Articles By All
Ohio State assistant strength and conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel recorded one of the top plays (and hits) of Week 5 by leveling a fan that ran onto the field during Saturday night’s win over Cincinnati.
Schlegel – a former linebacker at Ohio State – bodyslammed the fan that ran onto the field and promptly escorted him off after the hit.
Best tackle of the weekend?
The only reason we won’t say Todd Gurley delivered his signature performance of the season against Tennessee is because it’s impossible to put limitations on the Georgia running back.
What can be said is that Gurley delivered a career-high 208 rushing yards on 28 carries in a hotly contested 35-32 win over Tennessee.
Gurley provided plenty of highlights, not least of which this hurdling of a Tennessee defender:
Gurley had plenty of big plays, including a 51-yard touchdown and two other runs of 20-plus yards, but one of his most impressive runs may have been when he fought for extra yards on fourth-and-3 to convert the first down and seal the game with 40 seconds remaining.
For now, let the memes begin:
Each week, Geoffrey Miller's "Five Things to Watch" will help you catch up on the biggest stories on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' upcoming race weekend. This week, the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup hits its first elimination race at Dover International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson's chance to shine, conservative race strategy, Joey Logano's contract extension and Kasey Kahne's season on a brink highlight the storylines heading into the AAA 500.
Dover will welcome Jimmie Johnson to the Chase spotlight
Jimmie Johnson’s social media channels have proudly staked a claim to Dover International Speedway this week. On Facebook and Twitter, they tout that Dover is just another Johnson abode.
They aren’t wrong.
It’s been seven years since Johnson failed to lead a lap at Dover, and he’s won there six times since 2009. Even the pace car is jealous of how often Johnson leads laps at the one-mile track.
And so, after a far-from-spotlight run in the first two races in the Chase, it won’t be surprising for Johnson to break out Sunday with a win that earns him advancement in the Chase and plenty of “Here comes Jimmie” stories.
It should be expected, really. That’s the kind of thing that just happens when Dover, Jimmie Johnson and the Chase are lumped together in the same weekend.
For most teams, conservative race strategy will pay off
Netting a win in the regular season meant automatic advancement to the NASCAR postseason, putting bold strategy in the forefront of every crew chief’s mind if the time was right. But now, in this survive-and-advance Chase process, conservative play calling seems like the best strategy to get past the first round.
That was on display last week at New Hampshire. Joey Logano won the race largely because he had fresher tires than many of competitors down the stretch — a fruit of risking lost track position on a four-tire pit stop. Kurt Busch lost out on at least six and possibly 10-14 points because his team gambled that a fender rub wouldn’t cut a tire.
The tire blew and Busch smacked the wall, finishing 25 laps down in 36th.
Sunday at Dover should largely be the same thing, if only considering averages that four of the 16 drivers eligible to advance will likely hit trouble during the race. You could argue, too, that the drivers that we can expect to struggle are already sitting toward the bottom of the Chase point standings — meaning those in the middle and top have even less to worry about.
Dover should be mostly about scoring safe points, and not maximum points. We’ll see what teams take that strategy — and those who risk boldly.
Maybe even too boldly.
Chase advancement scenarios for all 16 drivers
The majority of drivers in this edition of the Chase stand to leave Dover still alive in this NASCAR championship experiment. But after the tumultuous second half of last Sunday’s 303-lapper at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, many will feel on edge until the Dover checkered flag.
Fortunately, every driver has a way of guaranteeing advancement (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano already have it locked up thanks to Chase race wins) to the Chase’s second round. Here are those scenarios, according to NASCAR:
• Kevin Harvick: Finish 34th or better; or 35th and at least one lap led; or 36th and most laps led
• Jimmie Johnson: 24th or better; or 25th and at least one lap led; or 26th and most laps led
• Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 21st or better; 22nd and at least one lap led; or 23rd and most laps led
• Jeff Gordon: 14th or better; 15th and at least one lap led; 16th and most laps led
• Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards: 2nd; or 3rd and most laps led
• AJ Allmendinger: 2nd
• Kahne Kahne: 2nd and at least one lap led
• Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola only control their own destiny by winning Sunday at Dover.
Kasey Kahne stands to lose the most with failed advance
There probably won’t be tears, but there might be some tossed driving gloves or a hastily disposed helmet when a driver realizes that his run in the 2014 Chase has come to an end. But beyond that fleeting, in-the-moment emotion, only a few drivers stand to lose much for not advancing in the Chase.
The top of that potential disappointment list would have to be Kasey Kahne.
Kahne, only in the Chase thanks to his last-minute win in the regular season’s next-to-last race, has started the NASCAR postseason in a way very similar to his underwhelming 2014 season as a whole. Kahne has just 52 points in the Chase, good for 11th best among Chase competitors and 17th best in the series as a whole.
Should Kahne fail to advance, his looming contract extension discussions with Hendrick Motorsports may take a hit. He’s only signed through next season in the No. 5 car and is already stuck in an environment as the lowest-performing Hendrick driver with Chase Elliott on the rise in Nationwide and other potential Hendrick targets — Kyle Larson, anyone? — looking more and more attractive to NASCAR’s New York Yankees.
Kahne, who has an average finish of 15.8 in his last five Dover races, guarantees a trip to the second round with a second-place finish.
Joey Logano contract extension sets up Penske Racing for long-term success
It’s been a damn good week for Joey Logano.
The New England native methodically picked off his competitors en route to last week’s win at New Hampshire and secured advancement to the Chase’s second round. Wednesday, his Penske Racing team announced that a new multi-year contract extension had been signed by the 24-year-old driver.
Oh, and the win helped earn him 22 cents off per gallon of gas Wednesday.
But even among all of the good for Logano, things were even better for Penske Racing. With its Sprint Cup driver lineup presumably set for the next several years, Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski have tremendous stability to continue building the team’s speed.
Logano, in his own right, has arguably shaped into one of the sport’s five best current drivers. Consider that dating to last summer — 45 starts — Logano has five wins, 18 top-5s and 28 top-10 finishes. He’s finished worse than 20th just seven times. Those top-5 and top-10 numbers are, percentage-wise, on par with Jimmie Johnson’s career average.
They are the type of numbers that we were told to expect when Logano emerged on the scene as a raw 18-year-old. And they are the type of numbers that will carry Logano’s career in Cup a long, long way.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
Locks of the Week
Betting against the worst teams in the league playing on the road and against first- or second-year quarterbacks is traditionally smart money.
Chargers (-13) vs. Jaguars
Florida’s worst team has been outscored by a league-worst 75 points, while scoring only 44 points (third-worst) so far.
Steelers (-7.5) vs. Buccaneers
Florida’s second-worst team has been outscored by 50 points (second-worst), while scoring only 45 points (fourth-worst) so far.
Falcons (-3) at Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater makes his first career NFL start; the young buck will have to keep pace with the NFL’s No. 1 scoring team (34.3 ppg) in Atlanta.
Lions (-1.5) at Jets
Who knows which Geno Smith will show up in this one? But the J-E-T-S secondary isn’t ready for Megatron, Matt Stafford and the Lions passing attack.
Straight Up Upsets
Shaky quarterback play and a coin toss contest between bitter rivals highlight the underdog picks this week.
Raiders (+4) vs. Dolphins
Miami isn’t sure if Ryan Tannehill is still their guy at QB. Oakland is hoping Derek Carr can pull out his first career NFL victory.
Bears (+1.5) vs. Packers
Aaron Rodgers has a 10–3 record against Chicago. But if you double-check, he had a 9–1 record against Detroit before losing last week.
Stay away from these games unless you are a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on absolutely all the action.
Colts (-7.5) vs. Titans
This could be easy Horseshoe money if Charlie Whitehurst starts in place of Jake Locker.
49ers (-5) vs. Eagles
These two teams (and coaches) are too good to bet against. Don’t ever bet against Jim Harbaugh or Chip Kelly.
Ravens (-3.5) vs. Panthers
Cam Newton could storm Baltimore, a team downward spiraling on and off the field.
Texans (-3) vs. Bills
EJ Manuel was so bad against San Diego last week it makes you want to bet on Ryan Fitzpatrick. But not really.
Saints (-3) at Cowboys
This Sunday night showdown is a Sean Payton homecoming. Why’d the Boys let that guy leave?
Monday Night Moolah
Monday night time is the right time to double-up or double-back on the weekend’s winnings or losings.
Patriots (-3.5) at Chiefs
Tom Brady is 4–1 all-time against Kansas City — but the Chiefs did take out his knee in the 2008 season-opener.
It's Week 5 of the 2014 college fantasy football season, and non-conference play is coming to a close. Who should you start or bench in your lineup this week? TheCFFSite.com's Joe DiSalvo runs down the start or sit options for this Saturday to help you win your league.
Maty Mauk, QB-Missouri at South Carolina
There are only nine teams in the nation allowing more than 300 passing yards per game, and the Gamecocks are one of those nine.
Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU at SMU
Boykin has the pleasure of playing against an SMU defense that is allowing 530 yards per game and an FBS worst 48.7 points per game.
Deshaun Watson, QB-Clemson vs North Carolina
The Deshaun Watson era is now upon us and we like his matchup this week against a reeling North Carolina defense.
Leonard Fournett and Kenny Hilliard, RBs-LSU vs New Mexico State
The Aggies are allowing 299.3 rushing yards per game, and if the Tigers reach that number this week, chances are pretty good that both Fournette and Hilliard will eclipse the 100-yard mark.
Kenneth Dixon, RB-Louisiana Tech at Auburn
Even though the Bulldogs travel to Auburn this week, Dixon should still get a significant amount of carries and the junior running back has scored a touchdown in every game this season.
Alex Collins, RB-Arkansas vs Texas A&M
The Aggies are the only team in the entire FBS that have played four games and not given up a rushing touchdown. We’re expecting that statistic to change this week when the Texas A&M front seven faces their toughest challenge to date.
Malcolm Brown, RB-Texas at Kansas
Brown has not rushed for 70 yards in a game this season, but a Week 5 matchup at Kansas could produce his first 100-yard performance of 2014.
Antwan Goodley, WR-Baylor at Iowa State
Goodley and Corey Coleman return for the Bears this week, which means trouble for opposing defenses. However, their return also presents trouble for fantasy owners when it comes to making roster decisions. When Baylor travels to Iowa State this weekend, Goodley and teammate K.D. Cannon are likely the two best fantasy options at receiver.
Tajae Sharpe, WR-Massachusetts vs Bowling Green
Bowling Green is giving up over 337 yards per game in the air, second-worst in the FBS, and Sharpe is the primary receiving threat for the Minutemen.
Cody Kessler, QB-USC and Sean Mannion, QB-Oregon State
Why did we link these two names together? Well, we have your water cooler stat of the week. Both defense combined are giving up a total of 308 passing yards per game. That’s a combined total! A product of their competition? Maybe. USC did just play a run-heavy offense in Boston College. However, neither team has given up a passing TD in 2014 and both defenses have 5 INTs each. Something has to give this week, but are you willing to take that chance? We did rank Kessler at No. 27, but you may have better options on your roster.
Gunner Kiel, QB-Cincinnati at Ohio State
Kiel has thrown ten TD passes in the Bearcats first two games of 2014 (Toledo and Miami-OH), but this week he’ll face a much better defense in Ohio State, the third-best pass defense in the nation allowing 99.3 passing yards per game.
Terrel Hunt, QB-Syracuse vs Notre Dame
Hunt has accounted for at least 90 rushing yards and totaled six touchdowns in Syracuse’s previous two games. However, a date with Notre Dame this weekend should minimize the potential for a big game. The Irish are only one of two FBS schools that have not given up a rushing touchdown this season.
Marquise Williams, QB-North Carolina at Clemson
We always advise playing a guy when he’s hot, but after last week’s loss to East Carolina, Williams certainly does not meet that requirement, and a road game at Clemson will not make things any easier.
Kareem Hunt, RB-Toledo vs Central Michigan
Hunt has missed the second half in Toledo’s previous two games due to injury, and earlier this week, coach Campbell stated that his sophomore running back looked ‘okay’ in practice. ‘Okay’ isn’t convincing enough for us, and unless we hear more, Hunt should sit this one out.
Dee Hart, RB-Colorado State at Boston College
Hart excited fantasy owners after his Week 1 performance against Colorado, but the Alabama transfer has done very little since then. Fellow running back Treyous Jarrells has been impressive running the ball, too, so continue to expect a RBBC from the Rams.
Marlon Mack, RB-South Florida at Wisconsin
If the game against Wisconsin gets out of hand, expect Mack to lose a significant amount of carries to D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice.
Dominique Brown, RB-Louisville vs Wake Forest
Now that Michael Dwyer is back in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the carries shake out in the Louisville backfield moving forward.
Jacobi Owens, RB-Air Force vs Boise State
Owens has rushed for 431 yards and three TDs in Air Force’s first three games, but this week he will face the nation’s second-best run defense in Boise State (53.5 rypg).
Shaun Wick, RB-Wyoming at Michigan State
Wick has topped the 100-yard mark three times in four games, but this week the Cowboys travel to Michigan State and the Spartans are only giving up 71.7 yards per game on the ground, 21.0 ypg to teams not named Oregon.
For Start/Bench advice , send an email
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)
Teams headed in opposite directions will take the stage when Philadelphia pays a visit to brand-new Levi’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon to face San Francisco on FOX. The Eagles (3-0) look to stay undefeated by taking advantage of a 49ers (1-2) team that’s reeling somewhat after two consecutive losses.
Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh have faced each other before when they were coaching in the Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford, respectively), but this will be their first NFL matchup. They split their two previous meetings with the home team winning both times. However, home-field advantage has not been kind to San Francisco against Philadelphia recently, as the Eagles have won the last four games these two have played on the West Coast, dating back to 2002. Then again, all of those games were at Candlestick Park whereas this will be just the second game the 49ers have played in Levi’s Stadium.
Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: San Francisco -4.5
Three Things to Watch
|Philadelphia 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs JAC||W 34 - 17||Recap|
|9/15||@ IND||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/21||vs WAS||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/28||@ SF||L 21 - 26||Recap|
1. Can 49ers Stop Their Freefall?
Since the end of the third quarter of its Week 2 game, San Francisco has been outscored 44-14, a big reason why Jim Harbaugh’s team is trying to put an end to a two-game losing streak. The 49ers blew a 20-3 fourth-quarter lead two weeks ago at home to Chicago and followed that up with an uninspiring 23-14 loss to divisional foe Arizona. Two Colin Kaepernick interceptions led directly to two touchdowns to fuel the Bears’ comeback while nine penalties for 107 yards played a huge role in last week’s outcome. The end result is a team with Super Bowl aspirations currently sitting at 1-2 and already trailing NFC West-leading Arizona by two games. There’s still plenty of time for San Francisco to turn things around, but this discouraging start has only drawn more attention to Harbaugh’s unsettled contract situation and done nothing but increase the chatter related to his seemingly uncertain future with the team. On top of that, the finger pointing has also begun with the targets varying from the referees to the game plan to themselves. While turmoil may be too strong of a word to describe the 49ers with still so many games remaining, a win against an undefeated Philadelphia team would go a long ways towards righting what has the appearances of a listing ship.
|San Francisco 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs CHI||L 20 - 28||Recap|
|9/21||@ ARI||L 14 - 23||Recap|
|9/28||vs PHI||W 26 - 21||Recap|
2. Philadelphia’s Patchwork Offensive Line
What started out as a bad situation up front for the Eagles has only gotten worse. After having all five offensive linemen start every game last season for the NFL’s No. 2 offense (yards per game), Chip Kelly will be digging deep into his depth chart to even put together a starting quintet this week. Starting right tackle Lane Johnson was hit with a four-game suspension before the season even started and then All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis (MCL sprain) and Allen Barbe (ankle), Johnson’s replacement, both went down with injuries before halftime of the season opener. Mathis is on the injured reserve list with a designation to return while Barbe’s season is over. Already down two starters, Kelly lost another when center Jason Kelce got hurt last week against Washington. Kelce underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia and it’s not yet known how much time he will miss. The bottom line is that this line has been decimated by injuries, as reinforcements have had to be brought in via both the free-agent market as well as the practice squad. Philadelphia is 3-0, but what was the league’s most productive rushing attack in 2013 is averaging 108.7 yards per game and just 3.8 yards per carry through three games. San Francisco’s defense isn’t at full strength either, with All-Pro linebackers NaVorro Bowman (PUP list) and Aldon Smith (suspension) as well as starting defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (IR) all sidelined, but it pales in comparison to the attrition the Eagles have had to deal with along their offensive line. Is this the week these increasing cracks up front show up on the field?
3. How Will San Francisco Try to Gain Ground?
During Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, the 49ers have been known primarily for doing two things extremely well – running the football effectively and playing tough defense. In each of the past three seasons, San Francisco has ranked eighth or better in the NFL in rushing offense as Frank Gore has posted three consecutive 1,100-yard seasons. In the season opener, the 49ers ran the ball 30 times for 127 yards against Dallas compared to just 23 passes in a relatively easy 28-17 win. Two weeks ago the run-pass distribution flipped to 27 rushing attempts and 34 passes in a game in which San Francisco blew a 17-0 halftime lead in large part due to three interceptions thrown by Colin Kaepernick. The pass-heavy theme continued last week with 37 throws and just 23 rushing attempts. What stood out even more, however, was the fact that Kaepernick was responsible for nearly half of the carries (12), while Gore got a grand total of six (for 10 yards). As a team, the 49ers gained just 82 yards on 23 carries (3.6 ypc) and for the season currently rank 17th in the league at 112 yards rushing per game. A recommitment to the running game seems likely given Harbaugh’s reputation, but perhaps a bigger question is who’s going to get the carries? Gore has proven his effectiveness in a workhorse role in the past and he now has fresh legs to relieve him in second-round pick Carlos Hyde (4.5 ypc, 2 TDs). Kaepernick may be a record-setting dual-threat quarterback, but it seems it would be in the team’s best interests that the workload on the ground falls more to Gore and Hyde than him. After all, San Francisco’s lone victory thus far came in a game in which Gore and Hyde combined to run the ball as many times as Kaepernick threw it.
Philadelphia comes into this game undefeated, but the Eagles have been a slow starter and a strong finisher. The Eagles have been outscored 54-27 in the first half, but have dominated (74-24) the proceedings after halftime. Besides digging themselves out of early holes, Chip Kelly’s team also has weathered a rash of injuries along the offensive line and at a few other key positions. San Francisco has had to deal with its own injuries, but it’s the self-inflicted mistakes – turnovers, poor execution, a lack of cohesion and inopportune penalties – that have done the most damage.
The 49ers need this game much more than the Eagles and are trying to avoid the first three-game losing streak in Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach. Philadelphia’s offense will be tough to slow down, but I think this is the week the losses up front will be felt on the field, even against a depleted San Francisco defense. The 49ers get back to the basics in that they rely on the ground game to control the clock and limit the opportunities the Eagles get on offense while the defense makes enough stops late to seal the team’s first-ever victory at Levi’s Stadium.
Prediction: San Francisco 27, Philadelphia 23
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 5, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($5600)
McEvoy ran for 158 yards and a score last week versus Bowling Green and has been putting up solid numbers over the past few weeks. He could have a big day against a weak USF defense that will likely have no answer for the Badgers offense.
2) QB P.J. Walker, Temple vs. UCONN ($5200)
Walker has been a decent DFS option this year and could put up a big effort against UCONN. Look for Walker to hit value this week and allow DFS players to load up at another position.
1) RB Jon Hilliman, BC vs. Colorado State ($3700)
This bruising freshman has scored four touchdowns in the past two games and appears to have taken control of the BC backfield. He could find the end zone again this week against a Colorado State defense that ranks 103rd against the run this year. Expect Hilliman to easily surpass value this week.
2) RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($4800)
Clement ran for 111 yards and two scores last week against Bowling Green and there is little reason to believe he won’t duplicate those numbers this week against South Florida. This game could get out of hand early, leading to more carries for Clement. Expect this Badgers to pay off big time this week.
3) RB Desmon Peoples, Rutgers vs. Tulane ($4800)
Peoples should see plenty of carries this week with the season ending injury to Paul James. He has proven to be a capable backup and could really do some damage against a Tulane defense that ranks 100th against the run this year. If it wasn't for sophmore Justin Goodwin snaking carries, Peoples would be a no-brainer play.
1) WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State vs. Cincinnati ($4400)
Thomas has scored in every game this season and looks to be the main target in the Ohio State passing game. He could find plenty of open space this week against a Cincinnati pass defense that ranks 108th in the country. A trip or two to the end zone seems likely for Thomas this week.
2) WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech vs. Western Michigan ($4400)
Ford has scored twice over the past two games and is averaging 7.5 receptions per game over that span. He could continue his recent success against an overmatched Western Michigan defense. Expect Ford to easily hit value this week.
1) TE Sam Arneson, Wisconsin vs. South Florida ($2900)
In case you have not noticed, there is a distinct Wisconsin flavor this week. Arneson has been very productive over the past two games and appears to be under priced this week. Paying up for a TE is not a generally a great strategy, so run with Arneson this week.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Brad Kaaya, Miami vs. Duke ($5000)
This true freshman has played pretty well over the past two weeks, throwing seven touchdowns and averaging 350 yards per game. He may have to throw the ball often in this showdown with Duke. He looks like a nice punt option this week.
2) Terrel Hunt, Syracuse vs. Notre Dame ($5800)
Hunt has run for five touchdowns over the past two games and has put up huge fantasy numbers. He has a touch test this week with Notre Dame on the schedule, but his numbers are too good to ignore. He may not post huge numbers, but could easily be worth his price tag.
1) RB Terron Ward, Oregon State vs. USC ($5300)
Ward has scored four rushing touchdowns over the past two games and is also an excellent receiving option out of the backfield. He could have a big game against at Trojan rush defense that ranks 116th in the nation. Look for plenty of points in this contest and plenty of fantasy points from Ward.
1) WR Jimmie Hunt, Missouri vs. South Carolina ($4100)
Hunt has scored five touchdowns in the last three games and could see even more targets this week with Darius White likely out with an injury. The South Carolina pass defense ranks 116th in the country and could afford Hunt plenty of opportunities this week. Look for Hunt to easily hit value this week.
2) WR Cody Core, Ole Miss vs. Memphis ($4400)
Core has scored a touchdown in every game this season and has developed into the top deep threat for the Rebels. He could find plenty of success this week against a Memphis defense that may be hard pressed to stop the Ole Miss passing attack.
1) TE Alan Cross, Memphis vs. Ole Miss ($2900)
Cross has recorded three touchdowns on the season and is the 2nd leading receiver for Memphis. He looks to be a nice option at a weak TE position.
- By Todd DeVries and Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
Learn how to SUBSCRIBE to CollegeFootballGeek.com for FREE! Our members earn REAL CASH MONEY playing Daily Fantasy on DraftKings. Features include:
- - Weekly Player Rankings
- - Expert Picks
- - Sneaky Plays
- - Player News, Notes and Injury Updates
- - 24/7 Expert Advice, strategy and rankings all season long!
- - The ONLY service with personal one-on-one Fantasy Advice!
Washington and Stanford need to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division, and Saturday’s showdown in Seattle should provide an early glimpse into which team could challenge the Ducks for the top spot in the North.
Despite a 4-0 start, Washington might be the biggest mystery in the Pac-12. The Huskies struggled to beat Hawaii and trailed at halftime against Georgia State but also hammered Illinois 44-19. Chris Petersen was one of the top hires of the offseason coach carousel, and it’s possible Petersen and his staff have been holding back a few tricks until Pac-12 play starts. Can Petersen deliver the big results at Washington like he did at Boise State? Saturday’s game against Stanford is a huge opportunity for Petersen in his first season.
Stanford lost its only Pac-12 matchup of the year – 13-10 against USC – but defeated UC Davis and Army by a combined score of 80-0. Saturday’s game against Washington headlines a tough upcoming road schedule for coach David Shaw’s team, as a trip to Notre Dame awaits next week, followed by games at Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA later this year.
Washington owns a 41-38-4 series edge over Stanford. The Huskies have won only one of the last six meetings in this series. Washington claimed a 17-13 victory over Stanford in 2012.
Stanford at Washington
Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Stanford -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Stanford OL vs. Washington DL
The strength of Stanford’s offense in recent years has been its offensive line. But coach David Shaw is dealing with transition up front, as four new starters are in place for 2014. This unit has a ton of potential and is headlined by future stars in left tackle Andrus Peat, guard Joshua Garnett and tackle Kyle Murphy. So far, it hasn’t been an easy transition for Stanford. The Cardinal averaged only 3.4 yards per carry against USC and has allowed six sacks in three games. In time, this unit will be a strength. But entering Saturday’s game against Washington, the Cardinal could have their hands full. The Huskies have a veteran front, featuring four senior starters and two potential All-America candidates in tackle Danny Shelton and end Hau’oli Kikaha. Shelton – almost unheard of from a defensive tackle – leads the team with 40 stops and has registered seven sacks. Washington leads the Pac-12 with 19 total sacks and ranks third in its conference against the run.
2. Stanford’s Passing Game
With the turnover in the trenches and at running back, Stanford needed to lean more on quarterback Kevin Hogan in 2014. The junior has been steady in his career, but his completion percentage dipped by 10 points from 2012 to 2013. Hogan has one of the Pac-12’s top receiving corps at his disposal, which should create a favorable matchup for the Cardinal with an inexperienced Washington defensive backfield. The Huskies have allowed 11 passing scores so far and two true freshmen – Sidney Jones and Budda Baker – will start on Saturday. Can Hogan take advantage of a struggling Washington secondary? Or will the Huskies’ pass rush neutralize some of the concerns on the back end?
3. Washington QB Cyler Miles
Miles was suspended for the opener due to an off-the-field incident in February, and the sophomore is just starting to get comfortable in the new offense. Through three games, Miles has passed for 525 yards and five scores and has added 114 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. While Miles still needs more snaps to get acclimated to coordinator Jonathan Smith’s offense, this is his biggest test of the season. Stanford’s defense returned seven starters from last year’s unit that limited opponents to just 19 points a game. Each level of the Cardinal defense can present problems for Washington’s offense, and Miles needs to have his best game of the season to lead the Huskies to a win. Stanford's rush defense has been vulnerable through the first three games, so Miles needs help from his ground attack to prevent a heavy pass approach against the Cardinal pass rush.
This game is full of mysteries and question marks. How far has Washington progressed under first-year coach Chris Petersen? Can the Cardinal bounce back after outplaying – but losing – to USC earlier this year? Winning on the road in the Pac-12 is never easy, and the Huskies should rise to the challenge and play their best game of 2014. Stanford’s offense does just enough, with receiver Ty Montgomery and running back Barry Sanders making a few plays in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinal a slight win over Washington.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Washington 24
With the East Division lacking a clear frontrunner, Saturday night’s matchup between South Carolina and Missouri should provide some early clarity into the pecking order at the top. The Gamecocks have played more SEC games than any other team (three) and already defeated Georgia. The Tigers have yet to play a conference game and finished their non-conference play with a 3-1 mark.
Prior to last Saturday’s game, this matchup was on track to be one of the top games in Week 5. Considering how light of a slate this week is, this matchup is still one of the better games on Saturday. However, Missouri’s surprising loss to Indiana dissipated some of the intrigue.
South Carolina and Missouri have met four times. The series is tied at two wins apiece, but the Gamecocks have won the only two meetings as SEC members.
Missouri vs. South Carolina
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: South Carolina –5
Three Things to Watch
1. Missouri’s Offensive Line
If you want to figure out why Missouri lost to Indiana last Saturday, the Hoosiers’ defensive stats paint an interesting picture. Indiana’s struggling defense recorded two sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. The 11 tackles for a loss are the highest for the Hoosiers since recording 12 on Oct. 27, 2012. And in addition to the tackles for loss and sacks, Indiana was able to generate consistent pressure on Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk. Can South Carolina follow a similar gameplan on Thursday? The Gamecocks have registered just four sacks in four games, and the defense is in transition with the departures of end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. The Tigers will have a new look on the offensive line, as guard Anthony Gatti was lost for the season due to a knee injury last Saturday. Conner McGovern will slide from right tackle to right guard, Taylor Chappell steps into the lineup at right tackle, while Brad McNulty is slated to start at left guard. Will this group give Mauk time to throw? Or will a struggling South Carolina pass rush get on track?
2. South Carolina’s Ground Attack
Missouri’s rush defense is off to a slow start, ranking No. 10 in the SEC against opposing ground attacks. The Tigers are giving up only 3.9 yards per carry this year. However, Indiana and Toledo both averaged 4.8 yards per rush. Defensive end Markus Golden is one of the SEC’s top defenders, but he was sidelined against Indiana due to injury. Having Golden back in the lineup is critical for Missouri’s ability to rush the passer and should help with the Tigers’ ability to disrupt South Carolina’s rushing game at the point of attack. The Gamecocks average 4.6 yards per rush and have two backs – Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds – over the 200-yard mark. Davis is the team’s leader on the ground (264 yards) and will test a Missouri defense that was torched by Indiana’s rushing attack (241 yards) last week. Can the Tigers handle the run better this week? If they can’t, Davis will have a huge game on the ground, opening some easy shots for quarterback Dylan Thompson and the receiving corps.
3. Maty Mauk vs. South Carolina’s Secondary
Total yardage allowed on pass defense is often misleading, but it’s noteworthy South Carolina ranks No. 13 in the SEC in most passing yards allowed in the SEC. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 69.9 percent of their throws on this defense, and the Gamecocks have allowed 17 passing plays of 20 yards or more in 2014. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk spent most of last Saturday running to escape Indiana’s defensive front. But when Mauk is able to stand in the pocket and deliver, the sophomore has quickly emerged as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks. Mauk is completing 61.6 percent of his throws and has tossed 14 scores to just four interceptions. The Gamecocks’ secondary has struggled mightily through four games, so opportunities will be there for Mauk and the Tigers’ receiving corps.
Despite Missouri’s surprising loss to Indiana last week, the Tigers are only a five-point underdog on the road against South Carolina. Interesting, isn’t it? With both teams dealing with flaws on defense, this one could be a shootout. Missouri needs to protect Mauk and allow its receivers to make plays downfield. Expect South Carolina to use its rushing attack to protect its defense, but coach Steve Spurrier will take a few shots downfield too. Both teams land a few big plays. However, the Gamecocks are tough to beat at home.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Missouri 27
Longtime divisional rivals will get reacquainted when NFC North counterparts Green Bay and Chicago square off at Solider Field Sunday afternoon on FOX. The Packers (1-2) have gotten off to a slow start thanks in large part to a sluggish offense and suspect run defense. The Bears (2-1) have turned things around after losing their season opener at home in overtime, posting consecutive road wins against the 49ers and Jets.
The NFL’s longest-running rivalry, this will be the 189th overall meeting (only two of these occuring in the postseason) between these historic franchises. Chicago holds a slim 93-89-6 lead, but Green Bay has dominated during the Aaron Rodgers era. Since Rodgers became the starter in 2008, the Packers are 10-3 against the Bears, including a win at Soldier Field in the 2011 NFC Championship Game.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Green Bay -1.5
Three Things to Watch
|Green Bay 2014 Schedule|
|9/4||@ SEA||L 16 - 36||Recap|
|9/14||vs NYJ||W 31 - 24||Recap|
|9/21||@ DET||L 7 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||@ CHI||W 38 - 17||Recap|
1. Green Bay’s Offensive Woes
Raise your hand if you thought after three games this season the Packers would rank near the bottom of the NFL in total offense. Even with the season opener in Seattle, no one expected an Aaron Rodgers-led offense to be averaging fewer than 300 yards and only 18 points per game. Rodgers’ 697 yards passing in these first three games is the lowest in his career as a starting quarterback, while his 62.8 completion rate is his worst since 2009 (56.7). He does have five touchdown passes compared to just one interception, but these numbers pale in comparison to the damage he did in the first three games of 2013: 1,057 yards, eight touchdowns, three picks. Again, putting up low numbers (189-1-1) on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks is perfectly understandable, but last week’s 162-yard passing effort against Detroit represented the fewest in any start (90 career) during which Rodgers didn’t leave early due to injury. The Packers’ offensive line issues are well documented and the running game certainly hasn’t done its part (more on that later), but everyone knows that this offense begins and end with No. 12. He’s had a great deal of success against Chicago in his career (10-3 record, 21:10 TD:INT ratio), so maybe a familiar face will be just the medicine this ailing offense needs to get well.
|Chicago 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs BUF||L 20 - 23||Recap|
|9/14||@ SF||W 28 - 20||Recap|
|9/22||@ NYJ||W 27 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs GB||L 17 - 38||Recap|
2. Will Cutler “Pack” it in Again?
While Aaron Rodgers has thrived against Chicago, Jay Cutler has struggled mightily against his divisional rival. In 10 career games against Green Bay, including playoffs, Cutler is 1-9 having lost six in a row dating back to the 2010 season. Of these 10 games, all but one have been with the Bears and in those contests, Cutler has completed 54.4 percent of his passes for less than 200 yards per game (193.8), 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He as thrown at least one interception in every game he has started for Chicago against the Packers, including one in a forgettable performance in the 2011 NFC title game. He left that game in the third quarter due to a knee injury, but in many ways his stat line that afternoon (6-of-14 passing, 80 yards, INT) sums up his struggles against Green Bay perfectly. Now in his second season in head coach Marc Trestman’s up-tempo offense, Cutler has looked comfortable and poised in the early going, despite the fact that the offensive line has been operating without two starters most of the way. Through three games this season, Cutler has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 750 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s done this despite getting little support from the running game (more on that below), getting sacked seven times and facing pressure on a fairly regular basis, especially last week against the blitz-happy Jets. There’s no dispute that this is Cutler’s offense and he certainly has a wide range of talented, explosive weapons to work with at every skill position. He also has a little bit of additional momentum in that he’s coming off of his best statistical showing yet against the hated Packers. In Week 17 last season, Cutler completed 15 of 24 passes (62.5 percent) for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (good for a passer rating of 103.8), as the Bears dropped a heartbreaker on a late long touchdown pass by Rodgers. Even though it was in a losing effort, Cutler showed enough improvement that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this will be the game in which he finally breaks through against his longtime nemesis.
3. Something’s Gotta Give on the Ground
When it comes to the running game so far this season, Green Bay and Chicago have had a lot in common, but not in a good way. The Packers and the Bears both rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing offense and have had just as much trouble stopping the run as well. In 2013, Chicago’s Matt Forté and Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy finished second and eighth in the league in rushing, respectively. This season each is averaging less than 3.3 yards per carry, as the Bears are dead last at 64 yards rushing per game and the Packers not much better (27h) at 78.7. Both teams can lay some of the blame on injuries along their offensive lines, but their Pro Bowl-caliber backs need to start producing accordingly for either team to reverse this disconcerting early trend. The good news there is that this sets up as an ideal matchup with both defenses struggling mightily to stop the run. Green Bay is giving up 156 yards rushing per game (30th in the NFL) while Chicago dropped to 144.7 after “holding” the Jets to just 114 on 26 carries (4.4 ypc) in its win on Monday night. As important as the passing game is when these two teams get together, whichever offense is able to gain the most ground as it relates to the run game, on either side of the ball, figures to have the advantage this afternoon.
It’s always must-see TV when these two historic rivals get together. Green Bay is trying to gain some footing after getting off to a slow start and can ill afford to drop to 0-2 in divisional play. Chicago is hoping to build on the momentum it’s gained from consecutive road wins while picking up a key early victory in NFC North play. Both teams have dealt with their share of injuries early on, especially along the offensive line, and have gotten next to nothing from their running games or run defenses for that matter. And at quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has been stellar against the Bears while Jay Cutler has struggled mightily against the Packers. So what’s going to give this afternoon? I’m not saying Cutler completely outshines his MVP counterpart, but I do think the Bears’ highly criticized signal-caller’s positive plays will outweigh the negative ones. However, Cutler won’t have to defeat Green Bay by himself, as a sizeable contribution on the ground from Matt Forté, some key stops from a patchwork secondary and an effective pass rush will come together to round out a balanced, team effort that puts Chicago in the driver’s seat in the division.
Prediction: Chicago 28, Green Bay 27
The Week 5 slate is light on top 25 must-see matchups, but Texas A&M-Arkansas is perhaps the most intriguing game on Saturday. The SEC West is college football’s toughest division, and the strength of the West is underscored by the emergence of the Aggies as a top 10 team, while the Razorbacks are clearly headed in the right direction in coach Bret Bielema’s second year.
Arkansas lost its SEC opener to Auburn but has rallied with three consecutive victories. Bielema’s ground-and-pound offense is taking shape, as evidenced by the Razorbacks 49-28 win at Texas Tech. With a victory over Texas A&M, Arkansas will surpass its win total from last year.
For Texas A&M, this matchup is an opportunity to build on its early momentum and start the SEC play with a 2-0 mark for the first time in school history. The Aggies won a 52-28 showdown at South Carolina in the opener and have cruised to easy wins over Lamar, Rice and SMU over the last three weeks.
Arkansas owns a 41-25-3 series edge over Texas A&M. The Aggies have won the only two matchups between these programs as SEC members. However, the Razorbacks have won three out of the last five meetings in this series.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Texas A&M -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
So far, so good for Texas A&M’s rush defense. The Aggies have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and rank fifth in the SEC in rush yards allowed through four games. Texas A&M is also limiting opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry, a clear improvement off last season’s 5.4 mark. But here’s the bad news for coordinator Mark Snyder: The competition has been iffy. Lamar, Rice and SMU aren’t going to tell much about how far this defense has improved since last year, although it has to be encouraging for Snyder that the Aggies held South Carolina to just 67 yards in the opener. Of course, the Gamecocks had only 22 attempts and abandoned the run after an early lead. With the addition freshmen Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Zaycoven Henderson and Jarrett Johnson, Texas A&M’s defensive line has more depth than it has in the last few years. Is this unit up to the challenge? Because…
2. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack and QB Brandon Allen
Bret Bielema had to deal with plenty of growing pains in his first season at Fayetteville, but his vision of Razorbacks’ identity to be is starting to take shape. Arkansas has developed a punishing ground attack, averaging 7.1 yards per carry and 324.5 yards per game. Alex Collins – 7.5 yards per carry and 490 yards – headlines the backfield, but Jonathan Williams (391 yards) and Korliss Marshall (5.2 ypc) also factor into the gameplan. Even though Collins is the backfield’s most-talented player, there’s little drop in production with Williams or Marshall in his place. In addition to the talent at running back, Arkansas’ offensive line has emerged as one of the best in the SEC. Left tackle Dan Skipper and guard Denver Kirkland are two rising stars on the line, and the front five has allowed just one sack through four games. Bielema has built the offense from the inside, adding mauling linemen to companion with a power rushing attack. But a key question still remains for the Razorbacks: Can they throw it if needed? Quarterback Brandon Allen has been efficient (8 TDs, 61.4%), but this offense does not want to get behind and eliminate the threat of the run from the gameplan.
3. Texas A&M’s Explosive Offense
Even without quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and tackle Jake Matthews, the Aggies haven’t missed a beat on offense. Texas A&M is averaging 55.3 points per game and 8.1 yards per play. Quarterback Kenny Hill has been nearly perfect in replacing Manziel (13 TDs, 1 INT) and has already proved himself in a hostile environment in the opener (South Carolina). Hill is the triggerman for the high-powered offense, but Texas A&M is loaded with talent at the skill positions and has one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Make no mistake: The Aggies are going to score. But can Arkansas limit their big-play opportunities? Texas A&M has 18 plays of 30 yards or more in 2014 and will test a Razorbacks’ defense that held their last three opponents to at least 353 yards. Arkansas limited Texas Tech’s high-powered offense to just 252 yards through the air, largely due to the strength of the rushing attack and limiting the Red Raiders to just three second-half possessions. As strange as it may sound, stopping Texas A&M’s offense isn’t just a problem for the Razorbacks’ defense. Instead, it also requires a huge day by the offense, limiting the Aggies’ possessions and opportunities to make plays on offense.
This matchup is similar to Arkansas’ victory over Texas Tech. The Razorbacks need to control the pace and flow of the game to prevent the Aggies from jumping out to a big lead. Arkansas needs to have success on early downs with its rushing attack, then allow Allen and his receivers to hit on plays via play-action passes. Texas A&M’s defense has improved since last year, but expect the Razorbacks to still have success on the ground. If the Aggies score and jump out to a big lead, Arkansas is in trouble. If the Razorbacks limit Texas A&M’s possessions, and Collins, Williams and a talented offensive line control the tempo, the Aggies would be fighting an uphill battle in the second half. Expect Arkansas and Texas A&M to trade punches for four quarters, but the Aggies have too much firepower in the passing attack to keep the Razorbacks from pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 34
Clemson and North Carolina head into Week 5 with two totally different vibes surrounding both programs. Sure, the Tigers lost at Florida State, but there’s plenty of excitement with freshman Deshaun Watson ready to takeover as the starting quarterback. On the North Carolina sideline, question marks and uncertainty are hanging over the program after last week’s 70-41 loss to East Carolina. The Tar Heels have plenty of young talent and promise for the future, but coach Larry Fedora has to find answers now to avoid a repeat of last year’s 6-6 regular season record.
Clemson owns a 34-18-1 edge in the series against North Carolina. The Tigers won the last meeting 59-38 in 2011. The Tar Heels won 21-16 in Chapel Hill in 2010.
North Carolina at Clemson
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Clemson -14.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Deshaun Watson
Watson’s career is only three games old, but it’s hard to ignore how impressive he has been in that stretch. The true freshman is averaging 16.5 yards per completion, 11.7 yards per attempt and passed for 479 yards and four scores on just 29 completions. Barring a huge regression in talent or a departure by coordinator Chad Morris, Watson is going to thrive at Clemson over the next three seasons. And the freshman has a good opportunity to post huge numbers in his debut, as North Carolina’s secondary has allowed the most passing yards per game in the ACC (325.3) and opposing quarterbacks are completed 57.7 percent of their throws. With the Tar Heels struggling to stop the pass, Watson could have a monster debut in his first start with the Tigers.
Related: Week 5 ACC Previews and Predictions
2. North Carolina’s Offense
Scoring points certainly hasn’t been a problem for North Carolina in 2014. The Tar Heels rank No. 2 in the ACC by averaging 42.7 points per game and rank fifth in the conference in passing yards per game (264). With the troubles on defense, the Tar Heels have to score at least 30 points to win on Saturday night. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been sharing some snaps with Mitch Trubisky, and the two passers have combined for eight touchdowns and a completion percentage of 62 percent. In addition to Williams, North Carolina has talent at the skill positions, headlined by Ryan Switzer and Quinshad Davis at receiver, along with T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood at running back. The pieces are in place to match Clemson score-for-score. But there’s just one problem…
3. Clemson’s Defensive Line
In addition to the play of Deshaun Watson, the other bright spot for Clemson in last week’s loss to Florida State was the defensive line. The Tigers’ defensive front dominated the Seminoles’ offensive line, recording five sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. North Carolina’s offensive line returned three starters from 2013, but this unit is young and could be without standout guard Landon Turner and tackle Jon Heck this Saturday. Considering Clemson’s strength in the trenches - headlined by standout end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett – can the Tar Heels’ front five provide enough protection for quarterback Marquise Williams?
Both teams should have plenty to prove after last week’s losses, but unless North Carolina can solve its defensive concerns, this game is shaping up to be a Clemson blowout. The Tigers should have no trouble moving the ball on the Tar Heels’ defense, and quarterback Deshaun Watson delivers a huge performance in his debut. If North Carolina’s offensive line provides ample protection for quarterback Marquise Williams, the Tar Heels can have success moving the ball. Expect plenty of points, but Clemson’s defense gets enough stops for a runaway win by the Tigers in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Clemson 45, North Carolina 20
Finally, a winning record. I am still hovering around .500 and need to continue to post winning records to get above the break-even point.
Again, the good news is I hope you are looking at Mitch Light’s Top 25 picks. He is smoldering hot this season at 36-22-1 against the spread for all Top 25 games this season. (I am holding my own at 32-26-1.)
On to Week 5, which is loaded with a whole bunch of intriguing conference games. I’m taking you deep into the smaller leagues this weekend, so hold on…
Last Week: 3-2
Baylor (-21) at Iowa St
The Bears are 3-0 against the number thus far in 2014 and it should cover once again. The Cyclones have played Baylor tough at home under Paul Rhoads but this is a different Bears squad — one that is getting healthy with names like Antwan Goodley returning to the lineup. This is Baylor’s toughest game to date but has won three times by 50.3 points. Prediction: Baylor -21
Notre Dame (-9) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, NJ)
Brian Kelly has had two weeks to prepare for the Orange and not having to play in the Carrier Dome will help as well. The Irish are a significantly more talented team and should be able to run away and hide with relative ease against an overmatched opponent. Prediction: Notre Dame -9
Middle Tennessee (+3.5) at Old Dominion
Old Dominion won its first C-USA game last weekend at Rice but now must face a MTSU team that can score big points of its own behind quarterback Austin Grammer. The Blue Raiders scored 61 in the opener and 50 against Western Kentucky and should be able to score in bunches against ODU. Prediction: MTSU +3.5
Nevada (-4.5) at San Jose St
The Wolf Pack has been very competitive against Pac-12 teams, so handling San Jose State shouldn’t be an issue for Nevada. Beating Wazzu and nearly beating Arizona indicates that this Nevada team is a darn solid team. Prediction: Nevada -4.5
Texas St (+3) at Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane have been really, really bad this year. They’ve lost to Oklahoma by 45 and to FAU by 29 — the latter being much more disturbing. Texas State has played Illinois and Navy tough in two losses and could easily win this one outright. Predictions: Texas State +3
Bonus: Take road dogs in important games
Missouri (+5.5) at South Carolina
Maty Mauk should be able to take advantage of the issues in South Carolina's secondary. Someone knows something about this line so I’ll take the smart money.
Arkansas (+9.5) vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, TX)
It’s not a true road game for the Hogs but their running game should be capable of challenging the Aggies' front seven. Take the over and the underdog to cover.
Oregon State (+9.5) at USC
This game is always close and USC has major depth and defensive issues. Sean Mannion should be able to exploit this depleted defense and it seems like too many points.
Duke (+7.5) at Miami
The Blue Devils are a quality team and the atmosphere won’t be challenging at all. This number seems way too high for a defending division champ.
Maryland (+4.5) at Indiana
Yes, this is a sneaky meaningful game in the Big Ten and the Terps are surging on offense. Take the over and the Terps to cover.
Top 25 Picks ATS:
|Top 25||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Florida St (-19) at NC State|
|La. Tech (+32.5) at Auburn|
|Arkansas (+9.5) vs Texas A&M|
|Baylor (-21) at Iowa St|
|Notre Dame (-9) at Syracuse|
|Wyoming (+31) at Michigan St|
|Memphis (+19) at Ole Miss|
|Tennessee (+17) at Georgia|
|Missouri (+5.5) at S. Carolina|
|Stanford (-8) at Washington|
|N. Mex. St (+42.5) at LSU|
|Oregon St (+9.5) at USC|
|USF (+34) at Wisconsin|
|Illinois (+20) at Nebraska|
|Cincinnati (+15) at Ohio St|
|UTEP (+26) at Kansas St|
The Big Ten has taken its lumps during football season, but all that changes on the hardwood.
Much of that is due to the coaches on the bench, a deep group of some of the nation’s best coaches that’s only getting better.
Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta make up a solid top four of coaches who have made a combined 10 Final Fours at their current stops, and Beilein and Ryan are leading their programs to new (or rather, renewed) heights.
Meanwhile, Tom Crean has returned Indiana to national prominence, and Tim Miles and Fran McCaffery have rebuilt programs at Nebraska and Iowa.
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Record at Michigan State: 468-187 (.715)
NCAA Tournament: 42-16, six Final Fours, one national title
Number to note: Consistency is the name of the game here. Izzo’s teams have ranked in the top 32 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings in 10 of the last 12 seasons. Michigan State has been in the top 30 of the offensive efficiency ratings in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: An injury-plagued season cut into Michigan State’s ability to reach the Final Four, leaving Izzo with the longest Final Four drought of his career (four consecutive years). The Spartans still won 29 games and the Big Ten Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, losing to eventual national champion UConn.
2. John Beilein, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 104-60 (.615)
NCAA Tournament: 16-9, one Final Four
Number to note: Michigan is 40-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. The Wolverines posted one winning conference record during the previous 13 seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Since arriving at Michigan, Beilein is 15-35 against Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta, but he’s caught up to the pack. He’s 6-3 in the last nine vs. Izzo, 2-3 vs. Ryan after losing his first 10 and 4-2 in his last six vs. Matta.
3. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 321-121 (.726)
NCAA Tournament: 20-13, one Final Four
Number to note: The Big Ten has been the best basketball conference the last few years, and Wisconsin has thrived. The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth in the league in 13 seasons under Ryan.
Why he’s ranked here: After 2014, no one can say Ryan is the best coach never to reach the Final Four. He’s now in the discussion for best coach to never win a national title. Could that change in 2015?
4. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 275-83 (.786)
NCAA Tournament: 23-12, two Final Fours
Number to note: At Butler, Xavier and Ohio State, Matta has never had a losing season in conference play. The lone .500 season conference season of his career came in his debut at Ohio State.
Why he’s ranked here: Matta could make the case for being the nation’s most underrated coach. Before a round of 64 loss to Dayton last year, Ohio State’s last four Tournament appearances yielded a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s.
5. Tom Crean, Indiana
Record at Indiana: 101-97 (.510)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7, one Final Four
Number to note: Indiana won one road game in Crean’s first three seasons. The Hoosiers have won 14 in three seasons since.
Why he’s ranked here: Indiana’s collapse from spending most of 2012-13 at No. 1 to missing/declining the postseason altogether is a major concern. Still, Crean brought Indiana back from 6-25 in his first season.
6. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Record at Nebraska: 34-31 (.525)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Number to note: Miles ended combined NCAA Tournament droughts of 25 seasons at Nebraska (16) and Colorado State (nine) in addition to laying the groundwork for Division I newcomer North Dakota State.
Why he’s ranked here: The Big Ten is as good as ever, and Nebraska is a relevant program here. The next step is to pick up the Cornhuskers first NCAA Tournament win.
7. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 74-63 (.540)
NCAA Tournament: 2-6
Number to note: McCaffery ended a seven-year drought of 20-win seasons at Iowa and an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought for the Hawkeyes.
Why he’s ranked here: McCaffery’s turnaround at Iowa has been remarkable but Iowa hasn’t posted a winning Big Ten record since 2006-07.
8. John Groce, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 43-29 (.606)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
Number to note: Groce has never gone one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the round of 32 in 2010 (at Ohio) and 2013 and the Sweet 16 in 2012 (also at Ohio).
Why he’s ranked here: Illinois has yet to break through under Groce (15-21 in the Big Ten), but he has a top-10 recruiting class for 2015.
9. Matt Painter, Purdue
Record at Purdue: 191-112 (.630)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7
Number to note: Painter was 129-46 overall and 64-26 in the Big Ten with the Robbie Hummel/JaJuan Johnson/E’Twaun Moore signing class. He’s 62-66 overall and 25-43 otherwise.
Why he’s ranked here: Back-to-back losing seasons have diminished Painter’s status as a rising star.
10. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 59-42 (.578)
NCAA Tournament: 5-5
Number to note: What is holding Maryland back under Turgeon? A 6-23 record on the road.
Why he’s ranked here: Maryland has been in the KenPom top 50 in two of three seasons under Turgeon, but he was 23-29 in the ACC with no NCAA appearances.
11. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Record at Minnesota: 25-13 (.658)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: In two seasons as a coach, Pitino’s teams have ranked 48th in tempo (FIU) and 257th (Minnesota).
Why he’s ranked here: Pitino turned an 8-21 team into a 25-13 team at FIU and won the NIT at Minnesota.
12. Patrick Chambers, Penn State
Record at Penn State: 38-59 (.392)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Number to note: In Year 3 under Chambers, Penn State averaged better than 70 points per game for the first time since 2000-01.
Why he’s ranked here: Winning at Penn State isn’t easy, but Chambers has kept the Nittany Lions competitive with two wins over Ohio State and a victory over Nebraska in a 6-12 Big Ten season.
13. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Record at Northwestern: 14-19 (.424)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A sign for the future? Northwestern was 14th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Along with Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski, Collins represents the next wave of Mike Krzyzewski assistants to get head coaching jobs.
14. Eddie Jordan, Rutgers
Record at Rutgers: 12-21 (.364)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Rutgers lost by 61 in its American Athletic Conference tournament elimination game to Louisville, not a reflection of a team that teams whose last four AAC losses (Memphis, UCF, UConn, Cincinnati) were decided by 4.3 points.
Why he’s ranked here: Jordan struggled as expected in his first season, but he brings a senior-laden team into the Big Ten.
No. 16 Virginia enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2013-14, sweeping the ACC regular season and tournament titles for the first time in school history. Star guard Joe Harris is gone, but coach Tony Bennett has built a program to last around Malcolm Brogdon and more.
The Virginia edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
Virginia arrived on the national scene last season, very much at its own measured pace. After four years of incremental progress under Tony Bennett, the Cavaliers broke through the program’s longtime ceiling, winning the ACC regular-season title outright for the first time in 33 years, the conference tourney for the first time in 38 and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995.
It was validation of Bennett’s methodical approach, both on and off the court, and he was rewarded with a contract extension through 2021. It further solidifies him as a long-haul sort of guy, who never wavered from his principles, despite multiple player defections and criticism that Virginia’s deliberate style of play is not exciting.
“You have a vision when you take the job,” he told Virginiasports.com. “You kind of have a plan in place. You hope that if things progress or go as you envision, you’ll have a chance to touch those special things: conference championships, tournament championships, deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, ultimately a chance at a national championship. That’s always the ultimate goal. But until you get close to it and knock on the door to it, you always wonder, ‘Can we?’ But (2013-14) just validates that it is possible.”
Indeed, with three starters and seven of its top nine scorers back, Virginia should be in the hunt in the ACC once again. Bennett must replace sharp-shooting Joe Harris and the dependable Akil Mitchell, but there’s no shortage of depth and talent in a program that has established a firm identity and looks to be on solid footing for years to come.
No. 16 Virginia Facts & Figures
Last season: 30-7, 16-2 ACC
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: 1
Coach: Tony Bennett (106-60 overall, 48-36 ACC)
ACC Projection: Fourth
Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Even with graduation of Mitchell, a stalwart defender and rebounder who epitomized Virginia’s team-first approach, the Cavaliers have size, depth and experience up front.
The man in the middle is 6-11 Mike Tobey, who has shown flashes of ability as a low-post scorer and will be counted on for more consistency now that he’s an upperclassman.
“When you go from being an underclassman to an upperclassman, now you’re without excuse, we like to say,” Bennett says.
Also in that category is junior Anthony Gill, who provided a shot of physicality and aggressiveness off the bench last season. Gill, who began his career at South Carolina, should move into the starting lineup. A versatile scorer, he’ll be able to show more of the skills that he demonstrated while averaging 12.7 points in the ACC Tournament.
Darion Atkins, who was lost in the shuffle at times last year, should get more playing time, particularly if he can do some of the dirty work Mitchell was so good at. Evan Nolte is a perimeter sniper. For freshmen Jack Salt and Isaiah Wilkins and Marial Shayok, playing time will depend on their ability to pick up Bennett’s non-negotiable defensive principles.
No one puts up eye-popping numbers in Virginia’s share-the-wealth system, and that is the primary reason Malcolm Brogdon failed to earn All-ACC numbers. Make no mistake, though, the versatile guard was the most valuable player on the league’s best team. He’s also making the turn from underclassman to veteran, and should be one of the conference’s top performers.
Point guard London Perrantes was a freshman find. Teammates dubbed the Los Angeles product “Cali Swag” for his cool, steady floor generalship. Justin Anderson, voted the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year, is capable of getting up and down with the best of them when Virginia lets its hair down in transition. Devon Hall, coming off a redshirt season, should be ready to back up Perrantes.
As in the frontcourt, Virginia is loaded.
The bar has been raised at Virginia. Winning the ACC, earning a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and taking Michigan State to the brink in a Sweet 16 game has changed perceptions of what’s possible, and not just for fans.
Last year proved that if things go well, big goals are “not as far away as you think,” Bennett says.
Bennett’s system remains an acquired taste. The Cavaliers make the extra pass — or three — and they played at the nation’s sixth-slowest tempo last season. The selflessness and commitment to defense that Bennett requires of players is not for everybody.
It’s hard to argue with the results, though, and last year’s success has only left players and fans wanting more.
The Cavaliers may not have the ACC’s top class, but they might have its most pedigreed. Isaiah Wilkins, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia, is the son of Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. Guard B.J. Stith is the son of Bryant Stith, who is Virginia’s all-time leading scorer and played 10 years in the NBA. Jack Salt brings a reputation for physical play. Marial Shayok originally signed with Marquette.
Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb suffered a shoulder injury in Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State and did not return to game action. Webb was injured at the beginning of the fourth quarter and was taken to the locker room for examination. The injury affected Webb's non-throwing shoulder.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury did not have an update on Webb’s status following the game, and the sophomore’s status for Texas Tech’s Oct. 4 matchup against Kansas State is uncertain.
Prior to leaving the game, Webb threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
If Webb is out for next week’s game, true freshman Patrick Mahomes will get the start. Mahomes was a three-star recruit in the 2014 signing class, and Thursday night’s snaps against Oklahoma State was the first extended action of his career.
Mahomes finished with 20 passing yards, one interception and one touchdown and completed just two of five passes. He also rushed for 16 yards on seven attempts.
Texas Tech has two games in a row after a 2-0 start. Losing Webb for a period of time would be a huge loss for the Red Raiders, as a road trip to Kansas State is up next week, followed by a home game against West Virginia on Oct. 11.
Webb’s potential absence isn’t the only problem for Texas Tech to worry about over the next week, as the defense remains a major concern after allowing at least 26 points in every game this year.
More about Webb’s status for next week should be known early next week.
No immediate word on extent of Davis Webb's injury, but Kliff Kingsbury was open to talking about how he'd prepare Mahomes if Webb's out.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) September 26, 2014
Kingsbury on QB Davis Webb's status: "I just know they didn't feel like he could come back in tonight, but I'm not sure of his status."— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) September 26, 2014
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech’s Thursday night showdown had plenty of offense, but much of the pregame focus was on the attire for the both teams.
The Cowboys and Red Raiders unveiled alternate uniforms for the Thursday night conference game, and both teams hit a home run with the different uniforms and helmets.
Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games of Week 5. The Pac-12 takes center stage with a deep slate of action while the SEC has three marquee showdowns. Florida State, Baylor and Ohio State all have interesting tests as well. The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.
Proud franchises trying to stay pace in the NFC East will write the latest chapter in their rivalry when the New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins tonight on CBS and the NFL Network. A third loss for either of these 1–2 teams could be a death blow in the division race, with both looking up at unbeaten Philadelphia and both fighting the perception that their best days are long gone.
The loser of this one will be in sole possession of last place in the NFC East. Given the short week and the risk of injury — the Redskins in particular enter this game very banged up — both teams have reduced their practice intensity, which could lead to some sloppiness early on. "Obviously this is a week that I would rather not have a Thursday night game," said Redskins coach Jay Gruden, who lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Duke Ihenacho to season-ending injuries last week’s loss at Philadelphia and had a total of 17 players listed on Monday's injury report.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Washington -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|New York (NFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/8||@ DET||L 14 - 35||Recap|
|9/14||vs ARI||L 14 - 25||Recap|
|9/21||vs HOU||W 30 - 17||Recap|
|9/25||@ WAS||W 45 - 14||Recap|
1. Giants Go Ground-and-Pound
The Giants showed a surprising ability to run the football and impose their will in Sunday's 30–17 win over the Texans. Rashad Jennings' 176 rushing yards were the most by a Giants running back in two years. "One point we ran the same play three times in a row," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "They were rolling. They liked it." In all, the Giants amassed 193 yards rushing after mustering only 53 in the opener with Detroit and 81 in the loss to the Cardinals. The Redskins are allowing only 64.7 yards per game on the ground, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants have any luck establishing the run and relieving pressure from Manning's shoulders.
|Washington 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ HOU||L 6 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs JAC||W 41 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ PHI||L 34 - 37||Recap|
|9/25||vs NYG||L 14 - 45||Recap|
2. Ball Protection by the Quarterbacks
Simply put, Manning has transformed into a turnover machine, leading the NFL with 27 interceptions last season. But in the win over the Texans, Manning had his first interception-free outing in eight games, dating back to a Nov. 24 loss to Dallas. If Manning protects the football, the Giants are a different team, and a far more dangerous one. Washington's Kirk Cousins, filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, has been handed this audition and is playing for his future as an NFL starter, either in Washington or somewhere else, and can ill afford any untimely miscues. The quarterback who wins the turnover battle will have a leg up in this one.
3. Will Phil Simms stick to his pledge?
The ongoing controversy over the Redskins nickname found its poster child in CBS broadcaster Phil Simms, who has expressed a reluctance to use the nickname during broadcasts. "My very first thought is it will be ‘Washington’ the whole game," he said earlier this month. But he broke his own pledge last Thursday night, using the term at least three times in a game that didn't even involve Washington. Leaders of the "Change the Mascot" campaign are paying attention, and Simms will be a part of Friday's recaps no matter what he says.
The Giants' temporarily resurgent running game will face a significant obstacle in the Redskins' defensive front, which could force Manning back to the air. And when Manning goes to the air with frequency, bad things have tended to happen lately. For his career, Manning has 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions against Washington, and if that trend holds, then the home team — whatever Phil Simms wants to call it — will hold serve.
Prediction: Washington 31, New York 24
The 2014 Ryder Cup Matches
When: Sept. 26-28
Where: PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland
Course: 7,262 yards, par 72
All-time record: U.S. leads 25–12–2
After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?
Athlon talked to two likely keys to the respective teams for their perspective. Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell is a Ryder cup veteran with a match record of 5-5-2 in three Cups, while Fowler will be participating in his second Cup after a record of 0-1-2 in 2012 — but with four top-5 finishes in this year's majors under his stylish white belt.
Tom Watson, Captain
Raymond Floyd and Andy North, Vice Captains
Ryder Cup Record: 3-1-0
Ryder Cup Record: 0-1-2
Ryder Cup Record: 9-17-4
Ryder Cup Record: 6-4-1
Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-2
Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-3
Ryder Cup Record: 14-18-6
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: 2-2
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: 3-5
Paul McGinley, Captain
Des Smyth and Sam Torrance, Vice Captains
Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-1
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: First appearance
Ryder Cup Record: 16-8-4
Ryder Cup Record: 3-2
Ryder Cup Record: 5-5-2
Ryder Cup Record: 4-3-2
Ryder Cup Record: 12-3
Ryder Cup Record: 6-3
Ryder Cup Record: 2-3-2
Ryder Cup Record: 18-13-6
Missing in Action
The U.S. team, already an underdog, faces even longer odds with the absence of some key players:
• Tiger Woods
Ryder Cup Record: 13-17-3
Tiger's balky back is his latest physical impediment and caused him to shut it down for the year following a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Despite his lackluster Ryder Cup record, his experience and aura will be missed. Said one PGA Tour pro: "You can’t tell me at least half the European side would not be a little afraid if it came down to a singles match against Tiger on Sunday."
• Dustin Johnson
Ryder Cup Record: 3-3
Johnson is in golf exile, either self-imposed or Tour-imposed, while he deals with "personal challenges." The eight-time winner on Tour was a bright spot for a disappointing U.S. team in 2012, winning his singles match and posting a match record of 3-0. "As one of the longest hitters in the game with an undefeated record of 3-0 at Medinah in 2012, he has clearly been an asset for the United States team," said U.S. captain Tom Watson.
• Jason Dufner
Ryder Cup Record: 3-1
Like Johnson, Dufner was a stalwart for the 2012 U.S. team, posting a 3-1 record and winning his singles match against Peter Hanson amid a U.S. collapse. Dufner couldn't defend his 2013 PGA Championship title due to an arthritic condition in his neck.
Ryder Cup notebook
• Since the U.S. won the Ryder Cup in 1993 with Tom Watson as captain, the Americans have only two victories — in 1999 and 2008. They have lost each of the past two Ryder Cups by the score of 14½ to 13½.
• The Ryder Cup has not been played in Scotland since 1973, when the event was at Muirfield, site of last summer’s British Open. The U.S. won the competition 19-13.
• Jack Nicklaus is confident in Watson's ability to lead the American contingent onto Scottish soil, given Watson's success at the Open Championship, a tournament he won five times. “If you just look at Tom’s history and legacy there, I guess you could say that if they wanted to pick a winner in Scotland to lead them in Scotland, they have done that,’’ Nicklaus said. “The love and embrace Tom will receive in Scotland as a Ryder Cup captain will likely be the most anybody could ever hope for when leading a team on foreign soil.’’
• Watson is the first repeat captain since Nicklaus in 1987 and a departure from a long-followed PGA of America policy that appointed captains who were 45 to 50 years old and still playing on the PGA Tour. “We’ve done things a little bit different this year,’’ PGA of America president Ted Bishop said when Watson was announced as captain.
• The Centenary Course at Gleneagles was designed by Nicklaus in 1993, and Gleneagles has hosted a European Tour event now known as the Johnnie Walker Championship since 1999 — although the event will not be played in 2014. The course has five par-5s, including three on the back nine.
Two Pac-12 South heavyweights square off on Thursday night, as Arizona State hosts UCLA in a battle of two teams surrounded in mystery. The Bruins and Sun Devils are both dealing with injuries at quarterback, but the situation differs for each team. Arizona State starter Taylor Kelly is not expected to play due to a foot injury, while UCLA starter Brett Hundley is a gametime decision due to an elbow ailment suffered against Texas. With both teams dealing with injuries at quarterback, it’s hard to know what to expect from either offense or how the overall aspect of the game has changed.
The last four meetings in this series have been split evenly at two victories apiece for both teams. Arizona State won 38-33 in Pasadena last year, while UCLA won in Tempe 45-43 in 2012. The Bruins lead the overall series 18-11-1 over the Sun Devils.
UCLA at Arizona State
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: UCLA -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Unsolved Mysteries at QB
As we mentioned in the opening, both teams have unsettled quarterback situations. Well, at least that’s what the coaches are telling the media. Arizona State does not expect Taylor Kelly to play, which is a huge loss for coach Todd Graham’s offense. Kelly averaged 264.3 total yards per game through the first two contests and accounted for eight scores. Backup Mike Bercovici is expected to start in place of Kelly, and the junior has completed 9 of 17 throws for 79 yards and a score in 2014. Bercovici has attempted 24 passes in his Arizona State career but is not as mobile or dynamic as Kelly on the ground. How much will the Sun Devils’ offense change without Kelly’s mobility?
On the other sideline, UCLA coach Jim Mora has been coy about the status of quarterback Brett Hundley. The junior suffered an elbow injury against Texas and practiced in a limited capacity over the last week. If Hundley can’t go, backup Jerry Neuheisel will start. Neuheisel completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards against Texas, but the offense would not be as dynamic with the sophomore under center. Although Mora hasn’t said if Hundley will play as of Wednesday, most around the Pac-12 expect the junior to start. Hundley is completing 70.4 percent of his throws this year but needs more help from a struggling offensive line.
2. Arizona State RB D.J. Foster
Considering the injuries at quarterback, both teams need their skill players to take on a bigger role within the offensive gameplan on Thursday night. Bercovici has a standout receiver in Jaelen Strong to target in the passing attack, but running back D.J. Foster is the player to watch on Thursday night. Foster is one of the nation’s top all-around running backs and averages 9.4 yards per carry (54 attempts). The junior also has 11 receptions (No. 2 on the team) for 139 yards and one score and leads the Pac-12 with 10 plays of 20 or more yards. UCLA’s rush defense is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and held two of its three opponents to 126 yards or less on the ground. The Bruins own one of the nation’s top defensive fronts, which will test an Arizona State offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 and has paved the way for rushers to average 7.1 yards per carry. Big plays are needed from Foster. Can he continue to deliver against an active and aggressive front?
3. UCLA’s Offensive Line
Protecting Hundley has to be UCLA’s No. 1 priority on Thursday night. The Bruins have struggled to get consistent protection from their offensive line in the passing game and there hasn’t been much room to run created for the rushers. With Hundley (potentially) playing at less than full strength, UCLA has to keep Arizona State defenders out of the pocket. The Sun Devils have a rebuilt front seven and have generated just six sacks through three games. Even if Arizona State’s defensive front is in transition, it’s still a dangerous matchup for a Bruins’ offensive line giving up 3.7 sacks per game. Of concern for Mora on the offensive line is the health of tackle Malcolm Bunche. The senior suffered a leg injury against Texas. His status for Week 5 is uncertain.
This game is surrounded by question marks. Kelly won’t play for Arizona State, so all eyes in pregame warm-ups will be on UCLA and Hundley. If Hundley plays, this game swings in favor of the Bruins. If Hundley doesn’t go, Neuheisel is a capable replacement, but the Sun Devils would have the upper hand. Even though Bercovici doesn’t have Kelly’s mobility, he’s had nearly two weeks to prepare as the starter and should be comfortable in his first start. If Bercovici plays well, it will open up even more opportunities for big plays from Foster. Considering all of the question marks and mysteries surrounding this matchup, it’s tough to make a prediction. But here’s a guess: Hundley plays and is just enough for UCLA to move to 4-0.
Prediction: UCLA 30, Arizona State 24
The ACC was in the spotlight last Saturday night, as Florida State defeated Clemson in overtime to extend its winning streak to 19 games.
The Seminoles hit the road for the first time in conference play this year, traveling to Raleigh to take on an improving NC State team. Florida State will have quarterback Jameis Winston back under center after a one-game suspension.
Florida State-NC State is a key game in the ACC this Saturday, but the focus of the conference is in Miami, where the Hurricanes host Duke. Considering how tight the Coastal Division is, a win by Duke would put Miami at 0-2 and in an early hole for the conference title picture.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Game Power Rankings for Week 5
1. Duke at Miami (-7)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The frontrunner in the Coastal Division is really anyone’s guess after four weeks. But Saturday night’s game in Miami should provide some – but not much – clarity into the race. The Hurricanes are already 0-1 in conference play, so an 0-2 hole won’t be easy to climb out of. Duke won last year’s matchup 48-30, largely due to its production on the ground (358 yards, five scores). The Blue Devils have changed some of the faces in their backfield, but the production hasn’t faltered. Duke ranks No. 5 among the ACC in rush offense, led by true freshman Shaun Wilson (14.4 ypc) and Josh Snead (147 yards). Miami allowed just 248 yards through the first three games but was gashed by Nebraska for 343 yards. The Hurricanes present a similar challenge for Duke’s defense, as the Blue Devils have played a light schedule, yet rank No. 12 in the ACC against the run. Both teams should be able to use their ground attack to control the pace of the game, but quarterback play and mistakes are critical in a tight contest. Which passer – Miami freshman Brad Kaaya or Duke senior Anthony Boone – plays the best and makes the fewest mistakes will determine which team wins this game.
Listen to the Week 5 preview podcast:
2. North Carolina at Clemson (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Tar Heels and Tigers meet on Saturday with both teams looking to rebound after losses in Week 4. While both teams lost last Saturday, there’s a different feeling surrounding both programs. For Clemson, true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to take the reins under center, providing an early glimpse at the future of the program. At North Carolina, there’s a sense of urgency after losing 70-41 to East Carolina. The Tar Heels have a tough upcoming schedule, including games against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Saturday’s trip to Clemson. North Carolina’s offense is averaging 42.7 points per game, but the defense is allowing 6.7 yards per play and 42 points per game. The Tar Heels will be tested once again on defense this week, as Watson has played well in limited action, and the Tigers are averaging 37 points per game. Another concern for North Carolina is the offensive line, which may not have guard Landon Turner or tackle Jon Heck in the lineup due to injuries. That’s bad news against Clemson’s defensive front, which has registered 10 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss in 2014.
3. Florida State (-19) at NC State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Florida State survived one of its toughest games (Clemson) of 2014 without its best player (Jameis Winston) last week. That’s a good sign for the Seminoles moving forward, but coach Jimbo Fisher has a few areas of concern heading into Week 5. Florida State needs better production from its offensive line, while its rushing attack is looking for more open lanes after averaging just 109.7 yards per game in 2014. Winston has no trouble targeting receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary, but the Seminoles could use another playmaker (or two) to emerge in the passing game. NC State is one of the ACC’s most-improved teams this year, largely due to quarterback Jacoby Brissett. After sitting out 2013 due to transfer rules, Brissett has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,005 yards in four games. The Wolfpack average 40.3 points per game and have already surpassed their win total from last year. NC State hasn’t played the toughest schedule so far, and this game should be a good barometer for coach Dave Doeren. Three of Florida State’s last four trips to Raleigh resulted in losses. While the Wolfpack are improving, it’s still a tall assignment to beat the Seminoles in Week 5.
4. Notre Dame (-12) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
If you need any evidence of how light of a slate Week 5 is, take a look at the time for the Notre Dame-Syracuse game. That’s right, this is the primetime game on ABC. Notre Dame ranks as the No. 8 team in the nation after a 3-0 start, and quarterback Everett Golson has been sharp in his return to the field (7 TDs, 0 INTs). Syracuse’s defense allowed 17.5 yards per completion to Maryland last Saturday, and Golson has connected on 30 passing plays of at least 10 yards this year. The Orange will be aggressive to protect their secondary, likely allowing linebackers Cameron Lynch and Marqez Hodge to test a Notre Dame line that has allowed six sacks through three games. Just like Golson is the key to the Fighting Irish offense, quarterback play also holds the cards to Syracuse’s offensive hopes. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has thrown for 488 yards and leads the team with 273 yards on the ground. Despite a lot of offeseason turnover, Notre Dame is allowing just 10.3 points per game. However, the Orange should challenge a revamped defensive front with their ground attack, while Hunt can make plays with his legs. Syracuse lost despite outgaining Maryland 589 to 369 last week. Mistakes significantly hurt the Orange last Saturday, and a similar effort will be tough to overcome in Week 5.
5. Colorado State at Boston College (-7)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
Boston College steps out of conference for the final time in 2014 with a visit from Colorado State. The Eagles and Rams have only one previous meeting, with Boston College winning 35-21 in the 2003 San Francisco Bowl. This matchup features an interesting contrast in styles, as the Eagles average 336.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Rams average 340 passing yards per contest. Although Colorado State ranks No. 11 nationally in pass offense, this isn’t a one-dimensional attack. Treyous Jarrells (6.2 ypc) and Alabama transfer Dee Hart (4.8) are solid options for coach Jim McElwain on the ground. The Rams should have success moving the ball, but stopping Boston College’s offense is going to be a challenge for their defense. The Eagles have rushed for at least 400 yards in back-to-back games and average 6.3 yards per rush. Colorado State gave up 324 yards in a 37-24 loss to Boise State earlier this year.
6. Wake Forest at Louisville (-21)
1:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
As expected, Louisville’s trip to FIU resulted in an easy 34-3 win. But the win came at a price, as quarterback Will Gardner suffered a knee injury, and his status for Week 5 is uncertain. If Gardner can’t play, the Cardinals have another talented option to start in true freshman Reggie Bonnafon (14 of 20, 151 yards, 1 TD). Bonnafon brings more mobility to the offense, which is a valuable asset with Louisville’s struggling offensive line. The Cardinals are still without top receiver DeVante Parker, but running back Michael Dyer returned to action last week. The Demon Deacons are a team in transition under first-year coach Dave Clawson. True freshman quarterback John Wolford has played better recently and threw for 238 yards and two scores in last week’s win over Army. Wolford needs more help from his supporting cast, especially as Louisville’s active front seven (11 sacks) will present problems for the Demon Deacons’ offensive line (15 sacks).
7. Akron at Pittsburgh (-20)
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Panthers look to get back on track after last week’s 24-20 loss to Iowa. While the loss to the Hawkeyes was a disappointment, Pittsburgh is still unbeaten (1-0) in ACC games. Akron won its opener against Howard but lost its last two games (Penn State and Marshall) by a combined score of 69-20. The Panthers have an advantage on the ground, as the Zips are allowing 179.3 rushing yards per game. Running back James Conner leads the ACC with an average of 174.5 yards per contest and should have a huge day against Akron’s undersized defensive front. Pittsburgh’s secondary has allowed 17 plays of 10 or more passing yards through four games, and the defensive backfield will be tested against the Zips’ offense, which is averaging 286.3 yards per game through the air.
8. Western Michigan at Virginia Tech (-21)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
After back-to-back losses, Virginia Tech hopes to work some of the kinks against Western Michigan before ACC play starts again next Saturday. The Broncos have already surpassed their win total from 2013 (1-11) and features an emerging star at running back in true freshman Jarvion Franklin (541 yards, 6.6 ypc). Virginia Tech’s defense has an edge in the trenches, but standout defensive tackle Luther Maddy won’t play due to knee surgery. Western Michigan’s defense allowed 43 points to a struggling Purdue offense in the opener, so this should be a good opportunity for the Hokies to get quarterback Michael Brewer and the rushing game back on track.
9. Kent State at Virginia (-27)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
With a victory over Kent State on Saturday, Virginia would surpass its win total from 2013. The Golden Flashes are 0-3 and were outscored 63-0 by Ohio State on Oct. 13. Kent State running back Trayion Durham – the team’s top offensive player – has yet to play this season due to a foot injury. Without Durham, the Golden Flashes will have a hard time moving the ball against an aggressive Cavaliers’ defense (13 TFL, 13 sacks). Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert may not play on Saturday due to an ankle injury suffered against BYU. If Lambert is out, sophomore Matt Johns is a capable replacement under center.
Week 5 ACC Predictions
|Duke at Miami||Duke 28-21||Duke 34-31||Miami 31-30||Duke 24-20|
|UNC at Clemson||Clemson 35-28||Clemson 38-24||Clemson 45-24||Clemson 38-21|
|FSU at NC State||FSU 38-21||FSU 38-21||FSU 38-17||FSU 31-17|
|ND vs. Syracuse||ND 34-21||ND 45-14||ND 38-17||ND 30-14|
|CSU at BC||BC 31-17||BC 34-21||BC 31-20||BC 24-14|
|WF at Louisville||UL 31-10||UL 31-13||UL 38-10||UL 37-10|
|Akron at Pitt||Pitt 35-10||Pitt 41-17||Pitt 45-17||Pitt 30-13|
|WMU at Va. Tech||VT 28-9||VT 30-10||VT 38-13||VT 31-15|
|Kent State at UVA||UVA 35-10||UVA 34-10||UVA 41-7||UVA 40-3|
A key clash in the SEC East between Missouri and South Carolina highlights the Week 5 slate in the SEC. There is also an intriguing matchup in the West as Arkansas and Texas A&M meet in Arlington, Texas. Elsewhere, Georgia hopes to get back on track (in SEC play) against Tennessee in Athens, and Kentucky looks to snap a three-game losing streak to Vanderbilt.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Missouri (+5) at South Carolina (7 ET, ESPN)
This game was attractive enough to lure ESPN’s College GameDay to town, but the Battle of Columbia lost a bit of its luster after Missouri’s shocking loss at home to Indiana on Saturday. The Tigers’ defense, impressive in the early going of the 2014 season, gave up 241 yards rushing and 252 yards passing en route to the school’s first non-conference loss at home since 2005 (New Mexico). South Carolina survived a scare in Nashville on Saturday night against Vanderbilt. Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t too impressed with his team’s 48–34 win: “We’ve all seen good football teams. We ain’t one,” he said after watching his team give up two kickoff returns for a touchdown and allowing Vanderbilt to average 6.9 yards per play. South Carolina is good enough offensively to win the SEC East but will need to show vast improvement over the next two months on the defensive side of the ball to remain in the race.
Listen to the Week 5 preview podcast:
2. Arkansas (+8) vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas) (3:30 ET, CBS)
Here’s some evidence why the SEC West is so strong: Virtually every preseason prognostication had Arkansas picked last in the division, and most had Texas A&M picked fifth or sixth. Well, it’s still early, but the Aggies are 4–0 and ranked among the top six nationally in virtually every poll. Arkansas, meanwhile, is 3–1, highlighted by impressive wins at Texas Tech (49–28) and vs. Northern Illinois (52–14). The Hogs, as expected, have been extremely effective running the ball; they lead the SEC with 324.5 yards per game and are averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Texas A&M held South Carolina to 67 rushing yards in Week 1 — due in part to A&M’s early lead that forced the Gamecocks to throw the ball — but gave up 240 to Rice in a Week 3 win. Stopping the run will be of paramount importance for the Aggies.
3. Tennessee (+17) at Georgia (12 ET, ESPN)
The boys in Vegas don’t think this will be much of a game — Georgia is favored by 18 points — but don’t be surprised if Tennessee makes the Bulldogs sweat. The Volunteers have looked pretty good on offense through three games despite ranking near the bottom of the league in most categories. Their troubles on the offensive line are well-documented, but they boast some exciting young playmakers at running back and wide receiver and have a solid senior quarterback in Justin Worley. Georgia, which let one get away at South Carolina two weeks ago, got back on track Saturday afternoon with a dominant win over a really bad Troy team. The Bulldogs will need to prove they can slow down a top-flight passing attack before we can consider them a Playoff-caliber team.
4. Vanderbilt (+17) at Kentucky (12 ET, SEC Network)
It’s safe to say that no team that lost by 40 points to an opponent has been favored by 17 points over that same team two years later. That’s the case with Kentucky, which lost at home to Vanderbilt 40–0 in November 2012 in what turned out to be the final game of the Joker Phillips era. Now, the Wildcats, rejuvenated under second-year coach Mark Stoops, are a prohibitive favorite over a Vanderbilt team struggling under its new coach, Derek Mason. The Commodores showed significant signs of progress in last week’s loss to South Carolina, but this is still a team that is giving up just under 40 points per game on defense and could be without its starting quarterback (Patton Robinette) on offense. Kentucky hasn’t played since its heartbreaking overtime loss at Florida. The Cats looked much improved in that 36–30 setback — but a close loss to Florida, even in Gainesville, might not end up looking so good if the Gators continue to struggle.
5. Memphis (+19) at Ole Miss (7:30, FSN)
This is a very dangerous spot for Ole Miss, which is 4–0 and oh-so-close to a epic battle with Alabama that could be the most highly anticipated home game in decades. But first, the Rebels must deal with vastly improved Memphis. The Tigers are 2–1, with the only loss by seven points at UCLA, and they are playing with a ton of confidence. Ole Miss is also a confident bunch — and for good reason. The Rebels have been extremely impressive en route to a 3–0 start and are loaded with All-SEC-caliber players on both sides of the ball. This might not be as stress-free as Ole Miss fans would like, but the Rebels should be fine as long as Bo Wallace — who has thrown an SEC-high four interceptions in only three games — takes care of the ball.
6. Louisiana Tech (+32.5) at Auburn (4 ET, SEC Network)
Things were going relatively well in Skip Holtz’s second season at Louisiana Tech … until the Bulldogs lost at home to Northwestern State. Tech rolled up 413 total yards — 106 more than NSU — but lost the turnover battle 5-to-2. Auburn is fresh off a hard-fought 20–14 win at Kansas State. The Tigers managed only 359 yards of offense, the fewest of the Gus Malzahn era, but any win in Manhattan is a good win. Still, you can bet that Malzahn would like to see his offense get its swagger back as it prepares for a brutal stretch that begins with a date with LSU in two weeks and features six straight games against top-20 teams.
7. New Mexico State (+42.5) at LSU (7:30 ET, SEC Network)
There is no shame in losing to Mississippi State, even at home. But it had to be troubling to Les Miles and his staff that LSU was dominated so thoroughly through the first three-plus quarters of the 34–29 loss at Tiger Stadium. This team, while very talented, clearly has some issues. New Mexico State, however, is not close to good enough to expose those issues. The Aggies have improved, but they are still one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. This will not be close.
Week 5 SEC Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Vanderbilt at Kentucky||UK 24-14||UK 38-24||UK 34-24||UK 31-21|
|Tennessee at Georgia||UGa 35-14||UGa 38-17||UGa 34-20||UGa 38-20|
|Arkansas vs. Texas A&M||A&M 41-38||A&M 38-34||A&M 41-34||A&M 44-34|
|La. Tech at Auburn||AU 42-10||AU 52-10||AU 52-17||AU 41-10|
|Mizzou at S. Carolina||USC 28-21||USC 34-24||USC 31-24||USC 34-27|
|New Mexico St. at LSU||LSU 35-6||LSU 47-13||LSU 52-7||LSU 41-0|
|Memphis at Ole Miss||UM 28-10||UM 39-13||UM 38-17||UM 37-24|
The slate of action last weekend in the Pac-12 was seriously lacking but that didn’t stop the West Coast from entertaining the college football world thoroughly.
After a wild Hail Mary in Tucson and an intense back-and-forth affair in Pullman, both Oregon and Arizona deserve a week off. Cal and Washington State, however, must get off the mat and get back to work.
Conference play begins in earnest this weekend with a marquee showdown in both the South Division on Thursday night and the North on Saturday evening. In fact, they might be the two biggest games of the weekend nationally.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Game Power Rankings for Week 5
1. UCLA at Arizona St
Thurs., 10 p.m., FS1
First things first. Taylor Kelly isn’t going to play for Arizona State and, despite Jim Mora playing it coy, most would be shocked if Brett Hundley wasn’t on the field. The Sun Devils will start Mike Bercovici, who has spent three years in Todd Graham’s offense and has a powerful right arm, but has only attempted 24 career passes. While all eyes will focus on the quarterbacks (rightly so), the most critical matchups will take place in the trenches. UCLA will have to stop one of the nation’s most productive players in D.J. Foster, a guy who is averaging 216.3 yards from scrimmage per game. On the other side, Arizona State’s rebuilt defense will have a shot to get after one of the worst offensive lines in the league. If the Bruins can protect Hundley, UCLA should be able to move the ball against a defense that is still an unknown. If the most sacked QB in the nation the last three years has no time to throw, the Sun Devils have the offensive weapons to win at home. For what it’s worth, in two games between Mora and Graham, the home team is 0-2 and has scored at least 33 points in both games.
Listen to the Week 5 preview podcast:
2. Stanford at Washington
4:15 p.m., FOX
Few games in the Pac-12 will have as much importance attached or will be played with as much physicality as this one. Stanford lost the last time it visited Seattle in dramatic fashion on a Thursday night. While the names on the field and on the sideline have changed plenty since that game, the identity of each program has not. Stanford still plays nasty defense, allowing under five points per game this fall and will pressure quarterback Cyler Miles in a big way. The Huskies currently lead the nation in sacks and will make life miserable for Kevin Hogan while looking to pound the football on offense. Hogan has played in this game and has already battled USC’s front seven this fall but the very talented Miles is still largely unproven. He is completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception, but he also hasn’t faced anything like what he will get from this Stanford defense on Saturday. David Shaw’s team is a proven commodity with a fairly distinct identity and it falls to the Huskies to stop them on both sides of the ball. Chris Petersen’s team has been schizophrenic but has the talent to win at home. Few games in this league will feature the talent in the trenches as this nationally televised North Division bout.
3. Oregon St at USC
10:30 p.m., ESPN
Was two weeks enough to fix the issues USC had on defense against Boston College? Trying to stop Sean Mannion, the Beavers' all-time leading passer, figures to be a good test to find out just how depleted that Trojans defense really is. The OSU quarterback has been excellent (301.0 ypg) but what Justin Wilcox and Steve Sarkisian have to be worried about is the Beavers' running game. Storm Woods and Terron Ward have combined for 424 yards and six scores in three games, as the duo has added balance to the Oregon State offense. Cody Kessler is playing excellent football but the Trojans' ground attack needs to be more consistent after just 20 yards on 29 carries against BC. This matchup has been a sneaky good rivalry as Mike Riley has consistently been a thorn in the side of the Men of Troy. A win in L.A. for Oregon State would be a crippling blow to USC’s title hopes.
4. Washington St at Utah
8 p.m., P12 Net
After a great win in Ann Arbor last weekend, Kyle Whittingham’s bunch has a great shot to continue that momentum into league play with Wazzu coming to town. Salt Lake City has been a tough place for league foes, as six of Utah's nine Pac-12 wins since joining the league in 2011 have come at home. Washington State got after Marcus Mariota last week (7.0 sacks) but both sides of the ball have been wildly inconsistent for Mike Leach. This is a huge chance for Whittingham to move one win closer to the postseason. Look for Utah’s excellent special teams to play a huge role again this weekend.
5. Colorado at Cal
4 p.m., P12 Net
The Buffs and Bears combined for one Pac-12 win and five total victories last year. Four weeks into the season, these two have already registered four wins. The one league win last year was Colorado’s 41-24 win over Cal when Mike MacIntrye’s team produced more yards (485) than in any other league game. Sefo Liuafau threw for 364 yards and will undoubtedly target the league’s top receiver Nelson Spruce in a big way this weekend. Cal will turn to Jared Goff (and some Luke Rubenzer) to match the Buffs on offense, as the Bears try to erase the awful taste in their mouth from the debacle in the desert last weekend. Sonny Dykes' team is clearly improved and is a two-touchdown favorite at home so Cal could give Dykes his first career Pac-12 win.
Off: Oregon, Arizona
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|UCLA (-3.5) at Ariz. St||UCLA, 33-30||UCLA, 27-23||UCLA, 28-10||UCLA, 30-24|
|Stanford (-8) at Wash.||Stan., 28-21||Stan., 24-20||Stan., 24-14||Stan., 27-24|
|Ore. St (+9.5) at USC||OSU, 31-30||USC, 30-20||USC, 38-31||USC, 34-24|
|Wazzu (+13.5) at Utah||Utah, 40-30||Utah, 41-30||Utah, 27-21||Utah, 38-30|
|Colo. (+13.5) at Cal||Cal, 38-30||Cal, 34-24||Cal, 42-38||Cal, 34-27|
It was an extremely light week in Big 12 action despite two contenders (Kansas State and Oklahoma) playing critical nationally televised games last weekend.
Things return to normal somewhat in Week 5 as this league gets back into full scale play with three conference tilts, a North Texas rivalry and… UTEP.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Texas Tech at Oklahoma St
Thurs., 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Red Raiders haven’t won in Stillwater since 2001, have lost five straight to the Cowboys overall and will need to show marked improvement coming off an ugly 21-point loss to Arkansas at home if they want to win their Big 12 opener. Kliff Kingsbury is also replacing his defensive coordinator after Matt Wallerstedt stepped down during the off week. Former alum Mike Smith is now in charge of the defense — one that has to stop Mike Gundy’s improving Air Raid. But while Daxx Garman has been a solid fit in replacing J.W. Walsh, it’s Glenn Spencer’s defense that has the Pokes ahead of the perceived rebuilding schedule in Stillwater. Ok-State has been excellent in the red zone on defense and held UTSA to just 206 yards and 3.2 yards per play the last time out. Davis Webb and company cannot make the mistakes that have plagued this team — Tech is last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-4) and penalties (10.0/game) — or Oklahoma State will run away with its first league victory.
Listen to the Week 5 preview podcast:
2. Baylor at Iowa St
8 p.m., FOX
The Cyclones may not be considered a Big 12 title contender but they are easily the toughest competition Baylor has faced all season. Iowa State is 2-0 under Paul Rhoads against Baylor at home while holding the Bears to just 31 total points in the two victories. That said, the Bears have run through the Big 12 since losing in Ames in 2012 and will be getting top playmaker Antwan Goodley back on the field this weekend. Bryce Petty may never return to full strength this season, so protecting the quarterback will be key for Art Briles. This was a 64-point win for Baylor in Waco last season and, while this is the Bears’ toughest test to date, it’s hard to see ISU closing the gap enough to compete for four quarters.
3. Texas at Kansas
4 p.m., FS1
Charlie Strong is in desperate need of some good news and a quality performance on the road in his Big 12 opener would be just that. Even if it is against Kansas. Fans in Austin know that Texas cannot take a trip to Lawrence lightly, as the Jayhawks nearly upset the Horns in 2012. Tyrone Swoopes showed a lot of promise in losses to BYU and UCLA, but this will be his first true road start of his career. If he is as efficient (70.6 percent) throwing the ball as he was against the Bruins, the Longhorns should be able to move the chains consistently. Kansas’ offense, led by quarterback Montell Cozart and tailback Corey Avery, needs to show up against quality competition. Against SEMO and Central Michigan, Kansas posted 826 yards of offense and 5.8 yards per play. Against the only Big 5 team it’s played (Duke), it accounted for just 297 yards and 3.9 yards per play. Look for Texas’ defensive line to control the tempo and get off the field on third downs.
4. UTEP at Kansas St
Bill Snyder’s bunch desperately needs to get back onto the field after self-inflicted wounds cost Kansas State a shot at a major upset over Auburn. The defense was excellent, in particular, against the Tigers' rushing attack. The Cats will need to bring the same type of intensity to the trenches again this week, as UTEP averages 315 yards rushing per game on 6.1 yards per carry. If K-State can regroup (easier said than done after the letdown last Thursday), then the home team should roll big. Jake Waters and the offense likely had a sobering week of practice and should be able to move the ball effectively against UTEP.
5. TCU at SMU
Noon, CBS Sports
The Battle for the Iron Skillet won’t be nearly as heated as its name would indicate. SMU is in rough shape under interim head coach Tom Mason after allowing 9.8 yards per play in the 52-point loss to Texas A&M last weekend. Gary Patterson’s squad, meanwhile, has had two weeks to prepare for its crosstown rival after rolling through both Samford and Minnesota in the first two weeks. Trevone Boykin looks like he’s settled in as the starting quarterback and should direct a similar attack to the one the Aggies just used to crush the Mustangs. It’s going to be a long year for the Pony Express.
Off: Oklahoma, West Virginia
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|T. Tech (+14) at Okla. St||OSU, 42-28||OSU, 34-28||OSU, 35-21||OSU, 41-30|
|Baylor (-21) at Iowa St||Bay., 49-21||Bay., 48-17||Bay., 56-14||Bay., 55-20|
|Texas (-14) at Kansas||Texas, 30-17||Texas, 31-10||Texas, 21-13||Texas, 30-13|
|UTEP (+26) at Kansas St||KSU, 45-7||KSU, 34-16||KSU, 35-10||KSU, 41-17|
|TCU (-31.5) at SMU||TCU, 40-10||TCU, 41-0||TCU, 42-7||TCU, 45-10|