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For the second straight week, Mississippi schools dominated the headlines, and Mississippi State jumped to the No. 1 spot in the Legends Poll. The top-ranked Bulldogs — which grabbed 11 of the 14 first-place votes — put together an impressive performance at home against then-No. 1 Auburn, which dropped five spots in the rankings.
Ole Miss also moved up a spot to No. 3, it’s highest ranking in the history of the poll. The Rebels followed a win over Alabama with a road victory at Texas A&M.
No. 4 Baylor followed in the rankings after outlasting TCU in a 61-58 shootout in Waco, Tex. Alabama rounded out the top 5.
No. 7 Notre Dame remained unbeaten and sets up a showdown at No. 2 Florida State next weekend in a game with huge playoff implications. Michigan State stayed at No. 8 following its 45-31 over Purdue.
|1||Mississippi State (11)||6-0||109||3|
|2||Florida State (3)||6-0||91||2|
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
Reports of the demise of the Big Ten back in Week 2 were overstated even if that’s not to say the Big Ten is better than we thought it would be.
The league’s 5-11 record against the other power conferences and Notre Dame will haunt this conference for the remainder of the season.
Michigan and Penn State are shells of what they should be. Division contenders Wisconsin and Iowa are unranked. The Big Ten’s two highest ranked teams — Michigan State and Ohio State — both lost their toughest non-conference games of the season.
All of those are reasons the Big Ten’s playoff hopes looked dim back in Week 2.
More than a month later, the league doesn’t have any guarantees of reaching the playoff, and the 14-team Big Ten has fewer viable contenders right now than the SEC West alone.
But a chaotic October nation-wide has improved the Big Ten’s position for the playoff as much as the play of Michigan State and Ohio State has.
The question for the remainder of the year is if it will be enough for the Big Ten to crack the top four at the end of the season.
Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
2014 Big Ten Midseason Review and Second-Half Preview
Coach of the Year: Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Minnesota started its 2014 Big Ten season with wins over Michigan and Northwestern, giving the Gophers a 6-2 record in the league since Oct. 19. Even though that kind of record will be tough to maintain into November against a backloaded schedule with Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin round out the final month, Minnesota continues to be a competitive program in the league under Kill. Minnesota’s lone loss is ugly, but the 30-7 defeat came on the road against TCU, a team that’s proven to be better than expected when the two teams played on Sept. 13.
Newcomer of the Year: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
A season-ending injury to Braxton Miller didn’t end Ohio State’s Big Ten hopes. Credit redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. Despite struggling against the Virginia Tech pass rush in a loss, Barrett remains the Big Ten leader in total offense by 34 yards per game (326 yards).
Offensive Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
The numbers have been staggering at 1,046 yards and 13 touchdowns through six games. Productive running backs at Wisconsin are commonplace, but this is a little different. Gordon is not part of a one-two punch at running back as he was a year ago, and the Badgers' passing game hasn’t been effective enough to keep opponents honest. In other words, defenses know Gordon is carrying the offense and still haven’t been able to contain him.
Defensive Player of the Year: William Likely, Maryland
The cornerback from Belle Glade, Fla., has been a major difference-maker for the Terrapins with three interceptions and two non-offensive touchdowns this year. He's also adept at playing near the line with three tackles for a loss at 36 solo stops.
Midseason Disappointment: Michigan’s offense
Michigan has one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The offense, though, hasn’t matched that level of production. Michigan is averaging 254.3 yards per game in conference play to go with 16 turnovers. Only Eastern Michigan and New Mexico State have given the ball away more.
Midseason Surprise: Ohio State as a legitimate contender
Ohio State’s season looked lost based on a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 when the Buckeyes gave up seven sacks and three interceptions. Since then, Ohio State trounced Cincinnati and Maryland. Those aren’t landmark wins, but they are enough to show the Buckeyes remain a Big Ten East contender.
Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
Michigan State’s bid to run the table
With a stifling defense and a balanced offense, Michigan State looks like the favorite to win the Big Ten for a second consecutive season. The Spartans likely will be favored to win every game to finish the season, including a home date with Ohio State on Nov. 8. With a 46-27 loss to Oregon in Week 2, Michigan State may need to run the table in the Big Ten to reach the playoff.
Ohio State as a playoff contender
The Buckeyes’ hopes of winning the Big Ten East probably hinge on a Nov. 8 game at Michigan State. A win in that game could present Ohio State as a playoff contender as well. The Buckeyes are better than the were when they lost to Virginia Tech, but what does that mean on the national stage?
Michigan’s next move
Brady Hoke’s fate seems sealed despite Saturday’s win over Penn State. So what’s the next step in Ann Arbor? Is Hoke done before the season? Does athletic director Dave Brandon follow his coach out of town? And who could the next guy be at Michigan?
Top Five Games in the Second Half
Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 25)
The Buckeyes’ pass defense numbers are good — Ohio State has allowed five pass plays of more than 20 yards, seven fewer than any other Big Ten team. A matchup against Christian Hackenberg is another big test.
Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)
The game of the regular season in the Big Ten will either solidify Michigan State’s spot as the best team in the league or re-establish Ohio State as a national contender.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (Nov. 15)
Provided these teams can get through the likes of Rutgers, Purdue, Northwestern and Maryland, the Cornhuskers and Badgers could have gaudy records in time for this matchup. Either way, Ameer Abdullah vs. Melvin Gordon will be the best running back showdown of the year.
Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 28)
Iowa is 5-1 overall and undefeated in the Big Ten. By the end of November this could be a key Big Ten division game. For Nebraska, this could be a revenge game after the Huskers lost 38-17 at home in last year’s meeting.
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 29)
The Big Ten’s best rivalry could be a matchup between an Ohio State team playing for the Big Ten East title (or more) and a Michigan team trying to salvage a season. Always an interesting situation.
Projecting the Final Big Ten standings
|EAST||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|WEST||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Three is the magic number for tonight’s NFC West tilt between San Francisco and St. Louis on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The 49ers (3-2) are trying to extend their winning streak to three games, while the Rams (1-3) are hoping to avoid their third straight loss.
San Francisco has held the upper hand in this matchup recently, going 4-1-1 against St. Louis over the past three seasons. The 49ers swept both games last season, including a 35-11 victory in the Edward Jones Dome in Week 4.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: San Francisco -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|San Francisco 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs CHI||L 20 - 28||Recap|
|9/21||@ ARI||L 14 - 23||Recap|
|9/28||vs PHI||W 26 - 21||Recap|
|10/5||vs KC||W 22 - 17||Recap|
|10/13||@ STL||W 31 - 17||Recap|
|10/19||@ DEN||L 17 - 42||Recap|
|11/2||vs STL||L 10 - 13||Recap|
1. San Francisco’s Type of Game
Going back to his time at Stanford, one of the identities of Jim Harbaugh’s teams has been an effective running game. After deviating some from that game plan earlier this season, the 49ers have gone back to running teams into the ground. For the season, San Francisco is third in the NFL in rushing at 145 yards per game, but the damage has been much greater during its current two-game winning streak. In home victories over Philadelphia and Kansas City, Harbaugh’s team has racked up a total of 389 yards on 82 carries (4.7 ypc). St. Louis meanwhile, has struggled against the run to this point. The Rams are tied for 29th in rushing defense (152.5 ypg), allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Expect to see a lot of handoffs when the 49ers have the ball tonight.
|St. Louis 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs MIN||L 6 - 34||Recap|
|9/14||@ TB||W 19 - 17||Recap|
|9/21||vs DAL||L 31 - 34||Recap|
|10/5||@ PHI||L 28 - 34||Recap|
|10/13||vs SF||L 17 - 31||Recap|
|10/19||vs SEA||W 28 - 26||Recap|
|10/26||@ KC||L 7 - 34||Recap|
|11/2||@ SF||W 13 - 10||Recap|
2. Is Jeff Fisher’s Team “Ram Tough?”
After getting blown out at home by Minnesota in the season opener, St. Louis bounced back with a win in Tampa Bay on a late field goal. The Rams kept things going by jumping out to a 21-0 lead with a little more than six minutes remaining in the first half against the Cowboys in Week 3. From there, however, things took a dramatic turn in the opposite direction. Dallas scored the next 20 points and tacked on two more touchdowns (in less than 20 seconds) in the fourth quarter to pull out a 34-31 come-from-behind win. Then last week, Philadelphia built a 34-7 lead late in the third quarter before St. Louis scored 21 unanswered points. The Rams had the ball with less than two minutes left and drove to the Eagles’ 48-yard-line, but their comeback attempt stalled there, as Philadelphia held on to win 34-28. Jeff Fisher’s team has dealt with its share of adversity, starting when quarterback Sam Bradford re-tore his surgically repaired ACL in the preseason, and these past two weeks have been no different. The Rams’ schedule only gets more difficult from here – Seattle, at Kansas City, at San Francisco, at Arizona, Denver and at San Diego – so they really could use something positive to build on, starting tonight.
3. QB Experiment: Familiar Foe vs. the New Kid on the Block
Colin Kaepernick is just 26 years old yet tonight represents his sixth start against St. Louis compared to Austin Davis, who will be making just the fourth start of his career. Kaepernick has played well against the Rams, going 3-1-1with a 97.1 passer rating and 182 yards rushing (7.6 ypc) in those games. Davis likewise has accounted for himself well, completing 67.5 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and just two interceptions in his three starts. Kaepernick has gotten a ton of support from his running game, but he’s also still prone to making mistakes. Four of his five turnovers came in a Week 2 home loss to Chicago. Davis has been more of a focal point of the offense since the Rams’ running game hasn’t been as productive. Even though their roles may be different, how effectively each quarterback executes their respective game plan will help determine the outcome of this game. Kaepernick has faced the Rams before and vice versa, while this will be Davis’ first up close and personal look at the 49ers, and vice versa. Will this QB familiarity or a lack thereof be a factor tonight?
Despite an early rough patch and constant attention paid to Jim Harbaugh’s seemingly tenuous future in San Francisco, the 49ers have been able to maintain their focus on the field and enter tonight’s game playing their best football of the season. St. Louis is on its third starting quarterback and this Rams teams has been on quite the roller-coaster ride over the course of their past three games. In recent seasons, NFC West matchups have typically been tightly contested, physical affairs, regardless of the participants’ records. I expect this one will follow a similar script, but I think St. Louis has too much stacked against it, including history. San Francisco is 45-25 in its history on Monday night, the most wins by any team. Make it 46-25 after tonight.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, St. Louis 17
At the midpoint of the 2014 season, familiarity reigns in the ACC. Florida State is clearly the No. 1 team in the league, and uncertainty overshadows the Coastal Division.
The Seminoles are likely to be favored by at least 10 points in every game the rest of the way and should be a heavy favorite over the Coastal Division champion in Charlotte. Barring an upset loss, Florida State will be one of the four teams in college football’s inaugural playoff.
Clemson is the ACC’s No. 2 team, but the Tigers suffered a setback with a hand injury to quarterback Deshaun Watson in Saturday’s win over Louisville. The talented true freshman will miss a couple of games but could return by early November. Assuming Florida State makes the playoff, Clemson – assuming it wins out or finishes 9-3 – would be the favorite to take the Seminoles’ spot in the Orange Bowl.
While there’s clarity on the Atlantic side, the Coastal is anyone’s guess. Virginia was projected by most to finish last in the Coastal this year. But the Cavaliers are 2-0 and sit atop the Coastal with six conference games remaining. Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh all have one loss in ACC play after Week 7. Miami and North Carolina – two preseason favorites – are in the basement with two conference losses.
Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
2014 ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Mike London, Virginia
London was squarely on the hot seat entering this season, but the fifth-year coach has the Cavaliers in the mix for the Coastal Division title at the midpoint of 2014. Virginia is 4-2 overall, and at 2-0 in conference play, is the only unbeaten team left in the Coastal. The Cavaliers still have to play Duke, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, but London has the program on the right track and poised to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Newcomer of the Year: Tyler Murphy, QB, Boston College
Tough call for this award at the midway point. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Virginia safety Quin Blanding and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson all deserve a mention, but Murphy gets the award after six games. The Florida transfer has thrived in Boston College’s run-first offense, averaging 118.5 rushing yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry. Murphy ranks third in the ACC in rushing yards (711). The senior is a work in progress as a passer (3 TDs, 6 INTs), but his emergence is a big reason why Boston College is on track to earn another bowl appearance in coach Steve Addazio’s second year.
Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Yes, Winston missed a game due to suspension, but he’s clearly the best player in the conference. With a struggling offensive line and rushing attack, the sophomore has even more of the offensive load on his shoulders, and Winston has responded with a strong first half. The sophomore is completing 70 percent of his passes (three points higher than 2013), has passed for 1,605 yards and 11 scores. Winston has completed at least 62 percent of his passes in four out of the five games he’s played in, and threw for 370 yards in the opener against Oklahoma State. And Winston’s passing numbers are even more impressive when you consider Florida State had to replace two of its top four receivers from last year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley entered 2014 as one of the top defensive players in the nation, and the senior has picked up where he left off. In six games, Beasley has 15 tackles – nine for a loss – recorded eight sacks, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Beasley’s eight sacks rank third nationally, and the senior has recorded at least one in every game this year. One of Beasley’s best games of 2014 took place in Tallahassee, as he recorded two sacks and two tackles for a loss against Florida State’s veteran offensive line.
Midseason Disappointment: North Carolina
Miami is a possibility for this spot, but North Carolina gets the nod after a 2-4 overall and 0-2 start in ACC play. The Tar Heels were not impressive in season-opening wins over Liberty and San Diego State and have dropped four in a row since. North Carolina lost three of its four games by 15 points or more but played well in a 50-43 defeat to Notre Dame on Saturday. Problems on both sides of the ball have contributed to the 2-4 start, as the Tar Heels are allowing 6.2 yards per play on defense, and the offense has lost 12 turnovers and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in ACC games. Youth has attributed to a chunk of North Carolina’s problems, especially on the defensive side and on the offensive line. The young talent is promising for 2015 and beyond, but the thoughts of North Carolina contending for a division title in 2014 were probably premature.
Midseason Surprise: Georgia Tech/Virginia
As we mentioned earlier, the Coastal Division favorite is anyone’s guess. Virginia is the only undefeated team in conference play, but the Cavaliers’ schedule will increase in difficulty over the next two months with a trip to Tallahassee to play Florida State, along with a road date at Virginia Tech in the finale. Virginia was considered the easy pick for No. 7 in the Coastal this preseason, but the Cavaliers are in the mix to win the division behind a stellar defense. Georgia Tech also entered 2014 with uncertainty, and coach Paul Johnson was on the hot seat after a 7-6 mark in 2013. The Yellow Jackets have jumped out to a 5-1 start this year and have already played Miami, Virginia Tech and Duke. The Coastal Division is unpredictable, and even though Georgia Tech and Virginia are flawed teams, both have emerged as frontrunners after being picked near the bottom in the preseason.
Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:
Three Things to Watch in Second Half
1. Florida State’s Repeat Bid
The Seminoles have dropped in the polls due to the emergence of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but Florida State is still a heavy favorite to make college football’s playoff. The path to another unbeaten season is favorable, especially if the Seminoles can navigate their next two games: Notre Dame and at Louisville. Finishing with an unbeaten record in back-to-back years is not easy, but Florida State has the talent and personnel to win it all once again. Quarterback Jameis Winston is getting more comfortable with his revamped receiving corps, and the offensive line – tagged as one of the best in the nation this preseason – can play better. On defense, the Seminoles are young and still adapting to new coordinator Charles Kelly. This unit should improve over the course of the season, especially if young players like defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and end Lorenzo Featherston continue to emerge as options on the defensive line. Additionally, the return of linebacker Matthew Thomas should help bolster Florida State’s front seven.
2. The Coastal Division
Good luck picking a frontrunner. Is it Virginia? Georgia Tech? Miami? Virginia Tech? Pittsburgh? Duke? You get the picture. North Carolina is 0-2 and probably the biggest longshot of winning the Coastal, but any of the six teams ahead of the Tar Heels in the standings have a chance to win. This should be an entertaining race over the next half of the season, and a 5-3 record might be enough to win the division.
3. Development of Young QBs
While Florida State’s quest for a repeat and the Coastal Division are intriguing national storylines, the development of young quarterbacks in the conference is something to watch over the second half. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is out a couple of weeks due to a hand injury, but the freshman was off to an impressive debut. Will Louisville find an answer between Will Gardner or Reggie Bonnafon under center? NC State’s Jacoby Brissett played well against Florida State but struggled against Clemson and Boston College. Can Brissett work his way back into the mix for All-ACC honors? And with Terrel Hunt sidelined, keep an eye on true freshman A.J. Long at Syracuse. On the Coastal side, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer and Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik are all quarterbacks with an opportunity to develop over the second half of the season. There’s a lot of quarterback uncertainty in the conference after Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Which passers will emerge in the final half of the season?
Top Five Games in Second Half
1. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)
Two of college football’s top programs meet in Tallahassee for the first time since 2002. And it’s a battle of two of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson. No shortage of intrigue in Doak Campbell Stadium on Oct. 18.
2. Florida State at Miami (Nov. 15)
What was once a great rivalry has been a one-sided affair in recent years. Florida State has won four in a row over Miami, including a 41-14 blowout against the Hurricanes last year. This could be a critical spot for Miami coach Al Golden, as he needs to have a good showing against the No. 1 team in the ACC.
3. Georgia Tech at Clemson (Nov. 15)
This rivalry has produced a few entertaining matchups and high-scoring affairs. Last year’s game alone produced 86 points and Clemson has won three out of the last four in this series. This game could be a critical one for Georgia Tech’s Coastal Division title hopes.
4. Virginia Tech at Duke (Nov. 15)
Could this game decide the Coastal Division? The Hokies lost 13-10 to Duke last year, but Virginia Tech won the previous 12 games in this series.
5. Virginia at Virginia Tech (Nov. 28)
The Commonwealth Cup is on the line, but this game also could have ACC title implications. Virginia Tech has won 10 in a row over its in-state rival.
Next up: Florida State at Louisville (Oct. 30), Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29), Miami at Virginia Tech (Oct. 23), Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 29)
Projecting the Final 2014 ACC Standings
New Orleans is set to return from its bye this week, but the Saints look like they will be without All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham a little longer. Graham sprained his shoulder two weeks ago against Tampa Bay and even with a week off to recover, reports are that he could miss up to three more weeks because of the injury.
Graham’s loss to the Saints cannot be understated, as he leads the team in targets (46), receptions (34), yards (376) and touchdowns (3). His value in fantasy is even greater, as his per-season averages over the past three years look like this: 90 rec., 1,169 yds., 11 TDs. Those numbers are outstanding for a wide receiver, let alone a tight end, which is why Graham was a consensus first-round pick entering this season.
The good news is that it appears Graham will be back in about a month, but that’s still a lot of production for a fantasy owner to try and replace. While it’s impossible to find someone on Graham’s level that figures to be available in most leagues (i.e, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski don’t count), here are five options to consider:
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce may be the hardest to acquire of this list, considering he’s already a top-10 fantasy TE this season. However, the Chiefs are coming off of their bye, so this also could be an opportune time to add this talented young target. Kelce was generating some buzz regarding his potential entering this season and after somewhat of a slow start, he has responded. He has caught a touchdown pass in each of his past three games and is quickly establishing himself as one of Alex Smith’s most trusted targets. Kelce isn’t the second coming of Jimmy Graham, but there are some similarities in their skill sets and how they are used in their respective offenses.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Ranked as a top-10 fantasy TE entering this season, injuries have once again have prevented Reed from realizing his immense potential. The talented second-year tight end suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener, which opened the door for Niles Paul (23-326-1) to emerge. But Reed returned to the lineup on Sunday and was an immediate factor, if not force, in the Redskins' passing game. He led the team in both targets (11) and receptions (8) while finishing second in yards with 92. Likely forgotten because of the extended absence, Reed is one of the few options out there whose potential reward outweighs the injury risk he carries.
Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
Dennis Pitta is on injured reserve, leaving Daniels as the Ravens’ No. 1 tight end. His numbers haven’t been that impressive (21-217-2), but his familiarity with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can’t be overlooked. Kubiak has always shown a tendency to involve tight ends in his offense, going back to when Daniels and Kubiak were with the Texans together. As long as Daniels continues to see targets come his way (averaging 4.5 per game), he should remain a viable starting fantasy option.
Jace Amaro, New York Jets
The Jets’ second-round pick, Amaro was expected to add an element to the offense that has been missing for some time. Six games into his rookie season, Amaro may be ready to be that impact player he was drafted to be. In Sunday’s loss to Denver, Amaro led the Jets in targets (12), receptions (10) and yards (68), while also catching his first career NFL touchdown. Geno Smith needs to find targets he trusts and Amaro, who was a pass-catching magnet at Texas Tech, could help fill that void. One thing’s for certain about Amaro, he’s not out there to block, so any time he’s on the field he should have an opportunity to make a play.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts also have Coby Fleener, who was Andrew Luck’s teammate at Stanford, at tight end, but so far Allen has been more productive. Allen is fourth on the team in receptions (18) despite seeing fewer targets than running back Ahmad Bradshaw or No. 3 wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Allen and Luck have been successful on 67 percent of their attempted connections (18 of 27) for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Allen’s athleticism and big-play ability is evident in that he’s third on the Colts in yards and trails only Bradshaw in touchdown catches. Allen may not be a full-time starter, but he’s a big enough part of the Colts’ offense to be productive. He’s currently ninth among TEs in fantasy points.
And what about the Saints?
In most cases, it’s typical to first look to the next man on a team’s depth chart in the case of an injury. However, Jimmy Graham is no ordinary tight end, so there’s no obvious replacement for him when looking at the Saints’ roster. Benjamin Watson figures to see the biggest increase in playing time and opportunities, but the 11-year veteran has been targeted a total of 12 times this season, producing nine catches for 64 yards. Josh Hill, who has two touchdown receptions among his seven total catches, and recently signed Tom Crabtree also could factor in, which only adds to the confusion regarding this situation. While Watson could be someone to keep an eye on moving forward, the five tight ends mentioned above are considerably more appealing when it comes to potential fantasy replacement options.
We have learned to expect the unexpected in college football, but no one could have seen this coming. At the midpoint of the college football season, the two schools from Mississippi are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally, and Dak Prescott from Mississippi State is the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Simply amazing.
Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
2014 SEC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coaches of the Year: Hugh Freeze; Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
It’s almost impossible to differentiate between Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the national polls — who’s No. 1? — and it’s equally difficult to determine which team’s coach is more deserving, at this point, of Coach of the Year honors. Mullen might get the nod by some because expectations weren’t quite as high at Mississippi State this season, but Freeze must be commended for keeping his team so focused after the epic win over Alabama last weekend.
Newcomer of the Year: D’haquille Williams, Auburn
Considered by most to be the best incoming junior college recruit at his position, Williams has been the top threat on an improved Auburn passing attack. The La Place, La., native leads Auburn with 31 receptions and 493 yards and has topped the 100-yard mark three times — 154 vs. Arkansas and 110 vs. Kansas State and 108 vs. Mississippi State.
Offensive Player of the Year: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
In his first season as a full-time starter, Prescott has emerged as the best player at his position in the country. In three games against SEC opponents — and against three teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game — Prescott is averaging 260.7 yards passing and 101.0 yards rushing. None of the three recent SEC quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy — Tim Tebow (2007), Cam Newton (2010) and Johnny Manziel (2012) — matched that type of dual-threat productivity against league opponents during their respective Heisman season.
A former quarterback in high school, McKinney has been a force at middle linebacker for the surprising Bulldogs. The junior from Tunica, Miss., leads Mississippi State with 41 tackles and also has six tackles for a loss (with three sacks), two fumble recoveries and two pass break-ups.
Midseason Disappointment: Vanderbilt
After winning a combined 18 games the past two seasons, Vanderbilt was expected to take a step back in the first year of the Derek Mason era. This has been far more than a step. The Commodores are 2–5 overall and 0–4 in the SEC with the only wins coming at home over UMass by three points and Charleston Southern by one point. Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in total offense (269.7 ypg) and has scored a total of nine offensive touchdowns in six games.
Midseason Surprise: Mississippi State
This one, like the Coach of the Year, is a two-horse race between the two Mississippi schools. We will go with the boys from Starkville, who have knocked off LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn in consecutive games. Neither LSU nor A&M were worthy of the top-10 rankings they held at the time of the game, but Mississippi State still deserves credit for beating both teams in convincing fashion.
Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half:
• Who will win the Wild, Wild West? Right now, both Mississippi State and Ole Miss are 3–0, and each has a quality win over another league contender. But there is still a long way to go. Alabama has struggled on offense of late, but this is still an extremely talented team that likely will be favored in each of its final six games. And Auburn will still be a major factor despite a brutal schedule over the final two months.
• Can the Wildcats get to six? Kentucky has been a nice surprise in Mark Stoops’ second season in Lexington. But even with a 5–1 record, the Wildcats will still have to scratch and claw to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. Four of Kentucky’s final six games are on the road, and the two home games are against Mississippi State and Georgia. On paper, UK’s “easiest” game is the Nov. 15 trip to Tennessee.
• Will Arkansas break through? The Razorbacks are clearly improved in 2014, but they are still 0–3 in the SEC and have not won a league game since October 2012. At some point, Bret Bielema’s team must make the right play at the right time and win one of these close games.
Top Five games in Second Half
1. Mississippi State at Ole Miss, Nov. 29
The 2014 edition of the Egg Bowl has the potential to be one of the most hyped games in the history of college football — if both teams cooperate and remain undefeated.
2. Auburn at Alabama, Nov. 29
The Iron Bowl might be the undercard on this late-November Saturday, but there will still be plenty at stake for both teams. Even if the SEC West is not on the line, it’s always a big deal when these two teams tangle.
3. Auburn at Ole Miss, Nov. 1
The schedule breaks favorably for Ole Miss this year, as the three other top teams in the West each visit Oxford.
4. Auburn at Georgia, Nov. 15
All the focus has been on the SEC West, but we can’t forget about Georgia. The Bulldogs, who have only one league loss, are the class of the SEC East and figure to be a worthy challenger for the champ of the West in the title game in Atlanta.
5. Kentucky at Tennessee, Nov. 15
This won’t register nationally, but it could be a huge game for two programs desperate to reach the six-win mark under their respective second-year head coaches. The loser of this game might end the season stuck on the five-win mark.
Predicting the Final 2014 SEC Standings
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Chandler Parsons probably hasn’t been told he’s fat too many times. The star forward and new Dallas Mavericks starter is — like most NBA players — a trim man with a seemingly impenetrable halo of confidence. He’s even done some modeling before.
But that doesn’t inoculate him against the body critiques of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. An authoritative, discipline-driven leader, Carlisle has made use of the media for instructive purposes in the past. Airing dirty laundry out in public is sometimes the quickest way to make someone clean it. In this case, though, the coach may be overstepping.
"He looked tired out there tonight to me, and his shot is short," Carlisle said after a preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "He's working on losing some weight. He's a little bit heavier than he's been. He's up over 230, and we want to see him get down to at least 225. That's a work in progress, and tonight's one of those nights where I think the extra weight was a hindrance.”
“His opinion of heavy is different than mine," Parsons retorted. ”We kind of go at it every day about it. At the end of the day, I respect his opinion. After training camp, my weight fluctuates. I'll get it down.”
After the exchange gained attention, Parsons continued it with a barely veiled poke at his coach on Instagram. Here Parsons is, topless and sculpted and making sure everyone knows it:
There’s an undeniable cheekiness in Parsons’ post. Like his “think before you speak” tweet — a dig at old teammate James Harden, who disrespected Parsons after he fled the Houston Rockets — Parsons shows, here, his aptitude for using social media to his advantage.
Think before you speak.— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) July 24, 2014
Carlisle subsequently apologized for his words, Sunday, in an official statement issued by the team: ”It was unfair and inappropriate to single out Chandler Parsons after the game Friday night. I have apologized to him and the entire team for this error in judgment. Not only is Chandler Parsons one of our best players, he is also one of our hardest working players and the kind of high character person we strive to bring to our city and franchise. I also made it clear to our players and staff this morning that this type of bad example is not acceptable and beneath the dignity of a championship organization like the Dallas Mavericks.”
Maybe Carlisle meant his apology; maybe he didn’t. And maybe he meant his original words about Parsons’ weight; or maybe he was just getting under the skin of his fame-seeking newcomer, to ensure his eyes are on basketball and not his heedless pursuit of the spotlight — he has been dating a Kardhashian, after all. Today it’s weight, but tomorrow and for the rest of 2014-15 we can expect the tension between Parsons and his no-nonsense coach to come alive in all sorts of ways.
— John Wilmes
Entering the season, many believed the Big 12 to be a two-horse race between Baylor and Oklahoma. But at the midseason point, the Big 12 has as many teams ranked in the AP Top 15 as any other league in the nation. (Yes, that includes the SEC.)
Those five teams ranked in the top 15 all feel like they have a legit shot at winning the Big 12 championship and likely landing one of the coveted four playoff spots. The top five teams in the league have a combined four losses — all of which have come against teams ranked 11th or better in the current AP Poll.
Only TCU has faced one of the other five ranked opponents. Needless to say, there is a plenty of ball left to be played in the Heartland.
Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
2014 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
The Horned Frogs were 4-8 last year and now sit 4-1 and ranked No. 12 in the nation - AFTER playing Oklahoma and Baylor. The Frogs are still facing huge tests on the road against West Virginia and Texas as well as home games with Kansas State and Oklahoma State. But the changes Patterson made on the offensive coaching staff have paid huge dividends in just five games thus far in 2014.
Newcomer of the Year: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma and Tyreek Hill, AP, Oklahoma State
Perine is third in the league in carries (109), second in the league in rushing (568) and is leading the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns (9). The 240-pound true freshman from Pflugerville, Texas (aka, Mack Brown’s backyard) has been brilliant in place of Keith Ford for Bob Stoops. Oklahoma State’s do-everything dynamo Tyreek Hill deserves mention as well as the junior college playmaker has made a huge impact for Mike Gundy’s squad. Hill is second in the Big 12 in all-purpose yards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Dealing with a back injury, Petty performed at his best in the biggest spot of the season thus far. Trailing late in the second half, he rallied the Bears with 24 straight points to stay unbeaten against rival TCU. Petty has thrown for 1,534 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns in just five games (he missed one start) and is poised for another run at the Heisman Trophy.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Shawn Oakman gets the slight nod over Eric Striker or Zack Sanchez in what is a very tight race for top defensive player in this league. Oakman has been a force for the top team in the league, posting 24 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks and one forced fumble. Striker has 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks while Sanchez has five interceptions and 25 tackles.
Midseason Disappointment: Texas Tech
After a tenuous start to the year in wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP, Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch has lost four straight games in ugly fashion. After it’s first 0-3 conference start since 1990, Texas Tech is staring at eight straight losses in the Big 12. This team has problems with turnovers and penalties and has already changed defensive coordinators.
Midseason Surprise: TCU's offense
Gary Patterson has found the formula. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to run his offense and quarterback Trevone Boykin has flourished. The TCU quarterback has thrown for 292.6 yards per game and scored 14 total times while only throwing two interceptions and rushing for 305 yards. In a league known for offense on a team known for defense, TCU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 at 45.8 points per game and No. 3 in total offense at 510.0 yards per game.
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Three Things to Watch in Second Half
1. Can Baylor repeat and does the Big 12 make the playoff?
The trip to Norman in November obviously looms large, but since the league is so much deeper and more balanced than anticipated, the Bears will face plenty of other hurdles en route to a second straight league crown. A road trip to Morgantown as well as games with Oklahoma State and Kansas State still loom. That said, the path to a title still runs through Norman, and the Bears are in control of their own destiny. A second championship for Art Briles puts him alongside the nation's best and likely lands Baylor in the College Football Playoff.
2. Who are the challengers?
TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have all joined the championship conversation and all three have yet to face each other. Both Oklahoma State and K-State have yet to face Baylor or Oklahoma as well. Someone will jump into the title fray — much like TCU already has — and this could become a three- four- or five-team race for the top. Which one of these programs has staying power and can any of these "second-tiered" teams step into contention remains to be seen. Either way, it figures to be an exciting final two months in the middle of the Big 12.
3. Tyrone Swoopes development
The Longhorns have a great defense. But Tyrone Swoopes showed Longhorns fans glimpses of the future with his play against Oklahoma. This offense is in desperate need of a spark and Swoopes might be capable of supplying it. He finished 27-of-44 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the close loss to Oklahoma. He added 50 yards rushing on 11 carries and another score on the ground.
Top Five Games in Second Half
1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
The Bears have never won in Norman. Ever. And if Art Briles wants to win another Big 12 title, his squad will have to go up North to Oklahoma and win.
2. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6)
The rivalry aspect gives this game extra juice. Mike Gundy has struggled in this bout but at the season’s end, both teams could still be in the title race.
3. Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6)
Bill Snyder defense faces Art Briles offense? Yes, please. The Cats could be the top challenger to Oklahoma or Baylor but will have to win some key road games.
4. Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18)
See: Kansas State at Baylor above.
5. Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8)
TCU has already played the two toughest games of its season and it split. Kansas State could be the No. 3 biggest game on the schedule if KSU can upset the Bears or Sooners along the way.
Next up: Oklahoma State at Baylor, Oklahoma State at TCU, TCU at Texas, Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Texas at Oklahoma State, Baylor at West Virginia
Projecting the Final 2014 Big 12 Standings
There are 11 Big 5 teams left in college football that have yet to lose a conference game and none of them reside in the Pac-12.
The talk in the preseason was that the Pac-12 could be the league that was deep enough to challenge the SEC for national conference supremacy. It certainly doesn’t appear that like that talk was accurate, as the SEC is head and shoulders above the rest of the nation.
But that doesn’t mean that the Pac-12 isn’t the most entertaining league in the nation.
The quarterback play has been as good as advertised with four of the top eight Big 5 quarterbacks in the nation in terms of total offense playing in the Pac-12. And this list doesn't include Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion or Cody Kessler.
The quality of coaching is shining in places like Tucson, Seattle, Berkeley and Salt Lake City as every road trip in this league has become extremely difficult no matter the situation.
And what other league can boast three successful Hail Marys — two of which came on the final play of the game?
Oregon’s win over UCLA has given the Ducks the top spot in the Pac-12 power rankings and likely the best shot at making the College Football Playoff moving forward. But the real story out West is the quality of depth this league can offer. Neither division is even close to being decided, as the North and South each boast four one-loss teams with seven weeks left to play.
2014 Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Very few (me) picked Arizona higher than fourth in the Pac-12 South entering the season (I had them at No. 2), so the job Rich Rodriguez has done in Tucson getting his Wildcats to a Top 10 ranking (for one week) has been nothing short of shocking (to some). Despite the loss to USC, Arizona is still right in the mix for the Pac-12 South championship with games looming against UCLA, Arizona State and Utah in the division. The win over Oregon might be the best win for any team in the nation to date.
Newcomer of the Year: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
The redshirt freshman has been brilliant in his first six games as a college quarterback. Solomon is third in the nation in total offense at 382.7 yards per game and has thrown 15 touchdown passes. His play in the fourth-quarter comeback against Cal as well as the road win at Oregon would be considered brilliant for a senior much less a freshman. Solomon is a big reason why Zona is in the thick of the Pac-12 South race.
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The stats speak for themselves. Mariota has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards, 17 touchdowns and no interceptions while running for his life behind a banged-up offensive line. He has added 290 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground while leading the nation in passer rating at 193.72. He has been brilliant all season and already has wins over ranked opponents Michigan State and UCLA.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
A defensive player can’t do much else to get himself mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation than what Thompson has accomplished in the first half of the season. He is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns — four of which have come on defense — a total that would also pace UCLA, Stanford or Utah. He is top 10 in the league in tackles with 45 and has 220 return yards on his four defensive touchdowns. He has 2.0 tackles for a loss, one sack and two forced fumbles as well.
Midseason Disappointment: Washington State
UCLA’s offensive line might also qualify for this award, but with losses to Nevada, Rutgers and Cal, Mike Leach’s squad is likely to miss a bowl game. After positive growth last season and a clearly improved Conn0r Halliday, a 2-5 start to the season for the Cougars is a major disappointment. Especially, for a team many believed would be playing in the postseason.
Midseason Surprise: Cal
Arizona would qualify as well, especially, if the Cats go on to win the South. But right now, the most pleasant surprise in the Pac-12 has to be the Cal Golden Bears. This team is one play away from being 3-1 in the league after losing 14 consecutive Pac-12 contests entering this fall. There are a lot of tough games left on the schedule but to be two wins from a bowl game just halfway through the schedule is a huge tip of the cap to Sonny Dykes.
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Three Things to Watch in Second Half
1. Oregon's offensive line
With Jake Fisher back against UCLA, the Ducks' offensive line looked as good as it has since the beginning of the season. Oregon has two huge games looming with Stanford and Washington — two of the best defensive fronts in the nation — and this group will have to be excellent to win those games. If this group stabilizes, Oregon could win the Pac-12 and land in the Playoffs while giving Marcus Mariota a great shot at the Heisman. If not, the Ducks could finish with three losses and another Alamo Bowl bid.
2. South Division upstarts
Arizona, Utah and Arizona State were not supposed to be in the race in the South but all three already have key wins over conference contenders. USC and UCLA still might be the best teams and have the inside track on playing at Levi’s Stadium but the rest of this division is extremely competitive. The Utes, Wildcats and Sun Devils all feel like they belong in the conversation and with wins over UCLA, Oregon and USC respectively, it appears they might be right about that.
3. Connor Halliday's assault on the record book
Halliday already owns the NCAA single-game record for attempts (89) and yards (734) but is charging toward the NCAA single-season passing record as well. With a host of other records on the line, the one bright spot in Pullman this season could be the nation’s leading passer and his chase for more history. Let’s face it, no one makes losing more entertaining than Halliday and the Cougs.
Top Five Games in Second Half
1. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)
It's been the biggest game in the Pac-12 for the last half decade and it appears this matchup will fill the bill as far as the rest of the slate goes. A trip to the Pac-12 title game and/or College Football Playoff could be on the line. Stanford has dominated this series of late and its defense should be extremely difficult to move the ball against based on Oregon's offensive line woes.
2. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)
The Pac-12 South title could be on the line when these two cross-town rivals and historic brands meet on the second to last weekend of the regular season. A win for either team could knock the loser out of the South Division race.
3. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)
The Bruins' front line will be tested once again against one of the nastiest defensive fronts in the nation. UCLA might already be out of the race by the final weekend but if not, this game could decide the South Division champion.
4. Washington at Oregon (Oct. 18)
This game got a lot more interesting when the Huskies and Ducks won impressive road games in Week 7 over Cal and UCLA respectively. With a loss to Stanford, Washington's North Division title hopes hang in the balance against Oregon in Eugene.
5. UCLA at Washington (Nov. 8)
Most of the big games left for UCLA will come at home with the exception of this road trip north to Seattle. Both teams should still by eyeing a spot in the Pac-12 title game when they meet in Husky Stadium. And two of the best uniforms will be on the same field at the same time.
Next up: Arizona State at Arizona, Washington at Arizona, Arizona at UCLA, Notre Dame at USC, Oregon at Utah, Oregon at Oregon State
Projecting the Final 2014 Pac-12 Standings
|North||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|South||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox recap all of Week 7's action in college football. The state of Mississippi once again dominated, Oregon made a huge statement in the Pac-12 and the wide open and wacky Big 12 highlight this week's conversation. The fellas also give you their playoff teams as well.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 13:
• J-Lo put on an ab show after a workout. Reminder: The woman is 45.
• Aaron Rodgers pulled the old Dan Marino fake spike against the Dolphins. If anybody should have seen it coming, it's Miami.
• In an otherwise stellar day, Jay Cutler hit a ref in the nuggets with a left-handed pass.
• The play of the day yesterday, and the play of the season so far: Tony Romo to Terrance Williams.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The NBA preseason isn’t quite halfway over. There’s been more than enough time, however, for fate to exercise its cruel hand on the bodies of the league’s superstars. On the eve of Media Day, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo broke a bone in his left hand. He’ll miss the first month of a season many see as a tryout for trade suitors — Rondo’s got one year left on his contract with Boston, and many don’t see him lasting the year there.
Weeks later, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal — one of the most blooming young talents in the game — fractured his left wrist. He’s expected to miss two months, a serious hit to one of the most exciting teams in the East.
But the latest NBA casualty is by far its most devastating. Reigning MVP Kevin Durant has sustained a “Jones fracture, a broken bone at the base of the small toe,” as reported by ESPN’s Royce Young. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s scoring sensation might not play again until early 2015. Durant and his team are still deciding whether to undergo surgery, but that’s the way things are leaning.
“It's a stress injury, it happened over time,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti, per Young, at a press conference Sunday. Presti delivered a tone of optimism about Durant’s malady. “Coming into this season having not played USA Basketball, reflecting on that decision now, I think clearly, probably helped him a great deal, just the amount of stress he was able to avoid at that point in time.”
It was at a Team USA exhibition game in August, of course, that the league lost yet another of its biggest heroes — Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, whose horrific, tragically sudden leg injury was the most telling incident of all. You never know when an icon’s star will flash — it could be any instant — from super bright to off.
— John Wilmes
Washington’s Pac-12 North title hopes took a hit after the 20-13 loss to Stanford on Sept. 27, but there’s renewed optimism about Chris Petersen’s team after a 31-7 win over California.
The 31-7 victory over the Golden Bears could be Washington’s best all-around performance from 2014. Sure, California is still progressing under second-year coach Sonny Dykes and finished 1-11 last year, but the Huskies were an underdog entering Saturday’s matchup.
Washington’s offense struggled mightily against Stanford, averaging just 2.6 yards per play and finishing with just 98 passing yards. California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12, but the Huskies showed signs of life on Saturday. The 5.7 yards per play (just 67 plays) mark against the Golden Bears is the third-highest total of the season. That may seem like a small feat, but the highest totals came against Eastern Washington and Illinois.
Quarterback Cyler Miles benefited from the bye week and responded with his best effort of the season. Again, California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12 and was dealing with injuries to a couple of key players, but Miles threw for a season-high 273 yards and added three scores. The sophomore also recorded a solid 12.4 yards per completion mark and did not throw an interception for the fifth consecutive game.
The offensive line gave up four sacks in the loss to Stanford but allowed Miles to be sacked just twice on 29 pass attempts. And the line’s solid play translated to the rushing attack as running backs Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington each averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Washington’s offense is far from a finished product, but the performance against California is a good sign before a key stretch on the 2014 schedule. And a timely one.
The Huskies are still in the mix for the North Division title but need a win over Oregon this Saturday to stake their claim in the race.
After Saturday’s game against the Ducks, Washington hosts Arizona State, followed by a road date against Colorado, a home matchup against UCLA and then game at Arizona.
There are simply no breaks in the Pac-12 schedule, and a two-loss team likely wins the conference title.
Washington’s defense is already one of the best in the conference. Did its offense turn a corner in Saturday’s win over California? Perhaps. But a better gauge of where the Huskies stand in Petersen’s first year is coming next Saturday with a trip to Eugene. California was a positive step. Now, let's see if Washington's offense takes a big step forward against the Ducks.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 6 of the NFL season.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt recorded his third touchdown of the season with a 45-yard fumble return for a score in the Texans' Week 6 loss to Indianapolis. Watt became the first player in 53 years with interception, fumble recovery, and receiving touchdowns in a single season. He joined Bill Stacy (1961), Jay Arnold (1938), and George Halas (1927) in that rare company. Watt also became the first defensive lineman to score three TDs in a season since William "The Refrigerator" Perry did so for Chicago in 1985. Perry had two rushing TDs and one TD reception. Perry never scored again after that rookie season.
With his two catches in Week 6, Dallas tight end Jason Witten became the second-youngest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. Witten, who achieved the feat at 32 years, 159 days old, is only behind Houston receiver Andre Johnson, who did so at 32 years, 143 days.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is tied with one of football's greatest. With his 115 yards in Seattle, Murray joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only two players in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of their team's first six games to start a season.
Indianapolis won its ninth straight Thursday night game with a 33-28 win at Houston. Of those nine consecutive wins, eight of them have come on the road for the Colts.
Denver tight end Julius Thomas added two more touchdowns in Week 6 to a season total that is now at nine. That ties him with Detroit's Calvin Johnson (2011) as the most of any player in NFL history through their team's first five games of the season.
New England's Tom Brady threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-22 win over Buffalo, and now has 11 career games with 350+ yards and 4+ touchdowns. That moved him past Dan Marino for third-most games like that in NFL history.
Baltimore's Joe Flacco became the fastest player to throw five touchdown passes in a game (since at least the 1970 AFL-NFL merger) when he did so in just 16 minutes, three seconds against Tampa Bay. The fastest to five had been Ben Roethlisberger, doing it in 28:09 in 2007 against Baltimore. Flacco finished with the five scores, no interceptions, and 306 yards. Flacco also became the first player since 1986 with four touchdown passes in the first quarter, and the first player since 2009 with five touchdown passes in a half. Minnesota's Tommy Kramer had four first-quarter TD passes against Green Bay in a Sept. 28, 1986 game, and Tom Brady threw five first-half TDs in an Oct. 18, 2009 game against Tennessee.
Atlanta backup running back Antone Smith is the first NFL player with six scrimmage touchdowns of 35+ yards in the first 25 touches of his career since the merger. He had a 41-yard scoring pass from Matt Ryan in the Falcons' 27-13 loss to the visiting Chicago Bears in Week 6. It was one of his six touches from scrimmage for the game.
The 74 combined points from Carolina and Cincinnati in their 37-37, double-overtime tie are the most ever in an NFL overtime game that ended in a tie. The game marks the most combined points in a tie game since the Boston Patriots tied the Oakland Raiders, 43-43, on Oct. 16, 1964, which occurred before the advent of NFL overtime rules in 1974.
San Diego's Philip Rivers achieved a passer rating of at least 120 for the fifth consecutive game in a 31-28 win at Oakland, allowing him to pass Johnny Unitas and Kurt Warner for the longest such streak in league history (minimum of 15 pass attempts in each game).
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, playing in his 100th game, threw the 203rd touchdown of his career. The 203 are the second most of any player in their first 100 games, trailing only Miami's Dan Marino, who threw for 217 in his first 100. Rodgers' 25,616 passing yards ranks him fourth all time amongst player in their first 100 games.
The Chicago Bears became the first NFL franchise to reach 750 wins with their 27-13 victory over Atlanta. The organization is now 750-555-42 all time.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a separated shoulder in Saturday’s loss to Iowa, clouding the bowl hopes of a program that hoped to breakthrough in coach Kevin Wilson’s fourth season.
It’s uncertain how long Sudfeld will be sidelined, but his absence will be felt if he cannot play on Saturday against Michigan State.
Following the Hoosiers’ matchup against the Spartans, there’s a bye before finishing the year on a challenging five-game stretch.
Sudfeld was expected to be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in 2014, but the junior has only one game of more than 252 passing yards. A transition at receiver has slowed the development of Indiana’s offense, which averaged 38.4 points per game. After six games, the Hoosiers are down to a 32.3 mark in 2014.
Perhaps Sudfeld will only miss a game or two, but any absence by the junior quarterback is a setback to Indiana’s bowl hopes.
Backup Chris Covington switched from linebacker to quarterback in the fall and completed only 3 of 12 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions in the 45-29 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Running back Tevin Coleman is one of the nation’s best, but the junior doesn’t have much help in the passing department if Sudfeld is sidelined.
At 3-3 and still searching for their first Big Ten win of 2014, the Hoosiers need Sudfeld back in the lineup as soon as possible. Covington has good athleticism, but he’s developing as a passer. Having a quarterback make his first career start against Michigan State’s defense is a nightmare scenario for Wilson.
The schedule simply isn’t going to get any easier for Indiana. If Sudfeld returns by November, games against Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue are winnable, giving hope that Wilson can provide a breakthrough season in 2014. But in addition to Sudfeld's health, Indiana needs more from its defense, which has allowed 30 or more points in three games this year.
If Sudfeld is sidelined for an extended period of time, Indiana will be outside of the bowl picture once again. Wilson shouldn't be on the hot seat, but he could be facing a make-or-break year in 2015 if the Hoosiers finish 4-8 or 5-7 this year.
No. 5 Kansas won its 10th consecutive Big Ten title and managed to stay in the top 10 for most of the season despite the toughest schedule in the country. Yet the year felt incomplete with an injury to Joel Embiid and an early exit from the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks lose two of the top three picks in the NBA draft but reload with another standout recruiting class joining a group of veterans to challenge for another Final Four.
The Kansas edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
Last year’s Kansas basketball team won 25 games, captured a 10th straight Big 12 title and had two of the first three players selected in the NBA Draft. Still, to most Jayhawks fans, 2013-14 will be remembered as a disappointment.
“We had a good season — but not a great one,” coach Bill Self says. “To have a great season you have to perform well in March, and that’s something we weren’t able to accomplish.”
Indeed, even with three McDonald’s All-Americans in the starting lineup and a partisan crowd in the stands, No. 2 seed Kansas wasn’t able to get past No. 10 Stanford in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis. Kansas — which lost 10 games for the first time since 1999-2000, will now have to regroup without standouts Andrew Wiggins (the No. 1 overall pick) and Joel Embiid (No. 3).
Self hardly seems discouraged. “I don’t think we’ll take a step back at all,” says the coach. “If anything, I think we have a chance to be better.”
No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10, 14-4 Big 12
Postseason: NCAA round of 32
Consecutive NCAAs: 25
Coach: Bill Self (325-69 at Kansas, 151-31 Big 12)
Big 12 Projection: First
Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight
The hoopla surrounding Embiid last season caused Perry Ellis to go unnoticed at times, but that didn’t stop the former McDonald’s All-American from ranking second on the team in points (13.5 ppg) and rebounds (6.7 rpg). Ellis, whose strength on offense is his versatility, was one of the most impressive players at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July and should contend for Big 12 Player of the Year honors. His biggest challenge will be on defense, where his lackluster play has been a sore spot with Self.
As promising as Ellis has looked, incoming freshman Cliff Alexander could be even better. A consensus top-3 recruit, Alexander is a 6-9, 240-pound bruiser who should give the Jayhawks an imposing presence in the paint.
The battle for playing time should be fierce among Kansas’ other post players. Junior Jamari Traylor averaged 4.1 rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench last year. His experience, energy and hustle make him a favorite to be in the rotation. Landen Lucas played sparingly as a redshirt freshman but was one of the most improved players by the end of the season. Self is also high on former Arkansas center Hunter Mickelson, a shot-blocker who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
For the third straight year, Kansas enters the season unproven at the most important position on the court. Naadir Tharpe, who started all but four games at the point a year ago, left the team during the offseason. Even if Tharpe had stayed, he likely would’ve been replaced by Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp (both sophomores) or incoming freshman Devonte’ Graham.
Mason averaged 16 minutes per game as a freshman, and Self loves his fearlessness and toughness. But he can be erratic at times. Frankamp is an outstanding 3-point shooter who may be better suited for shooting guard. Graham, a former Appalachian State signee who got out of his letter of intent last spring, could end up being one of the steals of the 2014 recruiting class. Don’t be surprised if he starts as a freshman.
The Jayhawks are absolutely loaded at shooting guard and small forward with sophomores Frankamp, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene and freshmen Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Selden entered last season as a projected NBA Lottery pick, but he struggled to stand out alongside Wiggins and Embiid and never really asserted himself offensively. This year should be different.
The 6-7 Oubre is a consensus top-10 recruit who picked the Jayhawks over schools such as Florida, Kentucky and Louisville. The lefthander can light it up from long range but also loves to attack the basket. Greene, who has an NBA body and skill set, is hoping to see his playing time increase after averaging just 6.6 minutes as a freshman.
The best player of all, though, could end up being Mykhailuk, a Ukraine native whom one NBA scout tabbed as the best foreign-born player since Ricky Rubio.
Kansas should win its 11th straight Big 12 title, but the Jayhawks’ hopes of a lengthy NCAA Tournament run will depend largely on their point guard, whoever that may be. It will also be vital for Alexander and Oubre — both likely one-and-doners — to live up to lofty expectations.
Cliff Alexander could be one of the most physical players in the league despite being a freshman. Kelly Oubre is an NBA prospect who is a threat from the perimeter and the paint. Devonte’ Graham has been impressive during offseason workouts and could start at point guard. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned 17 in June but could be one of the league’s best players if he adapts physically. He could be a top-10 pick in two years. Hunter Mickelson is a shot-blocker who transferred from Arkansas.
Texas coach Charlie Strong won’t celebrate a moral victory, but the first-year coach has to be encouraged with the play of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. In the 31-26 defeat to Oklahoma, Swoopes delivered arguably his best performance of 2014.
Swoopes completed 27 of 44 throws for 334 yards and two scores. The sophomore’s 61.4 completion percentage is his best mark in Big 12 play from 2014, and he added a season-high of 50 yards on the ground.
Both of Swoopes’ touchdowns came after Oklahoma went up 31-13, but the sophomore had an all-around solid effort against a good Oklahoma defense.
The Sooners’ defense allowed 33 points to West Virginia and 37 to TCU, but that’s life in the Big 12. High-scoring games are the norm, and life as a defensive coordinator or player isn't easy. Oklahoma’s defensive front was projected to be one of the best in the nation this year, and its secondary is headlined by potential All-American Zack Sanchez.
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Swoopes’ performance and growth under center is a huge positive for Strong’s rebuilding effort. Coordinator Shawn Watson was a key player in the development of Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, and the veteran assistant is working to mold the offense into Swoopes' strengths. And the mobility of Swoopes will help with a struggling offensive line, while the young quarterback seems to be developing a rapport with receivers John Harris and Jaxon Shipley.
Texas is 2-4 at the midway point of 2014 and needs four wins to get bowl eligible. That’s not going to be easy, as the Longhorns could be underdogs West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State.
But with a defense holding opponents to 21.2 points a game and just 4.3 yards per play, any development on offense will give Texas a shot at reaching 6-6 or 7-5 in Strong’s debut.
Just recording six or seven victories certainly isn’t the standard or acceptable at Texas, but Strong needs to build momentum in the win column and off-the-field for recruiting.
Swoopes is far from a finished product, but provided Texas can surround its young quarterback with more help in the trenches and at receiver, the sophomore can help Strong get the program back in the mix for Big 12 titles. And if nothing else, Swoopes' development over the next six (or seven with a bowl) will give Texas momentum heading into 2015.
Now might be a decent time to start buying low on Minnesota in the Big Ten West Division. The balance of power in the Big Ten still appears to be in the top-heavy east, but the West can quickly become Minnesota’s to lose the way this season has been going.
Minnesota could be about to get a harsh dose of reality in the second half of the season. Before it does though, Minnesota has two games it should be able to win against Purdue and at Illinois. After that, it may be up to the momentum to carry them the rest of the way, because the back-end of the schedule could be steep.
Minnesota’s final four games are at home against Iowa and Ohio State and on the road at Nebraska and Wisconsin. The game with Iowa could determine first-place in the Big Ten West. Ohio State may be the best team in the Big Ten after all. Road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin could have the division riding on the outcomes, and both the Huskers and Badgers figure to be favorites in that equation. But who can count Minnesota out?
Jerry Kill has been through a little bit of everything as a head coach, and he has battled back time and time again during his time at Minnesota. Seizures have become a public story for Kill, but each time he seems to come back more motivated to prove nothing will keep him down. That message has been a rally cry for the Gophers as well, because every time it looks as though Minnesota is getting knocked down, this team finds a way to respond.
Though the level of competition has not been too intimidating, outside of a road trip to TCU, you can see that mentality playing out this season. Against Middle Tennessee early in the year, Minnesota jumped out to a 28-0 lead. The Blue Raiders made things interesting in the second half, but the team found a way to hold on. It was a bit of an eye-opener for Minnesota and should have told this team that finishing strong is just as important as starting strong.
Last season Minnesota ended the season on a three-game losing streak, including a loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, another game the Gophers failed to drive the final nail in the coffin.
This season has shown Minnesota can start strong. Now all that remains to be seen is how the Gophers finish.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Michigan State may still be the best team in the Big Ten, but their struggles to close out games should be alarming for Spartans fans.
Painful memories of what could have been against Oregon are still fresh. Michigan State held a 27-18 lead at Oregon early in the season, and looked to be in full control of the Ducks. Then Oregon proceeded to score 28 unanswered points, sending the Spartans back to East Lansing with no parting gifts. A few weeks later Michigan State was once again in complete control of Nebraska, only to see the Huskers manage to put together a rally in the fourth quarter with 19 unanswered points. Fortunately for Michigan State, the damage to Nebraska had already been done and the Nebraska rally ran out of time.
This weekend Michigan State was a heavy favorite on the road against Purdue, but the Boilermakers gave Michigan State quite the fight. Rather than wait until the fourth quarter, Purdue came out swinging from start to finish. This game did not play out the way it did against Nebraska or Oregon, but it opens up a bit of a concern for the defending Big Ten champions moving forward.
How worried should Michigan State be after being outscored 50-45 over the last five quarters of play?
Michigan State has a decent enough track record in recent seasons to suggest the ship will eventually get back on the right course. Last season Michigan State allowed a high of 28 points in a game (twice, to Indiana and Nebraska) and already this season they have done so twice with some interesting offenses still to play. Maybe this year’s defense is not as automatic as its 2013 defense was, but Michigan State is still managing to play from ahead on a regular basis. And when the defense is put to the test to come up with a stop, more often than not Michigan State is finding a way to shut the door on opposing offenses.
"When you look at our football games, we're playing well enough to get up by 21 points and that's the first thing you have to be able to do," Dantonio said in his postgame comments following the win at Purdue Saturday. "When they come back, we somehow find a way at the end. I think that it makes us a stronger football team."
On Saturday it was Darien Harris coming to the rescue. With Purdue looking to tie things up with just about 90 seconds remaining to play, Harris picked off a pass deep in Purdue’s end of the field and returned it for a touchdown. In a sense, it was a 14-point swing and it was just the kind of big play the defense needed.
At this stage of the game, Michigan State is as battle-tested as almost any team can be. They have experienced the pain of losing and the thrill of victory when things become tight. As far as the Big Ten is concerned, Michigan State is still the team to beat. The playoffs may be another topic of debate, but it is likely no team would want to be paired against Michigan State defense in the four-team field.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Michigan picked a good week to scrap together a win, but how much will a win over Penn State calm the noise surrounding the fate of head coach Brady Hoke? The fate of Hoke may already be written, but he at least gave reason to hold off any thought of being dismissed from his job in the middle of the season.
Though it would go against the grain of how schools of the size and caliber of Michigan typically handle things, there could have been an argument to be made supporting a decision to let Hoke go now if Michigan had lost to Penn State. A bye week before heading on the road to take on in-state rival Michigan State would have been a good time to allow an interim coach plenty of time to regroup the team’s focus and implement a game plan.
After Michigan wiggled by Penn State 18-13 Saturday night in the Big House, the talks about firing Hoke should be silenced, at least for now. Still, change should still be expected, and demanded, by the denizens in Ann Arbor, because a narrow six-point victory over a team visibly decimated up front by two years of sanctions is still little to be overly proud of. This Michigan team still has questions facing them in the coming weeks.
For starters, how does this team go into and come out of the bye week with Michigan State on deck? It has to feel good for Michigan to go into the bye off a win after a stretch of humbling losses. At the same time, Michigan’s offense only managed to score one touchdown, and that came on a play that was nearly an interception. The offense should remain a significant concern heading into the Michigan State game. Penn State’s defense is pretty good. Michigan State’s is the best in the Big Ten (for three quarters, at least).
Michigan still has to win three more games to become bowl eligible. It is not going to be easy if Michigan continues to play at this level. The Wolverines play road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. Home games against Indiana and Maryland are mixed in as well. In most seasons you would expect to say there are easily three automatic wins in that mix for Michigan, but that is not the case right now.
Hoke continues to sell the idea Michigan can still compete for a Big Ten championship. Mathematically speaking, he is 100 percent correct. Those who have been watching this team play are right to have a contrasting opinion to Hoke’s. Michigan may very well find three wins before the season is over, but it will still take something more for Hoke to be back as head coach in Michigan. Otherwise, the 2015 season will likely be more of the same for the Wolverines.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Oregon has a Heisman frontrunner in quarterback Marcus Mariota, but left tackle Jake Fisher might be the team’s most valuable player. That’s right, an offensive lineman might be the key to the Ducks’ playoff hopes and position in the national title picture over the next two months.
As an offensive lineman, Fisher doesn’t get much recognition playing a less-than-glamorous position.
However, just take a look at the stat sheet for the last three games and it’s apparent just how valuable Fisher is to Oregon.
After the offensive line allowed five sacks to Arizona last Thursday and gave up seven sacks to Washington State on Sept. 20, the Ducks did not give up a sack to UCLA on Saturday.
The result: Oregon won 42-30 and Mariota threw for 210 yards and two scores in a key rebound game for the Ducks. Oregon also averaged 6.9 yards per play - almost a full yard improvement from the 6.0 mark posted against Arizona.
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After last week’s loss to Arizona, Oregon had little margin for error. A loss to UCLA likely would have ended the Ducks’ playoff chances. And it’s not outlandish to think a poor performance from Oregon on Saturday would have ended Mariota’s Heisman hopes.
But Fisher’s return brought stability and a much-needed anchor to the offensive line.
Fisher earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in back-to-back seasons (2012-13) and was picked by Athlon Sports to be one of the top linemen in the conference for 2014.
With Fisher back in the lineup, Oregon has more stability and a chance to develop chemistry at a critical time.
Next week, the Ducks host Washington and play Stanford on Nov. 1. The Huskies and Cardinal own two of the best front sevens in the nation, so it’s critical for Oregon to have Fisher back and operating at full strength to protect the blindside of Mariota.
Despite a setback to Arizona, the Ducks are still in the mix for a playoff spot. After an injured line limited the offense against Washington State and Arizona, the return of Fisher is a good sign for Oregon as it hopes to climb back in the playoff discussion.
There’s no doubt Mariota is one of the nation’s best players. But don’t forget about how valuable offensive linemen – especially a standout tackle like Fisher – are to a high-powered offense.
There was a buzz coming out of Starkville in the offseason. Those around the program were confident Dak Prescott was ready to make the transition from a great athlete playing quarterback to a great quarterback who is also a great athlete.
The buzz, in this case, was accurate. Prescott is enjoying a truly spectacular junior season and has emerged — at this point — as the clear frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
His numbers compare favorably with the last three SEC quarterbacks, all of the dual-threat variety, to win the Heisman Trophy — Tim Tebow (2007), Cam Newton (2010) and Johnny Manziel (2012).
In three games against SEC competition — and against three teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game — Prescott is averaging 260.7 yards passing and 101.0 yards rushing. None of the aforementioned “Big Three” averaged more than 200 and 100 against league opponents, with Manziel falling short in the rushing category (87.3 ypg), Newton in the passing (162.9 ypg) and Tebow in the rushing (73.7 ypg).
Prescott showed some vulnerability in Saturday’s epic win over Auburn, throwing two interceptions and completing only 52.9 percent of his passes. But he still threw for 246 yards, ran for 121 and — most important — led his team to a 15-point victory over the No. 1 team in the nation.
It’s still relatively early in the 2014 season and several huge tests await — especially on the road — but Prescott has proven to be the best player on what is right now the best team in the country. Not bad for a 3-star recruit from Louisiana who didn’t garner an offer from the home-state LSU Tigers until late in the recruiting process.
With Todd Gurley leading the offensive attack, Georgia had emerged as the best team in the SEC East over the first half of the season. Gurley is no longer part of the equation — at least for the foreseeable future — but there is still no doubt that Mark Richt’s team is the class of the division.
The Bulldogs were dominant on both sides of the ball en route to a statement-making 34–0 win at Missouri. The defense limited Missouri to 147 yards — the fewest allowed by Georgia in SEC play since a 2010 win against Vanderbilt — did not allow a drive that went for more than 50 yards and forced five turnovers. Offensively, the Bulldogs leaned on true freshman tailback Nick Chubb and savvy senior quarterback Hutson Mason. Chubb, the only available member of Georgia’s “Big Four” tailbacks, bullied his way to a career-high 143 yards on 38 carries. Mason’s stats, as usual, weren’t gaudy, but he completed 78.6 percent of his passes and did not commit a turnover. Late in the second quarter, he showed perfect touch when he connected with Michael Bennett on a 9-yard fade in the corner of the end zone.
“It’s all about getting comfortable and getting into a rhythm,” Mason said after the game. “I always felt that if I can get into a rhythm, then I finally feel that I am in the flow of things and from the start of the game today, I felt like I was in a rhythm, and the rest of it was just out there playing ball.”
If Mason continues to play well and the defense can replicate this type of performance, Georgia should have little difficulty winning the SEC East once again. South Carolina, the only team to defeat Georgia this season, already has three league losses, leaving Kentucky (2–1) and Florida (2–2) as the Dawgs’ biggest challengers.
The SEC West is sealing the headlines — and rightfully so — but be careful about dismissing Georgia as threat to win the SEC title and sneak into the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Control of the NFC East is on the line tonight when New York and Philadelphia get together at Lincoln Financial Field on NBC. The Giants (3-2) have won three in a row while the Eagles (4-1) are a perfect 3-0 at home. Whichever team wins tonight will, by and large, take control of the division. Even if Dallas beats Seattle to move to 5-1, the winner of this game will go to 2-0 in NFC East play. The Cowboys have yet to play a divisional game.
Chip Kelly is 1-1 against Tom Coughlin with each team winning on the other’s home field last season. The Giants won the last meeting, 15-7 in Philadelphia in Week 8 last season, as they held the Eagles to a season-low 200 yards of total offense.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Philadelphia -2.5
Three Things to Watch
|New York (NFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/8||@ DET||L 14 - 35||Recap|
|9/14||vs ARI||L 14 - 25||Recap|
|9/21||vs HOU||W 30 - 17||Recap|
|9/25||@ WAS||W 45 - 14||Recap|
|10/5||vs ATL||W 30 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ PHI||L 0 - 27||Recap|
|10/19||@ DAL||L 21 - 31||Recap|
|11/3||vs IND||L 24 - 40||Recap|
1. Will We See the Real McCoy Tonight?
LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,607 yards on 314 carries (5.1 ypc). Not surprisingly, Philadelphia also led the league in this category (160.4 ypg). This season, the going on the ground has been considerably tougher for the Eagles. As a team, Philadelphia enters Week 6 ranked 21st in the league in rushing, averaging less than 100 yards per game (98.6) and just 3.8 yards per carry. And once again, this largely has to do with McCoy. Despite ranking second in the league with 94 carries, McCoy has gained just 273 yards on the ground in the first five games. That’s less than three yards per carry (2.9) to go along with just one run of 20 or more yards and one rushing touchdown. The Eagles are still 4-1, but the offense hasn’t been near as productive as it last season. Granted, the offensive line has been wrecked by injuries and an earlier suspension, but Chip Kelly still needs his main offensive weapon to produce. Unfortunately, that may not happen tonight, as McCoy rushed for a total of 94 yards on 35 carries (2.7 ypc) in two games against the Giants last season.
|Philadelphia 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs JAC||W 34 - 17||Recap|
|9/15||@ IND||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/21||vs WAS||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/28||@ SF||L 21 - 26||Recap|
|10/5||vs STL||W 34 - 28||Recap|
|10/12||vs NYG||W 27 - 0||Recap|
|10/26||@ ARI||L 20 - 24||Recap|
|11/2||@ HOU||W 31 - 21||Recap|
2. Giants Getting Offensive
After seven seasons as Eli Manning’s offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride retired in January. Tom Coughlin replaced Gilbride with Ben McAdoo, who had been Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach since 2012. With Manning and the rest of the offense practically starting over in a new system, some sort of learning curve was to be expected. And that was certainly the case in the season opener, when New York totaled just 197 yards in its 35-14 loss in Detroit. Even though it was just one game, the natives immediately got restless. The noise became even louder after a 25-14 loss to Arizona in the home opener the following week. Four turnovers (2 INTs, 2 fumbles) played a large role in the outcome, but the fan base was fixated on the perceived ineffectiveness of the new offense. Since that game, however, the Giants have been rolling, winners of three in a row and averaging 395 yards and 35 points per game during this span. The running game (157 ypg) has been particularly effective with Rashad Jennings leading the way. Unfortunately, Jennings sprained his MCL last week and is expected to miss a few games, so the workload now will fall to fourth-round pick Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis. Even with the Jennings injury, the more encouraging sign recently has been Manning getting more and more comfortable in the new system and with his new play-caller. After a rough start that saw Manning complete 61 percent of his passes with more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3), he has compiled an 8:1 TD:INT ratio over the past three games while completing 70 percent of his attempts. Philadelphia may have more of an offensive reputation, but New York looks like it’s starting to figure things out on that side of the ball too. Points may not be too hard to come by tonight.
3. The Tale of the Turnover Tape
Entering Week 6, New York enjoys a considerable advantage over Philadelphia when it comes to turnover margin. The Giants are tied for 10th in the NFL with a plus-three (10 takeaways, 7 giveaways) margin, while the Eagles are 28th with a minus-four (8, 12) mark. However, a closer look reveals that while New York has done a better job of protecting the ball, Philadelphia has excelled at capitalizing on other team’s mistakes. The Eagles have already scored seven touchdowns on defense and special teams, including five in the last two games alone. By comparison, all of the Giants’ points have come on offensive touchdowns and field goals. Philadelphia’s defense has returned two fumbles and an interception for touchdowns to go along with two blocked punts, a kickoff return and punt return for scores on special teams. This type of point production is a big reason why the Eagles are 4-1 despite not getting a lot of production from LeSean McCoy and the fact that Nick Foles has as many turnovers (5 INTs, 3 lost fumbles) as touchdowns (8 passing). Ball security is always an important aspect of any game, but this matchup could be determined by which team is able to make the most of the other’s miscues.
It’s been a little bit of role reversal recently, as New York has won its last three games thanks in large part to a potent offense, while Philadelphia has relied more on an opportune and defense and special teams unit that has already accounted for seven touchdowns. As well as Dallas has played, both of these teams figure to have a say in how the NFC East plays out, as tonight’s winner will move to 2-0 in divisional play. Even though Eli Manning and the Giants are clicking on offense, I think the absence of injured running back Rashad Jennings will be just enough to get them out of sync. I’m not sure this is the game LeSean McCoy finally breaks out for the Eagles, but Nick Foles has more than enough weapons to make some noise of his own. The combination of Foles and another big play by the defense/special teams will result in Philadelphia maintaining both its hold on first place in the NFC East as well as its perfect mark at Lincoln Financial Field.
Prediction: Philadelphia 30, New York 27
Tony Romo returns to the scene of the crime, as his surprising Dallas Cowboys face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon on FOX. Although Jan. 6, 2007, seems like another lifetime ago in NFL years, the memory of Romo fumbling the snap of a would-be go-ahead, 19-yard field goal with 1:19 left for what coulda-shoulda-woulda been Dallas’ first playoff victory since 1996 is still fresh in the minds of the Cowboys faithful. It won’t be any easier for Romo this week, as the Boys take on the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle carries a 19–1 record (including playoffs) with Russell Wilson starting at quarterback. These two teams have combined for a 7–2 start.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -8
Three Things to Watch
|Dallas 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs SF||L 17 - 28||Recap|
|9/14||@ TEN||W 26 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ STL||W 34 - 31||Recap|
|9/28||vs NO||W 38 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||vs HOU||W 20 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ SEA||W 30 - 23||Recap|
|10/19||vs NYG||W 31 - 21||Recap|
|10/27||vs WAS||L 17 - 20||Recap|
1. Unstoppable Force/Immovable Object
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on a history-making tear to start the 2014 season. Murray leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards, and his 134 yards per game average puts him on pace for a record-setting 2,144-yard season. He's the cornerstone of the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack. But he hasn't faced a run defense the caliber of Seattle's. The Legion of Boom leads the NFL in stopping the run, allowing only 62.3 yards per game, and the best that a running back has mustered against the Seahawks this season has been Montee Ball's 38 yards on 14 carries in Seattle's overtime win over Denver. The Murray-Seahawks matchup is one of the most intriguing of the first half of the season. "They are going to run the ball and we are going to do everything we can to stop it," said Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. “I love that. And I will be right there on every single play. He’s (Murray) been on a roll, so I’m trying to be the person to stop that."
|Seattle 2014 Schedule|
|9/4||vs GB||W 36 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||@ SD||L 21 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||vs DEN||W 26 - 20||Recap|
|10/6||@ WAS||W 27 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||vs DAL||L 23 - 30||Recap|
|10/19||@ STL||L 26 - 28||Recap|
|10/26||@ CAR||W 13 - 9||Recap|
|11/2||vs OAK||W 30 - 24||Recap|
2. Sherman vs. Bryant
If there's a matchup that carries more intrigue than DeMarco Murray vs. the Seattle front, it's Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant against Seattle motormouth Richard Sherman. Even with the Cowboys' commitment to the run, Bryant is on pace for a 102-catch, 13-touchdown season, and he provided the key play in Dallas' win over Houston with a remarkable 37-yard catch in overtime that set up the Cowboys' game-winning field goal. Sherman, who led the NFL with eight interceptions last season, has yet to grab one this year, but that's due as much to avoidance of his side of the field as anything. "He's a great corner, arguably the best in the league," Bryant said. "I do look forward to it, just a great battle. It's not about that. It's really about trying to get this 'W.'" But if Bryant and the Boys fail in that task, expect Sherman to have something to say about it.
3. Precision Passers
The two most accurate passers in the NFL so far this season will take CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Russell Wilson leads the league with a 70.3 completion percentage, while Tony Romo is just a tick behind at 69.2. Romo has rebounded nicely from his three-interception performance in a season-opening loss to San Francisco, throwing eight touchdowns to only two interceptions during the Cowboys' current four-game winning streak, despite battling a balky back that has plagued him all season. In the Seahawks' win over Washington, Wilson became only the second quarterback to have two regular-season games in his career with 200 or more yards passing and 100 or more yards rushing, but his running ability is merely the cherry on the sundae. Wilson has a 112.9 passer rating and an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season.
Dallas is looking for its first five-game winning streak since 2007, and it would no doubt love to get it, but the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak has given them a cushion that strips this game of some of the urgency it would otherwise have. Wilson and the Seahawks defense will use the emotional edge provided by the 12th Man to hold serve at home.