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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 10:
• Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely in the midst of a memorabilia for cash investigation. Someone more clever than me came up with the hashtag #GoneGurl. And somebody else created a makeshift memorial. Uh, guys, he's not dead.
• J.J. Watt is the first defensive lineman to score three TDs in a season since Refrigerator Perry was scoring short-yardage touchdowns in 1985.
• In this MLB postseason, the lowly relievers are outshining the dominant starters.
• 25 years after The Trade, Jimmy Johnson says that Jerry Jones tried to talk him out of it.
• I've defended Adrian Peterson in the past, but he's making it hard.
• Hockey's back, and so is blatant diving.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Texas A&M and Ole Miss enter their Week 7 showdown in College Station with a different mindset following last Saturday’s action. For the Aggies, the matchup against the Rebels represents an opportunity to get back on track after both sides of the ball were dominated in a loss to Mississippi State. On the Ole Miss sideline, this game is another opportunity to prove this team is a SEC West title contender, and the Rebels have a chance to land a potential knockout blow to Texas A&M’s hopes of contending in the SEC West.
Texas A&M is 6-0 in the overall series against Ole Miss. These two teams have met only twice as SEC opponents, with the Aggies winning both games by just three points.
Ole Miss at Texas A&M
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Texas A&M -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Ole Miss’ Secondary
It’s hard to find a weakness on Ole Miss’ defense. The Rebels have allowed only one passing touchdown in five games and limit opposing quarterbacks to just a 53.6 percent completion percentage. And throwing on the secondary means you have time to pass, which is no easy task trying to block a defensive line that’s among the nation’s best. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill started the season by throwing for 511 yards and three scores against South Carolina, and the sophomore tossed just two picks through his first five games. But Hill has struggled (relatively speaking) in his last two outings. The sophomore is completing 56 percent of his throws over his last two contests – a drop from a 69.8 mark through the first four games. And Hill has tossed four picks over his last two matchups and averaged only 5.9 yards per attempt against Mississippi State. Hill’s supporting cast needs to give its young quarterback help, as the receiving corps has struggled with dropped passes. With a talented defensive line and secondary, Ole Miss has the necessary pieces to contain Texas A&M’s offense. Can Hill get back on track against the SEC’s top pass defense? Or will the passing game struggle to take off once again?
2. Texas A&M’s Defense
There has been some improvement from Mark Snyder’s defense in 2014, but Texas A&M is still allowing 6.9 yards per play and 34.7 points per game through three SEC contests. On the bright side, the Aggies lead the conference in sacks (19) and have generated 39 tackles for a loss. With the young talent and depth concerns, it’s going to take time for Texas A&M to build an elite defense. But once again this Saturday, the Aggies are going to have their hands full with another explosive offense. Ole Miss averages 35.8 points per game and is third in the conference in third-down conversions. The Rebels can be careless with the ball (10 turnovers), but coach Hugh Freeze has an offense that’s capable of scoring 35-40 points each week. Texas A&M’s defense has allowed at least 28 points in each of its three SEC games. Will that trend continue on Saturday? And if the Aggies give up a lot of yardage to Ole Miss, can Snyder’s defense force enough turnovers or get stops on third down to limit the damage on the scoreboard?
3. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
In order for Ole Miss to knock off Alabama, quarterback Bo Wallace needed a perfect performance. Mission accomplished. The senior completed 58.1 percent of his throws and did not throw an interception on 31 attempts. Will the good Bo Wallace make another appearance this Saturday? Texas A&M’s secondary has been prone to allow big plays this year, giving up eight plays of 30 yards or more through six games. The Aggies have forced only six turnovers this year, and in order to win on Saturday, this unit has to create a few short fields for their offense. If Texas A&M doesn’t get pressure on Wallace and fails to force a turnover, the Rebels’ receiving corps will have plenty of opportunities for big plays.
Can Ole Miss avoid a major letdown in College Station? That’s the key question on Saturday night. Texas A&M desperately needs a win to stay alive in the West Division title picture, but it’s hard to pick the Aggies to win this game if the defense struggles once again. The Rebels may not open this game particularly sharp on either side of the ball, but Wallace and his receivers hit on a few big plays in the second half to allow Ole Miss to remain unbeaten.
Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Texas A&M 27
On Tuesday, November 4, “Kevin Durant: The Offseason” will debut at 10 P.M. ET on HBO. Yahoo! Sports reports that the show is "a first-person account of the life of the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar forward. Cameras and microphones were apparently embedded with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, and following him from the moment his NBA basketball season ended on May 31 until he reported to training camp for the upcoming season in late September.”
From what we know about Durant’s offseason so far, it comes as a bit of a surprise that he’d give up his privacy for it. Prior rumblings suggest the scoring sensation got into a heated spat with rapper The Game that Durant was said to owe him over a bet.
More ominous, though, has been the quaky speculation about KD’s free agency decision, despite it being two seaons away. Rival LeBron James—who happens to be executive producing two TV shows of his own, though not starring in them—has taught us that one man’s choice of team can shift the league’s power axis for years to come. And Durant is certainly one of the few men with the talent to tilt the whole game.
It’s also been just over a year since Durant joined Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency, boldly declaring the move on social media:
What, precisely, #NEWRULES means is still not entirely clear. The portentous tag has been a signal, for many, that Durant is destined to leave the Thunder, with the most recurring notion being that he’ll return home to D.C. to play for the Washington Wizards. There’s also been much chatter that the superstar’s attitude has changed for the worse under Mr. Carter’s care. Of course, Durant’s emotional, terrific “You’re the real MVP” speech of this past spring runs quite contrary to this story — he seemed as endearing and good-natured as ever in that moment.
But when Durant and HBO lift the veil — partially, at least — with this new feature, we’ll have perhaps our closest look at Durant, and likely our most substantive trace of his supposed transformation. What will we find out?
— John Wilmes
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 7, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati vs. Miami ($4000)
Legaux will get his turn under center with Gunner Kiel out to injury. He doesn’t have to do much to reach value and allow DFS players to stack another position.
1) RB Daniel Lasco, Cal vs. Washington ($4900)
Lasco has been on fire lately, with three total touchdowns in the last two games. He doesn’t look to have a huge ceiling this week, but could easily hit value with another score or two.
2) RB Jon Hilliman, BC vs. NC State ($5000)
Hilliman is on a tear, scoring two touchdowns in each of the past three games. He could shred a suspect NC State defense this week. Look for Hilliman to find pay dirt once again this week.
3) RB Larry Dixon, Army vs. Rice ($5000)
Dixon ran for 188 yards last week and could find similar success against Rice. Expect both teams to churn out the yardage on the ground this week.
1) WR De’Runnya Wilson, Miss State vs. Auburn ($4100)
Wilson has become a favorite target of Dak Prescott and could see plenty of targets in this potentially high scoring game. He could be even more heavily involved if Jameon Lewis misses the game.
2) WR DeVante Parker, Louisville vs. Clemson ($4200)
It appears that Parker could return this week from injury and comes in at a bargain price. Parker could smash his price assuming he is healthy enough to play. Monitor his status leading up to kickoff to make sure he is a full go.
1) TE Dan Vitale, Northwestern vs. Minnesota ($3000)
Vitale scored last week and a fairly consistent option at a very inconsistent position.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Colby Kirkegaard, Wyoming vs. Hawaii ($5200)
How can you not play a guy with almost the exact same last name as the greatest existentialist philosopher. He is also playing Hawaii, which doesn’t hurt either.
1) RB Chris Hairston, ECU vs. USF ($3000)
Hairston led the Pirates in carries last week and could see plenty of opportunity if Breon Allen misses this game with an injury. Hairston could be worth a flier at minimum price.
1) WR Garrett Brown, Air Force vs. Utah State ($4400)
It’s not often that an Air Force receiver will make this or any fantasy list, but Brown has scored five touchdowns over the past three games. He appears to be worth a shot at this price.
By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
Learn how to SUBSCRIBE to CollegeFootballGeek.com for FREE! Our members earn REAL CASH MONEY playing Daily Fantasy on DraftKings. Features include:
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The suspension of running back Todd Gurley has significantly altered the outlook of Georgia’s backfield for Saturday’s game against Missouri. Freshman Nick Chubb is expected to be Gurley’s replacement this week, and the true freshman is an intriguing player to watch in a critical matchup.
Chubb was a five-star recruit for coach Mark Richt, ranking as the No. 34 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite in the 2014 signing class. The Georgia native was regarded as a top-five recruit at running back and wasn’t expected to have a significant role in the backfield this year.
But at least for Saturday, the future is now in Athens, as Chubb is the Bulldogs’ best option at running back.
Junior Keith Marshall is dealing with a sprained knee and ankle and won’t be available, and fellow freshman Sony Michel is out due to a shoulder injury.
Chubb has rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 31 attempts in 2014 but has not attempted more than 11 rushes in a game this year.
Expect that to change on Saturday, as Chubb is now Georgia’s featured rusher and needs to be ready to handle 25-30 carries.
Missouri’s rush defense ranks No. 8 in the SEC and allowed 241 carries to Indiana on Sept. 20. Needless to say, the opportunities are there for Chubb to find running lanes.
It’s a lot to ask Chubb to completely replicate Gurley’s production, as the junior was arguably the leader for the Heisman and was a first-team All-America selection at the midpoint of the season.
But Chubb has the skill-set to be an every-down back for coordinator Mike Bobo. The 5-foot-11 rusher has good speed and size and is capable of handling a full workload in the SEC.
So far, the limited sample size suggests Chubb is capable of living up to his recruiting hype. Now, it’s time for the true freshman to deliver. Georgia doesn’t have any other options on Saturday, and the Bulldogs somehow need Chubb to fill Gurley’s shoes.
Gurley’s overall production and value to the team won’t be replaced, but Chubb is a future star in Athens and is capable of performing at a high level in this situation. With the spotlight on the true freshman on Saturday, he will be one of the most intriguing players to watch in Week 7.
Not having Gurley for a critical game in the East Division standings isn’t ideal, but as long as Chubb stays healthy on Saturday, he’s got the talent to keep Missouri’s defense off balance for quarterback Hutson Mason.
Chubb wasn’t expected to start in 2014. However, it’s his time to shine on Saturday. Even though Gurley leaves big shoes to fill, everything suggests the true freshman is up to the task. Can Chubb help keep Georgia's SEC East title hopes alive?
For the second week in a row, Mississippi is the epicenter of Saturday’s slate. But after Oxford grabbed the spotlight last week, the focus shifts south to Starkville, as Mississippi State hosts Auburn in a meeting of two top-five teams. The Bulldogs easily handled Texas A&M last week, while Auburn cruised to a 41-7 victory over LSU. Considering the brutal SEC West provides few breaks, a loss on Saturday doesn’t necessarily end the hopes of either team to win the conference. However, it certainly doesn’t help, as Mississippi State and Auburn both have to play Alabama and Ole Miss, while the Tigers catch Georgia in one of their crossover games with the East Division.
The message is pretty simple: Win on Saturday and take control of the SEC West – at least for now. And brace for a brutal second-half schedule.
Auburn has dominated the overall series against Mississippi State. The Tigers own a 58-26-3 edge over the Bulldogs and won last year’s game 24-20. However, three of the last four meetings between these two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less. Mississippi State’s last win over Auburn was in 2012 (28-10).
Auburn at Mississippi State
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Auburn -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Auburn’s Defense
As expected in the second year under coordinator Ellis Johnson, Auburn’s defense has taken a step forward on the stat sheet. The Tigers are allowing just 4.6 yards per play – No. 13 nationally after ranking No. 95 in 2013. Auburn’s defense also ranks second in the SEC by limiting opponents to just 14.4 points per game, second in the SEC in red zone defense and has generated 35 tackles for a loss. That’s the positive side of the numbers. On the downside, the Tigers have yet to play an offense with the explosive ability of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are incredibly balanced, averaging 267.4 passing yards per game and 274.4 rushing yards a contest. Auburn’s defense will bend, but Johnson has put the clamps on opposing offenses on third downs and in the red zone. No defense has found the right answer to stopping quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson. Will the Tigers find the right formula on Saturday?
2. The Quarterbacks
Saturday’s huge showdown is a chance for both quarterbacks to stake their claim in the Heisman conversation. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott averages 335.6 yards per game (8.2 yards per touch) and has accounted for 20 touchdowns through five contests. In last year’s game, Prescott passed for 213 yards and rushed for 133 yards and two scores in the Tigers’ 24-20 victory. Considering Prescott’s success last season and his offseason improvement, the junior presents a unique challenge to an Auburn defense that has played better so far in 2014. With all of the hype surrounding Prescott, it’s easy to forget how successful Nick Marshall has been for Auburn. The senior has passed for 755 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 392 yards and four scores so far in 2014. Marshall has tossed only one pick on 95 attempts and has three 100-yard rushing games over his last four contests. If you had to rank SEC quarterbacks, most would agree Prescott ranks ahead of Marshall in 2014 performance. And Prescott ranks ahead of Marshall in Heisman expert polls. Can the senior (Marshall) who is flying under the radar upstage the rising star in Prescott?
3. The Battle in the Trenches
Prescott and Marshall, along with skill talent in running backs Josh Robinson (Mississippi State) and Cameron Artis-Payne (Auburn) and receivers Jameon Lewis (Mississippi State) and Sammie Coates and Duke Williams (Auburn) should steal the show on Saturday. But don’t forget about the battle in the trenches, where it’s strength versus strength for both teams. Mississippi State’s front seven on defense has been tough to penetrate in 2014, limiting opponents to just 2.9 yards per carry and only two rushing scores. Marshall, Artis-Payne and speedster Corey Grant will test the effectiveness of the rush defense for the Bulldogs, and if they have success, Auburn’s playmakers on the outside will have opportunities to make plays against Mississippi State’s secondary. When the Bulldogs have the ball, they could struggle to find running room on the ground against the No. 3 rush defense in the SEC. Prescott and Robinson combined for 184 rushing yards against Texas A&M. Can Auburn’s rush defense – which has not allowed an opponent to record more than 138 yards in each of its last four games – hold strong at the point of attack?
Mississippi State has arrived as a SEC title contender under coach Dan Mullen. Winning in Starkville is not easy, but Mullen has stayed the course, recruited and developed the right talent, and the Bulldogs are on the doorstep of owning the No. 1 ranking in most national polls. Just as Mississippi State is Auburn’s biggest challenge this year, the Bulldogs are facing their best opponent of 2014. The home-field advantage is huge a plus for Mullen, along with the return of receiver Jameon Lewis from injury and center Dillon Day from suspension. Offensive fireworks are expected with two offenses averaging over 40 points per game. However, don’t be surprised if this game is a lower-scoring matchup than most expect. Picking a winner isn’t easy. These two teams are relatively even.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Mississippi State 31
At 3-3 last weekend, I feel like a winner considering how much bloodshed there was across the Top 25.
In fact, Steven Lassan’s 10-6-1 mark last week in Top 25 games makes him like some sort of Nostradamus to be honest. He’s been on a tear lately against the number, as experts begin to gain a clearer picture of each team.
On to what should be another crazy weekend of college football (which is probably why I am going after heavy favorites in the Big 5):
Last Week: 3-3
Louisville (+9.5) at Clemson
The Cardinals are a solid team but the Tigers are 4-1 against the spread and are playing at home. Clemson's defense should be able to handle Louisville's underachieving offensive line and true freshman quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson is more than capable of scoring points against pretty much anyone. Prediction: Clemson -9.5
Listen to the Week 7 preview podcast:
Michigan State (-21) at Purdue
Purdue played its heart out last week in an upset win over Illinois but it has no shot against Sparty. The Spartans need style points in a race to the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff. Look for a big number from MSU. Prediction: Michigan State -21
Texas (+14.5) at Oklahoma
Texas can’t score points and the Sooners should be angry for two major reasons. First, they were embarrassed by Oklahoma last year and just got beat by TCU. After last year and last week, fans in Dallas should expect some revenge to be exacted by Bob Stoops. Prediction: Oklahoma -14.5
Oklahoma State (-20.5) at Kansas
Kansas is wildly overmatched and is playing for an interim coach. Oklahoma State has found itself right in the heart of a Big 12 race and can’t avoid any letdowns like a trip to Lawrence. The Pokes have scored at least 37 points in each of their last four games (all wins) and Kansas has scored 17 total points in three games against Big 5 teams. Prediction: Oklahoma State -20.5
Washington (+3.5) at Cal
The Huskies are rested and facing a Cal team that has allowed 116 points in the last two games — both wins. Look for the physicality and offensive prowess of Chris Petersen’s bunch to show up in a road win outright. Prediction: Washington +3.5
North Carolina (+16) at Notre Dame
The Tar Heels are 0-5 against the spread this season and Notre Dame just got done playing Stanford’s defense. Facing this defense will be like practicing against air. Just don’t look ahead Notre Dame. Prediction: Notre Dame -16
If you must, take the home dogs:
USC (-3) at Arizona
Always a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Whichever has the ball last wins. I like the Cats at home.
Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This isn’t a normal Hail State squad and getting this game at home should help the Bulldogs avoid a letdown. A defensive battle where Dak Prescott makes a play.
Georgia (-3) at Missouri
Maty Mauk is rested and will get to attack the Bulldogs' secondary. Mizzou’s defensive front should be able to “slow” down Todd Gurley and shut down Hutson Mason.
Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA
Both O-lines are atrocious and while Marcus Mariota has more weapons than Brett Hundley, it’s tough to trust the Ducks' coaching staff.
Top 25 Picks ATS:
|Top 25||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Florida St (-23.5) at Syracuse|
|Auburn (-3) at Miss. State|
|Ole Miss (+2) at Texas A&M|
|TCU (+7.5) at Baylor|
|N. Carolina (+16) at N. Dame|
|Alabama (-10) at Arkansas|
|Mich. St (-21) at Purdue|
|USC (-3) at Arizona|
|Texas (+14.5) vs Oklahoma|
|Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA|
|Georgia (-3) at Mizzou|
|Okla. St (-20.5) at Kansas|
|E. Carolina (-15) USF|
|Duke (+3) at Georgia Tech|
|Wash. St (+17) at Stanford|
No. 6 North Carolina is looking to reclaim its status as a powerhouse program after two subpar seasons, by the Tar Heels’ standards. North Carolina has won an NCAA game in each of the last two years but hasn’t finished higher than third in the ACC. This may be the season the Tar Heels start to resemble their tradition. The roster has stabilized around All-American Marcus Paige with most of the roster returning intact for a run in the ACC.
The North Carolina edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
The North Carolina basketball program hasn’t lived up to its lofty standards on or off the court in recent years. The Tar Heels have not reached a Final Four since 2009, tied for their longest such streak since an eight-year drought from 1983 to 1990, or won the ACC Tournament since 2008. They also have dealt with unexpected transfers and major suspensions of key players during the last four years, issues that used to be few and far between in Chapel Hill.
UNC has a chance to get back on track in 2014-15 with a roster that features plenty of depth and talent. The Tar Heels return nine of their 11 rotation players from last season, have a legit leader/star in guard Marcus Paige, and welcome three McDonald’s All-Americans to the mix.
No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-10, 13-5 ACC
Postseason: NCAA round of 32
Consecutive NCAAs: 4
Coach: Roy Williams (306-89 at North Carolina, 130-50 ACC)
ACC Projection: Second
Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight
In a sport that has become increasingly perimeter-oriented, the Tar Heels have an abundance of size and potential up front. Junior Brice Johnson and sophomores Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks all seem poised to take big steps forward in 2014-15.
Meeks spent the summer losing weight and getting into better shape, while Johnson continued his career-long goal of adding strength to his slender frame. Both have proven that they are talented offensive players, with Johnson establishing himself as UNC’s best low-post scorer and Meeks showcasing excellent passing and offensive rebounding skills. Both also have plenty of room for improvement defensively. Hicks, who spent last season masquerading as a small forward because of UNC’s lack of depth on the wing, should make a big impact in the paint with his athleticism.
Joel James and Desmond Hubert offer significant starting experience and specialty traits that UNC’s other big men lack. James provides brute strength and a physical style, and Hubert contributes superior defense. Undersized Jackson Simmons enters every season with a lowly projection for playing time, but he always carves out a niche for himself with a combination of hustle and savvy.
This area has transformed from a question mark into an exclamation point in the course of one year, and Paige is a key reason why. He spearheaded UNC’s midseason surge a year ago, finishing fourth in the ACC in scoring and sixth in assists while providing clutch plays against defenses geared to stop him. The good news for UNC fans is that Paige will have more help around him this season.
Paige’s preference is to play point guard, but he is a tremendous shooter who is willing to play off the ball to help the team. That selflessness will create minutes at the point for sophomore Nate Britt, who retooled his jumper from a left-handed shot to a right-handed shot in the offseason, and highly touted freshman Joel Berry.
On the wing, the Tar Heels figure to have a nice rotation after being thin a year ago. Junior J.P. Tokoto, one of the nation’s most gifted athletes, returns after establishing himself as the team’s top defender. Tokoto must continue to develop his ball-handling and shooting after making just under 50 percent of his free throws last season, but the Tar Heels will get help in both of those departments from a couple of freshmen. Theo Pinson is adept at scoring and creating opportunities for teammates, and Justin Jackson is an accomplished mid-range scorer who also can make 3-pointers.
UNC’s depth and versatility make the team dangerous on the national scene. Coach Roy Williams has personnel choices and flexibility available to him that he lacked a year ago. He can go big with lineups in which only the point guard is shorter than 6-5, or he can employ a lineup of three point guards late in games to enhance ball-handling and free throw shooting.
The challenge of re-climbing the mountain to ACC and national supremacy will be significant, especially with Louisville joining the league, but the Tar Heels have the personnel to succeed against all sizes and styles of opponents.
“We definitely have our fair share of tests with our schedule,” Paige says. “But I think that will help us out, and I really think that we are a legitimate Final Four contender if we can put all the pieces together.”
UNC welcomes a trio of McDonald’s All-Americans who can contribute in various ways on the perimeter. Theo Pinson provides scoring and playmaking ability, and his 6-11 wingspan makes him an intriguing prospect defensively. Justin Jackson is a strong outside shooter, an area of immediate need for the Tar Heels. Joel Berry is a fierce competitor and gifted passer with a strong frame that is uncommon for freshman point guards.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely as a result of a NCAA investigation. The junior is under investigation for exchanging his autograph and use of likeness in exchange for compensation.
Gurley’s suspension is indefinite, so it’s hard to gauge how long the junior running back will be sidelined. However, make no mistake: Gurley is one of the nation’s best players and was considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. This is a huge loss for the Bulldogs.
In five games this year, Gurley has recorded 773 yards and eight rushing scores on 94 attempts. Gurley averaged 8.2 yards per carry in 2014 and added a kickoff return for a touchdown against Clemson.
There’s no doubt Georgia is going to miss Gurley. But how big of a loss is the junior? Let’s dive into the implications and what it means for the Bulldogs.
Impact of Gurley's Suspension on SEC East
The favorite for the SEC East is really anyone’s guess. Missouri is the only unbeaten team within the division (1-0), and Georgia, Florida and Kentucky all sit at 2-1 after three conference games.
While it’s possible Gurley could return after just a couple of games, his absence this Saturday will be felt. Georgia travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers, in what should be one of the SEC’s marquee games. The winner of Saturday’s matchup should take an early lead in the East Division.
The schedule for Georgia doesn’t get any easier next week, as the Bulldogs travel to Little Rock to take on Arkansas, and play Florida on Nov. 1.
Again, it’s possible Gurley is back in a couple of games, but if Georgia has two or three SEC losses, it’s tough to see this team getting back in the mix for the conference title.
Even though Gurley is out, the Bulldogs aren’t in major trouble against Missouri. This roster still has plenty of talent, starting with a stout front seven on defense, and the passing attack should improve with receiver Malcolm Mitchell returning.
Outside of Vanderbilt, it’s too early to eliminate any team in the East Division conversation. But Georgia’s division title hopes look grim without Gurley in the lineup.
Who Replaces Gurley?
Georgia’s backfield was touted as one of the best in the nation in most preseason unit rankings. But injuries have altered the outlook for this unit. Junior Keith Marshall is dealing with a sprained ankle and knee and will miss his third consecutive game. Freshman Sony Michel ranks third on the team with 223 yards and averaged 9.7 yards per carry, but he’s dealing with a shoulder injury and is likely to be out until November.
With the injuries to Marshall and Michel, a backfield that was overflowing with depth is down to freshman Nick Chubb. The Georgia native ranked as the No. 5 running back in the 2014 signing class by 247Sports and has 224 yards and two scores on 31 attempts.
Chubb is clearly set to become the No. 1 back for coach Mark Richt, with Brendan Douglas also expected to work into the backfield.
It’s a longshot, but freshman all-purpose threat Isaiah McKenzie could see more snaps in the backfield. Depth is limited, so McKenzie and Douglas will be the top options to spell Chubb.
Considering the Bulldogs are down on depth at running back, this is where the offense needs a big effort from quarterback Hutson Mason to compensate for a rushing game that won’t be as potent.
Heisman Hopes Over?
In Athlon’s expert poll following the games from Week 6, Gurley ranked as the favorite for the Heisman. The junior recorded 59 points to Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott’s 55, while Gurley had an eight to five edge on first-place votes.
Barring a last-minute turnaround, Gurley won’t play against Missouri and his Heisman hopes are likely finished.
If Gurley’s Heisman hopes are indeed over, it’s a wide-open race for the No. 1 spot. Prescott would slide into the favorite spot by default, but this opens the door for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.
The halfway point of the college season officially arrives after Week 7. And if Prescott and Mississippi State loses to Auburn, it’s fair to say there is no clear frontrunner and the Heisman is really up for grabs in the final eight weeks.
Georgia did not receive a vote in Athlon’s playoff projection following the games from Week 6.
However, the Bulldogs were squarely on the radar as a team that could play their way into contention with just one loss.
But as we mentioned above, it’s going to be significantly tougher to go into Missouri and win without the best player in the SEC.
If Georgia loses this Saturday, it seems likely Mark Richt’s team won’t be able to make the playoffs.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely as a result of an investigation into a violation of NCAA rules.
According to ESPN, Gurley is under investigation for the use of his likeness and money for memorabilia.
Gurley is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy and has rushed for 773 yards and eight touchdowns in five games.
With Gurley sidelined, Georgia is expected to lean on true freshman Nick Chubb at running back.
Gurley’s suspension is a huge loss for a team entering a critical stretch of the season. The Bulldogs play at Missouri this Saturday and travel to Arkansas next Saturday.
BREAKING: Todd Gurley has been indefinitely suspended during investigation into alleged violation of NCAA rules. pic.twitter.com/gtLIopv1ez— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 9, 2014
Wonder if Todd Gurley's suspension will be as long as Cam Newton's was.— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) October 9, 2014
Hearing the investigation into #UGA star Todd Gurley is for possibly accepting extra benefits for his likeness w memorabilia brokers.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) October 9, 2014
The easy intro to last weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway would be to say that Chase contenders Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson crapped out, rolled snake eyes or drew a bad deck of cards. Whatever cliché you dial up, it all amounted to how the new Chase elimination format could eliminate a prime-time player who had dominated all season long; however, I think not even NASCAR had dreamed it would happen at a relatively innocuous 1.5-miler, and take with it the face of the franchise and our last two champions. Everything good, bad and ugly came to fruition this past Sunday with Junior and Kes blowing right fronts and taking the wall with them, while Jimmie Johnson got hooked by Biffle in the back – not unlike his post-race interview horse collar last year at Martinsville.
Following the Pains in the Plains, the series returns to the hub of the sport, Charlotte Motor Speedway for the only Saturday night main event on the Chase schedule. The friendly confines will allow everyone to rest their head in their own bed for a change, while Junior and Brad were blowing off steam celebrating Dale’s 40th birthday this week. After sudsing away their sorrows, it’s time to get down to business and on a grand scale; if JJ, Jr., and BK have any shot of rekindling their championship pursuits, Top 5s – and a win – may be required to get in over the course of the next two races.
Oh and that other race is Talladega. No pressure…
Last week I picked Kyle Larson to win his first race, on the strength of a near-hit at Chicagoland Speedway, and Kevin Harvick and company inventing new ways to surrender wins that would make the Detroit Lions blush. What happened? Harvick had the fastest car all weekend as usual, but pitted for what was a not-a-flat-tire and s-canned a shot at winning. Larson was in position to win, but Logano got out front in clean air first, and the No. 42 just wasn’t able to close the gap on Joey Logano.
While the story of this year’s Chase has been the dominance of the Team Penske Fords, the other has been the alleged “struggles” of the 48 team. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. Johnson had a Top 10 car at Kansas, which means they in all likelihood had a Top 5 machine. They got bit by the Biff on a mid-race restart which put a serious dent in their quest to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt’s seven championships. My mind flashed back to 2009, when Johnson got clipped by Sam Hornish, Jr. on the second lap of the race at Texas sending it into the wall. The ultimate result? The No. 48 team rallied and won their fourth-straight title.
Yes, different points system and format for 2014, but there are six championships that tell me in Rambo: First Blood Part I-voice: NOTHING IS OVER!
If you’re a little freaked out that Junior just turned 40, how about that Jeff Gordon won his first career race at Charlotte in 1994 – 20 years ago? Gordon almost was put in a position to repeat that feat when fellow first-time Charlotte winner Jamie McMurray tagged him at Kansas last week. Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson soldiered on to a 14th place finish; not the best result obviously but far from a disaster. It was good enough to not force them into having to win – decent performances over the next two weeks should keep them in the fight over other teams that haven’t been up to par most of the year – or in the Chase thus far.
Some surprises last weekend emerged as well. Not having had much of an intermediate program to brag about this year, RCR put all three cars in the Top 10 with Ryan Newman finishing sixth, Austin Dillon in eighth and Paul Menard in ninth. It was a much needed performance for Newman who had not shown much in the way of speed on these tracks this year and was looking at having to Hail Mary it at Talladega next week where Earnhardt Childress Engines-powered Chevrolets have quite the storied history.
Perhaps the biggest surprise last week was Kyle Busch finally conquering Kansas. Sure he didn’t win, but placing third is about as close to a win as the No. 18 team is going to get there. The podium finish came on the heels of the news that crew chief Dave Rodgers would not be back with Busch in 2015; while some may have expected the driver and team to have their annual meltdown and finger-pointing exercise early on in the Chase – it hasn’t happened. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet leads me to believe that it won’t happen and these guys make it into the Eliminator Eight.
The other two JGR teams of Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth are trucking right along too. Denny Hamlin’s “we suck at this” declaration at Dover belies the No. 11 team’s fifth place in points position, while Matt Kenseth continues to show up, punch the clock, and do what it takes to survive. It was Kenseth’s one-win 2003 title run that helped prompt the adoption of the Chase format to begin with – might he invalidate it altogether with a no-win 2014 win-by-attrition (Rambo) strategy? YOU JUST DON’T TURN IT OFF!
Last week I had also suggested that if Carl Edwards and Roush Fenway had any hopes of surviving the rest of the season, they would need to recapture the speed they suddenly found towards the end of summer. The result? A fifth place finish, matching their fifth-place finish in Atlanta last month. Leaning in Edwards’ favor as well, the No. 99 finished fifth at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 in May.
While Charlotte is home to just about everyone save for The Wood Brothers and Furniture Row Racing, not everyone can be a winner here. Like John Cusack said in Grosse Point Blank, “You can never go home again Oatman…but you can shop there.” Have we reached Dennis Miller levels of obscurity with the movie quotes yet? Fine – here is who will suck this weekend.
Kasey Kahne - Squeaks by into the Contender round by a scant two points – promptly follows it up with a 22nd place performance at Kansas. Hooray.
Joey Logano – What am I stupid? Stupid like a fox; obviously Joey has been nails all year long and only seems to be getting stronger having won a race in both Chase rounds so far. Like his teammate at Loudon who spun out trying to be awesome, Logano has some wiggle-room here to take a chance, make a gamble, or if need be, not beat his teammate since he has already won and guaranteed himself a seeding in the next round of eight.
Ryan Newman – Can Newman and the RCR trio pull it off again this weekend? This I am not so sure about; keep in mind their Top 10 efforts at Kansas was based largely on the 1, 2, 24, 48, and 88 having trouble during the race. Bad luck can strike in an instant at Charlotte – witness Carl Edwards ignition mysteriously failing for no reason in 2008, which ended up costing him the title that year.
Chase Hope Enders:
Since we eliminated the first four drivers at Dover and last weekend’s carnage at Kansas, I don’t foresee any glaring game-enders at Charlotte. It is a 500-mile race which always raises the issue of engine failures or a fuel-mileage miscalculation, but those who remain and not in the group above are focused on one thing – survival. Next weekend’s race at Talladega is the wildcard of wildcards and will be the ultimate arbiter of who advances into the Elimination round.
Expect solid performances from Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Keselowski, Kenseth, Hamlin, Johnson, Gordon, and Harvick; just by varying degrees within the Top 15. Even though I bag on Kahne and the No. 5 team every week, they very well could pull a rabbit out of the hat and mirror their Atlanta miracle with a win here and slide into the next round unscathed. His record here is enviable if anything – 21 starts, four wins, 12 Top 10s, and in the last five races here he has a win and a pair of runner up finishes. His problem this weekend isn’t speed – it’s simply bad luck and lack of momentum.
Charlotte Winner: Kyle Larson
I’ve been shooting my big mouth off the last month saying that Kyle Larson will win a race before the year is over. While I did pick him last weekend, I also have contended that since he is likely the next Jeff Gordon, his first win will be right here where Gordon who his first race – which was right about the same time Larson was filling up his Huggies. Chris Heroy and the Chip Ganassi Racing Team have suddenly once again become threats to win every weekend much as they were in 2009-2010. Jamie McMurray should also be considered a contender for the win here, as he too captured his first victory at Charlotte in only his second start, subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin (“broke neck”) in 2002.
While this would make for quite the story should he win, I would also hedge any bets to win on that No. 48 team. They won the 600 here in May, legitimately need to win as they find themselves last place in points. The last time they’ve been this low was after they started the 2012 season off with negative points following fines from the Daytona 500. Regardless of their current position in the standings; don’t believe the disinformation campaign – they are still in my final four for Homestead, until they are officially eliminated from contention.
Follow Vito Pugliese on Twitter: @VitoPugliese
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
Being forgotten isn’t always bad news.
Minnesota’s David Cobb has twice been overlooked in his collegiate career. He’s been a name on a roster for two years, and before that, he was a name added to a signing list more than a week after most teams wrapped up recruiting in 2011.
By virtue of playing at Minnesota in a league with two headlining tailbacks, Cobb may be overshadowed, but he can’t be ignored anymore.
Cobb ranks sixth nationally in rushing yards per game at 144.4 yards. Yet even in the Big Ten, he’ll have trouble being noticed as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah entered the season with more fanfare.
This week, though, Cobb will be one of the key players in the spotlight. With Northwestern at 2-0 in the Big Ten and Minnesota picking up a 30-14 win over Michigan, the two teams will face off in a surprisingly important game in the Big Ten West division race.
Cobb has been the focal point for a Minnesota team that has been one of the tougher outs in the Big Ten since last October. Since Cobb has become the primary running back, Minnesota is 8-4 with wins over Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan.
Much of that is because the senior Cobb has been a workhorse back for Minnesota, a throwback to when the Gophers churned out 1,000-yard running backs on a yearly basis from 1999-2006.
In his last 12 games, Cobb has topped 25 carries seven times, including 66 rushes in his last two games.
“I didn’t play much my first two years, so I never want to come out,” Cobb told Athlon Sports.
This week’s game against Northwestern ultimately may end up being a footnote during the season, but Cobb’s emergence is a reminder to exhaust every option and make every phone call in recruiting.
Cobb was the last player Minnesota coach Jerry Kill signed in his first recruiting class in Minneapolis. Minnesota signed the running back from Killeen, Texas, on Feb. 11, 2011. Signing Day that year was Feb. 2.
That year, Cobb had held out hope to join the signing class at Stanford, but he was never able to take a visit to Palo Alto and lost out on a numbers game in David Shaw's first class. Memphis, North Texas, Texas State, Army and Navy also recruited Cobb, but he wasn’t completely sold on any of them.
Even though Cobb rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in three seasons at Killeen Ellison, major programs had good reason to overlook even a prolific tailback from a team that went 0-10 his senior year and 4-6 in each of his first two. Recruited as an "athlete," he had no clear position waiting for him in college.
Kill and former assistant Thomas Hammock had recruited Texas enough to build contacts throughout talent-rich areas. Considering they were recruiting for Minnesota — and before that, Northern Illinois — the Gophers often recruited prospects outside of “the circle.”
That's to say Minnesota had little interest in going head-to-head with Big 12 programs like Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor to pry kids out of the Lone Star State.
A three-star prospect who was listed as an athlete despite his prodigious production in the Wing T fit the bill.
“To a kid like David at running back we are appealing because that’s something we’ve done really well (at Minnesota),” running backs coach Pat Poore told Athlon Sports. “He’s a kid who wants to run the ball but not necessarily in a one-back spread offense.”
Cobb said he didn’t know much about Minnesota until they called his high school coach after Signing Day and persuaded him to take a visit to Minnesota.
A trip to Minnesota in February didn’t deter him, especially once he started to look at what Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney did at Minnesota under former coach Glen Mason.
Cobb said he also built a relationship with Jerry Kill, who had little interest in sugar-coating what he might expect with the Gophers.
“When you’re being recruited, they tell you you can play or you can have this number or whatever and put a big picture in your head that’s unrealistic,” Cobb said. “(Kill) told me that if I wanted it, I was going to have to work for it and that I had a chance to play. If I was good enough, he’d play me. If I wasn’t, I’d sit on the bench. Unfortunately, that’s what I did.”
Cobb carried only 11 times during his first two seasons, a long way from the workhorse back from high school.
He remained a secondary option until his junior season. In his first career start against Northwestern on Oct. 19, Cobb rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries in the first of four consecutive wins for Minnesota.
With five 100-yard games in the final seven in 2013, Cobb became Minnesota’s first 1,000-yard back since Amir Pinnix in 2006.
“He’s developed himself into a really good running back to where he can handle that workload and stay healthy and play with a lot of juice and physicality,” Poore said. “From a mental standpoint, he’s in a great sync right now with the tempo he plays with and the vision that he has.”
Cobb is well ahead of that pace again with 722 yards through the first five games.
Minnesota isn’t a team that’s going to pass on every down, especially as starting quarterback Mitch Leidner has missed time this season with turf toe.
That has put the offense on Cobb, who carried 34 times for 207 yards with two touchdowns against San Jose State when the Gophers were down to a backup quarterback. He added 32 carries for 183 yards in the 30-14 win over Michigan.
With another 29-carry, 220-yard performance earlier in the year, Cobb earned Minnesota’s off week last week.
“He was beat up a bit after the Michigan game and we didn’t do a lot with him until (eight days later) because he carried it and he was beat up some,” Kill said. “He seems to be doing well. At times we need to spell him a little bit more, but it’s hard to take him off the field.”
As Cobb says, though, he has plenty of carries saved up from his first two seasons as the forgotten man on campus.
“As far as body-wise, I’m feeling good, maybe some bruises here and there,” Cobb said.” When you win, you’re not sore at all.”
Louisville and coach Bobby Petrino is winning with defense. Yes, that’s right. One of college football’s top offensive minds has turned to the dark (defensive) side to win games in 2014.
Petrino’s arrival was expected to keep Louisville’s offense among the best in the ACC this year, but the Cardinals rank seventh in its new conference in scoring (33.3 ppg) and average 5.2 yards per play.
But if you remove the non-conference slate, Louisville’s offense ranks in the middle of the ACC.
The Cardinals are averaging just 4.8 yards per play through four conference contests and have scored above 25 points only twice in the ACC.
A struggling offensive line is largely to blame for Louisville’s problems on offense this season. Despite having four starters, the Cardinals have allowed 19 sacks – including 14 in four ACC games. That’s on pace to easily shatter last year’s mark (26), while rushers are averaging only 3.8 yards per play.
In addition to the offensive line, the increased competition, coaching change and quarterback carousel have all factored into Louisville’s offense not taking off in 2014.
While the offense is struggling, Louisville’s defense has carried this team through the first six games.
The Cardinals lead the ACC by holding opponents to 12.7 points per game and have allowed just four touchdowns in four conference games. New coordinator Todd Grantham’s defense is also allowing just 3.8 yards per play after giving up 4.2 in 2013. Total yardage can be a misleading statistic, but Louisville has not allowed an opponent to reach 300 yards in a game this year.
The Cardinals have been aggressive around the line of scrimmage, ranking fourth in the ACC with 44 tackles for a loss, third in the conference in sacks (21), and the defense has forced 15 turnovers (second-most in ACC).
Adding to the impressive start for Louisville’s defense is the unit had to transition to a 3-4 scheme after operating out of a 4-3 under Charlie Strong.
Despite four returning starters, this unit has managed to build off a strong finish to 2013. Rush end linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is off to a fast start (26 tackles, 9 TFL, 4 sacks), but the senior has help from sophomore Keith Kelsey (37 stops), junior lineman Sheldon Rankins (three sacks), while James Sample, Gerod Holliman and Terell Floyd have solidified the safety position, which was arguably the biggest concern for the defense entering 2014.
Grantham’s hire was met with some skepticism after Georgia allowed 29 points per game in 2013. However, Grantham has been able to blend the returning personnel to his 3-4 fit and has Louisville’s defense ranked near the top of the ACC in key defensive categories.
But there’s a key challenge coming for Louisville and Grantham: The schedule. After playing just one offense ranked inside of the top 55 of Football Outsiders S&P offensive ratings, the Cardinals will play six the rest of the year. Louisville will play three potential All-ACC quarterbacks in Jameis Winston, Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett in October.
There’s no doubt the competition and quarterback play will increase over the second half of the season. But so far, Grantham and Louisville appears to be up for the challenge, especially if the defense can continue to create havoc at the line of scrimmage and force turnovers.
Also, Louisville’s offense should improve through the final six games. The Cardinals’ offensive line remains a concern, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon or sophomore Will Gardner are capable quarterbacks for Petrino’s offense. Bonnafon and Gardner also have additional help in the form of receiver DeVante Parker potentially returning to the lineup this week against Clemson.
The Cardinals are off to a 5-1 start in their first year of ACC play and are set to finish the year with a challenging six-game slate, including a road trip to Clemson this Saturday, followed by games against Florida State, Notre Dame and rival Kentucky in the finale.
In an odd twist, Louisville’s defense is carrying this team through the first six games. The Cardinals need their defense to keep performing at the current pace, while getting more from the offense if they want to knock off Florida State or Clemson in ACC play in 2014.
Petrino will eventually get the offense on track. But until that happens, Louisville is poised to use its defense to navigate a difficult schedule in the second half of the season.
The Baltimore Orioles last won the World Series in 1983, the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Neither team has been back to the Fall Classic since then. Few experts expected either team to be in this position this season. But here we are, with two teams coming off of sweeps in the ALDS. The Orioles have decent starting pitching, a powerful lineup and an extremely good bullpen. The Royals have better starting pitching, a lineup that looks to manufacture runs and as talented a bullpen as anyone. Don’t expect either team to cough up a lead after the sixth inning. Both managers are coming off the first postseason series wins of their careers.
The most glaring advantage is in the dugout. Manager Buck Showalter is a master at using his entire 25-man roster and relishes a good chess game. Showalter won’t miss any opportunities, and at some point Royals manager Ned Yost will make a critical error…The Orioles’ bench is more potent than Kansas City’s and will be the difference in at least one game.
With the injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, and the suspension of first baseman Chris Davis, most managers would choose the Royals’ lineup over Baltimore’s going into a seven-game series…The Royals are even better than the Orioles in closing out wins. The Combination of Wade Davis and Greg Holland in the eighth and ninth innings is as lethal as there is in the majors.
Game 2 Oct. 11 (4 pm) at Balt.
Game 3 Oct. 13 (TBD) at KC
Game 4 Oct. 14 (TBD) at KC
Game 5* Oct. 15 (TBD) at KC
Game 6* Oct. 17 (TBD) at Balt.
Game 7* Oct. 18 (TBD) at Balt.
*If necessary, all times ET
In more than 200 innings this season, there were only four stolen base attempts with Baltimore’s Chris Tillman on the mound, and only one was successful…Kansas City led the majors with 153 stolen bases (the Dodgers were second with 138), and enjoyed a success rate of 81 percent, among the best in the majors…The Royals are 72-1 when leading after the seventh inning…The Orioles are 75-7 when leading after the seventh…Baltimore pinch-hitters hit .313 to lead the majors this season. The American League average was just .223. Kansas City subs hit just .209 with only nine pinch-hits, tied with Houston for fewest in the big leagues.
Prediction: Orioles in 6
If you were to scour the NBA for a player who most resembles Big Bird, you’d eventually land on new Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol. A former champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, and likely Hall of Famer in time, the Spaniard is tall, fluffy and gregarious in the same way as the yellow-feathered pop culture icon. He’s one of the most beloved characters in the league.
Gasol is one of the friendlier interviews around, and his good will with media corps is clearly no illusion — he’s a giver on the court, too. Arguably, no big man (except for maybe his Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah, or brother Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, if anyone) passes the ball so much like a deferential point guard.
It was only a matter of time before Gasol took his loving talents to the arena of childhood pedagogy. His generosity makes eminent sense along the sidewalks of Sesame Street, where Gasol recently revealed himself having a brief party:
Whether the center will appear in a full episode or not is unclear — the social media post offered little insight into his involvement with the show. But Gasol will definitely be fighting for a championship alongside Noah, Derrick Rose and indomitable coach Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls in 2014-15.
Gasol has looked sharp in two preseason games with the Bulls, continuing his run of impressive play with the Spanish national team through the FIBA World Cup, where he was perhaps the best player in the whole tournament. His intensity in the post will be a huge asset for Chicago—but so will his aptitude for levity, which he pointedly reminded us of with this snippet of action among Elmo and friends.
— John Wilmes
NC State hopes to earn its first ACC win under second-year coach Dave Doeren this Saturday, as the Wolfpack host Boston College.
And to help NC State’s victory hopes, the program unveiled a new helmet for Saturday’s game.
The helmet features a logo of Tuffy (the name of the school’s mascot) instead of the normal power “S” on the side.
Check out NC State’s new helmet for Week 7:
Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games of Week 6. It's another huge week in the SEC, there are marquee games in the State of Texas and a Pac-12 championship game preview out West. The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 9:
• We don't give volleyball enough love here. Let's fix that. Here are the hottest NCAA volleyball stars.
• Shocker: John Rocker didn't make it very far on Survivor.
• Good read on Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, who's gone from mama's boy to transcendent star.
• Michael Vick copped to being unprepared to go in the game against San Diego. Good job, good effort, Jets.
• A nice tribute to a great thoroughbred. RIP, Cigar.
• Happy birthday, John Lennon. By the way, a Canadian just paid $31K for one of your teeth.
• The NHL debuted RefCam last night.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Tonight’s divisional clash between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans pits the top two players in the AFC South against each other in prime time on CBS/NFL Network. Indianapolis (3-2) signal-caller Andrew Luck and Houston (3-2) pass-rusher J.J. Watt are undeniably two of the best in the game today and each will try to do their part to help their team move into first place in the division with a win tonight. Luck, however, has the upper hand in the budding rivalry — boasting a 3–1 record with nine TD passes and one INT all-time vs. the Texans. Luck is riding a three-game winning streak — including a 25–3 Week 15 win and 27–24 Week 9 win last season — against the division rivals since losing his first trip to Houston as a rookie.
Not to be overlooked, Texans running back Arian Foster has 404 yards rushing in four games this season and has historically dominated the Colts, averaging 150.4 yards in five career games against Indy. Look for the Colts to load up against the run and force Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to beat them with his arm.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Indianapolis -3
Three Things to Watch
|Indianapolis 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DEN||L 24 - 31||Recap|
|9/15||vs PHI||L 27 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||@ JAC||W 44 - 17||Recap|
|9/28||vs TEN||W 41 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||vs BAL||W 20 - 13||Recap|
|10/9||@ HOU||W 33 - 28||Recap|
|10/19||vs CIN||W 27 - 0||Recap|
|10/26||@ PIT||L 34 - 51||Recap|
1. Indy's Thursday Night Dominance
Houston running back Arian Foster made news this week with his denunciation of Thursday night games. "It's annoying for players," said Foster. "I don't know one player that likes it. I really don't know a fan that likes it, either. I think it's just the league's way of trying to generate more revenue. Nobody is ready to play physically after a Sunday game. But you've got to go out there and do it." One team that isn't complaining, at least publicly, is Indianapolis. The Colts have won 10 in a row on Thursday, which on the surface looks like a fluke but is a large enough sample size to make you wonder. "You realize once the game starts, it's football," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who's 2–0 as a starter on Thursday. "There's no use complaining or whining about anything. It's what you do." We'll see if the Colts continue to embrace the timeslot — and if the Texans allow their distaste for it to show.
|Houston 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs WAS||W 17 - 6||Recap|
|9/14||@ OAK||W 30 - 14||Recap|
|9/21||@ NYG||L 17 - 30||Recap|
|9/28||vs BUF||W 23 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||@ DAL||L 17 - 20||Recap|
|10/9||vs IND||L 28 - 33||Recap|
|10/20||@ PIT||L 23 - 30||Recap|
|10/26||@ TEN||W 30 - 16||Recap|
2. The Colts' Defensive Resurgence
The offensive players — Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, et al. — grab the headlines, but Indy's current three-game winning streak is due largely to defense. In beating Jacksonville, Tennessee and Baltimore, the Colts’ defense has surrendered only 892 yards while forcing nine turnovers and posting 11 sacks. The Colts' four sacks of Joe Flacco in the win over Baltimore represented more sacks than the Ravens had allowed in their first four games combined. The defense is giving the team a physical identity that could carry the Colts to an AFC South title. Thus far on the season, Indy has forced 10 turnovers, third most in the NFL.
3. Texan Takeaways
Speaking of forcing turnovers, that's Houston's specialty. The Texans lead the NFL in takeaways with 12, including three in a loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. Mega-million-dollar defensive end J.J. Watt leads the big-play parade with a pick-six, a fumble recovery and blocked kick to go with his two sacks. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph has chipped in with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In the Colts' two losses this season, they lost the turnover battle 4-to-1, so look for the Texans to try to force Indy into mistakes and then capitalize.
The offensive stars — Andrew Luck, Arian Foster — will have a chance to shine under a prime-time spotlight, but it's the respective defenses that could provide a winning edge in this one. Both teams are adept at forcing turnovers; whichever team wins the turnover battle, and then turns those miscues into points, will have the upper hand.
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Houston 20
You know who Blake Griffin is for one reason, above all: He’s one of the most spectacular athletes the NBA has ever seen. The Los Angeles Clippers forward made an immediate impression in his 2010-11 rookie season and has only increased in skill and popularity since. No one this side of Michael Jordan has been so prolific in the art of posterizing other players. Just ask: Timofey Mozgov, Kendrick Perkins and Kris Humphries.
That list could go on and on, but our time is finite and the narrative on Griffin has gone to more interesting, subtle places anyways. In 2013-14, his game expanded to include more ball-handling, mid-range shooting and passing. Griffin thrived with added responsibility under new coach Doc Rivers and showed that he’s one of the very best players in the game — that he’s a versatile talent who should be known for more than just his YouTube-friendly pyrotechnics at the rim. He finished third in MVP voting for the year, just behind the untoppable LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
And if Griffin’s preseason debut is any indication, his evolution was only beginning last season. He put on a shooting display in a home loss to the Golden State Warriors, collecting 24 points and 12 rebounds on 9-of-17 shooting, stretching the defense in ways that should have the rest of the league on notice.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul is approaching his thirtieth birthday next spring, and the team also lost some bench depth over the summer with the departures of Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Jared Dudley. But the young Griffin’s ascendance gives Clippers fans more than enough cause for hope. A player of his stature can shift the power balance of the NBA for years and years to come. On Blake’s back, the red-and-blue are in as good a shape as anyone going forward.
— John Wilmes
It’s a less than a full slate of ACC action this week, but there are a few intriguing divisional games, especially in the Atlantic. However, the most important matchup this Saturday is the lone game that involves a pair of teams from the Coastal Division.
Duke-Georgia Tech pits the defending division champions against one of the current unlikely frontrunners in the Coastal. In the Atlantic, while defending national champion Florida State should have little problem getting by Syracuse, Louisville-Clemson will meet for the first time ever, with second place in the division on the line. The other Atlantic matchup has improving teams in Boston College and NC State going head to head in search of a first conference victory.
Outside of conference play, Notre Dame resumes the ACC-centric component of its schedule by hosting North Carolina, and Miami hosts Cincinnati to round out the slate.
The majority of the league’s attention will most likely be directed towards what happens Saturday in Atlanta, but the proceedings in Clemson, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C., could prove to be just as entertaining.
ACC Week 7 Game Power Rankings
1. Duke at Georgia Tech (-5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
The Blue Devils have an opportunity to take a step towards a possible repeat as Coastal Division champions when they face the front-running Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. David Cutcliffe’s team has had an extra week to stew about its 22-10 loss to Miami, while Paul Johnson has gone from the hot seat to Coach of the Year consideration in leading his Yellow Jackets to a surprising 5-0 start. For Duke, one of the keys will be giving Georgia Tech a taste of its own medicine. Last week, the Blue Devils rushed for just 85 yards in the loss to the Hurricanes, after averaging 261 over their first four games. Duke also must do what is necessary to extend drives to keep the ball out of Tech’s hands, meaning it can ill afford to go 2-for-16 third down like it did against Miami. The Blue Devils’ defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Johnson’s patented triple option attack. The Yellow Jackets are averaging nearly 300 yards rushing per game while Duke has allowed three teams in a row at least 200 yards on the ground. Not surprisingly, opponents have tried to force Georgia Tech to beat them by throwing the ball. But one of the reasons the Yellow Jackets are 5-0 is that sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas has made plays with his arm (7 TDs, 1 INT) when he’s needed to. Turnovers could play a huge role in determining the outcome of this key Coastal clash.
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2. Louisville at Clemson (-13)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Florida State is still the king of the Atlantic Division, but it doesn’t mean the battle for second place won’t be worth watching. The Cardinals have played one more conference game than the Tigers, but the new kids on the ACC block still have a home date with the Seminoles looming. Clemson meanwhile has bounced back from its heartbreaking overtime loss in Tallahassee, beating North Carolina and NC State at home by a combined score of 91-35. This will be Louisville’s first game ever against Clemson and it comes in Death Valley. Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino’s calling card has been his offenses, but it’s his defense that draws the tough assignment of trying to slow down the Tigers’ own potent attack. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has turned the reigns over to quarterback Deshaun Watson and the true freshman has responded. In two starts, Watson has completed 68 percent of his passes for 702 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception while adding 90 yards and two scores on the ground. Louisville enters this game sixth in FBS in scoring defense (12.7 ppg), but Florida State has been the only team thus far to hold Clemson to fewer than 21 points. The Tigers’ defense has held its own (22 ppg), so the Cardinals’ offense (25 ppg in ACC play) will need to step up if Louisville wants to have any chance of making its first trip to Death Valley a successful one.
3. Boston College at NC State (-4)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN
It’s a battle of former Florida quarterbacks, as Boston College and NC State enter this game in search of their first ACC win. Both teams are coming off of losses, as the Eagles fell 24-21 at home to Colorado State two weeks ago, while the Wolfpack got shutout 41-0 in Clemson last week. Despite these recent results, both teams appear improved, especially NC State, which jumped all over Florida State two weeks ago at home before fading in the second half. Even though Boston College lost 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams to the NFL, the Eagles have been productive on the ground to this point. Led by senior transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy, Boston College is leading the ACC and is sixth in the nation in rushing at 316.8 yards per game. Steve Addazio’s team relies heavily on the run (just 133.2 passing ypg), so the Wolfpack’s defense must do a better job than the 392 yards rushing it has allowed in its last two games. Meanwhile, Dave Doeren’s team has already surpassed last season’s win total thanks to a more balanced offense that’s putting up nearly 34 points per game. NC State is just one of two ACC teams (Duke) that’s averaging more than 200 yards per game both rushing and passing. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is in charge of running Doeren’s offense, and the junior transfer is the conference’s third-rated passer thanks to a sterling 13:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Eagles’ fourth-ranked defense (304.2 ypg) could have its hands full dealing with all of the Wolfpack’s weapons, while Murphy may need to make a few more plays with his arm (3 TDs, 6 INTs) to give NC State’s defense something else to worry about other than just stopping the run.
4. North Carolina at Notre Dame (-17)
3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
It’s a little bit of déjà vu for North Carolina and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Larry Fedora’s team stumbled to a 1-5 start last season before winning six of their final seven games. This season, North Carolina is 2-3, but it has lost three in a row with an average of 51.3 points per game allowed during this span. That’s not a good sign considering sixth-ranked Notre Dame is coming off a huge 17-14 win over then-No. 14 Stanford. The Cardinal are the No. 2 defense in the nation, but Brian Kelly’s team was able to put up 370 total yards against them. The Tar Heels enter this game 120th in the nation (out of 128 FBS teams) in total defense, allowing more than 505 yards per game. Statistically speaking, there’s not a lot of separation between these two teams from an offensive standpoint. Notre Dame is averaging only 14 yards per game more than North Carolina with the Tar Heels (36.0 ppg) enjoying a slight advantage over the Irish (31.4) in scoring. However, the disparity on defense cannot be overlooked, as the Irish have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 17 points and the Tar Heels are coughing up 42 per game (124th in FBS). Even if North Carolina catches Notre Dame looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Florida State, the Irish should win this one fairly easily. In fact, things could get ugly in South Bend if the Tar Heels make too many mistakes, on either side of the ball.
5. Florida State (-24) at Syracuse
12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida State finally appears to be getting its act together, which could be a bad sign for Syracuse. Since falling behind 24-7 at NC State two weeks ago, the Seminoles have outscored their opponents 62-20 over their last seven quarters. Wake Forest bore the brunt of this outburst, losing 43-3 in Tallahassee last week, as Florida State’s suffocating defense (126 total yards allowed, 3 takeaways) simply overwhelmed the Demon Deacons. The Seminoles’ offense hasn’t been near as productive as it was last season, but the defending national champions still have plenty of talent. The Orange could catch a break, however, with the possibility that Florida State could be without both its leading receiver (Rashad Greene) and leading rusher (Karlos Williams) because of injuries. Those aren’t the only key players Jimbo Fisher may not have at his disposal Saturday, but his counterpart Scott Shafer is dealing with some personnel issues of his own. Starting quarterback Terrel Hunt is out four to six weeks after breaking his leg, while offensive coordinator George McDonald has been stripped of his duties and replaced by quarterbacks coach Tim Lester. Syracuse enters this game ranked second to last in the ACC in scoring (21.6 ppg), compared to Florida State, which despite stints of inconsistency, is averaging 39.2 points per game. Even though the Seminoles have not played like champions at times and figure to be at less than full strength, the Orange still don’t match up in terms of talent and are experiencing too much turmoil on offense to be considered much of a threat to end Florida State’s 21-game winning streak.
6. Cincinnati at Miami (-15)
12 p.m. ET, RSN
Cincinnati and Miami are both sitting at .500 and coming off of disappointing conference losses. Because of a scheduling quirk, the Bearcats have only played four games and it’s safe to say Tommy Tuberville’s team is still trying to find its rhythm. After two wins over MAC teams, Cincinnati has been outscored 91-42 in back-to-back losses against Ohio State and Memphis. The 27-point home loss to American Athletic Conference foe Memphis is much together to swallow than losing in the Horseshoe to the Buckeyes, considering the Tigers won just three games last season. To make matters worse, Tuberville’s defense is ranked second to last in the nation (561.8 ypg) and he most likely will be without his starting quarterback. Gunner Kiel, who ranks among the nation’s best passers (15 TDs, 3 INTs, 171.2 rating), hurt his ribs in last week’s loss and is not expected to play Saturday. Munchie Legaux will likely start against the Hurricanes and the fifth-year senior does have experience to lean on. Truth be told, the Bearcats’ issues on offense stem from an inability to run the ball (103.5 rushing ypg), something that must change, especially if Kiel misses an extended period of time. Miami’s offense has been led by true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is second in the ACC with 253.3 yards passing per game. As is usually the case with freshmen signal-callers, Kaaya has made his share of mistakes (13 TDs, 9 INTs), but he hasn’t gotten a lot of support from his running game either. Miami is 12th in the ACC in rushing (133.3 ypg), despite the presence of preseason All-America pick Duke Johnson. As talented as Johnson is, he’s not producing enough (104.2 rushing ypg) to carry this offense by himself. Cincinnati’s 123rd-ranked rush defense (255.3 ypg) could be just what Johnson and his backfield mates need to get going. In fact, this game could be coming at an opportune time for the Hurricanes, who really could use a complete, well-rounded effort (on both sides of the ball), as they get ready to enter the toughest part of their ACC slate.
Off: Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
ACC Week 7 Predictions
|Duke (+5) at Ga. Tech||GT 35-21||GT 28-27||GT 27-24||GT 30-23|
|Louisville (+13) at Clemson||Clemson 35-21||Clemson 34-27||Clemson 34-20||Clemson 33-27|
|Boston Coll. (+4) at NC State||NC State 31-24||NC State 37-27||NC State 30-27||NC State 34-24|
|UNC (+17) at Notre Dame||ND 41-14||ND 45-17||ND 45-17||ND 41-17|
|FSU (-24) at Syracuse||FSU 42-14||FSU 44-10||FSU 41-7||FSU 41-0|
|Cincinnati (+15) at Miami||Miami 28-21||Miami 34-10||Miami 31-20||Miami 33-21|
Another week, another huge slate of action in the SEC. Seven ranked teams play this Saturday, with Mississippi State’s showdown against Auburn taking the spotlight in Week 7. The huge matchup in Starkville is a contest with national title implications, and quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Nick Marshall hope to make a Heisman push with a big performance.
Outside of Starkville, the SEC East title race could come into focus with Missouri hosting Georgia. If the Tigers can knock off the Bulldogs, Gary Pinkel’s team would have wins over the preseason favorites in the East (Georgia and South Carolina).
Florida hosts LSU in a critical game for two struggling teams, while Ole Miss travels to Texas A&M in another key SEC West showdown. Following up last week’s win against Alabama won’t be easy. Can the Rebels avoid a letdown in College Station?
Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 7 Game Power Rankings
1. Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
For the second week in a row, Mississippi is the epicenter of Saturday’s SEC slate. But after the focus was in Oxford last week, the scene shifts to Starkville. Mississippi State has arrived as a SEC title contender, while Auburn can stake its claim for the No. 1 overall ranking nationally with a win on Saturday. On the stat sheet, there are a lot of similarities between the two teams. Mississippi State and Auburn average over 500 yards per game in SEC play, average 5.6 yards per carry on offense, both have dynamic Heisman contenders at quarterback, and defenses that hold opponents to less than 20 points per game. With two similar teams, what could be the deciding factor on Saturday? Keep an eye on Mississippi State’s secondary. The Bulldogs held their own against Texas A&M, but this unit leads the SEC by allowing 23 passing plays of at least 20 yards. Can Nick Marshall hit on big plays to Sammie Coates and Duke Williams? Auburn’s defense has improved since 2013, but how much has this unit progressed? The Tigers allow just 4.6 yards per play, but the Bulldogs – with quarterback Dak Prescott leading the way – are the toughest opponent they will play so far this year. This series has been one-sided recently, as the Tigers have won 11 out of the last 13 games against the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s last victory against Auburn came in 2012, defeating the Tigers 28-10 in Starkville.
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2. Georgia (-3) at Missouri
Noon ET, CBS
The favorite in the SEC East is anyone’s guess. However, Saturday’s game between Missouri and Georgia could provide some clarity. The Bulldogs are still in the mix for the East despite a loss to South Carolina, while Missouri’s win over the Gamecocks has Gary Pinkel’s team atop the East – for now. The Tigers won in Athens last season but are a slight underdog on Saturday. The outlook for this game has changed significantly since Wednesday, as running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely due to a NCAA investigation. With Gurley out, backup Nick Chubb is expected to see the bulk of the Bulldogs' carries on Saturday. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk struggled against South Carolina, but he should have more weapons at his disposal with the return of Jimmie Hunt and Darius White from injury. If the Tigers can protect Mauk, he will have opportunities to make plays against a Georgia secondary that has allowed 23 plays of at least 20 yards in 2014. Missouri needs to stop the run, but Georgia’s passing offense is set to improve with the return of receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. Quarterback Hutson Mason is averaging only 153 passing yards in SEC play, and his performance will be critical to the outcome of Saturday’s game.
3. Ole Miss at Texas A&M (–3.5)
9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Life in the SEC West isn’t easy. Just ask Ole Miss. A week after beating Alabama, the Rebels have to travel to Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a loss to Mississippi State and need a win to stay alive in the West Division title picture. Can Ole Miss avoid a letdown? Or was Texas A&M’s 5-0 start a mirage? The Rebels need another flawless effort from quarterback Bo Wallace on Saturday, as the senior delivered against Alabama with no interceptions on 31 attempts. Wallace should have opportunities for plays against a Texas A&M secondary allowing 278.3 yards per game. The Aggies lead the SEC with 19 sacks, but this unit is allowing 6.9 yards per play in conference games. If Texas A&M doesn’t get pressure on Wallace, the receiving corps of Ole Miss will be tough to contain. The Aggies averaged only 5.7 yards per play against Mississippi State last Saturday, which was its lowest mark of the season. Getting back on track will be a challenge for quarterback Kenny Hill, as Ole Miss is holding opponents to just 4.1 yards per play and has not allowed a passing touchdown since the opener. The last two games in this series were decided by three points. Expect another close one in College Station on Saturday night.
4. LSU (-1.5) at Florida
7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
For the first time since 1989, both Florida and LSU enter their annual matchup unranked. The Tigers are 0-2 in SEC play, while the Gators survived an ugly 10-9 win over Tennessee last Saturday to move to 2-1 in the conference. Both teams enter this game with major question marks under center. Florida will turn to Jeff Driskel after Treon Harris’ suspension, while LSU’s quarterback situation is unsettled with Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris vying to start. Quarterback play isn’t the only problem for LSU, as its defense is allowing 37.5 points through two SEC contests. Florida’s defense has struggled stopping the pass, but the Gators rank fourth in the SEC against the run. With two teams struggling to generate anything on offense, turnover margin and special teams will be critical. LSU has won three out of the last four meetings in this series.
5. Alabama (-9.5) at Arkansas
6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Last week, Ole Miss and Mississippi State scored breakthrough wins in the SEC. Is it Arkansas’ turn on Saturday? The last two meetings in this series have been a one-sided affair. Alabama has crushed Arkansas 104-0 over the last two years, and the Razorbacks have not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2006. Arkansas has significantly improved since 2013, so a 52-0 blowout would be a surprise. But for the Razorbacks to knock off Alabama, a perfect effort is needed. The Crimson Tide lead the SEC in rush defense (2.6 ypc) and only one opponent has managed more than 100 yards this year. The strength of Arkansas’ offense is on the ground, but running room could be limited on Saturday. With Alabama focused on stopping the ground attack, the Razorbacks need an efficient effort from quarterback Brandon Allen. The junior has passed for 751 yards this year and needs to have success on early downs to keep Alabama’s defense on its heels. As if that task wasn’t difficult enough, Arkansas needs its defense to slow down the Crimson Tide ground attack (5.3 ypc) and dynamic receiver Amari Cooper. Catching Alabama after a loss is never an enticing proposition, but Bret Bielma’s team has showed marked improvement since 2013. This is a good barometer game for Arkansas, and an opportunity for the Crimson Tide to exercise some of the frustration from last week’s loss.
6. ULM at Kentucky (-21.5)
Noon ET, SEC Network
The Wildcats are one of the SEC’s biggest surprises through the first six weeks. Kentucky defeated South Carolina last Saturday, and a win over ULM would place Mark Stoops’ team just one victory away from bowl eligibility. The Warhawks are 1-1 this year against Power 5 conference teams, losing to LSU 31-0 on Sept. 13 and defeating Wake Forest 17-10 in the opener. ULM’s offense is averaging only 18.2 points per game, but the strength of Todd Berry’s team is on defense. The Warhawks limit opponents to 24 points per game and 5.1 yards per play. Those numbers will be tested on Saturday, as Kentucky has scored at least 30 points in two of its three SEC games and rank second in the conference with 16 plays of 30 yards or more.
7. Chattanooga at Tennessee
4 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Tennessee steps out of conference play for the final time this year, hosting Chattanooga (No. 13 in the FCS poll) for the first time since 1969. As evidenced by close losses to Florida and Georgia, the Volunteers are improving under second-year coach Butch Jones, but a tough schedule leaves little margin for error to get to a bowl. Chattanooga’s strength is on defense (16.6 ppg), but quarterback Jacob Huesman headlines an offense that has scored at least 38 points in its last three games. The Mocs played Central Michigan tough in the opener and possess a solid defensive line that could create a few headaches for Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley. And after playing in Tuscaloosa last November, Chattanooga is no stranger to big-time SEC environments. However, it’s a lot to ask the Mocs to keep this one close. The Volunteers should have plenty of motivation after back-to-back SEC losses, and this matchup is a good way for Tennessee to fix some of its mistakes and work on a few things before playing Ole Miss and Alabama in the next two weeks.
8. Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt
7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
Vanderbilt’s still has faint bowl hopes, but the Commodores need a win on Saturday to stay alive in their postseason quest. Charleston Southern is 5-0 and ranked No. 24 in the FCS Top 25 poll, but this is easily the Buccaneers’ toughest game of 2014. Charleston Southern’s defense is holding opponents to just 17.6 points per game, and a triple-option attack on offense is not easy to prepare for during the heart of SEC play. First-year Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is looking for a spark on offense, as the Commodores are averaging only 17 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. With Patton Robinette recovering from a concussion, freshman Wade Freebeck will start at quarterback for the Commodores. Freebeck – a true freshman – is completing only 44.6 percent of his throws. Charleston Southern’s numbers on defense are solid, but this matchup should help Freebeck and Vanderbilt’s offense build confidence before resuming SEC play on Oct. 25 against Missouri.
SEC Week 7 Predictions
|Auburn (-3) at Miss. State||Auburn 38-35||MSU 31-27||Auburn 34-31||Auburn 34-24|
|Georgia (-3) at Missouri||Mizzou 24-21||Mizzou 34-31||Mizzou 27-24||UGA 27-21|
|Ole Miss (+3.5) at TAMU||Ole Miss 35-27||TAMU 34-33||Ole Miss 34-27||Ole Miss 34-30|
|LSU (-1.5) at Florida||LSU 14-10||Florida 24-17||Florida 20-17||Florida 17-14|
|Alabama (-9.5) at Arkansas||Alabama 35-14||Alabama 30-21||Alabama 30-13||Alabama 30-21|
|ULM (+21.5) at UK||UK 38-14||UK 45-14||UK 38-10||UK 37-10|
|Chattanooga at Tennessee||UT 31-13||UT 38-13||UT 45-13||UT 41-10|
|C. Southern at Vanderbilt||Vandy 24-10||Vandy 34-17||Vandy 34-10||Vandy 28-10|
The Big 12 was a huge part of the mass confusion that took place across the college football landscape last weekend.
The conference figures to be in the spotlight once again as two of the nation’s 10 remaining unbeaten teams will battle in Waco. It means that the Red River Shoo… Rivalry isn’t even the biggest game in Texas this weekend.
Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 7 Game Power Rankings
1. TCU (+8.5) at Baylor
3:30 p.m., ABC
It will be extremely difficult for Gary Patterson to get his team up for a second straight weekend, but a rivalry game against an unbeaten top-five opponent should do the trick. Baylor has won 16 straight games in the state of Texas by an average of five touchdowns, but an eight-loss TCU team nearly upset the Bears last season in Fort Worth. The last loss for Art Briles’ bunch in the Lone Star State came against TCU in 2012. Bryce Petty is coming off the worst performance of his career as a starter (7-of-22, 111 yards) while Trevone Boykin is riding high after the signature performance of his career (318 pass yds., 77 rush yds). Both defensive fronts can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, so whichever QB manipulates the defense more effectively will come out on top. That could mean turning to two of the Big 12’s top rushing attacks. Baylor is leading the Big 12 (247.4 ypg) and TCU is third (196.3).
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2. Texas (+14.5) vs. Oklahoma
Noon, ABC, Dallas
It’s a statement about where Charlie Strong’s program is for this Texas Fair-sized rivalry to be the third most important game in the state this weekend (See above and Ole Miss at Texas A&M). That said, there is always something special about the pageantry and split crowd of the Cotton Bowl early in October. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses but the onus of victory falls to the heavy underdog to make plays on both sides of the ball. The Texas defense has been excellent, stopping Baylor and Bryce Petty last week with unique schemes and varying formations. It will have to repeat its performance against Trevor Knight and the Sooners if Texas is going to have any chance to win. Knight was knocked around and turned the ball over, but still produced big numbers on offense in the loss to TCU. Weirder things have happened in this game (see last year) but Texas' defense needs to continue its strong play and the offense is going to have to elevate its game significantly if the Horns expect to pull another shocking upset over Oklahoma.
3. West Virginia (-6) at Texas Tech
Noon, Fox Sports 1
The longest road trip in the Big 12 features two of the best passing attacks in the nation. The difference is lies with the quarterback executing these offenses and the overall trajectory of the programs. Clint Trickett leads the Big 12’s top passing attack, is coming off an easy win over Kansas, and a victory would match the Mountaineers' win total from a year ago. Davis Webb is averaging 320.6 yards per game, is leading the Big 12 with 16 TDs, but has been wildly inconsistent and also leads the league in interceptions (10). With Texas Tech facing a fourth consecutive loss and a slew of ranked opponents in the second half, Kliff Kingsbury must stress the importance of winnable game like this one, especially at home.
4. Oklahoma St (-20.5) at Kansas
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Aside from courting Jim Harbaugh, which seems highly unreasonable for too many reasons to count, there isn’t any conversation about this Jayhawks program. That is the problem obviously, as Kansas enters another game as a three-touchdown underdog. In three tries against Big 5 teams, the Jayhawks have scored a total of 17 points and gone 0-3. There is no reason to expect anything different against an Oklahoma State team that has topped 37 points in each outing during its four-game winning streak. Interim coach Clint Bowen’s only shot at victory is to create Daxx Garman turnovers — he’s thrown four interceptions in the last two games. If not, a repeat of last year’s 42-6 score is likely.
5. Toledo (+3) at Iowa St
3:30 p.m., Cyclones.tv
No one wants to move forward more than Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard after getting fined for his postgame criticism of the officials last weekend. Win or lose against the Rockets, the officials shouldn’t have anything to do with the outcome. The Cyclones have proven they are good enough to compete with anyone in the Big 12 but haven’t been able to finish games. Toledo has won three straight in the MAC but allowed 107 points in two losses against bigger programs (Missouri, Cincinnati). This is a must-win situation for Paul Rhoads’ squad which likely will be favored to win, at most, one more time the rest of the season (at Kansas).
Off: Kansas State
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|TCU (+8.5) at Baylor||Bay., 38-30||Bay., 44-34||Bay., 42-28||Bay., 34-31|
|Texas (+14.5) vs Okla.||Okla., 41-13||Okla., 31-20||Okla., 35-14||Okla., 34-13|
|W. Virginia (-6) at T. Tech||WVU, 41-35||Tech, 38-36||WVU, 49-31||WVU, 38-31|
|Okla. St (-20.5) at Kansas||OSU, 41-17||OSU, 37-20||OSU, 31-10||OSU, 41-10|
|Toledo (+3) at Iowa St||ISU, 34-28||ISU, 30-20||ISU, 17-10||ISU, 34-31|
It’s not a huge slate in the Pac-12 with just four games, but the quality of the Week 7 matchups out West is second to none in college football this weekend.
A preview of the Pac-12 championship game could take place in the hallowed ground of the Rose Bowl. The only undefeated team is a home underdog to a traditional power. And both Evergreen State schools head to the Bay Area for critical road games in the North Division.
Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Week 7 Game Power Rankings
1. Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA
3:30 p.m., FOX
Brett Hundley can relate to Marcus Mariota. And vice versa. The two Heisman-caliber quarterbacks have been running for their respective lives this season behind two of the worst offensive lines in the Pac-12. Hundley was sacked 10 times last week in a home loss to Utah, as UCLA ranks last in the Pac-12 with 22.0 sacks allowed. Oregon isn’t much better, ranking ahead of only the Bruins in this category (15.0). Offensive coordinator Scott Frost claimed that Mariota wasn’t fully healthy in the loss to Arizona last week, but the Ducks QB told the media on Tuesday that he is good to go against UCLA. He will need to be at full strength against a dangerous but underachieving Bruins front seven if Oregon wants to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2007. Despite the offensive line woes, Hundley and Mariota are first and fourth respectively in completion percentage nationally. The dynamic duo has met just once, with Oregon winning 42-14 in Eugene last season, and whomever stays upright longer is likely to come out a winner.
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2. USC (-2.5) at Arizona
10:30 p.m., ESPN2
Is there any doubt that this won’t be one of the most entertaining games in the Pac-12 this season? These two have played seven consecutive games within one score and are separated by a grand total of 10 points over the last five games (USC 163, Arizona 153). USC has dominated the series overall but Rich Rodriguez has split with the Men of Troy, as the home team has won both games since he took over in Tucson. Arizona enters the game ranked in the top 10, unbeaten and riding high after a huge road win over Oregon. The Trojans limp into the desert after having their hearts ripped out by Mike Bercovici’s Hail Mary. Cody Kessler and Anu Solomon figure to get the headlines under center but both squads are loaded with skill talent on offense and both defensive units will be challenged to stop the efficient and diverse offensive schemes. Last team with the ball wins.
3. Washington (+3.5) at Cal
6 p.m., Pac-12 Net
Quick, which team is alone atop the Pac-12 North standings? Sonny Dykes has turned around the Golden Bears program in one quick offseason and is looking to put his stamp on the North Division race with a key win over a rested Huskies squad. Quarterback Jared Goff has been a part of record-setting performances in each of the last two games as he’s thrown for 985 yards and 12 touchdowns. The concern is Dykes needed every inch of that production, as his defense has allowed 56 and 59 points in those wins. The off weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for Chris Petersen’s bunch after getting knocked around by Stanford. Cyler Miles and company shouldn’t have any issue moving the ball so if the Washington defense can get stops, the road upset is well within reach.
4. Washington St (+17) at Stanford
Fri., 9 p.m., ESPN
There won’t be a bigger clash of strengths in the nation than Washington State’s record-setting offense and Stanford’s suffocating defense. The Cardinal are No. 2 in the nation in total defense (232.4 ypg) and are leading the nation in yards per play allowed (3.72) and trips into the red zone allowed (7). Mike Leach’s Cougars are leading the nation in passing offense (523.0 ypg) by nearly 100 yards per game (Western Kentucky, 433.0 ypg). Conversely, the Stanford offense is averaging nearly 300 yards fewer per game (229.8) through the air and the Wazzu defense is ranked 92nd nationally at 438.2 yards allowed per game. Nothing about either team indicates that this should be much closer than the 55-17 win for David Shaw’s bunch a year ago.
Off: Colorado, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA||Ore., 34-31||Ore., 40-30||Ore., 31-27||UCLA, 34-30|
|USC (-3) at Arizona||Zona, 40-38||USC, 35-30||Zona, 42-31||Zona, 38-34|
|Wash. (+3.5) at Cal||Wash., 35-33||Cal, 40-34||Cal, 44-28||Wash., 34-31|
|WSU (+17) at Stanford||Stan., 31-17||Stan., 28-14||Stan., 24-10||Stan., 34-20|
The Big Ten doesn’t present many weeks to say this, so let’s get this out of the way: Northwestern-Minnesota is the most important game of the week.
Yes, more important than Penn State-Michigan.
There are a few caveats here: Ohio State and Nebraska are off, Michigan State is playing Purdue, and we all know why a game involving Michigan isn’t getting top billing, even against Penn State.
None of that is anything against Northwestern and Minnesota, two teams that are undefeated in the league so far. Perhaps both are longshots to win the Big Ten West, but for this week, they are in focus as they try to strengthen their case as legitimate division contenders.
Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
Big Ten Week 7 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern. All games Saturday.
1. Northwestern at Minnesota
Noon, Big Ten Network
Shocker of shockers, this game will determine the leader for the Big Ten West, or at least a share of it. Consider this: Northwestern and Minnesota are a combined 3-0 in the Big Ten with wins over Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. Northwestern has helped turn its fortunes by shutting down opposing passing games, holding both Wisconsin and Penn State to less than 50 percent passing. That said, Minnesota’s bread-and-butter is the run game behind David Cobb. The Wildcats were able to defeat the Badgers despite giving up 259 yards to Melvin Gordon, so the pressure will be quarterback Mitch Leidner to keep Northwestern’s defense honest. After an off week, Minnesota is hopeful Leidner and Cobb, who has exceeded 30 carries in each of his last two games, will be as healthy has they’ve been in a while.
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2. Penn State at Michigan
7 p.m., ESPN2
What should be a powerhouse matchup any other year has limited national appeal in 2014, mostly due to Michigan’s 2-4 start and three-game losing streak. Penn State is 4-1 but is coming off a 29-6 loss at home to Northwestern. Given offensive line woes for both teams, a low-scoring game in Ann Arbor seems to be a given. Penn State leads the Big Ten in fewest yards allowed per play and has a defensive front that should give Michigan’s troubled line a world of problems. Making matters worse for Michigan, leading rusher Derrick Green has been lost for the season to broken clavicle. Meanwhile, Michigan has held four opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing this season. The key storyline will be if Christian Hackenberg can turn his season after struggling during the last three games. Since Sept. 13, Hackenberg is 59-of-112 with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
3. Indiana at Iowa
No, this isn’t the most juicy game on the Big Ten slate, but it will match one team’s strength against another. Behind Tevin Coleman — who has rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games and a touchdown in 14 in a row — Indiana has topped 200 rushing yards in each game this season. At the same time, Iowa has held four of five opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards. The exception was a come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh in which the Hawkeyes shut down Panthers tailback James Conner in the second half. When Iowa’s offense is on the field, the Hawkeyes will be playing the dreaded two-quarterback system. Jake Rudock will start after missing the last game and a half with an injury. C.J. Beathard, who led the comeback against Pitt, will also see action. What shape will that take? “We’re not seven sure what the plan is right now,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters.
4. Illinois at Wisconsin
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen began the week with a defense of quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, who were a combined 19-of-29 with four interceptions against Northwestern last week. Whether the turnovers were due to the quarterbacks themselves, tipped passes or contested balls, the Badgers still have a team that’s too one dimensional to contend in the Big Ten. Against Northwestern, Melvin Gordon rushed for 259 yards on 27 carries yet the Badgers never led and trailed by as much as 13 until the final 4:16. The Badgers will try to find answers in the passing game against an Illinois team that ranks last in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense. Illinois, though, is in even more trouble. Tim Beckman may have needed a bowl game and a monster season from transfer quarterback Wes Lunt to save his job. Now, Lunt is out for four to six weeks with a broken leg, and Illinois is 3-3 and 0-2 in the Big Ten after a loss to Purdue.
5. Michigan State at Purdue
3:30 pm., ABC/ESPN2
Improvement is coming slowly at Purdue but probably not enough for an upset of Michigan State. Still, new quarterback Austin Appleby was able to lead the Boilermakers to their first Big Ten win since Nov. 24, 2012 in his first career start. The sophomore will face quite the increase in degree of difficulty in facing the Illinois defense one week to facing Michigan State’s a week later.
Big Ten Week 7 Staff Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Illinois at Wisconsin (-26)
|Wisc 42-10||Wisc 38-20||Wisc 45-17||Wisc 41-17|
Indiana at Iowa (-4)
|Iowa 28-21||Iowa 27-24||Iowa 30-27||Iowa 24-17|
Northwestern at Minnesota (-4)
|NW 38-35||Minn 30-27||NW 27-24||NW 27-21|
Michigan St (-22) at Purdue
|MSU 42-17||MSU 45-7||MSU 40-10||MSU 33-10|
Penn State at Michigan (-2)
|PSU 17-14||UM 21-20||PSU 24-20||PSU 17-13|