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Matt Prater has a stranglehold on the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 8 kicker rankings, but Steven Hauschka is not too far behind him in the points department. Prater has made a healthy living kicking for Denver's prolific offense, but Hauschka is making the most of his opportunities with the Seahawks. He has connected on 16 field goals this season (Stephen Gostkowski leads the NFL with 18), including an impressive 8-of-9 from 40 yards and beyond. Seattle is in St. Louis on Monday night and with a ball-hawking defense like the Seahawks going up against Rams backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, Hauschka's leg could get a decent workout.
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.
2013 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers
Teams on bye this week: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee
|1||Matt Prater||DEN||vs. WAS|
|2||Stephen Gostkowski||NE||vs. MIA|
|3||Mason Crosby||GB||at MIN|
|4||Steven Hauschka||SEA||at STL (Mon.)|
|5||Dan Bailey||DAL||at DET|
|6||Garrett Hartley||NO||vs. BUF|
|7||Matt Bryant||ATL||at ARI|
|8||Alex Henery||PHI||vs. NYG|
|9||Nick Folk||NYJ||at CIN|
|10||Ryan Succop||KC||vs. CLE|
|11||David Akers||DET||vs. DAL|
|12||Blair Walsh||MIN||vs. GB|
|13||Phil Dawson||SF||vs. JAC (London)|
|14||Shaun Suisham||PIT||at OAK|
|15||Kai Forbath||WAS||at DEN|
|16||Dan Carpenter||BUF||at NO|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points
Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings
To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its Sprint Cup Series driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (Martinsville Speedway)
Race: 500 laps, 263 miles (.526-mile oval)
April 2013 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
A-List (Pick two, start one)
The groans have officially started. Jimmie Johnson emerged unscathed from Talladega Superspeedway with a decent finish and even larger points lead. The road to No. 6 seems to be growing ever clearer for the five-time champ — especially with Martinsville Speedway this weekend.
The 35,000-foot look at Johnson's performance is one revealing utter domination. He has seven wins at the track in the last 14 races and eight for his career. Only seven times has he failed to finish worse than fifth. It gets worse for the competition, too: Johnson dominated the spring race by leading 346 laps and averaging a running position of first. He never crossed the start/finish line worse than fifth during the 500-lap race.
Clint BowyerMartinsville's unique layout with the long straightaways and ultra-tight corners requires a pretty specific and repeatable rhythm behind the wheel in order to run fast. Jimmie Johnson has obviously found that groove, and it's not a stretch to think Clint Bowyer is gaining on what it takes to lead and win.
In Bowyer's last five Martinsville starts, he's finished worse than 10th just once. He's also reeled off consecutive top-5 finishes thanks to 154 laps led in the fall race a year ago and a second-place run this past spring. That's even an improvement from a respectable career at the track that has provided an average finish of 13.2 in 15 starts.
Also consider: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth
B-List (Pick four, start two)
There were two drivers in the spring Martinsville race that completed every lap in the top 15. One of them won the race. The other, Kyle Busch, finished fifth. Busch led 56 laps that day and never sank lower than 12th. Busch, never a winner at Martinsville, seems to be getting closer. A year ago he finished second and in the spring 2012 race he was running near the front when a rear track bar broke. In the fall 2011 race, he led 126 laps before a loose wheel broke off and he crashed. With some luck, Busch might challenge for a win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.A common story coming to Martinsville Speedway is the one told about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s second start during his rookie season at the track. Earnhardt was a part of three crashes — the final one featured his No. 8 ramping over Dave Blaney's car and into the Turn 1 wall with 20 laps left — and famously even hit a tow truck during one of his garage visits. But for all of the talk about Earnhardt's troubles that day, he's been decidedly able at Martinsville in recent portions of his career, save for his last two finishes. Earnhardt has five top-15 finishes at Martinsville since 2010 and boasts a B-List best 12.3 average finish in the last 17 races. He's still searching for a win, however.
Ryan Newman's recent history at Martinsville has one highlight — his win in the 2012 spring race — and a few disappointments, thanks largely to unexpected problems. In the spring race, he suffered a flat tire and other problems that left him eight laps down. However, if Newman can manage to score a lead lap finish on Sunday's race, there's a good chance he'll knock in a top-10 finish. Newman has 15 career lead lap finishes on the half-mile and 11 of them have produced top-10 finishes. Newman also holds the third-best average running position at Martinsville (14.8) in the last 17 races.
Jamie McMurrayThanks to his win Sunday at Talladega, Jamie McMurray is already having a pretty good week. Should he replicate his spring Martinsville performance on Sunday, it'll get even better. McMurray was the highest-finishing B-List driver in April with a seventh-place run. It was an all-around good day for McMurray, as he started 13th and steadily moved forward. For his career, McMurray averages a 17th-place finish at Martinsville.
Also consider: Mark Martin, Jeff Burton
C-List (Pick two, start one)
The career history of Elliott Sadler in the Cup Series at Martinsville doesn't bode too well for his debut this weekend as a relief driver for Brian Vickers in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55. Sadler, in 24 starts, has notched just three top 10s. But Sadler is a C-List driver who gets to wheel a car that finished 11th at Martinsville in April with Vickers behind the wheel. Even he manages just a top-20 from the effort, it'll be a start that's at least as successful as any other in the C-List.
Danica Patrick has one career start and thus one career finish at Martinsville Speedway. It's not exactly the most revelatory of a database for a driver who has struggled so mightily for much of the season. Patrick, however, scored her second-best finish of 2013 back in April when she finished on the lead lap in 12th. The finish was more a lesson in Patrick picking off spots from those ahead of her through attrition, but it's still a reasonable feat for any rookie at the tight track. If Patrick can replicate the feat Sunday, it'll be a major win for C-List players who start her.
Also consider: David Ragan, Casey Mears
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
South Carolina will head to Columbia for a showdown with the SEC East-leading Tigers without their starting quarterback. Connor Shaw suffered a sprained right knee late in the Gamecocks' loss to Tennessee last Saturday and will be extremely limited in practice this week. Dylan Thompson isn't the average backup, however; as he does not lack in big-game experience. Thompson won each of his previous two starts and eclipsed 300 passing yards in each. He led South Carolina to a victory over Clemson in the 2012 season finale and also threw a touchdown against Michigan in last year's Outback Bowl.
Spurrier: "Dylan (Thompson) is definitely going to start the game and it'll be his game to go with."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 22, 2013
Steve Spurrier: "Connor Shaw is going to be able to maybe back up Dylan Thompson this week." Won't practice much if at all
— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 23, 2013
Johnny Manziel missed some snaps in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss against Auburn after injuring his right shoulder on a running play. The injury occurred as Manziel lowered his shoulder near Auburn's goal line, looking to gain extra yards with A&M ahead 31-24 with roughly 14 minutes left to play in the final quarter. Manziel was tackled by a pair of defenders, falling forward with his weight on his throwing shoulder. While he returned after just one series on the sidelines, it appears the injury is somewhat serious. Kevin Sumlin told media that he was "hopful" that Manziel would play this weekend against Vanderbilt.
Sumlin listed Manziel as 'hopeful' for Saturday vs. Vandy.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) October 22, 2013
Sumlin added that depending on how Manziel does in practice today through Friday to determine whether he'll go with Joeckel.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) October 22, 2013
A&M coach Kevin Sumlin declined to address Manziel's injury further, other than adding that a sling Manziel has worn on his right (throwing) arm early this week is a “precautionary measure.”
World Series – Game 1
St. Louis at Boston
8:07 ET on Fox
Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)
This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games, and proved to be among the best in baseball all season. This World Series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire showdown. Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Both bullpens are strong, so it’s doubtful that either team will cough up leads in the late innings. Neither team hit particularly well in series that were dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues. There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series. There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series. Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season. With temperatures expected to be in the mid-40s at game time with a 50 percent chance of rain, baseball could have asked for better weather.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox have four games at home and must capitalize on the magic of Fenway Park. The Cardinals struggle against left-handed pitching and Boston’s only southpaw starter, Jon Lester, goes tonight. If Lester is sharp and gets this game to the bullpen by the seventh inning, manager John Farrell will likely leave the park happy. Offensively, the Red Sox love to run. They stole 123 bases and were caught just 19 times for a major league-best 87 percent success rate. They can’t afford to abandon that facet of their offense.
Keys for St. Louis
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny is excited about Allen Craig getting back in the lineup. He led the club with 97 RBIs in the regular season, but has been out since early September with a foot injury. The Cardinals’ offense needs a boost, and Craig is the man for the job. Catcher Yadier Molina is the best in the business at shutting down opponents’ running games. He will have his hands full with Boston, a team that loves to run. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright allowed just three stolen bases in six attempts all season, with two of the steals coming with Tony Cruz behind the plate. The Cardinals’ bullpen is full of power arms and that matches up well against a team that’s not afraid to strike out.
Red Sox to Watch
David Ortiz is the man the Cardinals’ pitchers must deal with. If he’s not part of the Boston attack, the Red Sox may have trouble producing runs. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury will be a key for Boston to manufacture runs with speed. If he’s on base — and especially if he can steal a bag or two — the Red Sox can chip away with Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia even if the Cardinals can neutralize Big Papi.
Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has made seven postseason starts, but none in the World Series. He’s not likely to be fazed by the gravity of the moment, and the Cardinals need a strong outing by their leader. Carlos Beltran has been the Redbirds’ best RBI producer this postseason. He and Matt Holliday now have some help in Craig, a trio that should give Lester some trouble. Having the aging Beltran cover the spacious and quirky right field in Boston could be a factor.
Kyle Seager of Seattle is the only player to successfully steal against the Wainwright-Molina combination this season…The Cardinals are 4-3 in Wainwright’s seven postseason starts, 1-2 on the road…Wainwright has not allowed more than two runs in the any of the three losses…This is the second World Series start for Lester, who started Game 4 of the 2007 World Series…This is Lester’s fifth Game 1 start…The Red Sox are 2-2 in his previous four Game 1 outings…Wainwright has never faced Ellsbury, Pedroia or Ortiz…Tonight marks the 10th World Series game between the Cardinals and Red Sox at Fenway Park. Dating back to 1946, the Red Sox have won six of those games.
Jay Cutler's contract is up at the end of the year, leaving the Chicago Bears with a decision that will impact the franchise for a long time. Do they place their trust in Cutler, or do they move on? Athlon editors Nathan Rush and Rob Doster take up the question.
It’s like asking if Mike Ditka would win a fight with a hurricane. There’s only one right answer. Yes. It doesn’t take Bill Swerski or any of his Superfan buddies to know the Chicago Bears — Da Bears! —should re-sign quarterback Jay Cutler.
How soon we forget. Remember who started under center for the Bears before Cutler arrived from the Denver Broncos, a team that replaced “Smokin’ Jay” with Heisman Trophy-winning, BCS national title-winning, first-round draft pick Tim Tebow? The Windy City aerial attack was led by Super Bowl runner-up Rex Grossman (a.k.a. “Turnover-saurus Rex”), Kyle Orton (a.k.a. “King Neck Beard”), son-of-a Super Bowl winner Brian Griese, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Shane Matthews and Cade McNown — and that’s just the 2000s-era starting QBs in Chicago.
If the Bears don’t re-sign Cutler, they are choosing a total rebuilding job over building around a proven Pro Bowl passer with 100 starts, 148 TD passes and 22,997 yards under his belt. And that would be risky business, especially considering Chicago’s recent track record of drafting quarterbacks — a list that includes four first-rounders since the NFL-AFL merger in Grossman (No. 22 overall in 2003), McNown (No. 12 in 1999), Jim Harbaugh (No. 26 in ’87) and Jim McMahon (No. 5 in ’82). And the Bears are just mediocre enough this year that there is no way to compete with the miserable Jaguars and Buccaneers for the top signal-caller available in 2014. Good luck finding a quarterback better than Cutler, who went No. 11 overall in 2006.
Chicago needs to focus on the once-feared Monsters of the Midway defense. Stopping Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is the answer to winning the NFC North — not replacing Cutler, a legitimate franchise quarterback.
– Nathan Rush
Tony Dungy was recently asked whether he thought Jay Cutler was a franchise quarterback. Dungy’s response: “He could be, but not from what I’ve seen so far.”
And that’s precisely the problem with Cutler. Even now, in the eighth season of his career, he remains more promise than production. Chicago has nothing to gain by breaking the bank to keep a quarterback who has yet to reach his potential and has made precisely one playoff appearance in his career.
Cutler may be the last man standing from the 2006 first-round quarterback class, but he has risen no higher than the middle of the pack among his peers. He’s 16th among active players in passer rating, and his interception percentage of 3.4 ranks 28th and underscores his alarming and ongoing propensity for the ill-timed turnover.
Then there’s his health. Once a paragon of durability, Cutler has seen an increasing susceptibility to injury that is rapidly diminishing his long-term value. This season marks the second time in three years he will have missed multiple games.
It would be one thing if the Bears had no other options, but the opposite is true. Next spring’s NFL Draft will see one of the great quarterback classes of recent memory. Names like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Marcus Mariota, Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray will be clustered atop draft boards in war rooms across the league. A Bears team that will likely be drafting in the middle of the pack will still have several tantalizing first-round options.
The Cutler experiment in Chicago has been a qualified success at best, and after only one playoff victory — against a 7–9 Seahawks team that was the worst playoff team of the modern era — it’s time for the Bears to move on. Better options await.
– Rob Doster
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 23.
• The World Series starts tonight, and we know who Kayla will be rooting for. Enjoy this slideshow of the Red Sox' hottest fan. It's almost enough to make you want to root for the Sox. Almost.
• Tim McCarver has a lot of haters out there. If you're not among them, enjoy this three-minute tribute to his World Series broadcasting career.
• An oral history of the 1989 Earthquake Series. Dennis Eckersley: "I was in the bathroom. I was combing my hair, man. I was standing next to Dave Parker."
• Oregon football practice has a suspicious feathered observer. Probably one of Nick Saban's minions.
• Despite being a shell of his former self, Tim Lincecum is somehow cashing in. His agent deserves a raise.
• Headline of the day: "Man Drops 14 Pounds By Only Drinking Beer and Eating Sausages." This man is my new hero.
• Mike Tyson in his own words. The article's even better if you read it in a Mike Tyson voice.
• Someone on the Interwebs is contending that Tajh Boyd owes a huge gambling debt. I call that kicking a man when he's down.
• The spoils of victory: Tulane coach Curtis Johnson says his players now have more girlfriends than ever.
• Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visits the Great American Beer Festival, and the results are exactly what you would hope.
• These things are always heartwarming: A Northwestern walk-on gets a scholarship in front of the team. The best part is when he calls his mom and sister with the news.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.
There are two names now standing above the rest in the race for college football's most prestigious award. Oregon's Marcus Mariota was brilliant in yet another win but Florida State's Jameis Winston made a Heisman statement in Death Valley by single-handedly crushing No. 3 Clemson. With contenders dropping like flies all over the nation, it may be a two-horse race to the finish.
Post-Week 8 Voting Results:
|2.||(4)||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St||49||1||10||1||-||1|
|3.||(2)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||37||-||2||9||-||1|
|5.||(5)||Sean Mannion||QB||Oregon St||14||-||-||-||6||2|
|7t.||(ur)||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon St||2||-||-||-||1||-|
|7t.||(ur)||Jordan Lynch||QB||N. Illinois||2||-||-||-||-||2|
Winston’s Statement. The basic belief is that every Heisman winner needs a Heisman moment to win the award. Well, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston had his on Saturday night against Clemson. He threw for 444 yards and scored five total touchdowns on the road against the No. 3 team in the nation. He has vaulted himself to No. 2 in the balloting and has created a two-horse race for the stiff-armed trophy. He got his first first-place vote and 10 second-place votes to separate himself from the rest of the field as the top challenger to Marcus Mariota.
Beavers and Ducks. Billy Bob Thornton would be proud, because this state is producing at elite levels. Marcus Mariota is still the frontrunner to win the award after eight weeks of action. He was magical again, scoring three more touchdowns, throwing for 327 yards and rushing for 67 on the ground. But there are other guys playing excellent football in the state of Oregon. Oregon State’s quarterback Sean Mannion is leading the nation in passing (427.4 ypg) and passing touchdowns (29) while wide receiver Brandin Cooks is leading the nation in receptions (76), yards (1,176) and touchdowns (12). And both are on this week’s Heisman ballot. The Beavers, who have won six straight, get to host No. 6 Stanford this weekend, while Oregon gets No. 12 UCLA at home.
Baylor Buzz. Another big Heisman winner this weekend was Baylor’s quarterback Bryce Petty. He led his offense to 700 yards of offense and 70 points for the fourth time this season in the 71-7 crushing win over Iowa State. Petty is leading the nation in passing efficiency at 221.83, which would obliterate the NCAA single-season record, and has the Bears perfect and No. 8 in the BCS.
Boring 'ol Bama. AJ McCarron has been on the Athlon Heisman ballot every single weekend but never seems to get much attention. He is 32-2 as a starter and completed 15-of-21 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns in yet another blowout SEC win this weekend. He’s the eighth-rated passer in the nation and don’t be surprised if McCarron makes it to New York based on consistency and win-loss record. As contenders fall by the wayside each week, McCarron keeps on plugging away.
Dropped Out. Aaron Murray lost his third game and didn’t get a vote this week. Tajh Boyd played one of the worst games of his career and has plummeted completely out of the voting after being in the top three for most of the year. The same could be said about Zach Mettenberger, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley and Johnny Manziel, who all lost critical games in Week 8. Only Manziel lost and still got votes this week.
What to Watch. Oregon State hosts No. 6 Stanford this weekend and it should give the best QB-WR duo in the nation (Mannion to Cooks) a chance to showcase themselves. The Ducks get No. 12 UCLA at home in a potential Pac-12 championship preview. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and Jordan Lynch get easy home games while Bryce Petty travels to lowly Kansas.
The Voting Panel:
|Tom Dienhart||Big Ten Network||BigTenNetwork.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Bryan Fischer||Pac-12 Network||Pac-12.com||Marcus Mariota|
|David Fox||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Braden Gall||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Godfrey||SB Nation||SBNation.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Chris Huston||Heisman Pundit||HeismanPundit.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Lassan||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Chris Level||Red Raider Sports||RedRaiderSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Billy Liucci||TexAgs||TexAgs.com||Jameis Winston|
|Dan Rubenstein||SB Nation/Solid Verbal||SolidVerbal.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Josh Ward||Mr. SEC/WNML||MrSEC.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Jim Young||ACC Sports Journal||ACCSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
With eight weeks of the 2013 college football season in the books, it’s time to take a look at the new coaches and how they have performed so far this year.
While every coach wants to win big in his first season, it’s just not possible with some programs. Roster turnover, change in schemes, coaching transition and a lack of talent are four reasons most programs struggle in the first year under a new coach.
And in looking at the 31 new hires for 2013, it’s clear this is not shaping up to be a banner season for first-year coaches.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen are the top-four hires after eight weeks of the season. Helfrich and Kingsbury are unbeaten, while Malzahn’s only loss came at LSU, and Andersen has defeats to Arizona State and Ohio State.
After those four names, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey are the next in the rankings, while Tennessee’s Butch Jones is rising after an upset win over South Carolina.
Athlon Sports will grade all of the new coaches at the end of the year, but for now, here’s a look at how all 31 new hires have performed so far in 2013.
Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013 After Week 8
|Auburn went 3-9 and was largely uncompetitive in SEC action last season. Malzahn has made a huge difference this year, as the Tigers have already won six games and could be 9-1 heading into rivalry contests against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn’s offense is one of the most improved units in the nation, averaging 35.9 points a game after mustering only 18.7 per contest in 2012. Malzahn inherited some nice talent, but he’s done a good job of blending the returning core with his up-tempo offense, along with breaking in a new quarterback in Nick Marshall. Auburn’s defense ranks 12th in yards allowed the SEC, but this unit has generated 19 sacks and is holding opponents to just 22 points a game.|
|The former Red Raider quarterback has returned to Lubbock, guiding Texas Tech to a 7-0 record and top-10 ranking in the first release of the BCS standings. Even though Kingsbury had no head coaching experience prior to this season, the 34-year-old head coach was the perfect hire for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders’ schedule will get tougher, starting on Saturday with a date at Oklahoma. But with Kingsbury (one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the nation), Texas Tech will be in the Big 12 title mix.|
|Chip who? The Ducks haven’t missed a beat with Helfrich in control, cruising to a 7-0 mark and spot among the top-three teams in the nation. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the frontrunner to win the Heisman, and the offense has scored at least 40 points in every game in 2013. The biggest test of Helfrich’s tenure will come on Nov. 7, as Oregon travels to Stanford in a game that should decide the Pac-12 North champion.|
|Andersen inherited a program coming off three consecutive Rose Bowls, and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat under his watch. Wisconsin opened the year with blowout wins over UMass and Tennessee Tech and was robbed of a chance to win by poor officiating in the loss to Arizona State. The Badgers handled Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue in Big Ten play and only lost by seven to Ohio State. If Wisconsin wins out, Andersen’s first season could result in a BCS bowl.|
|Addazio inherited a team that won just six games from 2011-12, but the Eagles have showed marked improvement in his first season. Boston College lost by only 14 to Florida State and by 10 to Clemson, and with a favorable schedule, the Eagles should make their first bowl appearance since the 2010 season. Addazio inherited a solid core of talent on offense, and running back Andre Williams ranks fifth nationally with an average of 139.7 yards per game.|
|Carey stepped into a situation built for success, as the Huskies returned 10 starters – including standout quarterback Jordan Lynch – from last year’s team that finished 12-2 and played in the Orange Bowl. Northern Illinois is back in the mix for a BCS bowl once again, beating Iowa and Purdue in route to a 7-0 start.|
|Even though Tennessee’s record is just 4-3, there are plenty of signs the program is on the right track. The Volunteers took Georgia to overtime on Oct. 5 and followed up that performance with an upset victory over South Carolina last Saturday. Tennessee’s offense is starting to show some signs of life, and the Volunteers rank second in the SEC with a +4 in turnover margin. The upcoming schedule isn’t easy, but Tennessee should play in a bowl this year.|
|Colorado was downright awful last year. The Buffaloes lost to Sacramento State and had four defeats by 40 points or more. MacIntyre has made a big difference, as the Buffaloes have already won three games, which nearly exceeds the total this program had from 2011-12 (four). A bowl could be too much to ask for, but Colorado should be more competitive against its Pac-12 opponents than it was last season.|
|Petrino’s first season at Western Kentucky started with a win over Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers lost their next two games, including a turnover-filled 52-20 defeat at Tennessee. Western Kentucky is 3-1 in its last four games and should be favored in its final five contests. After what transpired at Arkansas, a quiet start to the season isn’t a bad thing for Petrino.|
|Tuberville was a nice catch for Cincinnati after Butch Jones left for Tennessee, and the veteran coach has the Bearcats positioned to finish with at least eight wins for the eighth time in nine seasons. Losing to Illinois and South Florida was surprising, but Cincinnati will likely be favored against SMU, Houston and Memphis, with games against Rutgers and Louisville presenting the biggest challenge the rest of the season. Tuberville’s first year with the Bearcats hasn’t received much national attention, but Cincinnati is quietly on its way to its seventh bowl game in eight years.|
|With quarterback Chuckie Keeton lost for the season, it’s hard to give Wells a complete grade for his work through eight games. When Keeton was in the lineup, Utah State lost by four points to Utah and by three to USC, beat San Jose State by 28 points and Air Force by 32. With four winnable games to finish the year, Wells’ first season would be a success if he gets Utah State back to the postseason for the third consecutive year.|
|Considering Harsin is Arkansas State’s fourth head coach in four seasons, some transition time is needed for the former Texas offensive coordinator. The Red Wolves won 20 games from 2011-12, but with four losses, the best this team can do is 9-4 – assuming it wins a bowl game. Arkansas State’s wins came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Troy and Idaho, and its losses against Auburn, Missouri and UL Lafayette are nothing to be ashamed about. Ranking Harsin this high might be a bit generous, but then again, there aren’t many coaches behind him worthy of a promotion on this list.|
|This is probably a little high for Bielema, but it’s not a particularly deep year for success among first-year coaches. Bielema didn’t inherit a ton of talent to work with, but the Razorbacks have been outscored 134-17 in their last three SEC games. Arkansas does have some promising pieces for the future, including freshmen running back Alex Collins, defensive tackle Darius Philon and offensive linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. With a bowl game nearly out of reach, Bielema’s top priority for the last four games is to build momentum for 2014, along with being more competitive against its conference foes.|
|Taggart inherited a mess left behind by former coach Skip Holtz. South Florida went 8-5 in Holtz’s first season but finished 8-16 in the last two years, and the cupboard on offense was bare. As a result, the Bulls are averaging just 16.2 points a game. Six combined turnovers against McNeese State and FAU cost South Florida a chance at two winnable games and a likely bowl appearance. Taggart was a good hire and will get the program back on track. However, he will need some time to recruit and upgrade the talent level on offense.|
|Expectations were low for Stoops in his first year, and the Wildcats’ only victory came against one of the worst FBS teams in the nation (Miami, Ohio). On a positive note, Kentucky lost by only seven to South Carolina, and its margin of defeat against Louisville and Florida decreased from 2012. The Wildcats may only win one more game this season, but Stoops is bringing in a solid recruiting class, which should help immediately upgrade the talent next year in Lexington.|
|Similar to Utah State’s Matt Wells, Doeren has been dealing with a significant injury at quarterback. Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell broke his foot in the opener and has not played since, which significantly hampered NC State’s offense through the first six games. The Wolfpack are searching for their first win in the ACC but had a respectable showing in a loss to Clemson (26-14) and went 3-0 in non-conference play. Due to Mitchell’s injury, we will give Doeren a slight curve on his grade.|
|Shafer’s first seven games have produced a mix bag of results. The Orange was impressive in non-conference wins against Wagner and Tulane and beat NC State 24-10 on the road in mid-October. However, Syracuse was outscored in conference play by Clemson and Georgia Tech by a combined score of 105-14. Stopping the pass on defense is a huge concern, and the Orange has been unable to get consistent play from Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen at quarterback. With home games against Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Boston College, Syracuse still has a chance to get bowl eligible.|
|Hazell didn’t inherit a wealth of talent to work with on offense, and the Boilermakers have already turned the reigns over to freshman quarterback Danny Etling, which only adds to the growing pains in West Lafayette. Purdue’s only win came against Indiana State, but Hazell’s team lost by just 14 to Michigan State and by seven to Notre Dame. It’s hard to find a guaranteed win on the schedule the rest of the way for the Boilermakers, but Hazell went 5-7 in his first year at Kent State, only to rebound with an 11-3 mark the following season.|
|So far, the Spartans’ season has played out as most expected. San Jose State lost to Stanford, Minnesota and Utah State, while defeating Sacramento State, Colorado State and Hawaii. The Spartans won 11 games last season and returned 12 starters, including standout quarterback David Fales, leaving plenty of hope for this team to push Fresno State and Boise State for the conference title. San Jose State’s schedule is favorable over the final six games, and if Caragher guides this team to nine wins, the season will be a success. However, 7-5 or 6-6 would be a disappointment.|
|Much like his Mountain West counterpart Ron Caragher, Polian has played a difficult schedule in his first season. Nevada played BCS foes UCLA and Florida State, along with road games against conference foes San Diego State and Boise State. The Wolf Pack’s offense has remained explosive, averaging 34.3 points a game in conference action. However, Nevada’s defense is struggling and could prevent the Wolf Pack from making their ninth consecutive bowl.|
|In addition to dealing with a rash of injuries on defense and a true freshman starting at quarterback, the Golden Bears have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. With those three factors in play, it’s easy to see why California has just one win (Portland State). And with a tough schedule the rest of the way, the Golden Bears could be headed for their worst finish since an 0-11 record in 1999. Considering all of the factors working against California this year, this team would be a good candidate for a rebound in 2014.|
|In fairness to Miles, we have to grade his first season on a curve. Georgia State is transitioning to the FBS level and doesn’t have the necessary talent to compete for a winning season. The Panthers lost to three FCS teams but have played better in their last two games, losing to Troy and Texas State by just a touchdown. Miles engineered quite a turnaround at Indiana State, and in time, he will do the same thing at Georgia State.|
|Haynes inherited 10 starters from a team that went 11-3 last season. And even with a tougher schedule, a bowl game was a reasonable expectation for the Golden Flashes. However, Kent State’s only wins this season came against an FCS team (Liberty) and winless Western Michigan. The Golden Flashes were competitive against Ball State and Northern Illinois, but this team needs to win out in order to play for a bowl in 2013.|
|The Bulldogs lost a plethora key players from last year’s team and only one starter returned from an offense that averaged 51.5 points a game in 2012. Louisiana Tech beat Lamar and UTEP this season and has chances to pickup wins against FIU and Southern Miss in its next two games. Holtz was a retread hire, looking to prove his 16-21 record at South Florida was a fluke. So far, the early returns haven't been positive. However, with the roster and league transition, it's unfair to blame Holtz for all of the struggles in 2013.|
|Much like New Mexico State’s Doug Martin, Petrino has a tough job in 2013 with Idaho competing as an FBS Independent. The Vandals managed to give Northern Illinois a fight (45-35), but Petrino’s team lost by 34 to North Texas, 24 to Arkansas State and 32 to Wyoming. Idaho’s only win came against Temple, which gives Petrino a slight edge over Matt Rhule in the midseason new coach grades.|
|Rhule started his tenure with six consecutive defeats, including a disappointing 30-29 loss to FCS opponent Fordham. The Owls broke into the win column with a 33-14 victory over Army on Saturday, and freshman quarterback P.J. Walker is a promising player for Rhule to build around. Temple won only four games last season and was picked near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference for 2013. Rhule didn’t have a total rebuild project on his hands, but he also didn’t inherit a ton of talent to work with.|
|Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for UTEP, ranking third in Conference USA with an average of 31.2 points a game. But stopping opposing offenses has been a real challenge for the Miners, as opponents are scoring 37.7 points a game against Kugler’s team. UTEP’s only win came against New Mexico State, but it has lost two games by a touchdown or less. Quarterback Jameill Showers and freshman running back Aaron Jones are two promising pieces for Kugler to build around for the second half of 2013.|
|This is not an easy job. New Mexico State has only two winning seasons since 1995 and has not won more than four games since 2004. Martin needs time to upgrade the talent and change the culture in Las Cruces and moving to the Sun Belt next year will help. The Aggies lost by 20 or more points in six out of their seven losses, but the schedule lightens in the second half with games against Abilene Christian, Idaho and FAU.|
|Firing Mario Cristobal for Ron Turner is still one of the biggest head-scratchers in recent coaching moves. The Panthers had a lot of roster turnover from last year, and it was expected this team would struggle against its BCS opponents. However, FIU was dominated by FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman, and if it wasn’t for a sloppy effort by Southern Miss, the Golden Panthers would be 0-6. The program is also struggling at the ticket office, as FIU ranks 122nd nationally with an average of 15,492 fans per game.|
|A once-proud program has fallen on hard times. Ellis Johnson was fired after losing all 12 games at Southern Miss last year, and Monken has been forced to clean up the mess. The Golden Eagles were dominated by Boise State, Nebraska, Arkansas and East Carolina and lost by a touchdown or less to Texas State and FIU. Losing to FIU – a team that lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman earlier in the year – was inexcusable. Southern Miss has an 18-game losing streak headed into Week 9.|
|Fleck brought some much-needed enthusiasm and energy to Western Michigan. However, the product on the field hasn’t quite matched the offseason buzz. The Broncos lost a few key players to injury – namely sophomore receiver Jaime Wilson – but are 0-8 and lost to FCS opponent Nicholls State in Week 2. Western Michigan has lost by 20 or more points five times in 2013.|
The beauty of sports, in particular college football, lies in their complete unpredictability and reality TV-like drama. As I predicted last week, ranked SEC teams on the road were in serious danger of being upset, and, sure enough, four of them lost. Here's what might happen in Week 9.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
Three more unbeatens will go down
In each of the last two weeks, at least three previously undefeated teams lost. That could happen again in Week 9. No. 10 Texas Tech goes on the road this weekend to face Oklahoma in its toughest test to date. No. 5 Missouri has to host an angry South Carolina team. No. 3 Oregon has its toughest test to date against UCLA. No. 4 Ohio State hosts Big Ten rival Penn State at home. No. 1 Alabama is facing an arch rival who is showing marked improvement. And No. 17 Fresno State has a tricky road test against San Diego State. There is a very good chance three of the aforementioned unbeatens will lose this weekend (no, it won't be Bama or Ohio State).
Clemson will win by five touchdowns
Tajh Boyd is coming off arguably the worst performance of his career after watching the Seminoles abuse his Tigers in all aspects of the game on Saturday night. So fans should expect to see an angry Boyd and focused Clemson team this weekend on the road against Maryland. The Terps have an injured quarterback in C.J. Brown and lost its top two playmakers for the year last week in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. This was a 45-10 Clemson win in Death Valley last year and fans should expect much of the same this time around.
Marcus Mariota will become the 8th 400-100 player in NCAA history
BYU’s Taysom Hill became just the seventh player in NCAA history to throw for at least 400 yards (417) and rush for at least 100 (128) in the same game against Houston last weekend. Oregon's quarterback could become the eighth this weekend in a much bigger stage against much better competition. Mariota is fifth nationally in total offense (363.4 ypg) and has been electric all season long both through the air (181.72 rating) and on the ground (70.4 rypg). The Bruins just gave up their most yards this fall (419) against Stanford and have never faced the Ducks' outstanding quarterback. With De’Anthony Thomas back on the field, there should be plenty of open space for Mariota.
Baylor will challenge Georgia Tech’s scoring record
The Yellow Jackets famously defeated Cumberland College 222-0 on Oct. 7, 1916. It is the current, single-game NCAA scoring record. But if any team will ever tio challenge the record, or more reasonably, score 100 points for the first time since Houston beat Tulsa 100-6 in 1968, it would be this weekend in Lawrence. Baylor has scored 70 points four times in six games (and 69 points in another contest) and has topped 700 yards of offense in four of those contests. Kansas, who threw for 16 total yards last week against Oklahoma, has allowed 115 points in three Big 12 games this year. Charlie Weis’ squad will have no answer for the Bears on Saturday and don’t be shocked to see a third digit on the scoreboard.
Sean Mannion will throw more than 1 pass against Stanford
After losing the starting job last year to Cody Vaz due to a knee injury, Mannion got to throw one pass in the emotional 27-23 road loss to Stanford. As the nation’s leading passer, it’s safe to assume that Mannion (427.4 ypg) will attempt more than one pass against the Cardinal at home this weekend. He is No. 2 in the nation with 334 attempts, leads the nation in TDs (29) and is No. 2 in completions (229). Stanford better be ready.
Illinois will end its 16-game Big Ten losing streak
The 6-1, 3-0 Michigan State Spartans are coming to town to play Illinois and their on-going, 16-game conference losing streak. Why is this the week the streak comes to an end? Despite showing signs of life, the Spartans' offense returned to normalcy last weekend against lowly Purdue by gaining just 294 yards and managing one touchdown. The Illini were blown out by Wisconsin but still scored 32 points and gained nearly 400 yards against one of the highest-ranked defenses in the Big Ten. Look for Tim Beckman and Nathan Scheelhaase to have a signature moment at home this weekend.
Someone will win the Kentucky-Mississippi State game
Yes, I know, it’s far fetched, but true. Someone will actually have to win the Kentucky-Mississippi State Thursday night game. The Wildcats have lost four straight overall and 11 straight SEC games while the Bulldogs have lost six of their last seven conference games. So these two are a combined 1-13 in their last 14 SEC games with the only win coming against Arkansas. State has won four straight in the series overall against the Wildcats.
With the first release of the BCS standings, the debate over who should play in the national championship has already started.
Alabama is a clear No. 1 in the BCS standings, but Florida State and Oregon aren’t separated by much for the No. 2 spot. The Seminoles are No. 2 after destroying Clemson 51-14 last Saturday, but the Ducks have ground to gain in the computer polls.
A lot can happen in college football over the next seven weeks, so it’s no guarantee the Seminoles and Ducks finish unbeaten. However, if those two teams and Alabama have a perfect record in December, it will be an intriguing debate to see who plays in Pasadena in early January.
Oregon or Florida State: Which Team Should be Ranked No. 2 Behind Alabama?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I would give a slight edge to Florida State for the No. 2 spot – for now. The Seminoles’ win over Clemson on Saturday was the most-convincing victory over a top-10 team so far this year. Florida State is no longer rebuilding when personnel departs for the NFL, as the Seminoles have better depth than at any point under coach Jimbo Fisher. Quarterback Jameis Winston is outstanding, but the defense deserves some credit, especially with a new coordinator and seven new starters stepping into the lineup this year. If you throw out the FCS opponents both teams have played, Florida State’s opponents have a tougher win/loss record 21-12 to 18-24 for Oregon. However, the upcoming schedule favors the Ducks, as Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA should all be ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation when they play Oregon. The Seminoles still have to play Miami and could rematch against the Hurricanes or face Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, but there’s not another likely top-25 matchup, and rival Florida is struggling just to get bowl eligible. I’m not a huge fan of the playoff, but it would be a shame to see Florida State or Oregon get left out of the picture if both finish unbeaten this year. As I mentioned previously, the edge at No. 2 for now needs to go to Florida State. But at the end of the year, if both teams are unbeaten, the resume favors the Ducks.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Right now, it’s understandable that Florida State is No. 2 in the BCS, and a great debate could be had as to which team is more talented, better coached, etc. But if both teams run the table and win their conference championships, then the Oregon Ducks deserve to be ahead of the Seminoles in the final standings. The Ducks play a dramatically more difficult schedule as games with UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, Utah and Arizona still remain, while Florida State has Miami and a reeling Florida team. The quarterbacks are comparable. The head coaches are comparable. The offensive numbers and margins of victory are comparable. But the strength of schedule is not even close. Oregon went on the road and beat ACC foe Virginia 59-10 in Week 2 and that might be the 11th toughest game the Ducks play this season. Florida State has six "Virginias" on its schedule by the name of Boston College, Wake Forest, Syracuse, NC State, Pitt and Maryland.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I am going to do some major equivocating here. Florida State deserves to be No. 2 right now. However, if both teams remain undefeated, Oregon won’t just have a claim to being No. 2, but a legitimate claim for the top spot. If you’re asking which team is the better one, it’s impossible to know at this point of the season. Certainly, we’ve seen this nucleus at Oregon succeed over a longer period of time than the one at Florida State. I may pick Oregon on a neutral field. That said, Florida State has achieved more this season so far than Oregon. The schedules are comparable, if Florida State’s hasn’t been a bit tougher so far. The Clemson win alone was more impressive than any single win by a title contender against another good team that we’ve seen this season. As much as Jameis Winston deserves accolades, the defense was just as dominant on the road against the Tigers. Oregon was just as dominant against rival Washington on the road, but the Huskies haven’t distinguished themselves since. That said, Oregon over the final five games faces five teams ranked in the top 30 of Jeff Sagarin’s predictor rankings (i.e., the rankings taking margin of victory into account, not the ranking used in the BCS). Florida State faces three of those teams all year. Provided every possible undefeated team stays that way at the end of the year, Oregon deserves that No. 1 spot as much as any ... just not No. 2 as of Oct. 23.
No team was more impressive this past weekend in college football than Florida State. The Seminoles, behind redshirt freshman sensation Jameis Winston, completely and utterly dominated the then-No. 3 ranked Tigers in Death Valley. That said, I would still side with Oregon for the No. 2 position behind Alabama because the Ducks have been just as dominant as the 'Noles, and I think, the Pac-12 conference, top-to-bottom, is better when compared to the ACC this season. As good as Jimbo Fisher's team looked this past Saturday, they got a bit of a scare at Boston College a few weeks ago, eventually pulling away in the second half for a 48-34 win. Oregon's smallest margin of victory so far has been a 21-point win at then-No. 16 Washington. There are a lot of similarities between both of these teams (Heisman-contending, dual-threat quarterbacks, explosive offenses, solid, all-around defenses), so I don't think you can go wrong with either team at No. 2. Still, if I had to cast my vote, I would take Mark Helfrich and his high-flying Ducks.
This preview and more on Wisconsin and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 22 Wisconsin Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (12-6 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Bo Ryan (291-113 at Wisconsin)
Big Ten projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Dekker called a 57–46 loss to Ole Miss a “bulletin-board game” for the returning Badgers entering the offseason. But his spirits picked up considerably during the summer when he’d walk into the Kohl Center and see several of his teammates — even the newcomers — already hard at work. “We just have a really, really hard-working bunch that’s not going to back down from much at all,” Dekker says.
UW’s roster includes six freshmen and two returning players who missed last season due to injuries. To help get the Badgers up to speed as quickly as possible, Ryan scheduled a series of five exhibition games in Canada in August. The trip allowed UW to hold 10 additional practices over the summer.
The Badgers must replace all three starters. While center Jared Berggren and forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz had their share of struggles on offense in 2012-13, they were solid rebounders and the leaders of a defense that statistically was among the best during Ryan’s successful run at UW. Junior Frank Kaminsky, a reserve during his first two seasons, will be expected to take over at center for Berggren, the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots. Kaminsky can stretch defenses with his ability to knock down shots from 3-point range, but he needs to be stronger around the rim on both ends of the court.
Dekker will move into a starting — and perhaps starring — role after being a sparkplug off the bench during his first season with the Badgers. The dynamic forward averaged 9.6 points per game, the most by a UW freshman since Alando Tucker’s 12.0 in 2002-03.
Finding a third starter and some depth in the post will likely be Ryan’s biggest challenge heading into the season. Junior forward Duje Dukan, who redshirted last season after dealing with a bout of mononucleosis during the preseason conditioning session, senior forward Zach Bohannon and junior center Evan Anderson have to prove they’re ready for expanded roles. UW likely will need Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes to make significant contributions as freshmen. If Brown and Hayes can earn Ryan’s trust as defenders, one of them could find a place in the starting lineup.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
The Badgers return four guards with starting experience. Junior Josh Gasser started 66 games at shooting guard during his first two seasons and was ready to take over as the Badgers’ point guard in 2012-13 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in late October. Gasser, who makes good decisions, shoots well from 3-point range and is a great defender, expects to be back in time for the 2013-14 opener.
Senior Ben Brust averaged a team-high 11.1 points per game in his first season as a starter. After being mostly a spot-up shooter during the first half of his career, Brust became a more complete player and was arguably UW’s most valuable asset a year ago.
George Marshall replaced Gasser at point guard to start the season, but he was replaced after six games by Traevon Jackson. Jackson, a junior, has a knack for making clutch plays in close games, but he needs to improve his shot selection and ball-handling. If Marshall, a sophomore, can overcome confidence issues, he can help the Badgers on offense because he’s quick enough to get to the rim and has a nice shooting stroke. Freshman Bronson Koenig, a terrific passer who might be able to help UW score in transition more often, adds to a deep backcourt.
UW went into Ohio to land a pair of athletic forwards in Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes, who should battle for playing time in the Badgers’ depleted frontcourt. Bronson Koenig is a flashy point guard who will be tough to keep off the floor. Riley Dearring is a good shooter but probably needs a redshirt season to add muscle to his thin frame. Redshirting might also be the best option for Jordan Hill, who is a tenacious defender but needs to work on his offensive game.
Wisconsin has finished no worse than fourth place in the Big Ten in each of Bo Ryan’s 12 seasons. The Badgers finished fourth or better only three times in the 34 seasons prior to Ryan taking over the program.
UW finished with its lowest field goal, free throw and 3-point shooting averages in Ryan’s 12 seasons but still finished with seven victories over teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. The Badgers should be better offensively with Dekker becoming the team’s go-to scorer, but UW’s success — and Dekker’s mood heading into the next offseason — will depend on how much Kaminsky and others step up in the frontcourt.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
25. Wichita State
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the lone undefeated Kansas City Chiefs to the still-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Chiefs (7-0) Brian Cushing has “respect” for Jamaal Charles.
2. Colts (5-2) Lose Reggie Wayne (ACL) for year in win vs. Broncos.
3. Broncos (6-1) Peyton Manning loses homecoming in Indianapolis.
4. Saints (5-1) Status of injured Jimmy Graham (foot) uncertain.
5. Seahawks (6-1) Defense swarms Arizona with seven sacks, two INTs.
6. 49ers (5-2) Colin Kaepernick sprints to fourth straight victory.
7. Packers (4-2) Jermichael Finley “walking” after scary neck injury.
8. Jets (4-3) Nick Folk misses from 56, hits from 42 to beat Pats.
9. Patriots (5-2) Unsportsmanlike conduct flag gives Jets new life.
10. Bengals (5-2) Mike Nugent hits last-second 54-yard game-winner.
11. Lions (4-3) Megatron highlight-reel 50-yard TD highlights loss.
12. Cowboys (4-3) DeMarcus Ware (quadriceps) misses first game ever.
13. Eagles (3-4) Nick Foles leaves loss to Cowboys with concussion.
14. Falcons (2-4) Harry Douglas steps up for Julio Jones, Roddy White.
15. Redskins (2-4) Brandon Meriweather suspended for illegal hitting.
16. Bears (4-3) Jay Cutler (groin), Lance Briggs (shoulder) injured.
17. Titans (3-4) Return man Darius Reynaud cut after latest muff.
18. Chargers (4-3) Own time-of-possession (37:30-to-22:30) vs. Jags.
19. Steelers (2-4) Big Ben earns 28th fourth-quarter comeback win.
20. Ravens (3-4) After hip injury, Ray Rice says he’s got “burst back.”
21. Panthers (3-3) Captain Munnerlyn has pick-six on game’s first play.
22. Rams (3-4) Auditioning QBs after Sam Bradford’s ACL injury.
23. Cardinals (3-4) Carson Palmer has thrown 11 INTs in last five games.
24. Texans (2-5) Brian Cushing suffers broken fibula, torn LCL in loss.
25. Bills (3-4) Snap six-game road losing streak with win in Miami.
26. Dolphins (3-3) Trade conditional ’14 draft pick for Bryant McKinnie.
27. Raiders (2-4) Terrelle Pryor works with QB guru Tom House on bye.
28. Browns (3-4) Brandon Weeden on hot seat after latest struggles.
29. Giants (1-6) Eli Manning throws zero INTs for first time this year.
30. Vikings (1-5) Josh Freeman not ready for prime time on MNF.
31. Buccaneers (0-6) Debate over Doug Martin labrum injury continues.
32. Jaguars (0-7) Have lost every game this season by double digits.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
The heir to the horseshoe throne in Indy, Luck spoiled Peyton Manning’s homecoming in prime time on Sunday night. The second-year phenom passed for 228 yards, three TDs and zero INTs, while scrambling for 29 yards and one TD on the ground during a 39–33 victory over the Broncos, snapping Denver’s 17-game regular-season winning streak. The Colts bounced back from a Week 6 loss at San Diego and have not lost consecutive games since Luck took over for Manning under center at Lucas Oil Stadium last season.
Tamba Hali, LB, Chiefs
Kansas City’s defense terrorized Houston in a 17–16 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. Hali led the way with 2.5 sacks for 29 lost yards as well as a pair of forced fumbles — the second of which was recovered by linebacker Derrick Johnson late in the fourth quarter to seal the Chiefs’ win. With a 7–0 start, Kansas City has all but assured its first trip to the playoffs since 2010. Of the 31 teams to start 7–0 in the Super Bowl era, all 31 made the playoffs, 15 advanced to Super Sunday and nine raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
In an epic battle of arguably the league’s top two wide receivers, Green had the last laugh against the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, winning 27–24 at Detroit. Green posted six catches for 155 yards (25.8 ypc) and an 82-yard TD, while Megatron finished with nine catches for an identical 155 yards (17.2 ypc) and two trips to the end zone. After the game, the duo exchanged jerseys as a sign of mutual respect.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
Sure it was against the winless Jaguars, but Mathews had one of his better days as a pro during a 24–6 road win at Jacksonville — which came on short rest following a Monday night win over the Colts last week. The fourth-year back out of Fresno State had 21 carries for a Week 7-best 110 yards and one TD, his first rushing score since Oct. 7 last season.
The Jimmie Johnson-Matt Kenseth battle atop the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings takes an interesting turn this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson and his No. 48 team were dominant in the last 13 races (spanning the entire CoT era and the first Martinsville race of the Gen-6’s existence), winning six times, most recently the 2013 spring race, and finishing inside the top five 10 times. Without much thought, it’s easy to cede this fight to Johnson.
Kenseth might be in better shape than a first impression suggests, though.
While it’s true that Kenseth’s past efforts at Martinsville look rather ordinary — his Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at Martinsville ranks a humdrum 14th out of 49 drivers with four or more starts — compared to Johnson’s Superman-like record, it is Kenseth’s ride, not his past production, that should garner the attention.
Does the fact that Kenseth, who now drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, a winner of four Martinsville races since 2007, matter?
15.2 The average finish of all Roush Fenway Racing drivers in Martinsville races dating back to 2011 is 15.2. The average for all JGR drivers in that span is 15.29, an almost identical tally.
Martinsville, as tracks a mile and under typically do, highlight a driver’s ability at that specific track more than most other facilities in the sport. Johnson is an inherently good Martinsville driver. Ditto for the likes of Denny Hamlin (ranks second in PEER) and Jeff Gordon (third). Their results are straightforward and in many cases at Martinsville, the car takes on the persona of the driver, which is why JGR’s big swings and misses by the likes of Hamlin and Kyle Busch, two aggression aficionados, affected their average result the last three years. The more balanced race-to-race nature of Kenseth and Greg Biffle at Roush wasn’t studly, but was certainly steady in past Martinsville events.
Still, Kenseth might feel the need to take a more aggressive approach this time out, considering what occurred in the spring at Martinsville.
92.556 MPH Kenseth’s 92.556 mph average was the fifth-best average green-flag speed in the April race at Martinsville, his first there in JGR equipment.
Of the eight fastest drivers in that race, per average green-flag speed, Kenseth was the only one who failed to finish in the top eight (he earned a 14th-place result), meaning the potential for a better finish existed.
Another reason why that miles-per-hour mark and the high ranking are so important is that his average green-flag speed ranking in the four Martinsville races prior to April’s event was 17th. Though organization-wide results might not indicate it, Kenseth’s JGR entry is a much faster Martinsville piece than the one to which he grew accustomed at Roush.
53.85% Kurt Busch has finished in the top half of fields at Martinsville in just seven of the last 13 races (53.85 percent of the time).
Busch is bad at Martinsville. He and his Furniture Row Racing team admitted as much, using one of their allocated testing days there earlier this month. Just how bad is Busch on “The Paperclip?” In the CoT/Gen-6 era, he hasn’t finished higher than 12th there (he holds a 23.2-place average finish during that time frame) and scored a single-digit average running position (ninth) just once. In terms of PEER, he ranks 48th out of 49 drivers ahead of just David Stremme. In the past, the place used to play host to some of Busch’s more fervent mid-race meltdowns, but the proactive decision to test could alleviate some of the typical headaches. A strong run this weekend by him would amount to an impressive exorcism of his personal mental block with the track.
7.8 With Richard Petty Motorsports’ release of crew chief Todd Parrott, the most consistent top-20 team in the Cup Series (per its 7.8 finish deviation and 17.2-place average finish) has been officially broken up.
Aric Almirola’s No. 43 team wasn’t mighty with Parrott at the helm, but was dependable, ranking fifth in relevance percentage (finishes inside the top half of fields) this season before Parrott’s suspension for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. The release of Parrott, announced Tuesday morning, is a blow to Almirola’s development and the team’s progression considering the mammoth strides the team made when Parrott was assigned the lead role prior to the 2012 Chase. Greg Ebert, the car chief under Parrott, will assume the role of crew chief beginning with this weekend’s race.
65.52% Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the best closer in NASCAR per NASCAR’s closer ratings; however the No. 88 team’s base retainment percentage at the finish of races is 65.52 percent, which ranks 24th among full-time Cup teams.
How does such a discrepancy exist? When Earnhardt gains positions, he really gains; his plus-12.9 percent gain in the final 10 percent of races is a series best. Whether he retains or gains position from each race’s 90-percent mark is of greater concern. Relative to the rest of the series, he is a below average late-race position retainer. Once his late-race defense improves, that closer number will directly lead to improved production, team results and, inevitably, point standings finishes.
David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.
Gearing up for another busy week of college football action...
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College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, October 22nd
Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram will miss the rest of the season after ankle surgery.
Louisville plans to keep assistant Clint Hurtt, despite his inclusion in the NCAA's report against Miami.
Lost Lettermen takes a look at the five worst fanbases in college football.
Georgia could be getting a few key players healthy for the matchup against Florida in two weeks.
There could be 40 bowl games in 2014 and a new one is popping up in Miami.
Will it be Baker Mayfield or Davis Webb under center for Texas Tech this week?
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the rest of the year due to a knee injury.
Texas quarterback David Ash has been ruled out of Saturday's game against TCU as he continues to recover from a concussion.
Virginia coach Mike London received the vote of confidence from his athletic director.
Michigan offensive lineman Joey Burzynski will miss the rest of the year due to a torn ACL.
Tulsa may change quarterbacks this week, as Cody Green is dealing with an injury.
Two big developments off the field have us talking NCAA and BCS, but we quickly get back to the games at hand during Week 9.
• Four years since Miami began its internal investigation and two years since Yahoo’s story on Nevin Shapiro, the Hurricanes finally had their day with the NCAA. Braden Gall and David Fox discuss if the punishment was what they expected and what happens forward.
• Florida State moved ahead of Oregon for the first BCS rankings, but who really deserves a championship spot if both are undefeated? And why was Ohio State the big loser in all of this (and why the Buckeyes may still be a big winner).
• The Pac-12 vs. SEC debate for top conference gets a run. One host unequivocally says the Pac-12 is better this year while another is an SEC holdout.
• Missouri’s rise continues to surprise, but the Tigers could all but wrap up the SEC East this week.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games. These two teams have proven to be among the best in baseball all season, and this series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire World Series.
Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Neither team hit particularly well in two series dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues.
There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series.
There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series.
Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season.
2013 World Series Schedule
Game 1 Wed., Oct. 23 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Adam Wainwright (19-9) Jon Lester (15-8)
Game 2 Thur., Oct. 24 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Michael Wacha (4-1) John Lackey (10-13)
Game 3 Sat., Oct. 26 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Clay Buchholz (12-1) Joe Kelly (10-5)
Game 4 Sun., Oct. 27 Boston at St. Louis 8:15 Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5) Lance Lynn (15-10)
Game 5 Mon., Oct. 28 Boston at St. Louis 8:07 Fox
Game 6 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
Game 7 Wed., Oct. 30 St. Louis at Boston 8:07 Fox
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ success usually begins at the top with leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. He led the majors with 199 hits, 121 runs and 55 doubles. St. Louis has been without its best RBI man in Allen Craig, out with a foot injury, since early September. He will make his first appearance of this postseason in the World Series, and the Cardinals desperately need an offensive spark.
Veteran Adam Wainwright is still considered the ace, but rookie Michael Wacha has been the best starter in the postseason. Matheny gave Wacha the ball in the Cardinals’ must-win NLDS Game 4 at Pittsburgh. Wacha has allowed just one run in 21 innings, helping him to earn NLCS MVP honors.
The Cardinals began the season with their closer Jason Motte on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. Edward Mujica stepped up and paced the club with 37 saves. He hit a wall in September and crashed and burned. Trevor Rosenthal, with three regular-season saves, has been perfect in the postseason. The Cardinals have a small army of young, power arms at their disposal.
With the return of Craig, the Cardinals’ bench improves dramatically. While Matt Adams has done an admirable job filling in for Craig at first base, his absence leaves Matheny with no hammer off the bench. Craig will likely DH at Boston and come off the bench in St. Louis.
The Cardinals made the fewest errors this season in team history, but that is not the whole story. Range is limited all over the field except in center, and the aging Carlos Beltran is the only outfielder with a good arm. Catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best all-time behind the plate, will be asked to shut down Boston’s running game, which should be a fascinating battle.
Keys to Winning
St. Louis is experienced in the postseason and has a manager that keeps them focused on the game at hand. The Cardinals posted the best average with runners in scoring postion of all-time (.330) during the season. They hit just .192 in that situation against the Pirates in the NLDS, and .349 in the NLCS. They proved to the Pirates and Dodgers that they could win games without a dominant offense. The Cardinals rely on young pitchers in key spots, namely Wacha and Rosenthal. The bullpen in front of Rosenthal will be a factor in this series and could be the Cardinals’ Achilles heel.
Players to Watch
Matheny expects to get two quality starts from both Wainwright and Wacha, and run production from Beltran, who relishes hitting in the postseason. In addition to Beltran, consistent production from Matt Holliday, David Freese and Molina would be huge. And how Rosenthal and other young relievers like Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez respond in clutch situations — especially at Fenway Park — may determine the outcome of the series.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox led the majors in runs and OPS during the regular season, but were stymied by Detroit pitching in the ALCS. Boston is batting just .236 in the postseason and show little resemblance to the potent lineup that took the field all summer. Jacoby Ellsbury has been a threat from the leadoff spot with a .467 OBP and six stolen bases in the postseason. With Ellsbury on base, the lineup revolves around Big Papi, David Ortiz. The bottom of the order has provided very little help in the playoffs.
Clay Buchholz won his first 12 decisions this year, before missing three months with an injury. Both he and Jon Lester have been everything the Red Sox had hoped for in the postseason. John Lackey, no stranger to World Series success, has given the Sox a lift. Jake Peavy hasn’t been sharp and doesn’t have a good history against the Cardinals.
The bullpen has been the strength of the team in the playoffs, led by ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. The pen is deeper than the Cardinals’ relief corps, so the Boston starters shouldn’t feel undue pressure to go deep into games.
Mike Napoli, a catcher-turned-first baseman, will likely come off the bench in Games 3, 4 and 5 in St. Louis. There is an option to put him behind the plate, but he hasn’t caught any games this season. Manager John Farrell can mix and match a few positions, namely left field and third base. Left fielders Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter, and Jonny Gomes, who hits southpaws well, provide Farrell with late-inning options. Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks will share the hot corner most likely.
The Red Sox outfield defense is strong with Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right. In the infield Stephen Drew is a solid shortstop and Dustin Pedroia is one of the best in the business at second. It will be interesting to see how well Ortiz handles himself at first base at St. Louis.
Keys to Winning
The Red Sox are tough to beat at Fenway Park as the Rays and Tigers have found out recently. The ballpark has been magical for the Red Sox this century. The Red Sox must hold serve in the first two games. Boston’s bat slumber better be over because if they don’t wake up, the St. Louis pitchers can dominate. The starting pitching can be inconsistent, especially on the road, so getting quality starts allows the bullpen to take over and slam the door.
Players to Watch
Offensively, Farrell expects the top of the order — Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia and Ortiz — to produce. But what the bottom of the order contributes could be a key to the series. The Cardinals have been susceptible to left-handed pitching, and while the return of the right-handed hitting Craig helps, lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales will be called on to get some clutch outs.
.731 Career slugging percentage for Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals in the postseason. It ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (.744) and Lou Gehrig (.731) among players with at least 150 plate appearances in the postseason.
7 Players on the 2013 St. Louis roster who earned a World Series ring in 2011. An eighth, Adam Wainwright, was injured and did not appear in the 2011 World Series, but played a crucial role as the closer for the 2006 champions.
4 Players on the 2013 Boston roster who earned a World Series ring in 2007.
23 Games won in the NLCS since 2000 for St. Louis. No other National League team has played in that many NLCS games during that time.
28 More wins for Boston in 2013 than in 2012. That was the greatest improvement by any team in the majors this season.
PREDICTION: Boston in 7
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 22.
• It's no-football Tuesday, so here's a cheerleader roundup from this past weekend to tide you over.
• The day of reckoning arrived for Miami — and it ain't that bad. Happiest man on the planet this morning: Al Golden, rewarded for his loyalty to a program operating under a dark cloud. If you're bored and looking for something to read, here's a rundown of the NCAA report.
• So the morning's big losers aren't the Canes. How about the Vikings? Last night's abomination saw more Josh Freeman overthrows (16) than Adrian Peterson carries (13). Nice game plan, fellas.
• Speaking of the Vikings, here's this week's edition of Sorry Your Team Lost.
• College football's five worst fan bases. Don't get mad at me; I'm just the messenger.
• Ballpark jumbotron proposals are lame. Especially when you're Kanye West and you rent out the whole ballpark to do it.
• Interesting number-crunching: College football teams that outscore their basketball colleagues. Not surprisingly, the Ducks lead the way.
• I know baseball's popularity has waned a bit, but six bucks for a World Series ticket?
• The shooting guard with one arm has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Florida. I have a new favorite college player.
• Just when you think it's safe to hate Duke basketball, they go and do something heartwarming. Enjoy.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
After an investigation that spanned over two years, Miami has finally learned its fate from the NCAA in the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
The Division I Committee on Infractions found the university lacked institutional control by failing to monitor a major booster. The report from the NCAA indicates most of the violations occurred over a 10-year period, involving 30 student-athletes.
The Hurricanes won’t have to serve another bowl ban, but the football program will lose three scholarships in each of the next three seasons. The loss of three scholarships during that span isn’t a huge deal, especially since Miami is playing just under 80 players in 2013.
Miami also self-imposed a reduction in contact days in the 2012-13 period by 20 percent, reduced fall evaluations from 42 to 36 and cut paid official visits by 20 percent.
Avoiding a bowl ban in 2013 is significant, especially since Miami ranks No. 7 in the first release of the BCS standings. The Hurricanes are considered the favorite to win the Coastal Division, with a showdown against Virginia Tech looming in early November.
The NCAA decision is also huge for the Hurricanes’ current recruiting class. Miami ranks No. 5 in 247Sports, and there’s plenty of momentum building for this program after the 6-0 start to the season. A significant loss of scholarships or postseason ban could have forced recruits to look at other schools.
Former Miami assistant coaches Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill received two-year show cause penalties. Hill is not coaching on the collegiate level in 2013, but Hurtt is Louisville’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Hurtt ranked as the No. 2 recruiter in the American Athletic Conference by 247Sports last season.
While Miami avoided any additional sanctions, it’s important to note this program did not escape the Nevin Shapiro scandal completely free. The Hurricanes served a two-year bowl ban from 2011-12 and could have played in the ACC Championship last season if they were eligible for the postseason. Losing out on the exposure of the postseason, as well as the money from bowl games was a huge blow to the program.
Miami has recruited two top-15 recruiting classes in the last two years, but considering the uncertainty surrounding this program, it may have played an impact on the Hurricanes’ recruiting efforts.
The NCAA decision is also huge for Miami coach Al Golden. Had the Hurricanes suffered huge scholarship reductions and another postseason ban, it’s possible Golden would have left for another job this offseason. Instead, the New Jersey native should be around in Coral Gables to continue his rebuilding project in 2014.
Miami is not expected to appeal the NCAA’s decision, which closes the book on the two-year investigation into the program.
Miami failed to monitor activities of a major booster, resulting in a decade of violations: http://t.co/cHVrIEuIR0— NCAA (@NCAA) October 22, 2013
The significant self-imposed penalties by Miami were acknowledged & accepted. See the additional penalties here: http://t.co/UouPK5VDIJ— NCAA (@NCAA) October 22, 2013
With six teams on bye in Week 8 and the latest rash of injuries to ravage NFL teams’ rosters, fantasy owners have their work on the waiver cut out for them. On Sunday, Reggie Wayne and Sam Bradford both suffered season-ending injuries, while Doug Martin, Jay Cutler, Nick Foles and Jermichael Finley were among those who weren’t able to finish their games. Roster depth was already going to be tested with Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego and Tennessee on bye, so now what? Have no fear, Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through possible replacement options.
The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Teams on bye in Week 8: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee
Week 7 Recap: Mike Glennon threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s loss in Atlanta on Sunday. He did lose a fumble, but he now has produced at least 22 fantasy points in each of his first two starts. This week’s matchup on Thursday with Carolina won’t be easy, but with so many teams on teams on bye and Jay Cutler, Nick Foles and Sam Bradford all getting hurt on Sunday, Glennon starts to become a little more appealing.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
After throwing for no more than 280 yards in any of first five games and the same number of touchdown passes as interceptions (5 each) in that span, Dalton has been on fire the last two weeks. Against Buffalo and Detroit, Dalton averaged more than 350 yards passing and had six touchdown passes compared to just one interception. This week’s home date with the Jets figures to be tougher than his previous two opponents, but I would rather take my chances with Dalton than some of the other fill-in/injury options that are probably available.
Other possible bye-week replacement QBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at Oakland; Alex Smith, KC vs. Cleveland; Carson Palmer, ARI vs. Atlanta; Ryan Tannehill, MIA at New England; and Geno Smith at Cincinnati
Week 7 Recap: Joseph Randle led the Cowboys with 65 yards rushing on 19 carries and added three catches for 28 yards in his first career NFL start. Chris Ogbonnaya got just four carries (15 yards) had no catches (2 targets) in the Browns’ loss to the Packers. Brandon Jacobs did not play on Monday night for the Giants, which all but destroys any momentum he had following his 106-yard, two-TD effort against the Bears in Week 6. Michael Cox and recently signed Peyton Hillis got the carries for the Giants against the Vikings.
Roy Helu Jr., Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris is clearly the Redskins’ workhorse, but Helu has been getting enough touches to make things interesting. Sunday against Chicago, Helu finished with 11 carries for 41 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scores were from three yards, so has Helu became Washington’s goal-line back? Helu also is more versatile than Morris, as he’s caught at least one pass in every game. Helu is averaging seven touches per contest, but that has risen to 12 over the last three games. If he maintains that pace, he would certainly merit discussion as a flex option.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Ivory was a true workhorse for the Jets on Sunday, carrying the ball 34 times in the overtime win against the Patriots. Ivory finished with 104 yards on the ground, as leading rusher BIlal Powell only got three carries and was a non-factor after the first quarter. Powell did injure his shoulder last week against Pittsburgh, but there were no reports after the game that he had hurt it again. If anything, Ivory certainly needs to be on the radar this week, as he showed he’s capable of handling the load if that’s what is needed.
Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin reportedly tore the labrum in his shoulder in Sunday’s loss, an injury that could result in him missing the rest of the season. At minimum, Martin figures to miss a few games, which means the Buccaneers will turn to James, their sixth-round pick, to carry the load. The rookie picked up 45 yards rushing on 14 carries and three receptions for eight yards against Atlanta. The Bucs host Carolina on Thursday, meaning James’ first career start will be against one of the NFL’s top rushing defenses. But James also should see a starter’s load worth of touches, so while he may just be a flex candidate this week, the opportunity is clearly there for even better production in the weeks ahead.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Steven Jackson is still sidelined because of a hamstring injury, which has meant more work for Rodgers. While he may not gain a lot of yards on the ground, Rodgers is definitely a key part of the Falcons’ passing game, especially with wide receiver Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White dealing with his own injuries. Against Tampa Bay, Rodgers had just 16 yards rushing on eight carries, but he led the team with eight receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Even when Jackson does return, Rodgers will remain a big part of Atlanta’s offensive game plan.
Other possible bye-week replacement RBs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Andre Ellington, ARI vs. Atlanta; Zac Stacy, STL vs. Seattle; and Pierre Thomas, NO vs. Buffalo
Week 7 Recap: Harry Douglas made quite the first impression as the Falcons’ No. 1 wide receiver, catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Jarrett Boykin was equally impressive filling in for Randall Cobb and James Jones, leading the Packers with eight receptions for 103 yards and a score. Michael Floyd got a team-high 10 targets and led the way with 71 yards receiving (on six catches) in the Cardinals’ loss to Seattle. Kris Durham caught five passes for 41 yards, as Calvin Johnson reasserted himself (9-155-2) in a big way following two sub-par games.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis
Heyward-Bey has been maddeningly inconsistent dating back to his days in Oakland, but he’s also looking at increased opportunities with the news that Reggie Wayne is done for the season after tearing his ACL in Sunday night’s big win over Denver. The Colts are on bye this week, but when a player the caliber of Wayne suffers a season-ending injury, owners can’t wait a week to find his replacement. As far as Indianapolis is concerned, that player is Heyward-Bey. He will probably take a back seat to T.Y. Hilton in terms of targets, but Heyward-Bey’s own average of less than five per game should go up quite a bit. Now it’s just a matter of him catching them (18 of 34 this season) and becoming a consistent, reliable receiver.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
There is no question who is the top target on the Bengals, but if Andy Dalton (see above) continues on the tear he’s been on lately than there’s room for someone other than A.J. Green to produce. Jones has caught a touchdown in each of his last two games and is averaging 56 yards over the past three contests. His targets also have gone up during this span, which will be the real key to his fantasy potential moving forward.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
Kerley led the Jets with eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Patriots. He is establishing himself as Geno Smith’s favorite target with an average of nearly eight looks per game over the last three. While it’s hard to trust a rookie QB like Smith, who has had as many ups as downs in his first season, Kerley’s position atop the pecking order in the Jets’ passing game is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
Rice opened the season with two touchdowns against Jacksonville and then followed that up with a total of two catches in his next two games. He has averaged just four targets over his last three contests, but he did catch another TD pass from Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ Thursday night win over Arizona. Golden Tate is probably the closest thing to a No. 1 wide receiver that Seattle has, but that doesn’t mean Rice should be completely ignored, especially with the rash of recent WR injuries. The Seahawks also have an appealing slate (at STL, TB, at ATL, MIN) leading up to their bye in Week 12, which could translate into more opportunities for Wilson to air it out.
Other possible bye-week replacement WRs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Brian Hartline, MIA at New England; Terrance Williams, DAL at Detroit; Rueben Randle, NYG at Philadelphia; Robert Woods, BUF at New Orleans; Emmanuel Sanders, PIT at Oakland; Brandon LaFell, CAR at Tampa Bay
Week 7 Recap: Joseph Fauria was targeted four times on Sunday, but caught just one of them for 15 yards. Timothy Wright was a little more sure-handed (2 receptions on 3 targets), but also finished with just 15 yards receiving, as Mike Glennon looked mostly for his wide receivers in Tampa Bay’s loss to Atlanta.
Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers
Jermichael Finley left Sunday’s game on a stretcher after getting a big hit and was hospitalized overnight as a result. While it’s early in the week, it’s likely that Finley will miss at least one game, if not more. Quarless, who has a total of four receptions on the season, will take over at tight end in Finley’s absence. While his production leaves something to be desired, this is still an important position, as the Packers are already without wide receiver Randall Cobb and James Jones missed Sunday’s game because of a shin/leg injury. Six teams are on bye this week (and next week for that matter), and at least you know that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t mind throwing to his tight end.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed was first mentioned in this space back in Week 3, but after Sunday’s effort, he earned the right for some more exposure. Reed was Robert Griffin III’s favorite target in the Redskins’ win over the Bears, catching nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Reed has replaced Fred Davis as the primary tight end and he has averaged six receptions and 81 yards receiving over his past three. Reed is now a top-15 fantasy TE on the season. Do I need to say any more?
Other possible bye-week replacement TEs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
Heath Miller, PIT at Oakland; Jeff Cumberland, NYJ at Cincinnati; Jermaine Gresham, CIN vs. New York Jets; Tyler Eifert, CIN vs. New York Jets;
Week 7 Recap: St. Louis gave up 24 points to Carolina and sacked Cam Newton just twice in the 30-15 loss. The Rams did have a safety, which is the only highlight of their disappointing fantasy outing.
New York Jets
The Jets are fourth in the NFL in total defense and second only to Denver in rushing defense. Rex Ryan’s bunch beat the Patriots on Sunday, holding Tom Brady in check for the second game this season. The Jets are getting to the quarterback (24) and don’t lack for playmakers on defense. The only drawback to the Jets DST from a fantasy standpoint is the unit isn’t generating any turnovers. The unit has a total of four takeaways in seven games, which makes New York’s statistical performance even more impressive. Either way, I certainly think this is a DST that should be owned in more than just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Other possible bye-week replacement DSTs less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues:
New Orleans vs. Buffalo; Green Bay at Minnesota; Atlanta at Arizona;
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
With eight weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear.
Florida State’s dominating victory over Clemson placed the Seminoles squarely in the national championship mix. Florida State ranks No. 2 in the first release of the BCS standings, but the Seminoles will have to contend with Oregon, who has room to move in the computer polls.
For now, we project the Ducks to pass the Seminoles for the No. 2 spot and play Alabama for the national championship. However, as Week 8 showed us, nothing in college football is guaranteed and another upset or two this year wouldn’t be a surprise.
Even though Clemson was dominated by Florida State, the Tigers are still in good shape to play for a BCS bowl. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in its next four games, with the season finale at South Carolina a tossup.
Missouri is projected as the second SEC team in a BCS bowl, but don’t count out South Carolina, LSU or Texas A&M.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 8 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first eight weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, Minnesota, NC State, Utah and North Carolina from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Toledo and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Wyoming vs. Arizona|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Colorado State|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Washington|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. North Texas|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Indiana|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Notre Dame* vs. Boise State|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||ECU vs. B. College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. Iowa|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. K-State|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Cincinnati vs. Ga. Tech|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Va. Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Okla. State vs. Michigan|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||SDSU vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Duke vs. Ole Miss|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Oklahoma|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Maryland vs. Vanderbilt|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Pitt vs. Oregon State|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. So. Carolina|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Michigan State|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Rice vs. N'Western|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Auburn vs. Nebraska|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Missouri vs. Clemson|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Texas|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Florida State vs. UCF|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Florida vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. WKU|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know From Week 8
ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
BCS Post-Week 8 Analysis
A rookie quarterback is quickly establishing himself as a star in a massive media market. An embattled Lone Star gunslinger may finally be winning over his fan base. The next generation in Indianapolis showed the old generation how it’s done. A former Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick is lost for the year — for the third time in his career. And a few NFL records highlight an exciting Week 7 weekend of action.
With that in mind, here are the most important, interesting, historic and bizarre statistics from Week 7 of the NFL:
27,485: Tony Romo's NFL record for passing yards in first 100 career games
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo might be the most maligned player in the NFL and it has bordered on inappropriate at times. Romo made his 100th career start this weekend in Philadelphia and passed for 317 yards in the 17-3 critical road divisional game. Romo has passed for 27,485 yards in those 100 starts, setting an NFL record for the most passing yards by a player in his first 100 career starts. Dallas sits one game up in the NFC East.
17-1: 49ers', Seahawks' and Broncos' combined record against teams other than the Colts
Andrew Luck accounted for four total touchdowns as the Colts knocked off the previously unbeaten Broncos in Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. Luck has now led his team to wins over San Francisco in Week 3, Seattle in Week 5 and Denver on Sunday night. Luck accounted for seven total touchdowns and no turnovers in those three wins as his Colts sit two games ahead in the AFC South. What’s more impressive, the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos are a combined 17-1 against all other teams not named the Colts.
2: Players to ever top 100 yards from scrimmage and score a TD in the first 7 games of a season
Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles rushed for 86 yards , posted 37 yards receiving and scored a touchdown in the Chiefs win over Houston. Charles has topped 100 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in each of the first seven games in this season. He is just the second player in NFL history to accomplish this feat. O.J. Simpson is the only other player to top 100 yards from scrimmage and score a touchdown in each of his team’s first seven games when he did it in 1975 for the Bills. Charles has rushed for 561 yards and caught 36 passes for 337 yards with eight total touchdowns in seven games.
25: Games Sam Bradford will have missed over the last five season by the end of 2013
Few players are as unlucky or injury-prone as the Rams' Sam Bradford. He tore his ACL this weekend in the 30-15 loss to Carolina on the road and will be lost for the rest of the season. Bradford will miss the final nine games of the season and it will give him 25 missed starts over the last five seasons, dating back to his final collegiate campaign. In 2009, his final year at Oklahoma, Bradford missed 10 of the Sooners' 13 games with a major shoulder injury after winning the Heisman Trophy the previous year. Then in 2011, Bradford missed six games due a serious high ankle sprain. And now, he will miss nine more games in 2013. By the year’s end, Bradford will have missed 25 of his last 77 starts.
4: Geno Smith's game-winning, fourth-quarter or overtime drives
The second-round pick from West Virginia has had his ups and downs in his brief NFL career. But it’s safe to say the rookie is comfortable in the waning moments of games. On Sunday, the Jets' quarterback threw for 233 yards, scored two touchdowns and led his team on the game-winning drive in overtime over Tom Brady and the Patriots. Smith has now led four game-winning, fourth-quarter or overtime drives in his first seven starts — becoming the first player to accomplish the feat since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
20: Devin Hester's NFL record for career return touchdowns
The great Hall of Famer Deion Sanders returned an NFL record 19 punts and kicks for touchdowns in his illustrious 13-year career. Hester returned a punt 81 yards in the Bears shootout loss to Washington this weekend, giving him 20 return touchdowns for his career. He also extended his own NFL record with 13 punt-return touchdowns. This is just Hester’s eighth NFL season and he could easily put the record out of reach with a few more big plays. Especially, considering the direction the league is heading when it comes to kickoff returns.
158: Jay Cutler’s Bears franchise record for being sacked
Jim Harbaugh played for the Bears 1987-93 and was sacked 157 times. Jay Cutler came into this weekend’s game with the Redskins tied with Harbaugh as the most sacked quarterback in Chicago franchise history. In the second quarter, Washington sacked Cutler to move him past Harbuargh in this dubious distinction. But it also was a costly sack for the team, as Cutler left the game with a groin injury and will be out at least four weeks while it heals. Washington won 45-41 as the Bears dropped to 4-3 and into a second-place tie in the NFC North with Detroit.
11: Points scored at home by Jacksonville this year
The Jaguars are 0-7 on the season and 0-3 at home after losing 24-6 to San Diego this weekend. Jacksonville scored two points in the 28-2 loss to Kansas City in Week 1, scored just three points against Indianapolis in Week 4 and then six points against the Chargers. That’s a safety and three field goals in three games at home this fall with a combined 89-11 margin of defeat for the fans in Jacksonville.
3-8: Texans' record in their last 11 regular-season games
Case Keenum started this weekend in place of the injured Matt Schaub against the unbeaten Chiefs on the road. The Texans fought hard but lost, mustering just three points in the second half in Arrowhead Stadium. It was Houston’s fifth consecutive loss this season and its eighth overall in the regular season during a stretch that goes back to Week 14 of last season. After starting the 2012 season 11-1, the Texans dropped three of their last four to end the season and sit at 2-5 in 2013 ahead of only Jacksonville in the AFC South.
The coaching carousel was quiet once again in Week 8. USC, Miami (Ohio) and Connecticut are the only three openings, but more jobs will open over the next few weeks. And the carousel will only get more active if jobs like Texas open, especially as coaches at other BCS programs look to move to Austin.
Virginia’s Mike London has been on a quick rise through the hot seat ranks over the last few weeks. The Cavaliers went 4-8 last season and are off to a sluggish 2-5 start – with one win over VMI – in 2013. London received a vote of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage last week, but can the fourth-year coach return if Virginia finishes 2-10?
Another coach on the rise is Florida’s Will Muschamp. Take out last season’s 11-2 record, and the Gators are just 11-9 under Muschamp’s watch. The offense has been hit hard by injuries, but Florida recruits at too high of a level for this unit to struggle as much as it has through the first seven games. If this offense continues to struggle, will Muschamp be forced to make staff changes?
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-6||EMU's struggling defense gets NIU next week.|
|2||Mike London||2-5||Cavs likely headed for 2-10 finish.|
|3||Charlie Weis||2-4||Jayhawks passed for just 16 yards against Oklahoma.|
|4||Mack Brown||4-2||QB David Ash still out for Longhorns.|
|5||Norm Chow||0-6||Hawaii is 1-11 in conference play under Chow.|
|6||Ron Turner||1-5||La. Tech is winnable game for FIU this week.|
|7||Dana Holgorsen||3-4||WVU in danger of missing out on bowl.|
|8||Charley Molnar||1-6||Minutemen have scored only 55 points in 2013.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-5||Chippewas have favorable November schedule.|
|10||P.J. Fleck||0-8||WMU an underdog to UMass this week.|
|11||Bo Pelini||5-1||QB Taylor Martinez should return this Saturday.|
|12||Bobby Hauck||4-3||Rebels still have chance to make a bowl.|
|13||Tim Beckman||3-3||Fighting Illini 0-10 in Big Ten play under Beckman.|
|15||Skip Holtz||2-5||Has scored 20 or more points just twice this year.|
|16||Todd Monken||0-6||USM riding 18-game losing streak.|
|17||Matt Rhule||1-6||Freshman QB P.J. Walker is a promising player.|
|18||Sean Kugler||1-5||UTEP's only win in 2013 was New Mexico State.|
|19||June Jones||2-4||Can the Mustangs rally for a bowl?|
|20||Rich Ellerson||3-5||Very little margin for error to make bowl this season.|
|23||Dan Mullen||3-3||Bulldogs still have to play three ranked opponents.|
|24||Randy Edsall||5-2||Terrapins decimated by injuries on offense.|
|25||Jim Grobe||4-3||Wake quietly improving after slow start.|
|26||Kevin Wilson||3-4||Hoosiers struggling mightily on defense.|
|28||Kirk Ferentz||4-3||Hawkeyes gave Ohio State all it could handle.|
|29||Jeff Quinn||5-2||Bulls riding five-game winning streak.|
|33||Bill Blankenship||2-4||Can Tulsa rally to make a bowl?|
|36||Terry Bowden||2-6||Zips two wins in 2013 equals the total from 2011-12.|
|37||Dave Christensen||4-3||Lost Border War rivalry to Colorado State by 30 points.|
|38||Larry Fedora||1-5||UNC not out of bowl picture just yet.|
|42||Will Muschamp||4-3||Gators' offense a disaster.|
|45||Brian Polian||3-4||Boilermakers could finish 1-11 this year.|
|47||Scott Shafer||3-4||Awful performance for Syracuse against Georgia Tech.|
|49||Sonny Dykes||1-6||Injuries adding up for Bears.|
|58||Trent Miles||0-7||GSU showing improvement in last two games.|
|62||George O'Leary||5-1||Knights projected to play in BCS bowl.|
|83||Mark Helfrich||7-0||Ducks in good shape to play for national title.|
|93||Jimbo Fisher||6-0||FSU is really back this time.|
|94||Gus Malzahn||6-1||Malzahn could be national coach of the year.|
|115||Charlie Strong||6-1||Louisville needs a lot of help to win conference title.|
|117||Chris Petersen||5-2||Broncos lost QB Joe Southwick in win over Nevada.|
|118||David Shaw||5-1||Stanford back on track after win over UCLA.|
|120||Art Briles||6-0||Baylor clearly the favorite in the Big 12.|
|NR||Mike Bath||0-2||RedHawks 0-2 under Bath.|
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