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All taxonomy terms: Mountain West, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-mountain-west-preview

The Mountain West enjoyed the best season in its history in 2012-13. The fun, though, stopped when New Mexico was crowed MWC tournament champion.

The Lobos were on the wrong end of an NCAA Tournament upset to 13th-seeded Harvard. If that wasn’t enough, San Diego State became the first team to lose to a No. 15 seed in the round of 32, sending Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16.

With Boise State, Colorado State and UNLV, the Mountain West had a league-record five teams in the field, but none of them reached the second weekend of the Tournament. Then, the lone coaching change in the conference was an unexpected once as UCLA plucked Steve Alford from New Mexico.

The Mountain West moves on with longtime assistant Craig Neal taking over the league’s most consistent program plus two new teams that have had success in the WAC (Utah State and San Jose State).

New Mexico has enough pieces left to win the league title, and San Diego State and UNLV have the talent on the roster to absorb the losses of Jamaal Franklin and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, respectively.

Mountain West Predicted Order of Finish

All-Mountain West First Team
G Kendall Williams, New Mexico
G Deonte Burton, Nevada
G Derrick Marks, Boise State
C Jarred Shaw, Utah State
C Alex Kirk, New Mexico

All-Mountain West second team
G Preston Medlin, Utah State
G/F Anthony Drmic, Boise State
F Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
F Khem Birch, UNLV
F Josh Davis, San Diego State

All-Mountain West third team
G Tyler Johnson, Fresno State
G Bryce Dejean-Jones, UNLV
F Winston Shepard, San Diego State
F Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming
F Chris Cunningham, San Jose State
1. NEW MEXICO (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Sweet 16
Lobos hope turning up the tempo under new coach Craig Neal will lead to more postseason success. Neal has two great building blocks in Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams.

2. UNLV (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
Rebels lost a ton of experience and talent from a team that underachieved last season. Dave Rice will hope a changing of the guard is beneficial.

3. BOISE STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
The Broncos return all five starters from a team that surprised the league to reach the First Four. The high-scoring duo of Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic won’t catch anyone off guard.

4. SAN DIEGO STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
Jamaal Franklin did everything for the Aztecs last year. Steve Fisher needs Tulane transfer Josh Davis and sophomore Winston Shepard to pick up the slack if the Aztecs are to reach a fifth consecutive Tournament.

Postseason projection:
The Aggies had an uneven season in their final year in the WAC, a league that rarely challenged Stew Morrill’s crew. Utah State brings three key returners to a tougher Mountain West slate.

The Bulldogs will look to Oklahoma State transfer Cezar Guerrero to improve their woeful point guard play. Look for the Bulldogs to approach the .500 mark in Rodney Terry’s third season.

Larry Eustachy had it made as a first-year coach with a veteran-laden roster that ended up as the best rebounding team in the country. His second season will be a rebuilding year around guard Daniel Bejarano, the MWC’s Sixth Man of the Year.

The WAC champions were Mountain West also-rans last season. Deonte Burton is a Mountain West star, but he’ll need help from a rebuilt frontcourt.

The Cowboys may have missed a window last season, finishing the season in an 8-14 stretch. Three players who averaged double figures are gone, leaving coach Larry Shyatt to rebuild around Larry Nance Jr.

The Falcons had enough firepower last season to put a scare into the best Mountain West teams. With five seniors gone and one returning starter, Air Force will slip back to the bottom of the standings.

The Spartans have a new coach (Dave Wojcik), a new conference and a new floor. Expect the same meager results for now.

Mountain West Awards

Player of the Year: Kendall Williams, New Mexico
Williams returns after earning Mountain West Player of the Year honors. He averaged 13.3 points on a balanced team, but his breakout performance (46 points, 10 3-pointers) against Colorado State was impossible to ignore.

Best Defensive Player: Khem Birch, UNLV
The reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year averaged three blocks per game after his transfer from Pittsburgh.

Most Underrated Player: Jeff Elorriaga, Boise State
The Broncos’ duo of Drmic and Marks get more attention, but Elorriaga is the Boise State’s best 3-point threat. He averaged 10.2 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from long range (84 of 188).

Top Newcomer: Josh Davis, San Diego State
The Tulane transfer will be an immediate impact player for the Aztecs after averaging 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last season. He’ll be expected to be in double-double territory for San Diego State, too.

Top coach: Steve Fisher, San Diego State (full rankings of MWC coaches)

Coach on the hot seat: David Carter, Nevada (full list of coaches on the hot seat)

*photo courtesy of Karsen King Welch/UNM

College Basketball: 2013-14 Mountain West Preview
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-boise-state-preview

This preview and more on Boise State and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Boise State Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA First Four
Coach: Leon Rice (56-41 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
There’s a buzz surrounding the Boise State basketball team that normally is reserved for the university’s wildly successful and popular football program. But fresh off a 21-victory season that included two road wins over a ranked teams and the school’s first NCAA Tournament at-large bid, it’s easy to understand why Boise could turn into a basketball town.

Coach Leon Rice returns all five starters and the majority of production in every statistical category — 92.4 percent of its scoring, 96.7 percent assists and 83.9 percent rebounds). Eight of the nine players who regularly saw action last season are back.

“I like the expectations,” Rice says. “I like being talked about as one of the better teams in the conference. Our guys have a healthy attitude about that. They know how hard we have to work to accomplish that, how much better we have to get to go from where we were to where we want to get to. I think our guys are in a very good place about all of that.”


The Broncos run a four-out offense, leaving forward Ryan Watkins as the man in the middle. The 6-9 senior is a threat facing or with his back to the basket, as his 61.7 shooting percentage attests. He was the team’s leading rebounder last season at 6.8 per game and also contributed an average of 8.4 points. Watkins has been starting since his freshman season.

Perhaps the most important addition to the roster is 6-9 sophomore Edmunds Dukulis, a talented Latvian who sat out last season. He’ll be counted on to score and rebound on the interior. Freshman Nicholas Duncan also should carve out a niche in the frontcourt; Rice loves the Australian’s nose for the ball and ability to rebound.

Junior college transfer James Webb III and redshirt freshman Joey Nebeker also are available and could work their way into small roles.


There aren’t many backcourts that pack the offensive punch of the Broncos’ crew. Point guard Derrick Marks was a second-team All-Mountain West pick last season when he had three 30-point performances en route to averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists. Marks is a physical guard who can get to the basket or pull-up and score. He shot 46.6 percent and a cool 83.7 percent from the line.

Marks has plenty of weapons at his disposal, most notably fellow junior Anthony Drmic. The wing led the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game and should eclipse the 1,000-point barrier before conference play begins. Drmic is a high-energy offensive player who can shoot from long range (39.2 percent from three) or create with penetration.

Senior Jeff Elorriaga is the team’s undisputed leader. He’s a calming influence on offense and the team’s stopper on defense. The former walk-on hit a school-record 10 3-pointers in a game last season and shot 44.7 percent from behind the arc on his way to averaging 10.2 points. He missed three games with a concussion, and the Broncos lost all three.

Junior Igor Hadziomerovic serves as a second point guard on the floor. His presence allows Marks to play on the wing at times. Hadziomerovic is a heady Australian with the knack of finding the open man. He makes everyone around him better.

Off the bench, the Broncos have explosive sophomore Mikey Thompson. The 6-3 guard had 11 double-digit games last season. Senior Thomas Bropleh is versatile and can play a number of positions. Junior Joe Hanstad is a solid shooter.


Edmunds Dukulis, a 6-9 forward from Latvia who sat out last season per NCAA eligibility rules, will be counted on to score inside. Junior college transfer James Webb III, a 6-9 forward, arguably will be the most athletic player on the roster. Freshman forward Nicholas Duncan hails from the Australian Institute of Sport — the same school that produced starters Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic — and should be a factor. Redshirt freshman forward Joey Nebeker and freshman guard Dezmyn Trent will add depth.

Final analysis
Factoid: 5. Boise State returns five starters. The Broncos are the only team that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament that brings back all five starters from last season.

Boise State should contend for a Mountain West championship in its third season in the conference. The Broncos are tough to guard because of their ability to spread the floor with 3-point shooters, and that gives Marks space to operate. Scoring won’t be an issue, but defending and rebounding will determine how this season plays out — teams with size and superior athleticism will cause Boise State trouble.

Taco Bell Arena has become one of the tougher courts in the West, as Rice’s squad went 14–1 at home last season. A nonconference game at Kentucky and a December trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic are tests that should give Boise State fans an idea of whether this season will be as special as they are hoping and expecting.

*photo courtesy of Boise State athletics

College Basketball: 2013-14 Boise State Preview
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-san-diego-state-preview

This preview and more on San Diego State and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

San Diego State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Steve Fisher (281-171 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
San Diego State is firmly entrenched as one of leading powers in the West, and two offseason developments figure to ensure that the Aztecs are a factor in the month of March.

First, the athletic department reversed course and elected to remain in the Mountain West, one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country, instead of dropping down to the inferior Big West due to football’s yearning to join a top-flight conference. The other key development occurred in mid-May when fifth-year senior forward Josh Davis decided to transfer from Tulane to San Diego State. Davis averaged 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last season for the Green Wave and is eligible to play immediately after earning his degree at Tulane.

The addition of Davis gives the Aztecs the bona fide star they would otherwise lack after standout Jamaal Franklin skipped his senior season in favor of the NBA. Davis’ presence will be crucial in a loaded league in which the Aztecs will be challenged by strong teams from New Mexico, UNLV and Boise State.


The addition of Davis gives San Diego State a player capable of racking up double-doubles, as he had 16 for Tulane last season. He is billed as the best frontcourt player in San Diego State’s program since Kawhi Leonard, now a budding star for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

The 6-8 Davis earned first-team All-Conference USA honors at Tulane and joins gritty junior JJ O’Brien as a frontcourt starter. O’Brien is a strong defender who is gradually improving his offensive repertoire.

Athletic sophomore Winston Shepard could make a big jump this season. He experienced consistency issues last season after arriving as one of the most ballyhooed recruits in program history. Shepard started just two games as a freshman and averaged 5.7 points while shooting only 39.3 percent from the field.

Sophomore post Skylar Spencer excelled on the defensive end with 51 blocked shots and will again be part of the rotation. Junior wing Dwayne Polee II underwhelmed last season after transferring from St. John’s but figures to get more minutes with Franklin gone. Junior post James Johnson will help in a backup role, and redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley has a nice shooting touch.


Replacing Franklin will be quite a chore, as he was the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season. Coach Steve Fisher supported his point guard’s decision to depart a season early, and Franklin was a second-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Senior Xavier Thames isn’t going to approach Franklin’s 17-point average, but he’s a capable floor leader despite his assists average dropping from 4.1 as a sophomore to 2.4 last season. Thames (9.5 ppg) is San Diego State’s top returning scorer but isn’t a strong shooter and dealt with periodic back issues last season. He is at his best when penetrating and drawing fouls.

Junior transfer Aqeel Quinn offers 3-point shooting prowess and has two years of major-college experience at Cal State Northridge. Quinn averaged 6.8 points as a sophomore.

Incoming freshman Dakarai Allen is expected to make immediate contributions as a defender. How he fares on the offensive end will determine how much of an impact he will make. Allen is one of two newcomers from Sheldon High in Sacramento. Guard D’Erryl Williams also chose the Aztecs and he will back up Thames this season.


Senior forward Josh Davis is an impact transfer who is expected to be San Diego State’s leading scorer and rebounder. Freshman guards Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams are both expected to contribute with Allen entering the fold as the more polished player. Junior guard Aqeel Quinn provides outside shooting punch and redshirt freshman wing Matt Shrigley will also be part of the rotation.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 8. Steve Fisher has strung together eight consecutive 20-win campaigns at a school that was one of the worst programs in the nation prior to his arrival in 1999.
San Diego State is seeking its fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth, and it would be a surprise if the Aztecs aren’t part of the 68-team field considering the proven ability of Fisher and head coach-in-waiting Brian Dutcher to reload on the fly.

The schedule has a few challenges — a road date at Kansas and a home contest against Arizona are the highlights — as San Diego State wants to make sure it is battle-tested. The conference slate will certainly be arduous, as the Mountain West will again be a fiercely competitive league with conference road wins hard to come by.

Even with all its recent success, San Diego State has won only three NCAA Tournament games in its history. That numbers should be four (at least) by the end of the 2013-14 season.

Photo courtesty of Ernie Anderson/San Diego State athletics

College Basketball: 2013-14 San Diego State Preview
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-coach-les-miles-has-postgame-rant-after-beating-florida

It’s been a while since a college football coach had a good rant.

Thankfully, LSU coach Les Miles was feeling a little feisty after Saturday’s win against Florida.

Miles was asked about a hammer and nails in relation to last year’s loss at Florida….and his response was priceless:

LSU Coach Les Miles Has Postgame Rant After Beating Florida
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 01:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/2013-legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-7
The Legends Poll top 25 saw its first significant shake-up after a wild weekend of upsets in college football.
Missouri and Texas provided the first upsets of the day, vaulting No. 14 Mizzou 11 spots after its 41-26 win over Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs fell eight spots to No. 15. 
Texas shocked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, springing a 36-20 upset in Dallas. The Longhorns moved into the rankings at No. 25 and Oklahoma dropped five spots to No. 17, which made No. 11 Baylor the highest ranked Big 12 team for the first time in the history of the conference.
No. 12 Stanford suffered one of the biggest tumbles in the rankings as well, falling eight spots after falling at Utah, 27-21.
Alabama, which received one less first place vote this week (13), Oregon and Clemson remained unchanged in the top 3 this week. No. 4 Ohio State moved up a spot and fifth-ranked Florida State made its first top 5 appearance of the season, setting up a top 5 showdown at Clemson next weekend.
No. 21 Virginia Tech was the only other newcomer to the rankings this week.
Northwestern and Notre Dame dropped out of the top 25.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll
1AlabamaAlabama (13)6-03971
2OregonOregon (3)6-03872
4Ohio StateOhio State6-03495
5Florida StateFlorida State5-03376
7Texas A&MTexas A&M5-12998
10South CarolinaSouth Carolina5-124515
13Miami (FL)Miami (FL)5-022513
16Texas TechTexas Tech6-015220
19Oklahoma StateOklahoma State4-18922
20Fresno StateFresno State5-07921
21Virginia TechVirginia Tech6-177-

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward.  You can see the entire Poll at


Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 18:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/golden-arm-performances-week-7
Transamerica is a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award is presented each year by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Education Foundation to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments. Candidates must be a graduating senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class. As a leading financial services company, Transamerica takes pride in being there for those moments when our customers say, “It’s real now.” Moments like the birth of a new baby, the opening of a new business, college acceptance, retirement, and other key milestones. By showing our support for the young men on the Top 30 watch list, we look forward to seeing them thrill fans around the country and experience moments during the season and beyond when they say, “It’s real now.” 
1. Sean Mannion, Orgeon State
Another week meant another big game for Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. No quarterback on the Golden Arm Award watch list had more passing yards than Mannion, who passed for 493 yards and four touchdowns in a road win at Washington State. Mannion continues to put up huge numbers on a regular basis. Mannion currently leads the nation in passing yards (2,511 yards) and touchdowns (25) and has only been intercepted three times this season. He is the only quarterback in the country averaging over 400 yards per game.
David Fales2. David Fales, San Jose State
The San Jose State Spartans were led to a road victory at Colorado State by David Fales. Fales passed for 431 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 62-yard pass to Tyler Winston in the fourth quarter to break a 27-27 tie. Remarkably, that was the shortest distance thrown by Fales on a touchdown in the game. Fales had an 83-yard pass and a 77-yard pass for touchdowns in the second quarter as well. This was the second time this season Fales surpassed 400 passing yards in a single game.
3.  Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Clemson struggled early on against Boston College despite playing at home, but Tajh Boyd never got rattled and eventually helped lead the Tigers to another win to remain undefeated. Boyd became the school’s all-time leading passer while throwing for 334 yards and a touchdown in the game. Boyd also added 33 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Next week Boyd will go head-to-head with freshman sensation Jameis Winston and Florida State.
4. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Staying in the same state, South Carolina’s starting quarterback had a big afternoon in helping the Gamecocks rout Arkansas on the road. Shaw completed 19 of 28 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to Bruce Ellington in the second quarter to take a 17-point lead into halftime. Shaw also added 37 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown late in the third quarter as the Gamecocks pulled away from the Razorbacks with ease.
5. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Arizona State struck quickly against Colorado when Taylor Kelly completed a 69-yard pass to Jaelen Strong for an early touchdown. As the Sun Devils were off to the races against Colorado, Kelly tossed a second touchdown pass to Davon Coleman early in the second quarter and ran 17 yards for a touchdown just before halftime for a big lead at the break. Kelly passed for 233 yards, averaging a season high 12.3 yards per attempt and avoided an interception.

Sponsored by Transamerica


Golden Arm Performances of Week 7
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 18:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/mariota-named-athlon-sports-national-player-week

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota may have entered the weekend as the Heisman frontrunner, but Saturday’s 45-24 win at Washington erased any doubt.

Mariota led one of the most impressive wins by a national championship by taking apart the stout Huskies’ defense, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

Washington entered the game allowing only 146.4 passing yards per game and two total passing touchdowns. Mariota crushed those numbers with his usual efficiency. The sophomore completed 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 88 yards and a score.

A testament to Mariota’s ability and Oregon’s depth on offense, the Ducks amassed 631 yards despite missing running back De’Anthony Thomas and tight end Colt Lyerla for the entire game. Top wide receiver Josh Huff also missed time during the game with an injury.

Mariota has accounted for 25 total touchdowns this season (17 passing and eight rushing) without a turnover as Oregon defeated Washington for the 10th consecutive time.

Athlon Sports Week 7 National Awards

National Offensive Player of the Week: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Ducks quarterback was brilliant again, this time on the road against a ranked divisional foe and rival. Mariota led the Ducks to an easy 45-24 win over Washington by completing 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He added 88 yards rushing on 13 carries and another touchdown on the ground. He is now 18-1 as a starter with 63 career total touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota hasn't thrown a pick in 233 attempts.

National Defensive Player of the Week: Nate Orchard, LB, Utah
Fellow defensive linemates Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi have made more plays and garnered more headlines through five games, but Saturday night's upset of Stanford was Orchard's coming out party. He registered his second and third sack of the season and forced two huge fumbles for a Utah defense that simply outplayed the Cardinal for most of the game. He finished with five total tackles on the night and was a big part of the final minute goal-line stand that won the game for the Utes.

National Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and now leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.

Coordinator of the week: Major Applewhite, Texas
The defense was off to a bad start for Texas, but the offense has been nearly as disjointed this season for Texas. Not against Oklahoma. Quarterback Case McCoy missed some open deep throws, but he still finished 13 of 22 for 190 yards. They key for Applewhite’s offense though was third down conversions (13 of 20) and a two-headed rushing attack from Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray that combined for 253 yards on the ground.

Athlon Week 7 Conference Awards

Offense: Anthony Boone, Duke
Defense: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Freshman: Jack Tocho, NC State
Coordinator: Jim Knowles, Duke

Big 12
Tevin Reese, Baylor
Defense: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
Freshman: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
Coordinator: Major Applewhite, Texas

Big Ten
Offense: Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
Defense: D.J. Olaniyan, Penn State
Freshman: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Coordinator: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin

Offense: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Defense: Nate Orchard, Utah
Freshman: Andy Phillips, Utah
Coordinators: Dennis Erickson/Kalani Sitake, Utah

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Defense: Lamin Barrow, LSU
Freshman: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Coordinator: Dave Steckel, Missouri


Mariota named Athlon Sports National Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 14:53
Path: /college-football/2013-acc-week-7-recap-and-awards

With Florida State and Miami on bye, Week 7 was off the radar in terms of national attention. However, Saturday’s games set the table for what should be an interesting second half of the season in the ACC.

Clemson survived an upset bid by Boston College, while Virginia Tech won its sixth consecutive game by defeating Pittsburgh 19-9.

Duke and Syracuse scored key victories, which should help both teams in the race to get bowl eligible .

Elsewhere around the ACC, Georgia Tech lost its third consecutive game, while Maryland defeated Virginia 27-26 without starting quarterback C.J. Brown.

ACC Week 7 Recap and Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: Anthony Boone, QB, Duke
Still recovering from a collarbone injury, Boone wasn’t guaranteed to start Saturday’s game against Navy. However, Brandon Connette was injured after practice on Thursday and was ruled out just before kickoff. Boone was Duke’s starter prior to his injury against Memphis on Sept. 7, and the junior was sharp in his return to the starting lineup. Boone completed 31 of 38 throws for 295 yards and three scores. The junior did not throw an interception, and the 295 passing yards were the best by Boone in his three starts in 2013.

Defensive Player of the Week: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley gets the nod for the second week in a row as Athlon’s ACC defensive player of the week. The junior recorded five tackles (two for a loss), one pass breakup and one sack in a 24-14 win over Boston College. Those numbers are solid, but Beasley’s biggest contribution came in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Tony Steward forced a fumble from Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig, which Beasley picked up and returned for a 13-yard touchdown. The score gave Clemson a 10-point cushion, which was enough to hold off the Eagles’ upset bid.

Coordinator of the Week: Jim Knowles, Duke
Duke’s defense has received plenty of criticism over the last two years, as the Blue Devils finished 11th in the ACC in total defense last season and allowed 36 points a game. And in the first five games of 2013, Duke ranked 12th in the ACC in total defense, allowing 400 yards per game. However, the Blue Devils turned in one of their best defensive performances against a FBS team in recent years, as Navy was held to seven points and 230 rushing yards. The Midshipmen did not score a point in the second half and lost three turnovers. The seven points allowed by Duke was the fewest against a FBS team since holding Vanderbilt to just seven points in 2008. Although the Blue Devils have struggled at times on defense, Knowles and the defensive staff deserve a lot of credit for the performance against Navy.

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech
The pickings are slim here, but let’s give a tip of the cap to Virginia Tech. The Hokies used another strong defensive effort to beat Pittsburgh on Saturday, moving to 6-1 on the season. Last year, Virginia Tech won six games in the regular season and needed a bowl victory over Rutgers to get to 7-6. The offense is still a work in progress, averaging only 328.4 yards per game. However, quarterback Logan Thomas has not thrown an interception in three games. The Hokies are holding opponents to just 256 yards per game and only one opponent has scored more than 20 points in a contest this year.

Freshman of the Week: Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
Tocho made his first start of the season against Syracuse and made an instant impact for NC State’s defense. The true freshman recorded three tackles and picked off Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt twice. Tocho also added one pass breakup. The three-star recruit injured his shoulder against the Orange but made a solid contribution for NC State’s defense when he was on the field.

5th Down

• Pittsburgh averaged just 3.8 yards per play against Virginia Tech.

• Maryland linebacker L.A. Goree turned in a strong performance against Virginia, recording 15 stops (with one tackle for a loss).

• In Saturday’s game against Clemson, Boston College running back Andre Williams was held under 100 yards for only the second time this season.

• Virginia Tech’s defense recorded eight sacks against Pittsburgh, with three coming from Dadi Nicolas.

• Virginia quarterback David Watford threw for a season-high 263 yards against Maryland.

• Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded three tackles for a loss and two sacks against Virginia Tech.

• Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his last three games.

• Syracuse scored its first ACC win by beating NC State 24-10 on Saturday.

• Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis recorded four tackles for a loss and two sacks against BYU.

• For the first time since 2011, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has not tossed an interception in three consecutive games. 

2013 ACC Week 7 Recap and Awards
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 13:23
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-7-recap-and-awards

Baylor did not have its finest offensive day in Manhattan, nearly doubling its punt total on the season and picking up its first two three and outs.

The run game was held in check for the most part, which put the onus on the Bears’ big-play receivers to preserve the undefeated start.

Tevin Reese delivered, first with an 83-yard touchdown catch in the first half, but his biggest play came in the fourth quarter when he beat Kansas State’s secondary for a 54-yard TD catch to give Baylor the lead for good.

Kansas State’s defense, though, can’t be ignored. Linebacker Ryan Mueller had two key plays as the Wildcats made Baylor’s offense look mortal for the first time this season.

Big 12 Week 7 Recap and Awards

Offensive player of the week: Tevin Reese, Baylor
With Baylor’s run game struggling, Tevin Reese made sure the Bears still had big-play potential in the 35-25 win over Kansas State. Reese finished with five receptions for 184 yards and two touchdown catches. Reese had an 83-yard touchdown catch early, but snuck behind the Kansas State secondary for a 54-yard go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Defensive player of the week: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
Despite the loss, Kansas State’s Mueller was the best defensive player on the field. Mueller turned in one of the best plays of the game with a sack, strip and fumble recovery on Bryce Petty in the third quarter. Mueller finished with seven tackles and two tackles for a loss.

Freshman of the week: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
Another week and another freshman quarterback thriving for Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. Webb replaced an injured Baker Mayfield and didn’t miss a beat, completing 35 of 56 passes for 415 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 42-35 win over Iowa State.

Team of the week: Texas
Tough to argue with a Longhorns team that changed the fortunes of its entire season with a 36-20 win over Oklahoma. Texas is 3-0 in the Big 12 and finally played to its talent level, particularly on defense. Texas held Oklahoma to 276 total yards. Oklahoma managed to convert only 2 of 13 third downs. The Longhorns, in bad shape after losses to BYU and Ole Miss, could build quite the Big 12 resume against TCU, Kansas and West Virginia in the next three games.

Coordinator of the week: Major Applewhite, Texas
The defense was off to a bad start for Texas, but the offense has been nearly as disjointed this season for Texas. Not against Oklahoma. Quarterback Case McCoy missed some open deep throws, but he still finished 13 of 22 for 190 yards. They key for Applewhite’s offense though was third down conversions (13 of 20) and a two-headed rushing attack from Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray that combined for 253 yards on the ground.

Fifth Down

• Not only did Texas pick up its first win over Oklahoma since 2009, the Longhorns got their first lead over OU in four years. The Longhorns took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and led for the final 48:25.

• Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray became the first duo in Texas history to rush for 100 yards apiece against Oklahoma.

• Oklahoma’s 147 yards in penalties against Texas was the sixth-highest total in school history.

• Oklahoma gave up a punt return for a touchdown for the first time since 2002 when Colorado’s Jeremy Bloom ran one back for 80 yards against the Sooners. Texas’ Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a score against OU.

• Kansas State held Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk to 56 rushing yards on 12 carries, the first time Seastrunk failed to rush for 100 yards in 10 games.

• Baylor didn’t have a three-and-out in its first four games, but K-State held Baylor to two of them Saturday.

• Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro caught nine passes for 143 yards, giving him five consecutive games with eight receptions.

• Texas Tech rushed for 251 yards, the most for the Red Raiders since the pre-Mike Leach days with a 257-yard performance against Iowa State in 1999.

• TCU’s 27-17 win over Kansas was the Horned Frogs first Big 12 win at home.

Big 12 Week 7 Recap and Awards
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 13:20
Path: /college-football/sec-week-7-recap-and-awards-2013

Missouri was the talk of the SEC during the daylight hours, but Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M grabbed the headlines late in the day with a last-second win against Ole Miss. Elsewhere, LSU topped Florida in an old-school defensive struggle, Alabama smothered Kentucky and South Carolina ruined homecoming at Arkansas.

SEC Week 7 Recap and Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Not even a knee injury can slow down the most exciting football player in the nation. Manziel bounced back from what looked to be a serious injury in the first quarter to lead Texas A&M to a thrilling 41-38 win at Ole Miss. For the fourth time in his career, Manziel topped 300 yards passing (346) and 100 yards rushing (113) in the same game. He failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, but he scored twice on the ground — on highlight-reel runs of five yards in the third quarter and six yards in the fourth. Manziel leads the SEC in total offense with 377 yards per game.

Defensive Player of the Week: Lamin Barrow, LSU
There were many stars for an LSU defense that limited Florida to six points and 240 total yards. Barrow, a senior linebacker, led the way with a game-high 13 tackles, including one for a loss, and one pass break-up. Barrow leads LSU with 49 tackles – 13 more than any other player on the team.

Team of the Week: Missouri
Missouri is all alone in the SEC East with a 2-0 record after beating Georgia 41-26 in Athens. The Tigers were held to a season-low 375 total yards but won the turnover battle 4-to-0, converted on 5-of-12 on third down and scored a touchdown on all three trips inside the red zone. Senior wide receiver La’Damian Washington was the offensive star for Mizzou with seven catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The news, however, was not all good for the Tigers: Quarterback James Franklin, who was enjoying a banner senior season, went down with a separated shoulder that is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the regular season.

Coordinator of the Week: Dave Steckel, Missouri
Missouri’s offense had been the talk of the SEC in the past week, but the Tigers can play a little defense as well. Mizzou held Georgia to three offensive touchdowns — the Dawgs’ fewest since last year’s SEC Championship Game — and made several huge plays in its huge 41-26 win in Athens. MU forced four turnovers, none bigger than Michael Sam’s 21-yards scoop-and-score after Shane Ray’s sack-and-strip of Aaron Murray late in the second quarter. Georgia still had 452 yards of offense but averaged a season-low 5.9 yards per play.

Freshman of the Week: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
A true freshman from Texas, Robinson was a major force in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line on Saturday night in Lexington. He had six tackles and two sacks (for 14 lost yards) in the Crimson Tide’s 48-7 win over Kentucky. Robinson leads Alabama in both tackles for a loss (five) and sacks (six).

Fifth Down

• Arkansas only had 38 offensive plays in its 52-7 loss at home to South Carolina. The Razorbacks had 30 yards passing and were held to eight first downs.

• In LSU’s 17-6 win over Florida, Zach Mettenberger averaged less than 10 yards per attempt for the first time since Week 1 against TCU. LSU’s senior quarterback threw for a season-low 152 yards on 17 attempts for an 8.9-yard average.

• Aaron Murray threw two interceptions against Missouri on Saturday, marking only the second time in his career that he’s thrown more than one pick in a home game. Georgia’s senior quarterback threw three INTs in a 24-10 win over Mississippi State in 2011.

• South Carolina running back Mike Davis has rushed for 100 yards or more in five of six games this season. The sophomore tailback picked up 128 yards on 19 carries in the Gamecocks’ 52-7 win over Arkansas. He leads the SEC in rushing with 123.7 yards per game. 

• Auburn leads the SEC with seven offensive plays of at least 50 yards. Last season, the Tigers had a total of three such plays in 12 games.

Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 11:17
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-7-recap-lessons-texas-oregon-and-sec

One of the hallmarks of the 2013 season as it reached its halfway point was its stability.

Only three top-10 teams lost through the first six weeks of the season. Two of those losses were inevitable (No. 8 Clemson over No. 5 Georgia, No. 1 Alabama over No. 7 Texas A&M) and the third wasn’t much of an upset at all as No. 11 Georgia defeated No. 6 South Carolina in Athens.

Finally, we had a chaotic weekend.

It started Thursday when No. 8 Louisville defeated Rutgers in a game where both teams were allergic to the end zone.

On Saturday, an unranked opponent knocked out a national championship contender when Utah took a lead on Stanford and never let go. Before that, Georgia found a wild SEC game it couldn’t win when Missouri upset the Bulldogs in Athens despite an injury to its starting quarterback.

Oklahoma wasn’t among the top-10 teams to lose, but the Sooners’ loss to Texas was nonetheless the surprise of the day.

The upheaval was enough for teams like Baylor, Clemson and Texas A&M to feel fortunate escaping close games with wins.


Three Big Lessons

Oregon gave us the most impressive win of the season. The season has seen its share of shootouts (Clemson over Georgia, Georgia over LSU) and tense road wins (Ohio State over Northwestern, Alabama over Texas A&M). But Oregon gave us the most impressive win by a top team this season. The Ducks’ 45-24 win over Washington on the road was as complete as any win this season. Marcus Mariota carved up a defense that hadn’t allowed a 200-yard passer all season by passing for 366 yards. Oregon rolled up 631 yards despite missing injured De’Anthony Thomas and departed tight end Colt Lyerla. Many other title contenders have been stout on one side of the ball in big games this season, but Oregon separated itself with a standout defensive performance. Bishop Sankey got his yards on the ground (167 on 28 carries), but Keith Price was held in check. Washington also turned the ball over twice.

Texas can be really, really good when it wants to be. The Longhorns are well on the way to salvaging their season by defeating rival Oklahoma 36-20 to move to 3-0 in the Big 12. The difference between the team that defeated the Sooners for the first time since 2009 and the one that lost to BYU and Ole Miss was stark. Texas’ maligned defense stifled Oklahoma to 4.5 yards per play and had two interceptions, one returned for at touchdown. The Sooners, for some reason, limited Blake Bell in the running game, helping Texas to hold OU to 130 rushing yards. And even though quarterback Case McCoy missed two deep potential touchdown passes and an easy fourth down conversion early in the game, he completed 13 of 21 passes for 190 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Against a stout Oklahoma defense, Texas went 13 of 20 on third down, converting eight of their first 10. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray controlled the clock with 120 rushing yards apiece, and Daje Johnson proved why he’s Texas’ most important playmaker with a punt return for a touchdown. Mack Brown’s future remains unclear with a new athletic director on the way to Austin, but Texas’ most complete game of the season means the Longhorns still have conference championship goals ahead of them.

Baylor’s offense is mortal on the road. The Bears scored 35 points, won by 10 and picked up their first Big 12 road win since Nov. 12, 2011. But the Bears look awfully vulnerable away from Waco. Baylor had its first two three-and-outs of the season and punted six times (compared to seven in the previous four games). Kansas State showed the key to limiting the Baylor offense was to bottle up Lache Seastrunk. The Baylor running back rushed for 56 yards, the first time he’s been held to double digits in 10 games. Meanwhile, Bryce Petty completed 10 of 19 passes but did so for 318 yards, 219 of which came on three long touchdown passes. Perhaps it says something about Baylor’s wild start to the season that facing adversity on the road and winning by 10 is a red flag of sorts, but the Bears looked more vulnerable than it has all season. The question is if anyone on Baylor’s road schedule — Kansas, Oklahoma State or TCU — can capitalize.

Three Re-evaluated Conference Races

SEC East. Injuries have decimated the contenders in the SEC East, both old and new. Missouri moved to 6-0 by defeating Georgia but lost quarterback James Franklin for at least six weeks with a separated shoulder in the process. Backup Maty Mauk was 3 for 3 against Georgia and battled Franklin in the preseason for the starting job, but Franklin was en route to a breakout year. If there’s any silver lining for Missouri, every other SEC East contender has significant injury concerns. The healthiest team in the division might be South Carolina, who got Jadeveon Clowney back from sore ribs Saturday. Clowney, however, has bone spurs in his foot that will require surgery at the end of the season.

Big 12. The Big 12 was the toughest conference for Athlon Sports to pick during the preseason, but as recently as last week, the league looked like a two-team race between Oklahoma and Baylor. The Sooners and Bears may still be the most complete teams in the league, but it’s more and more evident a two-loss team could represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma and Baylor can't be considered the only contenders for the league title. Texas is finally playing up to its talent level, and Texas Tech is still sitting at 5-0 and 3-0 in the league. Oklahoma flopped on both sides of the ball against the Longhorns, and Baylor’s not invincible.

ACC Atlantic. Clemson needed four quarters to put away Boston College, but it’s probably a safe bet the Tigers hit the reset button entering next week’s game against Florida State. Still, it’s worth noting Florida State had the week off while Clemson needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Eagles at home. Beyond the two division favorites, the rest of the Atlantic showed little depth. After losing 63-0 to Florida State, Maryland showed little signs the rout was an aberration in a 27-26 win at home over lowly Virginia. NC State also dropped its second consecutive game, losing to Wake Forest and Syracuse back-to-back. Just a reminder: NC State also gave Clemson fits back on Sept. 19.

Moving the Chains

Wisconsin. A Wisconsin rout of Northwestern was predictable, with the Wildcats losing an emotional game to Ohio State while the Badgers sat on a bye week. Wisconsin wasted little time delivering. The Badgers won 35-6 in Wisconsin-like fashion with 284 rushing yards. Wisconsin might not win the Big Ten leaders division, but they made it awfully tough for Northwestern (0-2 in the Big Ten) to win the Legends.

Travis Wilson, Utah. The Utes’ quarterback has had quite the roller coaster season. He threw three interceptions in a shootout with Oregon State, passed for 273 yards in Utah’s win over rival BYU and then six interceptions against UCLA last week. It’s going to be tough to match Saturday, though, when Wilson  completed 22 of 33 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in an upset of No. 5 Stanford. Utah has struggled to win consistently in the Pac-12, but the sophomore Wilson is clearly the future.

Sean Mannion, Oregon State. The Mannion record watch continues. Mannion completed 34 of 51 yards for 493 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 52-24 win over Washington State to continue his march toward the Pac-12 passing record. Mannion topped 400 yards for the fourth time this season. After a loss to Eastern Washington in the opener, Oregon State has won five in a row, including a 3-0 start in the Pac-12. The Beavers face Cal next week before a brutal final stretch in Pac-12 play.

False Starts

Stanford’s national title hopes. A one-loss Pac-12 team could be a viable national championship contender, but Stanford probably didn’t want to put that to the test. After a 27-21 loss to Utah, Stanford likely needs to defeat Oregon on Nov. 7 to have a shot at the Pac-12 North division, not just a BCS title. Ty Montgomery tried to save the day with two touchdowns and 295 all-purpose yards (131 receiving), but the Stanford defense didn’t have its best day. A week after a close call with Washington, Stanford allowed touchdown drives of 75, 79 and 99 yards in the first half.

Michigan’s execution. The Wolverines did everything they could to give Penn State a key 43-40 win in triple overtime. Quarterback Devin Gardner passed for 240 yards and rushed for 127, but he returned to his early season form by throwing two interceptions and fumbling once before halftime. In the second half and overtime, kicker Brandon Gibbons failed to convert his last three field goal attempts, with two misses and one block. Though Michigan found an explosive weapon in Devin Funchess, Gardner accounted for all but 28 yards of total offense against the Nittany Lions.

Oklahoma’s offense. The Sooners’ offense has been a work in progress for most of the season, but Oklahoma had no answers against a maligned Texas defense. Blake Bell had his worst game of the season, completing 12 of 26 passes for 134 yards with two interceptions. Despite Texas’ inability to stop read option quarterbacks, Oklahoma rarely called for Bell to run the ball. “If they wanna pass the ball, they can pass it,” Bell told reporters after the game. “If they wanna run it, they can run it. I really don't know what they're thinking most of the time.”

Heisman Movers

Marcus Mariota, Oregon. It’s tough to argue against Mariota as the Heisman frontrunner through seven weeks. Against a team that had allowed two touchdown passes all season, Mariota threw three. Against a team that allowed an average of 146.4 yards per game and 4.3 yards per attempt, Mariota threw for 366 and 11.8 per pass. Mariota continued to be turnover-free and show impressive poise on the move in the passing game.

Aaron Murray, Georgia. Murray had been a Heisman contender thanks to late-game heroics through the season, but that took a hit against Missouri. After one of his fumbles was returned for a touchdown, Murray threw two fourth quarter interceptions to end a Georgia comeback bid.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The defending Heisman winner is in the mix, especially after coming up in big spots in the only major late-night game Saturday. Manziel came back from an injury scare to his knee to complete 31 of 39 passes for 346 yards while rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-38 win over Ole Miss. He made a bad decision on an interception in the end zone and lost a fumble that the Rebels converted to a touchdown, but most people may remember his game-tying touchdown run in a tight game on the road.

Stat Watch

Sorry We Doubted You
Logan Thomas
Oregon State

Though This Would Be Close. It Wasn’t
BYU 38, Georgia Tech 20
Michigan State 42, Indiana 28
South Carolina 52, Arkansas 7

Three Close Calls
Clemson 24, Boston College 14
Maryland 27, Virginia 26
Mississippi State 21, Bowling Green 20

Dang, They’re Good

Dang, They’re Bad
NC State
Western Michigan

Best Games Next Week
Florida at Missouri
UCLA at Stanford
Florida State at Clemson
304. Rushing yards for Army running back Terry Baggett. Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis never rushed for 300 yards at Army. No one did until Baggett rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries in a 50-25 win over Eastern Michigan.

474. Yards for Michigan State against Indiana. The Spartans had their best offensive game against a Big Ten opponent since the Kirk Cousins era in the 42-28 win over Indiana. The Spartans’ 473 yards was the most for Michigan State in a Big Ten game since 536 on Oct. 9, 2010 in a 34-17 win over Michigan. Among other milestones: Michigan State scored 40 points in a Big Ten game for the first time since a 55-3 win over Indiana on Nov. 12, 2011.

26. Points Alabama has allowed to teams other than Texas A&M. Alabama’s 49-42 win over Texas A&M at the time seemed to be a sign of offensive supremacy in the SEC this season. At least for the Crimson Tide, the 42-point day on defense was an aberration. After a 48-7 win over Kentucky, Alabama has allowed only two touchdowns outside of the Texas A&M game.

Buried on the Depth Chart

Houston. Thirteen undefeated teams remain and none is more unlikely than 5-0 Houston. The Cougars needed to come from behind to beat Memphis 25-15, but the Cougars already matched last season’s win total despite changing starters at quarterback.

USF. In September, the Bulls appeared to be one of the worst teams in the country in an 0-4 start, including losses to McNeese State and FAU. But USF won an ugly 13-10 game against winless Connecticut to improve to 2-0 in the American Athletic Conference. Don’t count on USF to challenge Louisville in the league, though. Quarterbacks in this game combined to go 23 of 71.

UNLV. It’s not the most impressive 4-2 start, but four wins by midseason is a huge deal for UNLV. The Rebels defeated Hawaii 39-37 on Saturday to move the UNLV to 2-0 in the Mountain West. UNLV has defeated Central Michigan, Western Illinois, New Mexico and the Rainbow Warriors to get here, making in the most successful season under Bobby Hauck. UNLV hasn’t won more than five games since 2003.

Three Defensive Statements

LSU. The Tigers’ 17-6 win over Florida was a return to normalcy in Baton Rouge as the LSU defense finally carried the offense again. LSU’s front seven led by Lamin Barrow, Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson held Florida to 2.8 yards per carry and gave Tyler Murphy little time to pass. Murphy finished 15 of 27 for 115 yards with four sacks as Florida had to settle for two field goals.

Vic Beasley, Clemson. The nation’s most productive defensive end plays in South Carolina, but it’s not Jadeveon Clowney. Beasley helped save Clemson from an upset with a 13-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery for a touchdown and added two tackles for a loss in the 24-14 win. Beasley has 12 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks this season.

Missouri. The Tigers entered the game against Georgia ranked fifth in the SEC in fewest yards allowed per play (5.4) and second in the league in takeaways (11), but Missouri didn’t get much attention for its defense. Even against a depleted Georgia offense, the Tigers made a defensive statement in the 41-26 upset. The defensive line had lost first-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson before the season but controlled the line of scrimmage against the Bulldogs. Missouri gave up 454 yards but dominated the big-play department with two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

Three Fun Things from Coaches

Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Only the most discerning college football viewer would have noticed a conspicuous absence Saturday. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder coached the loss to Baylor without his windbreaker from the 2012 Cotton Bowl, a piece of attire that gained notoriety as Snyder wore it for nearly every game since the loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl following the 2011 season.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: Give the Wildcats coach credit for being optimistic after falling behind 21-6 at halftime to Wisconsin. “I'm looking forward to the next 30 minutes because the first 30 minutes sucked," Fitzgerald told a sideline reporter. The second half wasn’t much better. Northwestern lost 35-6.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. Speaking of Arkansas, Steve Spurrier piled onto a 52-7 win over Arkansas a bit, saying: “I do feel badly for Arkansas. That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that.”

Conference races get shuffled in tumultuous Saturday for the top 10
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:49
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-7-recap-and-awards

Wisconsin was the most impressive team of the Week 7 Big Ten slate. The Badgers completely and thoroughly dominated Northwestern and may be the second-best team in the league. Contenders Michigan State and Nebraska both made quality statements by handling Indiana and Purdue with relative ease.

However, Penn State stole the show this weekend as the Nittany Lions outlasted Michigan in four overtimes in front of 110,000 whited-out Nittany Lions fans. It wasn't the prettiest overtime affair, but it continued 2013's dramatics.

Here are the Big Ten's Week 7 Superlatives:

Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State 
Melvin Gordon powered the Wisconsin rushing attack, and Christian Hackenberg led an extraordinary comeback. But Jeremy Langford single-handedly defeated the Hoosiers. The junior tailback had 58 career rushing attempts coming into the game against Indiana but turned in a career performance. Langford rushed 23 times for 109 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards and scored four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). He matched Indiana's 28 points by himself.

Defensive Player of the Week: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State
The soft-spoken defensive end had a coming out party of sorts on Saturday night against Michigan. The senior was a disruptive force all night against the Wolverines, sacking Devin Gardner 2.5 times and forcing a key fumble. He also added eight total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Olaniyan is third in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss on the season.

Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Despite the excitement in Happy Valley, the Badgers were the league's premier team in Week 7. Wisconsin dismantled Northwestern in every aspect of the game. Gary Andersen's squad was balanced on offense — throwing for 241 yards and rushing for 286  — and didn't allow a touchdown on defense. Northwestern mustered just six points, 10 first downs, 241 yards and were held to 2-of-17 on third downs. This might be the second-best and most complete team in the Big Ten.

Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin
Northwestern came into the weekend averaging 39 points and 474 yards per game on 6.4 yards per play. Aranda's unit dominated the dynamic and explosive WIldcats offense by physically imposing its will along the line of scrimmage. The Badgers held Northwestern to 44 yards rushing on 25 carries and knocked both Venric Mark and Kain Colter out of the game (Colter returned). Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally in both total defense (267.3 ypg) and scoring defense (13.2 ppg).

Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.

Fifth Down

• Penn State has won four straight games over Michigan.

• Michigan State kept the Old Brass Spittoon by defeating Indiana for the fifth consecutive time. The Spartans haven't lost at home to the Hoosiers since 2001. MSU outscored IU 28-14 over the final 30:37 of game time.

• After 10 more flags, the Spartans are last in the Big Ten with 45 penalties and 122nd nationally with 78.8 penalty yards given up per game.

• Nebraska moved to 5-1 on the year and 5-1 when Ameer Abdullah rushes for at least 100 yards. He carried 20 times for 126 yards against Purdue and his lowest total of the season thus far was 98 yards against UCLA.

• Melvin Gordon leads the Big Ten in rushing (145.0 ypg) and is third nationally, just two yards behind Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (147.0) and less than five behind Washington's Bishop Sankey (149.8).

• Wisconsin's Joel Stave is third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (146.65) and fourth in passing (216.2 ypg). He set a career high with 295 yards last game against Ohio State and tied a career high this week against Northwestern with three TD passes.

• Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten averaging more than 220 yards rushing and passing per game in 2013.

• Venric Mark left the game against Wisconsin on Saturday for X-rays on a leg injury. Wisconsin star wideout Jared Abbrederis also left the game early with a head injury.

Big Ten Week 7 Recap and Awards
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:08
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-new-england-patriots-preview-and-prediction

History may no longer be at stake, but all eyes will still be on the quarterbacks this afternoon when the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots meet up at 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX. Drew Bees brings his undefeated Saints into Gillette Stadium while Tom Brady hopes some home cooking can jump-start a Patriots offense that hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard.

To that point, Brady’s streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended last week in Cincinnati at 52. If Brady had thrown one against the Bengals, he would have had the chance this afternoon to tie Brees’ record of 54 straight games in front of the home crowd. Instead, NFL fans will just to have “settle” for a matchup of the two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

4 Things to Watch

Is Brady’s Bunch Back?
Before training camp even opened, Tom Brady had to start thinking about life without wide receivers Wes Welker (signed with Denver as free agent) and Brandon Lloyd (released in March), tight ends Rob Gronkowski (back surgery in June) and Aaron Hernandez (released in late June following his arrest for muder and other crimes), and running back Danny Woodhead (signed with San Diego). This quintet represented Brady’s top five receivers from 2012, accounting for a combined total of 338 receptions for 3,984 yards and 29 receiving touchdowns. New England signed free agent Danny Amendola to take Welker’s roster spot, added wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce through the draft and signed free agent rookie Kenbrell Thompkins to restock the cupboard. However, the transition has not been without its rough patches, including Amendola getting hurt in Week 1 and missing the next three games. Amendola returned to the lineup last week and is fully expected to be out there again today. At the beginning of this week, it also appeared that Gronkowski would finally be in uniform against New Orleans. However, that initial optimism has dimmed quite a bit and although he is listed as questionable, the team is not expecting Gronkowski to play. So for yet another week, Brady won’t have his full arsenal of pass-catchers, but perhaps just having Amendola available, even if it’s for only a limited number of snaps, will help take some of the load off of the rookies. Without Gronk and getting less than two full games from Amendola, Brady has thrown for 1,211 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions through five games. At this point last season, those numbers were 1,450, eight and one. Brady is starting to get his new band together. Now it’s time to find out what sort of music they can make.

Tight End Tango
Although now it’s looking more and more likely that Gronkowski won’t play today, this game will still feature Jimmy Graham, one of the NFL’s most dynamic and dangerous tight ends. How much of an impact have these two had on their respective teams? In 2011, this duo combined for 189 catches, 2,637 yards and 28 touchdowns. Even though Gronk was limited to just 11 games last season because of a broken forearm and other health issues, he and Graham still accounted for a total of 140 grabs for 1,672 yards and 20 scores in 26 games between them. This season, with Gronk sidelined after offseason back surgery, Graham has taken his play to a whole new level. Graham entered Week 6 as the NFL leader in receiving yards with 593 on 37 receptions (16.0 ypc), and he has caught six touchdown passes. He has posted four straight 100-yard games and was named NFL Player of the Month for September, a first for a tight end. When healthy, these two big, physically gifted targets create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. With Gronkowski missing a lot of practice time early and only participating in a limited basis more recently, it will be interesting to see how prepared the Patriots are to defend Graham, who is similar to Gronkowski in many ways. One thing is for sure, if the Patriots are successful in limiting the damage Graham does, they will be the first team to tame the beast, if you will.

Head Coach Chess Match
Sean Payton has a reputation for being an offensive mastermind. Bill Belichick cut his teeth in the NFL as a defensive coordinator and has three Super Bowl rings as proof of his expertise on that side of the ball. Both have coordinators, but everyone knows who is calling the shots when it comes to the Saints offense and Patriots defense. Payton’s value to his team goes well beyond his play-calling prowess, as evidenced by the Saints’ 5-0 start following a 7-9 showing last season while he was serving a yearlong suspension for his role in the BountyGate scandal. With New England’s offense struggling to find its rhythm and consistency, it’s critical that the Patriots’ defense puts forth its best effort to try and limit the Saints’ offense. This is where the coaching chess match will come to the forefront, as Payton, one of the league’s most creative and aggressive play-callers will go brain-to-brain with Belichick, a master defensive tactician.

Don’t Forget about the Running Game
New Orleans has Drew Brees and New England has Brady, but whichever team is successful running the ball could end up winning this one. For starters, nothing is more effective in opening up the passing game than a productive rushing attack. Not only does it slow down a pass rush or make defensive coordinators more hesitant to blitz, it keeps the defense on its toes and doesn’t allow them to focus entirely on stopping the pass. Second, both the Saints and Patriots have been somewhat susceptible to the rush this season. The Saints (108.6 ypg) are 18th in the league in rushing defense with the Patriots (116.4) a few spots behind them in 23rd. The Patriots have had considerably more success running the ball than the Saints, but that doesn’t mean that Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas can’t pick their spots and make impact plays on the ground when New Orleans has the football. For New England, Stevan Ridley has gotten off to a slow start (3.7 ypc) and he missed last week’s game because of a thigh injury. In light of Ridley’s struggles, the Patriots have shifted to more of a committee approach in their backfield with LeGarrette Blount (leads team with 206 yards) getting most of the work and Brandon Bolden (6.6 ypc) getting an occasional carry. Either team is capable of winning without much assistance from its running game, but a little help on the ground certainly wouldn’t hurt their chances of winding up victorious this afternoon.

Key Matchup: Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady
While they don’t truly go head-to-head against each other, it’s no stretch to say that this is the on-field matchup that will have the most bearing on this game. Brees is second in the league in passing yards (1,722), and fourth in completion rate (69.7 percent) and passer rating (107.4). He has 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Brady’s numbers (56.6 percent completion rate, 1,211-7-3 for a 80.5 passer rating) are not where they have been in seasons past, but his track record and championship-laden resume speak for itself. Both quarterbacks are the engines that run their offense and often times are given the keys to drive it themselves. Both defenses are in the top half of the league rankings in yards allowed and among the top four in points allowed. The keys for each quarterback this afternoon will be executing the right play when the opportunity presents itself, as well as being patient and not try and force the issue. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and this game features two of the best that have ever played the position. Sit back and enjoy.

Final Analysis

Considering Tom Brady is 77-14 in his career at home, the Patriots would figure to be somewhat heavy favorites in this one. However, Drew Brees is not intimidated playing on the road and the Saints’ offense is similar to the Patriots’ in that it presents a number of difficult matchups and a multitude of sets that a defense must prepare for.

That said, this also is not a typical Saints team, as new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has orchestrated a dramatic turnaround for a unit that set a record for most yards allowed in a season in 2012. This defense is well balanced from the line back to the secondary and I believe it will be able to hold up on the road against Brady and company.

The Patriots’ offense is not clicking on all cylinders right now and I don’t see the return of wide receiver Danny Amendola as the lone cure-all to what ails it. While Brady probably will not have Rob Gronkowksi to throw to for a sixth straight game, Brees has his own All-Pro tight end in Jimmy Graham, and I think this connection will continue to cause headaches for the Patriot linebackers and defensive backs trying to cover him. The Saints’ offense does its part and the defense stands tall late, as New Orleans leaves Gillette Stadium the way it entered, undefeated.

New Orleans 27, New England 24

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-vs-dallas-cowboys-preview-and-prediction

The Washington Redskins will look to make it three wins in a row over the Dallas Cowboys tonight when these long-time NFC East rivals face off at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The Redskins are rested, coming of off their bye week, while the Cowboys are looking to regroup after dropping two in a row, including last week’s high-scoring affair against Denver.

After a sensational rookie season for Robert Griffin III that included a division title and AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, the quarterback is looking to rediscover that form. For the Cowboys, Tony Romo is putting up impressive numbers, but is getting little help from a defense that gave up 51 points to the Broncos last week and more than 400 yards passing in back-to-back games.

3 Things to Watch

Which RG3 Will Cowboys See?
In winning the NFC East last season, Robert Griffin III led his Redskins to 10 wins, including a 5-1 mark in divisional play. RG3 won both of his games against Dallas, including this first game against the Cowboys, which was on the road and took place on Thanksgiving Day. In the full spotlight of one of the most coveted time slots during the season, a poised RG3 threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns on the road to lead his team to a 38-31 victory. This season, highlights like that have been few and far between, as the ‘Skins are off to a 1-3 start and RG3 hasn’t made as many plays with his arm (6 TDs, 4 INTs) and hardly any with his legs (72 yards rushing, 4.0 ypc). The talk around the league is that he just isn’t the same player following offseason knee surgery and to this point, there’s definitely proof of that. Whether he’s just not fully confident in his surgically repaired knee is a question only he can answer, but RG3 just hasn’t been as explosive and dynamic to start this season. The Cowboys had their hands full trying to defend against RG3 last season. So which version will the defense see on the field tonight – last season’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year model or the quarterback that has looked a step slower and been slightly out of sync to start this season?

A Quarterback’s Best Friend…
is a consistent, productive running game. Washington won its first division title since 1999 last season behind the strength of the NFL’s top rushing offense, while the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs in part because they had the second-to-worst ground game. This season, even though Tony Romo is throwing the ball extremely well to start the season, he is coming off of a game in which he threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns, and lost. In fact, the Cowboys have averaged 140 yards rushing in their two wins and just 60 in their three losses. The point is, no matter how successful you are slinging the football around the field, a team still needs to be able to run it if they want to win consistently. For Dallas, DeMarco Murray is off to a great start running the ball, as he entered Week 6 fourth in the league with 399 yards rushing. In the three games where’s he gotten at least 14 carries he’s averaging 110 yards rushing. In the other two games, he’s averaged 12 touches and has a total of 68 yards on the ground. After getting off to a slow start, Washington’s Alfred Morris has picked things up and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. However, he’s only averaging 14 carries per game. Both teams may want to do whatever is necessary to see that their running back gets at least 14 carries tonight, if not more. Why is that, you ask? Well for one, Washington is allowing 142.3 yards rushing per game thus far. Only one other team (Jacksonville) is giving up more. On the other hand, Dallas is fourth in the league in rushing defense, allowing 82.8 yards per game. That said, the Redskins need to feed the ball to Morris for two reasons. First, in two games against the Cowboys last season, he rushed for 313 yards and four touchdowns. Second, the more touches he gets, the fewer possible hits RG3 will take in the pocket or outside of it should he have to scramble. So while the spotlight may be on RG3 and Romo tonight, the opportunity is there for the running backs to play a starring role as well. The only question is, will they get the chance to take the ball and run with it?

Fixing the D
Washington is last in the NFL in yards allowed at 440.5 per game. The Redskins are giving up more than 140 yards rushing and nearly 300 yards passing in each game and have just two interceptions. The Cowboys are holding up pretty well against the rush, but are giving up too many big plays in the passing game. Three different quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning) have thrown for more than 400 yards against Dallas and the Cowboys gave up 51 points last week to the Broncos at home. Needless to say, both defenses have some flaws and it’s no surprise both come into this one with losing records. While games with lots of offense are entertaining for the fans, they also put a lot of pressure on the offenses, especially the quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III just hasn’t been the same dynamic player he was last season, and the Redskins’ dip in offensive production is a reflection of that. Tony Romo threw for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns last week, but even that wasn’t enough as Denver was able to march up and down the field at will. While these two quarterbacks are capable of carrying their team to victory, they shouldn’t be expected to. Whichever defense rises to the occasion and either gets that critical stop on third down or makes that big play late will not only get a pat on the back from the offense, it will probably walk away victorious.

Washington Key Player: Pierre Garcon, WR
Since Robert Griffin III is making many plays with his legs, he will need to more productive as a passer. Although Griffin’s accuracy leaves something to be desired so far (62.4 percent), he also needs his playmakers to help him out. Garcon is certainly doing his part, leading the team in targets (44), receptions (29) and yards (339). Garcon has two touchdown receptions and is averaging 11.7 yards per reception. More telling is that he has 189 yards after the catch (YAC), which places him fourth in the league entering Week 6 although he has only played four games because of the Redskins’ bye in Week 4. Garcon has three catches of 20 or more yards and his big-play and after-the-catch ability could come be a factor tonight. Dallas is allowing 326.4 passing yards per game, which places them next to last ahead of only Denver in the NFL. The Cowboys have been susceptible to the long pass plays, as 15 different players in five games have recorded at least one reception of more than 20 yards against them. If there’s any Redskin who is capable of blowing the top off of the Dallas defense tonight it’s Garcon.

Dallas Key Player: DeMarcus Ware, DE
While Dallas’ defense has struggled to stop the pass, the switch from a 3-4 to 4-3 has produced results against the run. The Cowboys are fourth in the league in rushing defense, giving up less than 83 yards per game. The switch in defensive scheme meant several players had to learn new positions entering this season. Ware was foremost among those, moving from linebacker to defensive end. So far, he has handled the transition smoothly with four sacks and an interception in five games. One way to help the Cowboys’ struggling linebackers and defensive backs in coverage is to get more pressure on the quarterback. That has been Ware’s specialty throughout his career and if he can get past the Redskins’ offensive line, he should be able to break down Robert Griffin III, especially since the quarterback has looked a step slower in his return from knee surgery. Washington has done an excellent job of protecting RG3 early on, as he’s been sacked just seven times, but Ware presents a new challenge for both the offensive line and Griffin, who better have his head on a swivel tonight looking out for No. 94.

Final Analysis

This is one of the best rivalries in the NFL and this game doesn’t lack for star power and early-season importance. No team in the NFC East has roared out of the gates, and with the exception of the New York Giants, the divisional race is wide open. The Redskins need a win or will fall to 0-2 in the division, while a victory would be second NFC East win in as many tries for the Cowboys.

As is usually the case, the focus will be on the quarterbacks, but this season has already shown that neither Robert Griffin III nor Tony Romo can be expected to carry the load all by themselves. First and foremost, the defenses need to play better, the Redskins in general and the Cowboys against the pass. One of the keys tonight will be which running back – Alfred Morris or DeMarco Murray – gets the most carries and what they are able to do on the ground in them.

Dallas came oh so close to knocking off Denver last week, and has played better than its 2-3 record shows. Washington is not the same offensive team it was last season, while the defensive issues are still very much prevalent. Romo won’t go for 500 yards and five touchdowns again, but he will make his share of plays, as the Cowboys put together another nice offensive performance. This week, however, the defense also shows up and puts the clamps down on RG3 and the Redskins in the second half as the home team pulls away for a relatively easy victory.

Dallas 34, Washington 24

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-7-recap-and-awards

Upset Saturday was in full effect in the Pac-12, but it didn't come from Husky Stadium as some believed. No, Oregon controlled Washington with relative ease, putting them away in the final quarter in impressive fashion. It was the Stanford Cardinal who came crashing down from the ranks of the unbeaten at the hands of the Utah Utes.

In what feels like a small sidenote, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State and USC all won too.

Here are your Pac-12 Week 7 Awards and Superlatives: 

Offensive Player of the Week: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Ducks quarterback was brilliant again, this time on the road against a ranked divisional foe and rival. Mariota led the Ducks to an easy 45-24 win over Washington by completing 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He added 88 yards rushing on 13 carries and another touchdown on the ground. He is now 18-1 as a starter with 63 career total touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota hasn't thrown a pick in 233 attempts.

Defensive Player of the Week: Nate Orchard, LB, Utah
Fellow defensive linemates Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi have made more plays and garnered more headlines through five games, but Saturday night's upset of Stanford was Orchard's coming out party. He registered his second and third sack of the season and forced two huge fumbles for a Utah defense that simply outplayed the Cardinal for most of the game. He finished with five total tackles on the night and was a big part of the final minute goal-line stand that won the game for the Utes.

Team of the Week: Utah 
The Utes shocked the college football world by handling the Stanford Cardinal with relative ease. The 27-21 win over the No. 5 team in the nation wasn't a fluke as Utah outgained Stanford, won the turnover battle, were penalized just four times and won the time of possession game. Travis Wilson was solid (234 yards, two touchdowns, interception, 33 rush yards) at quarterback and the running game carried the offense (39 carries, 176 yards) while the defense capitalized on two critical fumbles. It was the first win for Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium over a top-five team.

Co-Coordinator of the Week: Dennis Erickson and Kalani Sitake, Utah
The defense played well for Utah under the leadership of coordinator Kalani Sitake, holding Stanford to just 21 points and 389 yards of offense while forcing two critical turnovers and holding Stanford to a season-low 13 first downs. Offensively, the Utes might have been even more impressive. Erickson's squad, led by quarterback Travis Wilson, averaged 5.7 yards per play, the worst number allowed by Stanford all season. The Utes rushed for 181 yards against the vaunted Cardinal front seven, a number only topped by Army's triple option (284 in Week 3). Wilson completed 67.6-percent of his passes.


Freshman of the Week: Andy Phillips, K, Utah
The freshman placekicker has been literally perfect all season for the Utes and he came up big in the upset win over Stanford. While Stanford missed its one field goal chance, Phillips made drilled two second-half field goals, including a long 48-yarder, that eventually gave Utah its margin of victory. He made all three extra points and has yet to miss a kick of any kind all season. In fact, no kicker in the nation has made more field goals without missing than Phillips (11-for-11) and he is 27-for-27 on extra points.


Fifth Down


• Despite the loss, Washington's Bishop Sankey continues to shine. He rushed for 167 yards and two scores against Oregon and is leading the nation in rushing at 149.8 yards per game. Sankey has scored a rushing TD in at least eight straight games and has scored multiple touchdowns in nine of his last 17 games.


• Arizona State's Taylor Kelly failed to throw for at least 300 yards (233) for the first time all season. But the ASU fans will take it, as the Sun Devils rolled Colorado 54-13.


• Brett Hundley continued his Heisman season for UCLA by throwing for a career-high 410 yards. It was his first 400-yard game of his career.


• After holding Cal to just 320 yards, the Bruins have now allowed between 320 and 387 yards of total offense in every game. The number was a season low for Sonny Dykes' Golden Bears.


• With 4:50 to go in the third quarter, Washington State was leading Oregon State 24-17. The Beavers scored five unanswered touchdowns over the final 16 minutes of play to post an easy road win over Wazzu.


• Oregon State's Sean Mannion threw for 493 yards and four touchdowns. Mannion (51) and WSU's Connor Halliday (49) combined for exactly 100 pass attempts in the Beavers' 52-24 win.


• De'Anthony Thomas was active for the game against Washington but didn't play. He should be back on the field by next week.


• Silas Redd returned to the field for USC against Arizona. He rushed for 80 yards on 19 carries but many of those yards came on critical carries late in the game.


Pac-12 Week 7 Recap and Awards
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 09:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-6-injury-updates-cj-spiller-arian-foster-bernard-pierce-zac-stacy

Playing hurt is just part of life in the NFL. These running backs are dealing with different injuries and ailments. Can you count on them in Week 6?

C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Spiller’s status was somewhat in doubt for Week 5 against Cleveland, as he was dealing with an ankle injury that kept him from practicing and the Bills had to deal with the short turnaround that comes with playing on a Thursday. Spiller did suit up, and he produced his longest run of the year, a 56-yard TD scamper, in the loss. He also was held to just eight carries and once again was limited in practice this week. He is Questionable to face the Bengals, although head coach Doug Marrone said his back was making better progress this week compared to last week. The Bengals figure to be a tough matchup, but as Spiller showed last week, he is still capable of doing some damage, even if he’s not 100 percent. I would wait as long as you possibly can, but unless his status changes prior to kickoff, I would keep Spiller in my lineup.

Arian Foster and Ben Tate, RBs, Houston Texans vs. St. Louis Rams
Foster (right) has been dealing with some sort of injury since OTAs back in May and that trend has carried over to the regular season. His thumb and chest have been bothering him for the past few weeks, and these issues have limited him during practice. However, the All-Pro is Probable for today’s game and it would be surprising if he wasn’t out there against the Rams. Foster, of course is a must-start whenever he plays, and in a matchup like this his backup, Ben Tate, is definitely in the flex discussion. Tate, who has been dealing with an elbow injury, has seen at least seven carries in each game. Today, the Texans get a Rams rushing defense that has allowed more than 126 yards on the ground per game. Given Matt Schaub’s interception woes, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Texans run the ball between 40-50 times today.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers
Pierce has a thigh injury which has limited him in practice this week. Even though he is Questionable, he should play considering he and Ray Rice are the only running backs on the Ravens’ roster. Pierce is one of the more appealing handcuff options out there and he has already had to fill in for Rice because of injury. However, Rice saw a season-high 33 touches last week and I would expect more of the same against the Packers today. Pierce is still worth rostering, especially if you own Rice, but he probably won’t get enough touches to even merit flex consideration for the time being.

Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams at Houston Texans
The Rams have struggled to run the ball to start the season, but Stacy turned in a respectable performance last week against Jacksonville. The rookie, a fifth-round pick, got his first career start and finished it with 78 yards rushing on 14 carries (5.6 ypc), which is the most by any Ram this season. Stacy sustained some sort of chest injury during that game, but he was able to practice fully on Friday and is listed as Questionable for today’s game. He looks like a fairly safe bet to play, but unless you have no other options, there’s really no reason to take your chances with any Ram running back against Houston’s defense.

Week 6 Injury Updates: C.J. Spiller, Arian Foster, Bernard Pierce, Zac Stacy
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-jamaal-charles-darren-mcfadden-marcel-reece-chris-ivory

Oakland’s backfield isn’t anywhere close to being at 100 percent, while Kansas City’s workhorse is playing with sore feet. Here’s the latest on their status as well as the Jets’ situation for today’s games.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
Charles is still dealing with blisters on his feet, but he practiced fully on Friday and is Probable for the AFC West clash with Oakland. The blisters didn’t prevent him from picking up 108 yards rushing and a touchdown last week against Tennessee, so the Raiders should expect to see plenty of Charles, the top scoring fantasy RB, today.

Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece, RBs, Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
The injury woes for Oakland’s backfield don’t seem to be getting any better. McFadden (right) and Jennings are both dealing with hamstring injuries and are considered Questionable to play against Kansas City. Both were able to practice on a limited basis and the final say on their availability against the Chiefs probably won’t be made until prior to kickoff. Meanwhile, Reece also was limited this week in practiced, but he is listed as Probable. Unless you have no other options, there’s really no reason to even consider using McFadden or Jennings this week. Reece, on the other hand, could be flex-worthy, especially if McFadden and Jennings are ruled out before game time.

Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, RB, New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ivory returned from a hamstring injury for the Monday night game against Atlanta and picked up four rushing attempts. His hamstring is not 100 percent, but he is listed as Probable for today’s game. Goodson made his season debut against the Falcons after serving a four-game suspension and got four total touches. He was sick earlier in the week, but also is Probable. The issue here is that the Jets’ backfield is suddenly quite crowded with Bilal Powell still getting the bulk of the carries. Honestly, Powell is probably the only one with any real fantasy value right now, as there’s no telling how Ivory and Goodson will be used. With a tough matchup against a rested Steelers defense, it may be best to just stay away from the J-E-T-S backs altogether.

Running backs that have already been ruled OUT this week:

Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts – Bradshaw will miss the rest of the season after being placed on injured reserve. Bradshaw hadn’t played since injuring his neck in Week 3, and he has decided to undergo season-ending surgery to repair the damage. Trent Richardson will serve as the Colts’ lead back, but he has struggled with his production, which has resulted in more work for Donald Brown. Richardson remains the Colt back to own, and perhaps the Monday night game against San Diego will be what gets him going. Unless something happens to guarantee Brown a steady diet of touches, he really doesn’t have much fantasy value going forward.

James Starks, RB Green Bay Packers – Starks will miss a second straight game because of a knee injury and there’s really no timetable on his return. The Packers have moved on with rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin and at this point, Starks will probably need an injury to one of them to get back into the fantasy conversation.

Injury Updates Week 6: Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Chris Ivory
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-6-injury-updates-marshawn-lynch-stevan-ridley-alfred-morris-ryan-mathews

When it comes to the later games, sometimes the decision on whether you start a certain player or not has to be made well before kickoff. Here’s the latest on the Week 6  injury situations for some ailing running backs who don’t play until later this afternoon, tonight or on Monday.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans
Lynch is dealing with some sort of hip injury and missed one day of practice for a non-injury-related reason. The end result is that he is considered Questionable to face the Titans. Even with this designation, there doesn’t appear to be any serious concern that he will not suit up today. Lynch is coming off of his best game of the season, 102 yards rushing against the Colts, and has been productive despite the numerous injuries to his offensive line. Lynch may see fewer carries than usual, especially if this game becomes a blowout, but he still needs to be in your lineup.

Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, RBs, New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
Ridley missed last week’s loss in Cincinnati because of a thigh injury, which continued to limit him during practice. He is considered Questionable, but the expectation is that he will back out there. Ridley could end up stepping right back into the lead back role, as LeGarrette Blount didn’t exactly go off last week and he also had a costly fumble. Still Ridley has not been near as productive this season as he was last, so Ridley should be viewed as nothing more than a RB2/flex type of option right now. Blount may have blown his best chance and it will be interesting to see how long he stays in Bill Belichick’s doghouse. Meanwhile, Bolden’s knee continues to be an issue for him, and he also is Questionable. Bolden hasn’t had much of an impact since Week 2 and between Ridley’s apparent return and Blount’s presence, Bolden probably won’t see enough touches against the Saints to even be in the flex discussion.

Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
Morris has been dealing with bruised ribs, but he practiced fully all week and is Probable for tonight’s primetime showdown in Dallas. The Cowboys have been tough against the run, but you have to start Morris if you own him. Don’t forget that last season, as a rookie, Morris gashed the Cowboys for 313 yards rushing and four touchdowns in two games.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts (Mon.)
Even though he was dealing with a hamstring injury late last week, it was a concussion that knocked him out of the game in Oakland in the first quarter. This week, Mathews was finally cleared to practice on Friday, and is Probable to play Monday night against Indianapolis. Still, Danny Woodhead did the heavy lifting against the Raiders, so don't be surprised if the two share/split the touches again this week. In fact, at this point, Woodhead is probably the safer option, as once again, Mathews is doing nothing but frustrate his owners.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
Ingram hasn’t played since Week 2 because of a toe injury. He returned to practice on a limited basis this week and is listed as Questionable to face the Patriots. Even if he does return, his role figures to be limited. That same word can be used to describe his current fantasy appeal too.

Week 6 Injury Updates: Marshawn Lynch, Stevan Ridley, Alfred Morris, Ryan Mathews
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-calvin-johnson-andre-johnson-stevie-johnson-mike-williams

If you are a wide receiver in the NFL and your last name is Johnson, you are probably dealing with some sort of injury entering Week 6. Here’s the latest information on whether Calvin, Andre or Stevie will play today, as well as two other guys not named Johnson.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns
Johnson was a late surprise scratch last week after it was revealed he was dealing with a knee injury. This week, reports came out that he is experiencing swelling in the knee, which limited his practice time. He did participate on Thursday and Friday, but did so with a brace on his right knee. Johnson’s official designation is Questionable and he is expected to be a game-time decision. Because of what happened last week, caution is certainly merited here. Megatron is one of the best in the business and probably doesn’t need to be 100 percent to contribute to your lineup. Matthew Stafford sure missed his No. 1 target last week against Green Bay. That said, monitor Johnson’s status carefully up until kickoff (1 p.m. ET) and be prepared to act accordingly.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans vs. St. Louis Rams
Johnson is still dealing with his shin injury, but it has yet to keep him off of the field. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak did say his All-Pro wideout would probably be a game-time decision, so Johnson’s Questionable designation shouldn’t be taken lightly. I suppose there’s a chance the team could decide to give him a rest if he appears limited or favoring that leg in warm ups, especially given the matchup against a Rams’ defense that is allowing more than 120 yards rushing. There’s also the matter of quarterback Matt Schaub’s accuracy/interception issues right now. Even when he’s less than 100 percent, Johnson usually produces, but it may be best to wait as long as possible before plugging him into your lineup for this one, especially if you have another legitimate option.

Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Johnson was excused from practice due to a death in his family earlier in the week, but he also is dealing with a back issue. He is listed as Questionable and is probably going to be a game-time decision. When it comes to Johnson, however, the real question mark revolves around Thad Lewis, who has been elevated from the practice squad to the starter following EJ Manuel’s knee injury last week. Lewis has started an NFL game before, but there’s a reason he was on the Bills’ practice squad too. The Bengals held Tom Brady and the Patriots to six points last week, so let the Bills’ coaches worry about Johnson’s status for their game. As far as his fantasy status is concerned, Johnson can enjoy the view from the bench this week.

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Buccaneers are coming off of a bye, yet Williams is listed as Questionable for today’s game because of a hamstring injury. That’s not a great sign considering the extra rest he should have gotten last week. Williams is the Bucs’ No. 2 wide receiver, but with rookie Mike Glennon making just his second career start, expectations should be limited. Tampa Bay’s offense has a good matchup against Philadelphia, and Williams did catch a TD from Glennon two weeks ago. Still, Williams is clearly not at 100 percent and could end up not playing at all. The safest course of action for this week regarding Williams probably would be to look elsewhere to fill out your receiving corps.

Donnie Avery, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
Avery is dealing with a shoulder injury, but he is Probable to play today and the Chiefs are fully expecting him to be out there. Avery is the team’s leading receiver thus far, with 16 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown. Dwayne Bowe probably offers more upside, but quarterback Alex Smith seems to prefer Avery, who merits WR3 consideration.


Injury Updates Week 6: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Stevie Johnson, Mike Williams
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-6-injury-updates-larry-fitzgerald-danny-amendola-cecil-shorts-miles-austin

The Patriots’ wide receiving corps is almost back to full strength for Week 6, while the Cardinals may be without their No. 1 guy this afternoon. Here’s the latest information on those teams and some other injury situations.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Fitzgerald’s good health lasted about a week, as he suffered some sort of setback with his hamstring and is Questionable to play this afternoon. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday, but was able to practice fully on Friday. The team said it’s the same left hamstring, but this injury is in a different place. Fitzgerald could be a game-time decision, but with him being in a late afternoon game, you may not be able to wait that long. Fitzgerald’s numbers have disappointed to start the season, as he’s had no more than 80 yards in any game. He also has just three touchdown receptions and two of those came in Week 1. The 49ers’ defense has been playing really well lately, so it may be worth at least considering keeping Fitzgerald on your bench this week.

Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
Amendola returned to the lineup last week, catching four passes (out of nine targets) for 55 yards in the loss to Cincinnati. His groin is not completely healed, as he was limited in practice this week. So once again, Amendola is officially listed as Questionable, but barring a setback during warm ups, he is expected to play. Even though he may be more of a WR2/WR3 right now, Amendola needs to be in your lineup, especially in PPR leagues. Although it was just one game, Amendola’s return had an immediate impact on the target distribution, as Julian Edelman (right), Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson all saw fewer looks from Tom Brady. This will be something to monitor moving forward, but Edelman and Thompkins are probably more on the WR2/WR3 level now, with Dobson slipping to flex consideration.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos
Shorts is not completely over his groin injury yet, which was still limiting him in practice on Friday. However, he is listed as Probable to play, and the matchup/game situation alone is enough reason to plug him in and see what happens. The Broncos should win this game rather handily, which means the Jaguars will more than likely be forced to throw because they will be playing catch up most of the game. There’s also the opportunity for garbage yards/points later in the game. Plus, Chad Henne will be starting for Jacksonville, and he and Shorts have been successful in the past. Shorts is averaging more than 12 targets per game and even with Justin Blackmon back, Shorts should see more than enough to provide WR2/WR3 production, with a chance of even better numbers.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
After missing the past two games because of a hamstring injury, Austin is listed as Probable and expected to play in tonight’s big NFC East showdown. If he plays, Austin is expected to resume his role as the Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver, which means rookie Terrance Williams will go back to being No. 3. Williams exploded for 151 yards and a touchdown on just four catches last week against Denver, but could be in line for fewer targets against the Redskins. Austin has been mostly ineffective this season and even though the ‘Skins are giving up a bunch of passing yards and points, he’s no sure thing to break out in this game. Austin is at best a WR3 option tonight, which is probably the best-case scenario for Williams. No contest who offers more explosiveness and upside though.

Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones, WRs, Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers
Jones injured his knee in the season opener in Denver, giving the undrafted rookie Brown a chance to start opposite of Torrey Smith. Brown has made the most of this opportunity, as he has three touchdown receptions in four games. He injured his hamstring two weeks ago against Buffalo, an injury that held him out of last week’s game in Miami. Jones is back practicing, albeit on a limited basis, and he and Brown are listed as Questionable for today’s home date with the Packers. Both will probably be game-time decisions, but I wouldn’t bother with either. Smith is the only Raven wideout worth owning, as he has nearly twice as many targets as anyone else on the roster. Brown or Jones could become more fantasy relevant once they are back to full health, but some of that will depend on if either seizes the starting gig or if it ends up being more of a timeshare.

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Holmes remains Out this week because of a hamstring injury. Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill will serve as the starters, and with a rested Pittsburgh defense ready to face rookie Geno Smith, both wideouts are probably WR3 options at best this week.

Week 6 Injury Updates: Larry Fitzgerald, Danny Amendola, Cecil Shorts, Miles Austin
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-michael-vick-blaine-gabbert-christian-ponder

Backup quarterbacks will get their chance in Week 6, as several teams have already ruled out their starters. Here’s the latest information on who will be under center today.

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It was only a matter of time, right? Vick pulled up with a hamstring injury last week against the Giants and wasn’t able to finish the game. Nick Foles came in and put the finishing touches on the 36-21 victory by throwing two TD passes in the fourth quarter. Vick practiced fully on Friday, but he is listed as Questionable and is not expected to play today. Foles will get his first start of the season, but it’s probably too risky to use him right off the bat in your lineup. If anything, this game against the Buccaneers will be a good gauge of his fantasy potential in Chip Kelly’s offense. Foles isn’t anywhere near as mobile as Vick, so most of his damage will have to come in the pocket. Plus with Vick already making progress in his recovery, chances are Foles could be back to clipboard duty as soon as next week.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos
Gabbert missed two games earlier because of a thumb injury and in his first game back last week, he sustained a hamstring injury against St. Louis. He has already been ruled Out for today’s game, which means Chad Henne will get the start. Even though Jacksonville is a historic underdog on the road against Denver, that doesn’t mean that Henne and other Jaguars can’t provide valuable fantasy points. In fact, based on the likely outcome of this game and the 347 yards passing per game the Broncos are giving up, I have no problem if you want to take a chance on Henne as your bye week, fill-in starter this week or if you play in a 2-QB league.

Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers
Ponder is listed as Probable, as he’s recovered enough from the rib injury that caused him to miss the Vikings’ last game, but he will not start. The team will stick with Matt Cassel against the Panthers. At this point, neither Ponder nor Cassel merit any fantasy consideration, especially against a Panthers’ defense that has given up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. The Vikings’ quarterback situation is just one jumbled mess right now, as the team recently signed Tampa Bay cast-off Josh Freeman to add to the circus.

Other Notable Quarterback Injuries:

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans – Locker remains out because of the hip/knee injury he suffered in Week 4. Ryan Fitzpatrick will serve as the Titans’ starting quarterback and has a tough assignment today, playing in Seattle against the league’s sixth-ranked defense (third against the pass).

EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills – The Bills’ first-round pick will miss a few weeks after hurting his knee (LCL sprain) last week against Cleveland. Thad Lewis will start today in Manuel’s place.

Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns – Hoyer’s season is over after tearing his ACL last week against Buffalo. Brandon Weeden will resume the starting role.

Injury Updates Week 6: Michael Vick, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury update, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-6-injury-updates-rob-gronkowski-vernon-davis-greg-olsen

Barring a last-minute change, it appears that one elite tight end will miss his sixth straight game, while two other top options appear to be ready to go for Week 6. Here’s the latest information on the tight end injury front.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
Just when it looked like “Gronk Watch” was going to finally come to an end, the latest twist in this soap opera occurred. Despite being a full go in practice and reports earlier in the week that said he would play, Gronkowski has not been medically cleared by his own doctors. Any early optimism regarding his playing status has been replaced a general belief that he will not make his season debut against the Saints. He is officially listed as Questionable, so there’s always a chance of a last-second reversal, but you have to decide if it’s worth the risk to put Gronk in your lineup or not.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
His hamstring has been an issue in recent weeks, but he was a full go at practice this week and is Probable to face the Cardinals. Since sitting out Week 3, Davis has been in there for every game and looked rather explosive last week on a 64-yard touchdown reception against the Texans. This is a good matchup on paper, as the Cardinals are giving up the third-most fantasy points to TEs, so there’s no reason to sit Davis this week.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings
Olsen is the Panthers’ leading receiver and a top-15 fantasy TE. He also was spotted in a walking boot earlier this week, which obviously cut into his practice time. The issue, however, appears to be minor as he was back at it on Thursday and Friday, sans boot. He is Probable for today’s game and considering the Vikings are allowing the second-most fantasy points to TEs this season, you need to play Olsen.

Tight Ends in Deeper Leagues:

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars – Lewis has only played in part of one game this season because of a calf injury. He’s out again this week and has basically dropped clear off of the fantasy radar, if he hadn’t already.

Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks – Miller missed last week’s game because of a hamstring injury and wasn’t able to practice at all this week. Not really sure why he’s listed as questionable, as there’s no question in my mind you should just steer clear away.

Jordan Reed and Fred Davis, Washington Redskins – Reed missed last week’s game in Oakland because of a thigh injury, while Davis has been hobbled by an ankle injury. Both are probable to play tonight, but that doesn’t mean either will have any sort of fantasy impact. Reed has been more productive than Davis to this point, but any snaps Davis gets takes away from Reed’s opportunities. While I don’t think this is a timeshare, per se, there’s also not enough potential right now for Reed to provide enough fantasy value to merit much consideration.

Kellen Winslow, New York Jets – Winslow has been dealing with knee pain, but it doesn’t matter, as the tight end has been suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. In Winslow’s absence, Jeff Cumberland will become the starter with former New England Patriot Zach Sudfeld also expected to see time this week. Cumberland could be an option in deeper leagues down the road, but don’t bother this week.

Week 6 Injury Updates: Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen
Post date: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouri-qb-james-franklin-separates-shoulder-against-georgia

Missouri staked its claim in the SEC East on Saturday with a huge road victory over Georgia.

However, the win was costly for the Tigers, as quarterback James Franklin suffered a separated shoulder in the second half and is out indefinitely. The school has not released how long Franklin will be sidelined, but various reports indicate the senior will likely miss six weeks.

Franklin was injured throughout the 2012 season, which was a big reason why Missouri finished 5-7. However, Franklin looked 100 percent this season and had 14 touchdowns and only three picks prior to his injury.

With Franklin sidelined, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will start under center. Prior to the game against Georgia, Mauk had thrown only three passes in his career.

Mauk will have his hands full the next few weeks, as Missouri hosts Florida, South Carolina in back-to-back games. The redshirt freshman has a tough assignment, but the experience will be valuable as he should be the Tigers’ quarterback in 2014.

There’s no question Franklin will be missed, and his injury is a huge setback for a Missouri team off to a 6-0 start.


Missouri QB James Franklin Separates Shoulder Against Georgia
Post date: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 19:02
Path: /college-football/texas-qb-case-mccoy-gets-destroyed-oklahomas-eric-striker

Texas quarterback Case McCoy was destroyed by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker in the first half of the Red River Rivalry.

Check out this hit, which might be one of the biggest of the 2013 season:

Texas QB Case McCoy Gets Destroyed by Oklahoma's Eric Striker
Post date: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 13:27
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-1-preview-detroit-begins-series-boston

American League Championship Series – Game 1
Detroit at Boston
8:30 ET Fox
Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)

Jon Lester beat the Tigers twice this season. In one of the games, he was very sharp in a 2-1 win. But in his previous start he was aided with 10 runs of support in the 10-6 win in which he was not on his game. Anibal Sanchez’s only appearance against Boston in his eight-year career came at Dolphin Stadium way back in 2006. It was Sanchez’s second career game and a relief appearance in the first inning. He gave up seven earned runs in 4.1 innings. But that’s old history now. Few of the current Red Sox hitters have faced Sanchez, the American League ERA leader this season, which should be an advantage for the pitcher.

Keys for Detroit
Sanchez has faced the Red Sox just once in his career, and it wasn’t at Fenway Park. Having never pitched in the quirky ballpark can be a bit unsettling initially. Being right-handed certainly helps though. So much hinges on Miguel Cabrera, that the Red Sox may opt to never pitch to him. In order to do that, the Sox must keep runners off base in front of him, and be prepared to deal with Prince Fielder. So if Detroit can get Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter hot at the top of the lineup, it will be difficult to pitch around Cabrera. Since joining the Tigers, Fielder has yet to show what he can do in the postseason. Now would be a good time to break out of that funk.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox expect to score runs. Offense shouldn’t be the problem. Lester must be sharper than he’s been against this team, and the relievers can’t let this game get away. Boston’s bullpen should be a distinct advantage in this series, so keeping the game close and turning it over to both bullpens is a positive for the Red Sox.

Tigers to Watch
The Tigers can’t win without Cabrera having a good series. Can they win a game or two without a contribution from the best hitter in the game? Sure. But not four. This lineup is deep and has a terrific history against Lester, even though the Sox won his two starts against Detroit this season. Former Red Sox Victor Martinez has been in a groove since the All-Star break. That should continue tonight. If the Tigers are to make any win easy, it must start with Jackson and Hunter at the top of the order. Jackson, in particular, was an easy target for Oakland pitchers.

Red Sox to Watch
Nothing in his history against Detroit suggests that Lester will get deep into this game. Koji Uehara — one Jose Lobaton home run aside — has been nasty this season, especially over the final four months. But to bridge the gap between Lester and Uehara, the Red Sox rely heavily on lefty Craig Breslow and righthander Junichi Tazawa. Breslow should become very well-acquainted with Fielder during this series.

Key Stats
The Tigers held Oakland hitters to .132 average with runners in scoring position…Detroit won four of the seven meetings between the Tigers and Red Sox this season, but only one of three in Boston…Detroit’s projected lineup is batting .383 vs. Lester in 133 at-bats…Cabrera is 2-for-4 with two home runs and a walk in five career plate appearances against Boston closer Uehara…Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ only plate appearance against Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque resulted in a grand slam…Detroit was only 7-8 in Sanchez’s 15 road starts this season.

Series Prediction: Boston in 6

Tigers and Red Sox square off for AL pennant
Post date: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 10:46