecutive years) has a longer active streak. Tiger Woods had a 14-year winning streak from 1996-2009.
1 Johnson is the first player since Tiger Woods (1996-2001) to win in his first seven consecutive seasons straight out of college (2008-current). Woods would stretch that streak to 14 years.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Nov. 4.
• Enjoy this countdown of the 101 Most Beautiful People in Sports, including Octagon girl Brittney Palmer (pictured).
• Unintentional danglies on the TV screen are never not funny. These are courtesy of analyst Dan Fouts.
• The last month's most dominant team? Yep, the Carolina Panthers.
• The WSJ takes some air out of the Chiefs' balloon by pointing out that they've been feasting on backup quarterbacks. Hey, a win's a win, I say.
• The Richie Incognito bullying saga has taken a new twist. Apparently the psycho apple didn't fall far from the tree.
• So just how did Twitter take over the world? Here are the 140 moments that made Twitter matter.
• Today in sad Philly has-beens: Dutch Daulton had to break up Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams and Lenny Dykstra at an autograph signing.
• Bob Ryan ranks the 25 greatest Red Sox players of all time. Papi's No. 4. That seems awfully high. But Ryan's pretty much seen 'em all.
• Here's a list of badass vegans, including Iron Mike Tyson, whose chomp on Evander Holyfield's ear was a rare moment of carniverous weakness.
• So Usain Bolt ate 1,000 Chicken McNuggets in Beijing. I sense a sponsorship opportunity.
• Kansas coach Bill Self broke out the Ron Burgundy impression. Not bad.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
3: Georgia quarterbacks to beat Florida three years in a row
The Bulldogs stayed alive in the SEC East championship hunt with a heated, hard-fought victory over rival Florida. The win was Georgia's third straight win over the Gators for the first time since Steve Spurrier arrived in Gainesville (1987-89). It was Murray's third win over Florida, making him the third quarterback in school history to win three in a row over the Gators. Buck Belue, who led Georgia to its last national championship, won three straight from 1979-81. Johnny Rauch, 1945-48, is the only Dawgs signal caller to ever win four straight in the series.
41-3: Team that rushes for more yards in the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry
The Spartans were one of Week 10's biggest winners nationally after dominating their in-state rival in record-setting fashion. Michigan State held Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing, the worst mark in Maize and Blue history. The Spartans were able to nearly quadruple the Wolverines in rushing — against an equally as stingy rushing defense — by totaling 142 yards on the ground. In the last 44 meetings between the Big Ten rivals, the team that has run for more yards is 41-3. Michigan totaled just 168 yards, but more on that in a second. The 29-6 win was the most lopsided victory for Sparty over the Wolverines since a 34-0 shutout in 1967.
43.4: Michigan State's yards rushing allowed per game
The Spartans allowed just 168 total yards of offense, two field goals and minus-48 yards rushing. With the dominant performance, Michigan State is on pace to become just the fourth team in the last 30 years to allow less than 50 yards rushing per game. TCU allowed 47.1 yards per game in 2008 and Michigan gave up 43.4 yards per contest in 2006. Only Arizona's Desert Swarm unit of 1993 (30.1 ypg) allowed fewer rushing yards per game over the last three decades than MSU's current pace. Additionally, Mark Dantonio's defense is leading the nation in total defense at 210.2 yards per game — second only to Alabama's elite national championship 2011 unit (183.6 ypg) since 2000.
116: Tajh Boyd all-time ACC total TD record
The Clemson quarterback threw for 377 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in an easy road win over Virginia. It gave Boyd 116 career total touchdowns, passing Philip Rivers' 112 for No. 1 all-time in ACC history. The Tigers gunslinger has 93 passing scores and 23 rushing touchdowns and is just three away from breaking Philip Rivers' ACC passing touchdown mark (95). Boyd has 10,673 career passing yards and 11,632 total yards of offense in his career, both of which are good for No. 2 all-time behind, you guessed it, Rivers (13,484 passing; 13,582 total offense). Interestingly, Russell Wilson is third all-time with 93 total touchdowns in ACC history — in just three seasons at NC State.
56.0: Arizona State points per game over their last four Pac-12 games
The Sun Devils limped out of Palo Alto with a bad loss and a tough schedule ahead. But Todd Graham's team has rallied in a big way, thanks in large part to its offense. It has scored at least 53 points in each of its four Pac-12 wins since losing to Stanford. Quarterback Taylor Kelly is playing his best football and is leading a team that has scored 27 touchdowns in four games for an average of 56 points per game. The Sun Devils now sit a full game up in the division over Arizona, UCLA and USC with looming games with each one.
5: Jameis Winston's career 300-yard games
EJ Manuel played in 43 games as a starting quarterback for Florida State, becoming just the second player in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games (Pat White). He had five career 300-yard passing efforts and was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Christian Ponder played in 35 games prior to Manuel and had just four career 300-yard passing games before getting picked 12th overall by the Vikings. In just eight career games, Winston has topped 300 yards five times and has yet to lose a game as a starter. Despite two bad interceptions, the Seminoles quarterback finished with 325 yards on 72.4-percent passing. He is No. 2 nationally to Bryce Petty with a 201.12 quarterback rating.
1: TCU three-game losing streaks under Gary Patterson
The Horned Frogs are headed in the wrong direction. TCU lost 20 yards on three plays before having to attempt a 62-yard field goal in the first overtime against West Virginia. The Mountaineers kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession to give the Frogs its third consecutive loss for the first time in the Gary Patterson era. Patterson is 119-41 in 13 seasons as the head coach in Fort Worth and after losing to Oklahoma State, Texas and WVU. The Frogs are 5-10 in conference play since entering the Big 12 in 2012.
3: Teams to win three straight as at least a TD underdog since 1980
According to ESPN/Grantland's R.J. Bell, only three teams since 1980 have won three consecutive games as a touchdown underdog. Minnesota defeated Indiana on the road as a 10-point underdog, giving it a third straight win as a double-digit dog after toppling Northwestern (+12.5) and Nebraska (+10.5). Arkansas in 1991 and Arizona in 2006 were the only two teams since 1980 to win three straight games as a TD underdog until the Gophers did it. Not only were they at least 10-point underdogs, but Minnesota has moved to 7-2 without head coach Jerry Kill. Defensive coordinator-turned-acting head coach Tracy Claeys is quietly turning the Gophers into one of the nation's best stories.
Minnesota only 3rd team since 1980 to win 3 straight games as over a TD underdog in each (1991 Arkansas & 2006 Arizona)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) November 3, 2013
1990: Last time Arkansas lost six straight games
Guz Malzahn returned to his home state in impressive fashion by thumping Bret Bielema's Razorbacks 35-17 in Fayetteville. It gives Arkansas its sixth consecutive loss following a 3-0 start to the season — something that has never happened since joining the SEC in 1992. In fact, the last time Arkansas lost six straight games, it was a member of the Southwest Conference. The last four have been particularly painful and uncompetitive. The Hogs have been outscored 167-34 during that span and own the SEC's worst scoring offense at 20 points per game. Bielema has one chance at an SEC win left on the schedule: at Ole Miss, Mississippi State (Little Rock), at LSU.
29: Quinn Epperly NCAA-record consecutive completions
Princeton junior quarterback Quinn Epperly started the game against Cornell by completing the first 29 passes he threw. It broke Richie Williams' NCAA record for consecutive completions (28) set in 2004. He threw six touchdown passes for the second straight game and finished with 325 yards on 32-of-35 passing. East Carolina's Dominique Davis owns the FBS record with 26 straight completions against Navy in 2011.
Finally, in the first week of November, the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 started to look the part.
Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 52-34 in Lubbock in its most complete game of the season, just in time for the Cowboys’ toughest part of the year. Like Baylor, Oklahoma State’s schedule is backloaded against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma — all of which are ranked ahead of the Pokes in the power rankings for now.
But the Big 12 is shaping up as Athlon and others predicted it with four teams with realistic expectations to reach the Fiesta Bowl or more. Texas Tech all but bowed out of the race, but Oklahoma State gladly stepped into its place.
Big 12 Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
|1||1||Baylor (7-0, 4-0). Baylor had the week off as it prepares for the toughest portion of its schedule. The Bears’ final five opponents are 30-12 combined and 18-9 in the Big 12. Five of those league losses belong to TCU. Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU all rank in the top 25 nationally in fewest yards per play. This week: Oklahoma|
|2||2||Texas (6-2, 5-0). This week was another game in which Texas controlled both ends of the ground game. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined to rush for 187 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries while Kansas rushed for 140 yards on 36 carries. The Longhorns are third in the Big 12 in run defense in conference games, both in yards per game and yards per carry. Texas’ run game game been tough to stop at home (232.8 rushing yards per game in Austin, 5.5 yards per carry), but the Longhorns go on the road to face a West Virginia team that has played well in Morgantown this year. This week: at West Virginia|
|3||3||Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1). A stat to note: Oklahoma’s defense has done a good job of keeping opponents off the field. The Sooners’ defense has been on the field for 63.8 plays per game, the fewest in the Big 12. Baylor is averaging 79.4 plays per game. This week: at Baylor|
|4||5||Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1). There are probably a handful of reasons Oklahoma State’s offense is starting to find some consistency: Clint Chelf has taken hold of the quarterback job, improving his passing output from 78 yards in his second start to 211 in his third. Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs have become the most reliable run threats. Coordinator Mike Yurcich also has adapted to his new job and personnel after moving up from Division II. Let’s also consider that Oklahoma State had the same starting lineup on offense in consecutive games for the first time all season. This week: Kansas|
|5||4||Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2). The Red Raiders’ defense has returned to Earth after building a 7-0 start against TCU, Kansas and Iowa State. The Red Raiders allowed 526 yards to Oklahoma and 492 yards to Oklahoma State, the two highest totals of the season against Texas Tech. The offense hasn’t helped with six turnovers in two games (plus a blocked punt). Texas Tech is minus-7 in turnover margin this season while leading the Big 12 in penalties. This week: Kansas State|
|6||6||Kansas State (4-4, 2-3). Kansas State has been much improved the last two weeks, defeating West Virginia and Iowa State by a combined score of 76-19. Granted, both wins were in Manhattan, and neither were against Big 12 contenders. The Wildcats will get an idea of where they stand this week when they visit Texas Tech. Jake Waters and Daniel Sams have continued to improve the the two quarterback system, helped by the return of top receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. Against West Virginia and Iowa State, the quarterback duo has combined to complete 31 of 39 passes for 512 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. They’ve added combined 160 yards rushing in that span. This week: at Texas Tech|
|7||7||West Virginia (4-5, 2-4). The Mountaineers won a key game for their bowl hopes by holding off TCU 30-27 in overtime. West Virginia must score two wins over Texas, Kansas and Iowa State to reach the postseason for 12th consecutive season. Charles Sims had his best game of the season in his return to Texas, rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Sims also caught three passes for 35 yards with a score. This week: Texas|
|8||8||TCU (3-6, 1-5). The Horned Frogs finally got the offensive production they needed, especially early when the took a 17-3 lead on West Virginia. Casey Pachall returned to form by completing 40 of 58 passes for 394 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, including a furious comeback in the final four minutes to send the game to overtime. Meanwhile, former starting quarterback Trevone Boykin became Pachall’s top target with 11 catches for 100 yards. But TCU still had its setbacks, starting with the 30-27 loss and continuing with the ongoing absence of receiver Brandon Carter. With three games remaining against Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor, the Frogs' bowl hopes are slim. This week: at Iowa State|
|9||9||Iowa State (1-7, 0-5). The news keeps getting worse for struggling Iowa State. Running back Aaron Wimberly missed his second consecutive game with injury. Linebacker Luke Knott, who missed the last two games, is now out for the season. Both quarterbacks Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach were similarly ineffective against Kansas State , combining to go 17 of 36 with three interceptions. This week: TCU|
|10||10||Kansas (2-5, 0-5). As it did against Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Kansas was competitive for a time against Texas before losing by a significant margin. If there’s a silver lining, linebacker Ben Heeney returned to lead Kansas with nine tackles. This week: at Oklahoma State|
Big 12 Week 10 Awards and Recap
Offensive player of the week: Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
Chelf may have had the rug pulled out from under him when J.W. Walsh replaced him as the starter in the second game of the season, but the senior is making the most of his return to the lineup. Chelf completed 18 of 34 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the road win over Texas Tech. For the second consecutive game, Chelf produced in the run game with 88 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.
Defensive player of the week: Will Clarke, West Virginia
The Mountaineers defense has struggled away from Morgantown, but they came up with a solid effort against feisty TCU in Fort Worth. Clarke led the way with four tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. The defensive end played a key role in West Virginia’s 24-0 run with a sack and a forced fumble that gave West Virginia the ball in the red zone. The Mountaineers capitalized by taking a 27-17 lead.
Freshman of the week: Daikiel Shorts, West Virginia
Shorts has developed into West Virginia’s top receiver, a position group reeling from the loss of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Shorts finished the game with six receptions for 98 yards against a strong TCU secondary. Shorts leads the Mountaineers in receptions (37) and yards (430).
Team of the week: Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State had been a flawed team even through a 6-1 start, but the Cowboys are starting to round into shape just in time for the critical part of the Big 12 schedule. With 58 points against Iowa State in Ames and 52 points against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Oklahoma State has scored 50 points in consecutive road games for the first time in school history.
Coordinator of the week: Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State
The coordinator Mike Gundy plucked from Division II Shippensburg is starting to feel his way through the Big 12. The Cowboys had their most complete offensive game of the season, rushing for 281 yards and passing for 221. Oklahoma State also converted both of its fourth down attempts. Texas Tech entered the game holding opponents to 379 per game before Oklahoma State amassed 502.
• Chris Whaley became the first defensive tackle in Texas history to have two defensive touchdowns in the same season. Whaley scored on a 40-yard interception return against Kansas on Saturday and a 31-yard interception return earlier this season against Oklahoma.
• Oklahoma State became the first team to beat Texas Tech three times in a row in Lubbock since Nebraska in 1994, 1996 and 2000.
• TCU has lost three games in a row for the first time in 12 years under Gary Patterson.
• Former starting quarterback Trevone Boykin was TCU’s leading receiver against West Virginia, catching 11 passes for 100 yards. Boykin’s 11 catches is the most for anyone under Patterson.
• TCU wide receiver Brandon Carter, a breakout candidate who struggled for most of the season, did not play against West Virginia due to a family issue.
• Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro had a prolific day, even for his standards. Amaro caught 15 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown, but he had his second fumble in two games.
• Kansas State running back John Hubert had his second 100-yard rushing day of the season with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against Iowa State. His season-high is 118 against UMass.
• Sam Richardson started at quarterback for Iowa State after a head injury scare last week against Oklahoma State. Richardson was 6 of 12 for 38 yards with an interception before he was relieved by Grant Rohach in the second quarter.
What a wild week in the Big Ten. The three best teams in the league — Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin — won in convincing fashion but the rest of the conference was under cardiac arrest in the fourth quarter.
Indiana came storming back with 28 unanswered points only to watch Philip Nelson throw the game-winning touchdown pass. Christian Hackenberg led a game-tying drive at the end of regulation and then tossed the game winner in overtime. And Nebraska won on a Ron Kellogg III Hail Mary that will be remembered for decades to come in Lincoln.
Big Ten Post-Week 10 Power Rankings:
|1.||(1)||Ohio State (9-0, 5-0): The Buckeyes continue to earn style points with another huge blowout. This one was to be expected, however, as the league's best team crushed the league's worst by 56 points. Braxton Miller was excellent again, throwing four touchdown strikes. Urban Meyer moved to 21-0 as the head coach at Ohio State and is two games against Illinois and Indiana from the much awaited trip to Michigan. Next Week: at Illinois|
|2.||(3)||Michigan State (8-1, 5-0): The Spartans stayed perfect in the Big Ten by dominating the line of scrimmage against rival Michigan. The nation's leading defense held Michigan to a school-record minus-48 yards rushing thanks to seven sacks. Connor Cook made clutch throws when needed, and Jeremy Langford was productive enough to give the Spartans the most lopsided win over their in-state rival since 1967. Mark Dantonio gets two weeks to prepare for a road trip into Lincoln for a de facto Legends Division championship game. Next Week: Bye|
|3.||(2)||Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1): It wasn't pretty as both defenses stole the show in the first three quarters, but Wisconsin pulled away late for an important road win against rival Iowa. The Badgers defense, playing without leader Chris Borland, suffocated the Hawkeyes, holding Kirk Ferentz group to 289 yards of total offense and no touchdowns. The typically powerful UW running game will need to be better next week in an unusual nonconference game with BYU. The Cougars bring a similarly stingy defense to Madison. Next Week: BYU|
|4.||(5)||Nebraska (6-2, 3-1): A really bad week in the Pelini family ended as only it could — with a championship- and job-saving Hail Mary on the final play of the game against Northwestern. Both teams were held without an offensive touchdown in the second half until Ron Kellogg III heaved a final pass from the 49-yard line and Jordan Westerkamp snagged the tipped ball out of the air. The throw keeps the Huskers in Legends Division contention as the Big Red will face both Michigan schools over the next two weeks. Next Week: at Michigan|
|5.||(4)||Michigan (6-2, 2-2): Devin Gardner is going to see Spartans in his nightmares. He had no time to throw and the running game gave him no support as the Wolverines offensive line was obliterated by the Spartans defensive line. The team rushed for the lowest total in school history (minus-48 yards) and were tackled behind the line 18 times (11 TFL, seven sacks). Brady Hoke's team is 2-2 in the league and is three games behind their in-state rival Michigan State. Next Week: Nebraska|
|6.||(6)||Minnesota (7-2, 3-2): Philip Nelson had to be nervous as he watched his team give up four straight touchdowns to Indiana in the fourth quarter. But trailing by four with less than five minutes to go, Nelson delivered with the biggest throw of his career. His 50-yard TD pass won the game, and, after the defense recovered a juggled pitch on the Hoosiers' ensuing possession, Minnesota celebrated its third straight win. Jerry Kill is slowly inching his way back into control of the Gophers team — a welcomed sight for all Big Ten fans — but Tracy Claeys is no 3-0 as the interim head coach in what has quickly become one of the nation's best stories. Next Week: Penn State|
Penn State (5-3, 2-2): Bill Belton nearly coughed up the game for the Nittany Lions, fumbling on the goal line down by three with less than four minutes to go. But his freshman quarterback and superstar wide receiver saved the day. Christian Hackenberg led a game-tying drive in the final minute and threw the game-winning touchdown to Kyle Carter in overtime. Allen Robinson caught 11 passes for 165 yards and made several critical catches in the waning moments. Belton's fumble nearly overshadowed a 200-yard rushing effort and, despite bowl sanctions, this team is one win away from being bowl eligible in each of Bill O'Brien's seasons at the helm. Next Week: at Minnesota
|8.||(8)||Iowa (5-4, 2-3): Trailing by five, quarterback Jake Rudock was knocked out of the game midway through the third quarter, and backup C.J. Beathard wasn't capable of getting anything going the rest of the way. The defense played valiantly against the powerful Wisconsin offensive line but simply couldn't move the ball on offense — and when it could, Iowa didn't finish drives with touchdowns. Kirk Ferentz's group will have to wait another week to get to bowl eligibility — which should happen next weekend. Next Week: at Purdue|
|9.||(9)||Indiana (3-5, 1-3): The Hoosiers had a chance at another critical win but might have watched their postseason chances disappear with a last minute fumble against Minnesota. Give Kevin Wilson and his team credit for battling back from a 35-13 deficit to take a late lead with 28 unanswered points, but IU couldn't finish when it had the chance inside the Gophers 10 yard-line with less than 30 seconds left in the game. The Tevin Coleman fumble likely knocks Indiana out of the postseason at it must win three of its final four: Illinois, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and Purdue. Next Week: Illinois|
|10.||(10)||Northwestern (4-5, 0-5): Only a team on a four-game losing streak could lose in such heartbreaking fashion. Northwestern kicked a field goal with 1:20 left in the game to take a three-point lead over Nebraska on the road. Pat Fitzgerald needed one more play on defense to secure his first Big Ten win of the year and to stop his 2013 ship from officially sinking. But after watching the Huskers win on a Hail Mary, it's hard not to think that his particular Northwestern team is jinxed. Next Week: Bye|
|11.||(11)||Illinois (3-5, 0-4): Nathan Scheelhaase drove his team down the field on the road in the fourth quarter to take a lead in a Big Ten game in over a year. But the defense couldn't hold up, and, in overtime, Scheelhaase made a critical mistake to give the win to Penn State. His interception in the endzone ended the game and extended the Illini's Big Ten losing streak to 18 games. Next Week: at Indiana|
|12.||(12)||Purdue (1-7, 0-4): Ten first downs, 116 total yards of offense and zero points. That is what the Purdue offense mustered against Ohio State. 30 first downs, 640 yards of total offense and 56 points. That is what the defense allowed to the Buckeyes. This team is on pace to be Purdue's worst since a 1-10 squad in 1993. Next Week: Iowa|
Big Ten Week 10 Awards and Superlatives:
Nelson and the Gophers built a commanding 35-13 lead with less than six minutes to go in the third quarter. However, Indiana stormed back with four unanswered touchdowns to take a narrow lead late in the final frame. But Nelson answered back with a 50-yard scoring strike to Maxx Williams to give Minnesota a thrilling three-point win over Indiana. Nelson finished with 298 yards on 16-of-23 passing and four touchdowns and 11 yards rushing on seven carries.
Defensive Player of Week: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Any number of key contributors from Michigan State could be mentioned here. Denicos Allen (nine tackles, three TFL, two sacks) and Ed Davis (four tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) each had big games for the nation's best defense. Calhoun has become the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate, however, and his performance against Michigan was worthy of a headline. He posted six tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and is now leading the Big Ten in sacks this season (6.5). Nebraska's Avery Moss needs to get a mention as well for his performance against Northwestern. He posted four tackles, a tackle for a loss and returned his first career interception for a game-tying touchdown.
Team of Week: Michigan State
The Buckeyes earned a few more style points with a 56-0 win over Purdue on the road but no team was more impressive than Michigan State in Week 10. The nation's best defense held Michigan in check the entire afternoon, allowing just 168 yards of total offense and two field goals. The Spartans are unbeaten in Big Ten play and look like the top challenger to the Buckeyes. Connor Cook is making timely throws, and Jeremy Langford has emerged as a workhorse back. This team is averaging more than 30 points per game in Big Ten play and may be built to compete with Ohio State should it get past Nebraska in two weeks.
Coordinator of Week: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
Who else could it be? The No. 1 defense in the nation showed the nation why it might be the only unit in the Big Ten that can stop Ohio State. The Wolverines posted a school-record low of minus-48 yards rushing as Narduzzi dialed up pressure all night long. Michigan State finished with seven sacks, 12 first downs allowed 168 total yards of offense. The 23-point win was the most lopsided victory since 1967 between the two in-state rivals.
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The Penn State freshman has quickly proven he can handle himself in late-game pressure situations. For the second time in his young career, he drove his team down the field to tie the game in the final minute. And for the second time, he led his team to an overtime victory over a Big Ten foe. Hackenberg finished with 240 yards passing on 20-of-32 passing and two total touchdowns (one pass, one rush). He didn't turn the ball over and moved the Lions to even in the Big Ten this year. Hack still leads the Big Ten in passing (253 ypg).
Bonus: Play of the Year: Ron Kellogg III and Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
With no time remaining and his job potentially on the line at home against Northwestern, Bo Pelini watched one of the most memorable plays in Nebraska history unfold before yet another sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. Kellogg heaved the ball 49 yards where Westerkamp snatched the tipped pass out of the air for the game-winning touchdown. It was Westerkamp's first career TD and it kept the Huskers Big Ten title hopes alive. Kellogg-to-Westerkamp now belongs next to Kirk Cousins, Kordell Stewart, Doug Flutie, Drew Tate and Marcus Randall in Big Ten lore.
• Michigan State is giving up a nation-best 210.2 yards per game. Only 2011 Alabama has posted a better mark (183.6) since 2000. The Spartans are also just one of four teams in the last 30 years to allow less than 50 yards rushing per game (Arizona, 1993; Michigan, 2006; TCU, 2008).
• Minnesota's David Cobb is the first Gopher back to top 100 yards in three straight game since Amir Pinnix in 2006. He has 60 carries and 326 yards combined in wins over Nebraska and Indiana.
• Minnesota became just the third team since 1980 to win three straight games as at least a touchdown underdog. The Gophers were double-digit underdogs in each of the last three games.
• Bill Belton rushed for 201 yards in Penn State's win over Illinois. It was the first 200-yard effort by a Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson in 2002. He nearly cost his team the game with a fourth-quarter fumble but was outstanding on his other 35 carries.
• Without Chris Borland, Wisconsin turned to Marcus Trotter to fill the void at linebacker on the road against Iowa. Trotter had nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss while holding Iowa to three field goals.
• Iowa entered play on Saturday leading the nation in rushing touchdowns allowed with two. They gave up two in a game for the second time in three weeks to Wisconsin.
• Michigan State's first offensive play from scrimmage was a busted throw back to the fullback. Trevon Pendleton rumbled 49 yards for the Spartans longest play of the season.
With 10 weeks in the books, Florida State has clearly separated itself from the rest of the ACC. The Seminoles have dominated the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in Athlon’s weekly ACC power rankings and jumped into the No. 2 spot in the release of the latest BCS standings.
After Florida State, Clemson and Miami are entrenched as the next two teams. The Tigers have an edge over the Hurricanes.
Georgia Tech and Duke are set as the No. 4 and No. 5 teams, but after that is anyone’s guess.
Boston College was dominated by North Carolina last Saturday, but the Eagles rebounded with a win over Virginia Tech in Week 10. Despite Boston College’s loss to the Tar Heels, we give a slight nod to the Eagles for the No. 6 spot over North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Syracuse makes a small jump in the rankings after beating Wake Forest 13-0.
ACC Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
|1||1||Florida State (8-0, 6-0): The Seminoles continued to distance themselves from the rest of the ACC with an impressive 41-14 victory over Miami. Quarterback Jameis Winston tossed two picks, which led to the Hurricanes only scores of the night. However, Winston finished with 325 passing yards and one touchdown, while running back Devonta Freeman recorded 176 total yards and three touchdowns. Florida State limited Miami’s offense to just 4.8 yards per play and only 120 yards in the second half. Both sides of the ball were impressive for coach Jimbo Fisher, and there’s a good chance these two teams rematch in Charlotte for the ACC title in early December. The Seminoles have an easy path to 11-0 with Wake Forest, Syracuse and Idaho up next. And then there’s the rivalry game against Florida on Nov. 30 which is the biggest obstacle left in the regular season. Next Week: at Wake Forest|
|2||2||Clemson (8-1, 6-1): As expected, the Tigers had little trouble in a 59-10 win over Virginia. The offense gashed the Cavaliers for 610 yards, and the defense held a struggling Virginia offense to 277 yards. Clemson averaged 6.9 yards per play, with quarterback Tajh Boyd throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers’ defense held the Cavaliers to 10 three and outs and forced three turnovers. Overall, it was a complete performance for Clemson, and coach Dabo Swinney has his team playing at a high level entering the bye week. After the bye, the Tigers host Georgia Tech and Citadel, then play rival South Carolina in the finale. Next Week: Bye Week|
|3||3||Miami (7-1, 3-1): The Hurricanes dropped their first game of the year, losing 41-14 in Tallahassee to Florida State. Miami held its own (sort of) for a half, but the offense managed its only scores after picking up two turnovers. The Hurricanes’ offense never sustained a drive for a score in the second half and was limited to 4.8 yards per play. Miami’s defense forced only one punt and recorded only one sack on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Despite the loss, the Hurricanes are in the driver’s seat to win the Coastal Division. However, they will have to do it without running back Duke Johnson, who suffered a broken ankle against the Seminoles and is out for the rest of the season. Next Week: Virginia Tech|
|4||4||Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2): The Yellow Jackets earned their third consecutive victory with an efficient 21-10 win over Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech’s offense generated 360 yards, with 276 coming on the ground. Running back David Sims led the team with 94 yards, while Robert Godhigh was the big-play threat, averaging 14.8 yards per carry. The Yellow Jackets held the Panthers to 228 total yards and sacked quarterback Tom Savage five times. Georgia Tech’s win over Pittsburgh ensured the Yellow Jackets would be bowl eligible for the 17th consecutive season. Next Week: Bye Week|
|5||5||Duke (6-2, 2-2): The Blue Devils had a bye in Week 10 and return to action next Saturday against NC State. Duke has two ACC losses, but coach David Cutcliffe’s team is still alive in the Coastal Division, especially with a game against Miami remaining on Nov. 16. Next Week: NC State|
|6||9||Boston College (4-4, 2-3): After Duke, the next three spots in the power rankings are up for grabs. Boston College lost one week ago to North Carolina, but the Eagles deserve a bump after beating Virginia Tech. First-year coach Steve Addazio continued his impressive debut with the Eagles’ 34-27 victory over Virginia Tech. Boston College’s offense recorded only 289 yards, but the Eagles scored 17 points off four Hokies’ turnovers, which was just enough for Addazio’s team. Running back Andre Williams posted another strong effort, gashing one of the ACC’s best defenses for 166 yards and two scores on 33 attempts. The Eagles need just two wins to get bowl eligible, which should be attainable with New Mexico State, NC State, Maryland and Syracuse remaining. Next Week: at New Mexico State|
|7||6||Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2): The blame for back-to-back losses for the Hokies has to fall on the offense. In Saturday’s loss against Boston College, Virginia Tech had no trouble moving the ball (446 yards, 6.4 yards per play). However, the Hokies had four turnovers and managed only 55 yards on the ground. Quarterback Logan Thomas has six interceptions in his last two games, which is problematic for an offense that isn’t built to score 30 points a game. The Hokies aren’t out of the Coastal Division title mix, but Thomas and the offense has to quickly figure things out with a trip to Miami on Saturday night. Next Week: at Miami|
|8||8||North Carolina (3-5, 2-3): For the first time since 2005-06, the Tar Heels have a two-game winning streak over their in-state rival. Saturday’s victory over NC State didn’t start out according to plan, as North Carolina fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. But the Tar Heels battled and took the lead for good with just under 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. The two-quarterback system of Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams combined to complete 23 of 37 passes, with tight end Eric Ebron serving as the main target (nine caches for 70 yards). The Tar Heels’ defense stepped up in the second half, holding NC State to three possessions of three yards or fewer in the final two quarters. Next Week: Virginia|
|9||7||Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-3): The Panthers lost 21-10 to Georgia Tech on Saturday, giving Pittsburgh its first losing streak of 2013. Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled in recent weeks, scoring only 20 points once in its last four games. Quarterback Tom Savage completed 25 of 37 throws for 233 yards against the Yellow Jackets, but the senior was sacked five times and tossed one pick. The rushing attack never got on track, as Georgia Tech held the Panthers to -5 yards on 21 attempts. One bright spot for Pittsburgh was defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who recorded 11 tackles (six for a loss) and two forced fumbles. Next Week: Notre Dame|
|10||12||Syracuse (4-4, 2-2): The Orange scored a key victory for their bowl hopes, defeating Wake Forest 13-0 on Saturday. Quarterback Terrel Hunt guided an efficient offense (4.6 yards per play), as he completed 18 of 30 throws for 144 yards. Syracuse averaged 4.1 yards per carry, with Prince-Tyson Gulley leading the way with 85 yards on 13 attempts. The Orange defense pitched their second shutout of the year and held Wake Forest to just 213 yards. After a 56-0 loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, Saturday’s 13-0 win was a solid rebound effort by Syracuse. Next Week: at Maryland|
|11||10||Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4): The Demon Deacons’ bowl hopes took a hit with a 13-0 loss at Syracuse. And the loss was costly from the injury department, as receiver Michael Campanaro suffered a broken collarbone against the Orange and is likely to miss the rest of the regular season. With Campanaro sidelined, Wake Forest struggled to get anything going on offense. The Demon Deacons finished with just 213 yards (three yards per play) and only one drive in the second half went longer than 20 yards (23). Next Week: Florida State|
|12||11||Maryland (5-3, 1-3): The Terrapins had a much-needed off date in Week 10. After a 4-0 start, Maryland is just 1-3 in its last four games. The Terrapins have been outscored 74-37 in their last two contests. Injuries have ravaged the offense, including top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Maryland should be able to get to a bowl, but it certainly won’t be easy with the injuries on both sides of the ball. Next Week: Syracuse|
|13||13||NC State (3-5, 0-5): The Wolfpack jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but North Carolina rallied to take home a 27-19 victory and bragging rights within the state until next year’s game. NC State’s offense got a spark from quarterback Brandon Mitchell on the ground (105 yards), but the senior struggled through the air (two interceptions, 130 yards). Momentum in the first half also shifted after NC State had a fake punt that was stopped for a loss of a yard on the 30-yard line, which allowed the Tar Heels a short field on a touchdown drive. The Wolfpack has lost four out of their last five games and still need three wins to get bowl eligible. With matchups against Duke, Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland remaining, the postseason isn’t out of the question for NC State. However, this team has to get more from Mitchell in the passing game in future weeks. Next Week: at Duke|
|14||14||Virginia (2-7, 0-5): The Cavaliers dropped their six consecutive game with a 59-10 defeat against Clemson. With a struggling offense, Virginia couldn’t afford to fall behind early. The Tigers jumped out to a 35-7 lead by halftime, which was simply too much for coach Mike London’s team to overcome. The final stat sheet wasn’t pretty for Virginia, as the Cavaliers’ offense managed only 277 total yards (3.3 yards per play), and the defense allowed 610 to Clemson. After recording 16 plays on its first two drives, Virginia had nine straight possessions of five plays or less. The Cavaliers are still looking for their first win in ACC action, and with North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech remaining, coach Mike London’s team is staring at a 2-10 final record. Next Week: at North Carolina|
ACC Week 10 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
Florida State’s offense had its way with Miami’s defense on Saturday night, as the Seminoles gashed the Hurricanes for 517 yards and punted only once. Quarterback Jameis Winston was steady as usual, but Freeman was the catalyst for Florida State’s high-powered attack. The Miami native rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts, and the senior caught six passes for 98 yards and one score. In three career games against the Hurricanes, Freeman has 224 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kasim Edebali, DE, Boston College
The Eagles’ defense led the way in the 34-27 victory over Virginia Tech. The Hokies recorded 446 yards, but Boston College created four turnovers and sacked quarterback Logan Thomas four times. Edebali wrecked havoc against Virginia Tech’s line, recording eight tackles (three for a loss), two sacks and one pass breakup. Edebali also forced three fumbles, with the final turnover sealing the victory with just over a minute to go. Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald also had a huge effort on Saturday, but Edebali gets the edge in a winning effort.
Team of the Week: Florida State
Boston College scored an upset win over Virginia Tech, and North Carolina’s road victory over rival NC State was noteworthy, but Florida State gets the nod as the ACC’s team of the week. The Seminoles continued to establish their dominance over the rest of the conference with a 41-14 victory over Miami. Florida State scored over 40 points for the eighth consecutive time this year, and the offense averaged 7.1 yards per play against the Hurricanes. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s two picks resulted in Miami’s touchdowns, but the Seminoles limited the Hurricanes to just 275 overall yards. Winston’s supporting cast stepped up, as Devonta Freeman rushed for 78 yards and caught six passes for 98 yards and one score. Florida State is one of the top teams in the nation and should cruise to 11-0, with a date against Florida and then the Coastal Division champion the two biggest remaining obstacles on the schedule.
Coordinator of the Week: Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State
In his first year calling the plays for Florida State, Pruitt continues to push all of the right buttons. The Seminoles allowed 115 yards in Miami’s first two possessions, but the Hurricanes managed only 144 yards in its next six drives. Miami’s only points were scored off turnovers by Florida State’s offense, and the Hurricanes failed to have a drive longer than six plays in the second half. Pruitt’s defense held Miami to 4.8 yards per play and limited its offense to just 4 of 11 on third-down conversions. Considering all of the starters Florida State had to replace coming into this year and hasn’t missed a beat, Pruitt has been one of the top assistant hires for 2013.
Freshman of the Week: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Florida State’s Jameis Winson had another strong performance against Miami, but we’ll give the Week 10 honor to Boyd. In a losing effort against Georgia Tech, Boyd caught 11 passes for 118 yards and one score. The freshman’s longest catch went for just 15 yards, but his 12-yard catch in the third quarter helped Pittsburgh pull within four in the second half.
• Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro is out four to six weeks with a collarbone injury. Campanaro suffered the injury during the first half of Saturday’s loss to Syracuse.
• Miami running back Duke Johnson suffered a broken ankle against Florida State and will miss the rest of the season.
• Boston College running back Andre Williams rushed for 166 yards in the 34-27 win over Virginia Tech. Williams has at least 166 yards in three out of his last four games.
• Florida State punted only one time against Miami.
• Georgia Tech held Pittsburgh to -5 rushing yards on Saturday night.
• After throwing six interceptions through the first seven games, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has six in his last two contests.
• NC State quarterback Brandon Mitchell accounted for 235 of the Wolfpack’s 388 yards against North Carolina.
• Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig has not thrown for more than 93 yards in each of his last two games.
• Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu had four tackles (three for a loss) and two sacks against Pittsburgh.
• Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley had a strong performance against Wake Forest, recording four tackles (one for a loss) and one sack.
• North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams led the Tar Heels with 51 rushing yards against NC State.
• NC State defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop had a solid game against North Carolina, recording five tackles (two for a loss) and one forced fumble.
• Virginia freshman Keeon Johnson led the team with five receptions for 77 yards against Clemson.
• Wake Forest averaged just three yards per play against Syracuse.
• Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins has 30 receptions over his last three games.
With Oregon and Stanford on bye in Week 10, it was a relatively quiet Saturday in the Pac-12.
However, the spotlight shifts to the Pac-12 on Thursday night, as the Ducks and Cardinal meet to stay alive in the national title picture.
Arizona State easily handled Washington State on Thursday night, improving to 6-2 this season. The Sun Devils appear to have a slight edge on UCLA for the top spot in the South Division.
USC continued to improve under interim coach Ed Orgeron, defeating Oregon State 31-14 in Corvallis on Friday night.
Arizona picked up a tough win at California, while UCLA defeated Colorado to round out the Week 10 action in the Pac-12.
Pac-12 Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
|1||1||Oregon (8-0, 5-0): The Ducks were on bye in Week 10 and return to action on Thursday night against Stanford. Oregon-Stanford was pegged as the Pac-12’s No. 1 game this preseason and nothing has changed that outlook. The Ducks lost 17-14 to the Cardinal in Eugene last year, but Oregon has claimed two out of the last three meetings in this series. Next Week: at Stanford (Thursday)|
|2||2||Stanford (7-1, 5-1): The Cardinal had a bye in Week 10 and host Oregon in one of the biggest games of college football’s 2013 season on Thursday night. Stanford won in Eugene last year, but the Ducks have claimed two out of the last three games in this series. In Oregon’s last trip to the Farm, the Ducks handled the Cardinal 53-30. Next Week: Oregon (Thursday)|
|3||3||Arizona State (6-2, 4-1): Behind quarterback Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils jumped out to a 42-14 halftime lead against Washington State and held on for an easy 55-21 win. Kelly finished with seven touchdowns, including five through the air on 22 completions. Running back Marion Grice had a quiet night, rushing for 94 yards on 18 attempts against the Cougars. The Sun Devils’ defense also delivered a strong performance, as Washington State managed most of its yards and points with the outcome no longer in doubt. Arizona State has won three in a row, and with four games remaining, is a slight favorite over UCLA to win the Pac-12 South. Next Week: at Utah|
|4||4||UCLA (6-2, 3-2): After back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon, UCLA desperately needed a win to keep pace with Arizona State in the South Division. The Bruins did just that on Saturday, beating Colorado 45-23 to snap a two-game losing streak. Quarterback Brett Hundley turned in an efficient performance, throwing for 273 yards and two scores, while adding 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. UCLA’s defense forced only one turnover and generated one sack, but this unit held the Buffaloes to just 10 points in the final two quarters. Next Week: at Arizona|
|5||6||Washington (5-3, 2-3): The Huskies had an off date in Week 10 and are set to host Colorado in Week 11. The bye week came at a good time for coach Steve Sarkisian’s team, as Washington played Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and California in consecutive weeks without an off date. Sarkisian has the Huskies on the right track, but can Washington finally win more than seven games under his watch? Next Week: Colorado|
|6||7||USC (6-3, 3-2): For the most part, interim coach Ed Orgeron has pushed all of the right buttons for USC since he was promoted to replace Lane Kiffin. The Trojans turned in an impressive performance on Friday night against Oregon State, scoring a 31-14 victory in Corvallis. Both sides of the ball delivered for Orgeron, as the offense had a balanced attack, rushing for 242 yards and passing for 247. Running backs Silas Redd and Javorius Allen chipped in over 100 rushing yards, while quarterback Cody Kessler was an efficient 17 of 21 for 247 yards. Oregon State recorded 369 overall yards, but the Trojans picked off quarterback Sean Mannion three times. Even with a shorthanded roster, it’s not out of the question USC finishes with nine wins this year. Next Week: at California|
|7||5||Oregon State (6-3, 4-2): After six consecutive victories, the Beavers have lost back-to-back games. Making matters worse for coach Mike Riley’s team is the upcoming schedule isn’t going to get any easier: at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon. For the second week in a row, Oregon State’s passing attack struggled to get on track. Quarterback Sean Mannion was sacked only twice but tossed two picks and was pressured throughout the night. The Beavers’ defense struggled with tackling and allowed 242 rushing yards to USC. The bye week comes at a good time for Oregon State, which should allow Riley and the coaching staff to regroup before a tough three-game stretch to finish the season. Next Week: Bye Week|
|8||8||Arizona (6-2, 3-2): With Saturday’s 33-28 win over California, the Wildcats are bowl eligible for the second year in a row under coach Rich Rodriguez. The Golden Bears gave Arizona more of a fight than some may have anticipated, but Arizona used a balanced attack on offense to hold on for the five-point win. Running back Ka’Deem Carey topped 100 yards for the 11th consecutive game, and quarterback B.J. Denker threw for 261 yards and added three rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats play their next three games at home, including a chance to play spoiler in matchups against Oregon and UCLA. Next Week: UCLA|
|9||9||Utah (4-4, 1-4): The Utes had a much-needed bye on Saturday. Quarterback Travis Wilson will benefit the most from the off week, as the sophomore was dealing with a hand injury prior to the bye and completed eight passes (and four picks) in his last two games. Getting Wilson back on track will be huge for the Utes’ bowl hopes. Next Week: Arizona State|
|10||10||Washington State (4-5, 2-4): The Cougars have been in a bit of a slide since beating California 44-22 on Oct. 5. Washington State lost to Arizona State 55-21 on Thursday night, which dropped coach Mike Leach’s team to 4-5 overall. The Cougars were unable to get their offense on track early on, and the defense had no answer for the Sun Devils’ balanced attack. Washington State is on bye this Saturday and closes out the 2013 season with games against Arizona State, Utah and Washington, with two victories needed to get bowl eligible. Next Week: Bye Week|
|11||11||Colorado (3-5, 0-5): The Buffaloes dropped their fifth straight game, losing 45-23 at UCLA on Saturday. However, Colorado gave the Bruins a battle and trailed only by eight points going into halftime. Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau had a solid performance on the road, completing 25 of 36 throws for 247 yards and one score. The Buffaloes’ defense struggled to stop UCLA, as the Bruins averaged 7.2 yards per play and converted 6 of 11 third downs. Colorado needs three wins to get bowl eligible, which will be difficult with USC, Washington and a road trip to Utah remaining. Next Week: at Washington|
|12||12||California (1-8, 0-6): The Golden Bears losing streak reached seven games on Saturday, as Sonny Dykes’ team lost 33-28 to Arizona. Although Dykes certainly won’t be happy with a loss, California’s five-point defeat is its smallest margin of 2013. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 289 yards and four scores but tossed two interceptions. The Golden Bears’ defense kept Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey out of the endzone and held the offense to five yards per play. Saturday’s loss was a step in the right direction for California, and the Golden Bears need to build on that over the final three games. Next Week: USC|
Pac-12 Week 10 Recap and Awards
by Braden Gall
Offensive Player of the Week: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
USC's Javorius Allen (133 yards, three touchdowns) played well for the Trojans. Arizona's B.J. Denker (305 total yards, four touchdowns) was huge on the road against Cal. But it's hard to argue that the Sun Devils quarterback wasn't the best player in the league this weekend. Late on Thursday night on the road, Kelly accounted for seven touchdowns and more than 300 yards of total offense against Washington State. He threw for 275 yards and five scores while rushing for 66 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground while leading his offense to its fourth consecutive Pac-12 game with at least 50 points. Kelly is third in the league — ahead of Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley — with 313.9 yards per game in 2013.
Defensive Player of the Week: Devon Kennard, LB, USC
The former five-star recruit missed all of last year with an injury and it appears he is starting to round into all-conference form. Kennard posted a career-high two sacks in the upset of Sean Mannion and his potent Beavers passing attack. He added four total tackles. He has seven quarterback take downs on the season, trailing only Trent Murphy (9.5) and Tony Washington (7.5) in the Pac-12. The Trojans lead the league at 323.0 yards allowed per game.
Team of the Week: USC
With an interim head coach and a depleted roster in a stadium where it hadn't won at in nearly a decade, the Trojans got an unexpected Pac-12 road win. The defense played excellent football against a high-flying Beavers offense without Morgan Breslin, Su'a Cravens and Anthony Brown. The running game and return of Marqise Lee delivered on offense despite missing Kevin Graf and Randall Telfer. USC won it's third straight Pac-12 game and became bowl eligible. Interim coach Ed Oregeron is now 3-0 in Pac-12 since taking over for Lane Kiffin and it puts USC squarely in the divisional race, one game behind Arizona State.
Coordinator of the Week: Clancy Pendergast, USC
Oregon State boasts one of the most potent passing attacks in the nation, and Pendergast's unit shut it down. On the road, the Trojans allowed just 277 yards passing to the No. 3-rated pass offense in the nation and only 92 yards on the ground. USC forced three Sean Mannion turnovers and held star wide receiver Brandin Cooks to just six receptions and 88 yards. USC is leading the Pac-12 in total defense (323.0 ypg) and has held Utah and Oregon State to a combined 570 yards after allowing over 500 to both Arizona State and Arizona.
Freshman of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
For the second week in a row, Wright gets top honors after a terrific showing in a Wildcats win on the road. Wright posted a career-high 11 total tackles and 3.0 tackles for loss in the five-point win over Cal. He is 11th in the Pac-12 in tackles (7.5 pg) and is No. 3 among freshman (Addison Gillam, Cameron Walker). The Wildcats are bowl eligible and one game back of the Sun Devils in the South Divison with games left with both UCLA and Arizona State at home. USC's Leon McQuay II gets a mention for six tackles and two pass break-ups against Oregon State in place of star freshman Su'a Cravens.
• Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey rushed for more than 100 yards for the 11th consecutive game, rushing 32 times for 152 yards against Cal. B.J. Denker stole the show again, scoring four times and accounting for more than 300 yards of offense.
• USC's Javorius Allen (16) and Silas Redd (22) combined for 38 rushing attempts and 273 yards against Oregon State. Marqise Lee returned with five receptions, 105 yards and a touchdowns.
• UCLA's Devin Fuller touched the ball four times on offense and scored on three of them. He caught two touchdowns in three receptions and scored on his only rushing attempt. He totaled 107 yards from scrimmage.
• UCLA didn't have an injured Eric Kendricks, and tailback Jordan James returned to action. James carried six times for eight yards.
• UCLA's Brett Hundley was excellent against Colorado, throwing for 273 yards and rushing for 72 and accounting for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).
• The South Division went 3-0 against the North Division this weekend.
• Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks lead the nation with 14 touchdown connections this season.
With the favorite winning all four of the SEC games on Saturday, there wasn’t much movement in the weekly Power Rankings. Arkansas, which has lost six straight game, did fall from No. 13 to No. 14.
SEC Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
|1||1||Alabama (8-0, 5-0): Alabama had the week off before its huge showdown with LSU in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide, who have allowed 10 points or fewer in all but one game this season, lead the nation in scoring defense (9.8 ppg). Next Week: LSU|
LSU (7-2, 3-2): After playing nine straight weeks, LSU had its first bye of the season leading up to next Saturday’s trip to Alabama. The Tigers have lost two of their last three on the road — at Georgia and Ole Miss, by three points each. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown five interceptions in the last two games after throwing a total of two in his first seven games. Next Week: at Alabama
|3||3||Auburn (8-1, 4-1): Gus Malzahn is making a strong case for National Coach of the Year. Auburn improved to 8-1 overall with a relatively stress-free 35-17 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Tigers only attempted nine passes, but they completed eight for 135 yards — an average of 14.8 yards per attempt. Tre Mason led a productive running attack with a career-high 32 carries for 168 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Marshall added 59 yards rushing on nine attempts. Auburn’s offensive production is up by nearly 200 yards per game this season. Next Week: at Tennessee|
Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2): It was a slow start on a late kickoff (8 p.m. local time), but the final result was no surprise: Texas A&M 57, UTEP 7. The Aggies only led 9-7 at the end of the first quarter but outscored the Miners 48-0 over the next 30 minutes to take control of the game. Johnny Manziel threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns and added 67 yards and two scores on the ground. Mike Evans, who was getting some recent Heisman talk, only had 46 yards on four receptions. UTEP was without starting quarterback Jameill Showers, who began his career at Texas A&M but transferred following the 2012 season. Showers was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Next Week: Mississippi State
|5||5||South Carolina (7-2, 5-2): The Gamecocks only had 307 yards of offense (on 54 snaps) and converted just 1-of-11 on third down yet had little trouble with Mississippi State in a 34-16 win in Columbia. Quarterback Connor Shaw, the hero in Carolina’s win at Missouri last week, threw for 148 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Mike Davis was terrific on the ground, rushing for 127 yards on an 8.5-yard average. He leads the SEC with 117.6 yards per game. The Gamecocks have next week off then close out their SEC season with a home against Florida. Next Week: Bye|
|6||6||Missouri (8-1, 4-1): The Tigers bounced back from an excruciating overtime loss to South Carolina with an impressive 31-3 win over Tennessee. Mizzou controlled the line of scrimmage, which led to a productive night running the ball. Surprisingly, quarterback Maty Mauk was the Tigers’ leading rusher with 114 yards on 13 carries. Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy combined for 179 yards on 31 carries. Mauk threw three touchdowns and did not have a pass intercepted, but he completed only 12-of-25 attempts. In his three starts, Mauk has completed 46.6 percent of his passes. Starting quarterback James Franklin could possibly return next week, but the Tigers may opt to keep him out another game since they have a bye following their trip to Kentucky. Next Week: at Kentucky|
|7||7||Georgia (5-3, 4-2): Georgia needed a big win to lift its spirits following consecutive losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt. Mission accomplished. The Bulldogs surged to a 20-0 lead on rival Florida but had to hold on for a 23-20 win — their third straight in the series. The final offensive numbers weren’t overwhelming (414 total yards), but the Bulldogs were terrific in the first half when they grabbed the big lead. The return of All-America tailback Todd Gurley was a big boost; he rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries and caught three passes for 87 yards, highlighted by a 73-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. Wide receiver Michael Bennett, who missed two games with a knee injury, returned and caught five passes for 59 yards. Next Week: Appalachian State.|
|8||8||Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3): Ole Miss did not play. The Rebels are 5-3 overall after ending a midseason three-game slide with wins over LSU and Idaho. The Rebels are out of the SEC West race but are set up for a strong finish, with Troy and Missouri at home followed by a season-ending trip to Starkville for the Egg Bowl. An 8-4 regular season against a difficult schedule — not to mention a slew of key injuries — would be a huge accomplishment for Hugh Freeze’s team. Next Week: Troy|
|9||9||Florida (4-4, 3-3): Give the Gators credit for a spirited comeback against Georgia in Jacksonville, but this is a team with a ton of problems right now — most notably on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators had only 319 yards against Georgia and have not topped the 400-yard mark in a game since beating Kentucky 24-7 on Sept. 28. Quarterback Tyler Murphy, who played well in his first three games after replacing Jeff Driskel, has completed only 50.6 percent of his passes and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt over the last three games. The Gators have now lost three straight games and have to win two of their final four games — Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, Georgia Southern, Florida State — to become bowl-eligible. Next Week: Vanderbilt|
Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4): The Commodores did not play last weekend. At 4-4, they need to win two of their final four games — at Florida, Kentucky, at Tennessee, Wake Forest — to become bowl-eligible for the third straight season. Vanderbilt has lost 22 straight games to Florida and has only won one time in Gainesville — in 1945, the first game between the two programs. Next Week: at Florida
|11||10||Tennessee (4-5, 1-4): The Vols lost 31-3 at Missouri in Josh Dobbs’ first start at quarterback. The true freshman threw for 240 yards and completed 61.9 percent of his passes, but he tossed two interceptions and lost a fumble. Marlin Lane ran well, averaging 6.2 yards on six carries, but Rajion Neal was limited to eight yards on eight attempts. The Vols had trouble slowing down Mizzou’s rushing attack, giving up 339 yards on 54 carries. Since upsetting South Carolina on Oct. 19, Tennessee has been outscored 76-13 in losses at Alabama and Missouri. Next Week: Auburn|
|12||12||Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3): Mississippi State outgained South Carolina 385-to-307 in Columbia and converted 6-of-13 on third down but never really threatened the Gamecocks because it lost the turnover battle 5-to-0. Dak Prescott did some nice things at quarterback (235 yards passing, 78 rushing), but he threw three interceptions. The Bulldogs are 2-7 in their last nine SEC games dating back to the middle of last season. Next Week: at Texas A&M|
|13||14||Kentucky (2-6, 0-4): Kentucky climbs out of last place in our weekly power rankings for the first time this season. The Cats rolled past FCS foe Alabama State 48-14 on Saturday, but their move to No. 13 has as much to do with Arkansas’ struggles as their improvement. UK used a balanced attack (233 yards rushing, 189 passing) to wear down Alabama State after a tight first quarter. Jalen Whitlow played most of the way at quarterback, throwing for 186 yards and two TDs and rushing for a game-high 101 yard and two more scores. Former Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell led Alabama State with 84 yards on 12 carries. Next Week: Missouri|
Arkansas (3-6, 0-5): Arkansas’ losing streak is now at six games after a 35-17 loss at home to Auburn. The Hogs did a decent job on the ground, with 222 rushing yards, but they continue to get subpar play from the quarterback position. Brandon Allen completed only 10-of-22 passes for 112 yards. In SEC games, Arkansas is averaging 138.2 passing yards per game (13th in the league) and has four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Overall, the Hogs only have eight touchdowns in five SEC games; to put that in perspective, Texas A&M has 30 touchdowns in five conference games. Next Week: at Ole Miss
SEC Week 10 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Tre Mason, Auburn
He doesn’t often get mentioned with some of other elite backs in the SEC, but Mason is enjoying a tremendous junior season under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. On Saturday night in Fayetteville, Mason rushed for 168 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries to lead Auburn to a 35-17 win over Arkansas. In SEC play, Mason is averaging 117.8 yards per game with a league-best eight rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Week: Garrison Smith, Georgia
Smith, a senior defensive end, had the most productive day of his career in a very important game for the Georgia program. The Atlanta native had nine tackles and was credited with 2.5 sacks (for 12 lost yards) in the Bulldogs’ 23-20 win over Florida — their third straight over their rivals from Gainesville. Georgia held the Gators 319 total yards and allowed only one drive that went for more than 50 yards.
Team of the Week: Georgia
The Bulldogs survived a spirited second-half comeback to edge Florida 23-20 in a battle of proud programs seeking a feel-good win. Georgia dominated the first half and appeared on its way to a lopsided win until one play — a lateral that tight end Arthur Lynch failed to pick up — changed the complexion of the game. Florida outscored the Dawgs 17-0 the rest of the way but came up just short and lost for the third straight time in the series. The win keeps Georgia in the hunt in the SEC East. The Bulldogs and South Carolina each have two losses. Missouri has one loss. The Tigers, however, still have to play Ole Miss on the road and Texas A&M at home.
Coordinator of the Week: Mike Bobo, Georgia
It might seem odd to give Bobo the nod here since Georgia only scored 23 points and was shut out in the second half. But consider a few stats: The Bulldogs had 414 total yards and averaged 6.8 yards per play (only Missouri has done better against Florida this season), and Georgia averaged 9.9 yard per pass attempt — the most against Florida since October 2011. The Bulldogs also converted 7-of-12 on third down — their first game over 50 percent for the season — and ended the game on a 67-yard drive that ate up the final 8:17 of the game.
Freshman of the Week: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
It was far from a banner week for the league’s freshman. We’ll give the nod to Taylor, who rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries against Georgia in his first career start. The son of former Florida star Fred Taylor has been forced into a prominent role due to injuries at the tailback position. He has rushed for 202 yards on 42 carries in the last three games.
• Tyler Russell, Mississippi State’s starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, did not play a snap in the Bulldogs’ 34–16 loss at South Carolina. Coach Dan Mullen said Russell, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, was cleared to play “but if he didn’t have to play he wasn’t going to, which (will allow) him to be very healthy getting into next week.” Dak Prescott threw for 235 yards and rushed for 78 yards and two scores, but he threw three interceptions.
• South Carolina’s Connor Shaw has 17 touchdowns and only one interception in seven SEC games. Only two other quarterbacks have more than 10 TDs in league games — Johnny Manziel (15) and Aaron Murray (15).
• Missouri rushed for 339 yards in a 31-3 win against Tennessee, the Tigers’ highest single-game total in SEC play since joining the league last season. Mizzou was led by quarterback Maty Mauk, who had a career-high 114 yards on 13 attempts, and Henry Josey, who ran for 74 yards on 16 carries.
• Arkansas is averaging only 4.8 yards per passing attempt in SEC games. Only two teams nationally are worse in league play — Purdue (4.5 in the Big Ten) and Syracuse (4.1 in the ACC). Two years ago, in the final year of the Bobby Petrino era, the Hogs averaged a league-best 7.7 yards per pass attempt in SEC games.
• Auburn had a season-low 366 total yards (on a season-low 55 snaps) yet still beat Arkansas with ease, 35-17. The Tigers’ previous season low was 375 yards in a 30-22 win at home against Ole Miss.
As much as their fans don't want to admit it, the two basketball powers of the Commonwealth have more in common than the last two national championships. Probably too much for comfort.
When Louisville claimed the 2013 national championship, the Cardinals ensured that the trophy wouldn’t leave the state after Kentucky’s 2012 title. During the last four seasons — since John Calipari’s arrival at Kentucky — the two programs have combined for 233 wins and four Final Four appearances.
The fanbases always have shared close quarters, especially with the state’s population center Louisville supplying students and basketball players to Lexington, and UK sending them back. The Cardinals’ hire of Rick Pitino in 2001 meant that the two programs shared a coach as well. And as Pitino hired some of his former UK players and staff to work with him at U of L, he ensured that fan favorites would become rivals.
Kentucky and Louisville are once again poised to be two of the premier teams in 2013-14. With the Wildcats’ freshman class — considered to be the best crop of newcomers in the history of the sport — and Louisville’s title-winning veterans, this showdown may not be completely settled until NCAA Tournament time (again).
Pitino isn’t the only key figure who has had to walk the line between the two rivals. In anticipation of the Bluegrass State ruling college basketball this season, Athlon Sports wanted to learn the perspective of the souls whose rooting interests are divided — or not so divided as it seems.
PAUL ROGERS, THE VOICE
Rogers grew up in Louisville, graduating from Eastern High in 1969 before going on to the University of Kentucky. He returned to Louisville 40 years ago to work in sports broadcasting for WHAS. He’s been the play-by-play voice of Louisville football since 1992 and Louisville basketball since 1995 in addition to calling events at Churchill Downs.
“I grew up a Kentucky fan. I followed Louisville, but Kentucky was my team. That’s very common here. People consider it to be half and half, but in recent years it’s grown to be more pro-Louisville. There are definitely a lot more Kentucky fans in Louisville than Louisville fans in Lexington, though.
“It’s my 40-year anniversary at the station. I came here after college and worked here ever since. I’ve heard, ‘He’s really a Kentucky fan.’ But I’ve been with Louisville long enough where sometimes when people hear I went to Kentucky, they’re surprised to hear that. With the younger generation, they know less about your past than your present.
“If I ever say anything halfway critical of Louisville or halfway complimentary of Kentucky, there will always be a few people out there who know about my background who will say, ‘You know he’s really a Kentucky fan.’ But it’s not a major issue. I can’t recall pissing the other side off, though I’m sure from time to time I have.
“One of the weirdest experiences I’ve had was two years ago when we were playing in Lexington, we were setting up at the (broadcast) table. We hadn’t gone on the air yet. We do a 90-minute pregame, so it was at least a couple of hours before the game. Things were really quiet. This guy walks up to me and says, ‘Are you Paul Rogers?’ I said yes. And he said, ‘I’m from Eastern Kentucky. I hate Louisville. I hate the school. I hate everything about it. But I think you’re the best announcer I ever heard.’ It floored me.”
STEVE MASIELLO, THE OUTSIDER
As a kid, Masiello was a ball boy for the New York Knicks while Rick Pitino was an assistant under Hubie Brown. After high school, he walked on at Kentucky for Pitino with intentions of getting into coaching. He graduated as a co-captain under Tubby Smith in 2000. His major break as an assistant came at Louisville in 2005, where he stayed before taking a head-coaching job in his home state at Manhattan in 2011.
“It’s really different as an outsider, someone not from the state of Kentucky. When I was at Kentucky as a player you didn’t realize the impact it had on the fans and the alumni. You knew it was a big game and you knew you were supposed to hate them because that’s what you’re told.
“When I was at Louisville, we came out and we knew we were hated but you didn’t realize how hated until you walk out into Rupp Arena. That’s hatred at its highest. When I was a player at Rupp and Louisville came in, you knew it was a big game, but I didn’t remember it being that way. I think the Coach Pitino factor has a lot to do with it, but I remember the first time walking into Rupp against Rajon Rondo’s team. I was an assistant at Louisville. I’ve never seen anything like that in anything. You really thought these people personally hated you. They might have. That may have been the case.
“When you’re a player, the players hang out. I had friends who played at Louisville, and when I was an assistant at Louisville, our guys were friends with the Kentucky players.
“You could never win. To the Louisville fans, I was always a Kentucky player. To the Kentucky fans, I was a traitor. But those four years I spent at Kentucky were probably the best four years of my life. The six years I spent at Louisville were probably the most important of my professional career, so I hold both places very dear to my heart.
“That Final Four game (in 2012), I recruited a lot of those players (at Louisville), and I worked with Richard Pitino and Coach Pitino. I had some really close relationships and bonds with those guys. I was pulling for Louisville. If you were to ask me years from now — and Rick Pitino’s not the coach of Louisville and none of the players are there — will I still cheer for Louisville, probably not as much.”
DEREK ANDERSON, THE TRAITOR
Anderson starred at Louisville (Ky.) Doss High but left the Commonwealth to sign with Ohio State. After two seasons, he returned to his home state to play for Kentucky and coach Rick Pitino. He started for the Wildcats’ 1995-96 national championship team and had his final season in 1996-97 cut short by injury. Anderson retired from the NBA in 2008 and started the Derek Anderson Foundation, based in Louisville, to aid abused women and underprivileged children.
“I love Coach Pitino. I’ll always wish him well, but I’ll never cheer for him at Louisville. He understands that.
“Everybody was mad that I didn’t go to Louisville, but that was Louisville’s fault. ... I always wanted to play for Louisville as a kid. That’s where I wanted to go, but Denny Crum didn’t recruit me and didn’t do what he was supposed to. My whole thing was about loyalty. ... I went to Ohio State, but Coach Pitino told me he didn’t have any scholarships, but he wanted me to come. He respectfully told me he would let me walk on. At least there was respect enough to tell me.
“(At Kentucky) we played against (Louisville) twice and beat them twice by 20 points. I loved it. The first game was at Rupp, and the second game was in Louisville, but I don’t remember if I got booed because I was so focused, I zoned out. Four of my first five buckets were all dunks. I don’t remember if the crowd cheered or not. I couldn’t care less at that point.
“I’m happy for (Pitino’s) success. When he first got to Louisville, I used to go work out with his players. I lived in Louisville, so I went over there a lot. I never thought anything of it. I’ve always supported him and I always will, but I’ll never cheer for Louisville.
“They always say I should have (gone to U of L), but they all like me now because they know me as a person and not as an athlete. My foundation is still in Louisville, people just embrace me as Derek from Louisville, not that I didn’t go to Louisville.”
TERRY MEINERS, THE JOKESTER
Meiners grew up in Louisville, attended Kentucky in the mid 1970s and later took courses at U of L. He returned to the Derby City 33 years ago to work in radio. He’s hosted his afternoon drive-time program on WHAS for 28 years, where he’s used his platform to parody Rick Pitino, Joe B. Hall, Kentucky fans and Louisville fans over the years. He’s also built a strong friendship with Pitino. Meiners also has hosted Pitino’s weekly television show.
“I went to Kentucky. I loved UK, but I had pictures of Louisville players in my dorm room. It’s my hometown. I grew up here. I’ve sold Pepsis in Freedom Hall. When I was a little kid, I lived a block or so from the arena. I had an affection for Louisville. When I went to college, it wasn’t like my memory banks were cleared.
“In Louisville, I do a radio show every afternoon, and we do parodies and voices. When Pitino was hired at Kentucky, we had a guy with a thick New York accent, and a guy doing a real thick Southern accent, and they had trouble understanding each other. The Kentucky (sports information director) heard about it and asked for tapes, and Rick called and asked (me) to go on a trip with them, a road trip to Georgia. Tubby Smith was the coach at the time, and we’ve been friends ever since.
“I get a certain amount of smack talk for both sides. I always remember what one guy said to me after Rick had been here a few years. A guy walked up to me at a mall, and I thought he was going to shake my hand. He walked up to me and said, ‘You used to be a Wildcat, but now you’re an a**hole.’ He was just so offended that I went to UK and worked so closely with Louisville.
“What people don’t realize is that I was the last guy in Rick’s house in Lexington begging him not to take the Celtics job. I was begging him to not take the job and an hour later he’s at a press conference, so that’s the influence I had.”
WINSTON BENNETT, THE FAVORITE SON
A graduate of Louisville (Ky.) Male High, Bennett was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 1983. He elected to play for Kentucky despite the Wildcats’ lingering reputation of racial strife, where he spent two seasons under Joe B. Hall and two under Eddie Sutton. After spending some time in the NBA, he returned as an assistant at Kentucky from 1995-97.
“It’s hard to live in Louisville at that time, especially as a minority, and not be a Louisville fan. Most of the time you heard a lot about Kentucky being prejudiced during the Rupp era, so there was a black cloud over Kentucky at the time.
“As an eighth grader I was a ball boy for the University of Louisville. Darrell Griffith was kind of our Michael Jordan for the young kids of Louisville. All that meant a lot to me. As I continued to progress, I began to hear a lot about Kentucky, and I had parents who wanted me to experience my own life and (said), ‘Why don’t you check it out yourself.’ And that’s what sold me on Kentucky.
“There were some upset people during that time, as you would imagine. The recruiting war got a little hostile. My father drove around town — once I chose Kentucky — in a big, blue Wildcat van. He did carpet cleaning, so he worked out of his van. He’d be bold enough to ride around in this big, blue van. It was kind of throwing salt in the wound of some of the Louisville fans, and even some of our extended family.
“I root for both teams except for when they play each other, then I go with the team where I spent my blood, sweat and tears and that’s Kentucky. Other than that, I’m a huge Louisville fan.”
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.
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1. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
The final year of the BCS standings will give fans of a handful of teams a chance to argue one last time.
Alabama, Oregon, Baylor and Stanford were all off Saturday, but Thursday will begin a week that will define the remainder of the season. On Thursday alone, Oregon faces Stanford and Baylor faces Oklahoma, either boosting undefeated teams or clearing paths for Florida State and Ohio State.
Elsewhere in the rankings, though, the machinations are on for other BCS slots. Fresno State has enjoyed an edge against fellow unbeaten Northern Illinois, but that may change in the coming weeks.
Florida State. The Seminoles chipped away at Alabama's and Oregon’s stranglehold on the top two spots. Florida State received three first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and two in the Harris after defeating Miami 41-14. FSU did not have any first-place votes a week earlier. At the same time, FSU also moved from second in the computer average to first. The Seminoles were first in only one computer ranking last week (Sagarin), but they were first in all but one (Billingsley) after defeating Miami 41-14.
Texas A&M. The Aggies aren’t in national title contention, but they’d be an attractive BCS at-large team if eligible thanks to an enthusiastic fanbase and the draw of Johnny Manziel. That’s why it’s probably troubling for the Aggies top drop from No. 12 to No. 15, one spot outside of the at-large threshold. A&M dropped after Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech while the Aggies faced UTEP. Texas A&M will have plenty of opportunities to get back into the BCS at-large mix when it faces LSU and Missouri on the road. The big winner for A&M falling out of BCS contention, though, would be the Cotton Bowl, which would salivate at a change to pit the Aggies against Texas or Baylor.
Key Games this Week
No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford (Thursday). Oregon may jump Florida State for good if the Ducks defeat Stanford and both teams remain undefeated. Florida State’s schedule takes a major hit against Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida while Oregon faces Utah, Arizona and Oregon State to round out the regular season. But let’s not forget about Stanford, which remains the highest ranked one-loss team despite a defeat to Utah. The Cardinal will be back in the title hunt if it can defeat Oregon.
No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor (Thursday). The schedule is holding Baylor back in a major way. The Bears rank ninth in the computer average, but they’ll finish the season against No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 25 Texas Tech, No. 14 Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. An undefeated Baylor may have a stronger case than Ohio State or even Florida State. Whether the Bears have the mettle to go undefeated will be determined Thursday.
No. 13 LSU at No. 1 Alabama. The Tide staying at No. 1 in the BCS standings seems to be a given. Alabama still has two top-15 games to play during the regular season, starting with this one against the Tigers.
• Fresno State got some breathing room over fellow non-automatic qualifying BCS contender Northern Illinois. The Bulldogs landed at No. 16 and would be an automatic bid by virtue of ranking ahead of No. 21 UCF if the season ended today. The No. 18 Huskies, though, just completed the softest portion of their schedule and will make up ground if they can defeat Ball State, Toledo and the MAC East champion.
• Notre Dame is ranked 23rd, moving up from No. 25. The Irish need to be ranked eighth for an automatic berth. That seems unlikely. Notre Dame finishes at Pittsburgh, against BYU and at Stanford. The Irish will be hoping for losses by Northern Illinois and Fresno State to free up an at-large spot if Notre Dame finishes 14th.
• The coaches’ poll and Harris poll voters are stubborn when it comes to UCF. The Knights are ranked 21st in the BCS, one spot behind Louisville. UCF defeated Louisville head-to-head, not to mention Penn State on the road. The Knights are ranked five spots behind Louisville in the coaches’ and Harris polls but ahead of the Cards in every computer ranking.
Notes on BCS selection:
• Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The American’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.
• Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.
• A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.
• To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.
• Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Orange Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Fiesta.