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Following Saturday’s overtime loss to Florida State, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced true freshman Deshaun Watson supplanted Cole Stoudt as the team’s starting quarterback.
While Stoudt could be a solid quarterback for the Tigers and certainly hasn’t been awful through the first three games, starting Watson is clearly the right call for Clemson.
In three games of his career, Watson has showed the moment is not too big for him.
Against Florida State – the defending national champion – and in Tallahassee, Watson completed 19 of 28 throws for 266 yards and rushed for 30 yards on 12 attempts.
In the opener against Georgia, Watson led the Tigers on an impressive touchdown drive and finished with 59 yards and a score on two completions.
As with any true freshman quarterback, Watson is going to have his share of ups and downs. But Watson is ready for the spotlight and the opportunity to handle the full controls for Clemson’s offense.
The 2014 season is still young, but with two losses – and one in ACC play – the Tigers are unlikely to make a splash on the national scene.
No, Clemson isn’t rebuilding or already looking ahead to 2015, but at this point, why not play Watson and have him fully entrenched in the job by November? When two quarterbacks are performing at a similar level, why not play the one with more upside. In that case, the answer for Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris is clear: Deshaun Watson.
Deshaun Watson vs. Cole Stoudt Through Three Games in 2014
|Deshaun Watson||Cole Stoudt|
|Yards Per Completion||16.5||11.8|
|Yards Per Attempt||11.7||7.5|
|Passing Plays of 20+ Yards||9||9|
|Passing Plays of 30+ Yards||6||6|
As the stats show, Watson offers more big-play ability for the Clemson offense and nearly has more passing yards than Stoudt on 24 less attempts.
A favorable schedule awaits the Tigers, including four of their next five in Death Valley. The only road trip until November is an Oct. 18 date at Boston College.
There’s simply no downside for Clemson in this scenario. With two losses and Florida State a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division, a look to the future (without a drop in production) is the right move. Watson has outplayed Stoudt, the schedule is favorable for a change under center, and the Tigers can start building momentum with a young core on offense.
Clemson loses three starters on the line at the end of 2014, but the receiving and running back corps are filled with talented youngsters. Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Charone Peake headline a deep group at receiver, while C.J. Davidson, Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice are slated to return at running back in 2015.
With the young core of skill players, and Watson having a full season to develop, Clemson’s offense will once again be one of the best in the ACC in 2015. While it's early to be breaking down depth charts for next season, an explosive offense is needed for the Tigers next year with a plethora of losses on defense.
Stoudt waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and earned the right to start in the opener. But after three games, it’s clear Watson is Clemson’s best quarterback and option to win in 2014 - with a slight look ahead to 2015.
Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Pac-12 football action:
44: Yards allowed in the second half by Washington
One of the most shocking halftime scores of Week 4 was the Huskies trailing 35-point underdog Georgia State 14-0. Washington had allowed 219 yards of offense in the first quarter. In the second half, the Dawgs stiffened up, outscoring the Panthers 45-0 and holding them to just 44 yards of total offense.
0: Interceptions thrown by Cyler Miles this season
Part of the reason Washington stormed back to beat GSU was creating four Panthers turnovers while not giving the ball up once. Quarterback Cyler Miles has a model citizen on the field when it comes to protecting the ball. Miles has 71 pass attempts for 525 yards in three games and has yet to throw an interception. He has scored eight total touchdowns.
36: Points Scored by Arizona in Fourth Quarter Against Cal
The Golden Bears led the Wildcats 31-13 at the end of the third quarter. One quarter later, the shootout everyone expected finally started. The Wildcats and Golden Bears combined for 50 points in the fourth quarter, with Arizona recording a school-record 36 in a crazy 49-45 victory.
47-of-73: Anu Solomon school records for completions and attempts
Quarterback Anu Solomon is a burgeoning star in the Pac-12 for Arizona. He set school records for both completions (47) and attempts (73) attempts in the wild, come-from-behind win over Cal at home. He finished with 520 yards passing and led the team in rushing with 46 yards. Solomon is second in the nation with 1,621 yards of total offense.
7.0: Sacks allowed by Oregon
The Ducks won on Saturday evening but there are some glaring concerns about the Oregon offensive line moving forward. With two starters missing up front, Marcus Mariota was running for his life and was sacked seven times. Oregon gave up a total of 18 sacks last year and had allowed just three in three games this season entering Week 4. Now, the Ducks are 11th in the Pac-12 with 10 sacks allowed (UCLA, 11).
11,339: Sean Mannion career passing yards
Oregon State’s quarterback threw for 275 yards in the 28-7 win over San Diego State. For his career, Mannion has thrown for 11,339 yards, passing Derek Anderson (11,249) this weekend for No. 1 all-time in school history. Mannion is seven touchdowns behind Anderson’s school record of 79.
0: Trips allowed into the red zone by Utah
Michigan has some major offensive issues and Utah exploited them this weekend in the easy 26-10 win in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines had 12 offensive possessions and didn’t advance into the Utes’ red zone one time. Technically, Utah’s defense allowed just three points since UM’s only score came on defense. Additionally, Kyle Whittingham is 2-0 in The Big House.
3: Kaelin Clay return touchdowns
Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Michigan this weekend. It was his second punt return for a touchdown this year and his third return for a score overall. Only Vanderbilt’s Darius Sims has two return scores this fall, so Clay leads the nation with three.
8.0: Yards per play for Cal
The Golden Bears choked away a chance at a quality road win in the Pac-12 in Tucson this weekend. That ugly fourth quarter shouldn’t overshadow the fact that this team is clearly improved. This offense averaged just 5.2 yards per play a year ago (98th nationally) but posted 8.0 yards per play against Arizona. In three games, Cal is averaging 6.8 yards per play (28th).
518: Nelson Spruce receiving yards
The Colorado Buffaloes' star wide receiver has quickly replaced Paul Richardson in Boulder. Spruce caught 13 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown in the win over Hawaii. He is now third in the nation with 518 yards (Amari Cooper, Kevin White) and is leading the nation with seven receiving touchdowns.
No. 19 VCU continues to be one of the most consistent programs outside of a major conference with at least 24 wins in the each of the last eight seasons. The Rams are poised for more that simply consistent production with a highly touted signing class and a challenging non-conference schedule.
The VCU edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere this week.
Last season was a transition year for VCU as a program. The Rams graduated from a program that could be a national player in the wake of their 2011 Final Four run to a program that is a national player. VCU earned its second straight No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and was upset by Stephen F. Austin in its opening game. The fact that VCU has moved from underdog to heavyweight is the storyline going into this season.
Coach Shaka Smart adds a top-30 rated recruiting class as he looks to earn his first Atlantic 10 title. That class may provide the kind of depth he desires to wear out the opposition in his havoc style.
“We do what we do, and that’s be an up-tempo team that attacks for all 94 feet,” Smart says. “(The freshmen) can add to our depth, which plays into our style of play and hopefully takes us to another level, to be more successful than last year.”
The Rams will be picked atop the Atlantic 10 not because of the incoming freshmen, but rather for a roster stocked with firepower and aggressiveness. VCU boasts the A-10 preseason Player of the Year in Treveon Graham and defensive menace Briante Weber. The duo meshes with a talented returning cast, adding up to a group that will be a formidable foe every time it steps on the court.
No. 19 VCU Facts & Figures
Last season: 26-9, 12-4 Atlantic 10
Postseason: NCAA round of 64
Consecutive NCAAs: 4
Coach: Shaka Smart (137-46 at VCU, 62-24 CAA/A-10)
A-10 Projection: First
Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32
Smart has to replace two-time All-A-10 performer Juvonte Reddic on his frontline. Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox may be the answer. Cox is freakishly built, a muscled 6-6 specimen who resembles a tight end but jumps like a pogo stick. Alie-Cox, who blocked five shots in a March win over Saint Louis, is a rim protector on defense but has a limited (for now) offensive game.
“Our team feeds off of him and the plays he makes,” Smart says, “and we’re excited about his improvement.”
For offensive production on the front line, Smart can turn to 6-9 redshirt freshman Antravious Simmons and his old school back-to-the-basket game or senior Jarred Guest, a spidery 6-8 face-up post player with a 15-foot jumper. Freshmen Mike Gilmore and Justin Tillman will also battle the returnees for playing time. Both carry the skill to make a difference but also need to adjust to the college game.
Graham will also slide down to play the 4 to give VCU a matchup advantage.
Weber has been among the league leaders in steals during his three-year career. He adjusted well to a new position last season, point guard, and enters his senior year a more mature player. “It’s been an ongoing process, but he’s made huge strides,” Smart says, “and we’re excited in terms of Briante as a leader and a winner.” Weber has a steady backup in speedy sophomore JeQuan Lewis.
Melvin Johnson hurt his knee twice last season but can be a lights-out shooter. Johnson hit eight 3s against Virginia Tech and has bought in to the system. Jordan Burgess hit 26 3-pointers in his freshman season and brings a level of toughness to the court that cannot be ignored.
Graham is within range of breaking the school’s all-time scoring record. He can hit the 3 but also earned the nickname Freight Train for his ability to steam down the lane, absorb contact and score.
Terry Larrier, a pure athlete and Smart’s best-ever recruit, will also see significant minutes on the perimeter.
Next season will begin with VCU riding a 20-game home winning streak and with 50 consecutive home sellouts. The Rams also have made the NCAA Tournament a habit, with bids in each of the last four seasons. Over the past 10 years, VCU has 251 wins, which ranks 14th-most in the country over that span.
VCU will be tested in the non-conference this season. Games against Virginia, Villanova, Tennessee and Cincinnati dot a stacked schedule. But for Smart, it isn’t about the opponent. It’s about VCU.
“Our overall team shooting needs to be better. We shot too low a percentage for us from the field,” he says. “But we’re a much-improved shooting team this year, which will make us a higher-scoring team.”
It’s a loaded class for Shaka Smart, led by silky Terry Larrier, rated a consensus top-50 recruit who could make immediate waves. Justin Tillman is explosive at 6-7 and will also challenge for time in the frontcourt. Mike Gilmore has a promising future, and Jonathan Williams is a commanding presence at point guard. Antravious Simmons is a redshirt freshman who can score on the low block.
The Big East coaching roster — back in its classic lineup — was notable for its firebrands on the bench with Jim Boeheim, John Thompson, Rollie Massimino and Lou Carnesecca.
The lineup in the second year of this version of the Big East may have personality but it is more notable for its familiarity.
Jay Wright and John Thompson III are as identifiable with their programs as anybody in college basketball in 2014-15, Chris Mack and Brandon Miller are alums for their respective schools, and Ed Cooley is a Rhode Island and Providence hometowner.
That will have to do for the Big East for now. The league that once boasted multiple Hall of Famers has only two coaches that have reached the Final Four in Wright and Thompson.
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
1. Jay Wright, Villanova
Record at Villanova: 286-149 (.657)
NCAA Tournament: 13-11, one Final Four
Number to note: Villanova’s Big East title in 2014 was the Wildcats’ first outright conference title since 1982. Nova hasn’t won a conference tournament since 1995.
Why he’s ranked here: After a brief dip in 2011-12, Villanova has returned to where Wright has had the program for most of his tenure. Villanova went 16-0 vs. Big East opponents not named Creighton during the 2013-14 regular season.
2. John Thompson III, Georgetown
Record at Georgetown: 227-104 (.686)
NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four
Number to note: Before last season, Georgetown ranked in the top 100 in defensive efficiency in KenPom's rankings every year of Thompson’s tenure, including three times in the top 10.
Why he’s ranked here: Thompson may get dinged for early NCAA losses, but the Hoyas are a year removed from a Big East title. Besides, Georgetown’s NCAA draws have included Florida Gulf Coast, Final Four-bound VCU and Stephen Curry-led Davidson.
3. Chris Mack, Xavier
Record at Xavier: 111-57 (.661)
NCAA Tournament: 4-4
Number to note: Since starting 29-3 in his first two season in the Atlantic 10, Mack is 29-21 in the A-10/Big East.
Why he’s ranked here: Xavier’s pace has slowed since Mack’s first two seasons, but he’s reached the NCAA Tournament in four of five seasons and reached the Sweet 16 in 2012.
4. Greg McDermott, Creighton
Record at Creighton: 107-38 (.738)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: McDermott is 149-131 without his son on the roster and 107-38 with Doug McDermott.
Why he’s ranked here: No question, Greg McDermott is thankful his son turned out to be a three-time All-American, but don’t forget the elder McDermott was the first coach to win consistently at Northern Iowa.
5. Ed Cooley, Providence
Record at Providence: 57-44 (.564)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Number to note: Cooley’s 42 wins in the last two seasons are the best for Providence since 1995-97, and the Friars’ NCAA appearance last year was their first since 2004.
Why he’s ranked here: Cooley has improved Providence enough to raise the possibility of doing what Rick Barnes or Rick Pitino never did: post winning Big East records in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
6. Steve Lavin, St. John’s
Record at St. John’s: 71-60 (.542)
NCAA Tournament: 11-7
Number to note: St. John’s is 32-30 in the Big East with two NIT appearances in three seasons since the Red Storm went 12-6 in Lavin’s first year.
Why he’s ranked here: Treatment for prostate cancer in 2011-12 stalled Lavin’s ability to build upon his first season, but he’s recruited well enough by now to reach the NCAA Tournament again.
7. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Record at Seton Hall: 66-66 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: No appearances
Number to note: Seton Hall went 15-21 in the Big East in Willard’s first two seasons before dropping to 9-27 in the past two.
Why he’s ranked here: Willard appeared to have Seton Hall on the right track before a 3-15 collapse two years ago. Year 5 will be a big one for Willard.
8. Oliver Purnell, DePaul
Record at DePaul: 42-85 (.331)
NCAA Tournament: 0-6
Number to note: Purnell has one of the most unique coaching experiences in college basketball. He’s coached at five spots since 1988, he’s never won an NCAA game and has never been fired.
Why he’s ranked here: Purnell has turned around Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. Purnell (9-57 in the Big East) may have met his match at DePaul.
9. Brandon Miller, Butler
Record at Butler: 14-17 (.452)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Miller’s first season was Butler’s second losing campaign since 1992-93.
Why he’s ranked here: Miller faced an exodus of five players from November through April last season in his first season, but the former Brad Stevens and Thad Matta assistant knows the terrain here.
10. Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
Record at Marquette: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Wojo is 38 years old, and he has spent 19 of those years as a player or assistant for Mike Krzyzewski.
Why he’s ranked here: Wojciechowski’s predecessor Buzz Williams was ranked No. 1 in the Big East a year ago, but Marquette has been a spot where Williams and Tom Crean were able to build names for themselves.
Most schedules are starting to move into conference play, but don’t tell the teams in some of the biggest games this week.
Teams like South Carolina, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington all could look like they use another week or two to get into shape before critical games.
UCLA and Arizona State both have health concerns for the quarterback position. Washington and UCLA have played down to lesser teams. Stanford can’t find its way to the end zone. And South Carolina is just embarrassing (says Steve Spurrier).
There’s no more time shake off the offseason cobwebs, so someone’s going to have to figure things out before Saturday.
Week 5’s Top Five Games
All Times Eastern
UCLA at Arizona State
When and where: Thursday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
We’re watching because... the Pac-12 South is becoming increasingly unpredictable thanks to the emergence of Arizona and Utah plus USC’s egg-laying at Boston College. UCLA’s had its share of close calls with and without quarterback Brett Hundley, who may be ready to return after he missed most of the Texas win a week ago. Arizona State isn’t so lucky with Taylor Kelly out with a foot injury. Arizona State will replace him with Mike Bercovici, who has been on campus long enough to back up Brock Osweiler.
Vegas says: UCLA by 6
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
When and where: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... we like surprises, and Arkansas and Texas A&M being relevant in the powerhouse SEC West counts. Picked to finish sixth and seventh in the West, the Aggies and Razorbacks are a combined 7-1. Arkansas will try to control the clock with the run game as it did against former A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. The Aggies have yet to face a high-level, full-strength offense all season.
Vegas says: Texas A&M by 10
Stanford at Washington
When and where: Saturday, 4:15 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... one of these teams has to start looking like a Pac-12 North contender, right? Stanford has been inept in the red zone, and Washington is letting bad teams hang around. Even after converting all three red zone chances for touchdowns against Army, Stanford’s red zone touchdown rate (six TDs in 14 red zone trips) is last in the Pac-12. And a week after Washington made easy work of Illinois, the Huskies let Georgia State jump to a two-touchdown halftime lead in a 45-14 win. Oregon is vulnerable, but neither of these teams looks ready to take advantage.
Vegas says: Stanford by 7
Missouri at South Carolina
When and where: Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... at this rate the game between two SEC East contenders may devolve into a comedy of errors. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the way his team plays is “embarrassing” and took over kickoff coverage coaching duties after giving up two returns for touchdowns against Vanderbilt. His team won by two touchdowns. Wonder what Spurrier would say if his team lost at home to Indiana as Missouri just did.
Vegas says: South Carolina by 6
Tennessee at Georgia
When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN
We’re watching because... Tennessee is an improved team. Improved enough to further spoil Georgia’s season, though, we’re not sure. Either way, Todd Gurley facing linebacker A.J. Johnson promises to be an interesting matchup. Gurley missed the matchup last season, a 34-31 Georgia win in Knoxville.
Vegas says: Georgia by 18
It was an eventful weekend in the SEC. Records were broken (Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims). Major statements were made (Mississippi State). And offenses floundered (Florida). Here are some stats from the week that was in the SEC.
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4 in the SEC
Kickoffs returned for touchdowns by Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims in the Commodores’ loss to South Carolina. Sims is the first SEC player and the 18th player in FBS history to return two kickoffs for scores in the same game.
Yards per passing attempt averaged by Alabama quarterback Blake Sims in Alabama’s 42–21 win over Florida, a number that has been surpassed only once by a Nick Saban quarterback at Alabama against an SEC opponent. AJ McCarron averaged 13.9 yards per attempt in a 2012 win over Tennessee, against a defense that ranked last in the league by the end of the season.
Points scored by Auburn in Thursday’s win at Kansas State, the fewest by the Tigers in a victory since they beat Florida 17–6 in October 2011.
Times LSU has allowed at least 250 yards rushing in 2014 — 268 to Wisconsin and 302 to Mississippi State. The Tigers had not allowed a team to rush for 250-plus yards in a game since Auburn gashed them for 440 in October 2010.
Teams from Power 5 conferences that have at least 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing — Alabama and Mississippi State. Alabama has 1,007 yards rushing and 1,343 yards passing; MSU has 1,083 yards rushing and 1,067 yards passing.
Yards per play allowed by the South Carolina defense in Saturday’s 48–34 win at Vanderbilt. It was the most Vanderbilt has had against an SEC team since a 38–26 loss to Kentucky in 2006.
Rushing touchdowns by Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams, the most in the SEC and tied for third-most in the nation. As a team, the Razorbacks rank second in the country with 17 rushing touchdowns.
Drives by Florida that lasted three plays or fewer in the Gators’ loss at Alabama. Florida had two drives that went for seven plays — one covered 25 yards and ended with an interception and the other covered 31 yards and ended on downs. The Gators had 200 yards of offense and completed only 9-of-28 passes.
Average points scored by Texas A&M in its two road games. The Aggies won at South Carolina 52–28 in the opener and beat SMU in Dallas 58–6 on Saturday.
Losses by Missouri at home to a non-conference opponent since the end of the 2001 season — until Saturday’s setback against Indiana. The Tigers’ only other loss to a non-conference opponent in the last 12-plus years was to New Mexico in 2005.
Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Big 12 football action:
359: Yards allowed by Kansas State
Kansas State lost an ugly one to the Tigers on Thursday night but not for a lack of effort. Bill Snyder’s bunch held Auburn to a Gus Malzahn-low 359 yards of total offense. Only four other times has a team held a Malzahn-coached Auburn team to less than 400 yards of offense: Alabama (393), Arkansas (366) and Washington State (394) are the only other teams to keep the Tigers under 400 yards of offense in the Malzahn era.
2.0: Points per trip inside the 40 for Kansas State
Points per trip inside the opponent’s 40 is a great way to calculate a team’s ability to finish drives effectively. And the Wildcats mustered just 2.0 points (14) per trip inside the Auburn 40-yard line (7). To put this into perspective, FIU was last in the nation last year in this category with 2.36 points per trip inside the 40.
0: Kansas State penalties
While big miscues cost the Wildcats in a big way — missed field goals and turnovers namely — Kansas State still managed to stay off the stat sheet in one important category. The Cats weren’t penalized one time against Auburn and currently lead the Big 12 with just 13 penalties in three games (14th nationally). They have been hit with 92 yards of yellow flags — good for sixth nationally.
Listen to the Week 4 recap podcast:
4-8: Big 12 record against Big 5 schools
Counting the independent BYU Cougars as a “Big 5” school leaves the Big 12 with a 4-8 record in 2014 against power conference teams. The wins? Oklahoma over Tennessee and a 3-0 mark against the Big Ten (Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland). Losses to Alabama (WVU), Florida State (OSU), Auburn (KSU) and UCLA (Texas) were at least competitive. There are no more games left with the Big 5 for the league.
152: Samaje Perine’s Big 12 rushing lead
After rushing for 242 yards — the most by any Sooner since DeMarco Murray in 2010 — on 34 carries and scoring four times against West Virginia, Oklahoma’s freshman tailback is now leading the Big 12 in rushing with 419 yards. In fact, he’s 152 yards ahead of No. 2, the Mountaineers' Rushel Shell (267). Additionally, both Shell (4.1 ypc) and Perine (6.4) have 66 rushing attempts this season.
8: Oklahoma interceptions this season
After two more interceptions this weekend, the Sooners are leading the nation with eight picked off passes. Oklahoma’s plus-6 turnover margin is tops in the Big 12 and tied for sixth nationally.
5: Yards Clint Trickett is shy of matching his 2013 total
Through four games, few players in the nation are as improved as West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. He has 1,600 yards passing in four games, two of which came against teams ranked in the top five. His grand passing total from 2013: 1,605 yards.
9: Kevin White's fewest receptions in a game this season
With another 10 receptions for 173 yards in the loss to Oklahoma, West Virginia wideout Kevin White kept pace with Alabama’s Amari Cooper. He’s is second in the nation in both receptions (42) and yards (633) to only Cooper and has caught at least nine passes in each of the four games he’s played in this fall.
16.3: Tony Pierson yards per touch this season
In the 24-10 win over Central Michigan, Pierson ran three times for 77 yards and caught three passes for 12 yards. On the season, the Jayhawks' top playmaker has 245 yards from scrimmage (121 rush, 124 rec.) on just 16 total touches for a per-touch average of 16.3 yards. It might make sense to get him as involved in the offense as possible.
2: Times Charlie Weis has had a winning record at Kansas after Week 1
Kansas has won each of its season openers under Charlie Weis, so the Jayhawks had a winning record after Week 1 in each of the last three seasons. But other than Week 4 of last year, the Jayhawks haven’t had a winning record after Week 1 under Weis until beating Central Michigan this weekend (2-1). In fact, this is the latest in the calendar year Kansas has been above .500 under Weis.
The 2014 Ryder Cup Matches
When: Sept. 26-28
Where: PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland
Course: 7,262 yards, par 72
All-time record: U.S. leads 25–12–2
After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?
To help get you ready for the drama, here's an explanation of the event's format:
Ryder Cup Format
Day One - Friday, Sept. 26
Morning Session — 4 points at stake
2 foursomes matches
2 fourballs matches
Afternoon Session — 4 points at stake
2 fourballs matches
2 foursomes matches
Day Two - Saturday, Sept. 27
Morning Session — 4 points at stake
2 foursomes matches
2 fourballs matches
Afternoon Session — 4 points at stake
2 fourballs matches
2 foursomes matches
Day Three - Sunday, Sept. 28
12 singles matches — 12 points at stake
Total Points at Stake: 28
Europe would retain the Cup with 14 points. The U.S. would need 14½ points to re-claim the Cup.
• In each match, there is one point at stake. Should the match end in a tie, each side is awarded a half-point.
• The Ryder Cup is conducted under rules of match play rather than stroke play. Match play scoring consists of individual holes won, halved or lost. Once a player or team is "up" more holes than there are holes remaining to play, the match is over.
• A foursomes match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. The two teammates take alternate shots throughout the match, with the same ball. A hole is won by the team that completes the hole in the fewest shots.
• A fourball match is a competition between two teams of two golfers, but all four golfers play their own ball throughout the round rather than alternating shots, and each hole is won by the team whose individual golfer has the lowest score.
• A singles match is a standard match play competition between two golfers.
• In a single Ryder Cup, an individual player can play a maximum of five matches (two foursomes, two fourballs and a singles match). All 12 players on both teams participate in singles, but the respective captains can select any eight players to play in fourballs and foursomes.
Conference bragging rights didn’t start with the College Football Playoff or even the BCS.
That said, fighting for championship postseason games has only magnified the “my conference is better than your conference” debate.
In some ways the selection committee may make those determinations, certainly in leaving out on conference (four spots for the Power 5) and potentially rewarding one league with two spots in the Playoff.
In 2014, the SEC looks to be on top again while the ACC and especially the Big Ten are licking their wounds.
Now that non-conference play is for the most part finished — the exception being Notre Dame games vs. the ACC and the SEC-ACC rivalry games — this is a good time to see how all the leagues rank.
To clarify: The Power 5 includes the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Notre Dame and BYU. The Non-Power 5 includes the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Army and Navy.
Vs. Power 5: 5-2
Vs. Non-Power 5: 13-1
Georgia 35, Clemson 21
Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
LSU 28, Wisconsin 24
South Carolina 33, East Carolina 23
Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
Indiana 31, Missouri 27
Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10
The SEC set the tone for its season with Week 1 wins over Clemson, West Virginia and Wisconsin. As non-conference play started to wind down, Auburn delivered an important, if sloppy, win over Kansas State on the road. The only head-scratcher is Missouri’s home loss to Indiana. If anything, the non-conference season re-established that the power in the SEC lies in the West, which is 24-2 overall with the only two losses coming in the division. The SEC West alone is 3-0 against the Big 12.
Key remaining games:
South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29
Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29
Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29
Vs. Power 5: 6-2
Vs. Non-Power 5: 15-2
Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
UCLA 28, Virginia 20
UCLA 20, Texas 17
Utah 26, Michigan 10
Rutgers 41, Washington State 38
Colorado State 31, Colorado 17
Nevada 24, Washington State 13
Boston College 37, USC 31
Pac-12 teams, most notably Washington and UCLA, have played in unexpectedly tight games against teams like Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Memphis and Virginia. For the most part, they’ve all be able to escape with a win — except for USC’s loss to Boston College. The wins may not look overwhelming, other than Oregon’s over Michigan State, but credit UCLA, Cal and Utah for winning games on the road or at least out of state. Against the non-Power 5, the Pac-12 has gone 10-2 against the Mountain West alone.
Key remaining games:
Stanford at Notre Dame, Oct. 4
Notre Dame at Arizona State, Nov. 8
Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 29
BYU at Cal, Nov. 29
3. Big 12
Vs. Power 5: 4-7
Vs. Non-Power 5: 8-0
Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10
Iowa State 20, Iowa 17
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
TCU 30, Minnesota 7
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
Alabama 33, West Virginia 33
Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28
UCLA 20, Texas 17
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
The Big 12 can thank the Big Ten for helping the league pad its record. The Big 12 went 3-0 against the Big Ten while going 1-7 against the ACC, Pac-12, SEC and BYU. At least Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State were competitive with national title title contenders Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. The league has had few slip ups, a perfect record spoiled by Iowa State’s loss to North Dakota State of the FCS.
Key remaining games:
Vs. Power 5: 4-6
Vs. Non-Power 5: 14-4
Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21
Boston College 37, USC 31
Georgia 45, Clemson 21
East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21
East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41
Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20
Nebraska 41, Miami 31
The ACC hasn’t changed much about the perception that the league is one powerhouse and little else. No. 1 Florida State is the league’s only ranked team. Any strides made from Virginia Tech’s win in Columbus have been undone: Since then, ACC Coastal contenders Virginia Tech and North Carolina lost to East Carolina, and three ACC teams lost to Big Ten teams, two at home.
Key remaining games:
Notre Dame at Florida State, Oct. 18
South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29
Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29
Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29
5. Big Ten
Vs. Power 5: 5-11
Vs. Non-Power 5: 18-3
Rutgers 41, Washington State 38
Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20
Nebraska 41, Miami 31
Indiana 21, Missouri 21
LSU 28, Wisconsin 24
Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21
Iowa State 20, Iowa 17
Utah 26, Michigan 10
The outlook improved dramatically in Week 4, as three Big Ten teams (Iowa, Maryland and Nebraska) defeated three teams from the ACC. Indiana also picked up an unlikely win at defending SEC East champion Missouri. Nebraska and Penn State may still be the Big Ten’s only viable Playoff teams, but the sky isn’t falling at the same rate it was a week ago when the Big Ten was 1-10 against Power 5 teams. Of the Big Ten’s three losses to non-Power 5 teams, all were against programs from the MAC.
Key remaining games:
Vs. Power 5: 3-13
Vs. Non-Power 5: 2-5
East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21
East Carolina 70, North Carolina 31
East Carolina has the inside track for a New Year’s Six bowl, and it may stay that way unless Cincinnati makes a statement against Ohio State or Miami.
Key remaining games:
Cincinnati at Ohio State, Sept. 27
BYU at Houston, Oct. 9
Miami at Cincinnati, Oct. 11
7. Mountain West
Vs. Power 5: 3-16
Vs. Non-Power 5: 6-4
Colorado State 31, Colorado 17
Nevada 24, Washington State 13
Boise State 34, UL Lafayette 9
This is not the Mountain West you remember. The three Power 5 wins are over Colorado, Washington State and Wake Forest
8. Conference USA
Vs. Power 5: 0-15
Vs. Non-Power 5: 12-2
UTSA 24, Houston 7
Western Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 31
Louisiana Tech 48, UL Lafayette 20
Marshall 44, Ohio 14
Conference USA had better hope its perfect mark against the MAC and Sun Belt and 3-1 record against the American is enough to put its league champion (read: Marshall) into a New Year’s Six game. It sure isn’t C-USA’s goose egg against the Power 5 and pair of FCS losses (FIU to Bethune-Cookman and Louisiana Tech to Northwestern State).
Vs. Power 5: 3-16
Vs. Non-Power 5: 3-8
Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42
Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15
Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17
The MAC has more wins against the Big Ten (three) than it does against the American, Conference USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt combined (two, that third non-Power 5 win was over Army).
10. Sun Belt
Vs. Power 5: 1-7
Vs. Non-Power 5: 2-9
Arkansas State 21, Utah State 14
ULM 17, Wake Forest 10
League favorite UL Lafayette’s losses to Louisiana Tech and Boise State put a damper on the conference, but Arkansas State has proven to by pesky once again.
A debris field of Chase contenders at Loudon, with several drivers nursing home wrecked race cars and mulling potential elimination, was caused by none other than … debris itself. That’s right; an exciting end to the second race of NASCAR’s playoffs may never have happened had officials not called a debris caution on Lap 171, “cleaning up” the track while bunching up the field after a long, sprawling green-flag run. It was a nervous bunch, anxious for track position that then unleashed their aggression by beating and banging on each other to turn New Hampshire into New England’s Fall Demolition Derby.
That yellow flag that set up the madness also capped an astounding streak within NASCAR: during a three-week span, from Richmond to New Hampshire, 11 of 13 cautions were called for “competition” reasons — debris, or track security in the case of a drunken Richmond fan. No wrecks or blown engines, true safety hazards, were the cause of these judgment calls which fans will hardly remember Monday in place of the suspenseful racing they got down the stretch.
At this point, calling into question debris cautions is nothing new; the mystery of these slowdowns, along with TV’s inability to show said debris, drives fans crazy (think an NFL referee throwing a yellow flag, then walking away without explaining the penalty or why he moved your favorite team back 10 yards). But at this point it’s hard to argue the end result, and by the looks of the competition on Sunday, teams almost expect this type of situation throughout the first two-thirds of the race. It’s not like they’re going to hold back completely, losing laps in the form of laziness, but there’s a growing expectation within the NASCAR garage that the field’s getting bunched up at some point if a long green-flag run breaks out.
So if I’m NASCAR, and fans aren’t complaining about exciting endings why bother with calling debris in order to hide your true intention? It’s OK now … seriously. Just tell us there are competition cautions coming every 75 laps to make it fair for everyone. Perhaps NASCAR’s fear is that the racing will grow too conservative, drivers waiting to duke it out until the last quarter of the event knowing there’s a chance to change up strategy and track position. But isn’t that what’s happening anyway? In the first 100 laps, no one at New Hampshire gained more than nine spots or lost more than 12. Everyone seemed to run in place, frustrated by an inability to pass once the field spread out. Compare that to the last 48 laps, where Joey Logano was shot out of a cannon, launching all the way from 16th to first in one of the more exciting drives to the front all year. Clearly, the sense of urgency has shifted more than ever to a race’s closing stages.
If that’s the case, what’s stopping NASCAR from going all “official” and dividing the race into quarters? Or thirds? Everyone knows debris is going to pop up anyway, and fans aren’t complaining. It’s only the drivers and teams who lose out from the randomness of when NASCAR chooses to call these yellows, trapping them a lap down in the middle of green-flag pit stops when you can find debris anytime, anyplace on a racetrack. It’s the one part of the equation that still doesn’t sit right. Put the strategy back in their hands by dividing the race officially instead of leaving them at the mercy of NASCAR finding a hot dog wrapper when the mood strikes.
It all makes too much sense to me, with NASCAR’s most important season finale looming dead ahead. Do you really want a Homestead finish coming down to a random debris caution? I didn’t think so. The last thing the sport needs is a call from the tower changing the course of its new “Final Four” championship Chase. All the better reason to turn debris into what it’s rightfully supposed to be: predetermined competition yellows.
“Through the Gears” we go …
FIRST GEAR: Hometrack Hero Logano delivers
Five years ago, a 19-year-old rookie dubbed the heart of “NASCAR’s next generation” made an unlikely visit to victory lane at Loudon. Losing a lap after a spinout, Logano’s first win was one of the luckiest we’ve seen in the sport this century: a perfect combination of Lucky Dogs, fuel mileage and a raging downpour from Mother Nature at the right time. The rookie won with a 25th-place car that day, out of place in the Winner’s Circle the same way he never seemed to fit within the culture of Joe Gibbs Racing. It would be two years before Logano added a second victory, at Pocono, but his JGR tenure was marked by untapped potential.
Fast forward to now, and Logano’s second Loudon trophy and you see a man transformed. Brimming with confidence, this 24-year-old earned his fourth victory of 2014 with the perfect mix of strategy, speed and aggression. Crew chief Todd Gordon made the right move to bring the No. 22 car in for fresh tires, pushing them outside the top 15 but knowing that was their only chance to charge forward for the win. Logano did the rest, jumping 10 spots in four laps and then picking his spots, slicing in front of Kevin Harvick on a lap 274 restart to take control of the race. Logano never gave up the point from that point on, even surviving contact from teammate Brad Keselowski amidst a flurry of late cautions to take the victory.
“High, wide and handsome,” Gordon joked about Logano’s late moves. “That was pretty awesome to watch.”
It was also an awesome boost to Logano’s championship hopes. Last Chase, despite a solid season for Penske Racing, the No. 22 team fell flat at Chicagoland, blowing an engine and never seeming to fully recover. This year, they’ve already won inside the postseason, punching their ticket to the next round under NASCAR’s new format and appear perfectly in sync with Keselowski, who missed the Chase last season. That duo has swept both Chase races, sits 1-2 in the standings and has the typical favorites at Hendrick Motorsports (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr.) on their heels a bit.
It was the Hometown Boy (Logano is a New England native, from Middletown, Conn.) delivering at his home track, a moment not lost on a driver that’s matured a lot since the last time he took checkers there. And to think, in his post-race presser Logano referred to this place, the only one where he’s won twice in the Cup Series, as his “worst track.”
“It's (still) such a special place for me,” he said. “I watched my first Cup race here when I was five, (where) I started my first one, I won my first one. It was something really special to win here.”
SECOND GEAR: Joe Gibbs Racing’s Great Freefall
It’s amazing to see through the first two races how many Chase contenders have been done in by self-induced mistakes. Nowhere was that more apparent Sunday than within Joe Gibbs Racing’s three-car stable, whose solid postseason start crashed with a thud.
Matt Kenseth, whose left rear was rubbed on virtually all day, made a rare mistake mid-race. Catching his car off Turn2, he kept from spinning but the near-wreck caused teammate Kyle Busch to hit the brakes. Kasey Kahne then hit Busch, sending the No. 18 into a tailspin and ruining both their days. The fact Busch fought back for a top-10 finish (especially considering the disharmony with crew chief Dave Rogers) was incredible.
Kenseth, wrecked by Paul Menard later in the day, wasn’t so lucky. Wrecked within the final 30 laps, it was all the former champ could do to hold onto a 21st-place result. Still winless, last year’s title runner-up sits ninth, eight points above Chase elimination and is nowhere near the impressive performance he had through this point a year ago.
“It’s always frustrating when you get in a wreck, especially if you don’t feel like you had much or anything to do with it and get a bad finish,” he said. “I feel like I did the best I could today. I made that (other) mistake… I’m glad I didn’t cost Kyle too bad.”
However, the worst blow to JGR came in the form of Denny Hamlin’s faulty fuel probe. The broken part, leaving Hamlin several laps down, took the wind out of the sails of a No. 11 team that led 32 laps early on. “We suck,” the driver said on the radio at one point, “We are so bad.” Crew chief Darian Grubb, who angrily responded for the driver to keep quiet, tried to put out the fire of flailing confidence … but it was too late. A wreck a short time later, one where Hamlin oddly piled in, finished off an awful day that left him 13th in points, on the outside looking in on the top 12 with one of his worst tracks, Dover, dead ahead.
“You just can’t have any mistakes in this three-race Chase deal,” Hamlin said. “We went from looking pretty and probably going to coast our way to the next round to a long shot, at best. It’s frustrating, but what can you do?”
Change crew chiefs, that’s what. Gibbs hinted this week that shifts are coming, with a new fourth team driven by Carl Edwards added for 2015, and if Hamlin gets eliminated (along with a second JGR driver) look for them to happen sooner rather than later. The discord within this organization continues to rise during one of their more frustrating seasons.
THIRD GEAR: Lost Opportunities
Rookie Kyle Larson, along with his Chip Ganassi Racing operation, continues to impress during the month of September. A runner-up finish at Loudon, tying a career best, left him with two top-3 results this Chase. That’s a feat none of the 16 drivers actually racing for the title have accomplished.
“Really proud about how we have been running,” he said. “I know other teams that are in the Chase notice that and I’m sure they’re worried about us for next season already.”
They’re also breathing a sigh of relief about this one. If not for a blown tire at Michigan, resulting in a hard hit that led to a last-place finish in August, it would be Larson sitting top 5 in points, not a haggard Greg Biffle sitting 14th, and there’d be one more driver pushing a top-tier contender toward the brink of elimination.
As for drivers who’ve actually made the postseason, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are scratching their heads a bit. Harvick led the most laps (104) but was beaten during a series of late restarts again, frustration that boiled over in the form of accusing Logano of jumping them. Harvick’s crew — Tony Stewart transplants — also struggled with slower stops that cost the No. 4 car the lead (nothing new). A winless streak back to Darlington in April continues, and it makes you wonder about this team’s long-term title hopes.
As for Johnson, his 48 bunch tried to gamble on old tires late, knowing they had the fuel mileage to make it if there was a long green-flag run. But crew chief Chad Knaus got snookered on strategy when there was a flurry of late cautions. Johnson was fifth, setting himself up well for Dover next week, yet seemed dissatisfied with overall performance. We’ll know next week if that was just an act.
FOURTH GEAR: Setting Up Chase Eliminations
The chaos at New Hampshire stretched far beyond the Gibbs bunch. Kurt Busch hit the outside wall hard, a victim of a tire gone flat. Ditto Jeff Gordon, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an unscheduled green-flag pit stop that at one point cost him a lap. Meanwhile, underdogs Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger kept themselves in the Chase fight. Almirola ran sixth, an impressive rebound following a blown engine at Chicagoland, while Allmendinger’s 13th-place, lead lap finish puts the No. 47 team in position to advance.
Who gets dropped when the field shrinks from 16 to 12? You have to think Biffle, who’s been invisible, gets shuffled out along with Almirola, whose Joliet DNF seems tough to overcome. Ryan Newman, sitting on the edge, was terrible at Dover in the spring and is vulnerable. But at this point, the other elimination spot could go to a team that once considered themselves at least “Elite Eight” contenders. My bet is someone within the JGR stable will fall victim. While Hamlin sits 13th now, don’t count out Kyle Busch, who wrecked at Dover in the spring and just hasn’t had any momentum in months. One bad move is all it will take at the Monster Mile to end title hopes of anyone from about fourth-place Jimmie Johnson on down.
Who is Cole Custer? A name you should pay attention to. Custer made history Saturday as the youngest winner within one of NASCAR’s top three divisions, dominating a New Hampshire Truck Series race at the ripe young age of 16 years, seven months. The son of Stewart-Haas EVP Joe Custer, Cole has the right combination of connections and talent to launch him toward a top-tier NASCAR ride someday. … Tony Stewart ran 30th and was never a factor in his first race since learning a grand jury will decide whether he’ll face criminal charges in the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy. Running behind cars with a smidgen of funding by comparison — like rookies Alex Bowman and Michael Annett — it’s clear Smoke’s focus is failing; he’s run no better than 15th in four races since his return. … Quietly, Martin Truex Jr. and rookie Austin Dillon slotted in solid performances. Rookie Dillon was 11th, his best run since Indianapolis, while Truex ran 12th, his best since Loudon in July as the single-car Furniture Row team looks to rebuild following a disappointing regular season.
Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
The Big Ten finally put together a solid weekend as a conference, which means sorting through the box scores for some notable stats was far less of a chore. The big theme of the week seemed to be success in the running game, with two of the top running backs in the country having huge performances. But that was not all to take note of this week around the Big Ten.
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4 in the Big Ten
12: Number of Big Ten teams to win in Week 4
It may not be quite enough to make up completely for some of the recent struggles throughout the conference, but it was certainly a more enjoyable weekend around the Big Ten for Big Ten fans. That is, of course, except for those in Ann Arbor. The only two Big Ten teams not to win this weekend were Michigan and Ohio State. The Buckeyes get a pass after having a bye week. Michigan, though…
756: Total offensive yards for Wisconsin against Bowling Green
Wisconsin’s offense had a field day against visiting Bowling Green. The Badgers were led by running back Melvin Gordon (more on him in a moment) as Wisconsin piled up 644 rushing yards. The total offensive yardage compiled by Wisconsin was more total offensive yards than six different FBS teams had compiled all season heading into the weekend (Vanderbilt, Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Wake Forest, Kent State and SMU).
19.5: Average rushing yards per carry for Melvin Gordon
If you forgot just how good Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon could be, his performance against Bowling Green should serve as a gentle reminder. Gordon rushed for career highs of 253 yards and five touchdowns, averaging an astounding 19.5 yards per rushing attempt. As a team, Wisconsin averaged 10.7 yards per rushing attempt against the defending MAC champions.
482: Combined rushing yards for Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah
With Wisconsin’s Gordon rushing for a career-high 253 yards against Bowling Green, the challenge was set for Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah to try and keep up. Abdullah may have come up shy of matching Gordon’s rushing total, but with Abdullah's 229 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Miami, the Big Ten’s top two running backs combined for 482 yards and seven touchdowns on Saturday. That combined rushing yardage total is more than 39 FBS schools have rushed for, and the combined touchdown total is more than 41 FBS schools have recorded this season.
5: Rushing touchdowns for Penn State against UMass
One part of Penn State’s game that has struggled to get on track in the first month of the season has been the running game. Against UMass the Nittany Lions finally found some traction. Entering the game Penn State had just two rushing touchdowns in the first three games of the season. Against UMass the Nittany Lions entered the end zone five times on the ground. Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak each had two, and Akeel Lynch added a fifth.
1: Third-down conversion allowed by Michigan State to Eastern Michigan
The game figured to be a mismatch between the Spartans and Eagles, but the complete domination by Michigan State at home was quite an exhibition in defensive supremacy. Michigan State allowed just one third-down conversion out of 13 to visiting Eastern Michigan. The Spartans allowed only 135 yards, most of that coming in garbage time with Michigan State blowing away the Eagles, 73-14. Michigan State controlled the football for 42 minutes, 41 seconds.
1: Third down conversion by Indiana in a win at Missouri
Everything Indiana did in winning at Missouri seemed to go against the grain for the Hoosiers. The defense actually came up with some key plays, and the Hoosiers managed to convert just one third down conversion out of 14. Normally winning on the road requires converting third downs but somehow Indiana managed to escape with converting just one (although Indiana was 2-fr-2 on fourth down conversion attempts).
3: Rushing yards allowed by Penn State against UMass
Penn State’s defense also had a relatively easy afternoon against an overpowered opponent at home. The Penn State defensive line never allowed the Minutemen to get going on the ground and the defense stuffed quarterback Blake Frohnapfel for a loss of 31 yards to limit the UMass ground game to just three yards.
5.6: Michigan quarterback Shane Morris’s QBR rating
If you thought all Michigan head coach Brady Hoke needed to do was change quarterbacks to find a spark on offense, perhaps you were wrong. Morris replaced starter Devin Gardner following a lengthy weather delay at home against Utah, with the Utes in full control. Morris had a very rough go of things, completing four of 13 passes for 42 yards and throwing one interception.
5: Number of first downs allowed and quarterbacks played by Michigan State
Going back to Michigan State’s pure dominance against Eastern Michigan, the Spartans only allowed five first downs to the Eagles. That number also matched the number of quarterbacks the Spartans used during the course of the game. Connor Cook received a nice early exit, giving way to Damion Terry and Tyler O’Connor. Eventually the Spartans were able to give walk-ons Tommy Vento and Paul Andrie some playing time as well.
The guys recap the big weekend of action in the SEC, including Florida-Bama, Mississippi State-LSU and Missouri's lose to Indiana. The Big Ten deserves credit with the exception of Michigan, so what does the lose to Utah mean for Brady Hoke? The ACC struggled in Week 4 and the guys break down all of the action from Florida State-Clemson and the rest of the ACC. And Week 4 ended with some serious fireworks from the Pac-12.
Louisville’s Thursday night showdown against Florida State on Oct. 30 is one of the top remaining games in the ACC this year.
And the Cardinals will attempt to upset the Seminoles with an alternate uniform, which the school is calling “Showtime.”
The uniforms have an overall gray scheme and feature camo accents and chrome red logos.
Louisville will wear these uniforms vs. FSU on Oct. 30 pic.twitter.com/X7ZthGBfZa— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 22, 2014
Side view of helmet & shoulder pad of Louisville uniform for 10/30 game vs FSU pic.twitter.com/ms6GCnlYUz— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 22, 2014
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is likeChristmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Atlantic Coast Conference football action:
In its 23-17 overtime win against Clemson, Florida State kepts its streak of first-quarter shutouts alive. With a 3-0 lead over the Tigers after one quarter, the Seminoles are still unscored upon in the first 15 minutes in three games this season, and have not allowed any first-quarter points in a regular-season game — nine games — since Clemson's touchdown with 51 seconds remaining in the Oct. 19, 2013 meeting. The shutout extends to 10 of the last 11 games counting Duke being blanked in the first quarter of last year's ACC title game. Auburn scored a TD with 3:07 remaining in the BCS National Championship Game.
Miami traveled to Nebraska having seen the most rushes of any ACC team (123) and yielding the lowest yards per carry (2.1) in the conference. That 2.1 defense must have stayed in Coral Gables. Nebraska, behind 229 yards from Ameer Abdullah, averaged 6.4 per carry (54-347) in a 41-31 win.
Georgia Tech entered Saturday's game tied for first in the ACC in fourth-down conversions, a perfect 3-of-3. The practice must have helped as no fourth down was bigger than the Jackets' final one. A Justin Thomas pass to DeAndre Smelter for 19 yards on fourth-and-15 with 2:30 left kept the game-tying drive alive. The Jackets followed with an interception on VT's ensuing drive, and seven plays later kicked the game-winning field goal. Georgia Tech is no longer perfect, however. The team failed on its other fourth-down attempt early in the second quarter — an incomplete pass at the Hokies' 37 that Virginia Tech turned into a 10-play TD drive for a 13-3 lead.
Mike Wever's 20-yard field goal in the fourth quarter made the Wake Forest redshirt freshman 6-of-6 on field goals to start the season. That streak ties Tracy Lounsbury's school record set in 1969 for consecutive makes to start a career. Weaver is also a perfect 9-of-9 on extra-point attempts. Weaver's field goal cut Army's lead to 21-17 before the the Demon Deacons scored the game-winning TD with 6:45 left in the fourth.
Virginia fell to host BYU 41-33 in a rare trip west of the Mississippi River for the Cavaliers. This was just the 17th game played west of the river in school history. The Cavs are 4-13 in those games. The last win west of the river was at BYU, 45-40 on Sept. 25, 1999. This was the first of five straight seasons in which UVa will play a game west of the Mississippi.
In a 40-10 win against Maine on Saturday, Boston College held its opponent to 20 rushing yards or less for the second straight week. On Saturday, Maine collected just 16 yards on the ground a week after Southern California was limited to 20 in a 37-31 BC victory.
In its 42-0 win against Presbyterian Saturday, N.C. State posted at least 40 points in a third straight game for the first time in school history. The Wolfpack, 4-0 for the third time ever, scored 46 against Old Dominion and 42 against South Florida. It was also the first shutout thrown by N.C. State since a 2011 win against North Carolina, and the first against a non-conference opponent since a 2005 bowl win against South Florida.
All 71 yards of Duke's opening drive came via QB rushes Saturday in a 47-13 win against Tulane. Anthony Boone had four rushes for 27 yards, while Thomas Sirk ran for 44 yards on two carries, including a 1-yard TD. The two quarterbacks combined for 84 of Duke's 100 first-half rushing yards (Sirk 43, Boone 41), and Sirk collected a career-high 94 yards on the ground, including a career-long run of 50 yards. Boone finished with 42 yards on a season-high 10 carries, including 1-yard TD run to open the third quarter.
During Syracuse's 34-20 loss to former ACC member Maryland on Saturday, the Orange allowed its first sack of the season. The third-quarter sack of Terrel Hunt ended a streak of 89 straight pass attempts, dating back to 2013, without a Syracuse QB being dropped.
Syracuse's streak of offensive snaps without a turnover came to a resounding end against Maryland when quarterback Terrel Hunt was intercepted by William Likely in the second quarter. Likely returned in 88 yards for a score. It was the first turnover in 257 snaps when the Orange coughed it up in the first quarter of the 2013 Texas Bowl against Minnesota.
- Corby A. Yarbrough
@Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 22:
• To start off your Monday: Hottest alumni of the Pac-12, including Arizona's Kristen Wiig.
• Cam Newton made the fashion statement of the young season: lavender jacket, capri pants and funky slip-on shoes.
• The Browns ran a pretty sweet trick play to Johnny Manziel, but it was wiped out by a motion penalty. Turns out, it was an illegal "hideout" play anyway. The NFL really is the No Fun League.
• This high school kid's postgame speech makes me want to suit up and crush somebody.
• If you have a strong constitution, watch this brutal women's cycling crash.
• Rich Rod was understandably excited after Arizona's Hail Mary win over Cal. Also wearing his heart on his sleeve post-game: Jimbo Fisher.
• Cardinals fans brawled with 49ers fans in violent and bloody fashion.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Teams that were on the opposite sides of comebacks last week will put the finishing touches on Week 3 when the Chicago Bears take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Chicago trailed by 17 points in San Francisco last week before Jay Cutler rallied his troops to an improbable 28-20 win in the first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. New York built an 18-point lead on Green Bay at Lambeau Field only to watch Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson bring the Packers all the way back and win 31-24.
The Bears have beaten the Jets the last three times these two teams have played, the most recent a 38-34 victory in Chicago in 2010.
Chicago Bears at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New York -2.5
Three Things to Watch
|Chicago 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs BUF||L 20 - 23||Recap|
|9/14||@ SF||W 28 - 20||Recap|
|9/22||@ NYJ||W 27 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs GB||L 17 - 38||Recap|
1. A Funny Thing Happened in the Second Quarter…
The second quarter last week proved to be the turning point for both Chicago and New York in their respective matchups. The Bears trailed San Francisco 17-0 with a little more than two minutes until halftime in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd in the 49ers’ first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. The Jets raced out to a 21-3 lead on Green Bay less than five minutes into the second quarter in front of a stunned Packer fan base at Lambeau Field. After that, however, the momentum dramatically shifted, taking the direction of each game with it. In San Francisco, Jay Cutler and the Bears took full advantage of counterpart Colin Kaepernick’s four turnovers, as the visitors scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to shock the 49ers 28-20. In Green Bay, the Packers turned things around quickly, scoring 21 unanswered points before putting the Jets away thanks to an Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson 80-yard touchdown. The comeback victory wasn’t secure, however, until a potential game-tying touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Jeremy Kerley was negated due to an inopportune timeout called from the Jets’ sideline. The chaos of that fateful series only added to the sting the Jets felt afterwards knowing they let a golden opportunity to get a huge road win slip away. The Bears meanwhile enter this game riding high with the confidence gained from coming back last week on the road against a playoff team, especially since it followed a lackluster performance in their season-opening overtime loss to the Bills at home. NFL players are taught to have short memories, but one can’t help but wonder if what transpired last week will carry over into tonight, whether that be in a negative or positive way.
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs OAK||W 19 - 14||Recap|
|9/14||@ GB||L 24 - 31||Recap|
|9/22||vs CHI||L 19 - 27||Recap|
|9/28||vs DET||L 17 - 24||Recap|
2. Monday Night is Geno’s Night?
Now in his second pro season, Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith is 9-9 in 18 career starts with an unimpressive 14:23 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The good news for Smith, and hopefully his team and Jets fans, is that the young signal-caller is 1-0 on Monday nights. Last season, Smith and the Jets traveled to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 5. Taking the “Monday Night Football” national stage for the first time, Smith put together by far the best game of his short career. Even though he finished with just 199 passing yards, Smith completed 80 percent of his passes (16 of 20) and tossed a career-best three touchdowns with no interceptions. To put this into perspective, consider that in his 17 other starts, Smith has thrown twice as many picks (23) as touchdowns (11). New York would beat Atlanta 30-28 on a 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired, and the win still stands as Smith’s high-water mark thus far. Case in point: over the next seven games after the win in Atlanta, Smith completed less than half of his passes and posted an ugly 1:11 TD:INT ratio, along with two rushing scores and two lost fumbles. Not surprisingly, the Jets went 2-5 during this stretch. With consistent play clearly being an issue for Smith, the question becomes can he rediscover the form he flashed on this same stage nearly a year ago and run his Monday night record to 2-0?
3. Chicago’s Offensive Forté
Last week was all about Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, as the Bears’ quarterback-wide receiver tandem produced three of the four touchdowns scored against the 49ers. Marshall isn’t the only weapon at Cutler’s disposal, however, as fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery (1,421 yards, 7 TDs in 2013) and tight end Martellus Bennett (2 TDs this season) are equally capable targets. That said, the primary engine to Chicago’s offense is running back Matt Forté. A 1,000-yard rusher who also is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers out of the backfield, Forté amassed 1,933 yards from scrimmage, caught 74 passes and scored 12 total touchdowns last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has gotten off to a slow start thus far, with just 205 total yards and no touchdowns after two games. San Francisco did a really good job of bottling Forté up last week (29 total yards on 17 carries) and that will be New York’s challenge tonight. To their credit, the Jets have been very good in both facets of the running game, leading the NFL in both rushing offense (179.0 ypg) and defense (52.5 ypg). Chicago has proven it can win without a significant contribution from its do-everything back, but when the Bears get Forté going early, it only makes this fast-paced, attacking offense that much more dangerous.
Chicago enters this one with plenty of momentum following last week’s comeback win in San Francisco. New York is still picking up the pieces of the golden opportunity it let slip by after coughing up a big lead at Green Bay and then getting in its own way late in the game. The Bears’ offense clicked late against the 49ers and that’s without any significant contribution from Matt Forté. The Jets have a good defense, have been running the ball extremely well, and are generally a tough out at home, but I think the Bears have too much size and too much firepower on offense for Rex Ryan’s team to contend with. Geno Smith and the Jets hang tough, but Jay Cutler connects on some big plays in the second half, as Chicago carries over its road success from one coast to the other.
Prediction: Chicago 27, New York 20
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 3 of the NFL season:
After falling 26-20 to Seattle Sunday, Denver is 0-3 in overtime games, including playoffs, since Peyton Manning joined the team in 2012. The Seahawks are 4-0 in overtime the last three seasons, the most OT wins in the NFL over that span. Sunday was the first overtime in NFL history featuring the participants from the previous season's Super Bowl. There has still been no Super Bowl OT. Tim Tebow was 4-0 in OT games as the Broncos' QB in 2011 alone.
A week after throwing a 50-yard pass, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a scoring TD pass. His 18-yard touchdown to quarterback Andy Dalton made Sanu the only player in NFL history with no incompletions, 2+ touchdown passes, and 150+ passing yards. He is 4-for-4, having completed one pass in each of his first two years, including a 73-yard TD as a rookie, and is 2-for-2 this year for 68 yards and a score. Sanu has thrown for 166 yards for his career.
Green Bay only managed to move across midfield three times in a 19-7 loss to Detroit, tying the fewest times the Packers have driven into opposing territory in any of the 97 games quarterback Aaron Rodgers has started.
With four catches against the Giants, Texans receiver Andre Johnson moved ahead of Art Monk and tied Derrick Mason for 12th on the all-time catch list (943). Passing Andre Reed (951) is the next rung in the all-time ladder for Johnson.
Philadelphia became the seventh team in league history to trail after the first quarter of its first three games and win all three. The last team to do this was the 1999 New England Patriots. Philadelphia has trailed by 14, 4, and 7 after each of the first quarters this season. The Eagles are also the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after trailing by 10+ points in all three games.
In leading Seattle to the game's first touchdown in a 26-20 overtime win over Denver, quarterback Russell Wilson snapped a streak of 10 straight incompletions on throws of 30+ yards with his 39-yard scoring pass to Ricardo Lockett. The late second-quarter TD proved to be the game-winner.
When Dallas erased a 21-0 deficit to knock off St. Louis 34-31 in Week 3, it marked the fourth time this season a team has overcome a deficit of at least 17 points to win. Philadelphia, Chicago, and Green Bay have also come back from 17+ down. That is tied with 2011 for the most through the first three weeks of the season since the 1970 merger. Dallas also tied its largest comeback in franchise history.
Devin Hester of the Falcons set an NFL record with the 20th touchdown return of his career during his team's win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night. The previous record was held by Deoin Sanders.
With a 101-yard receiving game at Cleveland Sunday, Steve Smith now has 25 career 100-yard receiving games on the road. Only Jerry Rice (39) and Marvin Harrison (26) have more since 1960. Smith passed Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce, Michael Irvin and Terrell Owens. The five catches for 101 yards pushed Smith to 290 yards for the season, the most by a player in the first three games with the franchise since Anquan Boldin's 287.
Arizona moved to 3-0 with a 23-14 victory against San Francisco in Week 3, and for the third straight week, the Cardinals had a shutout in the fourth quarter. Arizona has now outscored its opponents 30-0 in the final 15 minutes. San Francisco, which has outscored its opponents 55-37 in the first three quarters of the first three games, has been outscored 31-0 in the fourth quarter.
With his 81-yard touchdown catch against Philadelphia in Week 3, Washington's DeSean Jackson is only the third player in NFL history with an 80-yard TD catch both for and against his team. Jackson had an 88-yard TD catch for the Eagles against the Redskins on Nov. 15, 2010. He joins Charlie Joiner and Art Powell in pulling off the rare feat.
Tom Brady has an 85 percent completion rate when throwing to receiver Julian Edelman. The longtime Patriots quarterback is completing just 51 percent of his passes when throwing to anyone else.
Speaking of Brady, he nabbed his 150th career victory with Sunday’s win over Oakland. Brady joins Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (169) as the only quarterbacks to accomplish the feat.
With a 370-yard, four-touchdown day through the air against Jacksonville, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck (31-39-0) became the first Colts quarterback with 350+ yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 75+ completion percentage in a game since Johnny Unitas did so in 1967.
By Corby A. Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 4
6: Consecutive Games Where Virginia Tech Loses At Least 2 Turnovers
After Virginia Tech’s 35-21 win at Ohio State in Week 2, most expected the Hokies would emerge as the clear frontrunner in the Coastal Division. Two weeks later, it’s probably time to re-evaluate the Hokies. Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back games, largely due to the turnover battle. The Hokies have lost at least two turnovers in six consecutive games, including two contests in 2014 by giving away three turnovers. In Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech lost three and only forced one. Dating back to 2008, the Hokies have only streak longer than three games of losing at least two turnovers in a single contest.
47: Missouri’s Streak of Forcing Turnovers in Consecutive Games Ends
Missouri’s 31-27 loss to Indiana was one of the most surprising results of Week 4. The Hoosiers were coming off a loss to Bowling Green, while the Tigers looked impressive in three consecutive victories to open the season. But Missouri couldn’t stop Indiana’s ground attack (241) yards and failed to force a turnover for the first time in 47 games. Coming into Week 4, the Tigers created at least two turnovers in five consecutive contests. However, Missouri’s defense struggled without end Markus Golden and did not force a turnover for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010 when the Tigers won 30-9 at Texas A&M.
374: ECU QB Shane Carden’s Average Passing Yards Against Last 4 ACC Opponents
The Pirates have emerged as the top team from the Group of Five this year. East Carolina has defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina to key a solid 3-1 start to 2014. Quarterback Shane Carden headlines an offense averaging 43.3 points per game and 7.5 yards per play. In Carden’s last four games against ACC opponents (all victories), he’s thrown for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Carden also threw for 300 yards in a 33-23 loss to South Carolina in Week 2.
3: Wisconsin Rushers With At Least 100 Yards Against Bowling Green
Question marks remain about Wisconsin’s passing attack, but the rushing game is in midseason form. The Badgers gashed Bowling Green for 644 yards in Saturday’s 68-17 victory, averaging a monstrous 10.7 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s 644 yards were a school record, and three players – Melvin Gordon (RB), Tanner McEvoy (QB) and Corey Clement (RB) all finished with more than 100 yards. After Saturday’s game, the Badgers lead the nation by averaging 7.8 yards per rush attempt in 2014.
570: Most Total Yards Allowed by LSU Since 2001
The final score was misleading (34-29), as Mississippi State dominated LSU in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs recorded 570 total yards against the Tigers (most in Les Miles era), the most allowed by the Tigers defense since giving up 632 to Florida in 2001. The 570 yards were also only the fourth time LSU has allowed at least 500 yards in a game over the last four years. Total yardage totals are often misleading, but a deeper look shows just how dominant the Bulldogs were. Mississippi State averaged 7.8 yards per play and 6.2 yards per rush and had two scoring plays of at least 50 yards. LSU’s defense is young and will improve over the course of the season. However, the Bulldogs dominated in the trenches – a place where the Tigers are usually strong.
0: Florida Points Not Scored Off Alabama Turnovers
Similar to the Mississippi State-LSU game, the Alabama-Florida final score was deceiving. Sure, 42-21 is a one-sided affair, but the Gators struggled mightily on offense outside of three Alabama turnovers that were converted into scores. None of Florida’s drives lasted longer than seven plays or 31 yards. The Gators also had five three-and-outs, completed just nine passes and went 2 of 13 on third-down attempts. Offense was a hot topic in Gainesville this offseason, and new coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to utilize the talents of quarterback Jeff Driskel. Alabama’s defense is one of the best in the nation, but the Gators still have major question marks to address on offense as the heart of SEC play approaches.
432.5: Rushing Yards Averaged by Boston College in Last 2 Games
Total yardage can be deceiving. But don’t be fooled when looking at the box scores for Boston College over the last two weeks. The Eagles returned only three new starters on offense but have already established their identity as a power running team once again. Boston College recorded 452 yards against USC in Week 3 and 413 yards on the ground against Maine last Saturday, giving the Eagles a 432.5 average over the last two weeks. Steve Addazio’s team has rushed for at least 338 yards in three games this year and has 13 of the 16 offensive touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 500 yards, but there’s a host of talented young rushers contributing, including Jon Hilliman (241 yards) and Myles Willis (208 yards).
0: Michigan Drives Against Power 5 Teams to Reach Redzone in 2014
Brady Hoke’s future in Ann Arbor hinges on how far new coordinator Doug Nussmeier can develop the offense this year. So far, the results aren’t encouraging. Michigan is averaging just 24 points per game and recorded just 4.3 yards per play against Notre Dame and 4.1 against Utah. The Wolverines are a -10 in turnover margin, with six interceptions coming from quarterback Devin Gardner. The rushing attack has struggled against Power 5 opponents (218 yards on 71 attempts), but an even bigger concern is Michigan’s inability to get into the redzone. Against the Utes and Fighting Irish, the Wolverines did not advance into the redzone and scored a combined 10 points in those two contests.
36: Points Scored by Arizona in Fourth Quarter Against Cal
Plenty of points were expected in Saturday’s California-Arizona game, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Golden Bears only led the Wildcats 31-13 at the end of the third quarter. So much for offense, right? One quarter later, the shootout everyone expected finally started. The Wildcats and Golden Bears combined for 50 points in the fourth quarter, with Arizona recording 36 in a crazy 49-45 victory. Quarterback Anu Solomon connected with receiver Austin Hill on a 47-yard pass on the final play to win.
2: Alabama QBs to Throw for 400 Yards in a Game
In Saturday’s 42-21 victory over Florida, Blake Sims became just the second quarterback in Alabama history to record 400 passing yards in a game. Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four scores and averaged 19.3 yards per completion. The strong performance by the senior should end any question marks about who should be the starting quarterback in Tuscaloosa. Scott Hunter (1969) is the only other quarterback in Crimson Tide history to throw for 400 yards in a game.
Other Stats to Know
* Auburn recorded 359 total yards in Thursday night’s win over Kansas State. That’s the lowest mark in Gus Malzahn’s two seasons as the Tigers’ head coach.
* Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine rushed for 242 yards in Saturday’s 45-33 win over West Virginia. He’s the first Sooner to rush for 200 yards in a game since DeMarco Murray in 2010.
* Florida’s struggles weren’t limited just to its offense against Alabama. The Gators allowed 645 yards to the Crimson Tide – the most in school history.
* Tulane attempted six fourth-down conversions in Saturday’s loss to Duke. That’s more than Florida State had all of last season (four).
* Georgia averaged nine yards per play in Saturday’s 66-0 win over Troy.
* 226 of LSU’s 430 yards came in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State. The Tigers also averaged 2.5 yards per carry. That’s the second time this year that LSU has averaged less than 2.8 yards per carry in a game.
* Penn State rushed for 228 yards in Saturday’s win over UMass. The one-game total against the Minutemen topped Penn State’s season total prior to Week 4 – 227 yards.
* North Carolina’s defense allowed a school-record 789 yards in Saturday’s 70-41 loss to East Carolina.
* After a slow start, Washington’s defense stepped up in the second half of Saturday’s win against Georgia State. The Huskies allowed 219 yards through the first two quarters but held the Panthers to just 44 in the second half.
* Receiver Tyler Boyd has accounted for 21 of Pittsburgh’s 51 receptions in 2014.
* Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has passed for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
* Syracuse outgained Maryland 569 to 369 but lost 34-20. Why? The Orange lost two turnovers, missed field goal, had a punt blocked, and the Terrapins returned an interception for a score.
* Cincinnati recorded eight sacks in Saturday’s 31-24 win over Miami (Ohio).
* Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is averaging 16.3 yards per touch (15) this year.
* Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce set a school record with 13 catches in Saturday’s win over Hawaii.
* Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back home games for the first time since 1995.
* Eastern Michigan had more turnovers (6) than first downs (5) in Satudray’s 73-14 loss to Michigan State.
* Virginia recorded 35 first downs in Saturday’s loss to BYU. That’s the most the Cavaliers have posted in a single game under coach Mike London.
* Cal averaged 8.0 yards per play against Arizona – yet still lost 49-45 to the Wildcats.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time in 322 attempts in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green.
* Marshall scored on five of its first six possessions against Akron.
* Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 275 yards in Saturday’s 28-7 win over San Diego State. Mannion now has 11,339 career passing yards, ranking No. 1 in school history.
* Indiana converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s win over Missouri (1 of 14).
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for 290 of the 375 yards by the Yellow Jackets in the 27-24 win over Virginia Tech.
* Temple set a school record with a 59-point margin of victory in Saturday’s win against Delaware State.
* Vanderbilt averaged 6.9 yards per play in Saturday’s 48-34 loss to South Carolina. That’s the highest per play average for the Commodores in SEC play since averaging 9.3 yards per play against Kentucky in 2006.
* West Virginia receiver Kevin White has at least nine catches in every game this year.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida has averaged at least eight yards per carry in four straight games. Breida has 454 yards (ranks No. 1 in Sun Belt) and seven scores for the Eagles in 2014.
* Minnesota quarterback Chris Streveler completed just one pass in Saturday’s win over San Jose State. Streveler also completed one pass to the other team (1 INT).
* Thanks to a 47-13 win over Tulane, Duke is 4-0 for the first time since 1994.
* UConn’s offense struggled mightily in Friday night’s loss to South Florida. The Huskies went 0-9 on third-down conversions, finished with 145 total yards and had eight drives that lasted just three plays. 75 of UConn’s yards occurred on the final drive of the game.
* Alabama tight end O.J. Howard finally caught his first pass of the 2014 season against Florida. The sophomore finished with two catches for 22 yards in the 42-21 win.
* Northwestern defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo forced three fumbles in Saturday’s win over Western Illinois.
* 242 of Wyoming’s 334 yards came on its three scoring drives. The Cowboys used a 91-yard drive with less than two minutes remaining to defeat FAU.
* 121 of Northwestern’s 166 rushing yards came via true freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault.
* ODU won its C-USA debut by hitting a last-second field goal to defeat Rice. The Monarchs averaged 8.3 yards per play on just 64 plays.
* Texas A&M averaged 9.8 yards per play in Saturday’s easy 58-6 win over SMU.
* Western Michigan true freshman running back Jarvion Franklin has at least 163 rushing yards in all three games this year.
* Washington quarterback Cyler Miles has not thrown an interception in 71 attempts this season.
No. 20 Ohio State enters 2014-15 without trusty point guard Aaron Craft. Thad Matta, as usual, has a plan with players like Shannon Scott and transfer Anthony Lee ready to take the next step for a Big Ten contender.
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To say that Thad Matta has given Ohio State 10 good years is to give short shrift to a Hall of Famer in waiting. He never gets labeled as the premier coach in the business, but the solid work and successful seasons roll on. Matta has racked up five Big Ten titles and a sparkling postseason record that includes four league tournament championships and a pair of appearances in the Final Four.
Still, OSU’s latest effort showed that even the elite programs are not immune to a subpar season.
The Buckeyes fell out of league contention and were dumped in their NCAA Tournament opener for just the third time in program history. Adding insult was the fact that the season-ending loss came at the hands of in-state foe Dayton.
Regaining some mojo won’t be easy with catalyst and defensive pest Aaron Craft among OSU’s three departed starters. Still, Matta knows how to reload and find lofty results.
“When I came here, our goal was to try to build a top-10 college basketball program — not that you’re going to win the thing every year but be in the hunt,” the coach says.
No. 20 Ohio State Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10, 10-8 Big Ten
Postseason: NCAA round of 64
Consecutive NCAAs: 6
Coach: Thad Matta (275-83 at Ohio State, 121-53 Big Ten)
Big Ten Projection: Fourth
Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32
Amir Williams and Trey McDonald are seniors, but Matta has bolstered the interior both in the short term and for the future. Along with landing in-state prospect David Bell and accepting a transfer from former Virginia Tech center Trevor Thompson, the Buckeyes have welcomed senior Anthony Lee, a sturdy 6’9’’ graduate transfer from Temple who figures to be an immediate top option in the post.
Williams and McDonald were largely ineffective last season, combining for less than 10 points and eight rebounds per game. Lee should approach that productivity by himself. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds at Temple last season; the latter figure led the American Athletic Conference.
The 6’11” Thompson will have to sit out this season but the coaches are excited to have an athletic big man who showed flashes last season — like when he scored 15 points at Duke. He will have three years of eligibility.
Newcomer Keita Bates-Diop is a skilled combo forward who should help OSU on both ends of the court. The similarly built Marc Loving also shows promise, but he hit the freshman wall last season with eight scoreless games in February and March combined.
Despite his 6’4” frame, freshman Jae’Sean Tate is a junkyard dog capable of fitting in at forward. He’s a willing defender who has a knack for tracking down rebounds and loose balls.
The senior sendoff for Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. was both a joyous occasion and sad reminder that the program would have to move on without two proven warriors. They set the defensive tone and won at a high rate, even for the Matta era.
Fortunately, Shannon Scott will be comfortable taking over full-time duties at point guard, Sam Thompson could be ready for an all-league senior season on the wing, and the Buckeyes are blessed with two dynamic young talents at shooting guard in freshmen D’Angelo Russell and Kam Williams.
Scott’s numbers from last season, projected over 40 minutes, basically mirror Craft’s. Plus, he is a two-time member of the Big Ten All-Defensive Team. OSU’s leading returning scorer (7.9 ppg last season), Thompson also is a topflight defender and premier athlete. He isn’t likely to double his point production and replace LaQuinton Ross’ output, but he is capable of becoming a consistent double-figure scorer.
Williams was slowed by mononucleosis in preseason camp and ended up sitting out last season. Still, those who observed practice believe he could be an instant factor. Russell, meanwhile, may be the key to the entire campaign. The Louisville native won a national title at the prep level last spring and appears to be just the type of alpha male this team needs.
The Buckeyes are an interesting collection of talent. Matta’s roster is devoid of superstars — at least at the moment — but is deeper and more dangerous-looking than a year ago. Plus, Ohio State should be hungrier after a rare flameout in the NCAA Tournament. Thompson and Scott must embrace leadership, Lee needs to be a board-eater, and someone else, most likely Russell, has to show he can make winning plays. If it all falls in place, watch out.
Anthony Lee is a pest on the boards who often gets to the foul line because of his activity. He’s already slotted in at power forward. A smooth lefty, D’Angelo Russell just needs to show his skills translate. Keita Bates-Diop can shoot and pass effectively for his size and should fit OSU’s system. Jae’Sean Tate is a scrapper worthy of a role, while David Bell is a project who is likely to redshirt.
If this season is going to be different for Nebraska, how the Cornhuskers defeated Miami will be a good example why.
A Nebraska team the last few years that found it way to four losses or found itself combusting on the sideline on Saturday found itself settling into an identity and a 41-31 win.
At the same time, Miami gave Nebraska every excuse to lose its cool. Chippy play and personal foul penalties kept the game teetering on the very of a brawl.
“I thought it got a little out of control,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told the media. “I thought it could have been managed better. At the end of the day, there's going to be some of that. Two teams playing hard going after each other. But it got a little out of control there for a while."
Instead, Nebraska was in full control of its faculties.
In a key sequence in the fourth quarter, Miami, trailing by 10, was intercepted in Nebraska territory, picked up two personal fouls at the end of the play. With Nebraska on offense, Miami was called for a face mask penalty on a vicious takedown of running back Ameer Abdullah by the neck.
Abdullah finished the drive with 24 yards to set up the field goal to put it away.
Perhaps the only strange part of the game-sealing drives in the fourth quarter for Nebraska was their brevity.
The Cornhuskers looked like an old Nebraska team on the ground, at least as far as production.
By feeding Abdullah, Nebraska put together consecutive scoring drives of 14 plays for a touchdown, 11 plays for a field goal and another 11 for a touchdown.
Along the way Nebraska racked up 343 rushing yards, including 229 from the Heisman contender Abdullah.
The methodical and cool-headed approach means Nebraska will do something it hasn’t the last two seasons: Enter Big Ten play without a loss.
The last two seasons, Nebraska lost in September for UCLA, helping to set the tone for rocky years that both ended with four losses.
This season is starting to look like it might be different.
“I thought our guys handled themselves well in those times,” Pelini said. “There were a couple times where we had a chance. We didn't retaliate. We were basically pulling guys off. There was a chance it could have gotten out of control.”
Florida State’s 23-17 victory over Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t pretty. In fact, one could make a compelling argument that the Tigers outplayed the Seminoles on Saturday night.
Florida State was outgained 407 to 318, averaged only 4.8 yards per play, lost the turnover battle (2 to 1), allowed five sacks and finished with just 13 yards on the ground.
Even if Clemson outplayed Florida State, the Seminoles picked up the only thing that mattered: The Victory.
College football’s new playoff format has created plenty of uncertainty in how the final four teams will be selected, but it’s safe to say – just like previous years – teams just need to survive and advance in order to be in a position to have a shot at a championship.
Florida State accomplished that goal on Saturday night, but coach Jimbo Fisher has plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.
An offensive line with five senior starters was expected to be the best in the nation. But through three games, Florida State is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has allowed seven sacks. The Seminoles played two solid defensive fronts (Oklahoma State and Clemson), but the offensive line has underachieved.
Along with fixing the offensive line, Florida State needs more from its rushing attack. Karlos Williams was projected to be a breakout player in the preseason and has just 177 yards through three weeks. Williams, Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook are a capable trio, but the offensive line has to clear the way for the rushers.
Seniors Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary have dominated the stat sheet, catching 38 of the team’s 71 passes. In order for Florida State’s offense to reach last year’s levels, it needs more help from the No. 2 and No. 3 options at receiver. Will Jesus Wilson or Christian Green emerge? Or could talented freshmen like Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph work their way into more time as the season progresses?
Florida State’s defense stepped up late in Saturday’s game against Clemson, but this unit has clearly regressed since 2013.
New coordinator Charles Kelly had holes to fill at each level this preseason, and so far, the defense is a work in progress. The Seminoles are allowing 5.1 yards per play – a full yard increase from 2013.
The defense has recorded just two sacks and 15 tackles for loss, while opponents are converting 48.9 percent of their third downs.
Of course, getting Winston back immediately solves some of the offensive issues that popped up against Clemson.
But is the defense going to improve with time? What’s wrong with the offensive line?
The Seminoles aren’t the same team they were in 2013, and this squad looks more vulnerable. Over the course of the next nine games, Florida State should improve, and it’s unlikely the offensive line will continue to struggle.
Fisher and his staff already navigated a huge speed bump to a repeat by winning without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Can Fisher find the right fixes on the line and on defense to keep the Seminoles in the hunt to repeat?
The sample size is limited, but home losses to Utah is not a good omen for Michigan coaches.
The only other coach to lose to the Utes at the Big House was Rich Rodriguez in his debut. He was fired three years later.
Brady Hoke added is name to that list with a 26-10 loss to Utah, but he’ll have far less leeway to atone for this loss than Rodriguez did in 2008.
The question now is what Michigan and Hoke will have to do undo the damage of the last three weeks, which included a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame.
On Saturday, the fans in Ann Arbor booed until they gave up and left before and after a lengthy weather delay.
Through four games, Michigan has shown little that could make the boos stop.
In the postgame news conference, Hoke referenced Michigan’s 1998 team. He was an assistant that year when the Wolverines opened the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse but won a share of the Big Ten title (despite a 31-16 loss to Ohio State).
Hope, though, would seem to be thin for the Michigan team that’s shown up this season.
The offense has regressed under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, failing to even reach the red zone against Notre Dame and Utah. Michigan outgained Utah 308 yards to 286, spoiling a defensive effort that included an interception returned for a touchdown for Michigan’s only trip to the end zone against a Power 5 team.
The Wolverines are last in the nation in turnover margin at minus-10, and a quarterback change made things worse. Devin Gardner threw two interceptions for six this season. Shane Morris, a four-star quarterback in 2013, threw an interception, lost a fumble and finished 4-of-13 passing.
Hoke was cagey about what that change means for Michigan’s future, starting next week.
“We will have a starting quarterback against Minnesota,” Hoke said.
While factual, that’s not an encouraging statement for a coach who may be fighting for his job during the final months of the season.
The fourth-year coach is 4-8 since a 5-0 start in 2013. Keep in mind, that undefeated start last year included close calls with Akron and Connecticut.
That kind of sustained struggles is enough for a chorus of boos, which Hoke says he hopes aren’t for his players.
“If they’re all for me, good,” Hoke said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Good news: They probably are.
Three games into the 2014 season and it’s apparent North Carolina’s defense is still a major question mark. And in the Coastal Division where all seven teams exist with little separation, the Tar Heels’ struggles on this side of the ball is enough to prevent this team from making a trip to Charlotte in early December.
In Saturday’s loss to East Carolina, North Carolina’s flaws on this side of the ball were exposed.
The Pirates scored at least 14 points in every quarter, averaged 8.1 yards per play, recorded 39 first downs and 789 overall yards.
The defensive struggles aren’t just limited to Saturday’s loss to East Carolina. The Tar Heels gave up 29 points to Liberty and 27 to San Diego State. The pass rush has been largely invisible (four sacks in three games), which exposes a secondary that is filled with youth.
The numbers posted by East Carolina’s offense should be no surprise, but this effort by North Carolina’s defense was worse than last year’s effort in the 55-31 loss to the Pirates in Chapel Hill.
Several issues are at the core of the Tar Heels’ defensive issues, including youth in the starting lineup. North Carolina has just five seniors on the defensive two-deep, and the line features one freshman starter (Dajuan Drennon), while two sophomores (Brian Walker) and Des Lawrence) anchor the cornerback spots.
Youth is a huge issue that will only be solved with time and snaps.
But North Carolina doesn’t have time for its defense to grow. Take a look at the upcoming schedule: at Clemson, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, at Virginia, at Miami, Pittsburgh, at Duke and NC State.
Is there a guaranteed victory in that stretch?
By the Numbers on North Carolina's Defense
|Rush Defense||222.7 (5.5 ypc)||14|
With any team running an up-tempo offense, it's tough to ask the defense to be a shutdown unit. However, North Carolina's defense simply has to be better for this team to take the next step.
While the numbers have been awful for the Tar Heels’ defense so far, this team has yet to play an ACC game.
North Carolina’s offense is explosive enough for this team to remain in contention for the Coastal crown. But when will the defense turn a corner in Chapel Hill?
Every unit has to improve, and some of the issues will require patience as some of the younger players get acclimated to a full season of FBS play. There’s plenty of hope for the future, but North Carolina’s Coastal Division title hopes could rest on how far this defense improves over the last nine games of the season.
For a coach who got a sorely needed spark on offense, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t seem excited.
After a 24-20 win over Pittsburgh, Ferentz will head back to Iowa where fans likely will expect him to make a permanent quarterback change after C.J. Beathard led three scoring drives in the comeback win.
Ferentz, it seems, is greeting such expectations with an eye roll.
Iowa showed a more aggressive offensive approach in the first half against Pitt, but starter Jake Rudock was able to capitalize on the scoreboard just once. An injury at the end of the first half gave Beathard to lead the best version of the Iowa offense so far this season.
Ferentz just confirmed that Rudock was injured. Also said "We'll probably have a huge controversy in Iowa now. A good thing to deal with."— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) September 20, 2014
Ferentz on the radio on Beathard's performance: "I'm glad he played better today than he practiced Thursday. I'll just leave it at that."— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) September 20, 2014
Rudock, who sustained an injury to what was termed the hip area, may be able to practice, putting Iowa in position for a rare in-season quarterback competition.
The last time Iowa made a quarterback change midseason was in 2008 when Ricky Stanzi beat out Jake Christensen.
Given the way Iowa moved the ball under Beathard in a game that re-energized Iowa’s season, the sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., will be the people’s favorite after he was able to take advantage of a more aggressive approach by coordinator Greg Davis.
Under Rudock, Iowa took shots down the field but converted on just one long pass play. And on fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 13, the Hawkeyes shed their trademark conservatism and went for the first down. They got a touchdown.
But the offense truly flourished in the second half under Beathard. A 62-yard one-handed over-the-shoulder catch by Damond Powell for the rare explosive passing play for the Hawkeyes this season.
Iowa entered the game with two plays from scrimmage for 40 or more yards. The Hawkeyes doubled it in this game with the Powell catch and a Rudock pass for 44 yards in the first quarter.
That one long play, though, wasn’t enough. Rudock finished 5-of-10 for 80 yards with an interception. Beathard came in to finish 7-of-8 for 98 yards, not overwhelming numbers, but plenty efficient for the win.
The question is if it’s enough for Ferentz to continue with the hot hand.
|First Half (Jake Rudock)||Second Half (C.J. Beathard)|
Dan Mullen has done some great work in Starkville, but there was no denying his résumé was lacking a signature win. That, clearly, is no longer the case. Led by a Louisiana native who might be the best dual-threat quarterback east of Eugene, Ore., Mississippi State exorcised a ton of demons Saturday night in Baton Rouge, holding on for a 34–29 win against LSU in Tiger Stadium.
Dak Prescott, a Haughton, La., native who only got a look from LSU late in the recruiting process, threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns (without an INT) and ran for 105 yards and a score to lead the Bulldogs to their first win over the Tigers since 1999 and their first in Baton Rouge since 1991. Prescott has had 200-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing in three straight games, and the Bulldogs have had at least 500 yards in five straight games, a school record.
State got the job done with some explosive plays — 10 that went for at least 20 yards — against an LSU defense that had not allowed a point since the third quarter of a Week 1 win over Wisconsin. For the game, the Bulldogs averaged 7.8 yards per snap, becoming only the second team since the beginning of the 2008 season to top the 7.0 mark against LSU.
Life in the SEC West will be treacherous this season, but Mississippi State has the talent — and makeup — to be factor in the division race. A team that is capable of winning in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night is a team that can win in any venue in the league.