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The Houston Texans and New England Patriots will wrap up Week 14 in the NFL when two of the AFC’s top teams meet up tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Texans (11-1) currently lead the Patriots (9-3) and the rest of the conference in the quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Besides trying to gain ground on the Texans for that coveted top seed, the Patriots would like nothing more than to send a signal to the visiting team that they are the ones who currently wear the AFC crown. This is especially the case considering it’s entirely possible these two teams will meet up with another a little later on, say on Jan. 20 in the AFC Championship Game?
When the Houston Texans have the ball:
Houston’s offense is fifth in the league with 389.6 yards per game and they are second only to New England in points per game with 29.3. The Texans rely more on the run than any other team, as they lead in rushing attempts (413) and are sixth in yards (142.5) per game. Arian Foster leads all players in carries (283), is fifth in yards with 1,102, and leads the NFL with 15 total touchdowns (13 rush, 2 pass). The Texans’ offense is not one-dimensional by any stretch, however, as quarterback Matt Schaub is responsible for leading the league’s 10th-ranked passing attack. The Texans are averaging more than 247 yards passing per game, as Schaub has thrown for 3,062 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Schaub’s favorite target is wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is seventh in the league in receptions (74), fifth in receiving yards (1,114) and is averaging 15.1 yards per reception. Schaub also likes to find tight end Owen Daniels, who has 50 catches on the season and leads the team with six touchdown receptions. The Texans’ offensive line not only gets the job done opening up holes for Foster and the running game, but also in protecting Schaub. The line has allowed only 15 sacks, tying the Giants for fewest in the league. The Texans also have done a good job protecting the ball, especially for a team that runs it so much, with only two fumbles lost and a total of 12 turnovers on the season.
New England’s defense may not look that great on paper, but it has gotten the job done consistently this season. The Patriots are ranked near the bottom (26th) in terms of yards allowed (380.8) per game, but are tied for 14th in scoring defense at 21.7 points per game. Some of this can be attributed to the unit’s ability to generate turnovers. The Patriots have forced 33 turnovers, including a league-high 19 fumbles. They have generated the second-most takeaways in the league and have turned five of these into defensive scores. The Patriots have done a good job of slowing down an opponent’s running game, as they are eighth in the league in rushing defense (100.8 ypg). Some of this success, however, can be attributed to the fact that teams tend to end up throwing the ball more than running it against the Patriots. To that end, the Patriots are No. 28 in passing defense, giving up nearly 280 yards through the air per game. To be fair, the defense is somewhat a victim of the offense’s success, as Brady and Co. will often jump out to big leagues, forcing opponents to abandon the run and exclusively pass the ball in hopes of trying to catch up. The Patriots do have 26 sacks on the season, which not only helps slow down a passing attack, but in the Patriots’ case also presents opportunities to force the quarterback to fumble the ball while being taken down.
When the New England Patriots have the ball:
New England’s offense is No. 1 in the NFL in both total offense (426.3 ypg) and scoring offense (35.8 ppg). The Patriots are eighth in passing offense (285.8 ypg), which is not surprising with Tom Brady as your quarterback. Brady is the league’s fifth-rated passer as he’s thrown for 3,537 yards (fifth in NFL) with 25 touchdown passes (fourth) and just four interceptions, which is tied for the fewest among qualified quarterbacks. Brady lost tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdown catches, to a broken forearm a few weeks ago, but he still has wide receiver Wes Welker. Welker is leading the NFL with 92 catches and is seventh in yards with 1,046. He has just four touchdown catches, but that’s more representative of Brady’s ability to spread the ball around. Seven different Patriots have caught a touchdown pass with six of those having two or more. Although the Patriots are known more for being a passing offense, they actually are second only to the Texans in rushing attempts (401), ninth in yards (133.6 ypg) and lead the way with 19 rushing touchdowns. Stevan Ridley has been responsible for most of the damage on the ground, as he’s seventh in the league with 1,010 rushing yards and tied for second with nine rushing touchdowns. The offensive line has done a good job of protecting Brady, as it has allowed 19 sacks, tied for second-fewest in the AFC. The Patriots also have committed just nine turnovers, the fewest in the NFL, including only five fumbles.
Houston’s defense is fifth overall in terms of yards allowed (322.6) and is fourth in scoring defense at 18.4 points per game. The Texans have allowed more than 25 points in a game only three times this season. Houston has been extremely stout against the run this season, ranking second in rushing defense. The Texans have allowed more than 100 yards rushing in only three games and only one running back (Chris Johnson) has reached the century mark against them. The defense also has allowed a total of two rushing touchdowns, and both of these came in the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. The Texans are No. 19 in passing defense, giving up an average of 235 passing yards per game. They have, however, been a little more susceptible in this area recently. Aaron Rodgers gashed the Texans for 338 yards and six touchdowns back in Week 6, Houston’s only loss thus far, but the defense has surrendered more than 300 yards passing in each of the past three games. One of those games was the Turkey Day matchup with Detroit and Matthew Stafford that went into overtime, but the other two quarterbacks who hung more than 300 on the Texans were Jacksonville’s Chad Henne and Tennessee’s Jake Locker. The Texans will need to perform better in pass defense or run the risk of Brady shredding them. A potential equalizer for this could be the Texans’ pass rush, which has produced 36 sacks, the third-most in the NFL. Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt is the one to watch here, as he is second in the league with 16.5 sacks and also has batted down or deflected 15 passes. The Texans, like the Patriots, also do a good job forcing turnovers. They have 26 takeaways on the season, second only to the Patriots in the AFC, including 12 forced fumbles.
This is without question THE game of Week 14, and has all the makings of being an instant classic. Both Houston and New England have already clinched playoff spots (the Patriots have already won the AFC East crown), and enter tonight’s game with matching six-game winning streaks. Even though it’s highly likely these two could end up playing again in the playoffs, I don’t think it’s going to take away the intensity and competitiveness for this game one bit. And that’s especially the case for the Texans, who are already calling this the most important game in the franchise’s history, and are probably still smarting from their terrible showing at home in Week 6 against Green Bay. The Texans lost to the Packers 42-24 in front of a national primetime audience and aren’t looking for a repeat performance tonight. On the other hand you have the Patriots, the defending AFC champions who would like nothing more than to make a statement to the new kid on the block about who is still top dog in the conference. It is just one game, but the winner walks away with a ton of confidence as the regular season winds down. The Patriots and the Texans have the No. 1 and 2 turnover differentials in the AFC, respectively, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if a key miscue ends up deciding this one. In the end, I think the Texans’ offense will be able to make enough plays through the air and the defense will be able to turn just enough Patriot drives away from the end zone to earn the victory.
Texans 27, Patriots 24
Texas Tech is the latest college football program looking for a new coach, as Tommy Tuberville made a surprising decision to bolt to Cincinnati to replace Butch Jones. Tuberville was 20-17 in three seasons with the Red Raiders but never seemed to be a good fit in Lubbock. Texas Tech has experienced only one losing season since 1993, and Tuberville isn’t leaving the cupboard bare for the new coach.
8 Coaches to Replace Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor – Briles just signed an extension with Baylor but that likely won’t stop Texas Tech from pursuing him in the next few days. He graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in 1979 and went to Rule High School, which is less than 200 miles outside of Lubbock. Briles was a successful high school head coach and jumped into the collegiate ranks in 2000 as a running backs coach with Texas Tech. After three years with the Red Raiders, Briles was selected as Houston’s head coach and recorded a 34-28 record in five seasons with the Cougars. He replaced Guy Morriss at Baylor in 2008 and is 32-30 in five years in Waco, including a 10-3 mark in 2011.
Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State – DeRuyter had a successful debut season at Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and a share of the Mountain West title. DeRuyter has a solid resume as an assistant, working as a defensive coordinator at Air Force and Texas A&M. Although he’s only been a head coach for one year, it’s very easy to be impressed with DeRuyter. Fresno State struggled to get over the hump with Pat Hill on the sidelines, but DeRuyter brought quick improvement after the Bulldogs went 4-9 last season. The 49-year-old coach played at Air Force from 1982-84 and coached with the Falcons from 1991-94 and 2007-09.
Bryan Harsin, offensive coordinator, Texas – Harsin has been on a quick rise through the coaching ranks, starting his career at Eastern Oregon as an assistant in 2000. Harsin was hired at Boise State in 2001 and eventually worked his way into the offensive coordinator role in 2006. After five seasons with the Broncos, Harsin came to Austin and has brought improvement to the Longhorns’ attack, which ranked 37th nationally in total offense this year. Harsin has no head coaching experience but is ready for a shot to run his own program.
Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M – Kingsbury is the perfect fit for Texas Tech. However, is he ready to lead this program? The San Antonio native played under Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 1998-2002 and ranks second in school history with 12,429 passing yards. After a short career in the NFL, Kingsbury landed on Houston’s coaching staff as an assistant under Kevin Sumlin. The Cougars were one of the nation’s best offenses under Kingsbury’s watch, and he joined Sumlin at Texas A&M in 2012. The Aggies finished third nationally in total and scoring defense this year, while finishing 10-2 in their first season of SEC play. Kingsbury is a rising star, but the lack of head coaching experience has to be a concern for Hocutt.
Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – If Texas Tech wants to go with a young, offensive-minded coach, Monken is another guy to keep on the radar. The Illinois native has no head coaching experience but made stops as an assistant at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU and Oklahoma State. Monken also spent two years in the NFL with the Jaguars and is believed to be on the radar for openings at Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – Morris is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. The Texas native has no collegiate head coaching experience but helped to engineer top-25 offenses at Tulsa and Clemson. The Tigers finished 2012 ranked in the top 10 in total and scoring offense, while averaging 319.6 passing yards per game. Morris has a wealth of experience in the high school ranks, working as a head coach from 1994-2009 at five different stops. Although Morris has no collegiate head coaching experience, his time in the Texas high school ranks and offensive background would be a perfect fit for the Red Raiders.
Jay Norvell, co-offensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Norvell has been an assistant coach since 1986, making stops at Iowa, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Nebraska, UCLA and in the NFL with the Colts and Raiders. Norvell has worked with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma since 2008 and is a co-offensive coordinator with Josh Heupel. Although the Wisconsin native has no head coaching experience, he’s a proven assistant with Big 12 experience and a background on offense.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson – Venables is a name many in the Big 12 are familiar with, as he played at Kansas State from 1991-92 and coached at Oklahoma from 1999-2011. The Kansas native left Norman to work as Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2012 and the Tigers showed improvement under his direction, finishing fourth in the ACC in scoring defense. Venables and Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt played together at Kansas State from 1991-92 and also crossed paths at Oklahoma. Venables has no head coaching experience but is due for his chance to run a BCS program.
Longshots to watch
Josh Heupel, co-offensive coordinator, Oklahoma
Dana Holgorsen, head coach, West Virginia
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette
Seth Littrell, offensive coordinator, Indiana
Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach
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Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy on Friday, adding another milestone to one of the most storied awards in sports.
From the first African-American to win the award, to the first sophomore, to the first West Coast winner, the milestones achieved during the Heisman’s roll call of 78 winners have reshaped the award.
Here’s a look at the key milestones in the history of the Heisman and a hint of awards that could follow with Manziel earning the first Trophy for a freshman.
1935: The first Heisman.
Chicago’s Jay Berwanger is acknowledged as the first Heisman winner in 1935, but the award he won was the DAC Trophy, presented by Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club. The statue, modeled after New York University football player Ed Smith, was the same as it’s always been.
1936: The first Heisman, really.
The Downtown Athletic Club renamed its award to honor recently deceased coach John W. Heisman. Yale’s Larry Kelley in 1936 was the first to win the Heisman Trophy under its new name.
1938: Smallest Heisman winner.
At 5-foot-7, TCU quarterback Davey O’Brien became the smallest Heisman winner. (And before someone chimes in about Doug Flutie, the Boston College quarterback was 5-10.)
1943: Notre Dame’s first winner.
Angelo Bertelli became Notre Dame’s first of seven Heisman winners, giving the Irish the most individuals with a trophy. Ohio State has won the award seven times, but two went to Archie Griffin. USC also has seven winners, but Reggie Bush had his award vacated. Notre Dame’s Heisman winners are: John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987).
|Army's Doc Blanchard (left) wtih coach Red Blaik and teammate Glenn Davis.|
1945: The first non-senior winner.
Army’s “Mr. Inside” (Felix “Doc” Blanchard) and “Mr. Outside” (Glenn Davis) were both juniors when they finished atop the balloting, but Blanchard became the first junior to win the award. Davis won the Heisman a year later as a senior.
1956: Only winner from a losing team.
Notre Dame went 2-8 in 1956, but that didn’t stop Paul Hornung from winning the trophy in a heated race. Hornung didn’t earn the most first-place votes -- that belonged to third-place finisher Tom McDonald from Oklahoma. Future Tennessee coach Johnny Majors was the runner-up, but none of those three were the most legendary football player of the group. That honor belongs to fifth-place finisher Jim Brown of Syracuse.
1961: First African-American winner.
Syracuse running back Ernie Davis broke the Heisman’s color barrier in 1961. The Elmira Express was set to join Jim Brown in the Cleveland Browns backfield, but Davis died suddenly of leukemia in 1963.
1962: First West Coast winner.
Prior to Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker winning the Heisman in 1962, the Western-most Heisman winners came from TCU, SMU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. After Baker, four of the next eight winners would come from states West of the Rocky Mountains.
1963: Last winner from a service academy.
Navy’s Roger Staubach was the fifth and final Heisman winner from a service academy. Three former players from Army and two from Navy won the award.
1968: The first second Heisman.
Starting in 1968, the Heisman elected to award two trophies: One to the individual winner and another to the winner’s school. In the event of a trophy being vacated, both awards would be taken away.
1968: Biggest Heisman landslide.
USC’s O.J. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman by what remains the biggest margin. Runner-up Leroy Keyes of Purdue finished 1,750 points behind Simpson’s 2,853.
1975: Only repeat winner.
Though others would attempt to defend their Heisman victories, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin is the only player to successfully to do so. Griffin won both the 1974 and 1975 awards by more than 1,000 points.
1989: Only winner on an NCAA-sanctioned team.
Houston’s Andre Ware is the last Heisman winner who did not play in a bowl game as his 9-2 Cougars were on NCAA probation. Making the voting more perplexing, Ware’s team was under a television ban.
|Florida's Danny Wuerffel on a 1995 Athlon annual cover.|
1996: Only Heisman winner to coach a Heisman winner.
Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the ’96 Heisman coached by the man who won the Heisman 30 years earlier from the same school, Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach also coached a Heisman runner-up in 2001 in Rex Grossman.
1997: First defensive player.
Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson became the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman in ’97. Prior to Woodson, other defensive winners came from the one-platoon era when players participated on offense and defense. Woodson was not a purely defensive player, as he contributed a handful of plays on offense and returned kicks. Making Woodson’s victory contentious with fans (especially in the Southeast) was his runner-up, Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
2000. Oldest Heisman winner.
Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, a former minor league baseball player, became the oldest Heisman winner at age 28.
2007: The first sophomore winner.
Florida’s Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman in 2007. He would be a finalist as a junior and senior, but was beat out both years -- by sophomores.
2009: The closest Heisman race.
Mark Ingram won Alabama’s first Heisman by the closest margin in Heisman history, beating Stanford’s Toby Gerhart by merely 28 points. Ingram, then a sophomore, was also the youngest Heisman winner at 19 years old.
2010: Only vacated Heisman.
USC running back Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman, but the Heisman Trust ordered both he and the Trojans were ordered to return their trophies as a result of NCAA sanctions on the school stemming from Bush’s relationship with a marketing agent.
2012: The first freshman winner.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman, by topping a purely defensive player (Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o) for the award. As a 20-year-old redshirt freshman, Manziel is not the youngest player to win the Heisman -- Alabama’s Mark Ingram retains that title. And the Heisman has yet to have a player finish one season in high school and the next hoisting the trophy.
The Detroit Lions will try and play spoiler when they take on the Green Bay Packers tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Lions (4-8) are looking to end a four-game losing streak and do something they haven’t done in more than 20 years – win at Lambeau Field. The Packers (8-4) are aiming to stay atop the NFC North standings by beating the Lions for the second time in less than a month.
When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Detroit’s offense is tops in the NFL in passing and second in total offense. The Lions are generating more than 416 yards of offense per game, thanks to a passing attack that is piling up more than 312 per contest through the air. Not surprisingly, quarterback Matthew Stafford leads the league with 3,742 passing yards, but he also has thrown the most passes (534) and is only No. 23 in terms of passer rating. Stafford, who threw 41 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions last season, has just 16 touchdown passes compared to 11 picks so far this season. That’s a big reason why, even with all of the yards, the Lions are only 11th in scoring at 24.5 points per game. Stafford’s favorite target is All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who after a slow start has a chance to break the single-season record for receiving yards. With 1,428 (119 ypg), Johnson needs just 421 yards in his last four to break Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards that he set back in 1995. Considering the number of targets Johnson receives (average of 12 per game) and the fact that the Lions’ wide receiving corps has been decimated by injuries, Megatron’s got a decent shot of taking away at least one record from the Hall of Famer before the season’s over. While a big chunk of the Lions’ offense comes via the pass, the running game has done a good job of getting the ball across the goal line. Even though Detroit is just 21st in rushing offense (105 ypg), the Lions are tied for the third-most rushing touchdowns with 14. They are led in that department by second-year running back Mikel Leshoure, who has rushed for a team-high 591 yards and seven touchdowns in his debut season. Leshoure, who the Lions drafted in the second round in 2011, missed all of his rookie season after rupturing his Achilles in training camp. Besides Stafford’s 11 interceptions, the Lions also have fumbled the ball away nine times and have allowed 25 quarterback sacks.
Green Bay’s defense is 15th overall in total defense (349 ypg) and 13th in scoring defense at 21.6 points per game. The Packers are ranked in the middle of the pack in both rushing (115.2 ypg, 15th) and passing (233.8 ypg, 17th) defense, but one of the areas they really shine are in putting pressure on the quarterback. The Packers are fourth in the league with 34 sacks, and this pressure has helped the unit produce 14 interceptions. That’s the bulk of the turnovers forced, however, as the Packers have just four fumble recoveries on the season.
When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Green Bay’s offense has not been nearly as productive as it was last year, when the Packers ranked first in scoring and third in total offense. This season, the Packers are 16th in the league in total offense, at 350.6 yards per game, and 12th in scoring at 24.7 points per game. Reigning NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put together another strong season, as he’s the league’s top-rated passer (105.0), is tied for second with 29 touchdown passes and fourth in completion percentage (67.4). The problem for Rodgers and the offense has been two-fold: a lack of pass protection and consistent production from the running game. Rodgers has been sacked a league-worst 39 times, which makes the fact he’s only thrown eight interceptions so far even more impressive, while the ground game is generating less than four yards per carry and has produced a grand total of three rushing touchdowns. Injuries also have played a role, as Green Bay lost starting running back Cedric Benson earlier this season to a Lisfranc injury, and now are without James Starks as well. The lead back duties now shift to Alex Green, who is averaging 3.3 yards per carry. The wide receiving corps also has had to deal with its share of injuries, the first being a groin injury that caused Greg Jennings to miss seven games. Now, it’s Jordy Nelson, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury and may be unable to go tonight. Fortunately for Rodgers, second-year pro Randall Cobb and veteran James Jones have been able to pick up the slack. Cobb has emerged this year as a dynamic playmaker capable of making things happen as a receiver, kick returner or when he’s lined up in the backfield, while Jones leads the team and is third in the league with nine touchdown receptions. The Packers have committed just 12 turnovers, including four lost fumbles, which is tied for second-fewest in the NFC.
Detroit’s defense is ranked No. 19 in total defense (353.4 ypg) and 25th in points allowed at 26.3 per game. The Lions are just behind the Packers’ in terms of pass defense (234 ypg, 18th) and are 19th in rushing defense (119.4 ypg). They also are in the middle of the pack when it comes to sacks (27, tied for 16th), and have forced a total of 15 turnovers, including 10 interceptions. The Lions’ defense has been particularly vulnerable during this current four-game losing streak, as the unit has surrendered an average of 31.8 points per game during this stretch.
Believe it or not, but the last time Detroit beat Green Bay in Lambeau Field was way back on Dec. 15, 1991. The Lions have dropped their last 21 games played on the frozen tundra, including a playoff game in 1994. Overall, the Packers have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two long-time division rivals and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a career 18:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio in eight games against the Lions. Green Bay won the first meeting, 24-20, just three weeks ago in Detroit. The Packers scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game, a common theme for the Lions’ defense during the team’s four-game losing streak. In each of the Lions’ last three losses, they have held a lead in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes remaining. Besides the Packers’ game, there has been Houston first tying Detroit with 1:55 on the clock and the Texans then going on to win on Thanksgiving Day with a field goal late in the overtime period. And last week, it was rookie quarterback Andrew Luck rallying his Indianapolis Colts from 12 points down in the fourth quarter, culminating the miraculous comeback with a game-winning touchdown pass with no time remaining. So not only do the Lions have the bitter taste of last week’s defeat, not to mention their previous two losses, still in their mouths, they are now faced with playing the division leader on their own home turf. And did I mention that tonight’s game also happens to be on a field on which the Lions haven’t won a game in more than two decades?
Packers 31, Lions 24
For most fantasy leagues Week 14 either means it’s playoff time or it’s the last week of the regular reason. Regardless, it’s extremely important to make sure you field your best available lineup, which especially applies to those key players who are listed on their respective team’s injury report. To that end, here’s what we know about the status of those who line up in the backfield.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers
It’s the news Steeler fans and Roethlisberger owners have been waiting to hear for about a month – Big Ben is back. After missing the past three games recovering from the rib and shoulder injuries he suffered in Week 10 against Kansas City, Roethlisberger be back in there under center this afternoon against San Diego. While the Steelers went 1-2 during his absence, don’t underestimate Roethlisberger’s value. In the eight full games he played prior to the injury, the Steelers averaged 23.9 points per game. In the three he missed, their point production dropped to 15.7. It’s not a bad matchup for him to come back for either, as the Chargers are 21st in the league in passing defense and in the middle of the pack when it comes to fantasy points scored by opposing quarterbacks.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Stewart went down with an ankle injury in the Panthers’ Week 12 win in Philadelphia. Once it was classified as the dreaded high ankle sprain, no one was surprised he missed last week’s game in Kansas City. He didn’t practice all week, so there’s no reason to believe he will suit up today against the Falcons. That leaves lead back duties to DeAngelo Williams, who could be an intriguing fantasy option against the NFL’s 20th-ranked rushing defense. He didn’t do that much against the Chiefs last week (12 att., 67 yds.), so I would temper my expectations and only take a chance on Williams as a flex or if you don’t have any better (healthier) options at running back.
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Poor Beanie, he can’t seem to stay healthy. After going on injured reserve earlier this season due to a severe turf toe issue, Wells returned two weeks ago and scored twice against St. Louis. However, he’s gained a total of 70 yards on 32 carries (2.2 ypc) in two games since returning and was a limited participant at practice due to a knee issue. He is listed as Questionable for the game in Seattle, but chances are pretty good he will play. That said, I wouldn’t rely on or trust Wells unless you were desperate. Besides his injury-prone nature, he’s been largely unproductive this season, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry, and he’s going up against the Seahawks on their home turf. For the season Seattle is 12th in rushing defense and the Seahawks seem to take their play to another level in front of the home crowd at CenturyLink Field. Wells is not 100 percent well when it comes to his health, so I think you would do well by leaving Wells on your bench.
Other notable running back injury updates:
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings – listed as Questionable (ribs), did not practice until Friday and was limited. Between his uncertain status and the mere presence of Matt Forte, who has gotten the vast majority of the carries when’s he beeon the field, I would avoid using Bush if at all possible.
DeMarcoy Murray, Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals – listed as Probable (foot), limited in practice this week but this was reported to be a team decision for precautionary reasons only. He may not get a full workload, but there’s no reason to not start him.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers – listed as Questionable because of an elbow injury. He was limited in practice, but is expected to play against the Panthers. May want to keep an eye on him to make sure there are no late developments leading up to game time, but the bigger concern is probably how the carries will be distributed between Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Regardless of whether you have already started your fantasy league playoffs or not, no one needs to be told how important it is to put your best starting lineup out there at this point in the season. Week 14 of the NFL season is upon us and here are some key wide receiver injuries to keep an eye on as you get ready for today’s action.
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams at Buffalo Bills
Amendola hurt his foot three weeks ago against the Jets, but it didn’t prevent him from playing the following week. However, he caught just one pass against the Cardinals as his foot was clearly bothering him and he ended up missing last week’s game versus the 49ers. He is officially listed as Questionable for today’s game in Buffalo and is probably a game-time decision. He did practice in a limited fashion this week, but he is an awfully risky play all things considered, especially since it’s a 1 p.m. ET kickoff. To me, it’s too much risk and not enough reward to take a chance with him.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. St. Louis Rams
Johnson wasn’t able to finish last week’s game against Jacksonville after straining his hamstring and he is listed as Questionable for the game against St. Louis. He didn’t practice on Wednesday, but was able to return on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday. Despite the Questionable tag, he is expected to play, but don’t expect him to be at 100 percent. That coupled with the Rams’ pass defense, which is ranked 11th, makes him a risky play, but you should probably still go ahead and start him unless you have better or more appealing options.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants vs. New Orleans Saints
Just when you thought Nicks was over the hump regarding injuries comes word that the soreness in his left knee flared up, again. The good news is that Nicks was able to practice some on Friday and the word from Giants camp is that he should be able to go today against the Saints. Nicks being a game-time call is nothing new this season, and the later kickoff time helps in terms of holding off on making a decision, provided you have a backup plan ready to go. That said, it’s obvious the knee has been an issue for Nicks all season long and has affected his production. If you have stuck with him to this point then you should be all too familiar with the risk, as well as the potential payoff, that comes with having Nicks on your roster.
Other notable wide receiver injury updates:
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Dallas Cowboys – Green did not practice on Friday due to illness. He is listed as Probable so there’s no reason to not expect him to be out there and for you to not start one of fantasy’s top wide receivers.
Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings – Harvin was placed on injured reserve earlier this week because of a severe ankle injury he sustained in Week 9. He tore ligaments in the ankle, and while he most likely won’t need surgery, he won’t play again this season. The only Vikings’ pass-catcher worth owning at this point is tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has put together three productive games in a row.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay vs. Detroit Lions – Nelson will miss tonight’s game against Detroit with a hamstring injury. While Randall Cobb remains the Packers wide receiver to own, don’t forget about Greg Jennings, who is back from a groin injury, and James Jones, who is second in the league in touchdown catches with nine. There’s also tight end Jermichael Finley, who has been more productive in recent weeks.
Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals – Rice took a big hit on the game-winning touchdown in Chicago last week, but was back at practice on Wednesday. He was a practice participant throughout the week and is listed as Probable for the game against the Cardinals. He’s been at his best lately, five touchdowns over his last five games, but he’s also had no more than six receptions and 99 yards receiving in any game, so consider yourself warned.
Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks – Roberts is Questionable with an ankle injury. He didn’t get any practice in until Friday and was limited even then. He may be a game-time decision, but given Arizona’s persistent quarterback issues this season, there is little reason to start any Cardinals wide receiver, and that includes Larry Fitzgerald.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Jets – Shorts has been one of fantasy’s breakout players this season, but he won’t be adding to his numbers on Sunday. He has already been declared Out against the Jets after suffering a concussion late in the fourth quarter last week in Buffalo. Shorts passed a concussion test earlier this week, but wasn’t able to practice at all as he was still experiencing symptoms. Rookie Justin Blackmon figures to get more looks in Shorts’ absence, but that doesn’t make him a must-start option either. Blackmon had just one catch for nine yards against the Bills last week and the Jets rank among the stingiest when it comes to fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. This is probably not the best week to rely on any Jaguar offensive player.
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.
Manziel edged Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o to earn college football's most prestigious award.
The redshirt freshman received 474 first-place votes for 2,029 total points compared to Te'o's 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points, which was the most- ever scored by a purely defensive player in the history of the award.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein came in third place with 60 first-place votes and 894 points.
"This is a moment that I've dreamed about since I was a little kid," said Manziel. "I wish my whole team could be up here tonight, especially my offensive linemen and offensive teammates."
Manziel broke the SEC record for total offense by passing for 3,419 yards and rushing for 1,181 more while totaling 43 touchdowns -- 24 through the air.
In Texas A&M's first season in the vaunted SEC, Manziel led the Aggies to a trip to the Cotton Bowl behind a 10-2 record, which included a win over then- No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10.
Aside from becoming the first Texas A&M player to win the Heisman since John David Crow back in 1957, Manziel also captured the Davey O'Brien award for the nation's top quarterback, the SEC Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
"I get the chance to stand up here when, really, there could be five offensive lineman standing up here in the spotlight because they really deserve just as much, if not more, credit," Manziel said after hearing his name called for the award.
Te'o was seeking to become the first true defensive player the win the Heisman and the eighth Notre Dame player to receive the award.
Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson captured the Heisman in 1997, but he also appeared as a kick returner and wide receiver for the Wolverines.
The senior amassed a team-high 101 tackles and a career-best seven interceptions for the top-ranked Irish, who are set the play No. 2 Alabama in the BCS title game on Jan. 7.
Te'o, however, did become the first person ever to win both the Bednarik and Maxwell Awards, as well as capturing the Walter Camp Award, the Butkus Award, the Nagurski Award and the Lombardi Award this season, making him the most decorated player in college football history.
Klein was trying to become Kansas State's first-ever Heisman winner.
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award recipient passed for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns, while adding 890 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns for the 11-1 Wildcats, who will face off against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.
Knoxville, TN (Sports Network) - Butch Jones is leaving Cincinnati to become the head football coach at Tennessee.
Jones resigned from his position at Cincinnati on Friday morning.
The 44-year-old Jones was the coach of the Bearcats for the past three years, recording a 23-14 record during that span. He guided Cincinnati to back-to- back conference championships in 2011 and 2012 and was named Big East Coach of the Year in 2011.
"I would like to thank Butch Jones for his time at the University of Cincinnati," director of athletics Whit Babcock said. "With that said, we are excited about the future of this program and this job will be extremely attractive nationally. Our search will begin immediately."
Cincinnati named Steve Stripling interim head coach for the Belk Bowl.
Jones decided to go with Tennessee after reportedly turning down an offer to become the new coach at Colorado earlier this week.
At Tennessee, Jones will succeed Derek Dooley, who was fired on Nov. 18 following an embarrassing 41-18 road loss at Vanderbilt. Dooley posted a losing record in each of his three seasons in Knoxville.
The Volunteers went 5-7 this season with a 1-7 mark in the SEC.
"It is truly an honor and a privilege to be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee," Jones said. "I understand the values, traditions, and level of expectations that come with this position, and I look forward to being a part of the Vol Nation."
Prior to taking the job at Cincinnati, Jones spent three years as the head coach at Central Michigan. Jones went 27-13 as coach of the Chippewas, winning MAC Championships in 2007 and 2009.
Jones is a native of Michigan and spent two years as wide receivers coach at West Virginia before being named Central Michigan's head coach in 2007.
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 14.
Locks of the Week
Three of the worst teams in the league will be flown over by the sputtering J-E-T-S, soaring Dirty Birds and upstart Hawks.
Jets (-3) at Jaguars
Tim Tebow’s homecoming game will be a referendum on Mark Sanchez. J-Ville has eight losses by four or more points.
Falcons (-3.5) at Panthers
The Cats are 1–5 in Charlotte and riding a five-game losing streak at home; all of those losses have been by four or more points.
Seahawks (-10) vs. Cardinals
Arizona is on an 0–8 slide, while Seattle is 5–0 at home — with the only single-digit winning margins coming against the Patriots and Packers.
Straight Up Upsets
The RG3 and Andrew Luck love fests will take the week off against regional and divisional underdogs.
Ravens (+3) at Redskins
Since a Week 10 bye, RG3 is 3–0 with 667 passing yards, 185 rushing yards, nine TDs and just one INT.
Titans (+6) at Colts
Indy pulled off a 19–13 overtime win in Nashville in Week 8, and the Horseshoes are 5–1 at home this season.
These may not be straight up upsets, but the underdogs in the fight should show enough fight to keep these closer than their numbers.
Saints (+5) at Giants
The G-Men have lost three of their last four, while the Aints have lost back-to-back games against the 49ers and Falcons.
Chiefs (+6.5) at Browns
Peyton Hillis thinks former teammate Joe Thomas is “kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It’s been over a year. Get over it.”
Chargers (+7.5) at Steelers
Only two of Pittsburgh’s seven wins have been by eight or more points — against the Jets (27–10) in Week 2 and Redskins (27–12) in Week 8.
Dolphins (+10) at 49ers
Miami is 2–4 on the road, but only one of those losses came by double-digits — a Texas-sized 30–10 loss in Week 1 at mighty Houston.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who always has to have action.
Bears (-3) at Vikings
Jay Cutler says he “won’t break the bank” in his upcoming contract negotiations, you shouldn’t either.
Bengals (-3) vs. Cowboys
Tony Romo has 10 TDs and just two INTs over his last five games. Turn your hat backwards and push your chips in.
Bills (-3) vs. Rams
St. Lunatic corner Janoris Jenkins has three TDs over the past two weeks; Buffalo back C.J. Spiller has three TDs over the past 10 weeks.
Patriots (-4) vs. Texans
Houston is 6–0 on the road this season. But has New England ever lost at home in December with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
Packers (-7) vs. Lions
Green Bay rallied for a 24–20 win at Detroit in Week 11. But Ndamukong Suh has been practicing his karate since then.
Buccaneers (-7.5) vs. Eagles
Andy Reid’s walrus mustache makes its way to the Tampa-St. Pete area for the latest chapter in a Salvidor Dali-style surreal season.
After an extended coaching search, Tennessee has finally found its man. Butch Jones was picked as the Volunteers’ next coach, replacing Derek Dooley after an ineffective three-year run in Knoxville. Jones isn’t a big name or flashy hire, but Tennessee is getting a solid coach that should return to the program to bowl games.
Here’s a deeper look at Jones and the positives and negatives surrounding his hire:
A Proven Winner
Although Jones has yet to build a program from scratch, his resume is rock solid. Jones is 50-27 in six seasons as a head coach, which also includes five bowl trips. Even if Brian Kelly helped to set the table for Jones’ success at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, it’s not easy getting to 50 victories based on someone else’s recruits. After going 4-8 in his first season with Cincinnati, Jones did a tremendous job getting the program back on track, recording a 19-6 mark over the last two years.
Tennessee is a Destination Job for Jones
Considering Jones is only 44 years old, he’s got plenty of energy and is ready to build something special at Tennessee. Leaving Cincinnati was not an easy decision for Jones but moving to Tennessee and a conference (SEC) with more stability was the right call. Even though his resume may not indicate this, the Michigan native is the type of coach who wants to set down roots in an area and build a program. As long as Jones is successful, he won’t be looking to bolt Knoxville anytime soon.
Even though Jones spent just three years at Cincinnati, his time in the Buckeye State should help Tennessee on the recruiting trail. The Volunteers have to be able to recruit nationally, especially since the state of Tennessee doesn’t produce a ton of elite talent. Having a coach with ties in Ohio can only help on the recruiting trail. In addition to his Ohio ties, Jones did a good job of recruiting the state of Florida and Memphis while at Cincinnati, which should work even better at Tennessee.
No SEC Experience
This factor is probably overrated in coaching searches, but it will take some time for Jones to adjust to life in the SEC. James Franklin has been a successful hire at Vanderbilt and had no SEC head coaching experience before joining the Commodores. Arkansas recently hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, and the former Badger coach has no SEC experience either. This is not a huge concern, but Jones will have an adjustment period and needs to find some assistants with SEC ties.
Building a Program
Although Jones’ resume is solid, there’s a concern he has yet to build a program like Charlie Strong did at Louisville. Jones followed Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and went 27-13, recording two MAC Championships and three bowl appearances. After three years with the Chippewas, Jones took over for Kelly at Cincinnati and went 23-14 with two bowl trips. The Bearcats were 4-8 in his first season but rebounded to a 19-6 mark over the last two years. The good news for Jones and his staff? Tennessee isn’t a huge rebuilding job. However, the program does need some work, which means this is the toughest coaching job Jones will have so far in his career.
Jones wasn’t the first choice of Tennessee
Satisfying a fanbase in the SEC is never an easy task, and Jones already has some ground to cover. Tennessee reportedly made a run at Jon Gruden, Charlie Strong and Mike Gundy and was turned down by each coach. If that’s the case, Jones was likely the No. 4 or maybe even the No. 5 man on athletic director Dave Hart’s list. While it’s not really a big deal for Tennessee to miss on its No. 1 target, the fanbase wanted a bigger name. One thing for the Volunteer fanbase to keep in mind – Jim Mora probably wasn’t the first choice at UCLA and that hire turned out pretty well. Jones will do just fine at Tennessee, but considering the lack of success by the program in recent years, the fanbase wants to win and win now. Basically, there’s no grace period for Jones as he adjusts to life in the SEC.
Final Analysis and Grade
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Butch Jones is no Nick Saban. However, he’s also not Derek Dooley either. Considering his success at two different stops, Jones is better prepared for this opportunity at Tennessee. Can he win national championships? That’s the big question. Hiring a good staff will also be crucial, especially assistants that have ties in the SEC. The Volunteers have good facilities and a stable conference, which Jones should be able to use to recruit at a higher level than he did at Cincinnati. Depending on what Tennessee’s trio – quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson – does in regards to the NFL Draft, the Volunteers have a chance to push for at least eight wins in 2013. Even though Jones may not have been the first choice at Tennessee, he’s a solid hire and should win a lot of games in Knoxville.
Final Grade: B
Related College Football Content
Butch Jones was one of the top names in the coaching rumor mill over the last few weeks and decided to leave Cincinnati for Tennessee. Jones led the Bearcats to a 23-14 mark in three years, which included a share of the Big East title the last two seasons. Jones’ departure is a huge blow to Cincinnati, as the program will be looking for its fourth head coach since 2004.
10 Coaches to Replace Butch Jones at Cincinnati
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green –Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.
Kerry Coombs, Ohio State assistant coach – Coombs is regarded as an excellent recruiter but has no head coaching experience on the collegiate level. He spent 2007-2011 as an assistant at Cincinnati, before joining Urban Meyer at Ohio State in 2012. Coombs was a high school head coach at Colerain High School from 1991-2006, so there’s no doubt he has excellent recruiting ties throughout the state. Hiring a head coach without any experience is risky, but Coombs would be able to pull in solid talent and likely wouldn’t look to bolt for another head coaching job.
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame – Diaco's name was mentioned in the Boston College search, so there's no question he is interested in becoming a head coach. And Diaco is familiar with the Cincinnati program, serving as an assistant under Brian Kelly in 2009. He also has spent time as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Western Illinois, Central Michigan, Virginia and for the last three years at Notre Dame. Diaco has no head coaching experience but has helped to lead the Fighting Irish to a rank of No. 1 overall in points allowed (10.3 ppg).
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State –Herman is a longshot in this coaching search but a rising star to watch over the next couple of seasons. The Ohio native started his coaching career at Texas Lutheran in 1998, before working his way through the ranks at Texas, Sam Houston State and then as an offensive coordinator at Texas State from 2005-06. After two years with the Bobcats, Herman worked at Rice as the offensive coordinator, then jumped to Iowa State in 2009 and came to Columbus to work with Urban Meyer.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State – Lembo is a proven winner at three different stops during his coaching career and is ready to move up the ladder after two years at Ball State. He recorded a 44-14 mark in five years at Lehigh and a 35-22 record in five seasons with Elon, which included an appearance in the FCS playoffs. Lembo is 15-9 in two years with the Cardinals and improved his win total by three games from 2011 to 2012. Although Lembo might be looking to jump to a better job in the next few years, he would continue Cincinnati's run of recent success.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State –MacIntyre has turned San Jose State into one of the WAC’s worst teams into a bowl team in just three years. The Spartans went 1-12 in 2010, improved to 5-7 in 2011 and recorded a 10-2 mark and an appearance in the Military Bowl in 2012. MacIntyre has stops as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets. MacIntyre isn’t a flashy or a big name, but as the results have shown at San Jose State, he’s capable of leading a BCS program. If Cincinnati is interested, it could have plenty of competition for his services, as MacIntyre could get in the mix at South Florida or Colorado.
Chuck Martin, offensive coordinator, Notre Dame –Although Brian Kelly plays a large role in calling the plays each week for Notre Dame, Martin should get his chance to be a head coach on the FBS level in the next few seasons. He succeeded Kelly at Grand Valley State and recorded a 74-7 mark in six seasons, including back-to-back national titles in 2005-06. Martin came to South Bend in 2010 and spent two years on defense, before moving to offensive coordinator in 2012. With his background on offense and successful stint at Grand Valley State, Martin fits the mold of what Cincinnati is looking for in its next head coach.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State – Narduzzi isn’t an offense-first coach like Cincinnati has hired with Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, as he has spent his entire career on defense. However, Narduzzi has helped to mold Michigan State’s defense into one of the nation’s best and has been rumored to be in the mix for a couple of head coaching jobs over the last few seasons. Narduzzi spent from 2004-06 at Cincinnati, working as the defensive coordinator under Mark Dantonio.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Considering the success of David Shaw at Stanford and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky, Roman is the next Jim Harbaugh assistant to land a head coaching gig. The New Jersey native has no head coaching experience but has stops as an NFL assistant with the Panthers, Ravens and Texans. Roman also worked with Harbaugh at Stanford and helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses. One downside to Roman’s candidacy has to be the 49ers’ playoff chances. With San Francisco likely to make a deep run into the NFL playoffs, Roman may not be available on a full-time basis until mid-January.
Mario Cristobal, former FIU head coach
Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State
Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
College basketball can be a tough sport to follow, even for die-hard fans. Nearly 350 teams, more than 30 conferences, games everyday of the week make college hoops a great sport, but also difficult to get a comprehensive handle on.
But there’s also recruiting gurus and a new wave a statistic-loving experts who can make college basketball fandom an exhaustive affair.
If you’re on Twitter, here are the 40-plus folks to follow who can offer numbers, news, insight and humor.
THE MARCH MUST-FOLLOW
March Madness TV @MarchMadnessTV
Quiet during the regular season, CBS' account for March Madness ramps it up around the conference tournaments and into the NCAA Tournament. Want to know immediately who's in the field, where to watch the key games and best action and other factoids? This is a must-follow.
THE BIG NAMES
Andy Katz @ESPNAndyKatz
If you follow college basketball, you probably know ESPN.com’s lead reporter on the sport already. His feed is a one-stop shop for news, comments and retweets of the college basketball media from ESPN and elsewhere.
Kentucky says PG Ryan Harrow returns to practice after being ill & tending to family matter meanwhile UCLA says Tyler Lamb is transferring.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) November 25, 2012
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
You can’t escape him on television as basketball season takes over on CBS on Saturday. He’ll Tweet his SI.com Hoop Thoughts, views he’s gleaned scouts on key players and his own opinions. He’s a big name for sure, but he takes questions from Twitter every week in Twenty for Tuesday.
Rasheed Sulaimon. Mad skills, no fear. RT @jasonedwardsv2: ACC Rookie of the year so far?— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) November 27, 2012
Jay Bilas @JayBilas
ESPN’s best color and in-studio basketball analyst is also one of the most interesting voices on Twitter. His insight is valuable and witty, but perhaps his best quality is his unfiltered take on the NCAA. He also has a follower-to-following ratio in excess of 400,000-to-0.
Player commits a felony, school decides if he plays. Player treads near NCAA eligibility rule, NCAA decides, and takes its sweet time, too.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 26, 2012
The CBSSports.com team
Jeff Borzello @JeffBorzello
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanCBS
Matt Norlander @MattNorlander
Gary Parrish @GaryParrishCBS
Want a lesson in newsroom chemistry? The CBSSports.com college basketball team is it. Parrish is an ace columnist. Goodman seems to know every roster and assistant from North Carolina to North Carolina A&T. Borzello is the recruiting expert. Norlander curates the blog and the podcast. The banter and non-basketball Tweets, though, make them worth following as a group as they poke at Goodman’s obsessiveness, Parrish’s fashion choices, Norlander’s affinity for tempo-free stats.
In an unrelated note, I made it to Indianapolis with three computers but no credit cards. And no glasses. So this trip will be interesting.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) November 27, 2012
The Bracket Experts
Joe Lunardi @ESPNLunardi
Jerry Palm @jppalmCBS
Face it: By February and March you’ll have only a handful of questions about your team. 1. Is my team in the NCAA Tournament or on the bubble? 2. Where is my team seeded? 3. What if X beats Y and Y beats Z? Lunardi and Palm have your answers. And they seem to take the constant questions and occasional criticism in stride.
Michael DeCourcy @tsnmike
Let’s step away from this ESPN/CBS dominance for a bit with DeCourcy, a staple from The Sporting News and now the Big Ten Network. He’ll be kind, critical but also unafraid to challenge the prevailing wisdom.
Can't figure out why Memphis starts over in the same place every year. And they start over at the same place every game. No carryover.— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) November 23, 2012
Pat Forde @YahooForde
You may have to wait until after the BCS Championship Game for Yahoo Sports’ dual-threat to move over to basketball where he'll offer in-game notes and opinion on the most prominent teams. Cue the Kentucky fans: He’s from Louisville but gives both teams a fair shake.
Love a perfect alley-oop. Money pass by Cook, fluid catch/flush by Plumlee, made it look easy.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) November 29, 2012
Dick Vitale @DickieV
We’ve poked fun at Vitale, but the ESPN institution has taken to Twitter well. His enthusiasm for being on the road at college basketball’s best sites translates to social media, too. We’ll sum it up this way: If you like Vitale on air, you’ll like him on Twitter even in CAPS LOCK.
Luke Winn @lukewinn
Sports Illustrated’s top basketball writer puts out must-read power rankings as the season moves along. @AndyGlockner and @RobDauster are also key follows from the SI team for nationwide info. Winn's work is rich in data, charts and visual aids. For example:
Could McAdoo play a bigger role in UNC's offense than Hansbrough or May ever did? A breakdown: bit.ly/WWjg1P— Luke Winn (@lukewinn) November 27, 2012
The rest of the ESPN team
Dana O’Neil @ESPNDanaONeil
Jason King @JasonKingESPN
Eamonn Brennan @eamonnbrennan
Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN
Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla
Jimmy Dykes @JimmyDykesLive
No one has more boots on the ground than ESPN, especially covering college basketball full-time. From the great feature writers (O’Neil and King) to the blog network (Brennan and Medcalf) and the on-air guys (Fraschilla and Dykes), you won’t starve for information.
USA Today Voices
Eric Prisbell @EricPrisbell
Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach
Dan Wolken @DanWolken
USA Today recently expanded its online sports coverage. Prisbell reports and investigates, which means he may report some things you’ll hate to hear about your team and love to hear about your rivals. Auerbach covers the nationwide blog and curates a chat with Prisbell. Wolken is by trade a college football writer, but the former Memphis newspaper columnist has some biting basketball takes, too.
Silly media. We all thought Larry Brown would bail on SMU because they were so bad. At this rate, he'll bail for the UCLA job (again)— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 29, 2012
Ken Pomeroy @kenpomeroy
Remember when baseball statistics like OPS and BABIP and WAR started making the rounds? Tempo-free basketball stats are kind of like that. Ken Pomeroy and his ilk wants to be able to compare an up-tempo team like North Carolina to a low-tempo team like Wisconsin on an even playing field. You’ll have to visit his site and pay the subscription to get all the advanced stats, but Pomeroy brings a quirky sense of humor to Twitter.
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) November 18, 2012
The sixth man gets disproportionate publicity. I'm determined to create a 7th man award this season.
The Recruiting Gurus
Eric Bossi @ebosshoops
Jerry Meyer @jerrymeyer247
Brian Snow @BSnowScout
Dave Telep @DaveTelep
Want to know who’s next up for your team or what coach is watching what recruit? Basketball recruiting hasn’t blown up quite like football on national signing day, but veteran recruiting reporters Eric Bossi, Jerry Meyer, Brian Snow and Dave Telep know their way around the AAU circuit.
Difficult to feel that Josh Smith was ever committed to basketball and eager to compete at UCLA. Saw a dip in effort after junior hs season.— Jerry Meyer (@jerrymeyer247) November 28, 2012
The Independent Voices
Rush the Court @rushthecourt
Michael Rogner @RunTheFloor
Looking for a different take away from the big multimedia companies, try these two blogs to shuffle things up. Both gather links from around the web, create their own content and analysis and share opinions, especially live on game day.
How did Brent Musburger do that interview with Mason Plumlee without mentioning that free throw at the end of the game?— Rush the Court (@rushthecourt) November 29, 2012
Chris Mack @CoachChrisMack
Eric Reveno @CoachReveno
Admit it: Most coach Twitter accounts are boring, especially if he’s not the coach of your favorite team. Many accounts aren’t even run by the coach himself. We applaud Xavier coach Chris Mack and Portland coach Eric Reveno for sharing the coach experience with their followers. Both have occasionally self-deprecating senses of humor, especially when it comes to parenting and travel. But they also take on more heady issues. Reveno, in particular, Tweets about the tough job of a coach and offers suggestions to the NCAA.
Thought I'd be able to smuggle in this Bic lighter to the Hollywood Wax Museum. No go..— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) November 26, 2012
Check Your Local Listings
Most of these on the list are national names. We couldn’t possibly go through the long list of great beat writers and local columnists out there. Some of our favorites for top teams this year including @RickBozich and @ericcrawford for Louisville, @JerryTipton and @kysportsradio for Kentucky, @insidethehall and @indystar_hutch for Indiana and @ACCSports, @DavidTeelatDP and @bylinerp for all things Duke, North Carolina and ACC.
The Army-Navy matchup is truly America's Game. It now has the second Saturday in December all to itself and features the best and brightest young men our country produces in a contest showcasing football in its purest form. By the time the Army-Navy game rolls around, no championships (aside from the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy) are at stake, no big-money bowl games are on the line, no pro scouts are crowded into the press box to assess future NFL stars. Instead, young men who will soon place their lives on the line for their country compete for the love of the game in front of an appreciative national audience. It's one of the greatest spectacles in sports, and there's nothing more at stake than pride in a job well done, its competitors a band of brothers who save their hatred for their rivals for the brief moments between the whistles.
To celebrate this weekend's renewal of college football's purest rivalry, here are the greatest moments in Army-Navy history.
Navy 6, Army 4
According to football lore, the 1893 Army-Navy game marked the first use of a football helmet. Future Navy Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves was warned by his doctor prior to the game that another blow to the head could cause "instant insanity" (how's that for a medical prognosis) or even death. An Annapolis shoemaker came to the rescue, fashioning a leather helmet to protect Reeves' noggin. Navy won that year's renewal, the fourth matchup in series history, 6–4.
Army 21, Navy 21
Appropriately enough, Army and Navy used their 1926 matchup to christen Chicago's Soldier Field, a monument to America's World War I servicemen. Both teams were unbeaten — the only blemish on either ledger was Army's tie with Notre Dame — so the winner would be crowned mythical national champion. But there was no winner; the game ended in a 21–21 tie, and Navy was awarded the national title.
Army 23, Navy 7
Army 32, Navy 13
As their comrades were serving overseas, the Cadets and Midshipmen engaged in a two-year struggle for national supremacy. Both seasons, the two teams entered the game ranked No. 1 (Army) and No. 2 (Navy). Army won the 1944 matchup in Baltimore 23–7 and reprised the feat the next year, winning the so-called Game of the Century 32–13.
Army 22, Navy 6
This game featured a matchup of two Heisman Trophy winners — Army's Pete Dawkins, the 1958 winner, and Navy's Joe Bellino, the 1960 winner. These two exceptional players were also exceptional men; Dawkins was ultimately a Rhodes Scholar, Brigadier General and candidate for Senate, while Bellino played for the AFL's Boston Patriots and served in the Navy and Naval Reserve for 28 years. Dawkins' Cadets finished the 1958 season unbeaten with a 22–6 win over the Midshipmen. It would be Army's last unbeaten season and legendary coach Red Blaik's last at the helm.
Navy 34, Army 14
Roger Staubach would win the Heisman Trophy in 1963, but he emerged onto the national stage in the 1962 Army-Navy game. President John F. Kennedy, only days removed from the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was on hand for the ceremonial coin toss, and then he cleared the stage for Staubach, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in Navy's 34–14 upset of Army.
Navy 3, Army 3
After years of futility, George Welsh returned Navy football to respectability in the late 1970s, earning winning records in his last four seasons in Annapolis and leading Navy to three bowls. But in Welsh's last Army-Navy game before departing to Virginia as the winningest coach in Navy history, he suffered a bitter tie against the Black Knights of the Hudson. Navy entered the game 7–3, while Army was 3–7, but as they say, in a rivalry game, you throw out the records.
Army 22, Navy 20
For the third straight year, the Army-Navy classic came down to a kick. In 1992, Army had won on a 49-yarder with 12 seconds left. In 1993, Navy missed a game-winning 18-yarder with six seconds left. In 1994, the kick didn't come in the final seconds, but it was no less dramatic. Army's Kurt Heiss drilled a 52-yarder, a record for the Army-Navy rivalry, with 6:19 left to give the Cadets a 22–20 win.
Army 34, Navy 30
Army won a classic see-saw battle 34–30 when senior fullback Ty Amey outraced the Navy secondary 70 yards for the winning touchdown. The game was marred by a bizarre incident in which nine spectators, including four Cadets, tumbled onto the field when a railing gave way as they were mugging for television cameras. One Cadet suffered a broken neck.
Army 30, Navy 28
Two lackluster teams produced one of the greatest games in the rivalry's history, as 0–10 Army beat 1–9 Navy 30–28, marking the last time that the team with the lesser record won the matchup. Befitting a matchup between teams that had combined for a 1-19 record, the game featured seven turnovers and two blocked kicks
It’s never too early to start thinking about 2013. At least now that the World Series is over. I mean, what else is there to think about? Pitchers and catchers report in a little more than 100 days. Certainly, key trades and free agent signings will tweak these predictions as we get deeper into the offseason. But for now, here’s an early, early look at how the standings might appear next October.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
No one in the division will be able to match the Rays’ pitching, and expect Joe Maddon to find an offensive force from an unexpected source.
2. New York Yankees
The decline of the pinstripes is happening before our eyes, but the roster still includes some of the best players on the planet.
3. Baltimore Orioles
After everything, I mean everything, went right for Buck Showalter’s troops in 2012, it’s back down to earth in Baltimore, especially for the pitching staff.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Will losing manager John Farrell retard this team’s progress?
5. Boston Red Sox
This club has the resources to fix problems quickly with smart decisions.
1. Detroit Tigers
It’s easy to see how Detroit can improve on its 88 wins this season.
2. Cleveland Indians
Somehow Terry Francona will keep this team focused and in the race.
3. Kansas City Royals
How many years now have we been hearing about all the prized prospects the Royals have collected?
4. Chicago White Sox
We were oh so wrong about this team this past summer. Can they surprise us again?
5. Minnesota Twins
Not enough pitching. Not enough hitting.
1. Los Angels Angels
Don’t expect this club to suffer through another horrendous start.
2. Texas Rangers
The championship window is far from closed, even without Josh Hamilton.
3. Oakland A’s
Can the Green and Gold win 94 games and the division again? We don’t think so.
4. Seattle Mariners
No more last-place finishes for a while.
5. Houston Astros
This rebuilding road is long and winding.
1. Atlanta Braves
The Braves will have the best pitching in the East this season, not the Nats.
2. Washington Nationals
The Nats look more like a solid wild card team, but just a little magic can make them a division champion again.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
With aging stars, injuries are expected, which will keep this team from winning the division.
4. Miami Marlins
This team is talented enough that a strong manager could have the Fish competing for the wild card.
5. New York Mets
Will another championship opportunity come along during David Wright’s prime?
1. St. Louis Cardinals
A potent lineup and some young power arms will keep the team in contention.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew finished the season with a strong second half.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The lineup just isn’t deep enough to stay on top.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
In a close division, there may not be much separating first from fourth.
5. Chicago Cubs
Better, but not very good.
1. San Francisco Giants
Pitching, defense, and don’t be surprised to see the Giants make a free agency splash.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Given this much talent together in spring training, Don Mattingly could become this generation’s Joe Torre.
3. San Diego Padres
The youngsters are developing and the fences are moving in.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Will Justin Upton be in a D-Backs’ uniform in Spring Training?
5. Colorado Rockies
It seems like the Rox are starting over every few years, especially with their pitching staff.
Kansas State QB Collin Klein has been named the winner of the 2012 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Klein was selected from an original field of 29 of college’s top quarterbacks, including finalists A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Geno Smith (West Virginia), Matt Barkley (USC), and E.J. Manuel (Florida State).
Named after the man many refer to as the greatest quarterback ever to play the game of football, The Golden Arm Award will be presented to Klein on December 7 at a ceremony held from 6-9 pm at The Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore.
“Collin is not just a tremendous athlete and leader on the field, but an MVP off the field as well, who repeatedly has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the community and to the spirit of sportsmanship” says John C. Unitas, Jr., President of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.
As a player who will go down as one of the best in K-State history as both a passer and runner, Klein ranks in the top 10 in school history in rushing touchdowns (1st; 55), touchdown responsibility (1st; 84), scoring (2nd; 336), total yards (3rd; 7,028), passing efficiency (3rd; 141.05), rushing attempts (3rd; 588), rushing yards (5th; 2,455), completions (5th, 353), passing touchdowns (t6th; 29), passing yards (7th; 4,573) and pass attempts (8th; 572). His 55 rushing touchdowns also rank fourth in Big 12 history and second among quarterbacks.
This year alone, Klein has completed 180 of 272 passes for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Off the field, Klein has been a star as well, leading him to be named a finalist for the ARA Sportsmanship Award, honoring the player that best personifies the spirit of sportsmanship, and one of 11 FBS players selected for the AFCA Good Works team, recognizing positive impact in the community.
“Collin joins a prestigious list of top quarterbacks who embody the characteristics that made Johnny Unitas such an enduring legend, including many who have gone on to illustrious careers in the NFL,” says Unitas, Jr.
Former winners of the Golden Arm Award include Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Carson Palmer (USC, 2002), Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003), Brady Quinn (Notre Dame, 2006), Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007), Colt McCoy (Texas, 2009), and Andrew Luck (Stanford, 2011).
Candidates for the Golden Arm Award must be completing college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior, on schedule to graduate with his class. Candidates are judged upon character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments.
Proceeds from the Golden Arm Award help to support the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation. The Foundation provides financial assistance to underprivileged and deserving young scholar-athletes throughout Maryland and Kentucky.
With college football’s 2012 regular season in the books, it’s time to take a look back at the highlights and lowlights from this year. There were plenty of surprises in college football this season, starting with the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings – Notre Dame. Athlon takes a look back at the top 10 surprises in college football, along with where those teams ranked in the preseason rankings.
College Football's Top 10 Surprises from 2012
1. Notre Dame
Preseason Prediction: No. 20 overall in final 124
After back-to-back 8-5 seasons to begin the Brian Kelly era, Notre Dame broke through in 2012 with an unbeaten 12-0 mark and an appearance in the national title game. The Fighting Irish returned 15 starters from 2011 but lost safety Jamoris Slaughter early in the year to a torn ACL and had to deal with the ups and downs of new quarterback Everett Golson. While the offense was a work in progress early on, the defense has been dominant this year. Linebacker Manti Te’o helped to lead the Notre Dame defense to a rank of No. 1 overall nationally in points allowed and sixth in total defense, along with earning a trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist.
2. Kansas State
Preseason Prediction: No. 27 in final 124
A case could be made the Wildcats are one of college football’s most underrated teams every year. Kansas State surprised most last season when it was outgained by 106.8 yards per game and still managed a 10-3 finish. The Wildcats started 10-0 this year and was in position to play for the national title until a loss to Baylor knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten. Quarterback Collin Klein was picked as a Heisman finalist and averaged 281.7 yards per game of total offense. As long as Bill Snyder remains on the sidelines in Manhattan, Kansas State will be a dangerous opponent for the rest of the Big 12 – no matter how many returning starters it has or what the stats indicate from the previous season.
3. Oregon State
Preseason Prediction: No. 61 in final 124
There’s no question Oregon State was one of Athlon’s biggest misses in the preseason rankings. The Beavers were expected to improve after a 3-9 record in 2011, but no one could have predicted a 9-3 mark in 2012. Despite some uncertainty at quarterback, Oregon State finished 34th nationally with an average of 442.7 yards per game. The rushing attack wasn’t flashy but improved by nearly 40 yards a game from 2011 (39.3). The defense had a huge turnaround, ranking in the top four of the Pac-12 in rushing, total, pass and scoring categories. Two of Oregon State’s three losses came by four points or less, and it defeated Pac-12 champ UCLA 27-20 in late September. After going 8-16 in 2010-11, it’s clear the Beavers are headed back in the right direction under coach Mike Riley.
Preseason Prediction: No. 21 in final 124
No Andrew Luck at quarterback. No David DeCastro or Jonathan Martin on the offensive line. No problem. It’s hard to believe, but that’s exactly the scenario that played out at Stanford this season. The Cardinal had to replace a handful of key contributors from last season and still managed to win the Pac-12 title and earn an appearance in the Rose Bowl. Although the offense struggled at times, the insertion of redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan sparked this unit late in the season, while the defense ranked first in the Pac-12 in yards and points allowed. Stanford’s only losses were both by a touchdown or less, with one coming to Notre Dame – the No. 1 team in the BCS standings. Considering what Stanford lost, it’s a huge credit to the coaching job by David Shaw getting this team back in the mix for a Pac-12 title.
Preseason Prediction: No. 26 in the final 124
The Gators were on the doorstep of making Athlon’s preseason top 25, so it wouldn’t have been a big surprise to see this team finish in the 15-20 range. However, Florida was one win away from playing in the SEC title game and a chance to compete for the national title. The Gators’ offense was only slightly better in 2012, but the defense ranked inside of the top 10 in yards and points allowed. Florida pitched two shutouts (Jacksonville State, Kentucky) this year and held Texas A&M to 17 points in the SEC opener for both teams. The Gators need to take the next step on offense to contend for the national championship in 2013. However, after a 7-6 mark in Will Muschamp’s first season, Florida seems to be back on track as one of the SEC’s top programs.
6. Ole Miss
Preseason Prediction: No. 71 in the final 124
After a disastrous 2011 season, Ole Miss had nowhere to go but up in 2012. New coach Hugh Freeze was a perfect match for the Rebels, leading the program to a 6-6 mark and a bowl appearance against Pittsburgh in Birmingham. Ole Miss won three SEC games in 2012, which was more than the Rebels combined for in 2010 and 2011 (1-15). After finishing last in the SEC in total defense and 11th in total offense, Ole Miss improved to the middle of the conference in both categories. With most of the core returning intact for 2013, don’t be surprised if the Rebels make a run at eight victories.
Preseason Prediction: No. 80 in the final 124
The Blue Devils started fast, opening up the 2012 season at 5-1 with a blowout victory over Virginia in ACC play. However, Duke tailed off in the second half of the season, losing five out of their final six games. Despite the sluggish end to 2012, the Blue Devils are making their first bowl trip since 1994 and had a chance to win the Coastal Division late in the year. Coach David Cutcliffe has done a good job of building the program over the last few seasons, and Duke is no longer an automatic out in conference play.
Preseason Prediction: No. 42 in final 124
A team from Los Angeles was supposed to win the Pac-12 South title this year. However, most expected it to be USC – not UCLA. The Bruins made a surprising climb from a 6-8 finish last year to Pac-12 South champions in 2012. New coach Jim Mora seems to be a perfect fit in Los Angeles, while the emergence of quarterback Brett Hundley guided the UCLA offense to an average of 35.1 points per game. The Bruins lost two games by a touchdown or less and knocked off USC for the first time since 2006. With the Trojans losing Matt Barkley next season, UCLA should be the frontrunner to win the Pac-12 South in 2012.
9. Texas A&M
Preseason Prediction: No. 32 in final 124
Considering Texas A&M had a new coach, was dealing with a transition to a new conference and had to replace first-round pick Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, most believed getting to seven wins and a bowl would be a successful season. However, the Aggies exceeded expectations in 2012, winning 10 games for the first time since 1998, while quarterback Johnny Manziel was named as a Heisman finalist in early December. After struggling in the second half of games in 2011, Texas A&M corrected those issues under new coach Kevin Sumlin and scored one of the season’s biggest upsets by knocking off Alabama in Tuscaloosa. With Sumlin in control at College Station, the Aggies are poised to emerge as a consistent top-15 program.
10. Kent State/Northern Illinois
Preseason Prediction: No. 97 for Kent State, No. 85 for Northern Illinois
For the first time in the BCS era, a team from the MAC will play in one of college football's biggest bowl games. Northern Illinois managed to get into the top 16 of the final BCS standings and finished ahead of major conference champions Louisville and Wisconsin, which allowed the Huskies to play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Quarterback Jordan Lynch was one of the nation’s most underrated players this season, recording 4,733 yards of total offense and 43 overall scores. Although Northern Illinois’ defense allowed 356.7 yards per game, this unit forced 2.9 sacks a contest and generated 26 turnovers. Even though the Huskies are playing in the Orange Bowl, Kent State's 2012 season shouldn’t be overlooked. The Golden Flashes fell just short in double overtime against Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship but won at Rutgers 35-23 in late October. With its crazy, high-scoring mid-week games, the MAC has quickly emerged as one of the nation’s most entertaining conferences. And with Northern Illinois on the big stage in the Orange Bowl, it’s an opportunity for the MAC to prove it belongs right with the teams from BCS conferences.
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Colorado had a messy divorce with former coach Jon Embree and finding a replacement hasn’t been easy. Cincinnati’s Butch Jones interviewed in Boulder with Colorado officials but decided not to take the job. With Jones deciding to stay in Cincinnati (for now), the Buffaloes’ search is wide open once again.
5 Candidates to Replace Jon Embree at Colorado
Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State – DeRuyter had a successful debut season at Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and a share of the Mountain West title. DeRuyter has a solid resume as an assistant, working as a defensive coordinator at Air Force and Texas A&M. Although he’s only been a head coach for one year, it’s very easy to be impressed with DeRuyter. Fresno State struggled to get over the hump with Pat Hill on the sidelines, but DeRuyter brought quick improvement after the Bulldogs went 4-9 last season. The 49-year-old coach also has ties to the state of Colorado, as he played at Air Force from 1982-84 and coached with the Falcons from 1991-94 and 2007-09.
Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Stanford – Hamilton is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and it’s only a matter of time before he lands a head coaching gig. Hamilton played quarterback at Howard from 1993-96 and coached there from 1997-2001. After a couple of seasons in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers and Bears, Hamilton joined Stanford’s staff in 2010. Although David Shaw plays a key role in the offensive gameplan and play-calling, Hamilton is heavily involved. Hamilton is a bright offensive mind but has no head coaching experience.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre has turned San Jose State into one of the WAC’s worst teams into a bowl team in just three years. The Spartans went 1-12 in 2010, improved to 5-7 in 2011 and recorded a 10-2 mark and an appearance in the Military Bowl in 2012. MacIntyre has stops as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets. MacIntyre isn’t a flashy or a big name, but as the results have shown at San Jose State, he’s capable of leading a BCS program. Colorado could have plenty of competition for his services, as MacIntyre could get in the mix at South Florida or Tennessee.
Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – If Colorado wants to go with a young, offensive-minded coach, Monken is another guy to keep on the radar. The Illinois native has no head coaching experience but made stops as an assistant at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU and Oklahoma State. Monken also spent two years in the NFL with the Jaguars and is believed to be on the radar for openings at Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Considering the success of David Shaw at Stanford and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky, Roman is the next Jim Harbaugh assistant to land a head coaching gig. The New Jersey native has no head coaching experience but has stops as an NFL assistant with the Panthers, Ravens and Texans. Roman also worked with Harbaugh at Stanford and helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses. One downside to Roman’s candidacy has to be the 49ers’ playoff chances. With San Francisco likely to make a deep run into the NFL playoffs, Roman may not be available on a full-time basis until mid-January. With Roman’s time at Stanford, he has plenty of familiarity with the Pac-12 and would be a solid pickup for the Buffaloes.
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State
Bob Stitt, head coach, Colorado School of Mines
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky
There are 22 teams in the NFL that can make at least a decent case to their fans that they’re still somehow in the playoff hunt, and maybe another handful that can at least stretch the definition of “in” with four games remaining in the season.
But the reality is the field isn’t that wide. Most of the division races are all but settled and the wild-card picture is starting to take shape. For more than half of the teams in the NFL this season is shaping up as a disappointment as they come to grips with the reality that they’ve already crushed their own Super Bowl dreams.
Some disappointments, though, are much greater than others. Some players and teams have collapsed despite incredibly high expectations. So here’s a look at the five biggest underachievers in the NFL:
Panthers QB Cam Newton
His rookie year was so good, the expectations for Year 2 were going to be unreasonably high. But no one expected his Panthers to fall apart so badly. It’s not all Newton’s fault that Carolina has stumbled to 3-9, but he’s been unable to do what good quarterbacks are supposed to do – lift his team up.
His completion percentage has dipped, but what’s most alarming is his 14-to-10 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s alarming because it’s only that good because he’s thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last three games. His start was so poor it buried the Panthers in a hole they simply couldn’t climb out of. And in an extremely tough division it even has some worrying about Carolina’s prospects for next year.
The Saints defense
The spectre of BountyGate, the suspension of the head coach, his top assistant, the GM and several players all have made this a difficult season for the Saints, as evidenced by their 0-4 start. They’ve rallied nicely since then to get to the fringe of the playoff race, but it hasn’t been enough.
Why? Because the defense stinks, which is shocking considering it’s led by Steve Spagnuolo, a strong defensive coach who won a Super Bowl as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. His defense this year is statistically the worst in the NFL. It’s also the worst against the run and 30th against the pass.
If they were even just a little better, the Saints might have already secured a playoff berth – and nobody would want to play them in the NFC.
The Detroit Lions
For a couple of years this team has been like a sleeping giant in the NFL, loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball and finally a solid plan from the coaches’ office. When they went 10-6 in 2011 and secured a playoff berth they looked to be a legitimate contender in the NFC.
Then what happened? Controversies. Arrests. Ndamakong Suh’s anger issues. Comical miscues. And four straight losses that have made them what one scout called “the best 4-8 team we’ve had in years in the NFL.” That’s not much consolation to a long-suffering fan base that was expecting so much more out of Matt Stafford and co.
Eagles DE Trent Cole
The Philadelphia Eagles could have spent the last two seasons on this list after looking like a “Dream Team” a year ago. And individually you could put everyone from the coach to the quarterback on the list, too. But the most mystifying part of this team is the complete disappearance of its once feared defense, which is a shell of its former, aggressive self.
Cole is the poster child for their disappearance. In his previous six NFL seasons he never had fewer than 8 sacks. In the last three years he totaled 33.5 sacks. Then in the offsesason he signed a four-year, $48.5 million contract extension and what happens? Two sacks so far in 12 games. No one could have foreseen that.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez
He has had Jets fans clamoring for Tim Tebow and then he temporarily lost his job to Greg McElroy. That should be more than enough said. But keep in mind that this year was supposed to be the one that Sanchez finally took the big leap in his career. He had already led the Jets to two AFC championship games, and last year – which wasn’t great – he still threw for nearly 3,500 yards with 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
This year? The Jets are a disaster and Sanchez’s numbers have dipped across the board. His worst numbers are his 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s failing to justify the $60 million contract extension he got during the offseason and isn’t exactly inspiring faith in the tough Jets fan base. The Jets might have to go in another direction soon and Sanchez’s failures could cost coach Rex Ryan his job.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
With Mike Gundy, Larry Fedora and Charlie Strong saying no to Tennessee, the Volunteers' coaching search is wide open. The top names on athletic director Dave Hart's list have passed on the job, which leaves the school scrambling to find a new coach. There are still plenty of good coaches available for Tennessee, but it's important for the school that the coaching search doesn't drag deep into next week.
15 Names to Watch in Tennessee's Coaching Search
Butch Davis, former North Carolina head coach – Davis is reportedly in the mix at FIU, but he would likely listen if Tennessee came calling. The Oklahoma native went 51-20 in six years with Miami from 1995-2000 and recorded three consecutive eight-win seasons with North Carolina in 2008-2010. Davis had a messy end to his tenure with the Tar Heels but has a 79-43 overall mark as a college head coach.
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame – If Tennessee chooses to look in the assistant ranks, Diaco should be in the mix to replace Dooley. Diaco has spent time as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Western Illinois, Central Michigan, Virginia, Cincinnati and for the last three years at Notre Dame. Diaco has no head coaching experience but has helped to lead the Fighting Irish to a rank of No. 1 overall in points allowed (10.3 ppg).
Al Golden, head coach, Miami – Considering the NCAA hammer is about to drop on Miami, Golden could be tempted to look at another job this offseason. The New Jersey native has spent most of his career on the East Coast, playing for Penn State from 1987-91 and coaching as an assistant at Virginia, Boston College and Penn State. Golden resurrected Temple and led the Owls to a 17-8 record during his final two years in Philadelphia. Miami is just 13-11 in his two years, but the program did not have an abundance of talent when he arrived. Golden has maintained he does not want to leave Miami, but considering the situation in Coral Gables, he could be enticed to bolt for the SEC.
Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – Jones has been a hot name in coaching searches this offseason, interviewing at Colorado and Purdue for openings at those schools. He has six years of head coaching experience, spending three years at Central Michigan and recording a 27-13 mark. During his time in Mount Pleasant, the Chippewas made three bowl appearances and claimed two MAC Championships. Jones moved to Cincinnati in 2010 and guided the Bearcats to a 23-14 mark over the last three seasons. Cincinnati has claimed a share of the Big East title in each of the last two years after going 4-8 in Jones’ first season in 2010. Although Jones isn’t a big-name hire, he’s a proven coach with experience and victories at two different stops.
Pete Lembo, Ball State – Lembo is a proven winner at three different stops during his coaching career and is ready to move up the ladder after two years at Ball State. He recorded a 44-14 mark in five years at Lehigh and a 35-22 record in five seasons with Elon, which included an appearance in the FCS playoffs. Lembo is 15-9 in two years with the Cardinals and improved his win total by three games from 2011 to 2012.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre has turned San Jose State into one of the WAC’s worst teams into a bowl team in just three years. The Spartans went 1-12 in 2010, improved to 5-7 in 2011 and recorded a 10-2 mark and an appearance in the Military Bowl in 2012. MacIntyre has stops as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets. MacIntyre isn’t a flashy or a big name, but as the results have shown at San Jose State, he’s capable of leading a BCS program.
Doug Marrone, head coach, Syracuse – Marrone is a Syracuse alum, so it’s a longshot that he would be interested in leaving for Tennessee. However, he served as an assistant with the Volunteers in 2001 and was believed to be in the mix for this job after Phillip Fulmer was let go in 2008. Marrone has led the Orange to a 24-25 mark over the last four years, which includes two bowl appearances. It’s hard to envision Marrone leaving Syracuse, but it’s much easier to win big at Tennessee.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson - Morris has surprisingly not engaged in many coaching searches this offseason. He emerged as one of the top offensive minds in college football, leading Clemson's offense to an average of 42.3 points a game this season. Morris has no head coaching experience and already has a salary of $1.3 million, so it would take a significant raise to leave Clemson. Considering the Tigers return a chunk of talent on offense next year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stick around in Death Valley for one more season.
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State – Although Mullen hasn’t expressed much interest in leaving Mississippi State, it’s worth a phone call for Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart to Starkville. Even though Mullen has yet to beat Alabama or LSU during his tenure in Starkville, there’s no doubt Mississippi State is an improved team. The Bulldogs will be making their third consecutive bowl appearance in 2012 and has a 13-19 mark in SEC play over the last four years. Mullen also has assistant experience from stops at Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Utah and Florida. Considering what Mullen has done in four years at Mississippi State, he could thrive at a program with more resources.
Bo Pelini, head coach, Nebraska – Just as we mentioned with Doug Marrone and Dan Mullen, it’s a longshot that Pelini would be interested in leaving his current job. However, with the top options falling through, Tennessee has to look at the next available candidates. Pelini has a good job at Nebraska and has a 49-19 overall record. He has led the Cornhuskers to six bowl games and claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title in 2012. Although Pelini has one of college football’s top 25 jobs, he does have previous experience in the SEC and is not working under the same athletic director that brought him to Lincoln.
Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach – Why not? Since Tennessee tried and failed to land Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong, the top options are running thin for Dave Hart. Yes, Petrino’s divorce from Arkansas was a mess, but it’s doubtful those issues pop up at his next school. Also, he’s ready work and would probably take less money in an effort to prove himself for the next few years. There’s a lot of baggage hanging around Petrino, but if Tennessee wants to compete for SEC titles, it needs to consider the former Arkansas head coach.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Considering the success of David Shaw at Stanford and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky, Roman is the next Jim Harbaugh assistant to land a head coaching gig. The New Jersey native has no head coaching experience but has stops as an NFL assistant with the Panthers, Ravens and Texans. Roman also worked with Harbaugh at Stanford and helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses. One downside to Roman’s candidacy has to be the 49ers’ playoff chances. With San Francisco likely to make a deep run into the NFL playoffs, Roman may not be available on a full-time basis until mid-January.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Tennessee’s last attempt at hiring a Nick Saban assistant didn’t go so well. And considering Derek Dooley’s tenure was a failure, the school probably has some concern about going back to that well in 2012. Smart doesn’t have head coaching experience, but he is regarded as one of the top assistant coaches in the nation. Considering Saban plays a large role in Alabama’s defense, there’s a lot of concerns for athletic directors when considering Smart for any open vacancy.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart is one of the rising stars in the non-BCS ranks and is ready for a promotion to a bigger program. He is 16-20 in three years with Western Kentucky, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. In addition to his time as a head coach at Western Kentucky, Taggart worked as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh for three seasons at Stanford. Taggart reportedly interviewed with South Florida and is believed to be a target for the opening at Wisconsin.
Tommy Tuberville, head coach, Texas Tech – Tuberville already has two tours of duty through the SEC, coaching at Ole Miss from 1995-98 and at Auburn in 1999-2008. In four seasons with the Rebels, he recorded a 25-20 mark and went 85-40 at Auburn. Tuberville is 20-17 in three seasons at Texas Tech and has the Red Raiders back on track after a 5-7 mark in 2011. Tuberville isn’t flashy, but he’s a proven winner and a steady option for Tennessee.
The Quarterback Class of 2012 is off to a fast start. Led by Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, the Class of 2012 has a solid base to build on. But they have a long way to go to catch up with the greatest quarterback classes in NFL history.
Most drafts have one or two serviceable passers, the majority of these 10 had multiple Super Bowl caliber signal-callers:
1. Class of 1983
Still the standard by which all quarterback classes are measured. Of the 16 signal-callers selected — including six in the first round — 12 started in the NFL, four led their teams to the Super Bowl and three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
To get the party started, Stanford two-sport star and No. 1 overall pick John Elway demanded a trade from the Baltimore Colts to the Denver Broncos, while Pitt gunslinger Dan Marino nearly fell out of the first round before landing with the Miami Dolphins.
John Elway (Colts, No. 1) *
Dan Marino (Dolphins, No. 27) *
Jim Kelly (Bills, No. 14) *
Tony Eason (Patriots, No. 15)
Ken O’Brien (Jets, No. 24)
Todd Blackledge (Chiefs, No. 7)
Gary Kubiak (Broncos, No. 197)
3 Hall of Famers *
2 NFL MVP awards
2 Super Bowl wins
11 Super Bowl trips
499 career wins
196,787 passing yards
1,212 passing TDs
2. Class of 2004
Another blockbuster trade involving a “can’t miss” No. 1 overall pick shifted the balance of power in recent NFL history. Archie Manning’s son, Peyton Manning’s little brother and Ole Miss royalty Eli Manning forced a trade from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants — a deal that shipped NC State’s Philip Rivers from coast-to-coast.
Miami (Ohio) tough guy Big Ben Roethlisberger got off to the fastest start, going 13–0 as a rookie with six game-winning drives. Eli and Big Ben have combined to play in five of the last seven Super Bowls, winning four. Virginia product Matt Schaub went from Michael Vick’s backup in Atlanta to the starter for the Houston Texans and is poised to make his playoff debut this season.
Eli Manning (Chargers, No. 1)
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers, No. 11)
Philip Rivers (Giants, No. 4)
Matt Schaub (Falcons, No. 90)
4 Super Bowl wins
5 Super Bowl trips
21–11 playoff record
3. Class of 1949
Although three eventual Hall of Fame quarterbacks were selected in 1949, five passers were drafted before any of the Canton bust trio — including four of the top nine picks. George Blanda became the oldest player in NFL history (48 years, 109 days), Norm Van Brocklin still holds the single-game record for passing yards and Jim Finks was the architect of the four-time Super Bowl runner-up Minnesota Vikings after his playing days were over.
George Blanda (Bears, No. 119) *
Norm Van Brocklin (Rams, No. 37) *
Jim Finks (Steelers, No. 116) *
Frank Tripucka (Eagles, No. 9)
Bobby Thomason (Rams, No. 7)
John Rauch (Lions, No. 2)
Stan Heath (Packers, No. 5)
3 Hall of Famers *
3 AFL championships
2 NFL championships
2 MVP awards (AFL, NFL)
554 passing yards (single-game record, Van Brocklin)
7 passing TDs (single-game record, Blanda)
4. Class of 1971
As accomplished as this class was, there is still a lingering feeling of what might have been. Stanford Heisman winner Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls with the Raiders after washing out with both the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Ole Miss patriarch Archie Manning was beat down before siring a pair of No. 1 overall pick, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
Notre Dame golden boy Joe Theismann never played a down for the Miami Dolphins, opting instead to play for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts before leading the Washington Redskins to a pair of Super Bowl trips and one win. Augustana (Ill.) underdog Ken Anderson remains one of the underrated passers of his generation.
Jim Plunkett (Patriots, No. 1)
Joe Theismann (Dolphins, No. 99)
Ken Anderson (Bengals, No. 67)
Archie Manning (Saints, No. 2)
Lynn Dickey (Oilers, No. 56)
Dan Pastorini (Oilers, No. 3)
3 Super Bowl wins
5 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
160,089 passing yards
946 passing TDs
102 rushing TDs
5. Class of 1984
Steve Young was the top prospect in the 1984 USFL and CFL Supplemental Draft — which also included future Hall of Famers Reggie White and Gary Zimmerman as well as Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. The dual-threat lefty Young went on to become one of the greatest playmakers of all-time after serving as the most overqualified backup in the game to Joe Montana.
Maryland’s Boomer Esiason was the first QB taken in the amateur draft. Both Esiason and West Virginia’s Jeff Hostetler played on Super Sunday, with Hostetler winning it all for Bill Parcells’ New York Giants after taking over for an injured Phil Simms.
Steve Young (Buccaneers, No. 1 – Supplemental Draft) *
Boomer Esiason (Bengals, No. 38)
Jeff Hostetler (Giants, No. 59)
Jay Schroeder (Redskins, No. 83)
Randy Wright (Packers, No. 153)
1 Hall of Famer *
2 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
6. Class of 1998
Other than hothead flameout Ryan Leaf, this class is notable for its slow burn. Despite being in their 15th season, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Batch have all been starting quarterbacks at times during 2012 — combining for a 12–7 record, 35 TDs and 16 INTs through Week 13. Clearly, Manning carries the statistical load, but Hasselbeck led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance, Batch has proven serviceable and Brian Griese was a solid starter during his prime.
Peyton Manning (Colts, No. 1)
Matt Hasselbeck (Packers, No. 187)
Charlie Batch (Lions, No. 60)
Brian Griese (Broncos, No. 91)
Ryan Leaf (Chargers, No. 2)
4 NFL MVP awards
1 Super Bowl win
3 Super Bowl trips
128,408 passing yards
827 passing TDs
7. Class of 1979
Washington State’s “Throwin’ Samoan” went No. 3 overall but it was Notre Dame’s “Joe Cool” who went on to become arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time despite falling all the way to No. 82 in the draft.
Joe Montana (49ers, No. 82) *
Phil Simms (Giants, No. 7)
Jack Thompson (Bengals, No. 3)
1 Hall of Famer *
5 Super Bowl wins
2 NFL MVP awards
8. Class of 1956
Coached by Bear Bryant at Alabama and Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers, Bart Starr was the MVP of Super Bowls I and II after falling all the way to No. 200 overall in the draft. Picked 198 spots ahead was Michigan State’s Earl Morrall, who was Don Shula’s go-to guy — losing Super Bowl III for the Baltimore Colts before going 9–0 in place of Bob Griese for the champagne perfect 17–0 Super Bowl VII champion 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Bart Starr (Packers, No. 200) *
Earl Morrall (49ers, No. 2)
Gary Glick (Steelers, No. 1)
1 Hall of Famer *
2 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
9. Class of 1948
Drafted by the Chicago Bears but immortalized as a Detroit Lion, Bobby Layne was a larger than life character who regularly drank beer and smoked cigarettes at halftime. The "Bald Eagle," Y.A. Tittle was a pioneer who did everything but win an NFL championship during his brilliant career.
Bobby Layne (Bears, No. 3) *
Y.A. Tittle (Lions, No. 6) *
Harry Gilmer (Redskins, No. 1)
George Ratterman (Bills, No. 139)
2 Hall of Famers *
2 NFL MVP awards
T-10. Class of 1985
After some shady wheeling and dealing, Miami’s Bernie Kosar landed with his hometown Cleveland Browns via the Supplemental Draft. UNLV’s Randall Cunningham fell just short of the Super Bowl with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Boston College’s Doug Flutie and Maryland’s Frank Reich both had brief shining moments with the Buffalo Bills.
Bernie Kosar (Browns, No. 1 – Supplemental Draft)
Randall Cunningham (Eagles, No. 37)
Doug Flutie (Rams, No. 285)
Frank Reich (Bills, No. 57)
Steve Bono (Vikings, No. 142)
2 Comeback Player of the Year awards
T-10. Class of 1995
The late Alcorn State great Steve “Air” McNair shared co-MVP honors with Peyton Manning and led the Tennessee Titans on one of the most memorable drives in Super Bowl history — falling one yard short against the St. Louis Rams. Penn State’s Kerry Collins threw for 38,709 yards and 196 TDs. Colorado miracle maker Kordell Stewart took the league by storm as “Slash” with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steve McNair (Oilers, No. 3)
Kerry Collins (Panthers, No. 5)
Kordell Stewart (Steelers, No. 60)
Todd Collins (Bills, No. 45)
Rob Johnson (Jaguars, No. 99)
1 NFL MVP award
2 Super Bowl trips
Even since his first season as a college head coach at UMass, John Calipari has thrived with freshmen. That season in 1988-89, Calipari had a rookie Jim McCoy, who averaged 19.8 points per game.
That freshman and that team didn’t resemble the recruiting empire Calipari built at Memphis and Kentucky where a glut of talented freshmen sign with Cal, win a ton of college games in one year and then go on to be NBA Draft picks.
No, McCoy put up big numbers but went 10-18 at UMass as a freshman. He’s certainly one of Calipari’s best freshmen, but he’ll have trouble landing in the top 10 from recent years.
Sorting through Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, John Wall and more is a tall task, but we tried to tackle it here with Calipari’s top 20 freshmen.
We included three freshmen from this season’s team, but this early in the season, their grade is incomplete. We anticipate one or all three to make a move up this list, but for now, this elite group of rookies is tough one to crack.
JOHN CALIPARI’S TOP 20 FRESHMEN
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis didn’t simply have one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history -- he had one of the best seasons of any player. If there was an award to be won or honor to receive, Davis earned it. He was the consensus national player of the year, a unanimous All-American, the national defensive player of the year and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. After leading Kentucky to its eighth national title and first championship since 1998, Davis was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The only other players to win the Naismith Award, the Final Four MOP and then be selected first overall in the draft all the in the same season were Kansas’ Danny Manning and. UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With a 7-foot-four wingspan, Davis was a defensive force, setting an NCAA freshman record and Kentucky record with 186 blocks.
2. Derrick Rose, Memphis
Hard to believe as it is, Rose wasn’t the most decorated player on his own team as a freshman. That distinction went to All-American and Conference USA player of the year Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose belongs on this list, though, as the point guard of a team that played for a national title before falling 75-68 in overtime to Kansas. Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game in the NCAA tournament, but his missed free throws late in regulation of the title game sealed Memphis’ fate. Months later, Rose was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
It’s never bad when the team’s most competitive player and glue guy happens to also be the No. 2 player in the NBA Draft (behind only teammate Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick). Kidd-Gilchrist’s intangibles were second-to-none, a trait that was absent on some of Calipari’s most talented teams. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, earning Most Outstanding Player honors for the East regional as the Wildcats reached the Final Four and eventually won the national title.
4. John Wall, Kentucky
Calipari started at Kentucky the same way he finished his time at Memphis – with an elite one-and-done point guard. Wall followed in the footsteps of Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and preceded Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague at Kentucky. In leading Kentucky to a 35-3 season, Wall was the National Freshman of the Year and the Associated Press and coaches’ pick for SEC Player of the Year (Oddly enough, teammate DeMarcus Cousins was the coaches’ pick for SEC freshman of the year). Wall was blocked for most national player of the year awards by Ohio State’s Evan Turner, but Wall did earn the Adolph Rupp Trophy. Go figure.
5. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Knight was a McDonald’s All-American, but his arrival wasn’t as heralded as John Wall’s to Kentucky or Derrick Rose’s to Memphis. Still, he brought similar results. Knight wasn’t a collegiate All-American like Wall, but he took Kentucky deeper into the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats first Final Four appearance since 1998.
6. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Before his devastating knee injury against Florida, Noel was having an award-worthy season even if his team paled in comparison to recent Calipari squads. When he did play, Noel was offensively limited but few were better on the defensive end of the floor. He could have challenged Davis’ blocked shots numbers and was a leading candidate for national defensive player and freshman of the year honors. The flat-topped center finished his season averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game.
7. Tyreke Evans, Memphis
After Calipari moved him to point guard, Evans had the unenviable task of stepping in for Rose, who had just led Memphis to the national championship game. Evans was a stat-sheet stuffer from the start with 17.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his single season at Memphis.
8. Dajuan Wagner, Memphis
Before the deluge of one-and-dones followed Calipari to Memphis and Kentucky, he had Wagner with the Tigers. He averaged 42 points per game in high school before landing in Memphis, where he averaged 21.2 points for the Tigers. Calipari revoked Wagner’s sophomore scholarship to persuade him to enter the NBA Draft, where he became the No. 6 pick. However, health and injury issues derailed his promising career.
9. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
What could Cousins’ ceiling be if he were able to tackle his maturity issues? Kentucky fans may ask the same thing. He was dominant in his single season alongside Wall in 2009-10, averaging 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds. His talent was undeniable, but so was his tendency to sulk on the sideline. Cousins and Wall went 35-3 in during the regular season before falling in the Elite Eight to West Virginia.
10. Marcus Camby, UMass
Camby would go on to bigger things as a junior when UMass reached the Final Four and earning National Player of the Year honors, but his rookie season in Amherst wasn’t too shabby. Despite starting only 12 games, Camby was the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
Others of note:
11. Terrence Jones, Kentucky (2010-11)
12. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky (2009-10)
13. Sean Banks, Memphis (2003-04)
14. Jim McCoy, UMass (1988-89)
15. Marquis Teague, Kentucky (2011-12)
16. Darius Washington Jr., Memphis (2004-05)
17. Will Herndon, UMass (1989-90)
18. Doron Lamb, Kentucky (2010-11)
19. Alex Poythress, Kentucky (2012-13)
20. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky (2012-13)
The Heisman Trophy is an inherently flawed award. That’s the bad news.
The great news is we the fans have the power to change it. Just six years ago, underclassmen weren’t really considered viable options, but Tim Tebow ended that discussion and now another second-year player could win the trophy this year. Charles Woodson is the only true defensive player to ever win the award back in 1997, but a linebacker could walk away a winner this Saturday. In fact, Manti Te’o is the third defensive Heisman finalist in the last four years (Tyrann Mathieu, Ndamukong Suh).
The voting for the Heisman is utterly counterintuitive as well. Hell, even CBS analyst Gary Danielson gave up his vote years ago because he can’t stand the voting structure. With only three names on each ballot, regional and personal agendas become over-amplified. If you have a bias against Manziel or Te’o it would be easy to leave them off of your ballot to have more of an impact on the voting.
Most importantly, however, the timing of the vote makes no sense.
The NFL awards its MVP for regular season play, but a team could play four games in the postseason. College football features a maximum of one postseason game (for now) per team. It makes no sense for the Heisman Trophy voting to take place before the BCS National Championship Game.
In just 15 seasons under the BCS system, there are a handful of Heisman winners who might not be winners had voting taken place after the national title game. This theory might be no more obvious than this season with Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Johnny Manziel, Collin Klein and the Irish linebacker are all extremely deserving Heisman finalists. And Te’o could easily win the award this Saturday. But let’s say Manziel or Klein takes home the stiff-armed trophy and then Te’o dominates Alabama to win Notre Dame’s first national title in 25 years? If he posts 10 tackles and a sack, for example, against Bama’s other-worldly offensive line in a win over the Crimson Tide in the national title game, there would be no legitimate argument against Te’o as college football’s most outstanding player. Sorry, Aggies (either one), you would have no legs to stand on. There would be no hole on Te’o's Heisman resume — not even statistically.
And if the Irish get beaten into submission by Alabama, either Manziel or Klein would be the more deserving candidate.
But Te’o wouldn’t be the first player who lost the award because voters didn’t get to see them in the brightest and only spotlight that matters.
2005: Vince Young, QB, Texas
Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman Trophy, end of story. I don’t care what has happened since; Bush will always be ’05’s “Most Outstanding Player.” So the investigation and stripped award has nothing to do with the fact Vince Young deserved the trophy. His performance in the Rose Bowl — a game many believe is the greatest ever played on a college gridiron — was the most dominant performance the college game has ever seen. Young in 2005 was the most unstoppable force I’ve ever seen in college football. He finished third in the nation in passing efficiency, rushed for over 1,000 yards and led an offense that was the highest scoring (652 points) in the history of the sport. Bush was magical that year, but Young was better and should have his name on the great bronze statue.
2000: Josh Heupel, QB, Oklahoma
Chris Weinke was coming off of a national championship and led the No. 1 team to an unbeaten record and a third-straight trip to the BCS title game. His performance earned him the Heisman in 2000. Heupel finished No. 2 in the voting on his own unbeaten Oklahoma team. These two squared off in the BCS championship game and Weinke was completely shutdown. He threw 26 incompletions, was 1-of-15 on third down, threw two interceptions and the 'Noles' offense scored zero points in the loss to the Sooners. Heupel wasn’t dominant, but he completed 25-of-39 passes for 214 yards and finished as an undefeated national champion.
2008: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
A trio of quarterbacks finished 1-2-3 in the Heisman voting in 2008. Sam Bradford was the winner on an unbeaten Oklahoma team destined for the national title game. Colt McCoy actually finished second, but it was reigning Heisman winner Tim Tebow who got the most first-place votes (309 to 300). Bradford and Tebow squared off in Miami for the BCS national championship and the Gators passer was the better player. He finished with 231 yards passing, 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the 24-14 win. Bradford finished with 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
2001: Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami
Dorsey was a fairly non-descript player on a loaded roster, but he finished third in the Heisman voting to Eric Crouch and Rex Grossman. The voting was extremely tight and the BCS MVP performance from Dorsey in a crushing win over Crouch means he likely would have won the trophy had voting taken place after the game. Dorsey was 22-of-35 passing for 362 yards with three first-half touchdowns and improved to 26-1 as the starter. Meanwhile, Crouch rushed for 114 yards on 22 carries and completed just 5-of-15 passes for 62 yards with no touchdowns and three sacks in the 37-14 loss. In fact, a case could be made that Grossman, who threw for 248 yards and four touchdowns in the Orange Bowl win over Maryland, was also more deserving following the title game.
1999: Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech
Ron Dayne was a run-away Heisman winner with 2,042 points to Joe Hamilton’s 994 and Michael Vick’s 319. Dayne had just become the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher on a team that eventually won the Rose Bowl behind his record-setting MVP performance against Stanford. But when it came to electricity on the field, few players matched Vick’s talents. He led Virginia Tech to its lone title game appearance that year in a matchup with the powerful Florida State Seminoles. After trailing 28-7 late in the second quarter, his dynamic play-making ability led four consecutive scoring drives to take a 29-28 lead as the game headed to the fourth quarter. The Noles scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth to put the game away, but Vick’s greatness was cemented in the Superdome that night. He rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 225 yards, no interceptions and another score in the air. Dayne was extremely deserving and proved it in Pasadena as the Big Ten's only back-to-back Rose Bowl MVP, but a strong case could be made for the Hokies' quarterback after his showcase in New Orleans.
The Denver Broncos aim for their 10th win of the season when they take on the Oakland Raiders tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Broncos (9-3) have won seven games overall and have already clinched the AFC West division title. The Raiders (3-9) have lost five in a row and would love nothing more than to get a win over the division champs and take some pressure off of first-year head coach Dennis Allen in the process.
When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
Denver is fifth overall in total offense (386.9 ypg) and third in scoring at 29.1 points per game. The offense has been led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who has put together a MVP-worthy first season with the Broncos despite missing all of last season. Manning is the NFL’s second-rated passer (104.6) and is averaging 292 yards passing per game with 29 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have benefitted from having No. 18 pulling the trigger. This is especially the case for Thomas, who is tied for fourth in the league with 1,114 yards receiving, is averaging 16.1 yards per catch and has eight touchdown receptions. The Broncos are only 22nd in the league in rushing (103.3 ypg) and will be without running back Willis McGahee (torn MCL) until late in the playoffs. Knowshon Moreno has grabbed hold of the starting job in McGahee’s absence, and he should find success against a Raiders’ defense that’s ranked No. 28 (130.4 ypg) when it comes to stopping the run. The Broncos have been a little sloppy with ball security this season, as they have lost 13 fumbles.
Oakland’s defense is ranked No. 28 in total defense, allowing 387 yards per game, and is dead last in scoring defense, surrendering 31.3 points per contest. They are allowing more than 130 yards rushing per game, and have allowed 129 yards or more to three different running backs, including 251 to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin in Week 9. The Raiders haven’t fared much better against the pass, as they have given up 256.5 yards per game through the air. They have allowed 24 touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions, and have forced a total of 15 turnovers. The pass rush has been non-existent as well, with only 14 sacks, the second-fewest in the entire league.
When the Oakland Raiders have the ball:
Oakland’s offense has been largely one-dimensional this season, as injuries in the backfield and a lack of production in the running game have placed much of the burden on quarterback Carson Palmer’s arm. The Raiders are 13th in the league in total offense, but 77 percent of their total yards have come via the pass. Palmer is seventh in the league in passing yards with 3,532, and tied for second in pass attempts with 503. However, he has thrown 13 interceptions with his 20 touchdown passes, which is part of the reason why he’s No. 20 in terms of passer rating and the Raiders are 23rd in the league in scoring (19.6 ppg). Oakland is near the bottom (29th) in rushing offense, as injuries have once again caused running back Darren McFadden to miss a significant amount of time. It’s possible McFadden will be able to play tonight, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Raiders as a team are averaging less than 83 yards on the ground per game and have scored a total of three rushing touchdowns this season. The leading receiver for the Raiders is tight end Brandon Myers, as wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been hampered by injuries and inconsistent production.
As good as Denver’s offense has been, the defense has more than done its part this season. The Broncos are third in total defense, giving up 308.2 yards per game, and tied for ninth in points allowed at 20.3 per contest. They are sixth against the pass and seventh against the rush, and have yielded only five rushing touchdowns all season. The Broncos have the second-most sacks in the league (38), led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller’s 15 quarterback takedowns. This unit has also picked off 14 passes and tallied four defensive touchdowns on the season.
Even though the Broncos have clinched the AFC West title, there’s still seeding and home-field advantage to play for. With Houston (11-1) and New England (9-3) facing off on Monday night, the Broncos will either gain ground on the Texans or pass the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, provided they take care of business in Oakland. Peyton Manning and Co. had no problems with the Raiders the first time they played, a 37-6 whitewashing in Week 4, and with the problems Oakland has had running the ball, scoring points, along with its defensive issues, there’s little reason to expect a different outcome. The Raiders have allowed 34 or more points in a game seven times this season. Don’t be surprised if it’s eight after tonight.
Broncos 34, Raiders 17
The Heisman remains college football’s biggest prize, but players from every position will walk away with hardware Thursday night as part of the college football awards show (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. Eastern).
Athlon has chimed in all year with our picks for frontrunners for each award, and now the time has come for our staff to pick our winners.
Athlon Sports Heisman poll | Postseason All-America team | Season recap
|Awards and finalists||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light||Winner|
Player of the year
Collin Klein, Kansas State
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Player of the year
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Collin Klein, Kansas State
Marqise Lee, USC
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Collin Klein, Kansas State
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
|Ball||Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona||Ball||Franklin||Ball|
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Marqise Lee, USC
Terrance Williams, Baylor
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Zach Ertz, Stanford
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Barrett Jones, Alabama
Luke Joeckel, North Carolina
Mario Benavides, Louisville
Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
Dalton Freeman, Clemson
Khaled Holmes, USC
Barrett Jones, Alabama
Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Dee Milliner, Alabama
Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
Cairo Santos, Tulane
Caleb Sturgis, Florida
Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Kyle Christy, Florida
Scott Kovanda, Ball State
EDDIE ROBINSON AWARD
Coach of the year
Gary Andersen, Utah State
Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Will Muschamp, Florida
Bill O’Brien, Penn State
David Shaw, Stanford
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Other honors already awarded:
Nagurski (defensive player): Te’o, Notre Dame
Lombardi (lineman or linebacker): Te'o, Notre Dame
Butkus (linebacker): Te’o, Notre Dame
Broyles (assistant coach): Bob Diaco, Notre Dame defensive coordinator
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.
2012 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points