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The B storylines of the Big Ten are just starting to heat up.
The A storyline seems to be the same since the second week of the season: This is a league whose College Football Playoff hopes are continually hanging by the thread.
The other stories, though, may be more interesting. Chief among them Melvin Gordon’s chase for history, both as a realistic candidate to break Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record and a running back who could win the Heisman.
The other story is the November round robin to determine the Big Ten West. Ohio State should wrap up the East official this week against Indiana even if the Buckeyes’ division title seemed inevitable after a win over Michigan State on Nov. 8.
After the win over Nebraska last week, Wisconsin can clinch the West with a win over Iowa and a Minnesota loss, but the possibility remains that Wisconsin and Minnesota will face each other in the finale with the division on the line.
Week 13 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
Big Ten Week 13 Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern.
1. Wisconsin at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
All eyes are on the Melvin Gordon show as the Wisconsin running back makes a run at the Heisman and Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record. Thanks to last week’s record-breaking 408-yard rushing effort, Gordon can pass Sanders even if he falls below his season average of 191 yards per game. Of course, that’s assuming Wisconsin reaches the Big Ten title game. The Badgers can clinch the West division with a win over Iowa and a Minnesota loss to Nebraska. Perhaps lost watching Gordon is the play of the Wisconsin defense. In the last four games, the Badgers have allowed 181 yards per game and three yards per play. Two opponents in that span (Rutgers and Nebraska) have passed for fewer than 100 yards and three (Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue) have rushed for fewer than 100 yards. Iowa will find out which version of its offense will show up — the balanced efforts against Northwestern and Illinois or the inept passing game against Minnesota.
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2. Minnesota at Nebraska
Nebraska is in an interesting spot. One week has unraveled many of the goals this season. This time last week, Nebraska still had a chance the Big Ten title game, and if the one-loss Cornhuskers could beat Wisconsin and potentially Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, Nebraska could at least make a case for the playoff. Melvin Gordon ended those plans in a 59-24 loss. The division is gone and probably a major bowl game. Nebraska hopes to have running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Randy Gregory, who were both injured during the course of the Wisconsin loss, back healthy this week. Even so, facing the run-oriented Gophers might not be a welcome sight after the Cornhuskers gave up 581 total rushing yards a week ago. Despite a loss to Ohio State, Minnesota has a chance to win the Big Ten West with a win in Lincoln setting up a winner-take-all game against Wisconsin next week.
3. Maryland at Michigan
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
For all the tumult this season, Michigan is still hoping for a bowl game. The Wolverines are 5-5 with a finale against Ohio State, meaning Michigan may need to win this one play in the postseason. Meanwhile, the problems continue for Brady Hoke, who may be coaching in his final home game in Ann Arbor. Defensive end Frank Clark, a player chosen in the preseason to represent Michigan at media day, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and was dismissed. Michigan will have to hope an off week and Maryland’s lackluster defense will put the Wolverines into a good position Saturday. Maryland, meanwhile, has been a better team away from College Park. The Terrapins are 4-1 on the road compared to 2-3 at home.
4. Indiana at Ohio State
Big Ten, Big Ten Network
Before Ohio State improved its stock to No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, Urban Meyer was already touting his team’s improvement from the Virginia Tech loss in Columbus to a team that has won back-to-back conference games over ranked teams on the road (Michigan State and Minnesota). “There’s no question this is the most improved team from Game 1 to Game 10 that I’ve ever been around,” Meyer said. That improvement has made the College Football Playoff a possibility and has made redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett a viable candidate to go to New York has a Heisman finalist. This week, Ohio State need only to flex its muscles like it can against Indiana. The Buckeyes need only look at TCU, which beat its conference bottom-feeder Kansas by 4, to learn that wins alone aren’t enough for the selection committee. Ohio State can clinch the Big Ten East with a win or a Michigan State loss.
5. Rutgers at Michigan State
Noon, Big Ten Network
With two games left against Rutgers and at Penn State, Michigan State is looking to secure a spot in a major bowl — i.e., the Cotton, Fiesta, Peach or Orange. Rutgers is a bowl team but has been outclasssed by the upper tier of the Big Ten, losing by a combined score of 135-41 to Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Most important for Michigan State is to get Connor Cook into a groove before he faces Penn State’s defense in the finale. Throw out a start against Indiana, and Cook is completing only 49.4 percent of his passes in October and November.
6. Penn State at Illinois
Penn State has corrected its course after a four-game losing streak and gained bowl eligibility thanks to back-to-back wins over Indiana and Temple. A win over Illinois would clinch not only a winning season for James Franklin in his first year at Penn State but also a winning regular season in all three years under NCAA sanctions (Penn State finishes the season at Michigan State). In the modeset two-game win streak, Penn State has enjoyed a revival of its run game. After failing to run for 100 yards in six of the first eight games, Penn State ran for 162 against Indiana and 254 against Temple. The Nittany Lions also didn’t allow a sack against the Owls. Time may be ticking on Illinois coach Tim Beckman, but his rosy evaluations of the season are true on one front: Illinois still has a shot at a bowl game. Illinois (4-6) finishes with Penn State and Northwestern but hasn’t won back-to-back Big Ten games since 2011.
7. Northwestern at Purdue
Northwestern will find out in a hurry how much the comeback win at Notre Dame helped turn the season. The Wildcats ended a four-game losing streak and scored only seven points fewer in a single game (43 points against Notre Dame) than they had in the previous four games combined (50). The upset in South Bend puts Northwestern (4-6) in bowl contention with its final two games against Purdue and Illinois. The Wildcats were an improved team against Notre Dame — Justin Jackson returned to form at running back, and Trevor Siemian passed for 284 yards and was sacked only twice. But Northwestern also got gifts from Notre Dame in the form of three second-half fumbles. Earlier in the season, Purdue started to look like a tougher out than the Boilermakers were a year ago, but Darrell Hazell’s team is exiting a brutal stretch of losses against Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Week 13 Big Ten Staff Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Northwestern (-1.5) at Purdue
|NW 31-21||NW 14-13||NW 27-24||NW 34-20|
Penn State at Illinois (-6.5)
|PSU 24-14||PSU 24-21||PSU 27-20||PSU 20-10|
Indiana at Ohio State (-34.5)
|OSU 49-17||OSU 49-13||OSU 45-13||OSU 41-10|
Minnesota at Nebraska (-10.5)
|Neb 24-17||Neb 34-27||Neb 31-20||Neb 23-20|
Rutgers at Michigan State (-22.5)
|MSU 35-14||MSU 40-20||MSU 38-13||MSU 27-13|
Wisconsin (-10) at Iowa
|Wisc 41-21||Wisc 31-27||Wisc 30-20||Wisc 27-13|
Maryland at Michigan (-5)
|Mich 17-14||Mich 21-17||Mich 23-20||Md 17-10|
Florida State clinched the Atlantic Division title last Saturday, and there’s a possibility for clarity in the Coastal depending on what happens on Thursday night in Durham. If Duke beats North Carolina, the Blue Devils need to win their regular season finale to claim the division title. But if Duke loses to the Tar Heels, Georgia Tech would clinch a spot in the championship game.
North Carolina-Duke is the game with the most impact on the conference standings this week in the ACC, but Notre Dame-Louisville should be most intriguing matchup to watch. The Fighting Irish has struggled in recent weeks, while the Cardinals are hoping to win out and have a shot at the Orange Bowl.
Outside of those two games, it’s a light slate of action in the ACC. Florida State hopes to earn a few style points against Boston College, Miami travels to Virginia, Pittsburgh needs a win over Syracuse to keep its bowl hopes alive, while Clemson should have an easy win over Georgia State.
Week 13 Previews and Predictions:
ACC Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Louisville at Notre Dame (-3.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The ACC’s top game in Week 13 is a non-conference tilt in South Bend between Louisville and Notre Dame. The Cardinals have completed their conference schedule and need wins in their final two games to have a shot at a berth in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame is reeling after losses in three out of its last four games. The Fighting Irish has struggled with turnovers by losing nine over their last two contests. In addition to the turnover problems, Notre Dame’s defense has struggled since a 6-0 start. The Fighting Irish has allowed at least 31 points in four consecutive games. Both teams are dealing with some uncertainty at quarterback in this matchup. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson is dealing with a sprained shoulder, while Louisville lost starter Will Gardner to a season-ending knee injury against Boston College. Reggie Bonnafon will replace Gardner in the starting lineup, and the true freshman has completed 51 of 92 passes for 662 yards and four scores this year. Bonnafon’s previous experience this season, along with a bye week should help him prepare for this road test in South Bend. And Bonnafon’s job has been made easier with the return of standout receiver DeVante Parker, and Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to just 17.8 points per game. This will be the first meeting between these two programs.
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2. North Carolina at Duke (-6)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Duke’s Coastal Division title hopes took a hit by losing to Virginia Tech last Saturday. However, coach David Cutcliffe’s team still controls its destiny within the division and can clinch a repeat trip to the ACC Championship to Charlotte by winning its last two games. This in-state rivalry has been controlled by the Tar Heels, but the Blue Devils have won the last two in this series. Turnovers will be critical to both teams on Thursday night, as Duke lost only six prior to Week 12 and surrendered three against Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils struggle to stop the run (197.6 ypg allowed), but North Carolina ranks near the bottom of the ACC in rush offense. Quarterback Marquise Williams has recorded at least 300 total yards in four out of the last five games and posted in 327 in last year’s matchup between these two teams. Williams needs to have a big day against Duke’s defense, as the Tar Heels rank at the bottom of the ACC in yards per game allowed (6.5 ypp) and will have trouble containing the Blue Devils’ balanced attack. There’s plenty on the line for both teams on Thursday night. Duke needs to win to take the Coastal, while a victory over the Blue Devils would get North Carolina bowl eligible with a game remaining. And if that's not enough, in-state bragging rights and the Victory Bell are up for grabs between these two rivals.
3. Boston College at Florida State (-19)
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Florida State remained No. 3 in this week’s playoff rankings, and with no ranked opponents remaining (pending what happens in the ACC Championship), style points could matter for coach Jimbo Fisher’s team over the next three weeks. The Seminoles used another second-half rally to defeat Miami 30-26 last Saturday, extending its winning streak to 26 games. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team certainly has its flaws, but one area this team could improve upon over the next few weeks is turnovers lost. Florida State leads the ACC with 22 lost turnovers in 10 games. On the flipside of that stat is Boston College. The Eagles have lost only 12 turnovers this year and played the Seminoles tough in Chestnut Hill last season. Coach Steve Addazio’s team features a rushing attack that ranks second in the ACC with 264 yards per game, with quarterback Tyler Murphy (1,006 rushing yards) leading the way as the catalyst for the offense. The Eagles’ rushing attack will challenge a Florida State defense that has been vulnerable to run (139.7 ypg), but if Addazio’s team falls behind, can Murphy throw well enough to keep Boston College in the game? The Eagles create a lot of havoc around the line of scrimmage (76 tackles for a loss), and the Seminoles shuffled their offensive line prior to the matchup against Miami to solidify the front five. Freshman Rod Johnson is now the starter at left tackle, while Cameron Erving has shifted from tackle to center. If the Eagles can’t get to quarterback Jameis Winston with pressure, Florida State should be able to take advantage of a secondary that ranks near the bottom of the ACC in pass efficiency defense.
4. Miami (-6) at Virginia
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Both teams enter Week 13 coming off losses to Florida State. Miami lost 30-26 to the Seminoles last Saturday, while Virginia was defeated 34-20 in Tallahassee on Nov. 8. The Hurricanes were eliminated from Coastal Division title contention last week, but coach Al Golden’s team has a chance to improve its bowl positioning with wins in their last two games. The Cavaliers need to win their last two games to get bowl eligible, which is no easy task with remaining matchups against Miami and Virginia Tech. Miami has lost three of its last four trips to Charlottesville and hopes to reverse that recent trend by relying heavily on running back Duke Johnson (1,343 yards, 10 TDs in 2014) and quarterback Brad Kaaya (2,403 yards, 22 TDs). The Hurricanes average 32.3 points per game, but this offense will be tested by a Virginia defense limiting opponents to five yards per play. The Cavaliers also rank fourth in the ACC against the run and have recorded 27 sacks through 10 contests. Defense is clearly the strength of Virginia, as its offense has not averaged more than 5.3 yards per play in its last three matchups. Miami coach Al Golden worked at Virginia from 1994-96 and 2001-05.
5. Syracuse at Pittsburgh (-7.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
If the last two matchups between these two schools are any indication, this year’s game could be another low-scoring affair with a small margin of victory. Syracuse won 14-13 in 2012, but Pittsburgh claimed a close 17-16 win last season. The Panthers have lost six out of their last seven games this year, including a 40-35 thriller at North Carolina last week. While the losses are piling up for coach Paul Chryst, four of Pittsburgh’s defeats have been by five points or less. Running back James Conner (156.2 ypg) continues to have a standout year for the Panthers, and the sophomore will test a Syracuse defense holding opponents to 127.3 rushing yards per game. And the Orange has not allowed a rushing touchdown in four contests. In addition to the strength in the front seven, Syracuse has forced 18 takeaways, which is a concern for a Pittsburgh team that ranks last in the ACC with a -7 turnover margin. Syracuse’s offense is averaging only 14.8 points per game in conference matchups, with injuries significantly hampering the offensive line. Quarterback has been a revolving door this season, and true freshman AJ Long (727 yards, 4 TDs, 6 INTs) is expected to start on Saturday. Pittsburgh needs to win both of its remaining games to reach bowl eligibility, while Syracuse is looking to build momentum after its first losing record since 2011.
6. Virginia Tech (-15) at Wake Forest
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN 3
Offense is expected to be at a premium when Wake Forest and Virginia Tech meet on Saturday for the first time since 2011. The Hokies are averaging 21.3 points per game in ACC contests, while the Demon Deacons rank last in the league at 11.7 per game. Virginia Tech’s win over Duke last week left coach Frank Beamer’s team just one win short of bowl eligibility. The Hokies need to beat Wake Forest or Virginia to extend its bowl streak to 22 consecutive years. Virginia Tech’s offense has been hit hard by injuries this year, and the bad luck continued last Saturday with running back Marshawn Williams suffering a torn ACL against the Blue Devils. With Williams out, J.C. Coleman, Jerome Wright and Joel Caleb will shoulder the workload at running back. The strength of Wake Forest is its defense, and this unit could create a few headaches for quarterback Michael Brewer and the Hokies offense. However, the Demon Deacons have scored more than 17 points only once since Sept. 20. Wake Forest has not defeated Virginia Tech since 1983.
7. Georgia State at Clemson (-41)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
Coming off last week’s loss to Georgia Tech and a matchup against South Carolina upcoming on Nov. 29, this game against Georgia State comes at a perfect time for coach Dabo Swinney’s team. Quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a sprained LCL against the Yellow Jackets and will miss this matchup, allowing Cole Stoudt and Nick Schuessler to build confidence against a defense allowing 6.6 yards per play and 43.8 points per game. The Panthers lead the Sun Belt in passing offense behind first-year starter Nick Arbuckle, but coach Trent Miles’ team has lost 24 turnovers and averages just 2.9 yards per rush. Even though Stoudt has struggled in relief of Watson, Clemson shouldn’t have much trouble with Georgia State on Saturday.
Week 13 ACC Predictions
|UL (+3.5) at ND||UL 31-21||UL 30-24||ND 27-24||ND 27-20|
|UNC (+6) at Duke||Duke 35-21||Duke 38-34||Duke 34-31||UNC 28-24|
|BC (+19) at FSU||FSU 38-28||FSU 41-21||FSU 38-20||FSU 34-20|
|Miami (-6) at UVa||UVa 21-17||Miami 30-20||Miami 31-20||Miami 40-17|
|Syracuse (+7.5) at Pitt||Pitt 28-21||Pitt 29-21||Pitt 30-20||Pitt 28-21|
|Va. Tech (-15) at Wake||VT 35-7||VT 40-13||VT 31-10||VT 17-3|
|Georgia State (+41) at Clemson||CU 49-10||CU 41-3||CU 52-7||CU 55-10|
It’s the week before rivalry week in the SEC. Translation: There aren’t a ton of compelling games. That said, Missouri vs. Tennessee is an intriguing matchup between two teams playing very well of late. Elsewhere, Arkansas looks to extend its SEC winning streak to two games against Ole Miss; Mississippi State hopes to get back on track against winless (in the SEC) Vanderbilt; and then … not much to get excited about.
Week 13 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Missouri at Tennessee (7:30 ET, ESPN)
There’s plenty at stake for both teams. Missouri remains on top of the SEC East with a 5–1 league record and must beat Tennessee in Knoxville and Arkansas at home to make a second straight trip to Atlanta. Tennessee is one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. The Vols’ resurgence has coincided with quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ insertion into the lineup. In two-plus games, Dobbs has thrown for 790 yards and seven touchdowns and added 289 yards and four scores on the ground. His ability to make plays with his feet has negated one of Tennessee’s primary weaknesses; the Vols allowed 32 sacks in their first eight games but only one in Dobbs’ two starts. That takes on added significance with Missouri coming to town. Led by defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Tigers rank second in the SEC with 32 sacks. The Vols have a ton of momentum, but Missouri just keeps on finding ways to win.
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2. Ole Miss (-3.5) at Arkansas (3:30 ET, CBS)
Arkansas finally broke through with its first SEC win since October 2012, shutting out LSU 17–0 before a delirious crowd in Fayetteville that was starved for a victory. Can the Hogs make it two in a row? It’s possible. After opening the season with seven straight wins, highlighted by a rare victory over Alabama, Ole Miss has lost its last two league games — both in excruciating fashion. The most troubling part for the Rebels, other than the losses, has been the decline of the rushing defense. After allowing no more than 168 yards on the ground in their first four SEC games, they gave up 264 to LSU and 248 to Auburn. Injuries have no doubt contributed, but there are very few healthy teams at this point of the year. Arkansas has been better than expected throwing the ball this season, but this is still a team that prefers to run the ball. Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the SEC in rushing, and both will end the season with over 1,000 yards — barring injury. Slowing down this duo will be key for Ole Miss.
3. Vanderbilt (+29.5) at Mississippi State (7:30 SEC Network)
When these two teams last met in Starkville — in October 2008 — Vanderbilt was 5–0 and ranked No. 13 in the nation while Mississippi State was 1–4 and playing out the string in the final season of the Sylvester Croom era. Vanderbilt lost that game 17–14, the first of a four-game losing streak that finally ended with a win at Kentucky that made the Commodores bowl-eligible for the first time since 1982. Both programs have had their ups and downs in the last six years. Clearly Mississippi State is on the uptick — the Bulldogs are No. xx in the most recent CFB Playoff rankings — while Vanderbilt is struggling through a difficult season under first-year coach Derek Mason. Hence, the nearly 30-point spread. The main issue for Mississippi State will be focus; this game is sandwiched between last week’s emotional loss at Alabama and next week’s trip to Oxford for the Egg Bowl.
4. South Alabama at South Carolina (12 ET Fox SportsSouth)
South Alabama is 6–4 overall and 5–3 in the Sun Belt but lost badly in its only previous game against an SEC opponent. In Week 2, the Jags dropped a 35–3 decision at home to Mississippi State — long before we knew Mississippi State was going to be one of the top teams in the country. USA has been solid on defense — it ranks third in the Sun Belt in yards allowed — but should be no match for South Carolina. The Gamecocks have some new life after rallying to beat Florida in overtime last week. Steve Spurrier’s team needs one more win to become bowl-eligible. They will get it this weekend.
5. Eastern Kentucky at Florida (12 ET, SEC Network+)
Playing for the first time since the school announced Will Muschamp will not be back next season, the Gators will be out to snap a one-game losing streak to FCS opponents. Eastern Kentucky arrives in Gainesville with a 9–2 overall record with losses to Tennessee Tech (by eight) and Jacksonville State (by 14). The Colonels beat the only FBS team they have played, topping Miami (Ohio) 17–10 in Week 2. If the Gators are focused — which might be an issue after an emotional week for the players — they should win this game with ease.
6. Charleston Southern at Georgia (12 ET, SEC Network)
After closing out its SEC season with an impressive 34–7 win over Auburn, Georgia hosts Charleston Southern in a tune-up for next week’s visit from surging Georgia Tech. Charleston Southern runs the triple-option but is also averaging 186.7 passing yards per game. In their one game against an FBS opponent, the Buccaneers had 190 yards passing and 199 yards rushing in a 21–20 loss at Vanderbilt. CSU has done a poor job stopping the run, allowing an average of 252.2 rushing yards per game. Georgia could win this game easily without attempting a pass.
7. Western Carolina at Alabama (4 ET, SEC Network)
This is the sixth straight season Alabama has played an FCS opponent the week prior to the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide has won the previous five, including the last two by identical scores of 49–0. Western Carolina won six of its first eight games but has since lost two of three, including a 51–0 defeat at home to Chattanooga. The Catamounts lost in Week 1 to South Florida, 36–31. This journey into the FBS ranks will not be as close.
8. Samford at Auburn (7 ET, ESPNU)
Auburn has lost two straight games for the first time in the Gus Malzahn era. In Saturday’s loss at Georgia, the Tigers managed only 292 total yards and seven points — by far their least productive offensive performance of the season. With hopes of an SEC West title dashed, Auburn must now focus on the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Samford is 7–3 overall and has won four straight game. The Bulldogs opened the season with a 48–14 loss at TCU.
Week 13 SEC Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|E. Kentucky at Florida||UF 35-7||UF 37-10||UF 34-13||UF 34-10|
|S. Alabama at S. Carolina||USC 42-10||USC 44-10||USC 41-17||USC 44-13|
|Charleston So. at Georgia||UGa 49-14||UGa 51-10||UGa 48-7||UGa 47-14|
|Ole Miss at Arkansas||UA 31-28||UM 27-17||UM 27-20||UM 27-20|
|W. Carolina at Alabama||UA 49-17||UA 41-0||UA 51-3||UA 48-0|
|Samford at Auburn||AU 48-14||AU 38-3||AU 51-10||AU 47-10|
|Mizzou at Tennessee||UT 21-17||MU, 31-27||MU 27-24||MU 27-23|
|Vanderbilt at Miss. State||MSU 35-10||MSU 37-13||MSU 38-13||MSU 30-17|
TCU is still ahead of Baylor in the playoff rankings (for better or for worse) and will sit at home and watch this weekend.
But Baylor still controls its own destiny and has a chance to earn some style points against Oklahoma State. Not to be left out, Kansas State is still in the Big 12 title mix but has to win in Morgantown.
And when Kliff Kingsbury and Paul Rhoads get together in Ames, who knows what could happen.
Big 12 Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Kansas St (+2) at West Virginia
Thur., 7 p.m., FS1
Still with just one conference loss, Kansas State is very much in the Big 12 championship race. Visiting Morgantown has been extremely difficult this season for everyone but Oklahoma and Bill Snyder’s bunch needs to win to keep pace with Baylor and TCU. Snyder is 2-0 against Dana Holgorsen since joining the Big 12 and his offense posted 55 points and 7.7 yards per play the last time the Wildcats visited Milan Puskar Stadium. Both offenses need to shake off some recent rust, as Kansas State managed just 34 yards rushing against TCU while WVU's Clint Trickett has posted his three worst passing totals in the last three games. Both have had two weeks to prepare and the chess match between Holgo’s offense and Snyder’s defense should be fun to watch.
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2. Oklahoma St (+28) at Baylor
7:30 p.m., FOX
Many believe that Baylor should be ranked ahead of TCU, especially considering the outcome of the head-to-head meeting. But the Bears are still two spots behind the Horned Frogs. Art Briles knows that if his team can win its final three games — and look good doing it — that his Bears are likely to be the Big 12’s representative in the inaugural Playoff. TCU missed a shot to look good last weekend against Kansas and Baylor cannot afford to do the same against Oklahoma State. The Pokes have lost four straight and scored a total of 40 points in those losses and may be without starting quarterback Daxx Garman (concussion). Mason Rudolph would have to burn his redshirt to start in his place. The Bears have scored 108 points in their last two and have had two weeks to prepare for a team that embarrassed them in Stillwater last year in their only loss of the regular season.
3. Texas Tech (+1.5) at Iowa St
3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
There is no reason for anyone outside of Ames and Lubbock to pay attention to anything that happens in Jack Trice Stadium this weekend. However, both head coach’s respective futures could hang in the balance. Amidst signal-gate, Kingsbury’s team has lost seven out of eight overall and have been victorious just once in its last 11 Big 12 games. Rhoads has lost six straight in the Big 12 and 14 of the last 16. Both are well-liked within their respective programs and neither is likely to get fired this season but both are in desperate need of a league win.
4. Kansas (+25) at Oklahoma
Bob Stoops has his team back in the Top 25 after a 35-point second half gave the Sooners a road win over Texas Tech. Without Trevor Knight, Samaje Perine reemerged with 213 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the win. With Cody Thomas likely under center once again, look for Perine and company to exploit a Jayhawks rushing defense that has allowed a Big 12 opponent to rush for more than 200 yards three times this season. The good news for Kansas is Michael Cummings is beginning to blossom. He’s averaged 299.3 yards per game passing with seven total touchdowns and just one interception in his last three games.
Off: TCU, Texas
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|KSU (+2) at WVU||KSU, 34-31||WVU, 34-30||KSU, 31-28||KSU, 30-27|
|OSU (+28) at Baylor||BU, 41-17||BU, 41-17||BU, 42-14||BU, 45-17|
|TT (+1.5) at ISU||ISU, 25-24||ISU, 30-23||TT, 28-17||TT, 34-31|
|Kansas (+25) at Okla.||OU, 45-17||OU, 41-10||OU, 38-10||OU, 38-13|
The Week 13 slate across the country is pretty sad, but the Pac-12 Conference is here to save college football.
Four of the six Pac-12 games feature point spreads that are less than a touchdown and the other two feature teams that need to hold serve at home to keep their respective Pac-12 championship game hopes alive.
Pac-12 Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. USC (+3.5) at UCLA
8 p.m., ABC
You gotta love when a plan comes together, right? On what might be the worst weekend for college football nationally, the Pac-12 South Division title could hang in the balance between two powerful SoCal rivals. The Bruins control their own destiny and are two wins away from returning to the conference title game. A USC wins opens the door for a head-spinning number of outcomes. What’s even more exciting is the way both teams are playing currently. Over the last month, both Cody Kessler and Brett Hundley have been unstoppable. Hundley has been dynamic on the ground and has taken care of the football through the air while Kessler has methodically dissected every defense he’s faced with a plethora of talented weaponry. Both against the run and on the scoreboard, the Trojans' defense has been tougher and more consistent but UCLA’s unit is rounding into form after holding Arizona and Washington’s passing games in check. Jim Mora is 2-0 against USC and a third straight win could keep the Bruins' College Football Playoff hopes alive.
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2. Arizona (+4) at Utah
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Both teams were lucky to walk away with wins in Week 12 and both still cling to slim Pac-12 South Division title hopes (yes, a five-way tie is still possible). Utah will use a stingy defense, near-perfect special teams and home-field advantage to attempt to rattle Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon. After a blistering start, the depth and grind of a nine-game Pac-12 schedule is starting to take its toll on the young starter. He posted his worst showing of the season three weeks ago against UCLA and wasn’t much better last week against Washington — both of which bear similarities to Utah defensively. Look for another low-scoring game in which a late mistake by a flustered quarterback makes the difference. And if it goes to overtime, Kyle Whittingham’s bunch would be very comfortable.
3. Stanford (-5.5) at Cal
4 p.m., FS1
As wild as it sounds, The Big Game could decide bowl eligibility for both teams. Stanford visits UCLA next week while Cal hosts BYU, so the only guarantee for either team is the winner of the 117th meeting will go to the postseason. Stanford has won the last four meetings (David Shaw has never been defeated by Cal) but the Bears had their own run of dominance in the series, taking seven out of eight from 2002-09. A loss would punctuate a very disappointing season for Shaw while a win for Cal could earn Sonny Dykes Pac-12 Coach of the Year votes. It’s a classic offense vs. defense matchup between two long-standing rivals. Sit back and enjoy.
4. Colorado (off) at Oregon
4:30 p.m., P12 Net
The Ducks are two wins away from playing for a Playoff berth and possible Heisman Trophy. Which might be just the right amount of time to get the oft-injured offensive line healthy. Center Hroniss Grasu won’t play this weekend but Andre Yruretagoyena could return to action. Marcus Mariota — who has 10 touchdowns in two career games against Colorado — is playing as well as anybody in the nation and should have no issues with the 106th-ranked defense. Unfortunately for Colorado, rising star quarterback Sefo Liufau may be limited after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Jordan Gehrke is ready if needed.
5. Washington St (+16) at Arizona St
1 p.m., P12 Net
Todd Graham’s team is down but not out of the Pac-12 South race as the Sun Devils will be rooting hard for USC this weekend. The Sun Devils gave up a season-high 247 yards rushing to Oregon State in the upset last weekend and will be facing a totally different offense Saturday. Led by backup QB Luke Falk, the Cougars have had two weeks to prepare since their own, much more successful trip to Corvallis two weeks ago. Falk threw for 471 yards and five touchdowns in his first career start, a win over the aforementioned Beavers.
6. Oregon St (+6.5) at Washington
10:30 p.m., P12 Net
The Beavers played easily their best and most complete game of the year in the win over then-No. 6 Arizona State. Sean Mannion was efficient and the running game posted a season-high 247 yards. Washington continues its downward fall, losing for the fourth time in five games, the latest in painful fashion in Tucson. In the preseason, this game was thought to determine second or third place in the North Division. Now, the loser is likely to finish in last.
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|USC (+3.5) at UCLA||USC, 34-31||USC, 38-35||UCLA, 28-24||UCLA, 31-27|
|Zona (+4) at Utah||Utah, 30-25||Utah, 30-27||Utah, 27-21||AZ, 27-24|
|Stan. (-5.5) at Cal||Stan., 30-28||Cal, 34-20||Cal, 28-14||Stan., 31-30|
|Colo. at Ore.||Ore., 49-17||Ore., 47-17||Ore., 49-21||Ore., 50-17|
|WSU (+16) at ASU||ASU, 34-27||ASU, 37-27||ASU, 35-17||ASU, 41-27|
|OSU (+6.5) at Wash.||UW, 24-23||UW, 23-20||OSU, 28-21||UW, 31-24|
We’ve all heard about the friend of the friend who deep fries a turkey each Thanksgiving, and everyone raves about it. Well, this is your year to be that guy. Here’s our quick guide, along with some great tips from chef Darrell Breaux of Bro’s Cajun Cuisine in Nashville, Tenn., who’s been frying turkeys for 25 years. “Once you’ve had a fried turkey,” he says, “you won’t want it any other way.”
• Wash turkey thoroughly both inside and out and drain. “Your best frying size is between 12 and 14 pounds. That will feed four to six people.”
• Season turkey to taste. “I like to sprinkle seasoning, rub it in, and let it set for a couple of days.”
• Make sure it’s room temperature before putting it into your fryer. “Every year it seems like somebody tries to fry a frozen turkey. Don’t! It’ll explode.”
• Heat the oil in a large outdoor pot to 350 degrees. “I prefer peanut oil.”
• Carefully lower turkey until it’s fully submerged. (Tip: To predetermine the correct oil level, put the turkey in the empty fryer, add water, remove turkey and mark the proper level.)
• Fry for around 3 minutes per pound. “Take into account the weather. The wind can be blowing, or it could be snowing. Use a thermometer to make sure it’s cooked properly. (Remove the turkey and) stick the thermometer into the thigh. It needs to be around 185 degrees.”
• Remove from oil, drain on paper towel and carve. “If you’re planning on using the same pan you had the raw turkey in, make sure you wash the pan. You don’t want any cross contamination.”
• Breaux’s final safety tip? “Stay sober, and use common sense.”
Paul Pierce is a surefire Hall of Famer. The eighteen-year forward, who played sixteen of those years with the Boston Celtics and won a title in Beantown, has been one of the game’s most devastating scorers for well over a decade. Even in his advanced age of 37, The Truth boasts a deceptive, hypnotic form of isolation basketball that’s a death knell to the opposition in crunch time. That's why the Washington Wizards signed him for two years and about $10 million this past summer.
But in Pierce’s estimation of the league in 2014, none of what he does would particularly matter to NBA executives if he were a rookie. In fact, he thinks he’d have a hard time getting drafted. "I probably wouldn't have got drafted [this year]“ Pierce recently said on Dan Patrick’s radio show.
"A lot of stuff is based on potential, or I probably would've went later in the first round or something. I think a lot of these young talented kids are just rated on their pure length and athleticism, but really no basketball IQ, really no footwork, really can't shoot the ball. When they look at [a] guy and they say he has potential, he's fast, he has long arms, he can jump. And then he gets out there and can't throw a rock in the ocean, or he can't run a play. Or his basketball IQ is low. I think those things sometimes get overrated. A lot of kids get drafted just on that.”
Even though Pierce sounds like a grumpy old man here, he may be right to an extent. Measuring his worth has always been difficult, though — teams have always passed over those whose skills are more metaphysical than quantifiable, and it’s always created many a draft day rabbit hole. Pierce has adaptability, edge, and ethos … none of which are easily projectable qualities. Bodily dimensions and statistics often feel like a safer bet in the draft.
The ten-time All-Star even sunk to No. 10 overall in his own 1998 draft, behind inferior players (but more imposing bodies) Robert Traylor, Raef LaFrentz, Larry Hughes, and forgotten center Michael Olowokandi, who went first overall ahead of not only Pierce, but also Dirk Nowitzki, who was available to the Dallas Mavericks one slot ahead of Paul at No. 9. Yikes. NBA gems are elusive, and drafting is hard.
— John Wilmes
Lake Forest, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Bears signed return man Marc Mariani to a two-year contract on Tuesday.
Mariani averaged 24.8 yards on 92 kickoff returns for Tennessee in 2010 and 2011. He also returned 73 punts for an average of 11.2 yards with two touchdowns during his two years with the Titans.
He earned a Pro Bowl nod after the 2010 season.
To make room for Mariani on the roster, the team waived safety Ahmad Dixon. He had four special teams tackles and a fumble recovery in five games for the Bears this season.
Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Steelers have released running back LeGarrette Blount, who reportedly left the field before the conclusion of Monday's game against Tennessee.
Multiple media outlets reported that Blount walked off the field before the end of the Steelers' 27-24 win over the Titans, apparently upset over his lack of playing time. He did not receive carry in the contest, as Le'Veon Bell racked up a career-high 204 yards on 33 rushes.
"We believe the decision to release LeGarrette is in the best interest of the organization and wish him the best of luck," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in a brief statement.
Blount joined the Steelers in March on a two-year contract after a spending the 2013 season with New England. He got into immediate trouble with his new team after being cited for marijuana possession, along with Bell, in August.
In 11 games this season, Blount rushed for 266 yards with two touchdowns. He had 10 carries in Week 9 against Baltimore and just five last Sunday in the loss to the Jets prior to Monday.
The 28-year-old Oregon product spent his first three NFL seasons with Tampa Bay, rushing for 1,007 yards as a rookie in 2010.
Canton, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Quarterback Kurt Warner and his "Greatest Show on Turf" teammates Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt were among eight first-year eligible candidates named as semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2015.
Late linebacker and San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau was also named as a semifinalist Tuesday night after the selection committee trimmed the list of 113 nominees down 26.
Joining the St. Louis Rams trio of Warner, Bruce and Holt among first-year hopefuls were running back Edgerrin James, offensive linemen Kevin Mawae and Orlando Pace and cornerback back Ty Law.
Tackle Mike Kenn and safety Darren Woodson were named semifinalists for the first time.
Finalists on the ballot again include running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, offensive lineman Will Shields, linebacker Kevin Greene, head coach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
Others making the list were: kicker Morten Andersen, safety Steve Atwater, head coach Don Coryell, running backs Roger Craig and Terrell Davis, defensive end Charles Haley, tackle Joe Jacoby, safety John Lynch and linebacker Karl Mecklenburg and head coach Jimmy Johnson.
The announcement of the 15 finalists will come Jan. 8.
The contributor finalists are former longtime general managers and team executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf. Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff is the 2015 seniors finalist.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 19:
• An NBA cheerleader power ranking. They all look pretty good from here.
• It's early, but it looks like the only team that can beat Kentucky is Kentucky.
• So much for turning off women: Female viewership of the NFL is at record levels.
• The Packers have shaken up the typical NFL work week, with stellar results.
• There's something to this: Twitter has become anti-social media.
• Iman Shumpert threw down a nasty reverse jam.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
"Personally, I just hope they suck forever.”
That was what Mark Cuban said in an L.A. radio interview recently, when asked about the sorry state of basketball’s most famous team.
"As far as the Lakers," Cuban said, "I think there are going to be a lot of teams that are going to be focusing and saying, 'Look, I've got a ton of cap room, free agents A, B and C, why don't you guys come together and come play for me?' And L.A. has always been considered a destination, so maybe they feel there's a valid strategy. … Personally, I just hope they suck forever.”
Cuban must be feeling jolly these days. His 8-3 Mavericks have been soaring behind the league’s best offense, averaging 109.3 points per game with the additions of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler. Dallas hasn’t won a playoff series since their championship in 2011 — the Western Conference has been that good — but that could easily change this spring.
The team’s roster is now clearly in the best shape its been since that title run. Chandler’s rim protection and pick-and-roll finishing have been an upgrade of nearly unspeakable proportions. Chandler is third in the league in field goal percentage at .703, and his new wingmate Chandler Parsons is helping to spread opposing defenses with his perimeter creativity. The Mavericks are a frightening foe.
That’s a far cry from the patsy Lakers, who do, indeed, suck. Nick “Swaggy P” Young returned to action last night to help L.A. win 114-109 against the struggling Atlanta Hawks, but it was only the Lakers’ second victory of the season. At 2-9, they’re currently in last place in their conference and off to their worst start in franchise history. It may not last forever, but Cuban and other Lakers haters worldwide should enjoy the waft of failure coming from Hollywood for now.
— John Wilmes
Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.
Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network
Adam Zucker, CBS Sports
Steven Godfrey, SBNation
Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
David Fox, Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM
Dropped out: Duke Johnson, Gerod Holliman, Ameer Abdullah
Listen to the Week 12 recap podcast:
The Top 3:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Mariota and the Ducks were on bye this weekend as 10 ranked teams, including No. 1 (Mississippi State), No. 6 (Arizona State) and No. 9 (Auburn), lost. With only Colorado and Oregon State remaining on the schedule, Mariota and Oregon are all but locked into the Pac-12 Championship Game. Should Mariota stay healthy and Oregon wins the Pac-12, he will be tough to beat in the Heisman Trophy race.
Season Stats: 2,780 yards, 67.1%, 29 TDs, 2 INTs, 524 rush yards, 8 TDs
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon had arguably the best single-game performance of any running back in NCAA history. He carried 25 times for an NCAA-record 408 yards and four touchdowns in the Badgers' 59-24 win over Nebraska, arguably UW's biggest game of the Big Ten season. Gordon leads the nation in rushing at 190.9 yards per game and is averaging an astonishing 8.6 yards per carry.
Season Stats: 223 att., 1,909 yds, 23 TDs, 11 rec., 83 yds, 2 TDs
3. Amari Cooper, Alabama
Cooper was excellent in the Tide’s win over No. 1 Mississippi State. He caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Cooper is leading the nation in receiving at 1,303 yards, is third with 87 receptions and tied for fourth with 11 touchdowns. Cooper has caught at least eight passes in all but one game and is shattering all of Alabama’s receiving records.
Season Stats: 87 rec., 1,303 yds, 11 TDs, 14 rush yds
The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.
The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 13.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
Two ranked teams will lose this weekend
Last weekend, 10 ranked teams lost, including three of the top nine. However, only two ranked teams will lose in Week 13 and that’s only because they are playing against another ranked team. No. 13 Arizona visits No. 23 Utah and No. 25 Minnesota visits No. 16 Nebraska. Other than that, the 17 other ranked teams in action will all win. Mark it down.
At least two Big Ten coaches will be fired
When Illinois loses at home to Penn State, Tim Beckman will fall to 2-21 in the Big Ten with one game left in his third season. When Michigan loses at home to Maryland, Brady Hoke will fall to 6-10 in the Big Ten since losing to Ohio State in 2012 — just 12-14 overall since that game. Both won't survive the weekend and will join Will Muschamp in what should be a rapidly growing pool of guys looking for work. This speaks nothing of what could happen at Indiana (slight chance), Purdue (unlikely) or Iowa (way too expensive to make a move).
The Big Game will determine bowl eligibility
Just imagine uttering this statement in July. How outrageous would this have been? After going 1-11 in his first season, you're telling me Sonny Dykes and Cal would be 5-5 going into The Big Game? After winning back-to-back Pac-12 titles, you're also telling me David Shaw and Stanford would be 5-5 going into The Big Game? But it's true. Stanford visits UCLA in the season finale and Cal hosts BYU — both of which figure to be tough matchups — so the winner of The Big Game will likely head to a bowl game while the loser could be sitting at home during the holidays.
There will, in fact, be a meaningful SEC game
In Week 13, the SEC will face Eastern Kentucky (Florida), Charleston Southern (Georgia), South Alabama (South Carolina), Western Carolina (Alabama) and Samford (Auburn). Yet, there's a saving grace that could impact the SEC championship picture. Ole Miss visits Arkansas and Missouri makes the trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee. If the Tigers and Rebels lose, they are both eliminated from the SEC title game. If both win out and Alabama loses to Auburn next week, then Mizzou and Ole Miss would meet in Atlanta, thus making Week 13 one of the most important of the season (despite the complete garbage Mike Slive is putting on the field) for the SEC.
Pat Haden and Jeff Ulbrich will fight
USC at UCLA is arguably the biggest game (and maybe one of the only games worth watching) of the weekend and possibly the biggest game of the Pac-12 South's season. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have both had an interesting season on the sidelines and both are intense individuals. Look for fisticuffs between the two passionate rivals in Los Angeles.
Here’s the terrifying part of Tuesday night: This is only the early season form for Kentucky and Duke.
November is supposed to be a time when teams are working through lineups and combinations, when freshmen are figuring out their place in the college game.
On Tuesday, Kentucky delivered a dominant team against another top five team, and Duke delivered three freshmen who look ready to roll through the ACC. If what we saw out of Kentucky two lineups and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor on Tuesday is a sign of things to come, we may see both of them again, this time in the same game on another neutral court.
These early games may end up as notches on NCAA Tournament profiles, but they do have a way of setting a tone for the season.
Here’s what we learned from the Champions Classic:
1. Kentucky is perhaps better than we expected
The Wildcats were Athlon’s No. 1 team in the preseason and a near-unanimous No. 1 pick just about everywhere else. On Tuesday, the same people who picked Kentucky No. 1 had their jaws on the ground. Kentucky defeated Kansas, a Big 12 favorite and a top-five team, 72-40. A 32-point win over a team with talent, experience and a shot at the Final Four. We can laugh at the platoon plans for a team that runs 11 and 12 deep, but when it works like it did Tuesday, Kentucky can’t be stopped. All 10 players on the Blue and White platoons scored in each of the first and second half. Think about how wild this is: Kentucky clobbered Kansas with only two players scoring in double figures and none more than 11 points.
2. Kentucky can be a ridiculous defensive team
The absurd stat of the night, of course, goes to Kentucky. The Wildcats had 11 blocks. Kansas had 11 field goals. Kentucky’s length was impenetrable Tuesday as Karl-Anthony Towns and Marcus Lee had four blocks apiece. Not that Kansas was much better on the perimeter. Starting point guard Frank Mason went 1-of-10 from the field, and the Jayhawks shot 3-of-15 from 3-point range. If Kentucky can do this to Kansas, what will it do to the SEC?
3. Jahlil Okafor is living up to his Player of the Year potential
Okafor’s first test against a quality opponent couldn’t have gone much better. Duke’s freshman center did the same to Michigan State has he did to Presbyterian and Fairfield. Okafor was 8-of-10 with 17 points against the Spartans. Michigan State had no answer for Okafor’s rare and elite talent as a low-post big man, not that there’s any shame there. Okafor is an 85-percent shooter this season.
4. Okafor is not alone
Besides Okafor’s 17 points, Duke freshmen Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones combined for 32 points against Michigan State. Winslow was all over the place on the way to 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and a three-pointer. Perhaps more important, Jones at point guard allowed veteran Quinn Cook to play at the two. The pair was expected to compete for time to a degree, so seeing them play together was a good sight for Mike Krzyzewski. Jones and Cook combined for no turnovers and 10 assists.
5. Michigan State has a long way to go
This isn’t a typical Michigan State team. With this roster, the Spartans appeared headed to short-lived NCAA Tournament appearance and a middling finish in the Big Ten. Tuesday only reinforced this. Michigan State got an outstanding effort from Branden Dawson (18 points, 8-of-10 shooting). The Spartans shot 50 percent from the field and got 13 offensive rebounds. And yet, Michigan State never really challenged Duke in a 10-point loss.
The college football playoff selection committee gave us a new catch phrase Tuesday: Game control
That’s why Alabama moved to No. 1 from No. 5. That’s why undefeated Florida State is No. 3. And that’s why TCU won a game and fell from in the bracket to out.
“Game control” is taking the place of what we once would have called style points or margin of victory.
Let committee chair Jeff Long explain:
"It might be considered somewhat subjective," he said. "The committee looks at the game, how the game was played, how close the game was played, whether there were lead changes back and forth, or whether a team was in control from the opening kickoff, or whether they gained control say in the second half and finished out the game.
"It's an evaluation of how the game was played between two teams."
Perhaps this phrase should lend credibility to the selection process even if it can be too much in the eye of the beholder and selectively applied.
Margin of victory can be deceiving. Alabama beat Mississippi State by five Saturday but led 19-0 in the second quarter and by 12 until the final 15 seconds.
Florida State is No. 3 in part because, presumably, it lacks game control. The Seminoles trailed Miami 23-10 at halftime, the fifth time this season FSU needed a second-half comeback to win this season.
TCU, also, lacked game control in a 34-30 win over a three-win Kansas team. The Horned Frogs trailed until late in the third quarter.
In a 12- or 13-game schedule, how a team asserts its dominance matters. Slip ups in what should be easy wins matter.
Yet here’s the problem with a subjective measure described on a weekly basis: While we learned about the concept of game control, Long also cited Mississippi State’s close loss to Alabama and never being out of the game as to why the Bulldogs fell to No. 4 and knocking TCU out of a playoff scenario.
Of course, Week 12 of the season didn’t occur in a vacuum. Mississippi State controlled enough games to be ranked No. 1 last week, and TCU lost game control in the fourth quarter against Baylor for its only loss of the season.
Alabama’s game control for most of the season — save for a 14-13 win over Arkansas and the loss to Ole Miss — is why the Crimson Tide are No. 1.
“While we would say that Alabama controlled that game, it did end up a 5-point game,” selection committe chari Jeff Long said during the ESPN broadcast. “While Alabama controlled it, Mississippi State was in striking distance.”
Despite its close games, Florida State has a flawless record of game control. Couldn’t Ohio State claim game control as it has defeated nearly every Big Ten team on its schedule comfortably? What about Baylor, which exhibited the most game control of any opponent this season against Oklahoma and snatched it away from TCU?
The selection committee is not supposed to reward running up a score, notable because TCU started taking knees on first down from the Kansas 12 rather than adding a second score to a four-point game against a three-win team.
"We don't think controlling the game means adding touchdowns," Long said.
While the idea of game control may make sense on a small scale, the selection committee has stumbled into an area it may have difficulty explaining by the first week of December.
Here’s how the second top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.
|College Football Playoff Rankings: Nov. 18|
|1. Alabama||10. Georgia||18. Georgia Tech|
|2. Oregon||11. Michigan State||19. USC|
|3. Florida State||12. Kansas State||20. Missouri|
|4. Mississippi State||13. Arizona State||21. Oklahoma|
|5. TCU||14. Auburn||22. Clemson|
|6. Ohio State||15. Arizona||23. Nebraska|
|7. Baylor||16. Wisconsin||24. Louisville|
|8. Ole Miss||17. Utah||25. Minnesota|
Alabama moves from No. 5 to No. 1
The Crimson Tide made quite the leap from outside of a potential bracket to the top seed. Long said Alabama was the most complete team on offense, defense and special teams and cracked the top four after “what we consider to be a decisive win over Mississippi State.” The metrics must be especially impressive to the committee: With LSU falling out of the rankings with a loss to Arkansas, Alabama has only one top 25 win (Mississippi State).
Ohio State over Baylor
Ohio State defeated Minnesota 31-24 on the road to move from No. 8 to No. 6 (the Gophers remained at No. 25). Can Ohio State get into the playoff? That remains to be seen. The Buckeyes face Indiana and Michigan and would draw no better than Wisconsin, ranked 16th this week, in the Big Ten title game. What’s notable is Ohio State’s move ahead of stationary No. 7 Baylor.
Who Should Worry:
Long described the margin between Nos. 4-7 (Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor) as “narrow, very narrow.” That’s not great news for the only team in that group without a ranked opponent left on it schedule, assuming Ohio State faces Wisconsin. Baylor, the only team to beat TCU this season, also has played one fewer game than the Horned Frogs.
Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised:
The Bulldogs’ loss to Alabama, game control or not, wasn’t the end of the Mississippi State. The optimist for Mississippi State is that if the Bulldogs beat No. 8 Ole Miss, they stay in the playoff even if Alabama goes to the SEC title game. Yet the committee has repeatedly indicated that conference championships would play a role. That gives hope to the Big Ten and Big 12 teams on the outside looking in.
If the Season Ended Today:
Sugar: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Mississippi State
Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
Other bowls (projected)
Cotton: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ole Miss
Fiesta: No. 9 UCLA vs. No. 11 Michigan State
Orange: No. 18 Georgia Tech^ vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Peach: Marshall* vs. No. 10 Georgia
*automatic Group of 5 bid
^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl
The NBA — like televised sports in general — is racing toward technological perfection. With wide-ranging replay capabilities and an off-site video review center, the league is working to make sure everything is called correctly.
That doesn’t mean they can solve the timeless issue of dissatisfaction. When you lose by a hair, you’re bound to take issue with whatever the referee’s calling — regardless of how precisely officials can zoom in and analyze that hair. That’s what the Sacramento Kings are showing us in their formal protest of a 111-110 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on November 13.
The game ended with a series of shocking plays, ultimately culminating in this game-winning shot by Courtney Lee, drawn up and executed with just 0.3 seconds left in the game:
Was the shot good, or did it come too late? It appears that Lee got the shot off before the backboard went red, and officials concurred by calling it Memphis’ way Thursday night, giving the Grizzlies the win. The Kings' organization is not content to accept this ruling, however, and they’re officially asking the league to take the eraser end of their pencil to that page of recent history.
The NBA says it will make a decision by December 2. Regardless of what they announce, the game will go down as one of the highlights of this season’s first month. The Grizzlies and Kings have been stirring up the already ridiculously difficult Western Conference, leaving contemporary powerhouses like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers near the wrong end of playoff perspectives for now. This thrilling game was a celebration of off-the-radar brilliance.
Assuming the call from the night stands, it’s hard to recall a more scintillatingly tight buzzer-beater. One has to hearken back to Derek Fisher’s stunning shot to beat the San Antonio Spurs in a 2004 playoff game:
— John Wilmes
The Adrian Peterson saga returned to the national spotlight with the NFL announcing early Tuesday that the Minnesota Vikings’ All-Pro running back has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 season. The league suspended Peterson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy and said he will not even be considered for reinstatement before April 15, 2015.
Peterson’s suspension is the latest development from his September indictment on a felony charge of injury to a child stemming from an incident involving his four-year-old son. Peterson was placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List shortly after the indictment was handed down. While on the exempt list, Peterson was not allowed to be with the Vikings, but he was still paid.
On Nov. 4, Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault, seemingly paving the way for his removal from the exempt list and eventual return to the field. However, the NFL kept Peterson on the exempt list while reviewing his case, a decision that prompted the NFL Players Association (NLFPA) last week to file a grievance for immediate reinstatement on his behalf.
A hearing on the grievance was held on Monday and the arbitrator is expected to announce a decision soon, but the NFL decided to act first, suspending Peterson without pay for a personal conduct violation. From a legal perspective, Peterson’s case is far from being over, but it appears that he will not play again this season.
But what about next year? Peterson can apply for reinstatement in April and provided he adheres to the conditions (including counseling and treatment) laid out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there’s no reason to think his professional career is over.
For one Peterson won’t turn 30 until March and he played just one game prior to being placed on the exempt list, so in essence, he has one less year of wear and tear than would be expected. Second, this is a player who is just two seasons removed from a MVP campaign during which he ran for 2,097 yards. He has rushed for 10,190 yards in 104 career games and is not just one of the top players at his position, but also in the entire league.
As a player, there’s no NFL team that wouldn’t want Peterson on its roster. But we all know that talent and ability are no longer the only factors when it comes to personnel decisions. Even if he’s reinstated, Peterson will join the growing list of players who come with plenty of baggage.
However, Peterson’s case is unique in that no player, not even fellow running back Ray Rice whose career was put on hold this season because of a disturbing incident involving his then-fiancée, now wife, with perceived “baggage” is of the same caliber as it relates to on-field production and accomplishments. So with that in mind, here is a look at which NFL team Peterson could wind up playing for in 2015.
Why Not Minnesota?
Peterson is under contract with the Vikings through 2017, so he is their property until they decide otherwise. However, given everything that’s transpired this season, it’s certainly not out of the question that the team decides to part ways with Peterson, either by trade or simply releasing him. Minnesota would obviously save cap space by getting rid of Peterson and the dead money ($2.4 million in 2015) amount it would absorb should the Vikings release him is certainly manageable. The Vikings saw one major sponsor cut ties with them as soon as Peterson was indicted, so no one would be surprised if the team decides it’s time to turn the page and move on.
The Best Fits:
New England – Stevan Ridley tore his ACL in Week 6 and the Patriots right now are relying on third-year journeyman Jonas Gray to carry the load. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and depending on whom you ask, New England’s championship window with him is getting narrower. What better way to help an aging quarterback than give him an All-Pro running back? Besides, it’s not like Bill Belichick hasn’t gone down this road before. Do the names Corey Dillon or Randy Moss ring a bell?
Indianapolis – The Colts have a franchise quarterback in place in Andrew Luck. They thought they traded for the running back they needed last season when they acquired Trent Richardson. It has not worked out that way, to say the least, and Indianapolis just lost reliable veteran Ahmad Bradshaw to a broken leg. Luck is much younger than Brady and Peterson could be the missing piece the Colts need to become a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Seattle – The Seahawks’ defense of their Super Bowl title has not gone smoothly. The team has already traded Percy Harvin and now it appears that Marshawn Lynch is not a happy camper. Lynch was a late report to training camp due to a contract dispute, and he will be a free agent after next season. He’s a year younger than Peterson, but chemistry seems to be a rather important factor when it comes to Pete Carroll’s team. If the Seahawks were to cut ties with Lynch what better way to replace him than by bringing Peterson on board?
Oakland – This one’s pretty simple. The Raiders need all of the offensive playmakers they can get. It looks like Oakland has a building block in rookie quarterback Derek Carr, but there’s been no semblance of a running game this season. The Raiders also have a reputation for attracting “bad boys,” if you will, and I have little doubt that the Black Hole wouldn’t welcome Peterson with open arms should he end up on the West Coast.
Dallas/Houston – Peterson is a Texas native who was a star for three seasons at Oklahoma. The Cowboys connection is not only obvious, it’s also already apparently been discussed by Peterson and Jerry Jones. Tampering allegations aside, I think Jones will sign DeMarco Murray to a long-term contract before Peterson’s even eligible for reinstatement. But there’s more than one team in the Lone Star State and Houston may decide it’s time to move on from injury-prone Arian Foster. Foster is under contract for two more seasons, but most of the guaranteed money has already been paid out, limiting the hit the Texans would take if they decided to release him. Both teams are probably a long shot, but Peterson would certainly consider any opportunity to play in his home state.
Other Possible Options:
Atlanta – Steven Jackson has not aged well since joining the Falcons, so Peterson would be a definite upgrade to an offense that already has a potent passing attack.
Carolina – The Panthers like to run the ball and need to run the ball to make life easier for Cam Newton, but haven’t had a 1,000-yard back since 2009. Injuries and ineffectiveness have been the main products of Carolina’s backfield since Newton was drafted in 2012.
Denver – Peyton Manning paired with Adrian Peterson. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Putting Peterson in the Broncos’ high-powered offense would only help extend Manning’s career in his quest for another Super Bowl ring. Financial resources and offensive system could be possible obstacles, but it’s still fun to dream, right?
Jacksonville – Just like Oakland, the Jaguars need superstar players like Peterson to help speed up the development of a young team led by a rookie quarterback. Peterson also would be a coup for Jacksonville in terms of marketability and a reason for the fan base to get engaged. And if there were one team where financial resources shouldn’t be an issue it would be the Jags and their billionaire owner Shad Khan.
New York teams – The Jets are probably more likely than the Giants, given the former’s current running back situation and uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff, but what better place for Peterson to rebuild his image off of the field and reputation on it than the media capital of the world?
Rest of the NFC North – If Peterson were a vengeful guy, he would want a situation that would present him with the most chances to exact some payback on his former team. That’s where the NFC North enters the picture, since joining one of Minnesota’s division rivals would guarantee two games against the Vikings every season. Green Bay’s been down both sides of this path recently, first with Brett Favre then Greg Jennings, but the Packers have Eddie Lacy so I don’t see a “need’ there. Chicago added former Viking Jared Allen this season, but the Bears have Matt Forté and let’s face it, offense is the least of this team’s problems right now. That leaves Detroit where Peterson would easily become the best running back the Lions have had since Barry Sanders tormented defenses in the 1990s. The only difference is that Sanders never had a supporting cast that included the likes of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Could Peterson be the final piece that helps the Lions finally reach the Super Bowl?
Alabama is back in the driver’s seat in the SEC West and has moved back into a familiar spot atop the Legends Poll Top 8.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide knocked off Mississippi State this weekend, 25-20, vaulting No. 2 Florida State on the way to replacing Mississippi State at No. 1.
Florida State found itself down two scores in the first half yet again — this time against Miami — but managed to come all the way back and notch another road win, 30-26.
Idle Oregon moved up a spot to No. 3.
No. 4 Mississippi State fell three spots, followed by No. 5 TCU, which struggled on the road against Kansas.
No. 6 Ohio State moved up another spot in the rankings, swapping places with Baylor.
And Georgia made its first Top 8 appearance after a resounding 34-7 win over Auburn. The Bulldogs still need a Missouri loss to find their way into the SEC championship game.
Arizona State fell out of the rankings this week following its loss at Oregon State.
|2||Florida State (2)||10-0||90||2|
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
Will Muschamp is out as the Florida head coach.
Braden Gall, David Fox, Mitch Light and Steven Lassan debate the Florida Gators head coaching vacancy in an Athlon Sports roundtable.
How good is the Florida job? Where does it rank nationally? What are the weaknesses?
In a PSA to Gators fans, we offer up the list the names they need to forget about... because they have no chance. Like, say, Steve Spurrier or Chip Kelly.
Who are the coaches with Florida ties and are any of them worthy candidates? Who among them would be interested in the job? Is this the time for Bob Stoops to jump? Are Larry Fedora or Doc Holliday even qualified?
Who are the top Mid-Major (Group of 5) head coaches who are viable candidates? Is Jim McElwain or Justin Fuente ready? Who are the top coordinators: Chad Morris or Pat Narduzzi? Is this the direction Jeremy Foley wants to go?
What Power 5 current head coaches make sense at Florida and which ones would actually be interested, including Mike Gundy, Dan Mullen, Hugh Freeze and many more. Who is the a home run?
And finally, our hosts give their top three dream candidates and their predictions for the job. They do not necessarily overlap. Each panelist makes a bold prediction as to who will be the next head football coach at Florida.
Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.
The Denver Nuggets might be turning the page.
It hasn’t been a good start to the 2014-15 season for them. So far, the stumbling squad has looked unanchored, directionless and, well, bad. They allowed 84 points — at home — to the Portland Trail Blazers last week in the first half, and coach Brian Shaw refused to even take questions from reporters afterward. It looked like the end of an era (an era that no one would remember) in Denver. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz had this to say about the state of malaise and failure:
“Denver is getting smoked nightly. It's a 2-7 team with no discernible identity, redundancies all over its roster and a morose, first-time coach who has expressed frustration with the fortitude of his team. Several sources around the league, a few close to the Nuggets, say the organization is ‘rudderless.’”
But now optimism suddenly seems possible again in the Rockies. The Nuggets not only took down the Indiana Pacers on Friday, but last night they startled the NBA community by taking down LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio. Nuggets general Ty Lawson led the team with 24 points and 12 assists, refusing to accept the grumbles around the league about his team’s demise.
Of course, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly unbeatable right now. Despite having James, the sport’s best player, and massive talent beside him, they’re a young team sucked into some serious growing pains. Turnovers, lack of sharing the ball, and general confusion have been the themes to a lackluster 5-4 start in Cleveland.
Silver linings come seldom for a team as down as Denver, though, and a win like this could potentially reverse the morale for the group. Snagging a victory against the NBA’s celebrity team is a good start to a winning streak — now let’s see if the Nuggets can keep up their strong play at home, Wednesday, against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9:00 PM ET.
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 18:
• Blake Bortles' girlfriend Lindsey Duke has been strangely absent from Instagram, forcing us to relive her past glory.
• In case you were wondering, here's what the NBA on TNT crew would look like with Joakim Noah's hair.
• It was an exciting Monday Night game, but LeGarrette Blount didn't hang around for the end.
• Most popular music acts for each NFL team's fanbase, based on concert ticket sales.
• Charles Manson is engaged. Mazel tov! Let's hope those crazy kids can make it work.
• Dion Waiters' refusal to pass to LeBron led to a priceless reaction from the King.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
College football’s playoff committee has released three sets of rankings, and the debate about the top four teams will continue every week until the final matchups are released. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.
Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.
Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports
Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
Post-Week 12 Playoff Projection
Takeaways From Expert Poll Results
* After a seven-week departure from No. 1 in the playoff committee projection, Alabama is back at the top of this week’s ranking. The Crimson Tide received 13 of the 21 first-place votes.
* Florida State trails Alabama by just 10 points in this week’s poll. The Seminoles received seven first-place votes.
* Oregon was a clear No. 3 in this week’s voting, but No. 4 is where the intrigue starts. Despite a loss to Alabama last Saturday, Mississippi State remained in the playoff picture at No. 4. But Baylor and TCU tied for No. 5 at 73 points, and Ohio State is a distant seventh at 54 points. Needless to say, the Buckeyes are going to need a lot of help to reach the top four (if this vote mirrors the committee's rankings).
* Ole Miss is the highest two-loss team in the rankings, but Georgia ranks one spot behind the Rebels in this week’s poll. If the Bulldogs defeat Georgia Tech and win the SEC East, would a win in the conference championship vault this team into consideration among the top four?
* Arizona State and Auburn dropped out of this week’s committee vote after losses in Week 12.
Group of 5 Rankings
Remaining Games: at UAB (Nov. 22), Western Kentucky (Nov. 28)
The Thundering Herd got revenge for last year’s 41-24 loss to Rice in the Conference USA Championship by defeating the Owls 41-14 on Saturday. Marshall has defeated all 10 of its opponents by at least 15 points this year. Coach Doc Holliday’s team may not have a marquee win, but the Thundering Herd is dominating their competition.
2. Boise State
Remaining Games: at Wyoming (Nov. 22), Utah State (Nov. 29)
Boise State rallied from a 20-0 deficit to win 38-29 and end a two-game losing streak over San Diego State. Unless Colorado State loses one of its last two games, the Broncos still need two wins to clinch the Mountain Division title. Boise State has an edge over Marshall in strength of schedule, but coach Bryan Harsin’s team has two losses. How will the committee weigh competition versus an unbeaten with a weak strength of schedule?
3. Colorado State
Remaining Games: New Mexico (Nov. 22), at Air Force (Nov. 28)
The Rams had a timely bye on Saturday, which should help quarterback Garrett Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins return to full strength after injuries limited both players in previous weeks. Colorado State has a better record and ranks ahead of Boise State in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. However, the Rams need a loss by the Broncos in their next two games to have a shot at the Group of 5 bowl spot.
Remaining Games: USF (Nov. 22), UConn (Nov. 29)
There’s a three-way tie atop the American Athletic Conference, and Memphis has the easiest path to the league title. The Tigers, Cincinnati and UCF each have one defeat in conference play, and Memphis has remaining matchups against USF and UConn. UCF has to play at USF and East Carolina, while Cincinnati has trips to UConn and Temple and a home date against Houston upcoming. The Tigers have won four in a row, and coach Justin Fuente’s team owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cincinnati.
Remaining Games: at UConn (Nov. 22), at Temple (Nov. 29), Houston (Dec. 6)
The Bearcats remained in the mix for the Group of 5 bowl spot with a huge 54-46 win over East Carolina on Thursday night. Cincinnati has four wins in a row and is one of three teams (Memphis and UCF are the other two) tied at the top of the American Athletic Conference with one loss in league play.
6. Northern Illinois
Remaining Games: at Ohio (Nov. 18), at Western Michigan (Nov. 28)
No Jordan Lynch? No problem for Northern Illinois. The Huskies are the favorite to win the MAC West behind a rushing attack that’s averaging 261.7 yards per game. Northern Illinois may not be as strong as it was last year, but coach Rod Carey’s team can work its way in the mix to earn the Group of 5 spot as a conference champ.
Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 13
Kansas State at West Virginia
7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1 (Thursday)
The Wildcats are still alive for the Big 12 title with a trip to Baylor ahead on Dec. 6. However, a Thursday night matchup in Morgantown won’t be easy. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White will test a K-State pass defense that has allowed just eight passing scores in Big 12 play.
North Carolina at Duke
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Despite last week’s loss to Virginia Tech, Duke still controls its destiny in the Coastal Division. The Tar Heels need one more win to get bowl eligible.
Minnesota at Nebraska
Noon ET, ESPN
After getting torched by Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s rush defense has to regroup with a matchup against Minnesota’s David Cobb. The winner of this game keeps pace with the Badgers in the Big Ten’s West Division.
Boston College at Florida State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
The Eagles should be rested after a bye, while the Seminoles have to avoid a letdown after a comeback victory at Miami and a lookahead game to rival Florida. Boston College’s 14-point defeat to Florida State last year was the closest game against the Seminoles prior to the BCS title matchup against Auburn.
Ole Miss at Arkansas
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Ole Miss still has a chance to win the SEC West, but it needs a little help from Auburn against Alabama in two weeks. Arkansas is coming off its first SEC win under coach Bret Bielema and needs a victory to reach bowl eligibility. Is this a lookahead spot for Ole Miss with the Egg Bowl next week?
Arizona at Utah
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This matchup in Salt Lake City features one of the Pac-12’s top offenses (Arizona) against one of the league’s top defenses (Utah). The Utes’ aggressive defense (47 sacks) should be a handful for quarterback Anu Solomon, who has tossed just two interceptions in four road games this year.
Louisville at Notre Dame
3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The Fighting Irish has lost three out of its last four games and is no longer in position to earn a spot in one of the top bowl games. Louisville quarterback Will Gardner is out for the rest of the year, but true freshman Reggie Bonnafon has played well in limited action (51 of 92 for 662 yards and four scores). Bonnafon’s job is made easier with the return of receiver DeVante Parker, who has recorded three consecutive 100-yard efforts since returning from a foot injury.
Wisconsin at Iowa
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Can the Hawkeyes find an answer for Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon? Iowa still has West Division title aspirations but needs to win its final two games and have Minnesota lose to Wisconsin or Nebraska.
Missouri at Tennessee
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Missouri still controls its destiny in the SEC East, and the Tigers will clinch a spot in Atlanta if they win their last two games. However, that’s not an easy task, as coach Gary Pinkel’s team heads to Knoxville to play an improving Tennessee squad this week, followed by a matchup against Arkansas next Friday.
USC at UCLA
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Will UCLA continue its recent edge in this series? The Bruins have won two in a row over the Trojans, including a 35-14 blowout in the Los Angeles Coliseum last year. UCLA controls its destiny in the Pac-12 South title race and can take another step closer to San Francisco with a win over USC.
College football’s 2014 season has reached its final stretch run, and the bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its fourth set of rankings on Tuesday this week, which should give fans, coaches and players a better idea of what the committee values heading into the last few weeks of the season.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
With 12 weeks in the books, it’s time to take a look at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 12 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 12 weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.
Teams on the projection bubble and missing our projections this week: Oklahoma State, Akron, Buffalo, Ohio, Wyoming, Fresno State, Kentucky, Oregon State, Michigan, Temple, USF, Texas State, Virginia, and Pittsburgh. Remember: It’s only Week 12. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.
College Football's Post-Week 12 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| UL Lafayette vs.|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs.|
| UTEP vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
|Boise State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs. |
| Bowling Green vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Central Michigan vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs. |
| East Carolina vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| UAB vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
|Colorado State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| MTSU vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Western Kentucky vs.|
San Diego State
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Maryland vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| Boston College vs.|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs. |
| North Carolina vs.|
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Virginia Tech vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Miami vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| NC State vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs.|
| LSU vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs. |
| Duke vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| Texas vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs. |
| Notre Dame vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Michigan State vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American vs.|
| Houston vs.|
|Taxslayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Clemson vs.|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Kansas State vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Northwestern* vs.|
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
| Memphis vs.|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Toledo vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
|Orange||Dec. 31||ACC vs.|
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
| Baylor vs.|
|Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 12|
| Florida State vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
* Indicates an at-large selection. Conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill the conference alignment.
** Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
Just two teams on bye in Week 12, but Carolina and Pittsburgh aren’t the only teams whose players may not be available. Denver, Indianapolis and New Orleans are among the teams who may have to dig a little deeper into their depth charts this week. And the same can no doubt be said for a number of fantasy owners. The flip side to this coin is that injuries always present an opportunity for someone else on a roster to emerge, as was the case for a New England running back this past week. And don’t forget about the impending return of a certain wide receiver in Cleveland either.
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh
Week 11 Recap: Josh McCown made it back-to-back strong outings with 288 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a victory over Washington. Drew Stanton helped his Cardinals beat the Lions and threw for 306 yards, but his two touchdowns were offset by two interceptions. Teddy Bridgewater could not get much going against the Bears, finishing with just 158 yards passing with a touchdown and a pick and only two yards rushing.
Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills
Orton threw for as many touchdowns (zero) as you or I last week, but things should be better this Sunday. The Bills host the Jets, who are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. Yes, the Jets are coming off of their bye and Orton is apparently dealing with a minor toe injury, but he also put up by far his best numbers (238-4-0) against New York just three weeks ago. It’s a bit of leap of faith to trust Orton in a week where only Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger are on bye, but his matchup against the J-E-T-S certainly looks appealing.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill’s roller-coaster season continued Thursday night with 240 yards passing and two touchdowns (one fumble) against Buffalo. Here is Tannehill’s fantasy output (Athlon scoring) the past five games: 27.9, 16.6, 34.2, 13.3, and 22.3. If this trend were to continue, Tannehill would be in for a down week. However, the Dolphins will be in Denver Sunday to take on a Broncos defense that is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Perhaps this is the week Tannehill breaks his pattern?
Week 11 Recap: C.J. Anderson didn’t score and had just 29 yards rushing, but he caught eight passes for 86 yards in the Broncos’ loss to the Rams. Anderson also escaped unscathed; something Montee Ball was unable to do, re-aggravating a groin injury. With Ball and Ronnie Hillman ailing, Anderson should see a heavy workload Sunday against a solid Dolphins defense. Alfred Blue filled in admirably for an injured Arian Foster (groin), rushing for 156 yards on 36 carries in the Texans’ win over the Browns. Blue could remain in the RB2 picture should Foster miss another game. Fred Jackson apparently returned too soon, as he was held out of the Bills’ Thursday night loss in Miami, somewhat because of the quick turnaround from the previous week.
Jonas Gray, New England Patriots
When Stevan Ridley tore his ACL, the thought was that Shane Vereen or Brandon Bolden or even rookie James White would get the majority of the carries. That was until Gray made his presence known with an 86-yard effort against the Bears a couple of weeks ago. And that’s definitely the case following his monster 201-yard, four-touchdown breakout performance Sunday night against the Colts. The Patriots fed Gray early and often (38 att.) and the third-year pro answered with an impressive and record-setting (rushing TDs in a game by a Patriot) showing. I wouldn’t expect 35-plus carries moving forward, especially Sunday against a stout Lions run defense, but there’s no reason to think Gray won’t get his fair share of touches either.
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Mason picked up 113 yards on 29 carries on Sunday against Denver’s No. 1-ranked rushing defense. It was the first 100-yard game for the Rams’ third-round pick, who has averaged 21 carries over the last three games. Mason seems to have grabbed hold of the No. 1 job in St. Louis’ backfield and Jeff Fisher has a reputation for running the ball. The Rams’ next two games are against the Chargers and Raiders, which are 14th and eighth, respectively, in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Richardson is averaging a woeful 3.4 yards per carry and has scored a total of two touchdowns. But with Ahmad Bradshaw now sidelined, likely for the rest of the season, with a fracture in his fibula, Richardson is now the Colts’ No. 1 back. This doesn’t mean Richardson will turn into a fantasy monster, but touches shouldn’t be an issue. That is unless Daniel Herron seizes the opportunity and emerges.
Week 11 Recap: Jordan Matthews posted his second straight 100-yard game against the Packers and now has four touchdowns in his last three contests. It certainly looks like he and Mark Sanchez are on the same page. James Jones caught just two passes for 35 yards, but that was better than either Dwayne Bowe (2 rec., 18 yds.) or Preston Parker (1, 9).
Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland Browns
Yes, Josh Gordon is back on the active roster and will immediately become the Browns No. 1 wide receiver. However, Gordon’s addition also could benefit his fellow wideouts, especially if tight end Jordan Cameron continues to be sidelined by a concussion. Hawkins has the better statistics (45-601-2) and more experience, while Gabriel is an undrafted rookie who is averaging 18.2 ypc and has posted four games with at least 81 yards receiving. Hawkins is probably the safer flyer option between the two, but it all depends on how Brian Hoyer distributes the targets with Gordon back in the fold.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were on bye last week and still suffered a loss. This time it was on their roster, as rookie Allen Robinson, who was leading the team in catches (48) and yards (548) was put on injured reserve because of a broken right foot. Robinson’s loss should be Shorts’ gain. Shorts has been the Jags’ top target in each of the past two seasons and he was second only to Robinson this season, despite missing three games. Allen Hurns leads the team with five touchdown catches, but Shorts should be the one who replaces Robinson as Blake Bortles’ top target.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
The Saints will be without first-round pick Brandin Cooks for at least a month because of a broken thumb, which means more snaps for Stills. Drew Brees still has tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Marques Colston to throw to, but as the No. 3 wideout Stills has managed three fewer catches than Colston (31 to 34), despite 18 fewer targets (42 to 60). Stills should replace Cooks, who was second only to Graham in all three receiving categories, as the No. 2 wide receiver, and it’s safe to expect the explosive Stills to be used in a similar manner. It’s now up to Stills to take advantage of this golden opportunity.
Week 11 Recap: Jared Cook got five targets (3 rec., 19 yds.) in Shaun Hill’s first game back as the Rams’ starting quarterback. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the rest of the Buccaneers took a back seat to the Mike Evans (7-209-2) show, as the big target caught just one pass for seven yards in the win over Washington.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Dwayne Allen left the Sunday night game early with an ankle injury and Fleener took full advantage. With the Colts trailing the Patriots the entire game, Fleener caught a season-best seven passes for 144 yards. And this comes on the heels of a four-catch, 77-yard effort (on a season-high 11 targets) two weeks ago before Indianapolis went on bye. It’s also possible that Fleener will be able to maintain this level of production moving forward, especially with Allen’s health up in the air and the added loss of running back Ahmad Bradshaw (broken ankle). And don’t forget Andrew Luck and Fleener were teammates at Stanford, so chemistry isn’t an issue either.
Week 11 Recap: Cleveland not only let a rookie, backup running back gash them for 156 yards on the ground (213 total), the Browns’ defense also managed just one takeaway (INT) against an offense that featured a quarterback making his first career NFL start.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have scored 108 points in the last two games, and while Aaron Rodgers certainly had a big part in this, let’s not overlook the defense. Green Bay’s DST has put up 51 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) in dominating wins over Chicago and Philadelphia, including 32 on Sunday against the Eagles. While Rodgers and company filled up the stat sheet against the Bears and Eagles, the defense and special teams got into the act as well: seven sacks, seven takeaways (4 INTs, 3 fumbles) and four touchdowns (2 INT returns, fumble return, punt return). Next up is a Minnesota offense that managed 243 yards of offense against a Bears defense that had given up 106 points in its previous two games. The Vikings also are sixth in the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs, including the 24 (6 sacks, 3 TOs, INT returned for TD) they yielded to the Packers back in Week 5.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.