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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 30.
• Today is gymnast Nastia Liukin's 24th birthday. She's aging quite nicely, don't you think?
• The WSJ reminds us that the Red Sox are still in a drought that dates to 1918. That's the last time they clinched a title at Fenway.
• Soccer BFFs Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux are still on a quest to take over the Internet, a project we wholeheartedly endorse. This week, they did the Miley VMA thing.
• Mascots are often annoying, but they can be funny, especially when they screw up or get knocked down.
• Chris Webber poked fun at colleague Kenny Smith's jogging gait on Inside the NBA. Pretty funny. Let's hope the Kenny Jog becomes a thing.
• So a company is issuing an IPO for shares of Arian Foster. What does that mean, exactly? And what about that hammy? If you're like me, you've got money you're looking to waste on a ridiculous investment.
• Professional pot-stirrer Clay Travis has dubbed Tide Nation the country's dumbest fan base. I'm sure it is eliciting reasoned, thoughtful reactions.
• The Onion. Funny. Click here.
• A former Oregon Duck went to a game at Autzen and was appalled at the home fans, prompting him to write a letter in which he tells them to go eff themselves.
• Watch a surfer catch a rather tasty 100-foot wave.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its Sprint Cup Series driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next: AAA Texas 500 (Texas Motor Speedway)
Race: 501 miles, 334 laps (1.5-mile D-shaped oval)
April 2013 Winner: Kyle Busch
A-List (Choose two, start one)
After knocking down his first win of 2013 at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, there’s little doubt that Jeff Gordon is hot. He’s been good enough during this Chase, in fact, that he’s lost just 12 points (Matt Kenseth) and 15 points (Jimmie Johnson) to the drivers who have dominated the majority of the title fight.
Gordon figures to be strong again Sunday at Texas. Consider this: In April, he started eighth and moved to second by the race’s halfway point. Gordon led 15 laps, and scored the third-best average running position of any driver in the field. He racked those numbers out without even finishing the race after he bowed out with 18 laps to go to finish 38th with a wheel hub issue. Otherwise, he was destined for a Texas top 5. Don’t be surprised if that finally comes on Sunday.
Easily the best track in Jimmie Johnson’s repertoire, as you’ll recall from last week, is Martinsville Speedway. For Matt Kenseth, that track is Texas Motor Speedway.
Kenseth played a big role in building a reputation of Roush Fenway Racing always being a contender at the Fort Worth 1.5-mile track. In 21 starts, Kenseth won twice, finished in the top 5 12 times and led laps in all but six of the races. His average finish at Texas (8.5) is his best of any track where he’s made at least 10 starts. Back in April, Kenseth struggled some at Texas, but that race was an outlier — he’s been rock solid at nearly every other 1.5-mile track.
Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne
B-List (Choose four, start two)
Kyle Busch took advantage of late handling problems to swoop by Martin Truex Jr. in the April Texas race and score the win. But it wasn’t just those issues for the No. 56 that led Busch and his No. 18 to victory lane. Busch led a race-high 171 laps in the spring Texas race — the first for the Gen-6 chassis at the track — and also started on the pole. He’ll compete for the win Sunday night thanks to the good setup info his team found during that race and, frankly, thanks to Busch simply being good at Texas. In the last 16 races, he has the best B-List average position (11.2) and the second-most laps led among all drivers (692 laps to Greg Biffle’s 732).
Martin Truex Jr.
Kasey Kahne’s Chase performance may be the biggest competitor to Truex ending 2013 as the driver with the worst luck, but it’s hard to see how a guy who loses heartbreaking races, gets booted from the Chase and loses his ride at season’s end can be topped in the bad luck department. Truex’s heartbreak started in Texas in April when a broken shock late in the race drastically changed the handling of his dominant No. 56 Toyota. Truex led 142 laps and looked to have the race in-hand after the last pit stop until the shock broke. Worse yet, Truex was cited for have a suspension out of spec after the race — likely due to that very broken shock.
Pending the car can be just as good several months later, Truex will someone to watch on Sunday.
If you’re in need of a dark horse candidate for Sunday’s race, Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team could be that candidate. Almirola has shown his strengths in the last two seasons to come on tracks similar to Texas, and back in April Almirola rolled to a seventh-place finish after starting third. Almirola averaged 10th-place during that spring 500-mile race, good for his best performance in that category in all of 2013. But be warned: Todd Parrott was axed as crew chief of the team last week after a failed drug test. Sunday will prove interesting in determining just how much influence Parrott had on the No. 43 on those big intermediates.
Alongside Kenseth and teammate Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards has played the same Roush fiddle at Texas that has so often led to success for the Ford team. Since 2005, Edwards has notched three TMS wins. The last came in 2008, but ever since a dismal streak in 2009 and ’10 (he had consecutive finishes of 39th, 33rd and 19th) Edwards has rallied with three top 5s and four top 10s in the last five races. Back in April, Edwards finished third.
Also consider: Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose
C-List (Choose two, start one)
Trevor Bayne will make just his 10th start of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season this weekend in the Wood Brothers No. 21. Bayne, currently full-time in the Nationwide Series, started five of the season’s first 12 Cup races but has just six starts in the 20 events since. Bayne could be a driver to watch — especially on the C-List — thanks to his performance at TMS in the spring. He turned his best average running position of the season at a non-restrictor plate track (19th) and finished 18th.
With Bayne available in a C-List category so void of teams that can sniff the top 15 in an intermediate track race, it’s hard to even suggest another driver for Sunday’s event. But if you’re not feeling Bayne’s credentials or are hoping to score points on a fellow competitor as the close of fantasy season draws near, consider a start of Elliott Sadler for another week in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55. Sadler will be behind the curve in a Cup car at Texas — he crashed out of his only intermediate track race in the Cup series in 2013 and hasn’t started a Cup race at Texas since 2010 — but he is a former winner (2004) at the track. He’ll at least have good setups from MWR to start with.
Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.
Week 9 didn't feature any dramatic shifts in the Heisman voting. And rightly so, as there was no true marquee performance. The top contenders held serve, the middle of the pack performed admirably and a one mid-major performer continues his statistical assault.
Post-Week 9 Voting Results:
|2.||(2)||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St||51||-||12||1||-||-|
|3.||(3)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||38||1||1||8||2||1|
|6.||(7)||Jordan Lynch||QB||N. Illinois||7||-||-||-||2||3|
|7.||(5)||Sean Mannion||QB||Oregon St||2||-||-||-||-||2|
|8t.||(7)||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon St||1||-||-||-||-||1|
|8t.||(ur)||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||1||-||-||-||-||1|
Holding Serve. Marcus Mariota led his offense to an impressive and crushing performance over No. 12 UCLA. Jameis Winston dominated an extremely overmatched NC State squad at home. Bryce Petty destroyed the most inferior opponent in the Big 12. And Johnny Manziel stayed in the pocket and showed off his arm against a reeling Vanderbilt defense. Frankly, Mariota — whose numbers were “worse” than the others — is the only player of the group who should get a bump for their Week 9 showing.
Slow and Steady. AJ McCarron is 33-2 as a starter, has two BCS title rings and is leading the clear-cut, unbeaten No. 1 team in the nation. Against arch rival Tennessee, he did what he has done his entire career: Lead an efficient and flawless offensive performance in a blowout win. He completed at least 70 percent of passes for the fourth time this year and finished with 275 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He is the ninth-rated passer nationally and hasn’t thrown a pick in four games (3 on the season). He may not have a chance to win it, but he WILL make it to New York if Bama is unbeaten.
No Love For Lynch. Northern Illinois may not slip into a BCS bowl this season but regardless of where the Huskies land in the postseason, Jordan Lynch deserves Heisman credit. After setting an NCAA record for rushing yards in a game by a QB last week (316), all Lynch did in Week 9 was complete 16 of 20 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns, rush 18 times for 99 yards and one score and catch one pass for 17 yards and a receiving touchdown.
Bye Week Blues. Oregon, Stanford, LSU, Alabama, Baylor and Oklahoma will face each other in two weekends. So all six of them are on bye. Guess what else? Louisville, BYU, Washington and sort of Texas A&M (UTEP at home) are all on bye this weekend as well.
Watch To Watch. Jameis Winston gets by far the biggest Heisman “test” this weekend as unbeaten Miami comes to town in a huge ACC and rivalry showdown. However, FSU is favored by more than three touchdowns, so it’s almost a no-win situation — barring a massive performance. Manziel gets UTEP at home (snoozer) and Lynch gets to visit UMass (booooring). Watch out for Melvin Gordon against a stingy Iowa defense on the road, though, as the Badgers back could make a big statement as the nation's best running back. The massively underrated Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona could also come up huge against a bad Cal team.
The Voting Panel:
|Tom Dienhart||Big Ten Network||BigTenNetwork.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Bryan Fischer||Pac-12 Network||Pac-12.com||Marcus Mariota|
|David Fox||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Braden Gall||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Godfrey||SB Nation||SBNation.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Chris Huston||Heisman Pundit||HeismanPundit.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Lassan||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Chris Level||Red Raider Sports||RedRaiderSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Billy Liucci||TexAgs||TexAgs.com||Johnny Manziel|
|Dan Rubenstein||SB Nation/Solid Verbal||SolidVerbal.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Josh Ward||Mr. SEC/WNML||MrSEC.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Jim Young||ACC Sports Journal||ACCSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
With one month to go in the 2013 college football season, there’s still not much clarity in the SEC East. Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are still in the mix, and each team has been forced to navigate through the season with key injuries.
Missouri was on the doorstep of winning the East Division last week, but South Carolina rallied in the fourth quarter behind quarterback Connor Shaw. The Gamecocks are 4-2 in SEC play and have a favorable two-game stretch to finish their SEC slate with Mississippi State and Florida coming to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Georgia isn’t out of the mix, but the Bulldogs have to beat Florida and hope for two losses by Missouri.
Who will represent the East Division in Atlanta? Athlon’s experts debate the SEC East champion.
After Beating Missouri, is South Carolina the Favorite to Win the SEC East?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
South Carolina’s win over Missouri significantly changed the outlook of the East Division. Had the Tigers won on Saturday night, a division title and a trip to Atlanta would have been a near certainty for Gary Pinkel’s team. Instead, it’s back to square one. South Carolina has to be in the driver’s seat for the division crown, as its final two SEC games – Florida and Mississippi State – are at home. Missouri is the only team with one SEC loss in the East, but the Tigers have to go to Ole Miss and still have to play Texas A&M. Although Missouri is clearly improved from last season, I think this team stumbles once in its final two games. Georgia was my preseason pick to win the SEC East, but I’m not sure I can take the Bulldogs to win the division, especially with a road date at Auburn looming on Nov. 16. If healthy, Georgia might be the best team in this division. However, I think the Gamecocks have to be considered the favorite after Saturday’s win at Missouri.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
South Carolina is in the driver's seat now with the critical tiebreaker over Mizzou. The Gamecocks have two games left in the SEC, and both contests are winnable home matchups (Mississippi State, Florida). That puts South Carolina in the SEC East clubhouse at 6-2, while Missouri will have two games left to play. The Tigers should defeat both Tennessee at home and Kentucky on the road to reach 4-2 in SEC play. But the final two games — after Carolina is finished with SEC play — are extremely difficult. Gary Pinkel's bunch likely has to win out to get to Atlanta and its hard to see Mizzou defeating both Ole Miss on the road and Texas A&M at home. Odds are Mizzou is 6-1 with Johnny Manziel coming to town on the SEC's final regular season weekend, so how much fun is it that two "Big 12" teams could determine the SEC East on the final Saturday?
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
South Carolina certainly has an opportunity to win the SEC East, but I will stick with my original pick from the beginning of the season – Georgia. The Bulldogs will have to win out, which is very doable. I think Georgia will beat Florida this week, win at Auburn on Nov. 16 (the Tigers will be coming off consecutive road games) and take care of Kentucky to finish out SEC play. If that happens and Missouri loses two of its final four games (three of them are losable), Georgia will be back in Atlanta playing Alabama for the SEC title. South Carolina’s remaining schedule is very favorable and a Georgia stumble would put the Gamecocks in great position to win the division. But I think Georgia will win out and get the breaks it needs to once again win the SEC East.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Amazing how things have changed in the SEC East. A week ago, I was on the Missouri bandwagon, ready to see the Tigers head to Atlanta. This week, I’ve all but given up on Mizzou. Maybe it’s not a rational swing, considering the Tigers still have a lead in the division. But it’s tough to see Missouri regain the momentum to beat Ole Miss and Texas A&M to finish the season. If the Tigers held that 17-0 lead against South Carolina, they could have afforded a loss to the Rebels or Aggies. That’s not the case anymore. South Carolina has Mississippi State and Florida both at home and that’s it for the SEC. With Jadeveon Clowney rounding back into form and Connor Shaw proving he’s healthy, this may be the Gamecocks’ division to lose.
Projecting which freshmen will make an impact in any college football season is no easy task. But after nine weeks, there's enough data to know how the top newcomers are playing, so it’s time to examine how some of the top true and redshirt freshmen have performed this year.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston is a special talent that could have started right away but took a redshirt in their first season. Not only is Winston one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, but the freshman is already one of the top players in college football.
Winston’s performance through nine weeks in 2013, along with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel’s 2012 Heisman victory,illustrate what can happen when a special, elite freshman earns a starting spot under center.
But there’s another side to recruiting and incoming freshmen. Some players may take a couple of years to develop. And some players simply never live up to their lofty recruiting rankings.
Recruiting and talent evaluation is no exact science, which is why there are always a few names from outside of the top 100 or 200 of incoming freshmen that always seem to make an impact each year.
Athlon will update this list at the conclusion of 2013, but for now, here’s a look at the top freshmen nationally after nine weeks.
College Football's Top 25 Freshmen After Week 9
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Not only is Winston the top freshman in college football, he could make a strong case to be the No. 1 overall player. The Alabama native leads the ACC with an average of 311 passing yards per game, and his 11.9 yards per attempt ranks second nationally to Baylor’s Bryce Petty. Winston has tossed only four picks on 183 attempts and is completing 69.9 percent of his throws. Against ACC competition, Winston has thrown for at least three touchdowns in every game. As long as Famous Jameis continues at this pace, Florida State should finish unbeaten and in the mix for a spot in the national championship.
2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Considering Florida already had Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson at cornerback, Hargreaves wasn’t necessarily guaranteed a prominent role in Florida’s secondary this year. However, the true freshman has been one of the Gators’ top defenders through the first seven games, recording 19 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass breakups. According to advanced data by GatorBait.net, Hargreaves has allowed just 10 catches on 36 targets this year. And another indication of how good Hargreaves has been this year was his recent selection as one of the 15 finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award.
3. Kendall Fuller/Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech
We usually list one player per slot, but Fuller and Facyson are almost interchangeable as key cogs in Virginia Tech’s secondary. With Antone Exum missing the first seven games recovering from knee surgery, the Hokies threw Fuller and Facyson into the fire. Both freshmen responded and played at a high level from the opening snap. Fuller has more tackles than Facyson (31 to 17) and owns a slight edge in interceptions (5 to 4). However, Facyson missed one game due to injury. Thanks in part to the performance of Fuller and Facyson, the Hokies rank second nationally against the pass and have allowed just six touchdown tosses in eight games. With Exum and Kyle Fuller expiring their eligibility at the end of the year, Fuller and Facyson will headline the secondary in 2014.
4. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema brought the same run-first mentality to Fayetteville that he used at Wisconsin, and Collins has been a perfect fit in the new offense. The Florida native leads the Razorbacks with 797 yards and has four rushing scores on 141 attempts. Collins is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and his 797 yards rank third in the SEC. The freshman had four 100-yard efforts in his first five games and had a solid showing against Alabama (77 yards). Expect Collins to be one of the key pieces in Bielema’s rebuilding effort.
5. A’Shawn Robinson, DE, Alabama
Robinson has quickly emerged as one of Alabama’s top defensive linemen this season. In eight appearances, the true freshman has 23 tackles (five for a loss) and four sacks. Robinson also has four quarterback hurries. In Saturday’s win over Tennessee, Robinson started at nose guard and started at end against Georgia State. At 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, the Texas native certainly doesn’t resemble a true freshman, and he will only get better with another offseason in Alabama’s weight room.
6. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Hackenberg’s numbers aren’t as impressive as Florida State’s Jameis Winston, but the Penn State starter has been solid in his first season on campus. The true freshman has started all seven games for the Nittany Lions, throwing for 1,784 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hackenberg has eight interceptions but is averaging 254.9 passing yards per game. The Virginia native has not completed more than 54.5 percent of his passes in a Big Ten contest. However, Hackenberg will get better with more time under the tutelage of coach Bill O’Brien.
7. Su’a Cravens, S, USC
Cravens ranked as the No. 5 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100, and the California native is already one of USC’s top defenders. In eight games, Cravens has 37 tackles (1.5 tackles for a loss), three interceptions and one forced fumble. Cravens enrolled early at USC and the experience paid off, as he has started all eight games and will be one of the centerpieces for the Trojans’ new coach to build around in 2014.
8. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Treadwell was the top wide receiver recruit in the 2013 signing class and has been as good as advertised. In eight games, Treadwell has 41 catches for 385 yards and two scores. The freshman is averaging only 9.4 yards per reception, but his emergence at the start of the season was valuable for an offense that was dealing with the absence of Vince Sanders. If Donte Moncrief leaves for the NFL after this season, Treadwell will be the Rebels’ No. 1 target in 2014.
9. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
Ramsey’s versatility has already paid dividends for Florida State’s defense, as the Tennessee native started the season at cornerback and moved to safety after Tyler Hunter’s neck injury. In seven games, Ramsey has 29 tackles, one sack, one interception and a forced fumble. Florida State’s secondary boasts an impressive collection of speed, talent and athletic ability, and Ramsey has been a key reason why the Seminoles rank first nationally against the pass, allowing just 9.9 yards per completion this year.
10. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Boyd has been the perfect complement to No. 1 receiver Devin Street in the Steel City, and the true freshman has added another big-play element to Pittsburgh’s offense. Through seven games, Boyd has 34 catches for 526 yards and five touchdowns. The Pennsylvania native also has 106 rushing yards and one touchdown, while averaging 20.3 yards on kickoff returns. Boyd had three consecutive 100-yard games in September but has not topped 46 yards in each of his last three contests.
11. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
With Anthony Barr and Jack anchoring the outside linebacker spots in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme, the Bruins have a dynamic duo capable of getting to the quarterback on any play. Jack has six starts this season and has recorded 45 tackles (four for a loss), one interception and six pass breakups. The freshman had a strong performance in the Bruins trip to Oregon, forcing one fumble and blocking a punt in the first half. With Barr expiring his eligibility at the end of 2013, Jack will become an even bigger part of UCLA’s defense next year.
12. Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
LSU returned a veteran core for its offensive line this year, but this unit was forced to shuffle its starting five after guard Josh Williford ended his career before the 2013 season started. Hawkins has been a steady presence on the right side for coach Les Miles, starting all eight games, including one at left tackle against Furman. Hawkins played 87 snaps in the opener against TCU and has at least 60 in every SEC game this year.
13. Addison Gillam, LB, Colorado
The Buffaloes are in rebuild mode with first-year coach Mike MacIntyre, and Gillam should be one player Colorado’s new staff can build around. In six games, Gillam leads the team with 67 tackles (five for a loss), has two sacks and three pass breakups. If he continues at his current pace, the California native will set a Colorado record for tackles by a freshman. Gillam has been a key force on third downs and has started all six games at middle linebacker.
14. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
There’s no denying Nkemdiche’s talent. The true freshman was the No. 1 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and was pegged for a huge role in Ole Miss’ defensive line rotation before the season started. Injuries have plagued the Rebels’ defense, including Nkemdiche, who suffered a hamstring injury in the narrow loss to Texas A&M. In six games, Nkemdiche has 15 tackles (four for a loss), two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry. Stats are always a misnomer for defensive players, and Nkemdiche’s impact goes beyond the box score. And when healthy, the freshman lineman would rank higher on this list.
15. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
The Rebels were forced to shuffle their offensive line after guard Aaron Morris was lost for the season in the opener against Vanderbilt. Tunsil was slated for a key role before Morris’ injury, but the coaching staff needed an even bigger contribution from the freshman. Tunsil has started five out of the last six games at left tackle and has been stellar in pass protection. Tunsil should anchor Ole Miss’ line for the next three seasons.
16. John O’Korn, QB, Houston
Houston has experienced quite a turnaround in coach Tony Levine’s second season. After a 5-7 mark in 2012, the Cougars are 6-1 and will be in the mix for the American Athletic Conference title. O’Korn’s emergence has been huge for the offense, especially after starter David Piland was forced to retire due to concussions. In seven games, O’Korn has 1,858 yards and 19 scores, while tossing just four picks on 220 attempts. The freshman is coming off his best performance of the season, completing 24 of 30 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Rutgers.
17. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish’s defense isn’t quite as dominant as the 2012 version, but Notre Dame is still holding opponents to just 21.6 points a game. Smith ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100, and the Indiana native hasn’t disappointed. Smith has started all eight games for the Fighting Irish, recording 39 tackles (4.5 for a loss), one interception and one forced fumble.
18. Alex Redmond, OG, UCLA
Injuries and roster turnover have prompted a handful of freshmen to see immediate playing time for the Bruins’ offensive line. Redmond ranked as the No. 228 overall prospect in the 2013 signing class by 247Sports and has started all seven games at right guard in 2013. UCLA’s line is anchored by standout Xavier Su’a-Filo, but Redmond has been a key cog in a unit that is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 469.1 yards per game this season.
19. Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders have been forced to start two true freshmen at quarterback this year, and both players (Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield) have performed well in their first collegiate action. Webb has started the last three games for Texas Tech, throwing for at least 385 yards in each start. The true freshman’s season high for yardage (462) came against West Virginia, but throwing for 385 yards and two touchdowns on the road against Oklahoma is a solid showing as well.
20. Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights have struggled to stop the pass this year, but largely due to the front seven, this defense ranks 12th nationally against the run. Longa leads all Rutgers defenders with 69 tackles, and the redshirt freshman has six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. If Longa continues at his current pace, he could be a first- or second-team all-conference selection at the end of the season.
21. Montravius Adams/Carl Lawson, DL, Auburn
Adams and Lawson were two of Auburn’s top pickups on the recruiting trail and have combined for three sacks so far this year. With Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae expiring their eligibility at the end of 2013, Adams and Lawson should move into starting roles in 2014.
22. Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M
There’s a youth movement for the Texas A&M defense this season. The Aggies only list four seniors on the defensive two-deep, with two freshmen listed as starters for Saturday’s game against UTEP. Claiborne has made five consecutive starts at middle linebacker and ranks third on the team with 49 stops. The freshman also has six tackles for a loss and one interception. With all of the new faces stepping into key roles, Texas A&M’s defense has struggled, allowing four of its five SEC opponents to score at least 30 points. However, the experienced gained for Claiborne in 2013 should help this unit improve in '14 and '15.
23. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
The Wildcats had one of the Pac-12’s worst defenses in 2012, ranking 11th or 12th in the four major categories. But with nearly everyone back from last season, and the emergence of young talent, Arizona has improved, ranking fifth in the Pac-12 in total defense. Wright has added athleticism to the linebacking corps and leads all Wildcat defenders with 49 tackles.
24. Tony Conner, LB/DB, Ole Miss
Conner is another true freshman with a prominent role for Ole Miss. In eight games, Conner has 40 tackles (two for a loss), one sack and one interception. Conner is also credited with two quarterback hurries and four pass breakups. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound hybrid safety/linebacker is improving with every snap, and his presence has been critical for a defense that is short on depth due to injuries.
25. Daquawn Brown, CB, Washington State
Mike Leach is in rebuild mode at Washington State, and the Cougars have promising young talent on both sides of the ball. Brown has already proven he is one of the key cogs for the future, starting three games this season, including on the road at USC and Oregon. In eight overall appearances, Brown has 45 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups. Look for Brown to emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-12 over the next three seasons.
Other Top Freshmen
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Athletic, quick linebacker has 40 tackles in eight games.
Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
Has played in all eight games and recorded 18 tackles and two sacks.
Stacy Coley, WR, Miami
Will be a future star for the Hurricanes and has 17 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns in six games this year.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Rushed for 326 yards through first three games but has just 56 in last three appearances.
Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
Pass-rush specialist for the Bulldogs, recording four sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in seven games.
Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF
Tied for American Athletic Conference lead with 11 passes defended.
Jared Goff, QB, California
Goff has thrown for 2,592 yards this season, but the true freshman has tossed seven picks and has only one touchdown toss in his last three games.
Isaiah Golden, DT, Texas A&M
Never easy starting as a true freshman at defensive tackle in the SEC, but Golden has 19 stops in seven games.
Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Ranks second on the team with 17 catches for 318 yards and one score.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Has played in all eight games and has caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Germain Ifedi, OG, Texas A&M
Ifedi has started eight games at right guard for the Aggies this year.
Eddie Jackson, CB, Alabama
Has played in nine games (with three starts), recording nine tackles and one interception.
Ryan Janvion, S, Wake Forest
Redshirt freshman leads the team with 59 tackles.
Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
Will be a future star for the Bulldogs. Has 17 tackles and five quarterback hurries in seven games.
Desmond King, CB, Iowa
True freshman has grabbed a starting role in Iowa’s secondary, recording 43 tackles and four pass breakups.
Hardy Nickerson, LB, California
Ranks second on the defense with 51 stops and has one forced fumble in eight games.
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
All-name team selection and top backup to Lache Seastrunk. The freshman has 443 yards and seven touchdowns on 55 attempts.
Johnny Mundt, TE, Oregon
The Ducks haven’t missed a beat with Colt Lyerla’s departure, as Mundt has picked up the slack. Mundt has 12 catches for 216 yards and two scores in eight games.
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Already the Volunteers’ No. 1 receiver, made key grabs in the win over South Carolina.
Caleb Peterson, OG, North Carolina
Peterson has started all seven games for the Tar Heels in 2013.
Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas
Pressed into starting role after injury to Robert Thomas, recording 26 tackles (six for a loss) and three sacks in eight games this year.
Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Redshirt freshman has started all eight games for the Sooners, recording 31 tackles and 10 pass breakups. Sanchez has been a key player in Oklahoma’s secondary, which ranks ninth nationally against the pass.
Dan Skipper/Denver Kirkland, OG, Arkansas
Freshmen duo has started in each of the last four games for the Razorbacks.
Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin
Has started all seven games for the Badgers, recording 20 tackles and three interceptions thus far.
Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee
Sutton was only a three-star prospect but has been a key piece in Tennessee’s secondary this year. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Western Kentucky and has 25 tackles and five pass breakups in eight appearances.
Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
Tyner will be a standout performer for Oregon in time, but playing time is limited with Byron Marshall and De’Anthony Thomas ahead on the depth chart. The true freshman has played in seven games, rushing for 437 yards and eight touchdowns. Tyner also has nine catches for 105 yards.
Ben Weaver, LB, Boise State
Leads all Boise State defenders with 72 tackles.
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
White could be the next in LSU’s run of standout defensive backs. The true freshman has 39 tackles, one interception and six pass breakups in 2013.
Dontre Wilson, RB, Ohio State
Dynamic playmaker averaging 9.6 yards per touch.
The beauty of sports, in particular college football, lies in their complete unpredictability and reality TV-like drama. Here's what might happen in Week 10.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
Florida State will miss a field goal wide right — and cover the spread vs. Miami
The Canes and Noles have had some historic and important meetings in the past. Not many have come in the past decade but 2013 looks to change that as both teams enter this weekend’s test unbeaten and ranked in the top 10. However, the Seminoles are a huge 21.5-point favorite and will cover the spread with relative ease. But there is a chance that Roberto Aguayo will miss his first field goal of the season — to the right, of course.
FSU's Jameis Winston will have more yards in the 1st quarter than Miami has all game
Stephen Morris enjoyed a fantastic breakout season in 2012 for Miami. While he has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, Morris isn’t close to the same player this fall. And he has struggled mightily of late, throwing four interceptions in a near defeat to North Carolina and just 191 yards in another near defeat to Wake Forest. FSU's Jameis Winston, however, has been Hall of Fame good in his first seven games. He is averaging 311.0 yards passing per game and is coming off a game in which the Noles outscored NC State 35-0 in the first quarter. As a three-touchdown favorite, Winston should post more yards in the first quarter than Miami will have all game.
Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn won’t shake hands
There is no long-standing feud between the two newly minted SEC West head coaches. However, there is little doubt that these two abrasive, hard-nosed coaches don’t get along. Bielema has been open about how much he hates the up-tempo style of teams like Auburn and there have been some rumors of doctored game film Auburn sent to the Hogs this week. (Auburn, in turn, complained that Arkansas didn’t send them any touchdowns. Because, you know, they’ve scored two TDs in their last three games). And considering how poorly Arkansas has played, there is a good chance Malzahn runs up the score this weekend. Don’t expect a cordial handshake at the end of the game. In fact, a Schwartz-Harbaugh incident wouldn’t be shocking.
Western Kentucky won’t be allowed to leave the Georgia Dome
Bobby Petrino unceremoniously left the Atlanta Falcons for the Arkansas job by leaving post-it notes in his players lockers as he bolted out the back door of the Georgia Dome. After winning big in Fayetteville and getting fired for an illicit affair, Petrino landed at Western Kentucky for the 2013 season. His team has lost two straight games as it heads into that very same Georgia Dome to face winless Georgia State. Don’t be surprised if the doors are locked with a little note from Falcons owner Arthur Blank telling him, “Not this time, BP.”
Florida's Kelvin Taylor will run for 150 yards in his first career start
In what could one of the lamest World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail parties in recent memory, five-star running back prospect Kelvin Taylor will make his first start for Florida. The son of Fred Taylor has been a prep star in the state of Florida for years and he finally scored his first career touchdown two weeks ago against Missouri. Against a Georgia defense that allowed 197 yards rushing to Clemson, 226 yards to South Carolina, 189 to Tennessee and 142 to Missouri, Taylor has a chance to play a pivotal roll. He has averaged 6.1 yards per carry on the season and could easily be the Gators' top playmaker this weekend.
Bo Pelini will not be the head coach at Nebraska on Monday
Northwestern is 0-4 in the Big Ten this year and hasn’t shown signs of life whatsoever. However, the last time the Wildcats went to Lincoln it came away an upset winner 28-25 in 2011. After a horrendous loss to Minnesota on the road, Bo Pelini returns home with a month of must-win situations to keep his job at Nebraska. If Northwestern goes into Memorial Stadium and wins, Pelini could step down or be let go in a matter of hours not days. The embattled head coach cannot afford to lose more than one game the rest of the season.
College football’s best month of the year begins Friday.
The national title contenders have been established, the Heisman field has been narrowed and many of the seasons that have gone wrong are still salvageable thanks to rivalry games at the end of the month.
Part of the fun of every season is late-season games that no one anticipated being important in September may define the entire year.
That’s not the case with the top game of the final full month of the season, but who would’ve anticipated the Iron Bowl being as important as LSU-Alabama, if not moreso? Who would’ve tabbed Baylor-Texas Tech as one of the key games for the Big 12?
From in-state and conference rivals to surprise matchups and key games in the Heisman race, November should shape up to be another wild month. Here's why:
Top 20 College Football Games in November
1. Nov. 7 Oregon at Stanford (Thursday)
Stanford’s offense is still trying to find consistency without the wealth of tight ends the Cardinal had for the last three seasons. The defense, though, is just as stifling. Stanford will need another standout defensive performance after forcing the Ducks to punt eight times in last year’s 17-14 win in Eugene. Meanwhile, Oregon is looking to hold off Florida State and Ohio State in the BCS standings while Stanford is trying to remain the first one-loss team in the pecking order for the title game.
2. Nov. 30 Alabama at Auburn
Has Auburn replaced LSU as the Crimson Tide’s toughest game before the SEC Championship Game? A rivalry game on the road against a team that has lost one game on the road to LSU sure makes it look that way. The Tigers have lost by a combined score of 91-14 to Alabama post-Cam Newton. This Iron Bowl might not be as lopsided.
3. Nov. 7 Oklahoma at Baylor (Thursday)
By defeating Texas Tech on Saturday, Oklahoma made sure this Thursday night matchup — the same day as Oregon-Stanford, no less — will still be meaningful. The Sooners held Texas Tech to 2.9 yards per carry, but just as important, OU finally got a complete game out of its passing attack. Even if Baylor doesn’t approach 70 points in this game, Oklahoma can’t expect a low-scoring affair.
4. Nov. 2 Miami at Florida State
The last meeting between undefeated teams before bowl season had a wet blanket thrown on it by a three-touchdown point spread. Florida State has been dominant, outscoring ACC opponents by 34.8 points per game, and Miami has needed second-half comebacks against North Carolina and Wake Forest. Still, this is a rivalry game between top-10 opponents and perhaps Florida State’s toughest game for the remainder of the season.
5. Nov. 9 LSU at Alabama
Arguably the most intriguing SEC series of the last five years, Alabama has a 4-2 edge since the Crimson Tide returned to power in the SEC West. Three of the last four have been decided by less than a touchdown, the exception being the 21-0 Alabama win in the BCS championship game rematch following the 2011 season. Both quarterbacks, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger, have had among the finest games of their careers in this series.
6. Nov. 30 Ohio State at Michigan
Barring a shocking Big Ten upset, Ohio State will visit Ann Arbor undefeated, possibly with national title hopes in the mix. Michigan may need this game to win the Legends Division with a chance for a rematch with the Buckeyes for the Big Ten championship game. Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke have stoked the rivalry, but stakes like that will give this game a dimension it hasn’t had since 2006.
7. Nov. 30 Clemson at South Carolina
Clemson-South Carolina may have passed Florida State-Florida as the top ACC-SEC rivalry to end the regular season. Both teams have had setbacks this season, but this should be a top-10 matchup provided both teams win out. South Carolina has won the last four, but both teams may have BCS at-large implications at stake in Columbia. Jadeveon Clowney had 4.5 sacks in this game last season.
8. Nov. 30 Florida State at Florida
A month before the meeting in the Sunshine State, this game doesn’t appear to be competitive. Florida’s offense has backtracked while Florida State looks like it could score 42 points on an off day. Still, it would be intriguing for a national title-contending Florida State team to face Florida in the last week of the regular season and potentially Miami in the ACC Championship Game.
9. Nov. 23 Texas A&M at LSU
Johnny Manziel’s worst career game came against the LSU defense last season when the Aggies quarterback was 29 of 56 for 276 yards with three interceptions. Manziel in front of a raucous Baton Rouge crowd will be a key game in his bid to win a second Heisman Trophy.
10. Nov. 16 Baylor vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas)
The Big 12’s two surprising contenders in the Big 12 meet at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, the fourth consecutive meeting on a neutral site. That’s been a good move for offensive numbers, as both teams have scored at least 38 points in each of the last three meetings. Expect another offensive showcase.
11. Nov. 13 Ball State at Northern Illinois (Wednesday)
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox talk Bo Pelini, Michigan-Michigan State, Miami-Florida State and more Week 10 action in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
12. Nov. 29 Oregon State at Oregon
Stanford bottled up Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, but the Pac-12 passing record hopeful will get another crack at top team in Eugene.
13. Nov. 23 Arizona State at UCLA
The Sun Devils and Bruins are a combined 0-3 against Oregon and Stanford, but the Pac-12 South is still up for grabs. The winner here likely wins the division ... and another meeting with either Stanford or Oregon.
14. Nov. 2 Michigan at Michigan State
If Devin Gardner can limit turnovers, Michigan will have a chance in this critical Big Ten Legends matchup. If he can’t, this could get ugly.
15. Nov. 9 Virginia Tech at Miami
Virginia Tech found a way to lose to Duke at home, and Miami may be coming off a loss to Florida State. The winner of this game likely heads to the ACC Championship Game, however.
16. Nov. 30 Texas A&M at Missouri
One last showcase for Manziel against a standout Missouri defensive line and potential national defensive player of the year Michael Sam. The Tigers may be fighting for an SEC East title at this point.
17. Nov. 9 Nebraska at Michigan
If Michigan defeats Michigan State, this will be a key game for the Big Ten Legends Division. Bo Pelini is in must-win territory for the division and perhaps his job.
18. Nov. 16 Michigan State at Nebraska
The Spartans could be 8-1 heading into this meeting in Lincoln after an off week. If Nebraska drops a game to Michigan, the Spartans could come close to wrapping up the Legends division in this game.
19. Nov. 30 Notre Dame at Stanford
Notre Dame could enter this game with a chance to finish the season 10-2, which would be a major feat for at team that lost quarterback Everett Golson before the season started.
20. Nov. 16 Georgia at Auburn
Like many of Auburn’s traditional rivalries, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry hasn’t been competitive in the last two seasons. That will change thanks to a former Georgia cornerback (Nick Marshall) playing QB for Auburn.
This preview and more on Marquette and the Big East are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 13 Marquette Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-9 (14-4 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Buzz Williams (122-54 at Marquette)
Big East projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
This Marquette team, however, could have a very different look. For the first time in well over a decade, the Golden Eagles’ focus figures to shift to the frontcourt. That’s not to suggest they won’t have talent in the backcourt; the key to coach Buzz Williams’ success has always been the steady stream of “switchables” he churns out.
But big men Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, Chris Otule and Jameel McKay are going to be leaned upon up front like never before as a revamped group of guards gets up to speed.
If everything comes together as Williams hopes, a Big East title should be well within the Golden Eagles’ grasp.
It would have seemed far-fetched to have suggested only a couple years ago that MU’s hopes would ever be pinned to the broad shoulders of Gardner. After all, he arrived at MU in 2010 as a 6-8, 300-pound-plus project who didn’t figure to mesh well with Williams’ frenetic style of play — especially on the defensive end. But Gardner showed from early on that his ample backside and craftiness around the basket couldn’t be ignored, and he heads into this season as the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, not to mention MU’s leading returning scorer. Gardner shot a Big East-leading 58.5 percent while coming off the bench in 2012-13, and he attempted 5.0 free throws per game, knocking them down at an 83.5 percent clip.
When Williams needs a defensive presence in the lane, he will turn to the 6-11 Otule, who will be in his sixth season thanks to a medical hardship. He started last season and blocked more than a shot per game while altering quite a few more. He’s also a decent rebounder.
Wilson, who will see most of his minutes at power forward, is actually the Golden Eagles’ leading returning 3-point shooter (.360) and rebounder (4.9 rpg). He also is a great passer for his size and blocked nearly a shot per game.
McKay was a two-time first team NJCAA All-American at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. He is a high-energy athlete who should get plenty of minutes right away.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Youth will be served at both guard spots, where it’s likely a true freshman will start at point guard and two others will see big minutes alongside. Duane Wilson will give the Golden Eagles an offensive threat they haven’t had handling the ball in years with an ability to get to the basket, draw fouls and also knock down 3-pointers.
Williams is a big fan of junior Derrick Wilson’s reliability — he committed only 19 turnovers in 457 minutes — but Duane Wilson will be tough to keep off the floor in crunch time because he can create as well as keep defenses honest.
The 6-5 JaJuan Johnson and the 6-4, 230-pound Deonte Burton will give Williams the ability to use different looks at shooting guard and on the wing. Johnson is more of shooter and finisher. Burton’s body should allow him to make the transition to the physical style Williams prefers.
Junior Todd Mayo can be an explosive scorer, but he’s butted heads with Williams at times and his role has diminished.
Jameel McKay, Duane Wilson and Deonte Burton are all Milwaukee natives. While it will undoubtedly be fun for them to play in their hometown, it would also behoove them to try and avoid some of the inherent distractions that comes along with that. All three have the ability to be special players, along with Memphis native Jajuan Johnson. John Dawson will have his work cut out for him to get into the rotation in his first year at MU. The five combine to form Williams’ third top-25 recruiting class in six seasons.
Factoid: 16-0. Marquette went 16–0 when it made more free throws than its opponent attempted last season. The Golden Eagles averaged 15.7 made free throws per game.
Nine letterwinners return, but there will still be plenty of playing time available for the newcomers. All told, this will be Williams’ biggest, deepest and most athletic group from front to back.
The key will be how quickly Division I neophytes like McKay and Duane Wilson, specifically, can adapt considering how much will be put on them from the outset.
Williams and his players have made a habit of exceeding expectations, using their underdog mentality to reach new heights each season. Now that they will be one of the favorites in the new-look Big East, will the Golden Eagles have what it takes to live up to the hype? History suggest it would be wise not to bet against them.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Creighton and the Big East are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 16 Creighton Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-8 (13-5 Missouri Valley)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Greg McDermott (80-30 at Creighton)
Big East projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
When the (former) Big East football schools added members such as Tulane and SMU in an attempt to remain relevant, the basketball schools revolted. Seven Catholic schools reformed with the Big East name and kept the tournament in Madison Square Garden. Creighton’s investments and improvements, starting under former coach Dana Altman in 1994, paid off. The Big East wanted the best basketball schools, and Creighton fit, despite a geographic issue. The Bluejays, after 55 largely successful years in the Missouri Valley Conference, are stepping up to play powers such as Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova.
“There’s a huge buzz,” senior forward Doug McDermott says. “It’s always been out there, and then it just happened.”
McDermott, a 6’8” All-American, is responsible for much of that buzz. He turned down NBA possibilities to play his final season in the Big East. In July, the buzz grew when the NCAA gave forward Grant Gibbs, one of the nation’s best passers, a sixth season. The Bluejays enter the Big East as one of the favorites with four starters and three experienced reserves back.
McDermott’s return makes the transition easier. Coach Greg McDermott, his father, knows life in the Big East will test Creighton in ways the MVC did not. Creighton owned the best (or close to it) of everything — tradition, resources, facilities, academics, city — in the Valley. In the Big East, assets such as an NBA-quality arena are not nearly so special. While the Bluejays consistently won in the MVC, they did not dominate. Since 2000, they've won four MVC regular-season titles, sharing two. “We’ve gone from the top of the heap to the middle or near the bottom,” Greg McDermott says.
For its debut, Creighton will hit teams with a blend of outside shooting and crisp execution that is difficult to defend. It finished second nationally in shooting percentage (50.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (41.4). Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is an excellent shooter who hustles his way into easy baskets and scores with a variety of post moves. He improved his dribble game and mid-range shot as a junior, despite defenses designed to stop him. Gibbs (8.5 ppg, 5.8 apg) excels at finding McDermott at his sweet spots and helps run the team from his forward position.
Creighton will miss center Gregory Echenique, whose size enabled him to guard most big men without help. He gave a finesse team a good dose of banging, and his replacements are not nearly as experienced nor physically imposing. Junior Will Artino (3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg) is the first choice to man the middle.
“He played great basketball for us in February and March,” Greg McDermott says. “His skill level is on the perimeter offensively, and he’s a great passer.”
Sophomore Geoffrey Groselle (7’0”) played in 17 games last season. Forward Ethan Wragge (7.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg) causes mismatches with his 3-point shooting and is strong enough to guard some post players.
“I think we’ve got a group that can really shoot the basketball,” the coach says. “With Doug and Ethan Wragge, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
The backcourt is solid with junior Austin Chatman (7.4 ppg, 4.2 apg) back for a second season as the starter at point. He may struggle defensively with bigger guards, but his quickness makes his him a threat in the open court. Senior Jahenns Manigat (5.9 ppg) started all 36 games last season. In recent seasons, the Bluejays lacked dynamic scoring and quick defenders on the perimeter. The addition of transfers James Milliken and Devin Brooks, both juniors, should help. Brooks can ease the burden on Chatman as the prime ball-handler.
“(Milliken) has a really good feel for the game,” Doug McDermott says. “He doesn’t hunt shots. He’s looking for the post and keeps his eyes up.”
Junior guard Avery Dingman (3.7 ppg) is a career 40.7-percent shooter from behind the arc. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Zierden is also a good shooter.
Creighton went to the junior colleges in an attempt to upgrade its athletic ability in the backcourt. Devin Brooks can push the ball and get it to shooters. He averaged 5.6 assists for Iowa Western Community College, which advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament. Guard James Milliken, from Cowley (Kan.) Community College, averaged 18.5 points and made 42.2 percent of his threes. Coaches will consider redshirting freshman center Zach Hanson.
Factoid: 25.7. Doug McDermott averaged 25.7 points in nine games vs. teams ranked in the top 50 of the RPI last season. He scored a season-high 41 points in a win over Final-Four bound Wichita State.
Creighton leaves a comfortable home in the MVC for a bigger challenge, one filled with big names and schools with similar resources and history. Few schools will benefit more from the recent wave of conference realignment. There are risks — the Bluejays need to recruit a higher level of athlete, and they are faced with the difficulties of geographic isolation. The return of Doug McDermott and Gibbs should make the first Big East season memorable.
“Every night, we’re going to have to bring it,” Chatman says. “We have a lot of high hopes and aspirations.”
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Notre Dame and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 15 Notre Dame Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (11-7 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Mike Brey (285-142 at Notre Dame)
ACC projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
“I like the veteran group that we’ll have taking us into a new league,” says coach Mike Brey, who enters his 14th season with the Irish.
Notre Dame has size and experience up front and a reinforced backcourt.
“People have said we play a little more like the ACC teams, and that’s been an advantage for us in the Big East,” Brey says. “We’re skilled. That second big guy is able to face the bucket. In the ACC, the biggest difference is the second big, or a 4-man who spreads you out and can make a shot. It’s a tricky match-up. We’ve always had the ability to play like that. I’m interested to see what gives.”
The Irish must learn to play without Jack Cooley, who won the league’s most improved player award as a junior, and then claimed first-team All-Big East honors as a senior when he averaged 13.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
“Jack was the ultimate get-a-second-shot guy,” Brey says. “We don’t have an offensive rebounder as good as Jack Cooley.”
Brey will rely upon a trio of 6-10 players — fifth-year seniors Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman and sophomore Zach Auguste — to compensate for the loss of Cooley.
Knight moved into the starting lineup early in the 2013 Big East season when veteran Scott Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“He flat-out saved us,” Brey says. “If Tom Knight doesn’t come to the party, we’re going to the NIT.”
Sherman was inconsistent in his first year of eligibility after transferring from Michigan State, but he was huge down the stretch and in postseason play. Auguste emerged when Sherman struggled.
Pat Connaughton, a 6-5 junior, rebounds well enough to play the 4 spot and carried the Irish from beyond the arc in the Big East Tournament.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
The loss of sharpshooters Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis in recent years took Notre Dame’s outside game down a peg. But the Irish are solid in the backcourt with veteran guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant as well as sophomore Cameron Biedscheid, who must improve his defense and outside shooting consistency.
Freshman point guard Demetrius Jackson, a McDonald’s All-American, shooting guard Steve Vasturia and swingman V.J. Beachem provide ample depth.
The Irish now have a backcourt with the athleticism to contend with the ACC’s up-tempo pace.
“I’d like to see a Grant-Atkins-Jackson perimeter,” Brey says. “Can we pressure the ball a little more instead of just playing position defense all the time? I like that look. Notre Dame has never had a perimeter with that kind of a gear.”
Notre Dame’s perimeter play will get a boost with the addition of local standout Demetrius Jackson, sharpshooter Steve Vasturia and athletic swingman V.J. Beachem. Another local product — freshman power forward Austin Torres — may redshirt in 2013-14 but gives the Irish long-term punch up front. A pair of 6-9 sophomores — Eric Katenda and Austin Burgett — could help up front.
Factoid: 11. Notre Dame enjoyed a winning Big East record in 11 of its final 13 seasons in the league (all under Mike Brey). The Irish did not have a winning conference mark in any of their first five seasons in the Big East.
Despite the loss of Cooley, a double-double machine, the Irish have size up front and a faster-paced backcourt, which takes them into their new conference prepared for a variety of styles.
“The Big East was more brute force,” Brey says. “In the Big East, if they had a wide open 15-footer, they’d still try to come at you and drive it down your throat. In the ACC, guys are going to take (the shot) a little more often. That’s kind of how we played.
“The one thing we hang our hat on is our efficiency on the offensive end. We don’t turn it over, we’re going to get a good shot, and we’re going to control tempo.”
Of concern to Brey is moving from a conference accustomed to getting eight, nine, even 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The ACC placed only four teams in the NCAAs a year ago. But Brey’s Irish have a way of adapting to the landscape, which led to an impressive 38–16 mark in their last three seasons in the Big East.
“We had such a consistent and respected identity in the Big East that you’d like to get off to a very good start in the ACC,” Brey says. “We want an NCAA bid in our first year in this new league.”
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on New Mexico and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 14 New Mexico Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-6 (13-3 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Craig Neal (first season)
Mountain West projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Sweet 16
The once-beloved boy wonder blamed everybody else for his team’s meltdown and then authored a stirring escape and landed one of the top jobs in college basketball. Alford bailed for UCLA 10 days after signing a 10-year extension with New Mexico, which included a hefty buyout. He was replaced by longtime assistant Craig Neal, who turned down an opportunity to join his friend in Los Angeles’ shark tank to swim around in Albuquerque’s fishbowl.
The man affectionately nicknamed “Noodles” for his wiry build as a player at Georgia Tech will try to cross off benchmarks left unchecked by his predecessor.
A breathless fan base — which watched the Lobos win the Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament titles, crack the top 10, get a No. 3 seed and fizzle against a double-digit seed for the second time in six years — wants desperately to believe what Neal told reporters at his introductory news conference: “Steve set the bar really high, and I’m going to jump over it.”
With four of five starters returning from a 29–6 squad, and emboldened by a groundswell of support for its new head coach, New Mexico could finally break through, provided it shores up its offensive deficiencies.
The early-season emergence of starting forward Cameron Bairstow and center Alex Kirk forced the Lobos to switch from a four-guard lineup to the more traditional three-guard set.
Kirk, once the biggest question mark because of offseason back surgery two years ago, is now, arguably, the Lobos’ most indispensable player, a point hammered home when the second-team All-MWC big man admitted he was grappling with graduating early and following Alford to UCLA because he wouldn’t have to sit out a year. Kirk averaged 12.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds in 2012-13, and has a feathery outside touch. He also had 63 blocks, a big reason he became only the second Lobo to make the MWC All-defensive team. The 6-9 Bairstow played surprisingly well last season but won’t fly under any team’s radar this year.
Both Kirk and Bairstow should be confident heading into the 2013-14 season after they played for their respective countries in the World University Games.
Neal will finally have Obij Aget, a 7-foot center originally from Sudan who was a part of the Lobos’ 2012 signing class but never enrolled at New Mexico after tearing his ACL.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Shooting guard Kendall Williams — at times a sturdy pillar, other times a shrinking violet — is the reigning MWC Player of the Year after averaging a team-high 13.3 points, highlighted by a 46-point explosion against Colorado State in which he made a MWC record 10 3-pointers.
New Mexico will rely on Williams more than ever in the absence of 3-point marksman Tony Snell, who left for the NBA after his junior season. Deshawn Delaney, a transfer from Vincennes (Ind.) University, is expected to fill Snell’s spot. Kansas transfer Merv Lindsay gives the Lobos another option on the wing.
Guard Arthur Edwards started 26 games and made 40 percent of his 3-pointers for a Northwest Florida State team that played in its second straight National Junior College Division I championship.
Gone is Alford’s sharpshooting son, Bryce, who followed his dad to UCLA, but in his place is perhaps a more dynamic newcomer, Cullen Neal. The true freshman could see minutes this year after getting out of his Letter-of-Intent with Saint Mary’s to join forces with father, Craig.
At the helm of it all is heady point guard Hugh Greenwood, the only returning player to start every game last season. The Aussie averaged five rebounds per game and led the team in boards eight times.
Guards Deshawn Delaney and Arthur Edwards will give New Mexico a much-needed perimeter presence. Local product Cullen Neal is a high-energy player, known for riling up opposing fans. Tim Myles played for the same AAU team that produced ex-Lobo Tony Danridge and current Lobo Kendall Williams. Obij Aget was originally a part of New Mexico’s 2012 recruiting class. Merv Lindsay redshirted in 2012-13 after transferring from Kansas.
Factoid: 9. New Mexico won nine games in league play in 2012-13 in which it failed to shoot better than 40 percent from the field. The Lobos compensated by holding opponents to 39 percent shooting, the second-best defensive number in program history.
Look for the Lobos to transition from being a squad that grinds out low-scoring bloodbaths into a more wide-open, offensively potent ball club under Neal. If Williams can play with more consistency, not only will New Mexico battle for top shelf in the Mountain West, but it also might, for once, be around for the latter stages of March.
*photo courtesy of Karsen King Welch/UNM
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 9, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.
Bengals (6-2) at Dolphins (3-4)
A pair of Texas-born and bred gunslingers go toe-to-toe in South Florida, when Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill square off on Thursday. Bengals by 4
Falcons (2-5) at Panthers (4-3)
Cam Newton had arguably his most impressive game as a pro last season against Atlanta, the NFC South division rival that also happens to be the ATL native’s hometown team. Superman threw for 287 yards, two TDs and zero INTs, while rushing for 116 yards and one TD in a 30–20 win at Carolina in Week 14 last year. Panthers by 5
Vikings (1-6) at Cowboys (4-4)
Adrian Peterson’s offensive linemen were gifted snowmobiles by the 2,000-yard MVP runner earlier this week. Now the big fellas will need to clear a path for A.D., a Palestine, Texas, native playing in front of friends and family in Big D. Cowboys by 7
Saints (6-1) at Jets (4-4)
Rob Ryan vs. Rex Ryan will be a Big Apple heavyweight bout just short of King Kong vs. Godzilla. One of Buddy’s boys will leave with dinner table bragging rights. Saints by 8
Titans (3-4) at Rams (3-5)
Why isn’t the Jeff Fisher Bowl in Nashville? Probably because the gravel-voiced, mustachioed coach demanded to have homefield advantage against the Titans-Oilers franchise he coached from 1994-2010. And this time, fans might actually show up in St. Louis — unlike the sparsely populated Monday night game played opposite Game 5 of the World Series. Titans by 4
Chiefs (8-0) at Bills (3-5)
Alex Smith has posted a remarkable 27–5–1 record over the last three seasons. That is serious “game management,” Captain Checkdown. Chiefs by 5
Chargers (4-3) at Redskins (2-5)
San Diego takes the flight from the West Coast for an Eastern Time Zone 1 p.m. kickoff. That’s usually not good for the split stats. But these Bolts have been electric on the East Coast, with wins at Philadelphia and Jacksonville this year. Redskins by 1
Eagles (3-5) at Raiders (3-4)
Chip Kelly has a revolving door at quarterback, with Mike Vick limping to the bench, Nick Foles clearing out the concussion cobwebs and rookie Matt Barkley trying to get up to speed. Meanwhile, the Silver-and-Black feel like its found a star quarterback in Terrelle Pryor — who, come to think of it, would probably be pretty darn good at running Kelly’s spread-option offense. Raiders by 2
Buccaneers (0-7) at Seahawks (7-1)
The Jaguars were unheard of 28-point underdogs on the road against the Broncos in Week 6. The Bucs opened as 16-point underdogs on the road against the Seahawks. That seems low considering Seattle’s average margin of victory at home is 20 points, including a 45–17 win over Jacksonville — Tampa Bay’s misery-loving company in the two-team winless club. Seahawks by 16
Ravens (3-4) at Browns (3-5)
The original Browns return to their original hometown to take on the expansion Browns. In Week 2, the Ravens (a team that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996) defeated the Browns (a team that rejoined the NFL in 1999), 14–6. Judging from recent history, the timing of this contest couldn’t be worse. Baltimore is 10–1 in games following its bye week since 2002 and 5–0 after a bye under John Harbaugh. Ravens by 3
Steelers (2-5) at Patriots (6-2)
Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have won a combined five Super Bowl rings. There’s no denying their past success. This season? Not so much. Big Ben has eight TDs, seven INTs and just two wins, while Tom Terrific has nine TDs, six INTs and five sub-250-yard games. Patriots by 7
Colts (5-2) at Texans (2-5)
Indy and Houston have squared off twice since the Andrew Luck era began. In those two meetings, each team came away with a 1–1 record and a combined score of 45–45. The tiebreaker this week might not be as evenly matched. The Colts are fresh off a bye week. Last season, Luck took down the Packers in his coming out party after an off week. Meanwhile, the Texans are in the midst of a quarterback crisis, starting Case Keenum over a healthy Matt Schaub. Colts by 4
Bears (4-3) at Packers (5-2)
No need to “Daaa-ble Check,” this Monday night party is definitely in grill class. Da Bears take on Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at Lambeau Field in the 187th meeting in the league’s longest running rivalry. Dating back to 1921, Chicago leads the all-time series against Green Bay, 92–88–6. However, the Cheeseheads from Title Town are currently riding a six-game winning streak over Bill Swerski’s Superfans from the Windy City. Packers by 10
Last week: 11–3 // Season: 76–44
The 2013 NFL season has already reached halftime — but not the one Bruno Mars will be performing at during Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. It’s way too early to start engraving the hardware, but after the first four games, these are the playmakers who have distinguished themselves as award-worthy:
Most Valuable Player
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Already a four-time MVP (2003, ’04, ’08, ’09), Manning is in the process of putting together the finest season of his Hall of Fame career. The 16th-year veteran has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,919 yards, 29 TDs and six INTs for a 119.4 passer rating.
Offensive Player of the Year
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Megatron has been destroying defenses this season, with 47 catches for 821 yards and seven TDs through just seven games. Johnson is not quite on pace to break his own single-season receiving yards record (1,964 yards in 2012) but he is on pace for 1,876 yards and 16 TDs.
Defensive Player of the Year
Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks
The undisputed leader of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, Sherman has been talking the talk and walking the walk — with swagger. The 6'3", 195-pounder out of Stanford via Compton has four INTs returned for 124 yards (31.0 ypr) and a 58-yard pick six.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
It’s a wide open field for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But if Lacy stays healthy and keeps up his recent pace (296 rushing yards and two TDs from Weeks 6-8), he could wrap up the hardware and, more important, give Aaron Rodgers a little help.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills
The No. 46 overall pick out of Oregon has made an immediate splash in the NFL. Alonso has 81 total tackles, four INTs for 38 yards, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs
The former No. 1 overall draft pick was thrown to the scrap heap by the 49ers in favor of Colin Kaepernick last season. One team’s trash is another team’s treasure. Smith has thrown for 1,795 yards, nine TDs and four INTs for 8–0 Kansas City.
Coach of the Year
Andy Reid, Chiefs
After being booed out of Philadelphia by the Santa-hating masses, Reid put on a big red jacket and took his bag of tricks to Kansas City, where he has the Chiefs poised to go from worst (2–14 in 2012) to first.
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the unbeaten Chiefs to the winless Bucs and Jaguars.
1. Chiefs (8-0) “Baby Andy Reid” Halloween costume goes viral.
2. Colts (5-2) Reggie Wayne undergoes surgery during bye week.
3. Broncos (7-1) Peyton Manning has three INTs, lost fumble in win.
4. Seahawks (7-1) Golden Tate taunts Rams, apologizes postgame.
5. 49ers (6-2) Joe Montana critical of new stadium in Santa Clara.
6. Packers (5-2) Convert 15-of-20 third-or-fourth downs in victory.
7. Patriots (6-2) Tom Brady’s throwing hand under constant scrutiny.
8. Saints (6-1) Drew Brees completes passes to 10 different targets.
9. Bengals (6-2) Marvin Jones catches franchise record four TDs.
10. Lions (5-3) Matthew Stafford impromptu QB sneak seals win.
11. Chargers (4-3) Philip Rivers, wife Tiffany welcome seventh child.
12. Cowboys (4-4) Tyron Smith holding penalty gives Lions new life.
13. Ravens (3-4) Sign Bernard Scott to add depth to injured backfield.
14. Panthers (4-3) Record over .500 mark for first time since 2008.
15. Bears (4-3) Brandon Marshall predicts early return for Jay Cutler.
16. Titans (3-4) Bury owner Bud Adams (1923-2013) on bye week.
17. Rams (3-5) St. Louis hosts loss on MNF, Game 5 of World Series.
18. Cardinals (4-4) Larry Fitzgerald youngest player to 800 receptions.
19. Raiders (3-4) Terrelle Pryor rushes for QB-record 93-yard score.
20. Jets (4-4) Geno Smith throws two pick-sixes in 40-point loss.
21. Giants (2-6) Eli has 2–0 record, one TD, zero INTs last two weeks.
22. Eagles (3-5) Lose 10th consecutive game at home at “the Linc.”
23. Redskins (2-5) Mike Shanahan loses his Mile High homecoming.
24. Falcons (2-5) Outrushed by Cardinals, 201-to-27 yards, in loss.
25. Texans (2-5) Case Keenum to start, Matt Schaub now backup.
26. Bills (3-5) Mario Williams records 11th sack of year in defeat.
27. Dolphins (3-4) Suffer fourth straight loss after 3–0 start to season.
28. Browns (3-5) Travis Benjamin out for season after tearing ACL.
29. Vikings (1-6) Cordarrelle Patterson scores 109-yard return TD.
30. Steelers (2-5) Lose three O-linemen to injury in loss at Oakland.
31. Buccaneers (0-7) Have lost 12 of last 13 games dating back to 2012.
32. Jaguars (0-8) London’s “home” team loses in front of 83,559 fans.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant said he was the best at what “he does” and Johnson was the best at what “he does.” Apparently, Bryant’s the best at throwing tantrums on the sideline in a losing effort and the receiving machine known as Megatron is the best at making plays between the lines. Johnson had 14 catches for a career-high 329 yards (23.5 ypc) and one TD during a 31–30 come-from-behind victory over Dallas. Johnson’s receiving yardage total is the second-most in NFL history, trailing L.A. Rams receiver Flipper Anderson’s 336 yards set in 1989 in an overtime game against the Saints.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
New Orleans’ band leader threw five TDs in a single game for the sixth time in his career during a 35–17 win over Buffalo. Brees completed 26-of-34 passes for 332 yards, five TDs and zero INTs for a season-high 146.1 passer rating. Strangely enough, Brees has zero picks in games in which he throws five scoring strikes. He did, however, throw one INT during his career-high six-TD effort back in 2009. Slacker. Of Brees’ five TD passes, two deep balls went to rookie speedster Kenny Stills, two red zone over-the-middle laser beams to tight end Jimmy Graham and one score to Lance Moore.
Antrel Rolle, S, Giants
With the Giants offense able to muster just five Josh Brown FGs, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense was called on to carry the load during a 15–7 victory at NFC East rival Philadelphia. Rolle led the way with a stat-stuffing performance that included five total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one INT of Michael Vick before the Eagles dual-threat passer injured his hamstring and was replaced by rookie Matt Barkley. For the game, New York held Philly to 201 total yards, 3-of-14 conversions on third-or-fourth-down and zero offensive TDs.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
The No. 187 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Ellington made the most out of NFL start No. 1 during a 27–13 victory over the Falcons. The 5'9", 199-pound rookie out of Clemson had 15 carries for 154 yards (10.3 ypc) and a highlight-reel 80-yard sprint to the end zone. Ellington’s breakout performance came just hours after his cousin, South Carolina Gamecocks receiver Bruce Ellington, had a 10-catch, 136-yard, two-TD outburst in a thrilling double-overtime win at Missouri.
There is a reason the Cleveland Browns have been to the playoffs one time since re-joining the NFL in 1999 and only twice since '89. And it’s the same reason any team wins or loses games in the modern NFL.
The Browns lost their third consecutive game on Sunday, falling to 3-5 after briefing leading the AFC North a few weeks ago. Jason Campbell got his first career start for Cleveland, making him the third different starting quarterback in 2013 already.
Campbell got the start because both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer have gotten injured this year. Which means, since 1999 Cleveland has started 20 different quarterbacks. Over that time the Browns have won 76 games, lost 156, posted two winning seasons and are now on their sixth head coach.
Three of those 20 quarterbacks were first-round picks and fans in America’s Comeback City should expect a fourth in May. The 2014 NFL quarterback class might be the deepest and most versatile group the league has seen in decades and the Browns own two first-round picks. Veteran pocket passers like AJ McCarron and Derek Carr fit the pro-style systems perfectly. Dynamic senior gunslingers like Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd have the ability to stay in the pocket but can also move around if needed. And explosive underclass dual-threats like Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Braxton Miller and Brett Hundley might actually be the most coveted of the bunch.
Regardless of who Cleveland wants, it makes no sense for the Browns not to go early on a QB in the draft — especially, in the modern rookie salary cap era. But Manziel might be the best fit. He has the attitude and makeup to succeed anywhere in the country, but it takes a special persona to win in a town like Cleveland. He is tough as nails, is the most entertaining player in the college game and would instantly help boost ticket sales. Sure, there are questions marks surrounding his ability to be an accurate NFL passer, but he definitely moves the needle in a big way. Which is something that has been missing under center in Cleveland since Bernie Kosar left town.
How badly do the Browns need a star quarterback? Take a look at who Cleveland has had throwing passes since 1999:
* - First-round pick
Some stats to consider:
• Brian Hoyer is the only starting Browns quarterback since 1999 with a winning record. He was 3-0 this year before getting hurt.
• In just 19 starts, Brandon Weeden is third amongst Browns quarterbacks with 4,539 yards, behind only Tim Couch and Derek Anderson during that span.
• Four players have only one career start for the Browns. Spergon Wynn, Bruce Gradkowski, Thaddeus Lewis and Jason Campbell. They have combined for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Campbell will get his second start on Sunday.
• Seven of the 20 QBs to start for Cleveland since 1999 failed to win a single game. Two others won only one game.
• Only four Cleveland quarterbacks have completed more than 60 percent of their passes (the league average is 61 percent): Kelly Holcomb, Thaddeus Lewis, Charlie Frye and Jake Delhomme.
• The Green Bay Packers have started three quarterbacks since 1992. Brett Favre (253 games started), Aaron Rodgers (85) and Matt Flynn (1).
The college football season enters November with a less-than-stellar week of games, but hosts Braden Gall and David Fox try to make the best of it.
On this week’s podcast:
• Reviewing wins by Oregon and Stanford, setting up a major Thursday meeting next week. Fox and Gall explain why Oregon’s defense is perpetually overlooked.
• Breaking down the heartbreak at Missouri and why the Tigers are no longer an SEC East frontrunner despite behind ahead in the standings.
• The Minnesota loss may be another referendum on the tenure of Bo Pelini at Nebraska. We outline what he’s achieved and what he hasn’t and if it’s time for Nebraska to make a change.
• In this week’s games, why Michigan may be in for a world of hurt against Michigan State and why Texas Tech is still more impressive after a loss than Oklahoma State has been all season.
• And finally, in the big game this week, why Duke Johnson may be the only hope for Miami in Tallahassee.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
Matt Kenseth was predictably able to overcome the hurdles in front of him last week, the Chase’s seventh round, at Martinsville. Now, his ballyhooed two-man NASCAR points battle with Jimmie Johnson heads to Texas Motor Speedway at a draw. For Kenseth, the intermediate racetrack is a sight for sore eyes; however, he’ll have to contend with Johnson, who isn’t getting near enough credit for his own Texas driving acumen.
Johnson is the defending winner of the Texas Chase race and had he not encountered some retention problems on restarts in the most recent Sprint Cup Series event there, held in April, he’d be heading into this weekend’s tie-breaking slugfest as the favorite among the two championship combatants.
-7 Johnson’s net loss of seven positions on seven restarts in the spring helped keep him from the lead pack.
The No. 48 car didn’t lead a lap — it’s usually a good sign when not leading is a rarity — there in April en route to a sixth-place finish. It wasn’t a bad points day, but I’m guessing Johnson isn’t aiming for satisfactory results amid a heated title battle.
If Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus can replicate last year’s setup in this race (the No. 48 ranked first in average green-flag speed, leading to 168 laps led and a dramatic win) and enjoy some late-race restart luck (Johnson retained position 100 percent of the time from the preferred groove on restarts in the final 10 percent of races during the 26-race regular season), then the five-time champs will be, once again, extremely difficult to defeat.
Kenseth isn’t a slouch, though.
11 for 11 In all 11 races of the CoT/Gen-6 era at Texas, Kenseth has finished inside the top 20.
At first glance, that seems like an easy feat, but Kenseth is the only driver in the series to have accomplished it. Of course, he is far better than a 20th-place finish. He ranks second in Production in Equal Equipment Ratings (PEER) at Texas in that time frame and saw a run of top-5 finishes limited to five straight with his 12th-place result in the spring race, despite ranking in the top four for average running position (6.7) and average green-flag speed in the race.
5.5 Greg Biffle’s average finish across the last 10 Texas races is a series-best 5.5.
Even in lean Roush Fenway Racing years, Biffle is a bad hombre in the Lone Star State. The 1.5-mile quad oval is inarguably his best track; he ranks first in the series in PEER and led the second-most laps (452, trailing only Kyle Busch’s 487) in that span. To date, a late-race surge from 23rd to ninth and a confrontation with Johnson — all at Martinsville — have been the only noise he has made in the Chase. Sunday’s event is statistically the best chance he has to capitalize on his inclusion in this year’s playoff.
306 The suspension of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 car broke on lap 306 during the spring race at Texas, while Gordon was running in the top three.
An Internet search for “Jeff Gordon + Texas” would likely yield video clips of his 2010 fight on the backstretch with Jeff Burton. It makes sense that it would. Ranked 13th in PEER, Gordon isn’t necessarily a standout in Fort Worth, but he is capable of high-level performance. Despite his 18.6-place average finish over the last three races there, he managed to rank inside the top 10 for average running position (eighth, eighth and third) in each outing.
0.714 Kasey Kahne’s replacement-level Chase PEER of 0.714 is the worst among all Chasers.
Kahne’s sleepy playoff has included three finishes of 27th or lower, anchoring down a 20.3-place average finish. It has been the Chase from hell for a driver who won twice during the 26-race regular season. The closest he came to looking like himself was a 138-laps led, runner-up performance at Charlotte. Unfortunately for Kahne and the No. 5 team, his past Charlotte success — he ranks first in PEER there — doesn’t translate to its sister track in Texas. Kahne ranks 19th in PEER at Texas, with just two top-5 finishes, and five finishes of 19th or worse, in his last 10 starts there. With championship aspirations derailed, Kahne will be merely trying to hang on for the ride on Sunday.
+16 Austin Dillon is currently projected to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship by a 16-point margin over top challenger Sam Hornish.
Dillon won’t have the only cowboy hat at the Texas track this weekend, but he does stand out in this regard; based on past relevant averages, he is slated to gain eight points on Hornish in the next three races after making up ground at Charlotte (he finished second), previously an unkind track to the future Richard Childress Racing Cup Series driver. If Dillon holds course without winning a race, he will become the first driver to claim the Nationwide title without winning a race in his title-winning season in the series’ 32-year history.
David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 29.
• October's almost over, so here's a nice rundown of the lovely ladies of sport for the month, including Katherine Webb (pictured).
• Golden Tate almost salvaged an unwatchable Monday Night game with the most epic taunt we've seen in a while, one that almost turned an uncontested touchdown into a contested one. Of course, the pearl-clutchers took to Twitter to scold him for it.
• Big Papi is carrying the Red Sox. They haven't trailed since his dugout pep talk. Oh, and he's 11-for-15 in the Series.
• Greg Schiano has a brilliant plan to salvage the Bucs' season: He's going to use Darrelle Revis, the game's best cover corner, in man coverage. Suck on that, haters.
• Yesterday, we brought you Baby Andy Reid and Kid Kliff Kingsbury. Here's a whole gallery of kids dressed as coaches. Love the Dana Holgorsen.
• The New York Rangers' Twitter feed had an unfortunate misspelling last night. Comes with a language warning, so you know it's bad.
• Rob Gronkowski's life is a bit of a cartoon already, so no surprise that he and his bros are pitching an animated show about their family.
• We're only 100 days out from the Sochi Olympics, and the U.S. team is wracked by injuries. The good news is, Lindsey Vonn's on a media blitz to talk about her Olympic hopes. Last night, she was on Letterman, where she revealed that Tiger sucks at skiing, and she made a hole-in-one in her first round of 18 holes.
• A Halloween week treat: Ranking The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" episodes.
• It's good to be the King: Go behind the scenes of Golf Digest's cover shoot with Arnold Palmer and Kate Upton.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET today. The Minnesota Vikings are 1-6 and seemingly headed nowhere. Should the team seriously consider trading its franchise running back and the reigning league MVP? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross weigh in with their thoughts.
First, let me state for the record, that Adrian Peterson is the best running back I have ever watched or covered professionally in a decade of being in the business. He is the most physically gifted runner to come out of high school since Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson in the 80s. He is great. But the question about his future in Minneapolis is one that the Vikings brass should be asking themselves after falling to 1-6 on the season Sunday night. There are more than a few good reasons why Minnesota should trade their star tailback.
Peterson is due over $60 million in salary from 2014 to the end of his contract following the 2017 season. He hits the Vikings salary cap with over $14 million in each of the next four seasons, so taking that contract off the books opens up a tremendous amount of space to rebuild a roster. He plays the most destructive position on the field, has an extremely violent running style and a history of serious injury. All-Day Peterson, who will be 29 years old at the start of the '14 season, never comes out of the game and has touched the ball 21.8 times per game for his career — over 2,000 touches in seven seasons. Should that continue, he'd be nearing 4,000 career touches by the end of his contract. Only three players have ever topped 4,000 touches in a career: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Curtis Martin. Needless to say, his best years are likely behind him.
Lastly, his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Browns just got a first-round pick for Trent Richardson, a guy who is very talented but has averaged 3.4 yards per carry for his career. If T-Rich is worth a first-rounder, albeit a lower pick, what would A.D. be worth? Two firsts? A first and a second? Three No. 2s? Peterson is a huge cap hit, plays a devalued and high-risk position, has already used up a lot of his career tread and won't ever be worth as much on the open market as he is right now.
I would hate it for the people of Minnesota, but Vikings fans know all too well what can happen to a team that trades away a star tailback for small boatload of draft picks. The Cowboys acquired three first-round picks, three second-round picks and three Super Bowl championships for Herschel Walker in 1989.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
To borrow a phrase from a wildly successful musician who recently entered the sports agency business, Minnesota has close to 99 problems but Adrian Peterson isn’t one of them. And while he clearly represents the best trading chip the Vikings possess, there is just no way the team will get a proper return for the reigning NFL MVP and the league’s top running back.
In 1989, Minnesota traded for Dallas’ Herschel Walker, one of the top running backs in the game at that time. The cost for the Vikings was high — five players and six draft picks. The Cowboys turned those draft picks into the likes of Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s while Walker played just three seasons for the Vikings, helping them get to the playoffs just once.
While Peterson (28) is around the same age as Walker (27) when he was traded and is considerably more accomplished, there is no way the Vikings can even hope for that same type of return, not in the current NFL. The Indianapolis Colts got Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a 2014 first-round pick in September. Richardson may not compare to Peterson in terms of production, but he is six years younger, a factor that has become even more important when it comes to running backs.
If anything, Peterson could be among the last of what is becoming an endangered species — the workhorse running back. More and more teams are either employing a running back-by-committee approach in their backfield or moving on to the “next” guy as soon as the current one starts showing signs of slowing down. Case in point, no running backs were taken in the first round of April’s draft for the first time since 1963.
There’s no denying that Peterson is worthy of a Walker-esque haul in a trade. He’s the best running back in the NFL and one of the best to ever play the position. But there is no team that will give the Vikings that many players and picks, not in this new era of the rookie salary cap. To put it simply, Peterson is an once-in-a-lifetime player and it would take a historic trade to validate getting rid of him. Like the one Minnesota did 24 years ago. Sorry Vikings fans, I don’t see history repeating.
— Mark Ross
Similar to last week, fantasy owners figure to have their work cut out for them with six teams on bye in Week 9. No Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants and San Francisco means a lot of fantasy firepower is already on the bench. Add to that several other key players who aren’t expected to play and it looks like the waiver wire/free agent pool will be a popular destination yet again this week.
The players listed in Athlon Sports’ weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Teams on bye in Week 9: Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants, San Francisco
Week 8 Recap: Andy Dalton continued his hot streak, throwing for 325 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in the Bengals’ rout of the Jets. Dalton now has 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions over his last three games. Next up is a Thursday night visit to Miami.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith is not known for being a big-time fantasy producer, but he’s actually top 15 at his position for the season and has more yards passing than Andrew Luck and Cam Newton and more total touchdowns (10) than Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III. The main reason a guy like Smith would be appealing this week is because of the matchup with the Bills’ 26th-ranked defense and the fact that the likes of Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Manning are all on bye, while Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Sam Bradford are injured.
Other possible bye-week replacement QBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Terrelle Pryor, OAK vs. Philadelphia; Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at New England; Joe Flacco, BAL at Cleveland; Ryan Tannehill, MIA vs. Cincinnati (Thurs.); and Jason Campbell, CLE vs. Baltimore
Week 8 Recap: Mike James produced 64 total yards in his first career NFL start in the Buccaneers’ loss to the Panthers on Thursday night. James should continue to get the majority of the backfield touches, although Doug Martin (shoulder) is expected to return at some point. Chris Ivory carried the ball just six times for 11 yards in the Jets’ blowout loss to the Bengals. Roy Helu Jr. got a total of six touches against Denver and finished with only 25 total yards. Jacquizz Rodgers carried the ball just twice and had two receptions as Steven Jackson returned and the Falcons’ running game managed a total of 27 yards rushing in the loss to the Cardinals.
Andre Brown, New York Giants
The Giants are on bye this week, but Brown is expected to return in Week 10. He has been on injured reserve since breaking his leg in the final preseason game. Brown was expected to play a big role in the Giants’ backfield entering this season and as long as he’s healthy, there’s no reason to expect that to change. Especially since the current cast of characters is made up of retreads Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis, neither of which were even with the Giants to start the season. Jacobs has missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury, while Hillis is averaging less than three yards per carry in two games with the G-Men. David Wilson (neck) is still out due to a neck injury, so there’s not much competition keeping Brown from seeing the same number of touches that allowed him to generate 5.3 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last season.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are another team on bye this week, but anytime a rookie running back piles up 154 yards rushing, he deserves mention. That is especially true for Ellington, since 1) he’s available in nearly half of Yahoo! leagues and 2) there’s no reason to expect his opportunities to decrease from here. While Ellington may not get 20+ carries a game, his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, along with his explosiveness and big-play ability (see his 80-yard TD sprint against Atlanta), should provide enough opportunities for consistent flex production, at minimum.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
Greene has played in just two games and has a total of five carries in them, but the Titans brought him in do more than just spell starter Chris Johnson. Greene has two 1,000-yard seasons with the Jets on his resume and was envisioned as the Titans’ short-yardage and goal-line back when he signed with the team. Coming off of the bye, Greene should be as healthy as he’s been prior to getting hurt in Week 1. It’s speculative, but it’s possible that Greene works his way back into fantasy consideration, especially should Johnson (3.2 ypc) continue to struggle. If anything, CJ owners should definitely consider adding Greene as his handcuff.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
This is another speculative play, but Stewart’s case is a little different in that he has previously been “the man” for Carolina. Stewart was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before the start of the season, as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery. He finally returned to practice last week and said he plans on playing this week. One thing that could be in his factor is that DeAngelo Williams, the current starter, bruised his quadriceps in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay. Williams should be fine for this week, especially with the extra rest that comes from playing on Thursday, and there’s no reason to expect Stewart to get a ton of carries should he get on the field Sunday against Atlanta. Still, Stewart needs to be on your radar, especially if you have Williams on your roster, as the Panthers’ backfield is about to get a little more crowded.
Other possible bye-week replacement RBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Joseph Randle, DAL vs. Minnesota; Pierre Thomas, NO at New York Jets; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); Mike Tolbert, CAR vs. Atlanta; Daniel Thomas, MIA vs. Cincinnati (Thurs.); Donald Brown, IND at Houston; and James Starks, GB vs. Chicago (Mon.)
Week 8 Recap: If not for Calvin Johnson’s near-record-breaking performance against Dallas, Marvin Jones would have been the top fantasy scorer at his position this week. Jones outscored the Jets by himself as he caught eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns in the 49-9 cakewalk. In that same game, Jeremy Kerley recorded just three catches for 27 yards. Sidney Rice was targeted three times on Monday night against Seattle before leaving with a knee injury of some sort. Darrius Heyward-Bey was on bye but he will get his chance at replacing an injured Reggie Wayne starting Sunday in Houston.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
McCluster is very hard to trust, but what can’t be ignored is that he has led the Chiefs in receiving in each of the past two games. Dwayne Bowe has been a disappointment and is now dealing with a groin injury, while Donnie Avery has cooled off considerably following his hot start. So it looks like, at least for the time being, that Alex Smith (see above) has turned his attention to McCluster. There’s no way to tell if he’ll see 10 targets against the Bills, but with so many productive wide receivers already on bye this week, McCluster may be worth a flyer.
David Nelson, New York Jets
After playing for the Bills the past three seasons, Nelson signed with the Browns before getting cut late in the preseason. He then joined the Jets in early October and has posted 15 receptions in his first four games. He has gone for 80 yards receiving in each of the last two and has seen a total of 19 targets during this time. Nelson and Geno Smith are already working well together and this could develop into an even more productive pairing as the season progresses.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
Two weeks ago, Sanders had just one catch for seven yards in the win over Baltimore. Outside of that, he’s caught at least three passes for 39 yards receiving in every game. He’s topped 70 yards three times and has two touchdown catches over his last three outings. Sanders is the type of No. 2 wideout that could provide valuable depth for a fantasy team, especially in a week like this with six teams on bye.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
The rookie from Oklahoma has seen more than five targets and caught more than three passes just once this season, but he has three touchdown receptions in his last two games and his averaging 25.2 yards per grab. Stills has caught six balls from Drew Brees over the last two contests for 193 yards and three scores. Even with Lance Moore making his way back from a hand injury, Stills has shown he can be a valuable deep threat for a potent Saints passing attack that really doesn’t have one right now.
Other possible bye-week replacement WRs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Brian Hartline, MIA vs. Cincinnati; Brandon LaFell, CAR vs. Atlanta; Donnie Avery, KC at Buffalo; Rod Streater, OAK vs. Philadelphia; Lance Moore, NO at New York Jets; and Timothy Wright*, TB at Seattle
Week 8 Recap: Jordan Reed led all receivers in Sunday’s Washington-Denver matchup with eight catches for 90 yards. Andrew Quarless caught both of his targets in his first start in place of an injured Jermichael Finley for, but they went for just 13 yards.
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
Owen Daniels will be out until at least Week 14 with a broken leg, leaving the starting tight end job in Houston all to Graham. He was productive when he was sharing snaps with Daniels, catching 17 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and those looks should only go up from here. He got eight targets from Case Keenum in his first start two weeks ago, so establishing a rapport with the new quarterback doesn’t seem to be an issue either. Graham is available in more than 75 percent of all Yahoo! leagues and a pretty strong case can be made starting him in 12-team leagues and deeper this week.
Other possible bye-week replacement TEs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Heath Miller, PIT at New England; Coby Fleener, IND at Houston; Jermaine Gresham, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); Timothy Wright*, TB at Seattle; Tyler Eifert, CIN at Miami (Thurs.); and Delanie Walker, TEN at St. Louis
Week 8 Recap: The New York Jets defense gave up 37 points, had one sack and one takeaway (INT) in a 49-9 shellacking at the hands of Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Colts have been suggested before, but since they are coming off of their bye, a reminder seemed in order. Indy’s DST has gotten at least one sack in every game and have only one game without a takeaway. In their last game against Denver, the Colts sacked Peyton Manning four times, one of them for a safety, and also collected three takeaways (2 INTs, 1 FR) in the win over the Broncos. The real reason the Colts are being mentioned again, however, is an upcoming schedule that begins with a Houston offense that has Case Keenum making his second career start, followed by a visit from St. Louis, who has backup quarterback Kellen Clemens under center. There are also two games with Tennessee and one more with Houston and Jacksonville on tap before the end of the season. If anything, the Colts would be a nice DST to have handy as a matchup option in certain weeks.
Other possible bye-week replacement DSTs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
New Orleans at New York Jets; Dallas vs. Minnesota; Tennessee at St. Louis; Baltimore at Cleveland
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
*Timothy Wright of Tampa Bay is both WR and TE eligible in Yahoo! leagues.
After a flurry of activity in late September/early October, the college football coach carousel has been quiet in the last few weeks. But is a period of calm signaling a busy offseason? It’s not out of the question.
Texas’ Mack Brown ranked No. 1 in the hot seat rankings just a few weeks ago, but the Longhorns have rallied with four consecutive victories. Although Texas has made some improvement, the schedule is going to get tougher, including a date at Baylor in the regular season finale.
Charlie Weis didn’t inherit a roster full of talent at Kansas, but the Jayhawks haven’t made much progress in his two seasons. The Jayhawks have lost 25 Big 12 games in a row and appear unlikely to win a conference matchup in 2013.
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini rebounded from a non-conference loss against UCLA with three consecutive victories, and the pressure on the program was on the way down. But a loss at Minnesota has Pelini back under the spotlight, as the Cornhuskers are 6-2 and have yet to play the toughest portion of their schedule.
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||1-7||Eagles have eight-game losing streak.|
|2||Mike London||2-6||Schedule only getting tougher for Cavaliers.|
|3||Charlie Weis||2-5||Jayhawks have lost 25 Big 12 games in a row.|
|4||Bo Pelini||5-2||Will Pelini coach at Nebraska in 2014?|
|5||Norm Chow||0-7||Warriors have lost four in a row by 10 points or less.|
|6||Dana Holgorsen||3-5||WVU rebuilding, but missing bowl would not sit well.|
|7||Charley Molnar||1-7||Minutemen have won just two games under Molnar.|
|8||Ron Turner||1-6||Panthers headed for dismal 1-11 season.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-5||Easy upcoming schedule could help save Enos' job.|
|10||Tim Beckman||3-4||Fighting Illini have lost 17 straight Big Ten games.|
|11||Doc Holliday||4-3||Season finale against ECU will decide C-USA East.|
|12||Todd Monken||0-7||USM has lost 55-14 in back-to-back weeks.|
|13||Mack Brown||5-2||Pressure has cooled with four consecutive victories.|
|15||P.J. Fleck||1-8||Finally broke into the win column.|
|16||Matt Rhule||1-7||Freshman QB P.J. Walker continues to impress.|
|17||Garrick McGee||2-5||Blazers just 5-14 in two years under McGee.|
|19||Doug Martin||1-7||Barely avoided bad loss against Abilene Christian.|
|20||June Jones||3-4||Can the Mustangs rally for a bowl?|
|22||Randy Edsall||5-3||Bye week should help Terps' regroup.|
|23||Carl Pelini||2-6||Forced to resign this week.|
|24||Bill Blankenship||2-5||Golden Hurricane in danger of missing bowl.|
|25||Kevin Wilson||3-4||Can the Hoosiers find answers on defense?|
|26||Dave Christensen||4-4||Loss to SJSU hampers Wyoming's bowl hopes.|
|27||Bobby Hauck||5-3||Win over Nevada was program's first since 2004.|
|31||Terry Bowden||2-7||Zips improving, but still a ways off.|
|34||Bobby Petrino||4-4||4-4 record a disappointment for WKU.|
|35||Kyle Flood||4-3||Scarlet Knights struggling with turnovers.|
|39||Jeff Quinn||6-2||Favorable schedule, but Bulls have won six in a row.|
|40||Tony Levine||6-1||Quite a turnaround for Levine and Houston in 2013.|
|53||Jim McElwain||4-4||McElwain has Rams moving in the right direction.|
|57||Bret Bielema||3-5||Bielema vs. Malzahn should be interesting this week.|
|58||Willie Taggart||2-5||Taggart searching for answers on offense.|
|59||Mark Stoops||1-6||UK playing hard for Stoops.|
|61||Dennis Franchoine||5-3||Bobcats one win away from bowl eligibility.|
|65||Dan McCarney||5-3||Quietly doing a good job in third season.|
|82||Curtis Johnson||6-2||Johnson in mix for national coach of the year.|
|85||Todd Berry||4-4||QB Kolton Browning back in the lineup.|
|90||Mark Helfrich||8-0||Strong showing in second half for Helfrich.|
|106||David Cutcliffe||6-2||Should make bowl for second consecutive season.|
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Stats to Know from Week 9
ACC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
After a loss to UCLA in early September, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini started to feel the temperature on his seat increase by a few degrees. However, the Cornhuskers rebounded by winning three games – albeit against overmatched opponents – and had some momentum going into a road date at Minnesota.
But any momentum Nebraska had was lost on Saturday, as the Cornhuskers lost 34-23 to the Golden Gophers.
The Cornhuskers have problems on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Taylor Martinez now has a hip pointer and is questionable to play in Week 10. If Martinez doesn’t start, freshman Tommy Armstrong will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
While the offense is a concern, the defense is a bigger issue for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are allowing 5.8 yards per play and have allowed 20 or more points in four games.
Pelini is feeling the heat once again after losing to Minnesota. Even at 5-2, Pelini can’t be too confident about his job status, especially with a brutal November slate that features games against Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan.
Will Bo Pelini Coach at Nebraska in 2014?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After losing to Minnesota, Bo Pelini is coaching for his job in the final month of the season. Under Pelini, Nebraska has won at least nine games in every season but doesn’t have a BCS bowl appearance and has just one top-15 finish (2009) in the final Associated Press poll. And the defense – Pelini’s strong suit – ranks ninth in the Big Ten in yards allowed. It’s fair to wonder if the expectations in Lincoln are a tad too high, especially as the program transitions to the Big Ten. However, this is Nebraska and championships are expected. The Cornhuskers could be without quarterback Taylor Martinez this Saturday against Northwestern, and the schedule won’t get easier with games against Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to close out the year. None of those five games are guaranteed victories for Nebraska. Even though Pelini seems to be losing ground, I think he will be back for another year in 2014. However, that’s banking on the Cornhuskers getting to eight or nine wins in 2013. And if Pelini returns next year, expect him to be on a short leash in terms of job security.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d imagine the only way Bo Pelini remains at Nebraska is if the Cornhuskers win the Big Ten and reach the Rose Bowl. That’s still a possibility, of course. The Huskers still have games to play against Michigan and Michigan State for the division, and 7-1 in the Legends would be a pretty big feat. But the reality is that things look pretty dire for Pelini. The program has plateaued, and part of that plateau the last five seasons has included ranked Nebraska teams losing to unranked opponents. The defense, supposedly Pelini’s strong suit, isn’t getting any better, and the Huskers are looking at a new quarterback in 2014. Pelini has put the program on steadier footing since the Bill Callahan era, but there’s no momentum left. If Pelini is still the coach in 2014 and he doesn’t have a Big Ten title, it’s going to be awfully difficult for him to recruit or keep the support of people outside the program. Nebraska may not want to look for a coach when USC and potentially Texas are open, but the Huskers may have no choice.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Needless to say, the next five weeks are critical for Bo Pelini's future at Nebraska. Best case scenario, the Huskers win four of the final five games, finish 9-3, clinch the Legends Division title and get crushed in the Big Ten title game by Ohio State. That would give Pelini his fourth division crown, an 0-4 record in conference title games and a sixth consecutive season with at least four losses. That might be the BEST case scenario for a team that just got run (literally) out of the building by Minnesota. That situation would offer one of the more unique coaching resumes ever constructed: Four division crowns and 24 losses in six seasons. Frankly, that is difficult to do and it would mean a major decision has to be made in Lincoln. However, odds are the much-maligned Nebraska defense costs the Huskers more than just one game the rest of the way, and Pelini misses out on the Big Ten title game altogether. That’s not good news for a coach who already has a tenuous relationship with his fanbase, administration and media. It feels like both parties might be benefit from an amicable divorce.
Make no mistake, Saturday's road loss to Minnesota did Pelini no favors, but Nebraska still is very much in the hunt for the Legends Division title. That was the Cornhuskers' first conference setback with games against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa left. If Big Red runs the table then guess who's going to Indianapolis? I know this may seem far-fetched right now, but the only two road games are in Ann Arbor and State College. The rest, including the pivotal meeting with the Spartans in the middle of November, are at home. At worst, Nebraska looks to have a reasonable shot at nine wins, either before or including the bowl game, which is what Pelini has done ever since he took over in 2008. I know that Husker fans have lofty expectations, and Pelini has had his share of inexplicable losses, head-shaking moments and stuck his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion. However, the bottom line is he is 54-22 overall and 31-12 in conference play as Nebraska's head coach. Does it really make sense to fire someone who has won more than 70 percent of his games? Can you guarantee me that this program will be better off in 2014 with someone other than Pelini? You would certainly be hard-pressed to find someone as colorful, that's for sure.
With nine weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear.
The second release of the BCS standings saw an expected change, as Oregon passed Florida State for the No. 2 spot. The Ducks have the edge in strength of schedule for the second half of the season, which should help Mark Helfrich’s team hold onto the No. 2 position over the Seminoles – assuming both teams win out.
The SEC’s East Division continues to be a nightmare to sort out. Missouri lost to South Carolina, which puts the Gamecocks back in the mix for the division crown. And the bowl bids for the SEC will be a battle, especially to be the team that replaces Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina all have a case to be projected for that spot, but a slight edge goes to the Aggies for now.
With the Big 12 likely short on bowl-eligible teams, a spot should open for Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Fighting Irish do not have a guaranteed bowl spot for 2013, but the Fighting Irish won’t be left out of the postseason.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with one month to go in the season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 9 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first nine weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, TCU, NC State and Boston College from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Toledo, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 9 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colorado State vs. USC|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Bowling Green vs. UNLV|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Boise State vs. Arizona|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. N'Western|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||SDSU vs. North Carolina*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||Marshall vs. Maryland|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||K-State vs. Indiana|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. Notre Dame*|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. Duke|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Clemson|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Okla. State vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. Utah State|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ga. Tech vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Texas|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Pittsburgh vs. Vanderbilt|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Va. Tech vs. Oregon State|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. E. Carolina|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. Auburn|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Iowa|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Minnesota|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan vs. Missouri|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Mich. State vs. S. Carolina|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Texas A&M vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Florida State vs. Wisconsin|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Florida vs. Cincinnati|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ball State vs. Troy|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
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ACC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
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Big Ten Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
The Chiefs continue to do things that no other team in NFL history has ever done. A wide receiver had one of the most dominant days in league history. Historic quarterbacks continue to shine (and win). Another signal-caller appears to be growing into championship form. All while one first-year coach is struggling to find someone to run his offense.
Here are the most important, interesting, historic and bizarre statistics from Week 8 of the NFL:
329: Calvin Johnson's receiving yards
Megatron is widely regarded as the most talented wide receiver in the game today. After watching him bring in a career-high 14 receptions for 329 yards in a thrilling comeback win over Dallas, it’s hard to make a case for anyone else. He fell just seven yards shy of topping the NFL single-game record set by Flipper Anderson in 1989 (336). He is now one of just five players who have ever topped 300 yards receiving in a single game. Anderson, Johnson and three other household names: Stephone Paige, 309, 1985; Jim Benton, 303, 1945; Cloyce Box, 302, 1950. Johnson had more receiving yards on Sunday than 16 other teams had total offense in Week 8. For the record, Charles Rogers, another wide receiver Detroit took with the second overall pick of the NFL Draft (2003), had 440 career receiving yards for the Lions in three seasons.
2-54: Record of NFL teams with a minus-4 turnover margin
It wasn’t just Johnson who set records in the Lions 31-30 victory over Dallas. The Lions turned the ball over four times without forcing a single turnover, becoming just the second team in NFL history to win a game with a minus-4 turnover margin. Fifty-five times an NFL team had posted a minus-4 turnover margin prior to Detroit’s win against the Cowboys. Only the "perfect" Patriots of 2007 were able to post a victory in that situation, beating the 1-14 Dolphins 28-7 two days before Christmas.
93: Terrelle Pryor's NFL-record longest TD run by a QB
On the first snap of the game, Pryor pulled the ball away from Darren McFadden on a zone-read and sprinted around the right end 93 yards for a record-setting touchdown run. It was the longest scoring scramble by a QB in NFL history. It topped Bo Jackson’s 92-yard run for the longest in Raiders history as well. More importantly, Oakland won the game 21-18 and have moved to 3-4 on the season — one game behind the wild card-leading and AFC West divisional foe San Diego. Pryor finished with 106 yards rushing on nine carries, giving him his second 100-yard rushing effort on the season. According to Elias, he is just the fourth QB since 1970 to have multiple 100-yard rushing games in the same season (Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Bobby Douglass).
60%: 8-0 teams that make it to the Super Bowl
The Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Cleveland Browns 23-17 to move to 8-0 on the season. Andy Reid’s bunch became the 20th team during the Super Bowl era to start with eight straight wins and the first after having the worst record in the league the year before. All 20 of those teams made the playoffs and 12 of the 20 (60 percent) made it to the Super Bowl. Eight of those 12 went on to win the Lombardi Trophy. The Chiefs became just the fourth team since 1970 to allow 17 points or fewer in each of the first eight games and quarterback Alex Smith became the first QB over that span to win his first eight games to start a season with a new team.
343: Career TD passes thrown by Drew Brees and Tom Brady
The Saints quarterback threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns in a convincing 35-17 win over Buffalo at home this weekend. It was an NFL-record eighth game for Brees with at least five touchdown passes. The Patriots quarterback threw for just 116 yards and one score but New England also won a key divisional game 27-17 over Miami after outscoring the Dolphins 24-0 in the second half. Both quarterbacks now have 343 career passing touchdowns, as both passed Fran Tarkenton (342) for fourth all-time in NFL history. Brees turns 35 in January and Brady just turned 36 in August, so this will be an interesting battle to track over the next few seasons. Each is 77 away from third all-time (Dan Marino, 420).
344.7: Andy Dalton average yards passing over his last three games
After the first five games of the season, the Bengals were 3-2 and Dalton was averaging just 243 yards passing per game with five TDs and five INTs. Over his last three games, however, Dalton has looked like a championship quarterback. He threw for 325 yards and five scores in the dismantling of the Jets on Sunday, giving Cincy a four-game winning streak and a commanding 2.5-game lead in the AFC North. The Bengals quarterback has topped 300 yards in three straight games, is averaging more than 100 yards per game (344.7) and has thrown 11 touchdowns against only two interceptions during that span. The last three games were just Dalton’s sixth, seventh and eighth 300-yard games of his career.
141.4: Packers' yards rushing per game
The Packers have dealt with major injuries in their receiving corps as Aaron Rodgers is without Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley for the time being. Mike McCarthy has turned to, of all things, the power running game to save the day. The Packers ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the breezy win over the Vikings on Sunday night. Green Bay is now fourth in the NFL at 141.4 yards rushing per game. It is by far the most productive a running game as Rodgers has had in his career. The Packers have never been ranked better than 14th in the NFL in rushing or averaged more than 117.8 yards per game during Rodgers six seasons as the starter. To the right is a look at the Packers' rushing attack with Rodgers under center.
109: Cordarrelle Patterson’s record-tying longest play in NFL history
The explosive rookie wide receiver for the Vikings took the opening kickoff against the Packers 109 yards for a touchdown Sunday night. It tied for the longest play in NFL history and they both happened in the Metrodome, which will be torn down following this season. As a member of the Chargers, Antonio Cromartie returned a missed Vikings field goal 109 yards for a touchdown in 2007. The 109-yarder topped 108-yard returns by Jacoby Jones (2012) and Randall Cobb (2011) as the longest kickoff return in NFL history.
239: Eagles' yards per game of total offense over the last two
Through six games, Chip Kelly’s offense was setting NFL records for offensive production in terms of yards. The Eagles were 3-3 and were posting 451.7 yards per game on offense. After totaling just 200 yards of offense, Phily lost to a Giants team that didn’t score a touchdown and was 0-6 not six days ago. It totaled just 278 in last week’s loss to the Cowboys at home. That’s 10 total points, 478 total yards and two home NFC East divisional losses. Kelly’s quarterback issues are obvious as his three options have combined for five interceptions and no touchdown passes in the last two games.