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With eight weeks of the 2013 college football season in the books, it’s time to take a look at the new coaches and how they have performed so far this year.
While every coach wants to win big in his first season, it’s just not possible with some programs. Roster turnover, change in schemes, coaching transition and a lack of talent are four reasons most programs struggle in the first year under a new coach.
And in looking at the 31 new hires for 2013, it’s clear this is not shaping up to be a banner season for first-year coaches.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen are the top-four hires after eight weeks of the season. Helfrich and Kingsbury are unbeaten, while Malzahn’s only loss came at LSU, and Andersen has defeats to Arizona State and Ohio State.
After those four names, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey are the next in the rankings, while Tennessee’s Butch Jones is rising after an upset win over South Carolina.
Athlon Sports will grade all of the new coaches at the end of the year, but for now, here’s a look at how all 31 new hires have performed so far in 2013.
Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013 After Week 8
|Auburn went 3-9 and was largely uncompetitive in SEC action last season. Malzahn has made a huge difference this year, as the Tigers have already won six games and could be 9-1 heading into rivalry contests against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn’s offense is one of the most improved units in the nation, averaging 35.9 points a game after mustering only 18.7 per contest in 2012. Malzahn inherited some nice talent, but he’s done a good job of blending the returning core with his up-tempo offense, along with breaking in a new quarterback in Nick Marshall. Auburn’s defense ranks 12th in yards allowed the SEC, but this unit has generated 19 sacks and is holding opponents to just 22 points a game.|
|The former Red Raider quarterback has returned to Lubbock, guiding Texas Tech to a 7-0 record and top-10 ranking in the first release of the BCS standings. Even though Kingsbury had no head coaching experience prior to this season, the 34-year-old head coach was the perfect hire for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders’ schedule will get tougher, starting on Saturday with a date at Oklahoma. But with Kingsbury (one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the nation), Texas Tech will be in the Big 12 title mix.|
|Chip who? The Ducks haven’t missed a beat with Helfrich in control, cruising to a 7-0 mark and spot among the top-three teams in the nation. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the frontrunner to win the Heisman, and the offense has scored at least 40 points in every game in 2013. The biggest test of Helfrich’s tenure will come on Nov. 7, as Oregon travels to Stanford in a game that should decide the Pac-12 North champion.|
|Andersen inherited a program coming off three consecutive Rose Bowls, and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat under his watch. Wisconsin opened the year with blowout wins over UMass and Tennessee Tech and was robbed of a chance to win by poor officiating in the loss to Arizona State. The Badgers handled Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue in Big Ten play and only lost by seven to Ohio State. If Wisconsin wins out, Andersen’s first season could result in a BCS bowl.|
|Addazio inherited a team that won just six games from 2011-12, but the Eagles have showed marked improvement in his first season. Boston College lost by only 14 to Florida State and by 10 to Clemson, and with a favorable schedule, the Eagles should make their first bowl appearance since the 2010 season. Addazio inherited a solid core of talent on offense, and running back Andre Williams ranks fifth nationally with an average of 139.7 yards per game.|
|Carey stepped into a situation built for success, as the Huskies returned 10 starters – including standout quarterback Jordan Lynch – from last year’s team that finished 12-2 and played in the Orange Bowl. Northern Illinois is back in the mix for a BCS bowl once again, beating Iowa and Purdue in route to a 7-0 start.|
|Even though Tennessee’s record is just 4-3, there are plenty of signs the program is on the right track. The Volunteers took Georgia to overtime on Oct. 5 and followed up that performance with an upset victory over South Carolina last Saturday. Tennessee’s offense is starting to show some signs of life, and the Volunteers rank second in the SEC with a +4 in turnover margin. The upcoming schedule isn’t easy, but Tennessee should play in a bowl this year.|
|Colorado was downright awful last year. The Buffaloes lost to Sacramento State and had four defeats by 40 points or more. MacIntyre has made a big difference, as the Buffaloes have already won three games, which nearly exceeds the total this program had from 2011-12 (four). A bowl could be too much to ask for, but Colorado should be more competitive against its Pac-12 opponents than it was last season.|
|Petrino’s first season at Western Kentucky started with a win over Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers lost their next two games, including a turnover-filled 52-20 defeat at Tennessee. Western Kentucky is 3-1 in its last four games and should be favored in its final five contests. After what transpired at Arkansas, a quiet start to the season isn’t a bad thing for Petrino.|
|Tuberville was a nice catch for Cincinnati after Butch Jones left for Tennessee, and the veteran coach has the Bearcats positioned to finish with at least eight wins for the eighth time in nine seasons. Losing to Illinois and South Florida was surprising, but Cincinnati will likely be favored against SMU, Houston and Memphis, with games against Rutgers and Louisville presenting the biggest challenge the rest of the season. Tuberville’s first year with the Bearcats hasn’t received much national attention, but Cincinnati is quietly on its way to its seventh bowl game in eight years.|
|With quarterback Chuckie Keeton lost for the season, it’s hard to give Wells a complete grade for his work through eight games. When Keeton was in the lineup, Utah State lost by four points to Utah and by three to USC, beat San Jose State by 28 points and Air Force by 32. With four winnable games to finish the year, Wells’ first season would be a success if he gets Utah State back to the postseason for the third consecutive year.|
|Considering Harsin is Arkansas State’s fourth head coach in four seasons, some transition time is needed for the former Texas offensive coordinator. The Red Wolves won 20 games from 2011-12, but with four losses, the best this team can do is 9-4 – assuming it wins a bowl game. Arkansas State’s wins came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Troy and Idaho, and its losses against Auburn, Missouri and UL Lafayette are nothing to be ashamed about. Ranking Harsin this high might be a bit generous, but then again, there aren’t many coaches behind him worthy of a promotion on this list.|
|This is probably a little high for Bielema, but it’s not a particularly deep year for success among first-year coaches. Bielema didn’t inherit a ton of talent to work with, but the Razorbacks have been outscored 134-17 in their last three SEC games. Arkansas does have some promising pieces for the future, including freshmen running back Alex Collins, defensive tackle Darius Philon and offensive linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. With a bowl game nearly out of reach, Bielema’s top priority for the last four games is to build momentum for 2014, along with being more competitive against its conference foes.|
|Taggart inherited a mess left behind by former coach Skip Holtz. South Florida went 8-5 in Holtz’s first season but finished 8-16 in the last two years, and the cupboard on offense was bare. As a result, the Bulls are averaging just 16.2 points a game. Six combined turnovers against McNeese State and FAU cost South Florida a chance at two winnable games and a likely bowl appearance. Taggart was a good hire and will get the program back on track. However, he will need some time to recruit and upgrade the talent level on offense.|
|Expectations were low for Stoops in his first year, and the Wildcats’ only victory came against one of the worst FBS teams in the nation (Miami, Ohio). On a positive note, Kentucky lost by only seven to South Carolina, and its margin of defeat against Louisville and Florida decreased from 2012. The Wildcats may only win one more game this season, but Stoops is bringing in a solid recruiting class, which should help immediately upgrade the talent next year in Lexington.|
|Similar to Utah State’s Matt Wells, Doeren has been dealing with a significant injury at quarterback. Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell broke his foot in the opener and has not played since, which significantly hampered NC State’s offense through the first six games. The Wolfpack are searching for their first win in the ACC but had a respectable showing in a loss to Clemson (26-14) and went 3-0 in non-conference play. Due to Mitchell’s injury, we will give Doeren a slight curve on his grade.|
|Shafer’s first seven games have produced a mix bag of results. The Orange was impressive in non-conference wins against Wagner and Tulane and beat NC State 24-10 on the road in mid-October. However, Syracuse was outscored in conference play by Clemson and Georgia Tech by a combined score of 105-14. Stopping the pass on defense is a huge concern, and the Orange has been unable to get consistent play from Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen at quarterback. With home games against Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Boston College, Syracuse still has a chance to get bowl eligible.|
|Hazell didn’t inherit a wealth of talent to work with on offense, and the Boilermakers have already turned the reigns over to freshman quarterback Danny Etling, which only adds to the growing pains in West Lafayette. Purdue’s only win came against Indiana State, but Hazell’s team lost by just 14 to Michigan State and by seven to Notre Dame. It’s hard to find a guaranteed win on the schedule the rest of the way for the Boilermakers, but Hazell went 5-7 in his first year at Kent State, only to rebound with an 11-3 mark the following season.|
|So far, the Spartans’ season has played out as most expected. San Jose State lost to Stanford, Minnesota and Utah State, while defeating Sacramento State, Colorado State and Hawaii. The Spartans won 11 games last season and returned 12 starters, including standout quarterback David Fales, leaving plenty of hope for this team to push Fresno State and Boise State for the conference title. San Jose State’s schedule is favorable over the final six games, and if Caragher guides this team to nine wins, the season will be a success. However, 7-5 or 6-6 would be a disappointment.|
|Much like his Mountain West counterpart Ron Caragher, Polian has played a difficult schedule in his first season. Nevada played BCS foes UCLA and Florida State, along with road games against conference foes San Diego State and Boise State. The Wolf Pack’s offense has remained explosive, averaging 34.3 points a game in conference action. However, Nevada’s defense is struggling and could prevent the Wolf Pack from making their ninth consecutive bowl.|
|In addition to dealing with a rash of injuries on defense and a true freshman starting at quarterback, the Golden Bears have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. With those three factors in play, it’s easy to see why California has just one win (Portland State). And with a tough schedule the rest of the way, the Golden Bears could be headed for their worst finish since an 0-11 record in 1999. Considering all of the factors working against California this year, this team would be a good candidate for a rebound in 2014.|
|In fairness to Miles, we have to grade his first season on a curve. Georgia State is transitioning to the FBS level and doesn’t have the necessary talent to compete for a winning season. The Panthers lost to three FCS teams but have played better in their last two games, losing to Troy and Texas State by just a touchdown. Miles engineered quite a turnaround at Indiana State, and in time, he will do the same thing at Georgia State.|
|Haynes inherited 10 starters from a team that went 11-3 last season. And even with a tougher schedule, a bowl game was a reasonable expectation for the Golden Flashes. However, Kent State’s only wins this season came against an FCS team (Liberty) and winless Western Michigan. The Golden Flashes were competitive against Ball State and Northern Illinois, but this team needs to win out in order to play for a bowl in 2013.|
|The Bulldogs lost a plethora key players from last year’s team and only one starter returned from an offense that averaged 51.5 points a game in 2012. Louisiana Tech beat Lamar and UTEP this season and has chances to pickup wins against FIU and Southern Miss in its next two games. Holtz was a retread hire, looking to prove his 16-21 record at South Florida was a fluke. So far, the early returns haven't been positive. However, with the roster and league transition, it's unfair to blame Holtz for all of the struggles in 2013.|
|Much like New Mexico State’s Doug Martin, Petrino has a tough job in 2013 with Idaho competing as an FBS Independent. The Vandals managed to give Northern Illinois a fight (45-35), but Petrino’s team lost by 34 to North Texas, 24 to Arkansas State and 32 to Wyoming. Idaho’s only win came against Temple, which gives Petrino a slight edge over Matt Rhule in the midseason new coach grades.|
|Rhule started his tenure with six consecutive defeats, including a disappointing 30-29 loss to FCS opponent Fordham. The Owls broke into the win column with a 33-14 victory over Army on Saturday, and freshman quarterback P.J. Walker is a promising player for Rhule to build around. Temple won only four games last season and was picked near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference for 2013. Rhule didn’t have a total rebuild project on his hands, but he also didn’t inherit a ton of talent to work with.|
|Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for UTEP, ranking third in Conference USA with an average of 31.2 points a game. But stopping opposing offenses has been a real challenge for the Miners, as opponents are scoring 37.7 points a game against Kugler’s team. UTEP’s only win came against New Mexico State, but it has lost two games by a touchdown or less. Quarterback Jameill Showers and freshman running back Aaron Jones are two promising pieces for Kugler to build around for the second half of 2013.|
|This is not an easy job. New Mexico State has only two winning seasons since 1995 and has not won more than four games since 2004. Martin needs time to upgrade the talent and change the culture in Las Cruces and moving to the Sun Belt next year will help. The Aggies lost by 20 or more points in six out of their seven losses, but the schedule lightens in the second half with games against Abilene Christian, Idaho and FAU.|
|Firing Mario Cristobal for Ron Turner is still one of the biggest head-scratchers in recent coaching moves. The Panthers had a lot of roster turnover from last year, and it was expected this team would struggle against its BCS opponents. However, FIU was dominated by FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman, and if it wasn’t for a sloppy effort by Southern Miss, the Golden Panthers would be 0-6. The program is also struggling at the ticket office, as FIU ranks 122nd nationally with an average of 15,492 fans per game.|
|A once-proud program has fallen on hard times. Ellis Johnson was fired after losing all 12 games at Southern Miss last year, and Monken has been forced to clean up the mess. The Golden Eagles were dominated by Boise State, Nebraska, Arkansas and East Carolina and lost by a touchdown or less to Texas State and FIU. Losing to FIU – a team that lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman earlier in the year – was inexcusable. Southern Miss has an 18-game losing streak headed into Week 9.|
|Fleck brought some much-needed enthusiasm and energy to Western Michigan. However, the product on the field hasn’t quite matched the offseason buzz. The Broncos lost a few key players to injury – namely sophomore receiver Jaime Wilson – but are 0-8 and lost to FCS opponent Nicholls State in Week 2. Western Michigan has lost by 20 or more points five times in 2013.|
The beauty of sports, in particular college football, lies in their complete unpredictability and reality TV-like drama. As I predicted last week, ranked SEC teams on the road were in serious danger of being upset, and, sure enough, four of them lost. Here's what might happen in Week 9.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
Three more unbeatens will go down
In each of the last two weeks, at least three previously undefeated teams lost. That could happen again in Week 9. No. 10 Texas Tech goes on the road this weekend to face Oklahoma in its toughest test to date. No. 5 Missouri has to host an angry South Carolina team. No. 3 Oregon has its toughest test to date against UCLA. No. 4 Ohio State hosts Big Ten rival Penn State at home. No. 1 Alabama is facing an arch rival who is showing marked improvement. And No. 17 Fresno State has a tricky road test against San Diego State. There is a very good chance three of the aforementioned unbeatens will lose this weekend (no, it won't be Bama or Ohio State).
Clemson will win by five touchdowns
Tajh Boyd is coming off arguably the worst performance of his career after watching the Seminoles abuse his Tigers in all aspects of the game on Saturday night. So fans should expect to see an angry Boyd and focused Clemson team this weekend on the road against Maryland. The Terps have an injured quarterback in C.J. Brown and lost its top two playmakers for the year last week in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. This was a 45-10 Clemson win in Death Valley last year and fans should expect much of the same this time around.
Marcus Mariota will become the 8th 400-100 player in NCAA history
BYU’s Taysom Hill became just the seventh player in NCAA history to throw for at least 400 yards (417) and rush for at least 100 (128) in the same game against Houston last weekend. Oregon's quarterback could become the eighth this weekend in a much bigger stage against much better competition. Mariota is fifth nationally in total offense (363.4 ypg) and has been electric all season long both through the air (181.72 rating) and on the ground (70.4 rypg). The Bruins just gave up their most yards this fall (419) against Stanford and have never faced the Ducks' outstanding quarterback. With De’Anthony Thomas back on the field, there should be plenty of open space for Mariota.
Baylor will challenge Georgia Tech’s scoring record
The Yellow Jackets famously defeated Cumberland College 222-0 on Oct. 7, 1916. It is the current, single-game NCAA scoring record. But if any team will ever tio challenge the record, or more reasonably, score 100 points for the first time since Houston beat Tulsa 100-6 in 1968, it would be this weekend in Lawrence. Baylor has scored 70 points four times in six games (and 69 points in another contest) and has topped 700 yards of offense in four of those contests. Kansas, who threw for 16 total yards last week against Oklahoma, has allowed 115 points in three Big 12 games this year. Charlie Weis’ squad will have no answer for the Bears on Saturday and don’t be shocked to see a third digit on the scoreboard.
Sean Mannion will throw more than 1 pass against Stanford
After losing the starting job last year to Cody Vaz due to a knee injury, Mannion got to throw one pass in the emotional 27-23 road loss to Stanford. As the nation’s leading passer, it’s safe to assume that Mannion (427.4 ypg) will attempt more than one pass against the Cardinal at home this weekend. He is No. 2 in the nation with 334 attempts, leads the nation in TDs (29) and is No. 2 in completions (229). Stanford better be ready.
Illinois will end its 16-game Big Ten losing streak
The 6-1, 3-0 Michigan State Spartans are coming to town to play Illinois and their on-going, 16-game conference losing streak. Why is this the week the streak comes to an end? Despite showing signs of life, the Spartans' offense returned to normalcy last weekend against lowly Purdue by gaining just 294 yards and managing one touchdown. The Illini were blown out by Wisconsin but still scored 32 points and gained nearly 400 yards against one of the highest-ranked defenses in the Big Ten. Look for Tim Beckman and Nathan Scheelhaase to have a signature moment at home this weekend.
Someone will win the Kentucky-Mississippi State game
Yes, I know, it’s far fetched, but true. Someone will actually have to win the Kentucky-Mississippi State Thursday night game. The Wildcats have lost four straight overall and 11 straight SEC games while the Bulldogs have lost six of their last seven conference games. So these two are a combined 1-13 in their last 14 SEC games with the only win coming against Arkansas. State has won four straight in the series overall against the Wildcats.
With the first release of the BCS standings, the debate over who should play in the national championship has already started.
Alabama is a clear No. 1 in the BCS standings, but Florida State and Oregon aren’t separated by much for the No. 2 spot. The Seminoles are No. 2 after destroying Clemson 51-14 last Saturday, but the Ducks have ground to gain in the computer polls.
A lot can happen in college football over the next seven weeks, so it’s no guarantee the Seminoles and Ducks finish unbeaten. However, if those two teams and Alabama have a perfect record in December, it will be an intriguing debate to see who plays in Pasadena in early January.
Oregon or Florida State: Which Team Should be Ranked No. 2 Behind Alabama?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I would give a slight edge to Florida State for the No. 2 spot – for now. The Seminoles’ win over Clemson on Saturday was the most-convincing victory over a top-10 team so far this year. Florida State is no longer rebuilding when personnel departs for the NFL, as the Seminoles have better depth than at any point under coach Jimbo Fisher. Quarterback Jameis Winston is outstanding, but the defense deserves some credit, especially with a new coordinator and seven new starters stepping into the lineup this year. If you throw out the FCS opponents both teams have played, Florida State’s opponents have a tougher win/loss record 21-12 to 18-24 for Oregon. However, the upcoming schedule favors the Ducks, as Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA should all be ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation when they play Oregon. The Seminoles still have to play Miami and could rematch against the Hurricanes or face Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, but there’s not another likely top-25 matchup, and rival Florida is struggling just to get bowl eligible. I’m not a huge fan of the playoff, but it would be a shame to see Florida State or Oregon get left out of the picture if both finish unbeaten this year. As I mentioned previously, the edge at No. 2 for now needs to go to Florida State. But at the end of the year, if both teams are unbeaten, the resume favors the Ducks.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Right now, it’s understandable that Florida State is No. 2 in the BCS, and a great debate could be had as to which team is more talented, better coached, etc. But if both teams run the table and win their conference championships, then the Oregon Ducks deserve to be ahead of the Seminoles in the final standings. The Ducks play a dramatically more difficult schedule as games with UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, Utah and Arizona still remain, while Florida State has Miami and a reeling Florida team. The quarterbacks are comparable. The head coaches are comparable. The offensive numbers and margins of victory are comparable. But the strength of schedule is not even close. Oregon went on the road and beat ACC foe Virginia 59-10 in Week 2 and that might be the 11th toughest game the Ducks play this season. Florida State has six "Virginias" on its schedule by the name of Boston College, Wake Forest, Syracuse, NC State, Pitt and Maryland.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I am going to do some major equivocating here. Florida State deserves to be No. 2 right now. However, if both teams remain undefeated, Oregon won’t just have a claim to being No. 2, but a legitimate claim for the top spot. If you’re asking which team is the better one, it’s impossible to know at this point of the season. Certainly, we’ve seen this nucleus at Oregon succeed over a longer period of time than the one at Florida State. I may pick Oregon on a neutral field. That said, Florida State has achieved more this season so far than Oregon. The schedules are comparable, if Florida State’s hasn’t been a bit tougher so far. The Clemson win alone was more impressive than any single win by a title contender against another good team that we’ve seen this season. As much as Jameis Winston deserves accolades, the defense was just as dominant on the road against the Tigers. Oregon was just as dominant against rival Washington on the road, but the Huskies haven’t distinguished themselves since. That said, Oregon over the final five games faces five teams ranked in the top 30 of Jeff Sagarin’s predictor rankings (i.e., the rankings taking margin of victory into account, not the ranking used in the BCS). Florida State faces three of those teams all year. Provided every possible undefeated team stays that way at the end of the year, Oregon deserves that No. 1 spot as much as any ... just not No. 2 as of Oct. 23.
No team was more impressive this past weekend in college football than Florida State. The Seminoles, behind redshirt freshman sensation Jameis Winston, completely and utterly dominated the then-No. 3 ranked Tigers in Death Valley. That said, I would still side with Oregon for the No. 2 position behind Alabama because the Ducks have been just as dominant as the 'Noles, and I think, the Pac-12 conference, top-to-bottom, is better when compared to the ACC this season. As good as Jimbo Fisher's team looked this past Saturday, they got a bit of a scare at Boston College a few weeks ago, eventually pulling away in the second half for a 48-34 win. Oregon's smallest margin of victory so far has been a 21-point win at then-No. 16 Washington. There are a lot of similarities between both of these teams (Heisman-contending, dual-threat quarterbacks, explosive offenses, solid, all-around defenses), so I don't think you can go wrong with either team at No. 2. Still, if I had to cast my vote, I would take Mark Helfrich and his high-flying Ducks.
This preview and more on Wisconsin and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 22 Wisconsin Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (12-6 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Bo Ryan (291-113 at Wisconsin)
Big Ten projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Dekker called a 57–46 loss to Ole Miss a “bulletin-board game” for the returning Badgers entering the offseason. But his spirits picked up considerably during the summer when he’d walk into the Kohl Center and see several of his teammates — even the newcomers — already hard at work. “We just have a really, really hard-working bunch that’s not going to back down from much at all,” Dekker says.
UW’s roster includes six freshmen and two returning players who missed last season due to injuries. To help get the Badgers up to speed as quickly as possible, Ryan scheduled a series of five exhibition games in Canada in August. The trip allowed UW to hold 10 additional practices over the summer.
The Badgers must replace all three starters. While center Jared Berggren and forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz had their share of struggles on offense in 2012-13, they were solid rebounders and the leaders of a defense that statistically was among the best during Ryan’s successful run at UW. Junior Frank Kaminsky, a reserve during his first two seasons, will be expected to take over at center for Berggren, the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots. Kaminsky can stretch defenses with his ability to knock down shots from 3-point range, but he needs to be stronger around the rim on both ends of the court.
Dekker will move into a starting — and perhaps starring — role after being a sparkplug off the bench during his first season with the Badgers. The dynamic forward averaged 9.6 points per game, the most by a UW freshman since Alando Tucker’s 12.0 in 2002-03.
Finding a third starter and some depth in the post will likely be Ryan’s biggest challenge heading into the season. Junior forward Duje Dukan, who redshirted last season after dealing with a bout of mononucleosis during the preseason conditioning session, senior forward Zach Bohannon and junior center Evan Anderson have to prove they’re ready for expanded roles. UW likely will need Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes to make significant contributions as freshmen. If Brown and Hayes can earn Ryan’s trust as defenders, one of them could find a place in the starting lineup.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
The Badgers return four guards with starting experience. Junior Josh Gasser started 66 games at shooting guard during his first two seasons and was ready to take over as the Badgers’ point guard in 2012-13 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in late October. Gasser, who makes good decisions, shoots well from 3-point range and is a great defender, expects to be back in time for the 2013-14 opener.
Senior Ben Brust averaged a team-high 11.1 points per game in his first season as a starter. After being mostly a spot-up shooter during the first half of his career, Brust became a more complete player and was arguably UW’s most valuable asset a year ago.
George Marshall replaced Gasser at point guard to start the season, but he was replaced after six games by Traevon Jackson. Jackson, a junior, has a knack for making clutch plays in close games, but he needs to improve his shot selection and ball-handling. If Marshall, a sophomore, can overcome confidence issues, he can help the Badgers on offense because he’s quick enough to get to the rim and has a nice shooting stroke. Freshman Bronson Koenig, a terrific passer who might be able to help UW score in transition more often, adds to a deep backcourt.
UW went into Ohio to land a pair of athletic forwards in Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes, who should battle for playing time in the Badgers’ depleted frontcourt. Bronson Koenig is a flashy point guard who will be tough to keep off the floor. Riley Dearring is a good shooter but probably needs a redshirt season to add muscle to his thin frame. Redshirting might also be the best option for Jordan Hill, who is a tenacious defender but needs to work on his offensive game.
Wisconsin has finished no worse than fourth place in the Big Ten in each of Bo Ryan’s 12 seasons. The Badgers finished fourth or better only three times in the 34 seasons prior to Ryan taking over the program.
UW finished with its lowest field goal, free throw and 3-point shooting averages in Ryan’s 12 seasons but still finished with seven victories over teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. The Badgers should be better offensively with Dekker becoming the team’s go-to scorer, but UW’s success — and Dekker’s mood heading into the next offseason — will depend on how much Kaminsky and others step up in the frontcourt.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
25. Wichita State
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the lone undefeated Kansas City Chiefs to the still-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Chiefs (7-0) Brian Cushing has “respect” for Jamaal Charles.
2. Colts (5-2) Lose Reggie Wayne (ACL) for year in win vs. Broncos.
3. Broncos (6-1) Peyton Manning loses homecoming in Indianapolis.
4. Saints (5-1) Status of injured Jimmy Graham (foot) uncertain.
5. Seahawks (6-1) Defense swarms Arizona with seven sacks, two INTs.
6. 49ers (5-2) Colin Kaepernick sprints to fourth straight victory.
7. Packers (4-2) Jermichael Finley “walking” after scary neck injury.
8. Jets (4-3) Nick Folk misses from 56, hits from 42 to beat Pats.
9. Patriots (5-2) Unsportsmanlike conduct flag gives Jets new life.
10. Bengals (5-2) Mike Nugent hits last-second 54-yard game-winner.
11. Lions (4-3) Megatron highlight-reel 50-yard TD highlights loss.
12. Cowboys (4-3) DeMarcus Ware (quadriceps) misses first game ever.
13. Eagles (3-4) Nick Foles leaves loss to Cowboys with concussion.
14. Falcons (2-4) Harry Douglas steps up for Julio Jones, Roddy White.
15. Redskins (2-4) Brandon Meriweather suspended for illegal hitting.
16. Bears (4-3) Jay Cutler (groin), Lance Briggs (shoulder) injured.
17. Titans (3-4) Return man Darius Reynaud cut after latest muff.
18. Chargers (4-3) Own time-of-possession (37:30-to-22:30) vs. Jags.
19. Steelers (2-4) Big Ben earns 28th fourth-quarter comeback win.
20. Ravens (3-4) After hip injury, Ray Rice says he’s got “burst back.”
21. Panthers (3-3) Captain Munnerlyn has pick-six on game’s first play.
22. Rams (3-4) Auditioning QBs after Sam Bradford’s ACL injury.
23. Cardinals (3-4) Carson Palmer has thrown 11 INTs in last five games.
24. Texans (2-5) Brian Cushing suffers broken fibula, torn LCL in loss.
25. Bills (3-4) Snap six-game road losing streak with win in Miami.
26. Dolphins (3-3) Trade conditional ’14 draft pick for Bryant McKinnie.
27. Raiders (2-4) Terrelle Pryor works with QB guru Tom House on bye.
28. Browns (3-4) Brandon Weeden on hot seat after latest struggles.
29. Giants (1-6) Eli Manning throws zero INTs for first time this year.
30. Vikings (1-5) Josh Freeman not ready for prime time on MNF.
31. Buccaneers (0-6) Debate over Doug Martin labrum injury continues.
32. Jaguars (0-7) Have lost every game this season by double digits.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
The heir to the horseshoe throne in Indy, Luck spoiled Peyton Manning’s homecoming in prime time on Sunday night. The second-year phenom passed for 228 yards, three TDs and zero INTs, while scrambling for 29 yards and one TD on the ground during a 39–33 victory over the Broncos, snapping Denver’s 17-game regular-season winning streak. The Colts bounced back from a Week 6 loss at San Diego and have not lost consecutive games since Luck took over for Manning under center at Lucas Oil Stadium last season.
Tamba Hali, LB, Chiefs
Kansas City’s defense terrorized Houston in a 17–16 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. Hali led the way with 2.5 sacks for 29 lost yards as well as a pair of forced fumbles — the second of which was recovered by linebacker Derrick Johnson late in the fourth quarter to seal the Chiefs’ win. With a 7–0 start, Kansas City has all but assured its first trip to the playoffs since 2010. Of the 31 teams to start 7–0 in the Super Bowl era, all 31 made the playoffs, 15 advanced to Super Sunday and nine raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
In an epic battle of arguably the league’s top two wide receivers, Green had the last laugh against the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, winning 27–24 at Detroit. Green posted six catches for 155 yards (25.8 ypc) and an 82-yard TD, while Megatron finished with nine catches for an identical 155 yards (17.2 ypc) and two trips to the end zone. After the game, the duo exchanged jerseys as a sign of mutual respect.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
Sure it was against the winless Jaguars, but Mathews had one of his better days as a pro during a 24–6 road win at Jacksonville — which came on short rest following a Monday night win over the Colts last week. The fourth-year back out of Fresno State had 21 carries for a Week 7-best 110 yards and one TD, his first rushing score since Oct. 7 last season.
The Jimmie Johnson-Matt Kenseth battle atop the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings takes an interesting turn this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson and his No. 48 team were dominant in the last 13 races (spanning the entire CoT era and the first Martinsville race of the Gen-6’s existence), winning six times, most recently the 2013 spring race, and finishing inside the top five 10 times. Without much thought, it’s easy to cede this fight to Johnson.
Kenseth might be in better shape than a first impression suggests, though.
While it’s true that Kenseth’s past efforts at Martinsville look rather ordinary — his Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at Martinsville ranks a humdrum 14th out of 49 drivers with four or more starts — compared to Johnson’s Superman-like record, it is Kenseth’s ride, not his past production, that should garner the attention.
Does the fact that Kenseth, who now drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, a winner of four Martinsville races since 2007, matter?
15.2 The average finish of all Roush Fenway Racing drivers in Martinsville races dating back to 2011 is 15.2. The average for all JGR drivers in that span is 15.29, an almost identical tally.
Martinsville, as tracks a mile and under typically do, highlight a driver’s ability at that specific track more than most other facilities in the sport. Johnson is an inherently good Martinsville driver. Ditto for the likes of Denny Hamlin (ranks second in PEER) and Jeff Gordon (third). Their results are straightforward and in many cases at Martinsville, the car takes on the persona of the driver, which is why JGR’s big swings and misses by the likes of Hamlin and Kyle Busch, two aggression aficionados, affected their average result the last three years. The more balanced race-to-race nature of Kenseth and Greg Biffle at Roush wasn’t studly, but was certainly steady in past Martinsville events.
Still, Kenseth might feel the need to take a more aggressive approach this time out, considering what occurred in the spring at Martinsville.
92.556 MPH Kenseth’s 92.556 mph average was the fifth-best average green-flag speed in the April race at Martinsville, his first there in JGR equipment.
Of the eight fastest drivers in that race, per average green-flag speed, Kenseth was the only one who failed to finish in the top eight (he earned a 14th-place result), meaning the potential for a better finish existed.
Another reason why that miles-per-hour mark and the high ranking are so important is that his average green-flag speed ranking in the four Martinsville races prior to April’s event was 17th. Though organization-wide results might not indicate it, Kenseth’s JGR entry is a much faster Martinsville piece than the one to which he grew accustomed at Roush.
53.85% Kurt Busch has finished in the top half of fields at Martinsville in just seven of the last 13 races (53.85 percent of the time).
Busch is bad at Martinsville. He and his Furniture Row Racing team admitted as much, using one of their allocated testing days there earlier this month. Just how bad is Busch on “The Paperclip?” In the CoT/Gen-6 era, he hasn’t finished higher than 12th there (he holds a 23.2-place average finish during that time frame) and scored a single-digit average running position (ninth) just once. In terms of PEER, he ranks 48th out of 49 drivers ahead of just David Stremme. In the past, the place used to play host to some of Busch’s more fervent mid-race meltdowns, but the proactive decision to test could alleviate some of the typical headaches. A strong run this weekend by him would amount to an impressive exorcism of his personal mental block with the track.
7.8 With Richard Petty Motorsports’ release of crew chief Todd Parrott, the most consistent top-20 team in the Cup Series (per its 7.8 finish deviation and 17.2-place average finish) has been officially broken up.
Aric Almirola’s No. 43 team wasn’t mighty with Parrott at the helm, but was dependable, ranking fifth in relevance percentage (finishes inside the top half of fields) this season before Parrott’s suspension for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. The release of Parrott, announced Tuesday morning, is a blow to Almirola’s development and the team’s progression considering the mammoth strides the team made when Parrott was assigned the lead role prior to the 2012 Chase. Greg Ebert, the car chief under Parrott, will assume the role of crew chief beginning with this weekend’s race.
65.52% Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the best closer in NASCAR per NASCAR’s closer ratings; however the No. 88 team’s base retainment percentage at the finish of races is 65.52 percent, which ranks 24th among full-time Cup teams.
How does such a discrepancy exist? When Earnhardt gains positions, he really gains; his plus-12.9 percent gain in the final 10 percent of races is a series best. Whether he retains or gains position from each race’s 90-percent mark is of greater concern. Relative to the rest of the series, he is a below average late-race position retainer. Once his late-race defense improves, that closer number will directly lead to improved production, team results and, inevitably, point standings finishes.
David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.
Gearing up for another busy week of college football action...
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, October 22nd
Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram will miss the rest of the season after ankle surgery.
Louisville plans to keep assistant Clint Hurtt, despite his inclusion in the NCAA's report against Miami.
Lost Lettermen takes a look at the five worst fanbases in college football.
Georgia could be getting a few key players healthy for the matchup against Florida in two weeks.
There could be 40 bowl games in 2014 and a new one is popping up in Miami.
Will it be Baker Mayfield or Davis Webb under center for Texas Tech this week?
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the rest of the year due to a knee injury.
Texas quarterback David Ash has been ruled out of Saturday's game against TCU as he continues to recover from a concussion.
Virginia coach Mike London received the vote of confidence from his athletic director.
Michigan offensive lineman Joey Burzynski will miss the rest of the year due to a torn ACL.
Tulsa may change quarterbacks this week, as Cody Green is dealing with an injury.
Two big developments off the field have us talking NCAA and BCS, but we quickly get back to the games at hand during Week 9.
• Four years since Miami began its internal investigation and two years since Yahoo’s story on Nevin Shapiro, the Hurricanes finally had their day with the NCAA. Braden Gall and David Fox discuss if the punishment was what they expected and what happens forward.
• Florida State moved ahead of Oregon for the first BCS rankings, but who really deserves a championship spot if both are undefeated? And why was Ohio State the big loser in all of this (and why the Buckeyes may still be a big winner).
• The Pac-12 vs. SEC debate for top conference gets a run. One host unequivocally says the Pac-12 is better this year while another is an SEC holdout.
• Missouri’s rise continues to surprise, but the Tigers could all but wrap up the SEC East this week.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games. These two teams have proven to be among the best in baseball all season, and this series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire World Series.
Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Neither team hit particularly well in two series dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues.
There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series.
There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series.
Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season.
2013 World Series Schedule
Game 1 Wed., Oct. 23 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Adam Wainwright (19-9) Jon Lester (15-8)
Game 2 Thur., Oct. 24 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Michael Wacha (4-1) John Lackey (10-13)
Game 3 Sat., Oct. 26 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Clay Buchholz (12-1) Joe Kelly (10-5)
Game 4 Sun., Oct. 27 Boston at St. Louis 8:15 Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5) Lance Lynn (15-10)
Game 5 Mon., Oct. 28 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Game 6 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Game 7 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ success usually begins at the top with leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. He led the majors with 199 hits, 121 runs and 55 doubles. St. Louis has been without its best RBI man in Allen Craig, out with a foot injury, since early September. He will make his first appearance of this postseason in the World Series, and the Cardinals desperately need an offensive spark.
Veteran Adam Wainwright is still considered the ace, but rookie Michael Wacha has been the best starter in the postseason. Matheny gave Wacha the ball in the Cardinals’ must-win NLDS Game 4 at Pittsburgh. Wacha has allowed just one run in 21 innings, helping him to earn NLCS MVP honors.
The Cardinals began the season with their closer Jason Motte on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. Edward Mujica stepped up and paced the club with 37 saves. He hit a wall in September and crashed and burned. Trevor Rosenthal, with three regular-season saves, has been perfect in the postseason. The Cardinals have a small army of young, power arms at their disposal.
With the return of Craig, the Cardinals’ bench improves dramatically. While Matt Adams has done an admirable job filling in for Craig at first base, his absence leaves Matheny with no hammer off the bench. Craig will likely DH at Boston and come off the bench in St. Louis.
The Cardinals made the fewest errors this season in team history, but that is not the whole story. Range is limited all over the field except in center, and the aging Carlos Beltran is the only outfielder with a good arm. Catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best all-time behind the plate, will be asked to shut down Boston’s running game, which should be a fascinating battle.
Keys to Winning
St. Louis is experienced in the postseason and has a manager that keeps them focused on the game at hand. The Cardinals posted the best average with runners in scoring postion of all-time (.330) during the season. They hit just .192 in that situation against the Pirates in the NLDS, and .349 in the NLCS. They proved to the Pirates and Dodgers that they could win games without a dominant offense. The Cardinals rely on young pitchers in key spots, namely Wacha and Rosenthal. The bullpen in front of Rosenthal will be a factor in this series and could be the Cardinals’ Achilles heel.
Players to Watch
Matheny expects to get two quality starts from both Wainwright and Wacha, and run production from Beltran, who relishes hitting in the postseason. In addition to Beltran, consistent production from Matt Holliday, David Freese and Molina would be huge. And how Rosenthal and other young relievers like Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez respond in clutch situations — especially at Fenway Park — may determine the outcome of the series.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox led the majors in runs and OPS during the regular season, but were stymied by Detroit pitching in the ALCS. Boston is batting just .236 in the postseason and show little resemblance to the potent lineup that took the field all summer. Jacoby Ellsbury has been a threat from the leadoff spot with a .467 OBP and six stolen bases in the postseason. With Ellsbury on base, the lineup revolves around Big Papi, David Ortiz. The bottom of the order has provided very little help in the playoffs.
Clay Buchholz won his first 12 decisions this year, before missing three months with an injury. Both he and Jon Lester have been everything the Red Sox had hoped for in the postseason. John Lackey, no stranger to World Series success, has given the Sox a lift. Jake Peavy hasn’t been sharp and doesn’t have a good history against the Cardinals.
The bullpen has been the strength of the team in the playoffs, led by ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. The pen is deeper than the Cardinals’ relief corps, so the Boston starters shouldn’t feel undue pressure to go deep into games.
Mike Napoli, a catcher-turned-first baseman, will likely come off the bench in Games 3, 4 and 5 in St. Louis. There is an option to put him behind the plate, but he hasn’t caught any games this season. Manager John Farrell can mix and match a few positions, namely left field and third base. Left fielders Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter, and Jonny Gomes, who hits southpaws well, provide Farrell with late-inning options. Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks will share the hot corner most likely.
The Red Sox outfield defense is strong with Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right. In the infield Stephen Drew is a solid shortstop and Dustin Pedroia is one of the best in the business at second. It will be interesting to see how well Ortiz handles himself at first base at St. Louis.
Keys to Winning
The Red Sox are tough to beat at Fenway Park as the Rays and Tigers have found out recently. The ballpark has been magical for the Red Sox this century. The Red Sox must hold serve in the first two games. Boston’s bat slumber better be over because if they don’t wake up, the St. Louis pitchers can dominate. The starting pitching can be inconsistent, especially on the road, so getting quality starts allows the bullpen to take over and slam the door.
Players to Watch
Offensively, Farrell expects the top of the order — Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia and Ortiz — to produce. But what the bottom of the order contributes could be a key to the series. The Cardinals have been susceptible to left-handed pitching, and while the return of the right-handed hitting Craig helps, lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales will be called on to get some clutch outs.
.731 Career slugging percentage for Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals in the postseason. It ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (.744) and Lou Gehrig (.731) among players with at least 150 plate appearances in the postseason.
7 Players on the 2013 St. Louis roster who earned a World Series ring in 2011. An eighth, Adam Wainwright, was injured and did not appear in the 2011 World Series, but played a crucial role as the closer for the 2006 champions.
4 Players on the 2013 Boston roster who earned a World Series ring in 2007.
23 Games won in the NLCS since 2000 for St. Louis. No other National League team has played in that many NLCS games during that time.
28 More wins for Boston in 2013 than in 2012. That was the greatest improvement by any team in the majors this season.
PREDICTION: Boston in 7
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 22.
• It's no-football Tuesday, so here's a cheerleader roundup from this past weekend to tide you over.
• The day of reckoning arrived for Miami — and it ain't that bad. Happiest man on the planet this morning: Al Golden, rewarded for his loyalty to a program operating under a dark cloud. If you're bored and looking for something to read, here's a rundown of the NCAA report.
• So the morning's big losers aren't the Canes. How about the Vikings? Last night's abomination saw more Josh Freeman overthrows (16) than Adrian Peterson carries (13). Nice game plan, fellas.
• Speaking of the Vikings, here's this week's edition of Sorry Your Team Lost.
• College football's five worst fan bases. Don't get mad at me; I'm just the messenger.
• Ballpark jumbotron proposals are lame. Especially when you're Kanye West and you rent out the whole ballpark to do it.
• Interesting number-crunching: College football teams that outscore their basketball colleagues. Not surprisingly, the Ducks lead the way.
• I know baseball's popularity has waned a bit, but six bucks for a World Series ticket?
• The shooting guard with one arm has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Florida. I have a new favorite college player.
• Just when you think it's safe to hate Duke basketball, they go and do something heartwarming. Enjoy.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
After an investigation that spanned over two years, Miami has finally learned its fate from the NCAA in the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
The Division I Committee on Infractions found the university lacked institutional control by failing to monitor a major booster. The report from the NCAA indicates most of the violations occurred over a 10-year period, involving 30 student-athletes.
The Hurricanes won’t have to serve another bowl ban, but the football program will lose three scholarships in each of the next three seasons. The loss of three scholarships during that span isn’t a huge deal, especially since Miami is playing just under 80 players in 2013.
Miami also self-imposed a reduction in contact days in the 2012-13 period by 20 percent, reduced fall evaluations from 42 to 36 and cut paid official visits by 20 percent.
Avoiding a bowl ban in 2013 is significant, especially since Miami ranks No. 7 in the first release of the BCS standings. The Hurricanes are considered the favorite to win the Coastal Division, with a showdown against Virginia Tech looming in early November.
The NCAA decision is also huge for the Hurricanes’ current recruiting class. Miami ranks No. 5 in 247Sports, and there’s plenty of momentum building for this program after the 6-0 start to the season. A significant loss of scholarships or postseason ban could have forced recruits to look at other schools.
Former Miami assistant coaches Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill received two-year show cause penalties. Hill is not coaching on the collegiate level in 2013, but Hurtt is Louisville’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Hurtt ranked as the No. 2 recruiter in the American Athletic Conference by 247Sports last season.
While Miami avoided any additional sanctions, it’s important to note this program did not escape the Nevin Shapiro scandal completely free. The Hurricanes served a two-year bowl ban from 2011-12 and could have played in the ACC Championship last season if they were eligible for the postseason. Losing out on the exposure of the postseason, as well as the money from bowl games was a huge blow to the program.
Miami has recruited two top-15 recruiting classes in the last two years, but considering the uncertainty surrounding this program, it may have played an impact on the Hurricanes’ recruiting efforts.
The NCAA decision is also huge for Miami coach Al Golden. Had the Hurricanes suffered huge scholarship reductions and another postseason ban, it’s possible Golden would have left for another job this offseason. Instead, the New Jersey native should be around in Coral Gables to continue his rebuilding project in 2014.
Miami is not expected to appeal the NCAA’s decision, which closes the book on the two-year investigation into the program.
Miami failed to monitor activities of a major booster, resulting in a decade of violations: http://t.co/cHVrIEuIR0— NCAA (@NCAA) October 22, 2013
The significant self-imposed penalties by Miami were acknowledged & accepted. See the additional penalties here: http://t.co/UouPK5VDIJ— NCAA (@NCAA) October 22, 2013
With six teams on bye in Week 8 and the latest rash of injuries to ravage NFL teams’ rosters, fantasy owners have their work on the waiver cut out for them. On Sunday, Reggie Wayne and Sam Bradford both suffered season-ending injuries, while Doug Martin, Jay Cutler, Nick Foles and Jermichael Finley were among those who weren’t able to finish their games. Roster depth was already going to be tested with Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego and Tennessee on bye, so now what? Have no fear, Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through possible replacement options.
The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Teams on bye in Week 8: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee
Week 7 Recap: Mike Glennon threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s loss in Atlanta on Sunday. He did lose a fumble, but he now has produced at least 22 fantasy points in each of his first two starts. This week’s matchup on Thursday with Carolina won’t be easy, but with so many teams on teams on bye and Jay Cutler, Nick Foles and Sam Bradford all getting hurt on Sunday, Glennon starts to become a little more appealing.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
After throwing for no more than 280 yards in any of first five games and the same number of touchdown passes as interceptions (5 each) in that span, Dalton has been on fire the last two weeks. Against Buffalo and Detroit, Dalton averaged more than 350 yards passing and had six touchdown passes compared to just one interception. This week’s home date with the Jets figures to be tougher than his previous two opponents, but I would rather take my chances with Dalton than some of the other fill-in/injury options that are probably available.
Other possible bye-week replacement QBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at Oakland; Alex Smith, KC vs. Cleveland; Carson Palmer, ARI vs. Atlanta; Ryan Tannehill, MIA at New England; and Geno Smith at Cincinnati
Week 7 Recap: Joseph Randle led the Cowboys with 65 yards rushing on 19 carries and added three catches for 28 yards in his first career NFL start. Chris Ogbonnaya got just four carries (15 yards) had no catches (2 targets) in the Browns’ loss to the Packers. Brandon Jacobs did not play on Monday night for the Giants, which all but destroys any momentum he had following his 106-yard, two-TD effort against the Bears in Week 6. Michael Cox and recently signed Peyton Hillis got the carries for the Giants against the Vikings.
Roy Helu Jr., Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris is clearly the Redskins’ workhorse, but Helu has been getting enough touches to make things interesting. Sunday against Chicago, Helu finished with 11 carries for 41 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scores were from three yards, so has Helu became Washington’s goal-line back? Helu also is more versatile than Morris, as he’s caught at least one pass in every game. Helu is averaging seven touches per contest, but that has risen to 12 over the last three games. If he maintains that pace, he would certainly merit discussion as a flex option.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Ivory was a true workhorse for the Jets on Sunday, carrying the ball 34 times in the overtime win against the Patriots. Ivory finished with 104 yards on the ground, as leading rusher BIlal Powell only got three carries and was a non-factor after the first quarter. Powell did injure his shoulder last week against Pittsburgh, but there were no reports after the game that he had hurt it again. If anything, Ivory certainly needs to be on the radar this week, as he showed he’s capable of handling the load if that’s what is needed.
Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin reportedly tore the labrum in his shoulder in Sunday’s loss, an injury that could result in him missing the rest of the season. At minimum, Martin figures to miss a few games, which means the Buccaneers will turn to James, their sixth-round pick, to carry the load. The rookie picked up 45 yards rushing on 14 carries and three receptions for eight yards against Atlanta. The Bucs host Carolina on Thursday, meaning James’ first career start will be against one of the NFL’s top rushing defenses. But James also should see a starter’s load worth of touches, so while he may just be a flex candidate this week, the opportunity is clearly there for even better production in the weeks ahead.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Steven Jackson is still sidelined because of a hamstring injury, which has meant more work for Rodgers. While he may not gain a lot of yards on the ground, Rodgers is definitely a key part of the Falcons’ passing game, especially with wide receiver Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White dealing with his own injuries. Against Tampa Bay, Rodgers had just 16 yards rushing on eight carries, but he led the team with eight receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Even when Jackson does return, Rodgers will remain a big part of Atlanta’s offensive game plan.
Other possible bye-week replacement RBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Andre Ellington, ARI vs. Atlanta; Zac Stacy, STL vs. Seattle; and Pierre Thomas, NO vs. Buffalo
Week 7 Recap: Harry Douglas made quite the first impression as the Falcons’ No. 1 wide receiver, catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Jarrett Boykin was equally impressive filling in for Randall Cobb and James Jones, leading the Packers with eight receptions for 103 yards and a score. Michael Floyd got a team-high 10 targets and led the way with 71 yards receiving (on six catches) in the Cardinals’ loss to Seattle. Kris Durham caught five passes for 41 yards, as Calvin Johnson reasserted himself (9-155-2) in a big way following two sub-par games.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis
Heyward-Bey has been maddeningly inconsistent dating back to his days in Oakland, but he’s also looking at increased opportunities with the news that Reggie Wayne is done for the season after tearing his ACL in Sunday night’s big win over Denver. The Colts are on bye this week, but when a player the caliber of Wayne suffers a season-ending injury, owners can’t wait a week to find his replacement. As far as Indianapolis is concerned, that player is Heyward-Bey. He will probably take a back seat to T.Y. Hilton in terms of targets, but Heyward-Bey’s own average of less than five per game should go up quite a bit. Now it’s just a matter of him catching them (18 of 34 this season) and becoming a consistent, reliable receiver.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
There is no question who is the top target on the Bengals, but if Andy Dalton (see above) continues on the tear he’s been on lately than there’s room for someone other than A.J. Green to produce. Jones has caught a touchdown in each of his last two games and is averaging 56 yards over the past three contests. His targets also have gone up during this span, which will be the real key to his fantasy potential moving forward.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
Kerley led the Jets with eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Patriots. He is establishing himself as Geno Smith’s favorite target with an average of nearly eight looks per game over the last three. While it’s hard to trust a rookie QB like Smith, who has had as many ups as downs in his first season, Kerley’s position atop the pecking order in the Jets’ passing game is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
Rice opened the season with two touchdowns against Jacksonville and then followed that up with a total of two catches in his next two games. He has averaged just four targets over his last three contests, but he did catch another TD pass from Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ Thursday night win over Arizona. Golden Tate is probably the closest thing to a No. 1 wide receiver that Seattle has, but that doesn’t mean Rice should be completely ignored, especially with the rash of recent WR injuries. The Seahawks also have an appealing slate (at STL, TB, at ATL, MIN) leading up to their bye in Week 12, which could translate into more opportunities for Wilson to air it out.
Other possible bye-week replacement WRs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Brian Hartline, MIA at New England; Terrance Williams, DAL at Detroit; Rueben Randle, NYG at Philadelphia; Robert Woods, BUF at New Orleans; Emmanuel Sanders, PIT at Oakland; Brandon LaFell, CAR at Tampa Bay
Week 7 Recap: Joseph Fauria was targeted four times on Sunday, but caught just one of them for 15 yards. Timothy Wright was a little more sure-handed (2 receptions on 3 targets), but also finished with just 15 yards receiving, as Mike Glennon looked mostly for his wide receivers in Tampa Bay’s loss to Atlanta.
Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers
Jermichael Finley left Sunday’s game on a stretcher after getting a big hit and was hospitalized overnight as a result. While it’s early in the week, it’s likely that Finley will miss at least one game, if not more. Quarless, who has a total of four receptions on the season, will take over at tight end in Finley’s absence. While his production leaves something to be desired, this is still an important position, as the Packers are already without wide receiver Randall Cobb and James Jones missed Sunday’s game because of a shin/leg injury. Six teams are on bye this week (and next week for that matter), and at least you know that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t mind throwing to his tight end.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed was first mentioned in this space back in Week 3, but after Sunday’s effort, he earned the right for some more exposure. Reed was Robert Griffin III’s favorite target in the Redskins’ win over the Bears, catching nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Reed has replaced Fred Davis as the primary tight end and he has averaged six receptions and 81 yards receiving over his past three. Reed is now a top-15 fantasy TE on the season. Do I need to say any more?
Other possible bye-week replacement TEs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Heath Miller, PIT at Oakland; Jeff Cumberland, NYJ at Cincinnati; Jermaine Gresham, CIN vs. New York Jets; Tyler Eifert, CIN vs. New York Jets;
Week 7 Recap: St. Louis gave up 24 points to Carolina and sacked Cam Newton just twice in the 30-15 loss. The Rams did have a safety, which is the only highlight of their disappointing fantasy outing.
New York Jets
The Jets are fourth in the NFL in total defense and second only to Denver in rushing defense. Rex Ryan’s bunch beat the Patriots on Sunday, holding Tom Brady in check for the second game this season. The Jets are getting to the quarterback (24) and don’t lack for playmakers on defense. The only drawback to the Jets DST from a fantasy standpoint is the unit isn’t generating any turnovers. The unit has a total of four takeaways in seven games, which makes New York’s statistical performance even more impressive. Either way, I certainly think this is a DST that should be owned in more than just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Other possible bye-week replacement DSTs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
New Orleans vs. Buffalo; Green Bay at Minnesota; Atlanta at Arizona;
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
With eight weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear.
Florida State’s dominating victory over Clemson placed the Seminoles squarely in the national championship mix. Florida State ranks No. 2 in the first release of the BCS standings, but the Seminoles will have to contend with Oregon, who has room to move in the computer polls.
For now, we project the Ducks to pass the Seminoles for the No. 2 spot and play Alabama for the national championship. However, as Week 8 showed us, nothing in college football is guaranteed and another upset or two this year wouldn’t be a surprise.
Even though Clemson was dominated by Florida State, the Tigers are still in good shape to play for a BCS bowl. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in its next four games, with the season finale at South Carolina a tossup.
Missouri is projected as the second SEC team in a BCS bowl, but don’t count out South Carolina, LSU or Texas A&M.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 8 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first eight weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, Minnesota, NC State, Utah and North Carolina from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Toledo and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Wyoming vs. Arizona|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Colorado State|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Washington|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. North Texas|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Indiana|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Notre Dame* vs. Boise State|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||ECU vs. B. College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. Iowa|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. K-State|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Cincinnati vs. Ga. Tech|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Va. Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Okla. State vs. Michigan|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||SDSU vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Oklahoma|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Maryland vs. Vanderbilt|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Pitt vs. Oregon State|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. So. Carolina|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Michigan State|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Rice vs. N'Western|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Auburn vs. Nebraska|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Missouri vs. Clemson|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Texas|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Florida State vs. UCF|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Florida vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. WKU|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
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ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
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Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
BCS Post-Week 8 Analysis
A rookie quarterback is quickly establishing himself as a star in a massive media market. An embattled Lone Star gunslinger may finally be winning over his fan base. The next generation in Indianapolis showed the old generation how it’s done. A former Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick is lost for the year — for the third time in his career. And a few NFL records highlight an exciting Week 7 weekend of action.
With that in mind, here are the most important, interesting, historic and bizarre statistics from Week 7 of the NFL:
27,485: Tony Romo's NFL record for passing yards in first 100 career games
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo might be the most maligned player in the NFL and it has bordered on inappropriate at times. Romo made his 100th career start this weekend in Philadelphia and passed for 317 yards in the 17-3 critical road divisional game. Romo has passed for 27,485 yards in those 100 starts, setting an NFL record for the most passing yards by a player in his first 100 career starts. Dallas sits one game up in the NFC East.
17-1: 49ers', Seahawks' and Broncos' combined record against teams other than the Colts
Andrew Luck accounted for four total touchdowns as the Colts knocked off the previously unbeaten Broncos in Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. Luck has now led his team to wins over San Francisco in Week 3, Seattle in Week 5 and Denver on Sunday night. Luck accounted for seven total touchdowns and no turnovers in those three wins as his Colts sit two games ahead in the AFC South. What’s more impressive, the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos are a combined 17-1 against all other teams not named the Colts.
2: Players to ever top 100 yards from scrimmage and score a TD in the first 7 games of a season
Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles rushed for 86 yards , posted 37 yards receiving and scored a touchdown in the Chiefs win over Houston. Charles has topped 100 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in each of the first seven games in this season. He is just the second player in NFL history to accomplish this feat. O.J. Simpson is the only other player to top 100 yards from scrimmage and score a touchdown in each of his team’s first seven games when he did it in 1975 for the Bills. Charles has rushed for 561 yards and caught 36 passes for 337 yards with eight total touchdowns in seven games.
25: Games Sam Bradford will have missed over the last five season by the end of 2013
Few players are as unlucky or injury-prone as the Rams' Sam Bradford. He tore his ACL this weekend in the 30-15 loss to Carolina on the road and will be lost for the rest of the season. Bradford will miss the final nine games of the season and it will give him 25 missed starts over the last five seasons, dating back to his final collegiate campaign. In 2009, his final year at Oklahoma, Bradford missed 10 of the Sooners' 13 games with a major shoulder injury after winning the Heisman Trophy the previous year. Then in 2011, Bradford missed six games due a serious high ankle sprain. And now, he will miss nine more games in 2013. By the year’s end, Bradford will have missed 25 of his last 77 starts.
4: Geno Smith's game-winning, fourth-quarter or overtime drives
The second-round pick from West Virginia has had his ups and downs in his brief NFL career. But it’s safe to say the rookie is comfortable in the waning moments of games. On Sunday, the Jets' quarterback threw for 233 yards, scored two touchdowns and led his team on the game-winning drive in overtime over Tom Brady and the Patriots. Smith has now led four game-winning, fourth-quarter or overtime drives in his first seven starts — becoming the first player to accomplish the feat since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
20: Devin Hester's NFL record for career return touchdowns
The great Hall of Famer Deion Sanders returned an NFL record 19 punts and kicks for touchdowns in his illustrious 13-year career. Hester returned a punt 81 yards in the Bears shootout loss to Washington this weekend, giving him 20 return touchdowns for his career. He also extended his own NFL record with 13 punt-return touchdowns. This is just Hester’s eighth NFL season and he could easily put the record out of reach with a few more big plays. Especially, considering the direction the league is heading when it comes to kickoff returns.
158: Jay Cutler’s Bears franchise record for being sacked
Jim Harbaugh played for the Bears 1987-93 and was sacked 157 times. Jay Cutler came into this weekend’s game with the Redskins tied with Harbaugh as the most sacked quarterback in Chicago franchise history. In the second quarter, Washington sacked Cutler to move him past Harbuargh in this dubious distinction. But it also was a costly sack for the team, as Cutler left the game with a groin injury and will be out at least four weeks while it heals. Washington won 45-41 as the Bears dropped to 4-3 and into a second-place tie in the NFC North with Detroit.
11: Points scored at home by Jacksonville this year
The Jaguars are 0-7 on the season and 0-3 at home after losing 24-6 to San Diego this weekend. Jacksonville scored two points in the 28-2 loss to Kansas City in Week 1, scored just three points against Indianapolis in Week 4 and then six points against the Chargers. That’s a safety and three field goals in three games at home this fall with a combined 89-11 margin of defeat for the fans in Jacksonville.
3-8: Texans' record in their last 11 regular-season games
Case Keenum started this weekend in place of the injured Matt Schaub against the unbeaten Chiefs on the road. The Texans fought hard but lost, mustering just three points in the second half in Arrowhead Stadium. It was Houston’s fifth consecutive loss this season and its eighth overall in the regular season during a stretch that goes back to Week 14 of last season. After starting the 2012 season 11-1, the Texans dropped three of their last four to end the season and sit at 2-5 in 2013 ahead of only Jacksonville in the AFC South.
The coaching carousel was quiet once again in Week 8. USC, Miami (Ohio) and Connecticut are the only three openings, but more jobs will open over the next few weeks. And the carousel will only get more active if jobs like Texas open, especially as coaches at other BCS programs look to move to Austin.
Virginia’s Mike London has been on a quick rise through the hot seat ranks over the last few weeks. The Cavaliers went 4-8 last season and are off to a sluggish 2-5 start – with one win over VMI – in 2013. London received a vote of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage last week, but can the fourth-year coach return if Virginia finishes 2-10?
Another coach on the rise is Florida’s Will Muschamp. Take out last season’s 11-2 record, and the Gators are just 11-9 under Muschamp’s watch. The offense has been hit hard by injuries, but Florida recruits at too high of a level for this unit to struggle as much as it has through the first seven games. If this offense continues to struggle, will Muschamp be forced to make staff changes?
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-6||EMU's struggling defense gets NIU next week.|
|2||Mike London||2-5||Cavs likely headed for 2-10 finish.|
|3||Charlie Weis||2-4||Jayhawks passed for just 16 yards against Oklahoma.|
|4||Mack Brown||4-2||QB David Ash still out for Longhorns.|
|5||Norm Chow||0-6||Hawaii is 1-11 in conference play under Chow.|
|6||Ron Turner||1-5||La. Tech is winnable game for FIU this week.|
|7||Dana Holgorsen||3-4||WVU in danger of missing out on bowl.|
|8||Charley Molnar||1-6||Minutemen have scored only 55 points in 2013.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-5||Chippewas have favorable November schedule.|
|10||P.J. Fleck||0-8||WMU an underdog to UMass this week.|
|11||Bo Pelini||5-1||QB Taylor Martinez should return this Saturday.|
|12||Bobby Hauck||4-3||Rebels still have chance to make a bowl.|
|13||Tim Beckman||3-3||Fighting Illini 0-10 in Big Ten play under Beckman.|
|15||Skip Holtz||2-5||Has scored 20 or more points just twice this year.|
|16||Todd Monken||0-6||USM riding 18-game losing streak.|
|17||Matt Rhule||1-6||Freshman QB P.J. Walker is a promising player.|
|18||Sean Kugler||1-5||UTEP's only win in 2013 was New Mexico State.|
|19||June Jones||2-4||Can the Mustangs rally for a bowl?|
|20||Rich Ellerson||3-5||Very little margin for error to make bowl this season.|
|23||Dan Mullen||3-3||Bulldogs still have to play three ranked opponents.|
|24||Randy Edsall||5-2||Terrapins decimated by injuries on offense.|
|25||Jim Grobe||4-3||Wake quietly improving after slow start.|
|26||Kevin Wilson||3-4||Hoosiers struggling mightily on defense.|
|28||Kirk Ferentz||4-3||Hawkeyes gave Ohio State all it could handle.|
|29||Jeff Quinn||5-2||Bulls riding five-game winning streak.|
|33||Bill Blankenship||2-4||Can Tulsa rally to make a bowl?|
|36||Terry Bowden||2-6||Zips two wins in 2013 equals the total from 2011-12.|
|37||Dave Christensen||4-3||Lost Border War rivalry to Colorado State by 30 points.|
|38||Larry Fedora||1-5||UNC not out of bowl picture just yet.|
|42||Will Muschamp||4-3||Gators' offense a disaster.|
|45||Brian Polian||3-4||Boilermakers could finish 1-11 this year.|
|47||Scott Shafer||3-4||Awful performance for Syracuse against Georgia Tech.|
|49||Sonny Dykes||1-6||Injuries adding up for Bears.|
|58||Trent Miles||0-7||GSU showing improvement in last two games.|
|62||George O'Leary||5-1||Knights projected to play in BCS bowl.|
|83||Mark Helfrich||7-0||Ducks in good shape to play for national title.|
|93||Jimbo Fisher||6-0||FSU is really back this time.|
|94||Gus Malzahn||6-1||Malzahn could be national coach of the year.|
|115||Charlie Strong||6-1||Louisville needs a lot of help to win conference title.|
|117||Chris Petersen||5-2||Broncos lost QB Joe Southwick in win over Nevada.|
|118||David Shaw||5-1||Stanford back on track after win over UCLA.|
|120||Art Briles||6-0||Baylor clearly the favorite in the Big 12.|
|NR||Mike Bath||0-2||RedHawks 0-2 under Bath.|
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Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections
ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
BCS Post-Week 8 Analysis
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 8.
1: Connor Halliday moved to No. 1 atop a number of record books during loss at Oregon
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday’s arm got plenty of work in Saturday’s 62-38 loss at No. 2 Oregon. He tied a FBS record with 58 completions on a FBS record 89 attempts — both are second-most in all NCAA divisions. His 557 yards passing set Pac-12 and school records. The 58 completions tied the same amount Eastern Michigan’s Andy Schmitt had in 2008 (58-of-80 for 516 yards), and the 89 attempts broke the record Purdue’s Drew Brees set in 1998 (55-of-83 for 494). Schmitt was the only one of the three QBs to win his game, throwing just one interception, while Halliday and Brees each threw four interceptions.
3: Colorado is 3-0 against the last three visiting teams from the Eastern time zone
Charleston Southern was a late addition to Colorado’s schedule, after its Sept. 14 game against Fresno State was canceled due to the flooding in Colorado. In its fifth-ever game against a FCS opponent and first home game against an Eastern time zone opponent since Georgia left with a 29-27 loss in 2010, the Buffaloes handed the previously 7-0 Buccaneers a 43-10 loss. Colorado also defeated visiting Miami (Ohio) 42-0 in 2007.
5: Colorado’s Uzo-Diribe moves to the top of the nation with his fifth forced fumble
Colorado senior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe forced his nation-leading fifth fumble in the Buffs’ win over Charleston Southern. The sack-fumble was recovered at the Buccaneer 12. Two plays later, Michael Adkins scored from the 5 for what proved to be the game-winning TD. The fifth forced fumble ties Uzo-Diribe for third-most in a single season at CU — seven is the record — and he now stands third on the CU career list for forced fumbles with 10 — one off of the record set in 1986 and 1977.
9: Arizona State’s Marion Grice passes 100 all-purpose yards for ninth straight game
Sun Devils running back Marion Grice easily made it nine games in a row with 100-plus all-purpose yards, after accounting for 268 in a 53-24 win against Washington Saturday. Grice had 158 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and added a receiving touchdown on four catches for 37 yards against the Huskies. The senior’s streak is tied for third in the nation with Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey for the streak. Carey had 237 all-purpose yards in a 35-24 win over Utah.
9 part II: Carey hits the century mark on the ground for the ninth consecutive game
Not only did Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey rush for 100 yards for the ninth straight game in the Wildcats’ 35-24 win over Utah, but the running back also set the school record for carries and logged the third-most yards in school history. He rushed 40 times for 236 yards and became the sixth Wildcat to rush for 3,000 yards in his career. Carey ran for 204 yards in a 34-24 win at Utah last season. In both outings against the Utes, the Wildcats rushed for 300 yards (300 and 320).
10: Oregon’s 10-point halftime lead Saturday was its smallest of the season
The 34-24 advantage Oregon took into the second half against Washington State was the closest any team has come to hanging with the Ducks over the first 30 minutes. It is now back-to-back games of “close” leads for Oregon at the half after holding a 21-7 lead against Washington last week. The Ducks are averaging a 24.7-point margin at half this season, and have gone on to outscore their seven opponents 160-51 in the second half, including 28-14 against the Cougars on the way to a 62-38 victory.
32: Stanford continues forced turnover streak with 32nd consecutive in Saturday’s win
With two interceptions against UCLA Saturday, Stanford extended its streak to 32 games with a turnover forced. That streak is second in the nation behind Missouri’s 37. Jordan Richards’ third-quarter interception of Brett Hundley set up the Cardinal at the UCLA 40, and six plays and a touchdown later, Stanford turned what was a 3-3 game less than five minutes earlier, into a 17-3 lead. It was Richards again — with a 17-10 lead — who picked off Hundley and put the Cardinal at the Bruins’ 32. Five Tyler Gaffney rushes later, including a 4-yard score, and Stanford was a 24-10 winner. Richards finished with a team-high 10 tackles and his first two-interception game.
91: Beavers’ longest scoring drive still took less than two minutes
Oregon State’s longest scoring drive of the season was still one of its shortest in Saturday’s 49-17 win at California. The Beavers drove a season-high 91 yards on seven plays in 1:55 on their first scoring drive — capped by a Terron Ward 1-yard TD. The 91 yards bested an 11-play, 90-yard scoring drive in the second quarter against Utah this season. It marked the 13th scoring drive of less than two minutes this season; 11 of them have ended with a touchdown.
1939: Oregon State has 3-0 Pac-12 road mark for first time since 1939
Oregon State’s 49-17 win over host California marked the third straight conference road victory for the Beavers. It is the first time since 1939 Oregon State has won three consecutive conference road games, and the first time since 2008 the Beavers have won three straight Pac-12 road games at any point in the season.
-5: With the nation’s leading rusher on its team, Washington was held to minus-5 yards rushing
Bishop Sankey and the nation’s eighth-ranked rushing offense going against the nation’s 75th-best run defense looked like a matchup made in heaven entering Saturday’s game. Instead, the Arizona State run defense, which was giving up 168.8 yards per game on the ground through six games, held Sankey and Co. to minus-5 yards on just 25 attempts. Sankey, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher per game (149.8), had 13 carries for 22 yards. It was the third time in the last 18 seasons ASU has held an opponent to minus-5 yards rushing or more — both coming in 2009 (Idaho State -5 and Washington State -54).
This preview and more on UCLA and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 23 UCLA Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (13-5 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Steve Alford (First season at UCLA)
Pac-12 projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
How can Alford resuscitate his image and satiate the masses? Simple. Win.
Howland did plenty of that his first five years — 126 times, in fact. That number fell to 107 in his last five seasons at the helm, and despite a Pac-12 regular season crown and 25 wins in 2013, Howland wore out his welcome.
Alford, though, barely got one. And with a thin roster and a meager recruiting class, winning games, much less hearts and minds, won’t be an easy task.
After transfers and NBA defections, the Bruins are left with just 10 scholarship players, four of whom have not played a college game and another who averaged just over six minutes last season.
Alford will turn to three players from Howland’s highly regarded 2012 recruiting class to lead the way, starting with do-everything point forward Kyle Anderson and feisty scorer Jordan Adams. The key, though, might be the other remaining member of the class, Tony Parker. A 6-9 center who fell out of favor with Howland, Parker could thrive in the size-deficient Pac-12.
Related: Q&A with UCLA's Kyle Anderson
The loss of Shabazz Muhammad after one year to the NBA Draft leaves the Bruins without some firepower, but a veteran group in the post should ease some of the pain. Travis and David Wear return for their senior years and will provide leadership and production, though both need to get better around the rim.
Parker toyed with the idea of transferring but stayed in Westwood hoping to improve drastically on his meager 6.3 minutes per game last year as a freshman. Reports about Parker over the summer were positive — if he has dropped some weight and added some mobility, the Bruins may have their big man.
UCLA also picked up a key transfer in former Texas Tech forward Wanaah Bail, a lengthy big man who could be a defensive force in the Pac-12 when he was declared eligible this month.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Anderson is a 6-9 Swiss Army Knife who can play almost any spot on the floor. The former 5-star recruit earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, when he averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Anderson will handle the point more frequently as a sophomore
with Larry Drew II lost to graduation. Expect his production — and his impact on the game — to increase significantly.
Adams will once again be one of the Bruins’ primary options on offense. He averaged 15.3 points (eighth in the Pac-12) and had a team-high 46 3-pointers as a freshman. Adams burst onto the scene with four straight 20-point games to start his career and added three more by the end of December. He had only four more the rest of the way, however, and UCLA will rely on him to play at a high level on a more consistent basis as a sophomore.
Defensive stopper Norman Powell, who averaged 22.1 minutes last season primarily coming of the bench, is the only other backcourt contributor returning. Two freshman, Bryce Alford (the coach’s son) and Zach LaVine, will play immediately. Alford, who broke the New Mexico high school single-season scoring record last year, is a capable outside shooter. LaVine can play both backcourt positions and oozes potential.
UCLA's 2013 class does not have the star power of the previous haul, but multiple players could be thrust into major roles early. Freshman Zach LaVine should see time as the backup point guard. Wanaah Bail, who originally signed with Texas Tech, will be a key part of the frontcourt. Bryce Alford, Steve’s son, can bring some outside shooting off the bench. Noah Allen will find time as a reserve small forward.
Factoid: 1-3. Steve Alford is 1–3 as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The losses have come to two No. 14 seeds and a No. 11 seed.
Ultimately, the biggest thing Alford has going for him is that he’s not Ben Howland. Howland’s gruff exterior was tolerable, if not commendable, during UCLA’s three-year Final Four run in the mid-2000s. While no banners were hung, the Bruins hadn’t enjoyed that kind of success in decades. Things turned sour for Howland, however, and the school opted to pull the plug in March.
Alford steps into one of the elite coaching jobs in the nation. There is pressure to win every year at UCLA. And while the 2013-14 roster lacks depth, there is enough talent in the short term to contend for the Pac-12 title. Long term, Alford will need to prove that he can build a program that can compete for a national title on a consistent basis. UCLA fans will accept nothing less.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
25. Wichita State
This Q&A and more on UCLA and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Now, as a sophomore, Anderson can expect to have the ball in his hands more frequently while playing under new coach Steve Alford. Athlon Sports caught up with Anderson over the summer to talk about his transition to the West Coast and his thoughts on the upcoming season.
His UCLA team checked in at No. 23 in our countdown .
You are New Jersey guy. Why did you decide to go to all the way across the country and what do you miss most about the northeast?
I wanted to go to UCLA because of its history and tradition. The hardest thing was the distance. It’s been a challenge, but I came around, and I’m happy I decided to come all the way out here. I was real homesick last year, especially in the summer, but I got over it once the games started. It was rough at first, though. It’s been a personal challenge for me and I never considered leaving for another school.
You were recruited by Ben Howland. When did you know he was going to be fired at UCLA and were you surprised when it happened?
We won the Pac-12 regular-season title, but I think we started to have an idea when we lost in the conference tournament. I got a call from Coach Howland right after he got fired. It was tough because he was the one who recruited me. I thought we had a very good season, but obviously it wasn’t up to me. It was a distraction at times during the season, but we tried to stay focused and not pay attention to what people were saying.
Do you ever think about what might have happened — and whether Howland would still be the coach — if Jordan Adams (right) hadn’t broken his foot in the Pac-12 tourney?
In my opinion, if Jordan hadn’t gotten hurt, we would have been the fifth seed out west and done well in the NCAA Tournament. Jordan’s injury was very unfortunate, especially the timing of it. I think it all would have worked out if he hadn’t broken his foot, but you can’t go back and think about that now. We have to just look ahead.
How close did you come to putting your name in for the NBA Draft last year?
Very close, but I decided that this was the right move for me. I wanted to take this offseason as another challenge, to get my body right and take my game to another level rather than trying to go to the NBA. I wanted to stay another year, work on my game and enjoy college for another season.
Did you know anything at all about Steve Alford, and what are your impressions of him thus far?
I watch enough college basketball and saw a few New Mexico games last season. They had a very good team with guys like Tony Snell and Kendall Williams. I saw the freedom he gave those guys, and hopefully he can bring the success and that freedom to UCLA.
How anxious were you through the process after Howland got fired?
I was wondering who our coach was going to be. The way I found out about Alford being our coach is that someone woke me up and told me. I didn’t really know who he was at first, but when they said he’s the coach at New Mexico, then I realized who it was. He’s a guy who played for one of the greatest coaches of all time in Coach (Bob) Knight and also won a national title. So he knows what it’s like to win at the highest level.
You had to play power forward last season as a freshman. What was the most difficult part of the adjustment and how did it help you?
It was tough going up against guys that were two or three years older and much bigger and more physical. I had to step up for the challenge and it was hard for me, especially early in the season. Once I figured out that I had to be the one to hit first, it became much easier for me. But the physical aspect was by far the most difficult.
Related: 2013-14 Pac-12 Preview
Has Alford told you what your role will be this season — and whether you’ll be the primary point guard?
We haven’t talked about that at all yet. I’m not sure and I’m not going to ask, I’m not that kind of kid. I don’t want to make demands or anything like that, but it’ll be nice to know where I’m going to play. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.
Have you always played point guard before last season?
Yes, but I haven’t played it in a while now. But growing up, I was always the point guard. My whole life. Although my first two years at St. Anthony’s, I played with Myles Mack, who is at Rutgers now. I played off the ball a decent amount, but not nearly as much as I was last year with Larry (Drew). Last year playing off the ball encouraged me to go and rebound more. Go get the ball.
You are a unique point guard. Who do you try and pattern your game after?
I’ve always enjoyed watching NBA Classic and seeing Magic Johnson — the way he made his teammates so much better and the way he’d handle the ball and put guys on his hip. Even before I grew, I admired him. Obviously, I’m nowhere near Magic, but we’re both big point guards. He’s one of the best players ever to play the game. Other guys I liked to watch tape of are Penny Hardaway and Steve Smith.
Who gave you the nickname Slow-Mo?
It was this guy named Hassan, who used to commentate over the loud speaker at the IS8 league in New York. I was a young player and he gave me the nickname and it stuck. I loved it. It’s just the way I am. I don’t intend to play slow, but it’s just the way my game is.
How good is Alford’s son, Bryce? Can you guys play together?
He’s a very good player and can do a lot of things. He’s good with the ball in his hands and finds people. He can create for himself and what he can also do is really shoot the ball. I think we can play together in the backcourt because of his ability to shoot. He can definitely help us this year.
What did you wind up doing in the offseason — and what was your focus in terms of getting better?
I stayed in L.A. all summer for summer school. The biggest thing for me was my eating habits. It sounds silly, but it’s been my Kryptonite. I’ve never been big on eating healthy. I’ve started watching what I eat and it’s already paid off. I’m trying to make it a lifestyle. Sometimes I still cheat on my diet, but I’m already seeing a difference in my body. I played last year at 240 pounds. Now I’m down to 230, and it’s a lot more muscle. If I’m going to cheat on my diet, it’s probably going to be with fast food — maybe a grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald’s.
Most important thing you learned playing for legendary high school coach Bob Hurley?
Just taking everything one day and one practice at a time. Great practices lead to great games. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Related: 2013-14 UCLA Preview
Favorite visiting venue to play in?
When I was able to come back close to home last year and play in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was great having my family there, but the arena was also unbelievable.
Colorado. People talk about the altitude, but you don’t believe them until you play there. I thought it was a myth, but it’s tough to breathe. No wonder why the Nuggets are so tough to beat at home.
Other coach in the league he would like to play for?
Sean Miller at Arizona. When he was the head coach at Xavier, he was the first one to offer me a scholarship. I was really young. I think he started recruiting me when I was in the eighth grade.
Who was the toughest player to guard last year in the Pac-12?
Arsalan Kazemi or Oregon. He has a motor like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and was much stronger and older than me. I couldn’t do anything with him.
Toughest defender you’ve gone up against?
Carlos Emory, also of Oregon. He’s a very good defender, another guy with a high motor who was stronger than me. It came down to experience and he had more than me, as tough as it is to say.
Best player you’ve ever played with?
Kyrie Irving. I played with him in an all-star game and he was just amazing. He can do everything. I was a young kid. He’s like poetry in motion.
That's right, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was excited after another big win. And so was LSU Freek, who created another brilliant GIF. This time it was of Reid doing his best impersonation of the Kool-Aid Man. The similarities are uncanny.
The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also owns the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 against the L.A. Rams in 1979. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL-record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.
Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. But the Jacksonville Jaguars might be redefining the term. The Jaguars lost 24-6 at home to the Chargers on Sunday to move to 0-7 in this season. What's worse, is how this team is losing. Jacksonville has scored 11 total points in three home games. It scored just a safety against Kansas City in a 28-2 defeat at home. It mustered three points in a 37-3 home loss to the Colts. So relatively speaking, Sunday's two field goals against the Chargers were a relative offensive explosion for the home team at EverBank Stadium.
Jacksonville is last in the NFL in yards per play (4.5), has thrown the fewest passing touchdowns (3) and are last in the league in rushing offense (63.0). The Jags might win a game somewhere along the way, but this team is making a strong case as one of — if not THE — worst NFL team during the expansion era. That won't be decided until after this season is over, however. Here is the current roster of the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002.
1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)
Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)
Offense (total, scoring): 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)
Defense (total, scoring): 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)
No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-game regular season), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era, as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.
2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)
Point Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)
Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)
Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)
This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TDs and 6 INTs. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INTs and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13) and 30th in team sacks (25.0). Steven Jackson was the lone bright spot on a team that won only once — against Detroit. The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.
3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)
Point Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)
Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)
Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)
While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. The Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but for the season, Detroit scored nearly 100 more points and won twice as many games (over Washington and Cleveland). This Lions team also finished dead last in turnover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost.
4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)
Point Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)
Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)
Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)
This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning their only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes, 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.
5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)
Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)
Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)
The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams' worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 19 offensive touchdowns all season (11 pass, 8 rush). In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.
6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -214 (193, 407)
Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)
Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)
If not for the 2008 and '09 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history for one that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2 percent completion rate. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own. The 28.1 percent third-down rate was the worst ratio in the NFL as well.
7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)
The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 17-year history of the franchise, but this season also was the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4 percent) and 25th in turnover margin. To top it off, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball.
8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)
Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a torrid 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing despite making just two starts all year (645 yards).
9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Point Differential: -193 (259, 452)
Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)
Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)
San Francisco was two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. The Niners were 30th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing for 16 touchdowns against 21 interceptions and completing only 57.9 percent of their passes. The ground game was led by the great Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 822 yards at 3.4 yards per clip. The Niners finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 (453) and the 193-point differential was an organizational record.
10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)
Point Differential: -171 (260, 431)
Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)
Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)
There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league-worst 76 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68. This franchise will be playing in just its 12th season this fall, but the '05 team set the benchmark for fewest wins, points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards passing per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.
The...Worst of the Rest?
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
This team was outscored by nearly 200 points (minus-189), yet beat the Tennessee Titans as well as a shocking early season upset of the Colts. This team ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in total defense in 2012.
2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcomb for two.
2002 Houston Texans (4-12)
The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.
2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)
The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and posted the worst turnover margin (-16) in 2011. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a BUCCANEERS franchise record).
2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4 percent) and dead last in sacks (10). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are Chiefs single-season records.
2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)
The Silver and Black defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, these Raiders finished dead last in sacks allowed (72), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.
Sunday on Twitter, as a single-file line froze in place after the NASCAR Sprint Cup race’s final caution on the white-flag lap, I wrote the following Talladega evaluation:
“Great race, but last few laps, almost all drivers decided getting out in one piece was more important.”
The term “great race” got me butchered by the always-polite Twitter faithful. No one, it seems, could understand how a race that ended under yellow, with no last-lap pass for the win, could earn that distinction. Instead, there has been much complaining, which will likely increase over the coming week, there wasn’t enough action when it counted. Calls will rise for NASCAR to change the plate package yet again in time for a “revamped” 2014 Daytona 500.
I’m not saying NASCAR should stand pat at one of its fan-friendly tracks. Joey Logano mentioned adjusting the “shark fins” across the decklid designed to add sideforce on the cars. Side-drafting has become the new bump-drafting as there was so much weaving back and forth the pack could have become confused with a bunch of guys warming their tires under a caution flag. According to Logano, one of several voices inside the garage, the way those fins change the air causes the bottom lane of the draft to stall out. It’s a defect that could be improved, especially if NASCAR’s tinkering with the basic Gen-6 chassis anyway.
But for those saying Sunday’s race was terrible, I say Talladega just can’t win. In over 500 miles we saw 20 leaders, 52 lead changes and best of all, a clean event. Only three cautions slowed the action — just two for crashes — and only four cars total were involved in wrecks. If not for Austin Dillon getting turned off Turn 2 by rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. we would have probably seen cars fan out for a fantastic ending. With 24 cars in the lead draft after 103 consecutive laps of green-flag racing, what more did you want?
Consider that cars were three, sometimes four-wide over much of the nearly three hours of racing knowing there was little, if anything, to gain. The draft leaves them stuck together like glue; putting drivers “in position” on Lap 110 does little when there’s 78 laps left. I think fans have been pampered by so many breathtaking endings they now expect that type of action for every one of the event’s 188 laps. It’s an unrealistic expectation, one that can’t be sustained, especially when too many of these drivers have been a part of plate racing for so long. They know the dangers of these 200-mph wrecks, where cars are still launched in the air (see: Daytona’s scary February crash in the Nationwide Series that injured over a dozen fans). The Chase, and keeping one’s spot in the standings surely plays a part of playing it safe. But these men and women know the risks involved with making the wrong move on the final lap. Most importantly, they know their risk to their careers, their families … their bodies.
For too many, if they’re running comfortably inside the top 20, that’s no longer worth making the first move. It’s going to make for an occasional dud of an ending, one where they all wait too long because those fears start taking over.
Honestly? With what we’ve seen throughout plate racing history that’s not a bunch of “wussy” athletes. That’s what’s called being completely understandable.
With that, let’s shift “Through the Gears” after Talladega …
FIRST GEAR: Jamie McMurray (once again) proves he belongs
When it came to future Sprint Cup employment, Jamie McMurray entered this season a dead man. Most experts had Kyle Larson pegged as his replacement, earning a promotion to ride alongside Juan Pablo Montoya. Well, Larson got promoted all right … and he’ll have the plate race expertise of McMurray to lean on in his rookie season.
The move to retain McMurray surprised many, considering the close relationship owner Chip Ganassi maintained with Montoya. (It’s one that will be strained for the foreseeable future, once the veteran decided to move to rival Roger Penske’ open-wheel team in 2014). But in making the choice before it actually happened, experts ignored McMurray’s own relationship with the owner, along with minority shareholder Felix Sabates. One of the friendliest guys inside the garage, McMurray is the opposite of Montoya’s aggressive personality, perhaps the perfect balance for Larson as the youngster moves up.
And, as Sunday proves, the driver still has what it takes to win races. Talladega marked the fourth plate race win for McMurray since 2007; no one, not even Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson, has that many. Ever so quietly, Hendrick motors have led to improvements at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, to the point McMurray’s average finish this season (15.8) is also his best in almost a decade. Down the stretch on Sunday, he put the No. 1 car in position and awaited a challenge that simply never came. Not anyone knows exactly when to press those buttons; Montoya, for sure, never had the keys to get to Victory Lane and boost confidence.
“This does a lot for both of our race teams,” said Sabates. “It shows that we're capable of winning. Jamie can drive at these places. He can drive anywhere, but any time you get Jamie on a superspeedway, he's a force to be reckoned with. I'm not surprised that we won because we have a team that's capable of winning every week.”
They also have a driver in position to claim the bonus for finishing “Best of the Rest” among non-Chase drivers. 30 points ahead of Brad Keselowski with four races remaining, it looks like McMurray will build momentum towards making a bid for the 2014 playoffs that have long eluded him.
SECOND GEAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. runs second … again Extend that plate race winless streak for Earnhardt to nine years. The No. 88 team was the second-place finisher at Talladega after a potential last-lap challenge to McMurray was cut short before it even began.
“Nobody moved, so I was like, ‘Hey, I'm just going to wait until the end,’” said NASCAR’s most popular bridesmaid. “I don't have to try until the very end. I've got one guy to pass, and all I've got to do is make one run happen, and maybe it'll work.”
It’s like modern-day Goldilocks gone wrong for Earnhardt at these places; too early, too late, but never just right. In a mental game, one his father played so well, the son has forgotten just exactly when to start charging to the front. It’s a shame, considering his team has had its best Chase since Earnhardt was signed prior to 2008. Sitting sixth in the standings, 52 points out of the top spot, he’d be in title contention if not for that 35th-place eyesore of an engine failure at Chicagoland.
Battling back, retaining confidence can be credited to crew chief Steve Letarte and Earnhardt’s developing maturity. But the cold, hard fact remains he’s on the verge of going winless in five of his seven seasons with NASCAR’s version of the New York Yankees. Earnhardt’s popularity sticks with him through the rollercoaster ride but even at ‘Dega, you get the sense it’s the specter of his famous father combined with past reputation that keeps the flame going. Every time there’s a chance to change that, connecting with a new generation of fans, young gun-turned-veteran Earnhardt looks more like Kyle Petty than Kyle Busch. When is he going to get aggressive when it counts?
THIRD GEAR: Underdogs still have their dayThe green-flag tilt at Talladega didn’t stop the parity of plate racing. Front Row Motorsports, who finished a shocking 1-2 in the spring event, proved that run wasn’t a fluke with David Ragan and David Gilliland. They ran sixth and seventh, respectively, at the only track where they’ve run inside the top 10 all season. Just as impressive was Michael McDowell, whose mostly start-and-park Phil Parsons Racing car hadn’t finished a race since Indianapolis. He ran 15th and in the lead draft for the final 100 laps with a team that simply doesn’t make green-flag pit stops. Casey Mears and Austin Dillon (subbing for Tony Stewart) would have made the list, too if not for that last-lap wreck which took them both out.
Most importantly, the race was another this season where not a single team start-and-parked. While NASCAR’s new rules reducing purse money for 40th – 43rd have made a difference, so too is the prospect of winning at plate tracks. It’s much harder to convince a team running on a shoestring budget to run the distance when it’s a miracle to run better than 30th. That’s the fate for Ragan, Gilliland and McDowell at intermediates, but here at ‘Dega they’ve got as much of a shot as anyone. The end result is a payday for McDowell, even at 15th, roughly $35,000 higher than finishing dead last. It helps justify buying more tires, paying a trained crew and perhaps coming out a bit ahead on the deal.
For NASCAR to understand its problems — getting new owners involved in the sport and built into weekly contenders — it needs to understand this business side of racing. Making that side more profitable again is key to get more than just Hendrick, Roush, Penske and the other top-tier owners investing in the sport. A chance at success four times a year just isn’t enough for new investors long-term.
FOURTH GEAR: Johnson shifts into cruise control for a sixth title
While Matt Kenseth led early on Sunday, establishing himself at the front of the field, Jimmie Johnson waited for the right opportunity. During the race’s middle stages, teammate Earnhardt hooked to the back of the No. 48 in what looked like a planned strategy to get him to the front. Lap after lap, Earnhardt served as a blocker until Johnson blew by Kenseth and appeared to earn those bonus points for most laps led.
That became crucial when both drivers had disappointing results; Johnson was 13th and Kenseth 20th after being left out to dry in the draft. Still, while both were happy to survive, a look at the big picture caused an important switch: Johnson, trailing the entire Chase, has taken the point lead by four. Kenseth, after three weeks of playing defense, is now second, heading to a track where he’s averaged a 15.8-place finish (only three top 5s) is 27 Cup starts.
That doesn’t bode well for JGR’s title chances, especially with teammate Kyle Busch still steaming over a Kansas wreck. Sunday, he spent post-race driving a bus over his crew chief, his spotter and anyone with an M&M’s shirt after missing his pits during an early green-flag stop (keep in mind, Busch recovered to run fifth).
Considering the dissention, combined with Kenseth’s handling crises (Loose? At Talladega?), Johnson becomes a stronger favorite to cakewalk towards a sixth title. Any challenge might come from two unexpected sources in the forms of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon. Both are playing with house money; Gordon, in particular, has a strong record over these last four races, including a win in last year’s Homestead season finale. Who would have expected the “lame duck” driver and the 13th Chaser to be the biggest obstacles to the No. 48?
Maybe Kasey Kahne was skittish after three races/three crashes in plate events this season. The Chaser lost the draft not once, but twice, despite a powerful Hendrick Motorsports engine and ended the day 36th, two laps off the pace. That left his average finish for Daytona and Talladega this year a mind-boggling 36.5. … Danica Patrick had a promising run going inside the top 10 until missing her pit stall during the last round of green-flag stops. With boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. a career-best third, Patrick’s chances to win this year’s rookie title have been taken off life support. … Pole-sitter Aric Almirola, a popular darkhorse, was never a real factor. Leading eight laps, he slid to the back of the lead draft and was 22nd at the finish.
Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
Boise State had a costly 34-17 win over Nevada on Saturday, as quarterback Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter and is out indefinitely.
In his absence, backup Grant Hedrick filled in admirably, completing 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards, while rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Hedrick has thrown 57 passes in his Boise State career, but Saturday’s game against Nevada was his first extended action.
Southwick could return later this season, but his comeback could largely depend on what bowl Boise State plays in.
Hedrick’s task will get tougher this week, as Boise State plays at BYU on Friday night.