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DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 8, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Garrett Krstich, SMU vs. Cincinnati ($5100)
Krstich threw for 339 yards and two scores in his last game against ECU and now he gets to face an awful Cincinnati defense that ranks 118th against the pass. He appears to be an excellent punt option this week.
1) RB Mark Weisman, Iowa vs. Maryland ($4100)
Weisman has rumbled for two touchdowns in each of the last three games and gets to face a Maryland defense that ranks 104th in the country. Look for this Hawkeye to find pay dirt again this week.
2) RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State vs. TCU ($4200)
Roland has scored six rushing touchdowns over the past four games and still carries a very appealing price tag. Look for Roland to make another trip across the goal line and provide huge value this week.
3) RB Nick Chubb, Georgia vs. Arkansas ($4600)
All Chubb did last week was carry the ball 38 times and accumulate 174 total yards against Missouri. Expect Chubb to see plenty of carries this week and post a solid stat line.
1) WR Darius Joseph, SMU vs. Cincinnati ($4200)
Joseph is coming off his best game of the season and will be facing a Bearcats pass defense that ranks 118th in the country. He is a PPR machine and hold excellent value on Draft Kings.
2) WR Kolby Listenbee, TCU vs. Oklahoma State ($4400)
Listenbee has gone over 100 yards receiving in the last two games and could make it three in a row against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys pass defense is ranked 101st in the country.
1) Maxx Williams, Minnesota vs. Purdue ($3200)
Williams is healthy and has been posting consistent numbers at the TE position. Look for him to exploit a porous Purdue secondary.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas vs. Iowa State ($5300)
Swoopes exploded for 384 total yards and three total scores against Oklahoma last week. He could have another big performance against Iowa State and looks to be a nice punt option.
1) RB Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. Washington ($4600)
Freeman has seized control of the Oregon backfield and is priced well this week. He could easily hit 80 yards and a score and hit value this week.
2) RB Zach Laskey, Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina ($4700)
Laskey could find plenty of open holes to run through this week against North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense is atrocious and could struggle to stop the powerful Yellow Jackets running game.
1) WR John Harris, Texas vs. Iowa State ($5200)
Harris has scored four touchdowns over his past three games and may find his way into the end zone against Iowa State. There does not appear to be a ton of value at WR in the late slate, so use Harris freely.
1) TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon vs. Washington ($3200)
Brown had 84 yards and a score last week against UCLA and looks to have a decent upside this week. He can be very inconsistent, so be careful.
By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
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Quarterback Nick Montana and the Tulane coaching staff had a massive fail in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF.
The Green Wave were attempting to get a field goal before the end of the quarter, and with time winding down, Montana spiked the ball to give his team a chance for points. However, there's just one problem: Montana spiked the ball on fourth down, ending any hope Tulane had of getting points.
Remember FAU doing this last year against Miami?
Running back Mike Davis helped to lead an easy win for South Carolina against Furman on Saturday, and the junior topped 100 yards and reached the endzone twice in the first half.
Davis also delivered a highlight-reel run in the first half, which included a monster stiff arm to a Furman defender.
Several top targets are missing in action as it relates to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 7. Victor Cruz is out for the rest of the season with a torn patellar tendon, while Calvin Johnson appears to be a week or two away from returning from the sprained ankle he initially tried to play through. It’s also looking like the Bengals will be without All-Pro A.J. Green another week, as his toe injury continues to bother him. Mohamed Sanu filled in admirably last week in Green’s absence, catching 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, and he remains a solid play this week. Meanwhile for the Giants, Rueben Randle will move into Cruz’ No. 1 spot, increasing his fantasy potential, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. also receiving a boost as the new starter opposite Randle. Will either or both flourish on Sunday in their new roles against what has been a surprisingly stingy Dallas defense?
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.
2014 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
Teams on bye: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay
Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET on 10/17/14 to reflect Percy Harvin being traded to Jets. Harvin removed from rankings because Jets played on Thursday night. Seattle's Doug Baldwin (No. 27) and Jermaine Kearse (No. 45) added.
|1||Jordy Nelson||GB||vs. CAR|
|2||Demaryius Thomas||DEN||vs. SF|
|3||Antonio Brown||PIT||vs. HOU (Mon.)|
|4||Julio Jones||ATL||at BAL|
|5||Dez Bryant||DAL||vs. NYG|
|6||Brandon Marshall||CHI||vs. MIA|
|7||Steve Smith||BAL||vs. ATL|
|8||Alshon Jeffery||CHI||vs. MIA|
|9||Randall Cobb||GB||vs. CAR|
|10||Emmanuel Sanders||DEN||vs. SF|
|11||T.Y. Hilton||IND||vs. CIN|
|12||Mike Wallace||MIA||at CHI|
|13||Andre Johnson||HOU||at PIT (Mon.)|
|14||DeSean Jackson||WAS||vs. TEN|
|15||Golden Tate||DET||vs. NO|
|16||Kelvin Benjamin||CAR||at GB|
|17||Julian Edelman||NE||vs. NYJ (Thurs.)|
|18||Michael Floyd||ARI||at OAK|
|19||Mohamed Sanu||CIN||at IND|
|20||Pierre Garcon||WAS||vs. TEN|
|21||Reggie Wayne||IND||vs. CIN|
|22||Rueben Randle||NYG||at DAL|
|23||Larry Fitzgerald||ARI||at OAK|
|24||DeAndre Hopkins||HOU||at PIT (Mon.)|
|25||Keenan Allen||SD||vs. KC|
|26||Terrance Williams||DAL||vs. NYG|
|27||Doug Baldwin||SEA||at STL|
|28||Roddy White||ATL||at BAL|
|29||Torrey Smith||BAL||vs. ATL|
|30||Andre Holmes||OAK||vs. ARI|
|31||Marques Colston||NO||at DET|
|32||Brandin Cooks||NO||at DET|
|33||Sammy Watkins||BUF||vs. MIN|
|34||James Jones||OAK||vs. ARI|
|35||Michael Crabtree||SF||at DEN|
|36||Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||at DAL|
|37||Brian Quick||STL||vs. SEA|
|38||Cecil Shorts||JAC||vs. CLE|
|39||Kendall Wright||TEN||at WAS|
|40||Eric Decker||NYJ||at NE (Thurs.)|
|41||Justin Hunter||TEN||at WAS|
|42||Wes Welker||DEN||vs. SF|
|43||Anquan Boldin||SF||at DEN|
|44||Andrew Hawkins||CLE||at JAC|
|45||Jermaine Kearse||SEA||at STL|
|46||Dwayne Bowe||KC||at SD|
|47||Malcom Floyd||SD||vs. KC|
|48||Cordarrelle Patterson||MIN||at BUF|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com.
Talladega’s eternal question: offense or defense?
Conventional wisdom says Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway will be a non-stop battle of lead changes and side-by-side racing thanks to the building pressure of Chase for the Sprint Cup eliminations. And at Talladega, those prognostic words are really code for lots of wrecked race cars.
But recent stats at Talladega during Chase races don’t illustrate competition laden with crashes and mistakes, at least for the first 180 laps of the scheduled 188. In fact, each 20-lap segment of the first 180 laps averages less than one caution per race.
The real issue comes in that final stretch to the checkered flag, with or without a green-white-checker finish. In that span, the last five Talladega Chase races are averaging a ballooned rate of 1.6 caution flags.
The reason for that is obvious: when the checkered flag nears — and the points are getting ready to be paid — aggression in the field ratchets up several notches. Suddenly the middle of the pack is jammed with drivers who know it’s go-time after playing a very conservative, safe game for most of the race.
But a funny thing happens in those last eight or so laps: the field struggles to overtake the leader. Talladega has had 325 lead changes in the last five Chase races and only seven of them have come after Lap 179.
The reasons for that aren’t completely clear. It could be due to more pronounced blocking at the front, or even that the increased number of cautions reduces passing opportunities.
But the implication of that stat may change how some drivers who are in a win-or-else scenario gravitate toward the front on Sunday. If they can’t pass late in the race, they better start moving to the front sooner.
Drivers facing must-win weekend
Four drivers — and probably a fifth — will be among that group who see Sunday’s race with one goal: get the win. And those drivers aren’t exactly slouches, either.
Kasey Kahne (eighth in Sprint Cup points with a single-point margin on the ninth-place cutoff), Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson all face a reality where the only way they can guarantee Chase advancement is by beating everyone else to the checkered flag. It’s undoubtedly a tenuous position for each but winning at the 2.66-mile track isn’t out of the question.
Among the five drivers are 12 Talladega wins and 27 top-5 finishes. Only Kasey Kahne hasn’t won at the superspeedway.
But regardless of the outcome, we still face a Chase scenario where several big names are going to be gone from contention when the Sunday sun sets.
Earnhardt has a lot to overcome this weekend
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fully cognizant of what this year has meant to his career, and that it marks the end of — with or without continued Chase advancement after Sunday. And he also knows that soon-to-be-gone crew chief Steve Letarte played a big role in making all of that — Daytona, two more wins and the routine top-5s — happen.
With that in mind, it’s hard to see a scenario where Earnhardt isn’t feeling strong internal pressure to re-assert his restrictor-plate dominance from the mid-2000s in a big way on Sunday. Despite all of the good he’s accomplished in 2014, falling out of the Chase after Talladega would feel like its too soon, as if something went unaccomplished.
Earnhardt was resolute about that fact after a nightmare of a race at Charlotte last week.
“Go out there and win it," Earnhardt said of Talladega. "We can do it; we have won there a lot of times. I know what we need to do.”
A win would be a remarkable change in fortune for Earnhardt. He hasn’t won at the Alabama track in a decade and left the spring Talladega race in low spirits. In a point of honesty after the race, he told fans he felt he hadn’t appropriately raced at the end for a win.
"In the last 10 laps, I didn't do what I was supposed to do,” Earnhardt said on a podcast days after the spring race. “I know a lot of people are disappointed, and I'm disappointed that they're disappointed. I feel like I should have put on a better effort just for the people who come to watch us race. I feel I let a lot of people down. I'll have to live with that. I learned some pretty good lessons, some pretty hard lessons. Hopefully, we won't have a repeat of that again."
Terry Labonte making final Sprint Cup start
Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte might cause a few double takes this weekend with the graphics placed on his No. 32 Ford. The right side of the car is designed to look like his Billy Hagan-owned, Piedmont Airlines-sponsored No. 44 from 1984 and the left side looks like his 1996 Hendrick Motorsports Kellogg’s No. 5.
It’s a neat tribute for Labonte, 57, and celebrates the two cars he drove en route to winning two Cup series championships. The unique design will also be the final car he’ll strap in to after announcing Friday on NASCAR’s satellite radio channel that he’s retiring full-time after Sunday’s race.
Labonte stepped down from full-time driving after the 2004 season and has raced with decreasing regularity since. With 22 career wins and a one-time holder of NASCAR’s all-time consecutive starts record, Labonte is destined for a spot in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Should he not make it to victory lane on Sunday, Labonte’s last Cup win the (2004 Southern 500 at Darlington) will remain a fitting one — an old-school driver winning an old-school race.
Keselowski, Kenseth still at odds
If you thought Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski had smoothed over their disagreement that ended in a headlock last week at Charlotte, think again. Friday at Talladega, Kenseth continued to voice his displeasure with Keselowski’s in-race and post-race actions.
“Brad clearly saw me roll outside,” Kenseth said of a late restart that started the feud, “And he hung a right on purpose and ran me right in the wall and ruined my night and possibly took us out of Chase contention.
“I was mad enough about that and to come down afterward and have your stuff off and your net down and pull those high school stunts playing car wars after the race was just absolutely unacceptable.”
Kenseth also said that Keselowski “greatly exaggerated” contact Kenseth made with Keselowski’s right-front during a late-race caution, and that camera evidence proved it.
Keselowski was fined $50,000 by NASCAR after the incident for his aggressive driving in the garage area while sparring with Kenseth’s teammate, Denny Hamlin. Kenseth later emerged on the scene to surprise Keselowski, grabbing him around the neck and starting a melee between Penske Racing haulers that was quickly ended without any punches thrown.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
Donald Sterling’s a household name by now, and for all the wrong reasons. The disgraced, recently dismissed Los Angeles Clippers owner and L.A. area real estate tycoon has become a punchline. And perhaps no funnier term has been applied to Sterling than the Clippers star and 2014-15 MVP candidate Blake Griffin’s latest “weird uncle” tag.
In a piece written by Griffin and published via The Players’ Tribune, the dunk master tells the story of being led hand-in-hand by Sterling through a strange, surreal “White Party” in Malibu. Griffin paints the man as living in his own, self-created stratosphere, blind to the feelings of Blake and his other guests as he parades the uncomfortable star around like a prize.
More highlights from the story:
—Griffin recalls Sterling heckling Baron Davis at the free-throw line in a quiet Staples Center:
“Baron didn’t even react. He walked to the line and sank the free throw as Sterling carried on his rant. After the game, I don’t even think we talked about it in the locker room. Everyone was just used to it. It was both funny and sad. The guy was off his rocker.”
—Griffin tells the story of him Chris Paul watching Sterling on Anderson Cooper:
“Sterling looked at Cooper with no irony whatsoever and said, ‘Ask the players. My players love me!’ CP and I looked at one another from across the room and just tried our best not to laugh.”
—Blake likes new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer:
“Personally, I love that kind of crazy… It’s little bit ironic to me that the media has tried to turn Ballmer into a meme when they turned a blind eye to Sterling for years. Steve is a good dude. He’s like a cool dad who gives you candy. Donald was like a weird uncle.”
—Griffin ends his piece with quite the aphorism:
“Someone asked me the other day if I’m mad that he made out with $2 billion for selling the team. Maybe a little bit. But in the end, I’m just happy he’s gone. I think about him pulling me around the White Party in Malibu, and a saying comes to mind: ‘Some people are so poor, all they have is their money.’”
— John Wilmes
When Florida State and Notre Dame played "The Game of the Century" on Nov. 13, 1993, Jameis Winston (b. Jan. 6, 1994) had not been born and Everett Golson (b. Jan. 2, 1993) was not yet one-year old. The '93 epic showdown ended with No. 1 Florida State falling at No. 2 Notre Dame, 31–24, before bouncing back to claim the National Championship.
This year's version also features two undefeated top-5 teams, with No. 2 Florida State (6–0) hosting No. 5 Notre Dame (6–0) in one of the season's classic matchups. Although the defending-champion Seminoles are heavy favorites, the Fighting Irish have more than a puncher's chance to win on the road in Tallahassee. Here's why:
1. Quarterback Play
This is a heavyweight showdown between two quarterbacks with a combined 35–1 record as a starter. Winston is a perfect 19–0 with a national title win over Auburn, while Golson is 16–1 with a national title loss to Alabama. Golson will have to outplay Winston, protect the football and control the clock — coach Brian Kelly is 26–2 at ND when winning time-of-possession — in order for Notre Dame to pull off the win at Florida State.
If Winston were unable to play or finish the game for some reason (suspension, fake injury, real injury, etc.), the Seminoles are in trouble at quarterback. Backup Sean Maguire, who subbed for Winston in an overtime win over Clemson earlier this year, is out with a hand injury. Third-stringer John Franklin III is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap at FSU.
2. Undefeated vs. History
The 90th anniversary of the "Four Horsemen" is on Saturday. The Oct. 18, 1924, Notre Dame 13–7 win over Army inspired New York Herald-Tribune scribe Grantland Rice — the godfather inspiration of Bill Simmons' Grantland website — to write the famous poetic recap:
"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: (Harry) Stuhldreher, (Don) Miller, (Jim) Crowley and (Elmer) Layden."
Those aren't the only echoes waking. Notre Dame is 5–0–1 on Oct. 18 when ranked in the AP poll, 9–0–1 in games involving two teams with a record of 6–0 or better and 4–0–2 in games when the Irish are undefeated playing the defending national champions in the regular season.
3. No Homefield Advantage
Oh yeah, Notre Dame also carries a 1–0 record in Tallahassee, with Ty Willingham taking down Bobby Bowden's Noles in 2002. The other split stats show this to be a coin-toss contest. Jimbo Fisher is 3–3 at FSU in home games against top-10 teams, beating No. 7 Miami last year and No. 10 Clemson in 2012, while losing to No. 1 Oklahoma in 2011 and No. 6 Florida in 2012. On the other side, Kelly is 2–2 at ND in regular-season road games against top-10 teams, winning at No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Michigan State in 2012, while losing to a top-10 Stanford twice (2011, '13).
This will be Notre Dame's first true road test, having played neutral site games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (vs. Purdue) and at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (vs. Syracuse). "I think playing in two NFL venues there is a kind of glamour and big-time atmosphere associated with those sites," said Kelly. "We were playing in an environment that kind of evokes that kind of feel that we'll get in a similar fashion at Florida State."
Thousands of authenticated autographs and a reopened Title IX rape investigation have put Winston's status in doubt on a day-to-day basis — so much so that Las Vegas has taken ND at FSU off the books until further notice.
With or without Winston, the Seminoles will need to play better than they did in closer-than-expected games against Oklahoma State, Clemson and NC State. In those three games, mental mistakes — the on-field equivalent of Jameis yelling "F--- her right in the ... !" on campus — resulted in a combined 25 penalties for 170 lost yards, negative-three turnover differential and minus-3:07 time-of-possession.
But hey, even the great Charlie Ward, a two-sport star (Heisman Trophy winner and NBA first-round pick) just like Winston (Heisman winner and FSU baseball closer), lost to the Irish. Ward had a 19–1 record heading into South Bend in '93 and finished the year with a 23–2 all-time mark and a national title.
The loser of this game still has a shot at making the College Football Playoff.
With the WWE Attitude-Era finale to last weekend’s Bank of America 500 in Charlotte, you’d be hard pressed to remember how the first 25 laps were obscured by either a college football game or (of all things) a preseason NBA game. No chance of that happening this weekend, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup race runs on Sunday — and, of course, it’s Talladega. With what is essentially a national holiday for NASCAR fans, the track that brought you the first 200 mph lap, the fastest qualifying lap established over 25 years ago, and some of the most harrowing moments in the sport’s history, this race will dictate which eight drivers advance into the Eliminator Round (can we just ditch the marketing gimmicks and refer to it as the Third Round already?).
Last week I picked Kyle Larson to win for the second straight race and he was looking pretty solid, having run in the top three most of the night — until he knocked the body off the car with less than 30 laps to go. Kevin Harvick went on to win, propelling him into the Eliminator Round and with no worries about wadding it up in this weekend’s coming carpocalypse at Talladega.
It was much-needed medicine for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team and crew chief Rodney Childers; they’ve had the fastest car in virtually every race this year only to be undone by pit miscues, mechanical failures and … well, more pit miscues. With that win in the bag they are free to race for the win to prevent four formidable foes from advancing into the next round — or just drive around a half-lap behind the pack and escape potential injury or having to build another car prior to Speedweeks.
Picking contenders this week is a total crapshoot, and that’s not just a cop-out due to the fact that a 30-car wreck could occur at any moment. You have drivers who need to win to advance to the next round of the Chase as well as field-fillers-turned-legit-contenders given the nature of the current superspeedway package and number of rent-a-car and plate-engine programs throughout the field.
There are four drivers who legitimately need to win if they want to advance into the next round; three of those are champions, all have won here, and one’s name is synonymous with Talladega.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson find themselves tied for 12th of the 12 drivers currently eligible in the Chase. The duo has totaled six 2014 wins — including the Daytona 500 — but separate calamities at Kansas coupled with strategy at Charlotte that just didn’t pan out have been their undoing.
Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski are next on the chopping block, with both coincidentally winning at Talladega in 2012. Keselowski won the title that year, while Kenseth escaped the field-blocking pile-up caused when Tony Stewart tried to slam the door on the fast-closing draft duo of Casey Mears and Michael Waltrip.
Interesting how those three happened to be squarely in the middle of the post-race fracas at Charlotte last week, no?
The other principal in Saturday Night’s Main Event was Denny Hamlin, who made his way into the Chase by way of winning at Talladega in May. Word on the street is TRD has some newfound plate power to match its unrestricted engine’s power boost. Hamlin’s seventh-place spot remains tenuous at best, though fairly safe given he is 15 points from first. Hopefully he won’t have to be held back from hurling any towels this weekend.
Two drivers in this group need to be recognized as many — myself included — felt they would have by now been eliminated, but aside from crashes out of their control on Sunday, look to be in good shape to advance.
Ryan Newman’s No. 31 team (and RCR in general) has basically been a non-issue on anything other than a superspeedway or short track this year. Earnhardt-Childress engines and Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets have a bit of a history here, and as Newman sits fourth in points, 11 out of first, he is about to have the ultimate comeback for Jimmie Johnson following their verbal exchange following the race at Michigan in August.
Kyle Busch has continued his Truck and Nationwide series dominance this season, but the Cup side has been left wanting aside from the early-season win at Fontana. Publicized bickering between he and crew chief Dave Rogers now seems long forgotten. Making it through the first round of eliminations — and surviving Kansas — the No 18 team sits second in points, just six back from leader and locked-in transferer Joey Logano.
While I would never considering anything “safe” at Talladega until the checkered flag falls (and even then …) if the aforementioned drivers can avoid what everyone believes to be coming, they have enviable-enough records at the upcoming tracks so that a Final Four berth at Homestead isn’t out of the question.
This section could have well included Brad Keselowski had there been a points penalty associated with his garage-area antics Saturday night. With “just” a $50,000 fine for the incident, the 2012 champion finds himself 10th in points, 50 markers out of first, and 19 points from the final transfer position (eighth). It will take a win or someone else’s wreck for Keselowski to transfer. Keselowski took himself out while leading in the spring here, driving across Danica Patrick’s nose in the early going (or she moved up, your call). Twenty-one cars finished on the lead lap that day so if you factor in the one-point-per-position scoring, three-point bonus for a win, a point for leading a lap, and a point for leading the most laps — the 48-point maximum one can earn — just merely scoring a top-5 or top-10 finish will not be enough without some attrition.
Team Penske is fielding an entry for Ryan Blaney this weekend while Terry Labonte and Michael McDowell will also be in Fords to provide some drafting assistance for Keselowski, who may find himself a few friends short after Charlotte. With Logano already locked into the next round, the Penske braintrust has made it known that the main goal is to get the No. 2 through.
With that in mind, Carl Edwards has been flying under the radar (fifth in points), but has a well-known past with Keselowski. Things here have been smoothed over for the most part, but as Edwards prepares to depart the Ford camp, any sort of Blue Oval brotherhood between the two just may not exist on Sunday.
Keselowski’s new arch-nemesis, Matt “The Cambridge Crippler” Kenseth, sits in ninth place, one position behind the cutoff mark currently held by Kasey Kahne. The No. 5 team whistled by the graveyard at Dover, holding off AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 JTG Daugherty bunch by two points, allowing them to slip into the second round.
While Hendrick Motorsports got all four of its cars into the Chase, three are on the precipice, with Jeff Gordon seemingly safe, 14 points out of the lead in sixth. Still, he can’t afford to be swept up in a crash this weekend.
Flip a coin, draw straws, blindfold yourself and spin the cylinder. Other than Harvick and Logano, no one is truly safe. There’s a maximum 47-point swing, and with just 26 points from eighth (Kahne) to 12th (Johnson and Earnhardt), everyone is at the mercy of the perils that come with racing at big, bad Talladega.
While many predicted chaos last year, it didn’t really happen. Austin Dillon got punted and sent skyward on the final lap, but only he, Casey Mears (who launched him) and Juan Montoya were taken out in the crash. That could very well happen again — except that there are too many good cars that need to finish well. And when everyone races nice for so long, it just means that there are that many more cars trying to fill the same space on the track with less than 10 laps to go.
So as in life, someone has to win and someone has to lose. Well, technically four people have to lose, and following the GEICO 500, someone's premiums are bound to skyrocket. While this race defines the term SWAG (Silly Wild Ass Guess), here are the leaves as I read them for the weekend:
Jimmie Johnson: Hearing the bicker-banter between driver and crew chief last weekend reminded me of Loudon, 2011, when Johnson told Chad Knaus that “your cheerleading sucks” and asked that he kindly shut up and let him driver the car. Anything can happen here, but given the lack of momentum that typically breeds bad ju-ju, the quest for seven just may end in Eastaboga.
Brad Keselowski: Amid the screams of “you hit me under yella!” the odds-on favorite to make it to the Final Four at Homestead ran aground in the Queen City. Charlotte has proved a pivotal race for the No. 2 squad in recent years, having won there in 2013 and surviving in 2012 when fuel strategy didn’t quite pan out. The blown tire at Kansas a couple weeks back may prove to be their undoing, and with the brouhaha from last weekend, Keselowski’s quest to win two titles in three years looks to be going flat (like his tire at Kansas). The extra Penske car of Blaney may not be enough to keep the 2 in contention. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they settle in at the back of the pack and attempt a “Dale Jarrett Charge” to the front.
Denny Hamlin: Just a random guess here. Somebody is going to be the victim of the 30-car melee and Hamlin has a way of finding misfortune in the Chase. Honestly, any of them could, but what are the chances it involves he and Keselowski?
Kasey Kahne: At 32 points in arrears, if Kahne does advance to the next round it would give purists, pundits and anyone who’s watched more than three races this year evidence and ammunition as to how this new Chase format does nothing to legitimize the notion of a full-season champion.
Predicted Winner: Jamie McMurray
As much as this race is a toss-up, I think you’ll see the strongest team since the Chase started take this one. Chip Ganassi Racing has been the class of the field almost every week, and Jamie McMurray has established himself as one of the best plate racers of the past decade. Don’t think so? Since 2007 he has two wins at Daytona — including the 2010 Daytona 500 — and a pair of victories at Talladega. Another driver to keep an eye on is Greg Biffle, who finished second here in the spring, and despite the struggles Roush Fenway has faced this season, the Fords always show up to party on plate tracks.
Why am I not picking any Chase contenders? Because I’m having a flashback to that final lap in 2012 when the entire field got collected coming through Turn 4. While I don’t hope for a repeat of that, I can’t shake the feeling that, based on last weekend’s antics at Charlotte coupled with the typically-sedate Kansas suddenly becoming the turning point in the championship battle, it’s going to make Talladega that much more of a freak show.
Follow Vito Pugliese on Twitter: @VitoPugliese
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.
Washington and Oregon are technically rivals, as less than five hours and 300 miles separate the two Pacific Northwest campuses. But the recent history of this rivalry has been significantly in favor of the Ducks. Oregon has won 10 in a row over the Huskies, with Washington’s last win in this series coming in 2003.
With the recent series in mind, it’s no surprise Oregon is almost a three-touchdown favorite over Washington. However, Saturday’s game represents an opportunity for both teams to make a statement. The Ducks can solidify their place at the top of the Pac-12 with a convincing win, while the Huskies can score a statement victory in coach Chris Petersen’s first year with an upset in Eugene.
And with a win on Saturday, Washington can bring some spark to a rivalry that has been significantly one-sided in favor of the Ducks.
Washington at Oregon
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Washington -20.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Oregon’s Offensive Line vs. Washington Front Seven
Did the Ducks fix their issues on the offensive line last week? In the 42-30 win over UCLA, the offensive line was bolstered by the return of tackle Jake Fisher, as the Bruins did not register a sack, and Oregon’s rushers averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Was that a one-game fix or a sign of things to come? Fisher is a valuable addition to the lineup to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota’s blindside, but UCLA’s pass rush ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12. Washington’s defensive front has recorded 24 sacks through six games and is headlined by linebacker Shaq Thompson (46 tackles, 1 INT, 3 FF), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (49 tackles, 7 sacks) and defensive end/linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha (10 sacks). Stopping UCLA’s defensive front is one challenge, but Washington has one of the best defensive line and linebacking corps in the nation. Is Oregon’s improvement up front a one-week mirage or a sign of things to come? This matchup should provide good insight into the Ducks’ offensive line.
2. Washington QB Cyler Miles
It’s no secret which quarterback will garner most of the nation’s attention on Saturday night. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman, and the junior has yet to throw an interception on 155 attempts in 2014. But a quick check of the Pac-12 passing stats shows there is one more starter in the Pac-12 with zero interceptions: Washington’s Cyler Miles. The sophomore missed the opener due to suspension but has passed for 896 yards and nine touchdowns over the last five games. Miles has made steady improvement in his first year as a starter and threw for a season-high of 273 yards against California last week. The Golden Bears aren’t one of the Pac-12’s elite defenses, but Miles seems to be getting more comfortable with each snap. Oregon’s defense will bend (470.3 ypg, 5.8 ypp) and ranks last in the Pac-12 in third-down stops. Don Pellum’s defense has also been opportunistic (12 forced turnovers and 18 sacks), but the Ducks will allow opposing offenses to move the ball. Can Miles play another mistake-free game? In a hostile environment, Washington needs Miles to play his best game to win on Saturday night.
3. Oregon’s Explosive Offense
Even if Washington’s front seven has success against Oregon’s offensive line, can the Huskies cover the Ducks’ big-play threats at receiver? Michigan State is the best defense the Ducks played this year, and the Spartans gave up 7.2 yards per play and 46 points. That's concerning for Washington, as Michigan State’s secondary is better than the Huskies and quarterback Marcus Mariota gashed the Spartans for 318 yards. Washington’s secondary features standout corner Marcus Peters, but two freshmen starters (Sidney Jones and Budda Baker) will be tested on Saturday night. The Huskies did not allow a touchdown pass to California last Saturday and gave up seven against Eastern Washington. The numbers are skewed slightly due to one game, but opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their throws against Washington’s defense. Getting pressure on Mariota is step No. 1 in stopping the Oregon offense. However, when he is able to deliver on time, can the Huskies slow down a group of explosive playmakers, starting with running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and at receiver with Devon Allen (19.6 ypc)?
A 21-point spread seems too much for this game. Oregon is tough to beat at home, and a healthy offensive line should bolster Mariota’s Heisman bid over the next two months. The Ducks’ explosive offense sputters early against the Huskies’ defense, but Mariota and his receiving corps eventually makes enough plays to pull away in the fourth quarter. First-year Washington coach Chris Petersen has his team prepared for the challenge, but Oregon simply has too much on offense.
Prediction: Oregon 38, Washington 27
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 17:
• Geno Smith played well last night, but his highlight was probably destroying an unsuspecting security guard.
• There's nothing quite like a series-ending walk-off homer. Relive the magic.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Chris Webber never really left the NBA. After retiring and ending his 15-year career (including five All-Star selections and five All-NBA spots), he began moonlighting as an analyst on TNT. Now he’s spewing his wisdom for the game over on NBA TV, and also considering a much loftier perch in the league.
“The Webber Group,” as the former star calls it via Twitter, “contacted the NBA to respectively express our intentions to acquire the majority interest of the Atlanta Hawks.” Here’s Webber’s statement in full:
Webber’s purposeful words about his interest in the team get at the reason the Hawks are on the market in the first place, and the weird history of pro basketball in Atlanta generally.
This summer, just before racist remarks made by general manager Danny Ferry were leaked, about prospective free agent signing Luol Deng — who Ferry said “has a little African in him” — current majority owner Bruce Levenson announced the team was for sale. Levenson himself was caught with his own politically correct pants down, too, in an e-mail that made the rounds.
Through all the Ferry-Levenson controversy, one thing became crystal clear: The Hawks’ organizational incompetence. They’ve simply failed — time and time again — at both appealing to their city culturally and building a team that’s more than first-round playoff fodder in the consistently weak Eastern Conference.
Whether Webber and Co. have the chutzpah and savvy needed to turn things around is unclear — there’s no sort of experience that could compare to the task of running an NBA team. But Atlanta boasts a regional population in the millions and is a proud, fertile place for sports. That they ranked 28th in attendance in 2013-14 is alarming, and tells us that whoever’s next is likely to do much better.
— John Wilmes
College football’s premier matchup for Week 8 takes place in Tallahassee, as Florida State hosts Notre Dame in a meeting of two teams with national title and playoff aspirations. Off-field issues have surrounded both teams since the opener, as quarterback Jameis Winston is under the spotlight once again for the Seminoles, while the Fighting Irish finally learned the fate of the five players suspended due to academic issues earlier this week.
While neither team will be able to completely close the door on discussing the off-field issues over the next two days, the 60-minute matchup should at least turn the attention back to the field and the quest to finish unbeaten and earn a spot in the playoff.
The Seminoles enter Saturday night’s game on a 17-game winning streak, while the Fighting Irish are off to a 6-0 start and defeated their first four opponents by at least 16 points in each contest.
Florida State and Notre Dame have met only seven previous times. The Seminoles own a 5-2 series edge against the Fighting Irish and have won the last two games in this series. Notre Dame’s last win over the Seminoles occurred in 2002.
Notre Dame at Florida State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State -11.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Stopping Jameis Winston
In the first five games of the year, the Fighting Irish allowed 60 points. In last Saturday’s win over North Carolina, Notre Dame allowed 43 points and gave up 6.1 yards per play. With that in mind, which is the real Fighting Irish defense? The college football world should have a good idea by Saturday night, as Florida State’s offense is the best this defense has played in 2014. The Seminoles are averaging 39 points per game and 6.6 yards per play, and coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has a talented core of skill players, headlined by receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. At running back, Karlos Williams, Mario Pender (out for Saturday due to injury) and Dalvin Cook are all big-time talents with the threat to score each time they touch the ball. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder likes to be aggressive in his play-calling, which will allow Winston and his receivers to hit on big plays – assuming the offensive line can handle the blitz packages. If Winston has time to throw, that’s a bad sign for a Fighting Irish secondary that was torched for 326 yards against North Carolina last week. But if VanGorder can generate pressure and get Winston out of rhythm, Notre Dame’s defense will have a chance to force three-and-outs, giving the offense good field position early and often.
2. Everett Golson vs. Florida State’s Defense
Everett Golson is 16-0 as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback during the regular season. Golson’s only loss with the Fighting Irish was a loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS Championship. And after missing all of last season due to academic issues, Golson has showed little rush through the first six games. The junior has passed for 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns and is completing 62.5 percent of his throws in 2014. While those numbers are impressive, turnovers have been a problem for the junior. Over the last three games, Golson has lost nine turnovers, including an interception in three consecutive contests. Winning in Tallahassee requires a flawless effort from Notre Dame – but there will be plays available against Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles owned one of the top defenses in the nation last year, but injuries and a turnover in personnel in the front seven have contributed to some early-season struggles. But even though Florida State is not as dominant on the defensive side as it was last year, the Seminoles are still holding opponents to 20.7 points a game and rank third in the ACC in red zone defense. Golson has a solid receiving corps at his disposal, including William Fuller (14.4 ypc, 7 TDs) and Corey Robinson (13.7 ypc). Can Golson limit his mistakes and attack a Florida State secondary that has already allowed two teams to throw for 300 yards this year?
3. Which defense steps up?
As we mentioned in the previous sections of the preview, both teams have experienced their share of problems – and success – on defense this season. Florida State’s biggest concern is the defensive tackle spot, as replacing Timmy Jernigan is no easy assignment, and starter Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the year due to injury. The Seminoles are eighth in the ACC against the run and are allowing 5.0 yards per play – almost a full yard increase from last season. But Florida State has made stops when it matters, ranking third in the ACC in red zone defense. Notre Dame has options at running back, but Tarean Folston is the team’s leading rusher at just 263 yards. If the Fighting Irish is going to win, quarterback Everett Golson has to have a huge game. Of course, that means Golson also has to limit his mistakes, and Florida State has forced 11 turnovers in six games. Can the Seminoles force a couple of turnovers? When Florida State has the ball, will Notre Dame’s defense hold its own at the point of attack and limit the Seminoles’ ground game? If the Fighting Irish can limit Florida State on early downs on rushing attempts, Winston will have third-and-long situations to navigate on offense, allowing VanGorder to send extra pressure or drop more into coverage to limit the big-play ability of Greene or Jesus Wilson.
Florida State has yet to play a complete game this year. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the teams on the Seminoles’ schedule, starting with Notre Dame on Saturday night. Injuries and suspensions slowed Florida State’s development early in the year, but this team should get better over the second half of 2014. As long as Jameis Winston is in the lineup, the Seminoles should win this matchup. The Fighting Irish need a perfect effort to win on Saturday, including zero turnovers from Golson and better play from a secondary that was torched by North Carolina last week. Notre Dame tacks on a late touchdown to cover the spread, but Florida State controls this one from the opening kick.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Notre Dame 27
It’s another critical week of action on Saturday for the SEC West, as Alabama looks to get back on track against a Texas A&M team that comes to Tuscaloosa on a two-game losing streak. The Crimson Tide had an uninspired 14-13 win over Arkansas last week, while the Aggies were defeated 35-20 against Ole Miss.
The SEC West is the best division in college football, leaving little margin for error for the teams in the mix for a spot in the playoff. That pressure also extends to teams like Texas A&M, as the road won’t get any easier with games against Auburn, LSU and Missouri still remaining. If Kevin Sumlin’s team wants to have any shot at contending for the division title or playing in one of college football’s top bowl games in December, it has to win this game.
Meanwhile, Alabama needs this game to get back on track. Coach Nick Saban has a lot of work to do in order to transform the 2014 version of the Crimson Tide into a national title contender. The talent is still there for Alabama, but this team has holes in the secondary, offensive line and in the passing attack. Penalties, a lack of a pass rush and turnovers are other concerns for Saban and the coaching staff to address over the next few weeks.
Alabama and Texas A&M have played six previous times, with the Crimson Tide owning a 4-2 edge. These two teams have played only twice as SEC members, and two of the six meetings occurred in bowl games.
Texas A&M at Alabama
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
Stopping Alabama starts in the trenches. With center Ryan Kelly sidelined due to a knee injury, the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack was stuck in neutral last week. On 32 attempts against Arkansas, Alabama managed only 66 yards. And against Ole Miss on Oct. 4, the Crimson Tide recorded only 3.8 yards per carry. Texas A&M’s rush defense is allowing 174.9 yards per game (4.2 ypc) through all seven games, with the numbers a bit higher in SEC play (198.0). Even though Kelly won’t play this Saturday, Alabama should have an edge in this matchup. Will Texas A&M find an answer to stop T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry? In last year’s meeting, the Aggies allowed 6.3 yards per carry. If Alabama repeats that number on Saturday, it’s tough to see this matchup being close in the fourth quarter.
2. Alabama’s Secondary
Even though this may not be one of Nick Saban’s best Alabama teams, it’s hard to find many weaknesses. But if there’s one area the Crimson Tide seem to struggle more than any in recent years, it’s a secondary that gave up 365 yards to West Virginia in the opener and 251 to Ole Miss on Oct. 4. Texas A&M has the talent on offense to take advantage of Alabama’s secondary, starting at quarterback with Kenny Hill and a receiving corps that features youth and a world of talent. Hill has 23 touchdown passes this year but has tossed five interceptions – both losses by the Aggies – in the last two games. Hill has to be more careful with the ball this week, and he needs more help from an inconsistent receiving corps. The sophomore will have some additional help in the receiving department, as veteran Malcome Kennedy is back in the mix after missing the last two games due to injury. Alabama’s secondary will improve over the course of the season, especially as Eddie Jackson returns to full strength from an offseason ACL tear. If Texas A&M has success through the air, it can turn this game into a high-scoring affair and get Alabama out of its comfort zone on offense.
3. Alabama QB Blake Sims
Through the first four games, Sims completed 73.1 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. But over the last two contests, Sims has tossed one interception and his completion percentage has slipped to 58.8. Playing a stout Ole Miss defense has something to do with Sims’ numbers, but Alabama needs more from its passing game this week. Texas A&M’s secondary should allow the Crimson Tide opportunities to stretch the field through the air. The Aggies have allowed nine passing scores this year, and opposing quarterbacks in SEC play are completing 61.1 percent of their throws. Texas A&M has also allowed 22 passing plays of 20 yards or more.
The outcome of this game largely depends on two areas: Alabama’s secondary and Texas A&M’s rush defense. If the Aggies stuff the Crimson Tide ground attack and force Sims and receiver Amari Cooper to win this one through the air, Sumlin’s team will have an opportunity to steal a win in Tuscaloosa. And when Texas A&M has the ball, can Alabama defend the pass? Expect plenty of up-tempo and quick passes to the receiving corps from the Aggies to take advantage of their speed and athleticism on the edge. Since winning in Tuscaloosa in 2012, Texas A&M is just 7-6 in its last 13 games. Make it 7-7 as Alabama’s offense gets back on track, and the defense makes just enough stops to keep the Aggies from pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 24
Last week was awful. There is no other way around it.
In one group (top picks) I was 1-5. In the “if you must” group, I was 2-2. And in the Top 25, I went a pathetic 3-11-1. My only comfort is that the rest of the Athlon Sports staff failed you as well.
So all of that hard work over the last month has gone to waste. It’s time to rebound.
Last Week: 3-6
Washington (+21) at Oregon
The Ducks are really good and are getting healthier on offense. But Oregon is 2-4 against the number and Washington is surging after crushing Cal as an underdog last weekend. The front seven for the Huskies is dynamic and should pressure Marcus Mariota. Don’t forget Chris Petersen’s ability to game plan against Oregon — something he did very well at Boise State. Prediction: Washington +21
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
Michigan St (-15) at Indiana
Sparty disappointed in a big way last weekend against lowly Purdue. Why go back to the well against a better Indiana team? Because quarterback Nate Sudfeld won’t play. The Hoosiers are 2-4 against the number and Michigan State should be pretty upset after struggling last weekend. Prediction: Michigan State -15
Kentucky (+10) at LSU
The Wildcats are much improved and have been great against the number this season, 5-1 against the spread thus far. LSU is getting better but not by as much as many believe. Mark Stoops will have his team ready to play and could pull the upset outright if Les Miles isn’t careful. Prediction: Kentucky +10
Tennessee (+16) at Ole Miss
The Rebels are unbeaten this season and unbeaten against the spread as well (5-0-1). Ole Miss could score 17 points and cover this spread as the Vols' horrible OL won’t be able to do much of anything against arguably the best defense in the nation. Beware of the backdoor cover here but Ole Miss should run away with this one. Prediction: Ole Miss -16
Temple (+7.5) at Houston
The Cougars used a bunch of turnovers to upset Memphis last week while Temple keeps surging into relevance in the AAC. Matt Rhule has his team ready to compete with anyone and the Owls could win outright against an inconsistent and overrated Houston squad. Prediction: Temple +7.5
UAB (-1.5) at MTSU
Both programs have played well this season but Middle Tennessee is a home dog here and it feels like the Blue Raiders should win outright. I like the over here as well. Prediction: MTSU +1.5
Iowa (+5) at Maryland
In a game with two hard-nosed coaches, the Hawkeyes look like the better overall team. Yet, somehow, Iowa is an underdog. Call this one a gut feel, but I like the Hawks to win outright against the Terps. Prediction: Iowa +5
Iowa St (+12) at Texas
The Longhorns' defense is outstanding and finally the offense showed some signs of life last weekend. Tyrone Swoopes had his best game and shouldn't have much issue with the 'Clones. Take Texas big in a must-win situation. Prediction: Texas -12
Georgia (-3.5) at Arkansas
The Hogs have been great against the number all season but this is a terrible matchup for Bret Bielema. The Dawgs' defensive strength is stopping the run and Arkansas’ defense won’t be able to contain the improving Georgia offense. Prediction: Georgia -3.5
Kansas State (+7.5) at Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s offense is struggling right now and Bill Snyder has had two weeks to prepare for their trip to Norman with a defense that was good enough to hold Auburn in check a month ago. Snyder is 3-3 in his last three trips to Norman outright, including a win the last time KSU visited Oklahoma. The Cats’ defense keeps them in the game. Prediction: Kansas State +7.5
Top 25 Picks ATS:
|Top 25||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|N. Dame (+10) at Florida St|
|Tennessee (+16) at Ole Miss|
|Baylor (-8) at W. Virginia|
|Texas A&M (+11.5) at Alabama|
|Mich. St (-15) at Indiana|
|Washington (+21) at Oregon|
|Georgia (-3.5) at Arkansas|
|Kansas St (+7.5) at Oklahoma|
|Okla. St (+9) at TCU|
|Rutgers (+19.5) at Ohio St|
|Stanford (-3) at Ariz. St|
|Nebraska (-7) at N'Western|
|Colorado (+19.5) at USC|
|Clemson (-5) at B. College|
|Marshall (-21.5) at FIU|
Gregg Popovich doesn’t care what you think. The coach of the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs has forged a path of almost unparalleled playoff success by building a singular basketball compound in central Texas, immune to the ways of other teams, unfazed by outside opinion. Popovich’s culture involves a revolving door of selfless, international players and guys “who have gotten over themselves.” It also features an incredibly loose attendance policy.
Fined $250,000 by the league in 2012 for resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green for a nationally televised game, Popovich is now upping the ante. Not only are five Spurs players skipping Thursday’s trip to Phoenix for a preseason game against the Suns — Duncan, Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills — but Popovich himself is staying home, as reported by Dan McCarney of My San Antonio.
Resting players, of course, is not exactly unusual in the preseason. But Popovich is being characteristically brazen here. The coach always makes the trip. Popovich, a three-time Coach of the Year, is not deterred by the NBA’s policies and business interests, however. The long, grinding calendar would hurt his veteran team’s title chances if he didn’t let them pass on so much of it. So he doesn’t hesitate to glaze over many a date, even if they’re the ones the association has highlighted — customs be damned. His Spurs don’t need the extra reps like they need a little more R and R.
Maybe the league will fine Popovich for his Bueller-esque behavior yet again; maybe not. Either way, it’s clear that he’s the only coach around with the pedigree and attitude to pull a move like this and look smart (not lazy) doing it. And while some may claim arrogance or insolence over this sort of individualism, that’s fine by Pop. He can’t hear your critique over the jingle of his five championship rings.
— John Wilmes
Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan preview the big games of Week 8. The Big 12 takes center stage with five ranked teams in action. Notre Dame visits Florida State in the ACC, Stanford and Oregon highlight key games out West and plenty of SEC contenders are looking to hold off upsets. The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 16:
• To help you plan for Halloween: Here's how some celebs have dressed up for past Halloweens.
• A list I'm glad I'm not on: The 11 most infamous Twitter accounts in sports media.
• Something I didn't know: The Kansas City Royals are named after livestock. Think Lorde knows about this?
• Interesting historical tidbit: A Jets scout wanted to draft Tom Brady but was overruled by Bill Parcells. Good call, Tuna.
• Watch a dude who looks like Aaron Rodgers learn what it's like to be Aaron Rodgers.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Steve Nash is 40 years old now. He’s also, in case you forgot, a point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he’s played just 65 games in two seasons, including only 15 last year. The man can’t stop getting hurt anymore. His most recent malady is probably his most telling:
Nash hurt his back carrying bags today, Byron Scott said. Did not practice. Wouldn't count on him playing Thursday vs. Utah.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 15, 2014
Nash is famously healthy — the strict, no-sugar, no-carbs, no-dairy diet LeBron James went on to lose 15 pounds this summer is akin to how Nash has always lived. Arguably no one in the league more religiously subscribes to the notion that his body is a temple.
But fate is no longer on Nash’s side. His devastating brand of vision-driven basketball took a toll on the former MVP; he’s been playing since the Phoenix Suns drafted him in 1996. Most of his current Lakers group (a young bunch that surrounds Nash and Kobe Bryant, including Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Jeremy Lin) couldn’t even drive a car at that point.
Nash won’t be remembered as an aching Laker, though. The same, strange “oh yeah, that happened” twinge that accompanies photos of Michael Jordan in Washington Wizards blue will dominate the memory of Nash’s fleeting time in Hollywood.
Two years ago at this time, Nash and Dwight Howard had joined Bryant and Pau Gasol to form a team that many believed would win an NBA championship. But the team was brought down by injuries, bickering and poor front-office decisions. They never won a playoff game together, and the super squad now feels like the failed experiment that sunk the Lakers’ franchise into the unfamiliar territory of mediocrity.
When Nash inevitably makes the Hall of Fame, we’ll wax nostalgic on Suns highlights like these — with him torching the Lakers, not joining them in the rubble of Rome:
— John Wilmes
The New York Jets, who arrive in Foxboro in the midst of their longest losing streak in seven years, will try to get off the schneid on the road against a surging New England Patriots team that has looked like a Super Bowl contender the last two weeks. The obvious distaste these two AFC East franchises have for one another adds some spice to an otherwise lackluster primetime matchup on CBS/NFL Network.
"You don't have to worry about the motivation," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "It's going to be there. Both teams don't like each other. There's respect for each other, but I don't think you really like each other. We know we have to be at our very best." What Ryan will have to worry about is his quarterback. He remains committed to Geno Smith, who played reasonably well last week against Denver but needs more help from the running game to avoid obvious passing situations and disastrous turnovers.
New York Jets at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: New England -10
Three Things to Watch
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs OAK||W 19 - 14||Recap|
|9/14||@ GB||L 24 - 31||Recap|
|9/22||vs CHI||L 19 - 27||Recap|
|9/28||vs DET||L 17 - 24||Recap|
|10/5||@ SD||L 0 - 31||Recap|
|10/12||vs DEN||L 17 - 31||Recap|
|10/16||@ NE||L 25 - 27||Recap|
|10/26||vs BUF||L 23 - 43||Recap|
1. Can Desperation Breed Success for the Jets?
No franchise in football is more desperate for a win than the Jets. Coach Rex Ryan entered the season on the hot seat, and a 1–5 start — the worst stretch of the Ryan era in New York — doesn't exactly turn down the temperature. The Jets' obvious desperation will have to manifest itself in a commitment to the run and in winning individual battles at the line of scrimmage. New York has rushed for a combined 122 yards the last two weeks, but it's essential that the Jets relieve pressure from quarterback Geno Smith by chewing clock on the ground. This would be a good week for the running back tandem of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson to get untracked. "We're built to run," Ryan said. "I think we've just got to stay the course with it and see what happens."
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ MIA||L 20 - 33||Recap|
|9/14||@ MIN||W 30 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs OAK||W 16 - 9||Recap|
|9/29||@ KC||L 14 - 41||Recap|
|10/5||vs CIN||W 43 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ BUF||W 37 - 22||Recap|
|10/16||vs NYJ||W 27 - 25||Recap|
|10/26||vs CHI||W 51 - 23||Recap|
2. Will Geno Get Marooned on Revis Island?
The Jets wouldn't return cornerback Darrelle Revis' calls during the offseason. Now's his chance to make them pay for their apparent disinterest. Rex Ryan, who did have an interest in re-acquiring one of the best players in Jets history, couldn't persuade the front office to comply, and now he has to face Revis as a division rival. "Oh, man, I'm not going to go there," said Ryan, when asked about his desire to bring Revis back to New York. "Let's focus on the team right now in front of us, and recognize the guy is an excellent player and plays on someone else's team. That's the way it is." Ryan claims credit for the "Revis Island" approach of putting an elite corner in single coverage on the opponent's best receiver, a strategy that is gaining traction across the NFL. Now, struggling second-year quarterback Geno Smith has the unenviable task of looking for top receiver Eric Decker and seeing Revis draped all over him.
3. Tom Brady vs. Depleted Jets Secondary
As if the Jets needed something else to worry about, they face a resurgent Tom Brady without all their pieces in the secondary. Their best cornerback, Dee Milliner, was placed on injured reserve this week with an Achilles injury, making an already depleted secondary even weaker. The Jets are allowing an opposing passer rating of 109.2, 30th in the NFL, and they've grabbed only one interception while allowing a league-high 15 touchdowns. Brady has been flawless the last two weeks, completing a combined 50-of-72 (69.4 percent) passes for 653 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in wins over Cincinnati and Buffalo. The Jets will need their pass rush, which has produced 19 sacks thus far, to force Brady into mistakes.
Tom Brady has won six straight regular-season home games against the Jets and is almost certain to make it seven. Gillette Stadium is no place for an ailing team to get well, particularly against a Patriots team that is playing its best football of the season right now.
Prediction: New England 27, New York 10
After two monster weekends in the SEC, things calm down just a bit. There’s still plenty of intrigue, but the Week 8 slate lacks the Armageddon-esque matchups of recent weeks. It might be a stretch to call Texas A&M and Alabama rivals, but these teams have played two very entertaining games since the Aggies joined the league. Neither Missouri nor Florida has the look of an SEC champ, but the winner of this game in Gainesville could still be a threat in the wide-open East. Elsewhere, Georgia heads to Arkansas, Kentucky visits Death Valley and Ole Miss hosts Tennessee.
Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 8 Game Power Rankings
1. Texas A&M (+11.5) at Alabama (3:30 ET, CBS)
Two years later, the Aggies return to the scene of the crime — a monumental 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama in the school’s first-ever visit to Tuscaloosa. Since that victory, however, Texas A&M is “only” 7–6 in SEC games and has allowed an average of 39.8 points in those six defeats. Offense has not typically been an issue during Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but the Aggies have been slow starters in recent weeks. They’ve scored a total of 10 points in the first halves (while giving up a total of 49) of consecutive losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Alabama is experiencing some puzzling offensive problems of its own. The biggest surprise in last week’s lackluster 14–13 win at Arkansas was Alabama’s inability to run the ball. The Crimson Tide averaged only 2.0 yards per attempt against a Razorback defense that allowed 6.3 yards per carry against Auburn, 4.6 against Texas Tech and 5.1 against Texas A&M. Not good.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Missouri (+6) at Florida (7 ET, ESPN)
This might not be the second “best” SEC game on the docket, but it’s a very intriguing matchup between a pair of teams jockeying for position (behind Georgia) in the average SEC East. Missouri is coming off one of the worst performances of the Gary Pinkel era, a 34–0 loss at home to Georgia. The Tigers were actually decent on defense — Georgia averaged a season-low 4.4 yards per play — but the Mizzou offense was absolutely brutal. Speaking of bad offensive play, Florida cracked the 300-yard mark for the first time since the three-overtime win against Kentucky in mid-September yet lost a heartbreaker to LSU in Gainesville. Statistically, the Florida offense has actually been decent at home, averaging 5.7 and 5.4 yards per play against Kentucky and LSU, respectively. That’s far from proficient, but it is a sign of progress (though only at home). This week, Florida is expected to play both Jeff Driskell and Treon Harris at quarterback. That will be interesting.
3. Georgia (-3.5) at Arkansas (4 ET, SEC Network)
Georgia passed its first test without Todd Gurley with ease, rolling past Missouri 34–0 in Columbia. The Bulldogs head to Fayetteville this weekend for their second (and final) trip west of the Mississippi this season. Arkansas is clearly improved in 2014, but the Razorbacks are still nursing an SEC losing streak that reached 15 with a one-point loss to Alabama. You figure at some point the Hogs will break through and win a game (or two) in the league this season. Doing so this week, however, could be tough. The Hogs will have to find a way to run the ball on a Georgia defense that is allowing under 3.0 yards per carry for the season. This is not a good matchup for Arkansas.
4. Kentucky (+9.5) at LSU (7:30 ET, SEC Network)
Kentucky has stormed out of the gate with a 5–1 record and needs only one win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. It’s just a matter of time, right? Maybe not. Take a look at the Cats’ schedule: At this point, Kentucky will be an underdog in each of its final six games. The guess here is that UK finds a way to win at least one more game, but it’s far from a sure thing. LSU has a pep in its step after escaping Gainesville with a three-point win. This is still a team with significant issues — on both sides of the ball — but the emergence of Leonard Fournette in recent weeks has at least given Les Miles’ club an offensive identity.
5. Tennessee (+16.5) at Ole Miss (7 ET, ESPN)
Ole Miss has climbed the national rankings in recent weeks thanks to a dominating defense and an efficient offense that is limiting mistakes. The Rebels “only” averaged 332.5 yards in consecutive wins over Alabama and Texas A&M, but they turned it over just once while forcing four turnovers. That is a recipe for success. Tennessee has yet to find a recipe to deliver an SEC win. The Vols have come close, losing by three at Georgia and by one to Florida at home. Several things will need to go well to give the Vols a chance to win in Oxford: Freshman tailback Jalen Hurd must be healthy enough to carry the rushing load (he had only two carries last week against Chattanooga); the offensive line must overachieve and find a way to protect quarterback Justin Worley; and Tennessee needs to win the special teams battle.
6. Furman at South Carolina (12 ET, SEC Network)
South Carolina returns to action for the first time since blowing double-digit fourth quarter leads in consecutive games — a 21–20 loss at home to Missouri and a 45–38 loss at Kentucky. The Gamecocks should have little trouble with a Furman team that has lost four straight games.
Week 8 SEC Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Furman at S. Carolina||USC 35-7||USC 45-10||USC 45-10||USC 38-10|
|Texas A&M at Alabama||UA 42-28||UA 31-20||UA 34-24||UA 30-20|
|Georgia at Arkansas||UGa 21-20||UA 24-23||UGa 27-24||UGa 31-17|
|Tennesse at Ole Miss||UM 35-14||UM 40-20||UM 34-13||UM 27-17|
|Missouri at Florida||UF 13-9||UF 27-24||UF 24-20||UF 17-13|
|Kentucky at LSU||21-17||LSU 27-24||LSU 27-20||LSU 31-20|
It’s not a nationally important weekend in the Pac-12 but there are four important and intriguing matchups for both the South and North Division races out West.
The North could officially become a two-horse race if Washington cannot overcome 10 years worth of struggles against Oregon. (Especially, if Stanford can handle its business in Tempe.)
In the South, UCLA, Arizona State and Utah could be dealt significant title blows with losses OR could find themselves near the top of the heap with key wins.
Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings
1. Washington (+21) at Oregon
8 p.m., FS1
One of the most fascinating games within the game takes place this weekend in Eugene. Washington’s front seven is one of the most talented and difficult to move in the nation while Oregon’s offensive line, while healthier, still has major concerns. Despite running for his life, Marcus Mariota has been downright filthy managing his offense (try zero interceptions) but he may be forced to work his magic once again. On the flip side, Cyler Miles has developed into one of the league’s better players and should be able to move the ball against the porous Oregon defense. If the Huskies can slow the Ducks rushing attack and pressure Mariota consistently, Washington should be able to keep it close. If not, history will repeat itself. Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2003 (10 straight) and hasn’t lost by fewer than 17 points. The average score over that span has been 43.6 to 18.2. Only once (2011) has this game been within 20 points.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Stanford (-3.5) at Arizona State
10:30 p.m., ESPN
The Sun Devils have lost four straight to Stanford including both meetings a year ago. After huge numbers from backup Mike Bercovici at quarterback, Todd Graham is expecting Taylor Kelly to be back under center. He will have an interesting decision to make after Bercovici threw for 998 yards (yes, 998) in two games if Kelly is fully healthy and ready to start. Either way, the ASU signal caller will face one of the nation’s nastiest defenses and will be hard-pressed to produce the same type of numbers against the Cardinal. The key will be the rebuilt ASU defense and how it handles the slowly-but-surely developing Stanford offense. Kevin Hogan had arguably the best game of his career last week but that was against lowly Washington State. Another solid outing from Hogan on the road against in a tough environment against a quality team would prove to doubters that the Cardinal can be a most complete team. A statement win for Stanford could put David Shaw’s bunch right back into championship conversations out West.
3. UCLA (-7.5) at Cal
3:30 p.m., ESPN2
It will be a tall order for the Bears reeling defense to stop Brett Hundley and what should be an angry Bruins squad. On defense, Cal is 124th in the nation at 518.2 yards allowed per game but had balanced that out with huge offensive numbers. But Sonny Dykes’ group hit a wall against Washington posting season lows with 368 yards, seven points and 4.3 yards per play. The Bruins are in danger of losing three straight and will be tested on the road but Hundley should have no issue moving the ball against a defense that doesn’t pressure the QB (91st nationally with 10.0 sacks) and doesn’t force turnovers (96th with seven). Jared Goff and company could make things interesting but the Bears’ lack of defense gives UCLA a severe edge.
4. Utah (-3) at Oregon State
10 p.m., P12 Net
Kyle Whittingham is playing it coy against Mike Riley. He won’t announce who is playing quarterback after both Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson took reps during the off weekend. Meanwhile, the Utes head man knows exactly what he’s dealing with in Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. The Oregon State quarterback has had two weeks to get his supporting cast healthy and should be prepared for the brutal test against a tough Utah front seven that is leading the nation in sacks (28.0). This was a thrilling 51-48 win for the Beavers in Salt Lake City last fall in which Mannion threw for 443 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers. Whittingham’s defense (and elite special teams) will have to play much better this time around to upset Oregon State on the road.
5. Colorado (+19.5) at USC
6 p.m., P12 Net
The only game in the league severely lacking in intrigue will take place in Los Angeles. USC is coming off a critical road win over Arizona and sits in control over the Pac-12 South race. That makes this situation a must-win for a team that has proven to be wildly inconsistent. In three Pac-12 games with the Buffs, USC has won all three 139-52, so odds are the Trojans move to 4-1 in the league.
Off: Arizona, Washington State
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Wash. (+21) at Oregon||Ore., 38-30||Ore., 40-30||Ore., 42-28||Ore., 38-27|
|Stan. (-3.5) at ASU||Stan., 33-24||Stan., 21-17||ASU, 21-14||Stan., 31-27|
|UCLA (-7.5) at Cal||UCLA, 41-31||UCLA, 28-20||Cal, 28-21||UCLA 40-30|
|Utah (-3) at Ore. St||OSU, 30-27||Utah, 27-21||OSU, 35-28||Utah 27-24|
|Colo. (+19.5) at USC||USC, 40-21||USC, 33-14||USC, 31-13||USC, 41-24|
Few weekends in the Big 12 will be as important and as critical as Week 8.
The top ranked team and lone unbeaten in on the road at one of the most difficult places to win in the league. Two of the greatest coaches in Big 12 history will battle in Norman with two ranked teams. And Oklahoma State has its first of many brutal road trips against a ranked TCU squad without its star quarterback.
Big 12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings
1. Kansas State (+8) at Oklahoma
Two of the most successful coaches in Big 12 history square off in an always interesting and important showdown near the top of league. The Wildcats defense has proven it can stop the nation’s best (See: Auburn) and Trevor Knight has been human ever since Katy Perry called him out on Gameday. Knight has struggled and the running game might not be able to help as KSU has allowed a total of 407 yards rushing in five games (81.4 ypg). Meanwhile, Jake Waters has been excellent, be it torching Texas Tech (395 yards, 5 TD) or carrying his team to victory (Iowa State), but will be faced with his toughest task against Eric Striker and Zack Sanchez on the road. Bill Snyder is 3-3 in his last three trips to Norman, including the last visit in 2012 and has had two weeks to prepare. On two evenly matched and similarly built teams coached by equally impressive leaders, the edge generally falls towards the home team.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Baylor (-8) at West Virginia
Strange and bizarre things happen in Morgantown so Baylor better click on all cylinders for all four quarters if it wants to return to Texas unbeaten. Two of the best passing attacks will be on full display when Clint Trickett (367.2 ypg) and Bryce Petty (306.8) do battle in what is one of the highest scoring rivalries in the nation. In two games since joining the Big 12, Baylor and WVU have combined for 248 points as the Mountaineers scored 63 and 42 points in losses. It took a miracle fourth quarter for the Bears to survive at home against TCU last weekend and that won’t work against a West Virginia team that is capable of beating any team in the nation. West Virginia fans need to hope that Dana Holgorsen finally speaking with his kicker hasn’t jinxed a player who has won two games for WVU thus far.
3. Oklahoma State (+8) at TCU
4 p.m., FS1
Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is charged with stopping arguably the nation’s most improved player in Trevone Boykin (who will play despite bizarre internet reports on Tuesday). TCU’s quarterback is second in the league at 353.6 yards of total offense per game and is leading the No. 3 scoring offense in the nation (45.8 ppg). The key for Gary Patterson’s balanced squad is how they handled the crushing fourth-quarter defeat at Baylor last weekend. If there is any letdown factor whatsoever, Daxx Garman, Tyreek Hill and the Pokes offense is good enough to walk into a normally not very hostile Amon Carter Stadium and win. While the Frogs have already announced themselves as Big 12 contenders, a win for Mike Gundy would give OSU a 4-0 start in the Big 12 and a sixth consecutive win.
4. Iowa State (-12.5) at Texas
8 p.m., LHN
This has become a must-win game for Charlie Strong if his team wants to get to a bowl game and Paul Rhoads certainly hasn’t forgotten about how this controversial game ended last year in Ames. The Horns defense has been excellent and should be able to stop the Cyclones modest attack. The real difference maker should come under center for Texas. Tyrone Swoopes played the best game of his young career against Oklahoma and it’s critically important he continue his positive development. A clear outcome against ISU could be a sign the tide has turned in Austin.
5. Kansas (-14.5) at Texas Tech
Much like Texas, Kliff Kingsbury is in desperate need of a Big 12 win after losing eight straight in the league. That losing streak continued last week in painful fashion on a long, last-second field goal but there were signs of hope. After losing the turnover battle in 13 straight games, Tech broke even and Davis Webb had his best game since beating UTEP in Week 2. Penalties and defense are still a major issue and if this team can’t “get healthy” against Kansas, it may not win against the rest of the season.
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|KSU (+8) at Okla||Okla., 28-24||Okla., 27-20||KSU, 21-17||Okla., 30-24|
|Baylor (-8) at WVU||Bay., 51-42||Bay., 48-40||Bay., 63-48||Bay., 50-40|
|Okla St (+8) at TCU||TCU, 30-27||TCU, 37-21||TCU, 31-21||TCU, 34-24|
|ISU (+12.5) at Texas||Texas, 24-7||Texas, 17-10||Texas, 28-17||Texas, 31-13|
|Kansas (+14.5) at Tech||Tech, 38-24||Tech, 44-24||Tech, 35-21||Tech, 44-20|
Attention: Nebraska and Northwestern. We’re counting on you.
The most exciting week in Big Ten history this is not. Teams like Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin are off. And the league’s top teams this season, Michigan State and Ohio State, are facing Indiana and Rutgers.
This week may be a bit of a snoozer, but Nebraska and Northwestern have provided some of the more memorable games in the league the last three seasons, starting with a Wildcats upset in Lincoln in 2011 and most recently a Hail Mary for a Huskers win in 2013.
Big Ten Week 8 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern. All games Saturday
1. Nebraska at Northwestern
7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Northwestern might not be the team Nebraska wants to see to re-start its bid for the Big Ten West. The Cornhuskers have won the last two meetings by a combined margin of four points, the most recent victory on a Hail Mary. Before that, the Huskers lost their first meeting with Northwestern as a member of the Big Ten. The off week was fortunately timed, though, as Nebraska could get several key players back from injury — linebacker David Santos, cornerback Daniel Davie, wide receiver Kenny Bell. The Cornhuskers also will look to regroup on the offensive line after Ameer Abdullah rushed for a season-low 45 rushing yards against Michigan State two weeks ago. Northwestern is an improved team but some of their offensive issues resurfaced against Minnesota as the Wildcats managed only one play longer than 20 yards in 84 snaps against the Gophers.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Iowa at Maryland
After an uneven start to the season, Iowa has won three games in a row to put the Big Ten West back on the radar. The Hawkeyes’ run game has stabilized in recent games, and the pass defense has been stifling. That perhaps makes for a bad matchup against Maryland. The Hawkeyes run game posted its top two rushing performances of the season in the last two games. Meanwhile, Iowa has held its last two opponents to 20-of-53 passing with a touchdown and five interceptions, granted that was against Purdue and an Indiana team down to a backup QB. Maryland is 13th in the Big Ten in rush defense, and quarterbacks C.J. Brown and Caleb Rowe are coming off a four-interception performance against Ohio State.
3. Rutgers at Ohio State
3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Ohio State’s improving offensive line will receive its toughest test since a disastrous game against Virginia Tech in Week 2. Rutgers has an active front four that has contributed to 24 sacks, tied for most in the Big Ten this season. Since giving up seven sacks in the loss to the Hokies, Ohio State has surrendered five sacks in the last three games. Meanwhile, Rutgers is getting more solid quarterback play from Gary Nova. The senior completed 22-of-39 passes for 404 yards with three touchdowns in a win over Michigan, but winning in Columbus without running back Paul James (ACL) and with an injured center will be difficult.
4. Michigan State at Indiana
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Indiana might not be a major obstacle in Michigan State’s bid to win the Big Ten East, but the Spartans will be under pressure to put together a full four quarters. The Spartans gave up 19 unanswered points in the third quarter against Nebraska and two late touchdowns against Purdue. Indiana is just looking for any sign that the Hoosiers can salvage their season without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers may be down to a third-string quarterback in Zander Diamont, who was expected to redshirt this season.
5. Purdue at Minnesota
Noon, Big Ten Network
Minnesota is 2-0 in the Big Ten with a backloaded schedule against the top teams in the Big Ten West. The Gophers may still be a long shot to win the division and have little room for slip ups against teams like Purdue at home. The Boilermakers, though, have become an improved team with Austin Appleby at quarterback. Appleby is 39-of-57 for 413 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the last two games.
Big Ten Week 8 Staff Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Iowa at Maryland (-4 1/2)
|Md 31-27||Iowa 34-30||Iowa 27-24||Md 27-22|
Purdue at Minnesota (-12 1/2)
|Minn 28-14||Minn 34-27||Minn 30-13||Minn 23-17|
Michigan State (-14 1/2) at Indiana
|MSU 38-10||MSU 40-20||MSU 41-10||MSU 48-27|
Rutgers at Ohio State (-19 1/2)
|OSU 42-10||OSU 38-24||OSU 40-17||OSU 41-20|
Nebraska (-6 1/2) at Northwestern
|Neb 35-28||Neb 34-30||Neb 30-24||Neb 30-23|
Florida State and Notre Dame are two of college football’s marquee programs, and the Fighting Irish and Seminoles meet on Saturday night in one of the top games for Week 8. The matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame headlines the action in the ACC this Saturday, but there are a few intriguing games outside of Tallahassee.
Pittsburgh hosts Virginia Tech in a critical game for positioning in the Coastal Division, while Clemson travels to Boston College on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers won’t have quarterback Deshaun Watson, but their defensive line is a good match for the Eagles’ ground game.
Georgia Tech-North Carolina has potential for plenty of fireworks on offense, while Virginia-Duke is another key game for the Coastal Division title picture.
Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 8 Game Power Rankings
1. Notre Dame at Florida State (-11.5)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Tallahassee is the epicenter of the college football world in Week 8. Notre Dame and Florida State enter Saturday night ranked among the top five teams in the nation, and both programs expect to contend for college football’s new four-team playoff in 2014. Despite the history among the programs, this is only the eighth meeting between Notre Dame and Florida State. The Seminoles own a 5-2 series edge, with the last regular season meeting taking place in 2003. An interesting note to this series: Five of the seven games were decided by a touchdown or less. With that in mind, this could be another close matchup on Saturday night. Florida State leads the ACC by averaging 462.5 yards per game, but Notre Dame will counter with a defense that’s allowing only 17.2 points per contest. However, the Fighting Irish gave up 43 points to North Carolina, and the Seminoles’ offense will be the best this defense has played in 2014. Quarterback Jameis Winston is growing more comfortable with his new receivers, and the sophomore – provided the line provides protection – should have a huge performance against the Notre Dame secondary. But the same holds true for the Fighting Irish offense, as the Seminoles are allowing opponents to average 5.0 yards per play – almost a full yard increase from 2013. Quarterback Everett Golson has to be more careful with the football, as he’s committed nine turnovers in the last three games. Golson should have opportunities to move the ball on the ground or through the air. But in Tallahassee, Notre Dame’s margin for error is small and turnovers will be costly on Saturday night.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (-1)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
It seems like a broken record, but this is a key game for positioning in the Coastal Division. With little separating the top six teams, this is a prime opportunity for both Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh to take a step forward in the division race. The Panthers opened conference play with a win over Boston College but lost 24-19 to Virginia on Oct. 4. The Hokies are also 1-1 in ACC action, defeating North Carolina 34-17 after opening with a loss to Georgia Tech. Running back play is under the spotlight on Thursday night, as Virginia Tech will be without leading rusher Marshawn Williams due to an ankle injury, leaving J.C. Coleman (61 yards) and Joel Caleb (84 yards) as the team’s top backs. Pittsburgh’s James Conner is one of the nation’s leading rushers, but he may see time on defense as a pass-rush specialist. A key matchup to watch will be Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller against Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd. Both are among the nation’s best at their position, and if Fuller contains Boyd, the Panthers need some of their secondary weapons to step up. A tight game is expected, which means both quarterbacks (Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh and Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech) have to limit their mistakes, as both teams rank near the bottom of the ACC in turnover margin.
3. Clemson (-5) at Boston College
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
If you like trench warfare, then Saturday’s matchup in Chestnut Hill is a must-see matchup. Clemson’s defensive line is one of the best in the nation, headlined by likely All-America selection in defensive end Vic Beasley and fellow senior Grady Jarrett at defensive tackle. The Eagles counter with an offensive line featuring five senior starters and a strong rushing attack led by quarterback Tyler Murphy. Clemson is holding opponents to just 100.5 yards per game on the ground, while the Eagles lead the ACC with an average of 315.7 rushing yards a contest. Murphy leads the team by averaging 118.5 rushing yards per game, but Jon Hilliman (4.4 ypc) and Myles Willis (5.0 ypc) factor into the gameplan. The Eagles hope to get their ground game on track and limit the opportunities for an explosive Clemson offense. The Tigers will turn to senior Cole Stoudt at quarterback after freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in last week’s game against NC State. Stoudt has yet to pass for a touchdown against a Power 5 opponent this year and will be tested by a Boston College defense that likes to create havoc around the line of scrimmage (17 sacks and 38 tackles for a loss).
4. Virginia at Duke (-3)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
At the beginning of the season, it’s unlikely anyone would have pegged this matchup as a critical showdown in the ACC. But seven weeks into the season, this matchup is suddenly an important game. Virginia is the lone unbeaten team (2-0) in conference play from the Coastal Division. Duke picked up a win over Georgia Tech last Saturday, which was a key rebound victory after losing 22-10 to Miami on Sept. 27. The Blue Devils are the defending Coastal champs, and a win over the Cavaliers would allow this team to take an early lead for the division title once again. Quarterback play is critical every week, but it’s an even bigger storyline this Saturday. Virginia’s Greyson Lambert has missed the last two games due to injury, and Matt Johns is 2-0 during that stretch. Lambert could return this Saturday, but both quarterbacks are expected to play. For Duke, Anthony Boone has to play mistake-free. In the Blue Devils’ 22-10 loss to Miami, Boone tossed two picks and completed only 43.1 percent of his throws. A low-scoring game should be anticipated, as Duke ranks second in the ACC in total defense (15.5 ppg), and Virginia is among the best in the conference in sacks and tackles for a loss. This is the Cavaliers’ first road ACC game of the year, while the Blue Devils have won five out of the last six in this series.
5. Georgia Tech (-2.5) at North Carolina
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Three of the last four meetings in this series were decided by eight points or less, and another close game should be anticipated in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Tar Heels enter Week 8 on a four-game losing streak, but coach Larry Fedora’s team nearly upset Notre Dame last Saturday. North Carolina needs another second-half surge to make a bowl this year, and that run has to start Saturday against the Yellow Jackets. The Tar Heels have to find a way to slow down Georgia Tech’s option attack, which is averaging 294.7 rushing yards per game. That’s bad news for a North Carolina defense allowing 191.7 yards per contest on the ground. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the headliner (6.3 ypc), but Zach Laskey (4.9 ypc) has recorded at least 70 rushing yards in every game this year. Stopping the Yellow Jackets is going to be a challenge, as their style of play is not easy to replicate in a week of practice. While the Tar Heels will struggle on defense, their offense should be able to move the ball on a Georgia Tech unit allowing 6.3 yards per play this year. Quarterback Marquise Williams is coming off his best effort of the season (510 yards) and should have another huge day against the Yellow Jackets. Turnover margin is critical in this game. Georgia Tech was +5 entering last week’s game against Duke. But the Yellow Jackets lost three turnovers in a 31-25 loss. Forcing turnovers and getting stops on third down will be crucial to North Carolina’s hopes of snapping a four-game losing streak.
6. NC State at Louisville (-17)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
This matchup features the biggest spread from the seven games in the ACC in Week 8. Most thought NC State turned a corner after a 56-41 loss to NC State, but the Wolfpack has stumbled in its last two games. Dave Doeren’s team was soundly defeated 41-0 to Clemson in Week 6 and lost 30-14 to Boston College last Saturday. Stopping the run has been a problem for NC State, as it has allowed 536 yards and six touchdowns in its last two games. In addition to the defensive struggles, quarterback Jacoby Brissett has to get back on track after completing just 18 of his last 48 passes. Jumpstarting the offense is going to be a challenge for NC State this Saturday. Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to 3.7 yards per play and has allowed only nine touchdowns in seven games. While the Cardinals own one of the ACC’s top defenses, the offense is surprisingly averaging only 23.4 points a game in conference action. Will Gardner is set to start at quarterback after completing 10 of 16 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown against Clemson, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon will play in a limited role. Even though Louisville’s offense is off to a slow start, it could get on track against a NC State defense allowing 6.3 yards per play in conference games. The Wolfpack defense will be without starting linebacker Jerod Fernandez and safety Josh Jones due to an off-field incident.
7. Syracuse (-5) at Wake Forest
12 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
With both teams at 0-2 in conference play and 2-4 overall, Saturday’s game is a must-win situation if either program wants to make a bowl this year. Syracuse is dealing with a handful of injuries on offense, and freshman A.J. Long will make his first start under center. Long showed promise in last week’s game against Florida State by recording 187 total yards and two passing touchdowns, and Wake Forest’s defense will be a good challenge in his first start. The Demon Deacons are holding opponents to 4.9 yards per play and are allowing 24 points per game. The numbers for Wake Forest’s defense are impressive considering the offense is managing just 3.3 yards per play and has not scored more than 24 points in a game this year. Points should be at a premium with two young quarterbacks – Long and Wake Forest freshman John Wolford – starting under center on Saturday.
Week 8 ACC Predictions
|Notre Dame at FSU (-11.5)||ND 28-24||FSU 34-28||FSU 34-27||FSU 30-20|
|Va. Tech at Pitt (-1)||VT 34-31||Pitt 31-30||VT 27-24||VT 28-24|
|Clemson (-5) at BC||BC 28-21||Clemson 34-24||Clemson 31-27||Clemson 33-21|
|Virginia at Duke (-3)||Duke 21-17||Duke 24-21||Duke 24-20||UVa 23-19|
|Ga. Tech (-2.5) at UNC||GT 35-21||GT 35-30||GT 38-34||GT 37-30|
|NC State at Louisville (-17)||UL 31-14||UL 30-23||UL 34-13||UL 34-17|
|Syracuse (-5) at Wake Forest||SU 27-14||SU 30-27||SU 24-20||SU 24-17|
Illinois has a new uniform design for 2014, but the Fighting Illini have unveiled a special look for the Oct. 25 game against Minnesota.
The “gray ghost” uniforms are a tribute to Red Grange and the 1924 game against Michigan.
Check out Illinois’ “gray ghost” uniforms for Oct. 25: