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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 5:
• Brains, beauty, brawn: Chrissy Blair of UFC has all of the above.
• Today's least shocking confession: A-Rod admitted to the DEA that he used steroids from that fake Miami doctor.
• The new season of Celebrity Apprentice will include T.O. and Johnny Damon. At least they're getting serious with that show.
• If this is your thing, here's a map of where weed is now legal.
• Unsettling headline of the day: The NFL's Oldest Cheerleader Raped a Teenager She Met On Instagram.
• Watch a pretty one-hander by Vladimir Tarasenko.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Tony Allen is known as many things. A savant defender, “The Grindfather,” Kevin Durant’s worst nightmare and a cornerstone of the Memphis Grizzlies’ lava-speed mentality. But today, he’s looking like a bit of a reckless jerk. Watch as Allen causes this cameraman some grief over a foul call he wasn’t in love with.
The league fined Allen $15,000 for the incident, which happens to be the same amount they just tagged Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin with for his “obscene gesture” after making a clutch shot late against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
For Allen, this sort of outburst is just part of the process of being one of the most intense basketball players alive. The 32-year-old Chicago native is a relatively diminutive 6’4” — Allen regularly guards players with several inches on him, and up to fifty extra pounds. Like a mongoose trapping a snake, though, there’s nothing surprising about Tony shutting down any star once you’ve become familiar with his scrappy, relentless style.
The Grizzlies ended up winning the contest over the New Orleans Pelicans, 93-81. They’ll need every ounce of insanity they can find from their guard if they’re to find themselves well-positioned in the brutal Western Conference, where 50 victories might not get you into the playoffs. The Monday night contest against New Orleans was arguably one of Memphis’ easier contests of recent days — and it came with the assignment of shutting down burgeoning mega-star Anthony Davis.
Allen and the Grizzlies take on the Phoenix Suns in Arizona tonight, a squad they fought for bottom Western playoff spots until the very end of the 2013-14 season. The Suns added speedy guard Isaiah Thomas this summer, who with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic makes Phoenix one of the faster teams in the league. Catch the epic contrast in the team’s two styles at 9:00 PM ET.
— John Wilmes
One monster bye week down, one to go, or at least that’s a way to describe the fantasy landscape as we enter Week 10 of the NFL season. The good news is that Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Tennessee all return to action this week. The downside is that fantasy owners instead will have to make do without Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego and Washington. That means no Andrew Luck, no Tom Brady, no Arian Foster (perhaps for more than one week since he injured his groin Sunday), no Rob Gronkowski, and the list goes on. At least there’s the waiver wire, right?
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego, Washington
Week 9 Recap: Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes, but he also had two picks, one deep inside the red zone, which took some of the steam out of his fantasy output (18.4 pts., Athlon scoring). Michael Vick was roughed up by the Chiefs, as he left the game for a brief period after hitting the back of his head on the turf, and he managed just 196 yards passing, 18 yards rushing and a touchdown (no turnovers) in a losing effort.
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles broke his collarbone on Sunday, meaning Sanchez will get another chance. He did toss two touchdown passes after taking over for Foles, but also had two interceptions. The key with Sanchez is that he is at the helm of a much more potent offense than anything he ever had when he was with the Jets, so the opportunity for him to do some damage is clearly there. What he does with it remains to be seen, but Sanchez’ Monday night matchup at home against Carolina doesn’t seem all that scary, at least on paper. The Panthers are just 24th in the NFL in total defense and are giving up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.
Other possible fill-in options*: Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Josh McCown
Week 9 Recap: Jeremy Hill got the start in place of an injured Giovani Bernard and went off to the tune of 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Cincinnati’s short turnaround for its Thursday game against Cleveland should mean another steady diet of touches for Hill, even if Bernard plays. Mark Ingram continued his strong play, putting up 100 yards and two scores against Carolina. Travaris Cadet meanwhile is nothing more than a role player right now (30 total yards on four touches vs. CAR) and he will likely see less work as soon as Pierre Thomas (shoulder) or Khiry Robinson (foot) return. Bobby Rainey was the Buccaneers’ workhorse against the Browns and he delivered (121 total yards on 20 touches), as Charles Sims was not activated for this game. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams each got eight carries against the Saints, with Stewart faring much better in the yardage department (46 to 20). Williams did have one catch for 30 yards, but this may be one timeshare to stay away from.
Chris Johnson, New York Jets
Johnson openly campaigned to be more involved in the Jets’ offense and he got his wish on Sunday. He not only led his team with 69 yards rushing, he also got more carries (11) than Chris Ivory (8). Ivory had been the Jets’ most effective rusher this season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry with five touchdowns, but apparently something’s changed. Whether it’s Johnson is a better fit in the backfield with Michael Vick or his abilities as a receiver (2 rec., 32 yds. vs KC), this is at least something that’s worth keeping an eye on. If Johnson gets back to seeing 15 or more touches per game, he may likewise work his way back towards fantasy relevance.
Chris Polk, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy is the No. 1 guy for the Eagles, but even though Darren Sproles returned on Sunday from a knee injury, it was Polk who backed up McCoy. Polk picked up 50 yards rushing against Houston, including an eight-yard touchdown run while Sproles got one carry. Sproles will remain involved in this offense, but his role may be shifting primarily to a pass-catching one. The point is that Polk got eight carries and the Eagles ran the ball 40 times (for 190 yards) against the Texans. Chip Kelly is going to continue to run the ball, especially now that Nick Foles is sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone, and any guy who gets 20 percent of his team’s carries in a game is worth paying attention to.
Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate remains atop the Browns’ backfield depth chart, but now it looks like West, and not fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell, is No. 2. West led the Browns in both carries (15) and yards (48) on Sunday with Tate getting 10 (for 3 yds.) attempts. Crowell was active, but did not get on the field at any point. West also caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer and after the game head coach Mike Pettine said that West had “earned” his touches. Pettine previously voiced concerns about Crowell’s ball-security issues, which has allowed West the opportunity to pass his teammate on the depth chart. This is a fluid situation in many ways, but for now, West appears to be the Brown backup to target, especially given Tate’s injury history.
Other possible fill-in options*: Denard Robinson, Steven Jackson, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bishop Sankey, Darren McFadden, Anthony Dixon, Andre Williams, Bryce Brown, Carlos Hyde
Week 9 Recap: Sunday night produced two more touchdowns for rookie Martavis Bryant, who has five in his first three career games. With Pittsburgh’s passing offense humming (NFL-record 12 TD passes for Ben Roethlisberger in consecutive games), Bryant and Markus Wheaton should both be on everyone’s radars. John Brown caught just two passes for 10 yards (and had one rush for -3 yards) in a forgettable showing in Dallas. Donte Moncrief was a no-show on Monday night, catching one pass for a measly two yards.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
The Packers are coming off of their bye and the offense has an appealing matchup against the Bears’ porous defense. Even though Aaron Rodgers already has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to throw to, Adams has worked his way into the mix as well. He has two touchdown catches over his last four games and is coming off of a season-best seven catches against New Orleans in Week 8. In that game, Adams played practically every snap, which pretty much cements the fact that he has replaced Jarrett Boykin as the Packers’ No. 3 wide receiver. Even with a couple of guys ahead of him in the pecking order, Adams is someone worth adding to your roster because of the offense he plays in.
Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams
This is not a hearty recommendation by any means, but someone has to catch passes for the Rams and it looks like the top two targets right now are Britt and tight end Jared Cook. Britt has just 18 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns on the season, but with Brian Quick out for the rest of the season (shoulder), Britt is the closest thing St. Louis has to a No. 1 WR. He’s very much a boom-or-bust option, but opportunity (playing time, targets, etc.) is knocking.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
No Gordon didn’t get his suspension reduced. He’s still got two more games to sit out, but if Gordon is still somehow sitting on your waiver wire, go get him now. Gordon probably represents the best chance of landing a late-season lottery pick, considering his All-Pro talent and potential. He has absolutely no competition in front of him for targets upon his return in Week 12 and this is a guy who averaged 19 yards per catch last season, went over 125 yards receiving seven times and over 200 twice (in back-to-back games no less). Even though Gordon still carries a fair amount of risk, the potential reward is well worth dropping someone else to add the troubled, yet equally talented wideout to your roster. Provided he behaves, Gordon is a legitimate difference-maker when it comes to this season’s fantasy playoffs.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Entering this season, few expected Wright to end up in this space, as the third-year pro was a borderline top-30 wide receiver by most accounts. However, the Titans’ offense has struggled, which has had an impact on Wright’s numbers. In eight games, Wright has 35 receptions for 350 yards and four touchdowns. The good news he’s already doubled his touchdown total from last season and now may be the perfect opportunity to grab someone who hauled in 94 catches last season. Tennessee is coming off of its bye, which means Wright has had some extra time to work on his chemistry with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Justin Hunter is the Titans’ wideout with the most big-play ability and fantasy upside, but Wright carries plenty of appeal of his own, especially in PPR leagues.
Other possible fill-in options*: Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Hurns, Andre Holmes, Cecil Shorts, Dwayne Bowe, Jarvis Landry, James Jones
Week 9 Recap: Heath Miller didn’t join in the Steelers’ aerial assault (340 yds., 6 TD passes) Sunday night against the Ravens, catching one pass for 14 yards.
Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders
Rivera hauled in two touchdown catches on Sunday against Seattle, making it his second straight game with at least 12.8 fantasy points. Oakland’s offense is certainly not the most reliable, but the Raiders also are one of the most pass-heavy attacks in the NFL, which bodes well for Rivera’s potential moving forward. Two games is a small sample size, but Rivera and rookie quarterback Derek Carr have been clicking recently. With big guns like Rob Gronkowksi, Antonio Gates, Jordan Reed and Dwayne Allen on bye this week, perhaps Rivera is worth taking a chance on.
Other possible fill-in options*: Larry Donnell, Jared Cook, Owen Daniels, Charles Clay, Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Week 9 Recap: Cincinnati got a safety and blocked a kick, but the Bengals also gave up 23 points to the Jaguars, which capped the DST’s fantasy impact (9 pts). Kansas City picked up three more sacks and held the Jets to just 10 points, but couldn’t manage any takeaways or big plays.
The Ravens gave up six TD passes to Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night, but they also sacked him on three consecutive snaps at one point. Baltimore also forced a fumble and got a 108-yard kickoff return from Jacoby Jones, finishing the night with a respectable nine fantasy points. This is a DST that has recorded at least two sacks in each of its last four games and on Sunday will host a Tennessee Titans offense that’s starting a rookie quarterback. Don’t expect to see the Ravens give up another six TD passes (or 43 points) this week.
The Cowboys have dropped their past two games, but it’s not entirely because of the defense. Dallas’ DST has produced 18 fantasy points over the past two contests and unlike last season, this unit has been able to create turnovers. The Cowboys have at least one takeaway in every game but one, including an interception on Sunday against Arizona that was returned for a touchdown. Dallas is in London this week to face Jacksonville, the team that still leads the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. The Jaguars have yet to allow any DST score fewer than nine points against it and seven opponents have put up at least 12. With six teams on bye, including Houston, New England and Indianapolis, who wouldn’t take a fairly safe nine points from their fantasy DST?
Other possible fill-in options*: Detroit, Pittsburgh
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.
*Players owned in less than 70% of Yahoo! leagues.
Ashburn, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Redskins activated wide receiver Leonard Hankerson from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday almost a year after a knee injury ended his season.
Hankerson, 25, has been out since suffering a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during a game in Philadelphia on Nov. 17, 2013.
The former third-round draft pick out of Miami has 81 catches for 1,081 yards and six touchdowns in 30 games since 2011, including 14 starts.
The Redskins waived cornerback Chase Minnifield on Tuesday and released tackle Terren Jones from the practice squad. Minnifield had two tackles in six games this season after spending the first three weeks on the practice squad.
East Rutherford, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin confirmed Tuesday that cornerback Prince Amukamara will miss the rest of the season due to a torn biceps.
Amukamara suffered the injury in Monday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Amukamara had been the Giants' best cornerback this year, recording 45 tackles and three interceptions in eight games.
Coughlin said that the Giants will likely bring in a cornerback this week to go with Chandler Fenner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Zack Bowman, Jayron Hosley and Mike Harris.
In other injury news, left guard Weston Richburg, who left the game with an ankle injury, was having tests Monday.
The Giants play at Seattle this Sunday.
Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Ryan Shazier will miss Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
Both players exited last Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens with injuries. Polamalu has a knee sprain and Shazier is dealing with an ankle injury.
Polamalu has 51 tackles and one forced fumble in nine games this season, while Shazier has 26 tackles in five contests.
The 6-3 Steelers will turn to backups Sean Spence and Will Allen for Shazier and Polamalu, respectively.
Conroe, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson reached a plea agreement in the child abuse case against him on Tuesday.
Peterson was facing felony charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child after he was accused of using a wooden tree branch to hit his 4-year-old son as a disciplinary measure, resulting in visible injuries to the child.
Instead, he pleaded no contest and reached an agreement to a lesser charge of one count of misdemeanor reckless assault and will avoid jail time. He is also expected to get probation, pay a $2,000 fine and serve 80 hours of community service.
"I truly regret this incident," said Peterson outside the courthouse after the agreement was reached. "I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than anyone of you can imagine. I am anxious to continue my relationship with my child. I am glad this over... so me and my family can move forward."
Peterson is currently on the NFL exempt list while the court proceedings continued. It is unclear when or if the star running back will be reinstated.
The Vikings said in a statement Tuesday evening that they were aware of the plea agreement and would have a further comment "at the appropriate time."
Peterson was initially deactivated prior to a Week 2 game against New England after being indicted in September, then was reinstated by the team the following Monday.
However, after backlash from sponsors, fans and the Minnesota government, the Vikings reversed course and placed Peterson on the NFL's exempt/commissioner's permission list. He is being paid despite not playing.
College football’s new playoff format has added a layer of intrigue to the regular season. While finishing in the top two – just like the old BCS format – is important, two additional teams have a chance to win the national title in a four-team postseason format.
The first release of the playoff committee's rankings provided some insight into the process, but with five weeks to go until the four teams are officially announced, plenty of changes are ahead in the weekly top 25 rankings.
What are some factors that will shape how the final rankings look? Scheduling is a huge element to consider, but quarterback play, defenses and emergence of freshmen are other factors to watch.
Here are 10 things to watch over the next five weeks:
10 Things That Will Shape CFB Playoff in Final Five Weeks
1. Showdowns in the SEC West
A significant piece of the inaugural College Football Playoff will be shaped by what happens in the SEC West. Will Mississippi State win out? If the Bulldogs win out, a victory over Alabama would seem to eliminate the Crimson Tide from the playoff picture. And what happens to Auburn if a two-loss Crimson Tide squad wins in the Iron Bowl? But that’s not all. What about the SEC Championship Game if the East winner (Georgia or Missouri) beats the West champion? That’s a huge wrench in the final ranking. It’s safe to say the SEC gets at least one team in the playoff this year. However, getting two will largely be determined on what happens in the remaining showdowns in November.
2. Florida State’s Emerging Young Talent
Florida State’s 2014 team isn’t as dominant as its '13 version. But that’s not a huge issue for coach Jimbo Fisher, as this team is pretty good in its own right. The biggest concern for the Seminoles remains in the trenches, but the offensive line showed some promise by clearing the way for 173 yards and three scores against Louisville. The defensive line is probably Florida State’s biggest concern, especially on the interior where Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the season. Even if the Seminoles allow 30 points a game, their offense could score 35-40 each week. Quarterback Jameis Winston is the headliner, but the sophomore has emerging stars at his disposal in a trio of true freshmen — running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. Cook is averaging 5.6 yards per rush, while Rudolph has 14 of his 19 catches over the last three games, and Lane caught a touchdown pass against Louisville. Florida State’s offense was already lethal without Cook, Rudolph and Lane. But this unit is even more deadly with the emergence of these talented first-year players on offense.
3. Ohio State-Michigan State Showdown
Barring major upsets and a complete shake up at the top of the playoff committee's rankings, the Big Ten is only getting one team into the four-team playoff. And as of Nov. 4, Michigan State and Ohio State need a lot of help to reach the top four. The Spartans have the better resume so far, with their only loss coming at Oregon in early September. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech in September and do not have a win over a ranked team heading into Week 11. With all of that in mind, Saturday’s showdown in East Lansing is critical to the Big Ten getting one team in the mix. If Michigan State beats the Buckeyes handily, and Ohio State wins out to finish 10-2, coach Mark Dantonio’s team should be in the mix for a playoff spot. But what happens if the Spartans win a close game and the Buckeyes lose to Minnesota? That scenario would hurt the Big Ten’s case for a team in the top four. Regardless of what happens after Nov. 8, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan State game is the only playoff contender left from the Big Ten.
4. Alabama QB Blake Sims
Quarterback play was the biggest concern in Tuscaloosa this offseason. Sims has been steady through the first eight games, completing 65.5 percent of his throws and tossing 15 touchdowns to just three picks. However, in Alabama’s only loss (Ole Miss), Sims had a costly interception. One week later against Arkansas, Sims threw for just 161 yards in a 14-13 win. With one of the nation’s best rushing attacks and defenses on his side, Sims doesn’t have to post huge numbers for the Crimson Tide to win each week. However, the senior has to be efficient and will be under scrutiny in upcoming games against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. It’s not unrealistic to suggest Sims’ play could determine whether or not Alabama wins the SEC or finishes 10-2.
5. Oregon’s Defense
If the Ducks win out, it’s a safe bet coach Mark Helfrich’s team will be in the four-team playoff. But Oregon still has three games and, presumably, the Pac-12 Championship Game remaining, including a road trip to Utah on Nov. 8. Of the remaining three regular-season games, the Utes should be the toughest opponent for the Ducks, but the Pac-12 title game also looms large against (potentially) offensive-minded teams like Arizona State or USC. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Oregon, but the defense is allowing 28.2 points per game in Pac-12 contests, 5.7 yards per play and is last in the conference in third-down defense. Will this cost the Ducks a game before the playoff? Maybe not, but it could prevent Oregon from winning the national title. Can the Ducks' defense make strides over the final month of the season?
6. Kansas State’s Road Trips
No team has a tougher road schedule over the final five weeks than Bill Snyder’s Wildcats. Kansas State plays at TCU this Saturday, followed by a road date at West Virginia on Nov. 20 and then a matchup at Baylor on Dec. 6. Navigating that road schedule without a loss is challenging, but certainly not impossible for the Wildcats. The Big 12 has more depth than most anticipated at the start of this year, and an 11-1 K-State team should make the playoff. Let’s also not forget the Wildcats have just one loss (Auburn, 20-14) in a game where they had three turnovers and missed three field goals.
7. Receivers at Ole Miss
Ole Miss is going to miss Laquon Treadwell. The sophomore was one of the SEC’s best receivers and led the team with 48 catches through the first nine games. Without Treadwell, the Rebels are looking to Vince Sanders, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and tight end Evan Engram to pick up the slack in the passing game. Why this is position critical? Even though Ole Miss has two losses, this team still has a chance to impact the four teams in the playoff with a game against Mississippi State on Nov. 29. Finding a way to replace Treadwell’s production for quarterback Bo Wallace is a huge priority for coach Hugh Freeze over the next two weeks.
8. Notre Dame’s Defense
Three of top four outputs (yards per play) against Notre Dame has taken place over the last three weeks. The Fighting Irish’s schedule has increased in difficultly during that span, so it’s not a surprise the defensive numbers aren’t as promising as they were earlier in the season. Notre Dame allowed 5.7 yards per play against Florida State, 5.9 against Navy and 6.1 against North Carolina. Linebacker Joe Schmidt was a key piece of the defense, and he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the win over Navy. Add in the recent performance, combined with Schmidt’s loss and a challenging remaining slate - at Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC – and it’s easy to see why this unit will be under the microscope over the next four games. Notre Dame’s offense averages 35.4 points per contest, and coach Brian Kelly may need that type of production each week to help his young defense survive the Irish's most critical stretch of their season.
9. Todd Gurley’s Return at Georgia
Gurley’s return to the Georgia lineup on Nov. 15 is an interesting late-season development to consider in the overall playoff picture. The Bulldogs have a capable option in freshman Nick Chubb (501 yards in last three games), but prior to his suspension, Gurley may have been the best player in the nation. In five appearances this year, Gurley rushed for 773 yards and eight scores on 94 attempts. The junior is slated to return against Auburn, which is a game that is critical to the Bulldogs’ SEC East title hopes. And of course, the Tigers have their own playoff implications to deal with each week, as coach Gus Malzahn’s team ranked No. 3 in the first committee rankings. Is Gurley’s return enough for Georgia to knock off Auburn?
10. The Darkhorses and Upsets
College football changes drastically from week-to-week and upsets (see Florida over Georgia) are bound to happen over the final five weeks. Pinpointing the upsets is impossible, but there are a few teams to consider. Could Duke threaten Florida State in the ACC Championship Game? Probably not. Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State? That’s an interesting rematch scenario. If Arizona State reaches the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils’ offense would be a tough matchup for Oregon’s defense. And we can’t forget about the SEC East champion (likely to be a heavy underdog) against the West. All of those scenarios don’t include a team like Miami taking down Florida State as an upset possibility or Utah beating Oregon. Count on an upset or two happening and changing the playoff outlook before college football's Final Four is released.
The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.
The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 11.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
A quarterback in East Lansing will enter the Heisman race
Connor Cook and JT Barrett will square off in the biggest and most pivotal Big Ten game of the year this weekend in East Lansing when Ohio State visits Michigan State. Cook and Barrett are the top two QBs in the Big Ten in terms of efficiency and are posting great numbers. Cook (1,868 yds, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 44 rush, 2 TDs) is one of the most underrated players in the nation and Barrett (1,856 yds, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 496 rush, 6 TDs) has posted some big numbers of his own. One of these two will be squarely in the Heisman race following this weekend (my bet is Cook).
Marcus Mariota will have the worst game of his season… and will still win
Marcus Mariota will have the worst game of his season this weekend on the road against Utah and the nation’s best sack-masters (39.0 sacks). Mariota will throw for a season-low in yards (currently 210), post a season-low in total offense (277) and account for a season-low in terms of total touchdowns (two), but the Ducks will still win. Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall will literally carry Oregon to a critical road win over the Utes.
24 points will win the Baylor-Oklahoma game
The winner of the Oklahoma-Baylor game has scored more than 40 points in four consecutive games and six of the last seven. In fact, the winner of this tilt (mostly Oklahoma) has scored more than 30 points in every meeting since 1998. So with that information, the winner this season will only need to score three touchdowns (and maybe a field goal) to get the win. Both teams are better on defense than outsiders think. Take the under.
Listen to the Week 10 recap podcast:
Trevone Boykin and Jake Waters will account for a combined 10 TDs
I missed on the Boykin-Clint Trickett showdown last weekend, as both defenses showed up in Morgantown. I’m going back to the Big 12 QB well this week, as both Jake Waters (18 total TDs) and Boykin (26 total TDs) are set for a purple-clad battle in Fort Worth. Both defenses are solid, but this league has shown the nation how to play offense in the big games. Look for both QBs to get going both on the ground and through the air much like all of TCU’s other big games (SEE: Oklahoma, Baylor).
LSU will score more than 20 points against Alabama… and will still lose
Nick Saban has won three straight in the series against LSU and has done so in convincing fashion. Over that span, Alabama has outscored LSU 80-34. Even in LSU’s last win in 2011, the Tigers failed to score double-digit points. The Tigers' offense has gotten on track of late, scoring a total of 81 points in three straight wins. LSU may not win this weekend against the Tide at home but it will score at least 20 points against Alabama for the first time since 2010.
Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.
Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.
This year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie class has collectively lived up to the hype. Billed as the best rookie class since 2006 — one containing Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex — the 2014 crop might be short on wins, but they were big on immediate impact, despite most of the class wheeling less-than-ideal equipment, and produced one bona fide superstar.
They lost the battle if you’re solely staring at top-10 finishes — the 2014 class, led by Kyle Larson has combined for 21 top-10 finishes with two races remaining, while five different drivers in the class of ’06 united for 44 top-10 results. If you’re scoping each driver individually, though, and isolate the driver from his team, the Production in Equal Equipment Ratings (PEER) for the ’14 group are stronger than those of their predecessors.
Denny Hamlin was the last rookie to score a serviceable PEER — a weighted results measurement on MotorsportsAnalytics.com — with a rating of 1.986 that ranked seventh in the Cup Series that season. Larson, presently with a 2.324 PEER, will shatter Hamlin’s effort. He currently ranks as the sixth-most productive driver in the series this season.
Of the eight drivers that began the season as rookies, seven (87.5 percent of the class) will end the season with ratings above replacement level, a mark 16 percent better than what the 2006 group was able to accomplish.
No driver in either of the two classes shone brighter than Larson, who ends the season as Athlon Sports’ number one rookie, topping the final Rookie Report Ranking of 2014:
1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1)
Larson ranks fourth among series regulars in adjusted pass efficiency, carrying a 52.96 percent mark to Phoenix this weekend. He ranks fifth among regulars in surplus passing value, passing at an efficiency 2.14 percent better than what a driver with his average running position is expected to produce. He ranks sixth in PEER. Unlike Denny Hamlin, he didn’t make the Chase and he hasn’t won, but that shouldn’t take away from what’s been a brilliant season by a quick-assimilating rookie. The sky is the limit, and his season it worthy of its own column, coming next week.
2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2)
The chatter was somewhat nauseating early on and none of it had anything to do with him (it had everything to do with the color and number of his car). After all the nostalgic nonsense settled, we were left with a young driver still trying to find his identity as a racer while ironing out some wrinkles in his repertoire. He’ll end the season with a sub-serviceable PEER and sub-par passing numbers, but there has been some notable improvement. His current Chase-only PEER stands at 1.034 through eight races, an increase over the 0.632 that spans his entire year to date. Based purely on average finish, Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing team’s 16.7-place mark is better than those of Kasey Kahne (17.7), Brian Vickers (18.4) and Tony Stewart (19.9). Passing remains a sore subject for a driver who struggled overtaking for position in NASCAR’s lower divisions, but it’s clear that if he ever develops a passing game he’ll be a consummate Chase contender.
3. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 4)
I’ll remember this team’s closing problem — they’ve lost 59 positions in the final 10 percent of races — above anything else about them in 2014, but it’s mostly due to a disastrous early part of the season. Through the first 21 races, Allgaier and crew chief Steve Addington gave up 74 red zone positions. They’ve gained 15 across the 12 races they’ve competed in since, a sign that things might be coming together in time for a formidable finish to an otherwise decent rookie season. Allgaier is a plus passer through 33 races this year, sporting a 50.88 percent adjusted efficiency and a plus-1.53 percent surplus value.
4. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 3)
It’s almost as if Whitt and longtime crew chief Randy Cox have built their own wing onto the BK Racing shop, because they don’t appear to be from the same stable that trots out entries for Alex Bowman and whatever other veteran hanger-on the team’s execs fancy on a particular weekend. The cars in which Whitt and Cox invested sweat equity were faster, per NASCAR’s average green-flag speed measurement, than entries from Tommy Baldwin Racing and Front Row Motorsports. Whitt, sometime after the Darlington race, cooly learned that 500-mile races were feats of patience, not pizazz. His race approach shifted accordingly and resulted in six of his best eight finishes this year coming in the second half of the season.
5. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 5)
Inconsistency might be tolerable when you’re Kyle Busch, whose 14.0 finish deviation on top of his 16.5-place average result is the most inconsistent among series regulars. When you’re a rookie with a 29.3-place average finish, a relatively inconsistent deviation is troublesome and that’s what is plaguing Annett, with a 7.3 finish deviation, this season. His rookie-year results have very much been trick or treat — his three most recent results at quad-oval tracks were straightforward finishes of 21st at Atlanta, a four laps-down 33rd-place effort at Charlotte and a lead-lap 22nd-place run at Texas. With more consistency — and that should be the focus in his sophomore campaign — he’d be the best driver Tommy Baldwin Racing has ever had.
6. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 6)
Watch Bowman and you’ll get a sense that he’s capable of more — he passes the eye test and is the youngest driver in the series this season. But his results on paper do nothing to support the senses. His 0.103 PEER is barely above replacement level, his 45.82 percent adjusted pass efficiency is the third worst in the series and his 0.41 per race crash frequency was a smidge too high for a race team on a tight budget. Since I’m not inside the halls of BK Racing, I don’t know whether Bowman will, or did enough to, be back with them next season; however, I don’t believe it’s fair to assume he is as good now as he’s ever going to be. He needs seasoning — he spent exactly one season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, one season in K&N East and competed in a smatter of ARCA Series races over the last three years. The team that provides it might reap the rewards of a young driver coming into his own.
7. Ryan Truex, No. 83
Truex initially struggled and grew to struggle less — his passing did improve, but he still holds the second-worst pass efficiency (44.9 percent) in the series. BK Racing parted with him following the Chicagoland race. While he is still contractually tied to Richard Petty Motorsports, with whom he signed a development contract in 2013, the future is murky for the two-time champion of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
8. Parker Kligerman, No. 30
Kligerman had the year from hell, registering five finishes of 40th or worse in eight races. He also amassed a crash frequency of 0.50 — tied as the second highest in the series — and failed to find a landing spot after Swan Racing closed its doors. The good news is that he is currently an entertaining, stat-savvy analyst for NBC Sports; however, he is a talent deserving of a ride somewhere, evident by his past efforts in the Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.
Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network
Adam Zucker, CBS Sports
Steven Godfrey, SBNation
Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
David Fox, Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM
Dropped out: None
Listen to the Week 10 recap podcast:
The Top 3:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The Oregon quarterback exorcized some demons against archrival Stanford and landed all but one first-place vote this week because of it. He completed 19-of-30 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns, one interception in the air while rushing nine times for 85 yards and two more scores in the blowout win over the Cardinal. He’s 10th nationally at 327.9 yards per game and is tops nationally with a 187.21 rating.
Season Stats: 2,541 yards, 68.1%, 26 TDs, 2 INTs, 410 rush yards, 7 TDs
2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St
Prescott threw for a career-high 331 yards while running for 61 yards in Week 10. However, he also threw two interceptions and barely defeated Arkansas at home. This gave Mariota a slight edge entering Week 11 over the Bulldogs quarterback. With Tennessee-Martin on the slate this week, Prescott can only hurt his Heisman case before visiting Alabama in two weeks.
Season Stats: 2,025 yards, 61.1%, 16 TDs, 7 INTs, 725 rush yards, 10 TDs
3. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
The Badgers' star tailback rolled up his sixth consecutive game with at least 122 yards rushing by carrying 19 times for 128 yards and two more touchdowns in the easy win over Maryland. He is second nationally at 162.0 yards per game (just 0.5 yards per game behind Tevin Coleman) and is second nationally with 18 rushing touchdowns. Among the top 17 players in terms of rushing attempts, his 7.5 yards per carry is the best.
Season Stats: 173 att., 1,296 yards, 7.5 ypc, 18 TDs, 8 rec., 39 yards, 1 TD
Shabazz Napier called his team the Hungry Huskies during the post-national championship celebration at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in April. They fed off returning to the NCAA Tournament after serving a postseason ban and went on an improbable March Madness run.
But Napier, an All-America guard and inspirational leader, has graduated and moved on to the NBA. DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey, two other key players, also are pursing professional careers.
Only six players, including just one who averaged in double figures, return.
According to coach Kevin Ollie, UConn’s appetite for success remains the same. “Every year is a different year,” Ollie says. “But we’re going to have the same mindset. … It’s a work ethic. It’s to have humility, the understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about our great university. If we can have those things with the talent we have, success is going to follow. I really, really believe that.”
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Ollie is excited about the potential of his maturing frontcourt and hopes to get more production out of the group.
Junior Phil Nolan is battled-test, appearing in 63 games over two seasons, and has added muscle. He’ll look to improve on last year’s numbers (3.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg).
Watch out for sophomore center Amida Brimah. Already a shot-blocking force, averaging a team-best 2.3 per game, he’s working on elevating his offensive game. He spent the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery. “Amida is going to be a force,” Ollie says.
Sophomore Kentan Facey adds a different dynamic off the bench, possessing the ability to attack inside or shoot outside.
Highly touted freshman Daniel Hamilton, an athletic 6-7 wing, has the potential to be a special player. Hamilton averaged 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists while leading St. John Bosco to a state title in California last season.
Freshman Rakim Lubin owns the mindset and muscle to be a factor on the glass, one of team’s few weaknesses last season.
UConn Huskies Facts & Figures
Last season: 32-8, 12-6 AAC
Postseason: National champion
Consecutive NCAA appearances: 1
Coach: Kevin Ollie (52-18 at UConn, 22-14 Big East/AAC)
AAC Projection: Second
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 32
Stocked with skilled guards, UConn will continue to be a perimeter-powered team.
Ryan Boatright, the top returning scorer and a defensive pest, steps into the spotlight after residing in Napier’s shadow. Following a terrific postseason, Boatright considered turning pro before deciding to return for his senior season. “He has to take over that leadership role,” Ollie says. “I think Boat is going to do that. I see a lot of great qualities in Ryan. … He has a great competitiveness about him.”
Sophomore Terrence Samuel, who emerged as a valuable contributor off the bench last season, and junior Omar Calhoun are other returning guards. Calhoun is looking to bounce back from a sophomore slump.
Last season, Ollie referred to Rodney Purvis, a transfer from NC State, as his Ferrari in the garage. The explosive Purvis is ready to hit the accelerator and take off. “He can score at a high level,” Ollie says.
Newcomer Sam Cassell Jr., who starred on the junior college level, is a fierce competitor with a high basketball IQ. He gives UConn another playmaker.
Expectations are high for the Huskies, who’ll likely be a top-25 team, an American Athletic Conference title contender and NCAA Tournament team.
Another trip to the Final Four will be difficult to pull off considering that UConn lost four of its top five scorers and top three rebounders. But with a nice blend of promising newcomers, developing underclassmen and proven veterans, the Huskies possess the talent to complete a quality makeover. They’ll rely on scoring by committee and look to push the pace to utilize their team speed and versatile roster.
Ollie, who received a new five-year, $15 million contract in May, will stick to his winning formula — play team basketball and tenacious defense, limit turnovers and convert from the foul line, where UConn shot 77.7 percent last season.
With the roster changes, UConn needs time to become a cohesive unit.
“We’ve got some talent,” Ollie says. “We’ve got to pull it together. We’ve got to get in (the gym) and work hard. But all the guys have great attitudes. That’s the one thing that I pride myself on — having a great attitude and being a great teammate. I think all of our guys have that.”
Rakim Lubin, a rugged forward, will provide a much-needed physical presence and rebounder. Sam Cassell Jr., son of the former NBA guard, averaged 18.7 points in junior college. He’ll add valuable depth and experience in the backcourt. Daniel Hamilton, a multi-talented wing, is considered one of the top scorers at his position in his recruiting class. A gifted guard, Rodney Purvis averaged 8.3 points as a freshman at NC State.
For one, the AAC is the home of the defending national champion that loses star Shabazz Napier but returns coach Kevin Ollie and guard Ryan Boatright while adding NC State transfer Rodney Purvis and highly regarded freshman Daniel Hamilton.
The Huskies, though, may have trouble making a run at the AAC title thanks to upstart SMU. Even without freshman Emmanuel Mudiay, the top point guard prospect in the NBA draft who will be playing in Europe, the Mustangs have enough talent and experience returning to make a historic run for the program.
With the arrival of Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson, Memphis may be able to make the AAC a three-team race. Cincinnati and league newcomer Tulsa, the latter under first-year coach Frank Haith, will try to maintain momentum after NCAA runs a year ago.
After those top teams, though, watch out. The AAC had five teams in the top 40 on Kenpom.com last season (including Louisville). The other five teams were ranked 125th or worse. That trend may continue in a league that adds Conference USA also-rans East Carolina and Tulane this season.
Previews of every American team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.
2014-15 American Athletic Conference Predictions
1. SMU (team preview)
The turnaround under Larry Brown has been very impressive. Emmanuel Mudiay’s decision to play overseas hurts, but the Mustangs are still talented.
2. Connecticut (team preview)
The defending national champs bid farewell to Shabazz Napier, but bring in Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton — and kept Kevin Ollie.
3. Memphis (team preview)
The immediate eligibility of Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson gives the guard-starved Tigers a major boost.
4. Cincinnati (team preview)
Without Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, Mick Cronin loses his leaders. Can Shaquille Thomas take the next step?
Postseason projection: NIT
After reaching the NCAA Tournament last season, the Golden Hurricane will look to get back as Frank Haith replaces Danny Manning.
The Green Wave could be a sleeper. Louis Dabney and Jonathan Stark should form one of the best duos in the league.
7. East Carolina
Leading scorer Akeem Richmond is gone, but Jeff Lebo brings back several key pieces — and adds transfer Terry Whisnant.
The Owls took a major step back last season, going from 24 wins to nine wins. Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey do return.
Stan Heath is gone and former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua is in. Anthony Collins needs a bounce-back season at the point.
Kelvin Sampson has already added talent to the roster, including transfers Torian Graham and Devonta Pollard.
The Knights were next-to-last in the conference last season, and lose their top three scorers. Donnie Jones’ star has dimmed.
2014-15 American Athletic Conference Superlatives
Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU
The absence of Emmanuel Mudiay will put more pressure on Moore, but he may be up to the task. He averaged 13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds last season and contributed clutch play during SMU’s run to the NIT championship game.
Best Defensive Player: Amida Brimah, Connecticut
The shot-blocking extraordinaire averaged 2.3 blocks per game in just 16.2 minutes and 17 starts.
Most Underrated Player: James Woodard, Tulsa
The 6-3, 183-pound guard averaged 15.5 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Conference USA champions last season. Now he gets to shine on a bigger stage.
Newcomer of the Year: Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
UConn will hope this high-scoring wing will help offset the losses of Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels.
Top coach: Larry Brown, SMU (complete AAC coach rankings)
G Nic Moore, SMU
G Ryan Boatright, Connecticut
G James Woodard, Tulsa
F Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
F Markus Kennedy, SMU
G Will Cummings, Temple
G Jonathan Stark, Tulane
G Rodney Purvis, Connecticut
F Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
F Austin Nichols, Memphis
G Anthony Collins, USF
G Louis Dabney, Tulane
G Quenton DeCosey, Temple
F Justin Martin, SMU
F Shaquille Thomas, Cincinnati
The obvious issue for Cincinnati in 2014-15 is how to replace first-team All-America guard Sean Kilpatrick, who finished his career as the second-leading scorer in school history behind the legendary Oscar Robertson.
But that’s not how coach Mick Cronin sees his challenge as he begins his ninth year at his alma mater armed with a new seven-year contract extension.
“We quickly have to realize it’s a new day,” Cronin says. “That’s my message to the guys. It’s your team. We don’t have to replace nobody. We have to become the 2014-15 version of the Bearcats.”
Cincinnati will have seven new players and no double-figure scorers returning from the 2013-14 team that shared the inaugural American Athletic Conference title with Louisville and lost to Harvard in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats won’t have much experience, but they will have plenty of size on the front line, which is a major departure from last season.
“We’ll be a couple inches bigger and a lot stronger on the front line and deeper on the front line,” Cronin says. “With Shaq Thomas, you talk about six guys that are 6-7 or bigger and either really athletic or 265 or 270 pounds. We have a chance to be a great rebounding team.”
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The Bearcats were looking forward to seeing how much top-25 recruit Jermaine Lawrence had improved after his disappointing freshman year in 2013-14, but Lawrence transferred to Manhattan because he wanted to be closer to his home in New York after he learned that his father had been diagnosed with cancer.
Thomas, a 6-7 junior forward, is Cincinnati’s leading returning scorer after averaging 6.8 points last season, but he still has not reached the potential the coaching staff sees in him. Thomas scored in double figures only once in the final 12 games of the season.
The Bearcats are hoping for immediate help from 6-10, 270-pound junior college transfer Coreontae DeBerry and 6-10 junior college transfer Octavius Ellis. The 6-10, 220-pound Ellis is the most intriguing of the newcomers because he began his career at Cincinnati in 2010, but was asked to leave after his involvement in a nightclub incident. He returns after earning All-America honors at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, where he averaged 14.8 points and 9.7 rebounds last year. Ellis is one of four Cincinnati players who were suspended after the infamous fight against cross-town rival Xavier three years ago.
Jamaree Strickland, at 6-10, 270 pounds, will make his debut after being forced to sit out last year because the NCAA would not accept all of his high school courses.
Gary Clark, a 6-7 freshman, was a prolific scorer in high school, and 6-8, 230-pound forward Quadri Moore provides another physical player on the front line. Jermaine Sanders, a valuable player at times off the bench last year, is back for his senior year.
Cincinnati Bearcats Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-7, 15-3 AAC
Postseason: NCAA round of 64
Consecutive NCAA appearances: 4
Coach: Mick Cronin (162-107 at Cincinnati, 72-70 Big East/AAC)
AAC Projection: Fourth
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 64
Ge’Lawn Guyn returns at point guard, but he’ll be pressed by sophomore Troy Caupain, who has better all-around skills and is more of a scoring threat. Deshaun Morman will make his debut after being redshirted last year due to a broken foot.
Sophomore Kevin Johnson hit some big shots in a reserve role as a freshman and could blossom into a consistent perimeter scoring threat. The Bearcats were not a great 3-point shooting team last year even with Kilpatrick in the backcourt, so they signed junior college transfer Farad Cobb, who averaged 15.1 points and shot 46.3 percent from beyond the arc last year at Northwest Florida Community College. Cobb began his career at Chattanooga.
Cincinnati has been on a nice run with four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a 101–39 record during that span, but the Bearcats will have a much different look this year with a roster heavy on strong physical players on the front line.
If the Bearcats are going to make a fifth straight NCAA appearance, they’ll need a big boost from Caupain and incoming guard Cobb and hope that the front-line players blossom quickly.
With no proven returning scorer and so many untested players on their roster, it’s a stretch to predict that the Bearcats will win their second straight AAC title.
Guard Farad Cobb is being counted on to provide 3-point shooting. Deshaun Morman, who redshirted last year, will provide depth in the backcourt. Forward Coreontae DeBerry is a strong, physical player who should help right away. Center Octavius Ellis has two years of junior college experience and one year in the Cincinnati program. Jamaree Strickland is an unknown commodity after sitting out last year. Forward Gary Clark is a potential big-time scorer, and forward Quadri Moore will provide a physical presence up front.
When Kelvin Sampson tries to convince a high school prospect to play basketball for Houston, he’s probably not going to spend too much time talking about the glory days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
Three Final Fours, two Hall of Famers and one great team nickname (Phi Slama Jama) in a three-year period is a fine brag sheet — if Sampson could guarantee that these 18-year-old recruits would have any idea who he’s talking about.
“These kids think Michael Jordan is the guy on the Hanes commercial,” Sampson says.
He’s joking, maybe. But the sentiment still echoes what kind of an uphill battle Sampson might have at Houston with challenges he never had to face at Oklahoma and Indiana.
Like Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Sampson is re-starting his college head-coaching career after a detour spurred by NCAA sanctions. Sampson agreed to a buyout from Indiana in February 2008, weeks after the NCAA charged the coach with five major violations. Sampson was charged with making 100 impermissible phone calls to recruits and providing misleading information to investigators, all while he was under sanctions stemming from similar violations while at Oklahoma.
The NCAA penalized Sampson with a five-year show-cause that expired in 2013. The sanctions and the fallout that contributed to a 28–66 record in the ensuing three seasons at Indiana (under Tom Crean’s watch) would have made Sampson a tough sell for more high-profile programs, even if most of the phone call rules Sampson violated are no longer in place. Houston, instead, assumed the risk.
“He said the rules were the rules then, and he broke them and there’s no excuse,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades says. “He’s earned a second chance, no question. I think he’s going to make the most out of it.”
While Sampson’s history with the NCAA infractions committee was in question upon his return to the college game, his coaching credentials remain impressive. He reached the NCAA Tournament in 13 of his final full 14 seasons, dating back to his final year at Washington State.
He succeeded at two rebuilding projects early in his career, with Washington State (1987-94) and Division II Montana Tech (1981-85).
No doubt Sampson has rebuilding to do at Houston. The Cougars have had six head coaches, including Drexler himself, and no NCAA Tournament wins in four appearances since the Phi Slama Jama era ended in 1984. The challenge doesn’t seem to faze Sampson.
“I didn’t care about going back to the level I left,” he says.
But Sampson could have stayed at the level where he was. He spent six seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets and interviewed for NBA head-coaching jobs. The allure of a return to college didn’t hit him until a conversation with his father in the final days before Ned Sampson’s death in February. Sampson’s return also gives him a chance to work with son Kellen, who joined Houston as an assistant after three seasons at Appalachian State.
“It’s been 30 years since (Houston) won an NCAA Tournament game,” Sampson says. “That’s what I needed. I needed a reclamation project. I needed something that required a lot of work and a lot of commitment.”
It will be hard work. Sampson is optimistic that Houston, with its recruiting base in the state of Texas, can make a move in the American Athletic Conference. The league contains defending national champion Connecticut, consistent programs in Memphis and Cincinnati and an in-state upstart in SMU. But after that, Houston is as good a bet to move up as any team in a league that includes UCF, South Florida, East Carolina and Tulane. Houston, at least, has a history those programs lack.
Sampson says he’s not interested in talking about the past — he’s referring to Olajuwon and Drexler, but he may as well be talking about himself.
The future to him is more pressing. Houston has hired a name coach, one that the Cougars wouldn’t have been able to lure if not for NCAA baggage, and the school has approved a $20 million practice facility.
“The school is a little bit of a have-not right now,” Sampson says. “Phi Slama Jama isn’t going to win any more games. A new practice facility will. A new arena will. Those are things we’re going to push for, and we’re going to push for them until they’re done.”
Larry Brown was already ahead of schedule at SMU, taking only two seasons to transform the moribund program. Twenty years removed from their last postseason appearance, the Mustangs last season won 27 games and advanced to the NIT title game.
So, Moody Madness had returned to the Hilltop before Mudiay Madness culminated in the loss of Brown’s most prized prospect. Emmanuel Mudiay, the nation’s No. 1 ranked point guard, announced in July that he would play professionally overseas.
With Mudiay, many early projections had the Mustangs in the top 10. Without him, they may still be the best team in the American Athletic Conference. They return most of the key players who posted four wins over ranked opponents, including a sweep of eventual national champion UConn.
Big man Markus Kennedy and point guard Nic Moore were among the best at their positions in the American. And transfers Justin Martin from Xavier and Jordan Tolbert from Texas Tech, both three-year players at their respective schools, figure to make a significant impact. They join a deep group of young players fighting for minutes.
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The Mustangs are a difficult team to play because they have a Hall of Fame coach who stresses defense. Turnovers set up fast breaks, and their halfcourt offense thrives on working the ball inside for high percentage shots. They are relentless on the boards, outrebounding all but 10 of their opponents. They look even stronger underneath with center Yanick Moreira healthy and the addition of established forwards Martin and Tolbert.
Kennedy’s confidence is high after averaging 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds and notching a team-high 44 blocked shots in his first season at SMU. He plays much larger than his 6-9 frame.
Moreira, the former junior college All-American, led the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes early last season but never returned to top form after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Unhappy with reduced minutes, he has plenty of motivation to display his shot-blocking and rebounding potential.
Senior post Cannen Cunningham’s playing time declined with Kennedy’s emergence, but Brown is determined to use Cunningham’s shooting and rebounding skills. Ben Moore was one of the team’s biggest surprises as a freshman, averaging 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14.8 minutes. The 6-8 forward has the athleticism to play virtually any position.
SMU Mustangs Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-10, 12-6 AAC
Last NCAA appearance: 1993
Coach: Larry Brown (42-27 at SMU, 17-17 CUSA/AAC)
AAC Projection: First
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 32
SMU led the conference in field goal percentage (48.3), but that figure was bolstered by second-chance points. Although the Mustangs shot 37.9 percent from beyond the arc, they lacked a pure outside shooter.
That role usually went to Moore, who kept the Ponies rolling in the NIT with game-winning baskets. Moore earned All-AAC first team honors, but he has no true point guard behind him. That’s one reason Mudiay would have been a great fit.
Thus, the pressure is on sophomore Keith Frazier to display the outside shooting that made him the first McDonald’s All-American SMU ever signed. With the loss of departing senior Nick Russell and Mudiay no longer in the picture, Frazier should improve with more minutes. He averaged 5.4 points in 14.8 minutes as a freshman.
Sterling Brown, the brother of NBA player Shannon Brown, and Ryan Manuel are diverse role players who can drive for layups, create scoring chances and draw fouls.
Although SMU’s Q-rating may suffer without Mudiay, Brown made the Mustangs relevant with their plus-12 turnaround in wins from 2012-13.
They are coming off a season in which they were ranked for the first time since 1985, posted the second-most wins in program history and set attendance records that included nine sellouts in renovated Moody Coliseum.
After finishing tied for third in the inaugural American Athletic Conference season, SMU will be shooting for a league title. It doesn’t hurt that Louisville has left for the ACC, and UConn and Cincinnati have big holes to fill.
Poised to make the NCAA Tournament, the Mustangs have last season’s snub to use as motivation. More important, they have even more depth than last year, when they averaged 25.6 points off the bench. They have eight players who averaged at least 12.9 minutes last season and two transfers who are potential starters.
Anything shy of a top two or three finish in the league and a trip to the
NCAA Tournament would be a disappointment.
Justin Martin, who played three seasons at Xavier, averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds last season — second on the team in both categories. Jordan Tolbert played three seasons at Texas Tech, averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while starting 91 games.
This time last year Josh Pastner had a backcourt some were describing as college basketball’s best thanks to the presence of four senior guards, all of whom had previously averaged double-figures in points at the Division I level. He was going to press and run and overwhelm opponents with talented veterans. And though Memphis did remain in the Associated Press Top 25 poll every week of the regular season, the truth is that none of the senior guards had what anybody would describe as a terrific season, and the Tigers failed to advance out of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
Those four senior guards are now gone.
The situation in the Memphis backcourt won’t be as dire as it could have been. The eligibility of Kedren Johnson, who transferred from Vanderbilt, gives Pastner one guard who has played at the Division I level. The news came only weeks before the first practice of the season. Johnson, who led the Commodores in scoring two seasons ago, was suspended for the 2013-14 season at Vanderbilt but received received a wavier to play this season after transferring to Memphis. His arrival can’t be understated as Memphis now has an experienced point guard to go with a solid frontcourt.
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What Memphis lacks in backcourt experience it makes up for in frountcourt experience (and talent) thanks to the return of Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols, a pair of forwards who both started a year ago. Goodwin, a junior, averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. Nichols, a sophomore, averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds last season.
“We’re gonna play through them,” Pastner says. “They have to produce.”
Nick King will be given every opportunity to start at small forward. Is he a natural wing? No. But he’s just too talented to bury on the bench, and the only thing that’ll keep the 6-7 sophomore from playing 20-plus minutes per game is an inability to guard the position. Aware of this, King has been taking yoga classes to improve his flexibility and footwork in an attempt to improve his perimeter defense.
Memphis Tigers Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-10, 64-18 CUSA/AAC
Postseason: NCAA round of 32
Consecutive NCAA appearances: 4
Coach: Josh Pastner (130-44 at Memphis, 64-18 CUSA/AAC)
AAC Projection: Third
Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 64
Before Johnson’s arrival, Memphis lacked any guard with experience on the Division I level. More than that, the Tigers lacked a natural point guard. The Vanderbilt transfer fills both of those gaps. Johnson led the Commodores in scoring 13.5 in 2012-13 before serving a year-long suspension for a “non-academic university policy.”
The rest of the backcourt may be a hodgepodge. Markel Crawford, Pookie Powell, Dominic Magee, Chris Hawkins and Avery Woodson are all talented in their own ways. But, again, none of them is experienced, none of them is a natural point guard, and Crawford and Powell haven’t played competitive basketball in two years. Crawford redshirted last season as he recovered from a torn ACL while Powell missed last season for academic reasons.
“There’s gonna be some mistakes made because they haven’t been in game situations,” Pastner says. “But I also think that we have guys who can do things with the ball and who are talented. So you don’t wanna box them in, either. You wanna allow them to have some creativity and make plays.”
Emmanuel Mudiay’s decision to sign a contract in China rather than play at SMU combined with significant personnel losses at UConn and Cincinnati combined with Louisville’s departure to the ACC gives Memphis a shot to compete at the top of the league again.
But it’s rare for an inexperienced backcourt to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament. So Memphis fans still holding on to the final five years of the John Calipari era would probably be wise to lower expectations, just a little. The future is still bright for the Tigers, undeniably. But this particular season could turn into a learning experience for all.
“We might have one or two plays and that’s it (at the start of the season),” Pastner says. “We just have to be as basic, as fundamental, as defensive-minded as possible, so that we can get things accomplished. We can’t get to step C if we haven’t accomplished step A, and we’ve gotta get to step B before we get to step C.”
Pookie Powell and Markel Crawford both essentially redshirted last season and project as possible starters in the backcourt while junior college transfers Trahson Burrell, Chris Hawkins and Avery Woodson are all capable of cracking the rotation. Dominic Magee is the only true freshman on scholarship. He’s a 6-3 guard who averaged 22.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals last season in high school.
Oregon took Ole Miss’ spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, but a handful of teams may be gaining on a spot in the semifinals.
No. 4 Ole Miss’ loss to Auburn allowed the next three teams to move up a spot in the second top 25. The top three of Mississippi State followed by Florida State and Auburn stood pat at their spots from last week.
Those moves followed standard operating procedure for the traditional polls in which winning teams continue to move up as long as teams ahead of them lose.
Yet in other spots — most notably Arizona State’s move up the rankings — the committee appeared to follow its promise to start with “a clean sheet” each week.
Here’s how the second top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.
|College Football Playoff Rankings: Nov. 4|
|1. Mississippi State||10. Notre Dame||18. UCLA|
|2. Florida State||11. Ole Miss||19. Arizona|
|3. Auburn||12. Baylor||20. Georgia|
|4. Oregon||13. Nebraska||21. Clemson|
|5. Alabama||14. Ohio State||22. Duke|
|6. TCU||15. Oklahoma||23. West Virginia|
|7. Kansas State||16. LSU||24. Georgia Tech|
|8. Michigan State||17. Utah||25. Wisconsin|
|9. Arizona State|
Oregon moves into the top four
With No. 4 Ole Miss’ loss to Auburn, some team was likely to move into the top four spots. The next three teams from last week’s rankings (Oregon, Alabama and TCU) all moved up a spot. The Ducks’ thrashing of Stanford’s defense for a 45-16 win helped, but selection committee chair Jeff Long noted wins over No. 8 Michigan State and No 18 UCLA helping Oregon’s cause.
Alabama “very close”
No. 5 Alabama may be the impact team for the final weeks of the season. The top three of Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn were solidly in place, Long said, but the placement of the Tide, Oregon and TCU was a matter of question. Where Oregon’s quality wins gave the Ducks the edge for the No. 4 spot, Long said the selection committee used film study to give Alabama an edge this week over TCU. The Tide have one top 25 win (West Virginia) combined to TCU’s two (Oklahoma, West Virginia).
On a conference call with reporters after ESPN’s rankings show, Long clarified a comment that “misrepresented” that the committee evaluated game film as a group. Long said the committee evaluated film prior to meeting, not during the rankings meeting this week in Dallas.
Who Shouldn’t Worry:
TCU, Kansas State and Baylor
The No. 6 Horned Frogs and No. 7 Wildcats meet this week in a critical game that could vault the winner closer to the playoff mix. Both teams could claim a better signature win than Alabama (Oklahoma for both) but continued to lag behind the Tide. Long reiterated that conference champions would play a role in the final selection. Only one SEC West team can win the division, much less the conference. That leaves the Big 12’s three one-loss teams feeling like they control their own destiny.
Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised
Just before facing Notre Dame this week, the Sun Devils enjoyed a major jump from No. 14 to No. 9, leapfrogging the Irish. That’s good news for Arizona State, but some of Long’s reasoning was puzzling. He noted a common opponent for Arizona State and Notre Dame (Stanford). Arizona State beat Stanford 26-10 and Notre Dame beat the Cardinal 17-14 on its final possession of the game. But both of those games were weeks ago. Arizona State needed overtime to defeat Utah, which stood pat at No. 17.
Who Should Worry:
Group of 5 teams
With East Carolina’s loss to Temple, the two-loss Pirates slipped out of the top 25. That left the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt out of the top 25. One of the champions of those leagues is guaranteed a spot in the major New Year’s holiday bowls, but there’s no indication of the leader at this point. The contenders may be undefeated Marshall, Colorado State, Boise State or even a two-loss ECU.
If the Season Ended Today:
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Oregon
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn
Other bowls (projected)
Cotton: No. 6 TCU vs. No. 10 Notre Dame
Fiesta: No. 7 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Arizona State
Orange: No. 21 Clemson^ vs. No. 8 Michigan State
Peach: Marshall* vs. No. 5 Alabama
*automatic Group of 5 bid
^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl
In case you had any lingering doubts about whether Jason Kidd’s exit from his post as coach of the Brooklyn Nets was amicable, erase them: It wasn’t. Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov made that clear when he shared these words Monday:
The largely mysterious man, recently rumored to be shopping his NBA team around, made a rare appearance before the media before his team’s nice 116-85 home victory against the undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder. Prokhorov also said that his team losing $144 million last season is “no big deal.”
Prokhorov said, despite recent talks, that he’s not giving up majority control of his team. That probably has a lot to do with the league’s new TV $24 billion deal, which ensures that an NBA team is just about the soundest, most lucrative investment a man of Prokhorov’s funds can buy or hold onto these days.
For now, these Nets likely remain a bit hamstrung in the Eastern Conference standings, as some irrational exuberance on Prokhorov’s and general manager Billy King’s part has sunk them into a hole of repeater tax salary cap penalties. Those snags might not make much difference in Prokhorov’s bottom business line, but they do kill the market flexibility required to make the shift into a true contender. The Nets will have to wait a while before making real improvements to their roster.
Quotable as he is, Nets fans better hope their owner is also measured and patient enough to let the long, complex process of team-building take place.
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 4:
• Johnny Football is on the cover of Golf Digest, proving that they've run out of cover options. I preferred Paulina Gretzky.
• Rookie Marcus Smart is already an Oscar-worthy flopper. They learn fast, don't they?
• Touching story of a 7-year-old who reached out to Laquon Treadwell, his favorite player.
• Interesting partisan divide: Football participation is declining in blue states.
• Alaska voters: Do you really want to elect a guy who can't shred on a snow machine?
• Here's an unusual sentence for you: The Tiger Woods of poker is starting a medical marijuana business in Vegas.
• Proof that running long distances is stupid: Marathoners try to walk down some stairs after the race.
• Mad Bum made a visit to Fallon last night.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Mississippi State will wear alternate uniforms for its Nov. 29 showdown against rival Ole Miss.
The alternate Egg Bowl uniforms feature gold numbers, and the helmets feature gold trim around the Mississippi State logo.
Considering the success of Mississippi State and Ole Miss this year, the 2014 Egg Bowl should be an intriguing matchup.
Check out Mississippi State's alternate uniforms for the Egg Bowl:
Mississippi State helmet for Egg Bowl pic.twitter.com/veCDJMgVoR— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 4, 2014
Hearing Carmelo Anthony fess up to "bad energy” during the New York Knicks 2013-14 season is like hearing the devil tell you he's not looking out for your best interests. In other words: Duh.
"I think just overall, not pointing anything out, but just overall from day one last year the energy was just not right," Anthony told reporters after a Knicks practice on Monday. "This year, you could just feel the total difference stepping into this gym, talking to guys, talking to the staff, talking to the players. Everybody has a newfound energy so it's just a lot different now.”
Watching New York last year felt a lot more like social work than entertainment. Their brand of sloppy, misdirected basketball, and total lack of effective communication, became a comedy of errors that was hard to watch. This Andrea Bargnani clip just about summed things up:
But with Phil Jackson taking over and bringing in coach Derek Fisher, the new-look Knicks are a different story. Despite having some obvious deficiencies on their roster, they’re a well-organized outfit with some definite strengths. Between Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway, Jr., they aren’t lacking for shotmakers. Even if they can’t guard a broom without Tyson Chandler, who’s now back with the Dallas Mavericks.
Off a 2-1 start, the Knicks have playoff potential. They’re certainly a few major pieces away from championship contention, but the rehabilitated ethos of the franchise — in addition to the zen master’s nearly unparalleled record of success — suggests Jackson is the man to develop, sign, or trade for those additions. And Knicks fans should feel doubly encouraged by his proactive transparency, documented in the recent scouting report he released on his own team.
Up next for the Knicks are John Wall, Paul Pierce and the nasty Washington Wizards, who roll into Madison Square Garden at 7:30 PM ET tonight.
(h/t to ESPN's Ian Begley for the Anthony quote)
— John Wilmes
Road wins never come easy, but TCU found a way past West Virginia last weekend and moved back into the Legends Poll Top 8. Kicker Jaden Oberkrom booted one through the uprights as time expired, helping the seventh-ranked Horned Frogs knock off West Virginia, 31-30. TCU became the only Big 12 team in the top 8. The top 6 in the rankings remained unchanged.
No. 1 Mississippi State held off an upset bid from Arkansas, 17-10, as the Hogs search for their first SEC win under Bret Bielema.
Second-ranked Florida State overcame a 21-point deficit — the largest comeback in school history — to beat Louisville, 42-31.
And No. 4 Auburn pulled off another stunning victory against Ole Miss, forcing two fumbles inside the five-yard line in the fourth quarter.
No. 3 Alabama was idle but faces a tough test at LSU this coming weekend.
No. 5 Oregon exorcised its demons against Stanford in an impressive 45-16 rout.
And idle Michigan State remained at No. 6.
No. 8 Notre Dame moved down a spot after a tough victory in Washington DC over Navy. Ole Miss dropped from the rankings.
|1||Mississippi State (10)||8-0||100||1|
|2||Florida State (1)||8-0||84||2|
College football’s playoff committee released its first set of rankings last Tuesday. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.
Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.
Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports
Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
Post-Week 10 Playoff Projection
Takeaways From Expert Poll Results
* For the third week in a row, Mississippi State and Florida State rank as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the playoff projection.
* However, the Bulldogs’ grip on the No. 1 spot slipped after a close win over Arkansas. The Bulldogs edged Florida State 163 to 149 after Week 9, and the gap closed to 153 to 149 following Week 10.
* Auburn was a big winner in this week’s playoff projection. The Tigers moved from No. 5 to No. 3 after a victory over Ole Miss and rank just 28 points behind Florida State for the No. 2 spot.
* Oregon and Alabama tied for the No. 4 spot in this week’s vote. The Crimson Tide received a first and second-place vote, while the Ducks did not receive a vote higher than third.
* The committee has identified a clear top five: Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Oregon. After the top five is where things get interesting. TCU ranks No. 6 with 50 points, while Michigan State is No. 7 at 42 points. Those two teams will have a chance to climb in the rankings with key conference matchups in Week 11.
* Arizona State received a vote in a playoff projection poll for the first time in 2014.
* The SEC has four teams in the top 12. The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 are tied for second in conference hierarchy with two teams making an appearance in the committee’s rankings.
Group of 5 Rankings
The Thundering Herd was the biggest beneficiary of East Carolina’s loss to Temple. Marshall moves to the No. 1 spot in the Group of 5 rankings and will be a heavy favorite in each of its four remaining regular season games. The Thundering Herd travels to Southern Miss this Saturday and hosts defending C-USA champion Rice on Nov. 15. Marshall’s strength of schedule won’t do it any favors, but it has won all eight games by at least 15 points.
2. Boise State
There’s very little separation among the Group of 5 teams, and Boise State seems to have the best opportunity to pass Marshall for the No. 1 spot over the next few weeks. The Broncos play at New Mexico this Saturday, followed by a home date against San Diego State on Nov. 15. Strength of schedule is on Boise State’s side. However, can the two-loss Broncos pass an unbeaten Marshall?
3. Colorado State
The nation has started to take notice of coach Jim McElwain’s team, but the Rams need help to claim the Group of 5 bowl spot. With a head-to-head loss to Boise State, Colorado State is on the outside – for now. Conference champions are only eligible for the Group of 5 bowl spot, so the Rams need a loss by the Broncos in one of their four remaining conference games to have a shot at the Mountain West title.
4. East Carolina
The Pirates dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 on this list after their Week 10 loss to Temple. East Carolina is now one of five teams tied at 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play and needs a lot of help to get back into the conversation for a spot in a New Year’s Bowl.
Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, Temple or Nevada each deserves consideration for the No. 5 ranking on this list. The Bearcats get a slight edge over the other five teams mentioned, largely due to the upcoming schedule. Cincinnati still has to play East Carolina, Temple and Houston. It’s a longshot, but Tommy Tuberville’s team still has a chance – with a lot of help – to claim the Group of 5 bowl spot.
Key Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 11
Georgia at Kentucky
Noon ET, ESPN
Bulldogs no longer in control of East Division, but coach Mark Richt’s team needs to win in order to keep the pressure on Missouri.
Baylor at Oklahoma
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1
This game was slated to be the must-see matchup in the Big 12 this preseason but has lost a little luster with a combined three losses between these two teams.
Notre Dame at Arizona State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
An intriguing (and rare) non-conference game in November. Fighting Irish need to an impressive win to move up in the playoff committee rankings, while the Sun Devils have emerged as the favorite in the Pac-12 South.
Virginia at Florida State
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Seminoles lost their last meeting (2011) against Virginia, but barring a huge letdown by Florida State, this one shouldn’t be close. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has one more tune-up before a showdown against in-state rival Miami.
UCLA at Washington
7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Myles Jack (UCLA) and Shaq Thompson (Washington) are two of the nation’s most-versatile players and will garner plenty of attention on Saturday night. This one is critical to UCLA’s South Division title hopes, as the Bruins need to win to keep the pressure on Arizona State.
Boise State at New Mexico
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
With East Carolina’s loss, the door is open for Marshall, Boise State and Colorado State for the Group of 5 spot in a New Year’s Bowl. The Broncos nearly lost (32-29) in their last trip to Albuquerque.
Hawaii at Colorado State
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Rams are dealing with injuries to quarterback Garrett Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins, but even if both players are limited, it probably won’t matter against a struggling Hawaii team.
Louisville at Boston College
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Cardinals gave Florida State all it could handle last week but fell short after a second-half rally by the Seminoles. Louisville needs a win in Chestnut Hill to keep its Orange Bowl hopes alive.
Kansas State at TCU
7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
This game marks the first of three tough road trips for Kansas State for the remainder of the regular season: at TCU, at West Virginia and at Baylor. And this game should go a long ways to determining the Big 12 champion, especially since the Horned Frogs will be heavy favorites to win each of their final three games: at Kansas, at Texas and Iowa State.
Alabama at LSU
8 p.m. ET, CBS
The annual matchup between the Tigers and Crimson Tide is usually one of the SEC’s marquee games each year. There’s no shortage of talent on either roster, and three out of the last five matchups were decided by four points or less. Alabama is on the playoff bubble in our committee rankings, but Nick Saban’s team has the schedule to make a move in November: at LSU and home games against Auburn and Mississippi State.
Ohio State at Michigan State
8 p.m. ET, ABC
This matchup is easily the biggest game of the year in the Big Ten and has major playoff implications. The last four meetings are split at two victories apiece, while two of the last three games were decided by three points or less.
Oregon at Utah
10 p.m. ET, ESPN
A letdown concern for Oregon? The Ducks put a lot into last week’s game against Stanford and now travel to take on a dangerous Utah team. The Utes’ defense will be a good test for Oregon quarterback (and Heisman favorite) Marcus Mariota.
With 10 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its second set of rankings on Tuesday this week, which should give fans, coaches and players a better idea of what the committee values heading into the last few weeks of the season.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
With 10 weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 10 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first nine weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.
Teams on the projection bubble: Oregon State, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wyoming, Texas State, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, San Jose State and Northwestern. Remember: It’s only Week 10. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.
College Football's Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| UL Lafayette vs. |
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs. |
| UTEP vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
| Boise State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Bowling Green vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs. |
| Akron vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs. |
| East Carolina vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| UAB vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
|Colorado State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. |
| MTSU vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Western Kentucky vs.|
San Diego State
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Rutgers vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| Virginia Tech vs.|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| California* vs.|
| Pittsburgh vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| NC State vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Boston College vs. |
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs. |
| Tennessee vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs.|
| Duke vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| Oklahoma State vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs. |
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
| Maryland vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Ohio State vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American vs.|
| Houston vs.|
|Taxslayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Miami vs.|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Baylor vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Memphis* vs.|
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Toledo vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Kansas State vs.|
|Orange||Dec. 31||ACC vs. |
| Clemson vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
| TCU vs. |
|Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 10|
| Florida State vs.|
| Mississippi State vs.|
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
Mississippi State vs.
* Indicates an at-large selection. Conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill the conference alignment.