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Though John Calipari’s office overlooks the court at the Kentucky Wildcats' basketball practice facility, he’s not allowed to watch what happens there in the summer. Apparently, he was missing out on quite a show. “I asked about the pickup games, and somebody said, ‘Ooh. Kind of like a couple years ago,’” Calipari says. “So it’s good.”
A couple years ago, Calipari assembled the most heralded recruiting class in the school's storied college basketball history. Four of them jumped to the NBA after one year. Last season, with a team less star-studded but more experienced, he coached the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1998.
Now Calipari has a team with some of the same hype as his first squad at Kentucky but some of the same intangibles as the second, a team that figures to be among the favorites for the NCAA title. “We’ve got a good blend of veteran guys and young players,” Calipari says. “We’ve got some length, got a little bit of everything.”
No player exemplifies that versatility more than 6'9" sophomore Terrence Jones, who spurned an NBA opportunity to return for a second season at Kentucky. Jones led the SEC in rebounding last season, was seventh in scoring and was the league’s Freshman of the Year. And he’s “on a mission” this season, Calipari says, to show that he can be even better after bulking up to 252 pounds. “I came back to try to win a national championship, get more mature,” Jones says. “College was just too fun. I wasn’t ready to leave.”
At his new weight, Jones could be more physical, but Kentucky lacks a true bruiser in the mold of DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Harrellson, keys to the Wildcats’ success the past two seasons.
Instead, the frontcourt focus will be on athleticism, much of it provided by 6'10" freshman Anthony Davis. Two years ago, Davis was a 6'3" guard, but he hit a growth spurt that turned him into an explosive frontcourt player with guard skills. He’ll likely contend for National Freshman of the Year honors.
Kentucky will get frontcourt depth from freshman Kyle Wiltjer, a 6'9" sharpshooter. And Calipari hopes that senior center Eloy Vargas can provide some rebounding and inside presence.
Key Wildcats Stat: 7
In two seasons at UK, John Calipari has won seven NCAA tournament games. The Cats won a combined six games in the NCAA tournament in the six seasons prior to his arrival.
Point guard Marquis Teague will run the show as a freshman, and if that sounds familiar, it should. He’ll be the fifth consecutive highly touted freshman to play the point for Calipari, following Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and John Wall and Brandon Knight at Kentucky, all of whom were one-and-done stars.
Teague is an explosive finisher and a deft distributor who should complement shooting guard Doron Lamb, back for his sophomore season after leading the SEC in 3-point percentage as a freshman.
Lamb has added weight and strength, and his instinctive feel for the game makes him “our best basketball player,” says Calipari, who claims Lamb could be a top-15 player nationally.
The third backcourt spot likely will go to senior Darius Miller, who has 71 starts in three seasons, but he’ll be pushed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6'7" freshman who can provide defensive toughness and offensive versatility.
Junior Jon Hood is expected to miss the season with a knee injury, so Kentucky will look to sophomore Stacey Poole for backcourt depth.
Twany Beckham, who transferred from Mississippi State at the semester break last season, could be a defensive stopper when he becomes eligible in the second semester.
Once again, Calipari will have to blend a core of talented newcomers with established veterans, but that’s become old hat for the Kentucky Wildcats.
“We’ve been in this situation before with new teammates, a new team,” Miller says. “We know what it’s going to take to get where we got last year. We know how hard it’s going to be and what kind of work we’re going to have to put in.”
Most of that work will have to come on the defensive end. After struggling in the regular season in 2010-11, Kentucky caught fire in the postseason and made the Final Four based largely on the strength of its team defense.
Calipari’s cupboard is loaded with offensive weapons, and it’s his best mix yet of talent and experience at Kentucky.
If this team can replicate last season’s defensive intensity — and if Teague is ready to hit the ground running like his point guard predecessors — the Wildcats have all the ingredients for a repeat run to the Final Four with a legitimate chance at an NCAA title.
SEC Prediction: 1st
NCAA Tournament Prediction: Runner-Up
This article about Bill Snyder's return to Kansas State appeared in Athlon's 2009 Big 12 regional edition. With the Wildcats sitting at 5-0, it's a good time to look back at Snyder's return to Kansas State, after a brief retirement.
There are days when that rocking chair looks pretty good to Bill Snyder. A quiet moment alone or a little mayhem with the grandchildren would be nice. Catch a nap. Devote a few hours to a good cause. Visit the old stomping grounds and enjoy the royal treatment. Ah, memories.
Then comes the shock of reality. That is not Bill Snyder’s life anymore. He chose retirement three-plus years ago and found it somewhat unfulfilling. Boring, even. And even though he says it took him “three weeks to a month” to make the final decision to return to Kansas State, something tells you his part of the process took far less time than that. Getting his family on board might have been the tough part. Bill Snyder is a coach, not a spectator. He needs a classroom in which to teach and a practice field over which he can preside.
“The fire in his belly to get back into coaching is phenomenal,” says KSU athletic director Bob Krause.
So, he came back to rescue a program that sagged to 5–7 last year. But there are times when the three years away from the maelstrom look pretty darn good.
The primary difficulty facing Snyder these days is a Kansas State program that has reversed the Manhattan Miracle. Over the past five seasons, two of which were on Snyder’s watch, the Wildcats have slid into the Big 12’s discount rack and are easy pickings for the conference’s powers — and some who are not so powerful. The trademark ruthless defense seems devoted to philanthropy. The offense, which helped pioneer spread fields and the 21st century running quarterback, was butter-knife dull, not cutting-edge. These days, some people think it’s a miracle if KSU goes to a bowl. Snyder has been brought back at the behest of school president Dr. Jon Wefald, who has been at K-State since 1986. Wefald figured that it made more sense to recycle a proven commodity who could energize the fan base and stimulate the bottom line than to try out some young colt who might be all sizzle and no wins. Snyder’s return is being sold as the homecoming of a legend who couldn’t bear to see the once-proud program he built sink into the mire.
“Because the Hall of Fame can wait.
“Because family matters most.
“Because hometown heroes become legends.
“Because ‘Wildcat Victory’ is more than a song…
“The Tradition Continues”
That’s the pitch, and it’s accompanied by the requisite dramatic music and compelling imagery. Snyder created the Miracle, and only he can conjure its revival. The good news is that things aren’t anywhere near as forlorn as they were back in ’89, when KSU was the most popular homecoming opponent on the planet. From 1955-88, Kansas State had a total of two winning seasons, both of the six-win variety. The good news is that the climb won’t be so long this time.
“At that time, it wasn’t a matter of trying to redirect things; it was a matter of virtually beginning over,” Snyder says.
That doesn’t mean a rebuilding job doesn’t lie ahead, and that Snyder isn’t partly responsible for creating the need for it. He understands that his final two seasons in Manhattan weren’t successful and that his “retirement” after a 4–7 2004 season and 5–6 ’05 performance wasn’t necessarily mourned. Some thought the venerable then-66-year old coach had lost it. Then came Ron Prince, and things were so bad that critics thought that perhaps Snyder was right when he spoke of his troubles simply being part of a cycle.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with being outdated,” Snyder says. “We were always pioneers.” But while other programs were emerging within the Big 12, the Wildcats were sagging. Granted, it’s harder to keep a program like Kansas State at the top every year, but the numbers spoke loudly against Snyder. “It was part of the normal happenstance,” he says. “You have to continue the climb. Whether we would have had I stayed, I don’t know. But (the losing seasons) were part of the process.”
Old Dog, New Tricks
You may have trouble getting parents or grandparents to enter the digital age, but Snyder has jumped right in. Truth be told, he probably wouldn’t be texting and sending out group e-mails if he hadn’t returned to the coaching ranks, but give him credit for understanding the necessity of communicating with his constituents on platforms they prefer.
“I get probably 150-200 e-mails and text messages a day,” he says. “I can communicate with the players on a very simple basis by using a mass e-mail or text. I can stay in touch with the faculty and past players. You name a group, and I’ve got them on this phone of mine. It took some learning, but I had some good teachers.”
Snyder has made some concessions to the 21st century, but the vast majority of his methods are decidedly from decades past. He remains devoted to the double shift at work. He is still a taciturn authority figure, more veteran leader than cuddly grandfather. And he still insists on strong control of the program. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of on-field modernity and off-field retroactivity. He’ll spread it out with four wides and blitz from all angles, while decrying the commercial personality of the sport.
“There are a number of things I’m concerned about,” he says. “First, college athletics, particularly football and (men’s) basketball, have become a business. I don’t think that’s how it was intended to be. There are certain things that are good and right as they are, and amateur athletics are one of them. I have seen young people grow and prosper and become men and become successful in all facets of their lives because they were in athletic programs with good values.”
Snyder stayed at Kansas State because he believed in the school and his mission there. He’s selling his players on a responsibility to something bigger than them.
“I know I’m going to be part of a rebuilding project, but I’m not doing this for me,” says fifth-year senior offensive tackle Nick Stringer, a Snyder Phase I recruit. “I’m doing it for every other Wildcat who comes here and puts the Purple on.
“People will look at the 2009 team as the group that put the work in that allowed the younger guys to be in the top 25 and compete for championships.”
Because Snyder is a returning hero, he will get the benefit of the doubt should things start slowly. He’ll have an experienced team, thanks to last year’s transfers, although few of them were particularly overwhelming, as the Wildcats’ final record proved. And since quarterback Josh Freeman headed to the NFL a year early, Snyder will have to find someone capable of running the team. It’s a challenge, all right, but it’s certainly not as bad as what he encountered the first time around, when KSU had only 47 scholarship players. And Krause is content to be patient with his old friend, whom he hired 20 years ago.
Snyder may well get five years, but if things are shaky beyond next season, he’ll be regarded by younger alums as an anachronism. At that point, it won’t matter whether Snyder received a standing ovation simply for being shown on the Jumbotron during a men’s basketball game or, as Krause puts it, “the dollars and cents are supporting the decision (to bring him back).” Ultimately, it will be wins and losses that determine whether this is the right move, and not the past.
Snyder is fine with that, because no matter how many newfangled ways he learns to communicate and how cutting-edge his strategies on the field may be, his tested way of working is the only method he knows. If that doesn’t work, chances are he’ll consider the climate more responsible for failure than what he did and how he did it. That’s not a stubborn approach, just a confident one.
“The people that surround the Kansas State program — alumni, fans, students, faculty — they believe that, yes, it can be done again,” Snyder says. “We’d all like to believe that. But you have to do the things that make it happen.”
Sounds tough, but it sure beats a life of leisure.
Most of the time.
Courtesy of Doug Fister, the Detroit Tigers survived their must-win game last night in Detroit. Now down, two games to one, the Tigers must find a way to win three more games with a makeshift lineup and getting just two more starts combined from Fister and ace Justin Verlander. So, where will the third win come from?
For the Rangers, the formula seems fairly simple: Win Games 4 and 6, which means avoiding seeing Fister again in Game 7.
Yet Texas hasn’t exactly set the baseball world ablaze with starting pitchers this series either. And now manager Ron Washington will ask Matt Harrison to keep the Tigers at bay tonight in a matchup of No. 4 starters. Both Harrison and Detroit start Rick Porcello were 14-9 during the regular season.
However, the real story for the remainder of this series will be the health of the Tigers and just how much of the load Miguel Cabrera can carry. Delmon Young, who injured his rib cage earlier in the playoffs, was taken off the roster for the ALCS. After Magglio Ordoñez suffered a fractured ankle, Young was placed back on the roster. That’s how few options the Tigers have for outfielders, especially those who hit from the right side, which is a nice commodity to have with the Rangers starting three lefthanders in this series.
Last night, the situation worsened with the oblique injury to DH Victor Martinez. The slugger hurt himself on a home run. He labored around the bases and appears to have trouble swinging from the left side, presumably the right side as well. That we will find out today.
The bottom line is that the Tigers pitchers — other than Fister and Verlander — cannot silence the Texas bats. So it may not matter how thin the Detroit lineup is in games they don’t pitch. What will be critical is that the Tigers find a way to score runs in games that Fister and Verlander pitch, assuming the Tigers can even get to a seventh game.
This doesn’t look good for Detroit. Expect the Rangers to wrap this series up sooner rather than later.
The NLCS shows all the signs of a classic series hanging in the balance of every pitch. There are two teams from the same division who know each other so well. The St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers split their 18-game season series 9-9. And let’s just say there is some “built-up intensity” toward one another that adds a bit more spice.
But there are two things that could allow this series to go haywire: Milwaukee’s inept supporting cast in the Brewers’ lineup and St. Louis’ inconsistent bullpen.
It’s no secret that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder carry the Brewers’ lineup. Add to that Yuniesky Betancourt’s strong postseason and Jerry Hairston’s timely hitting and you have the Brew Crew’s complete offensive arsenal. Yep, those four guys are doing all the heavy lifting.
Non-pitchers not named Prince, Braun, Yuni or Hairston are batting .168 in the postseason. That’s half the lineup over a seven-game stretch, which is a decent sample size. They were 16-91 (.176) in the NLDS vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks and are 5-34 (.147) so far against St. Louis. Milwaukee is operating with half a lineup that can’t make outs and the other half can’t get on base. If the Cardinals are allowed to pitch around these four hitters without the supporting cast capitalizing, the Redbirds could be celebrating earlier than expected.
However, if the Cardinals’ bullpen reverts to its roots of allowing other teams to enjoy big innings, then the Brewers would waste no time dismissing St. Louis from the playoffs.
In the NLDS with Philadelphia, the St. Louis bullpen was very good. In 13.2 innings, the six relievers combined to walk only one batter and struck out 13 while allowing only 11 hits.
Andre Johnson's hamstring surgery is causing a lot of speculation in fantasy football circles. While the Houston Texans star wide receiver was originally scheduled to only be out "a couple of weeks" but there is some speculation that he could be out longer than the initial prognosis of week 7 or 8.
The Texans traded for veteran wideout Derrick Mason this week from the Jets. The Texans are also going to sign another wide receiver, Juaquan Iglesies to their practice squad.
Are they piling up wideouts in anticipation of being without their star for longer than expected? CBSSports' Mike Freeman is also wondering as much, and while Johnson hasn't come out and publicly said anything, it's worth monitoring.
The Texans are refuting it, and Johnson says he feels good and his soreness has gone away. But for fantasy owners, the additions of two extra receivers should be something to keep an eye on.
Hamstring issues always have a history of lingering (it feels like that for fantasy owners, anyway). And the Texans have showed caution this year with Arian Foster after trying to rush him back early in the year, they gave him an extra week to get back to 100%. The Texans may be showing that same caution with Johnson.
Derrick Mason may be worth a flier for the next week or two as he goes from a dysfunctional offense to a very functional one. He probably also has a chip on his shoulder after getting sent packing from the Jets.
The New York Jets have traded wide receiver Derrick Mason to the Houston Texans for an undisclosed, but allegedly very low, NFL draft pick.
The 37-year old Mason had spent eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans (1997-2004) and six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens (2005-2010) before lasting just five games with former coach Rex Ryan and the Jets.
Mason's role in the offense had been greatly diminished due to the emergence of TCU rookie speedster Jeremy Kerley. Mason has caught eight passes for 113 yards in five games and now looks to help fill the void left by the injured Andre Johnson.
Johnson underwent surgery to repair his hamstring last week and is expected to miss at least two more games. Jacoby Jones (8 rec., 100 yards) and Kevin Walter (9 rec., 130 yards) are now Matt Schaub's top wide receivers and are sixth and seventh on the team in receiving.
Clearly, Mason will be a welcomed veteran presence for Schaub. He has 937 receptions and 12,006 receiving yards to go with 66 touchdown receptions for his career.
For the short term, Johnson fantasy owners might want to snag Mason off the waiver wire just in case he becomes the focal point of the Texans passing attack (after Owen Daniels and Arian Foster that is).
Meanwhile, Kerley's speed offers a unique skillset to the Jets passing attack. He can do a lot of things (3 rec., 1 rush att., 1 KR, 11 PR, TD so far in 2011) and can be used in a variety of interesting and dynamic ways. With Plaxico Burress as total fantasy crap shoot from week to week, Kerley definitely deserves a watchlist - and maybe a waiver wire add should his role in the offense expand in the near future. Keep a close eye on the rookie receiver.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.
Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place player receives one point.
Wisconsin's Russell Wilson is still the top challenger to Andrew Luck's supremacy and Robert Griffin III is nipping at both of their heels. However, the hard charger after Week Six continues to be Alabama tailback Trent Richardson, who jumps another spot from No. 5 to No. 4. He has clearly seperated himself as the top Heisman candidate at tailback as Marcus Lattimore had a third straight underwhelming performance. (It's a tough crowd here at Athlon.) Oregon tailback LaMichael James returned to the Top Ten, but how long will he stick around after dislocating his elbow on Thursday night?
Oklahoma's Landry Jones also jumped one spot after another massive statistical performance — this time against arch-rival Texas in the Red River Riv-Shoot-alry-out.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (86/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 106/145, 1,383 yards, 14 TD, 2 INT, 12 att., 60 yards, TD
This is starting to get boring. Stanford topped 40 points for the eighth time in 11 games in its 48-7 rout of Colorado, and Luck was masterful...again. He completed 26-of-33 passes for 370 yards, three touchdowns and (gasp) one interception. Stanford has now won 13 straight games and is beating opponents by an average of 35.6 points per game in 2011. Don't expect that trend to slow anytime soon with the Evergreen State sweep coming up next. Next Game: at Washington State
|3.||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||65||-||3||-||3||2||9|
|5.||Kellen Moore||QB||Boise State||57||-||2||1||2||1||9|
|7.||Marcus Lattimore||RB||South Carolina||31||-||-||-||1||-||8|
|9.||Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma St||26||-||-||-||-||2||6|
|13.||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma St||4||-||-||-||-||-||2|
2. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (71)
Season Stats: 83/111, 1,391 yards, 13 TD, INT, 22 att., 140 yards, 2 TD
The Badgers were on bye last week and might as well be again this week. Wisconsin welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers to Camp Randall — a team they beat 83-20 a year ago. Indiana is 97th in total defense and Wisconsin is the Big Ten's top offense. This will get ugly quickly, and Wilson might not be needed for much. Next Game: Indiana
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (65)
Season Stats: 114/142, 1,520 yards, 19 TD, 1 INT, 60 att., 280 yards, 2 TD
Fans in Waco got to see the true dual-threat dynamic RG3 can bring to an offense this weekend. Griffin III didn't throw for 300 yards and he didn't throw for five touchdowns (both of which he had done in three of four games thus far). Instead, to beat Iowa State 49-26, he turned to his legs as he rushed 24 times for 107 yards and a score to go with his "pedestrian" 212-1-0 passing line. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since October 16 of last fall. Bob's Heisman campaign now begins in earnest as he visits College Station and Stillwater over the next two weeks. Next Game: at Texas A&M
4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (62)
Season Stats: 115 att., 729 yards, 11 TD, 13 rec., 149 yards, TD
Richardson posted his fifth consecutive 100-yard effort in a dominating 34-0 home win over Vanderbilt. The Alabama tailback rushed 19 times for 107 yards and his 11th touchdown of the season. He is second in the SEC in rushing (ninth nationally) at 121.5 yards per game and is leading what is the SEC's top rushing attack (217 ypg). The nation's No. 95 ranked rush defense should have plenty of fun stopping T-Rich this weekend. Next Game: at Ole Miss
5. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (57 pts)
Season Stats: 125/169, 1,391 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT, 5 att., (-6) yards
Moore now sits at 43-2 as a starter after a thorough 57-7 thumping of WAC rival Fresno State this weekend — he's two wins shy of Colt McCoy's all-time NCAA record. The Broncos quarterback completed 23-of-31 passes for 254 yards and three scores in BSU's fifth win of the season. Moore has quietly taken care of business every week of the season. Unfortunately, there is only one marquee match-up left on the schedule (TCU, 11/12), so "The out of sight, out of mind factor" might be in full effect for the rest of the year. Next Game: at Colorado State
6. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (40)
Season Stats: 142/205, 1,814 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT, 10 att., 2 yards, 2 TD
Jones topped the 350-yard mark for the third consecutive game en route to serving Mack Brown with one of the worst losses in his tenure as Texas head coach. The Sooners' quarterback completed 31 of his 50 pass attempts for 367 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions in the 55-17 destruction of Bevo. Over his last three, Jones has averaged 413 yards and has thrown 11 touchdowns. Up next for Jones is the worst defense in the nation. Kansas is allowing 556 yards of offense and 49.4 points per game — both ranking 120th nationally. Next Game: at Kansas
7. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (31)
Season Stats: 146 att., 779 yards, 9 TD, 16 rec., 153 yards, TD
Lattimore got back into the 100-yard column with a 102-yard effort in South Carolina's 54-3 romp over Kentucky. He now leads the SEC in rushing at 129.8 yards per game, but statistically speaking, it was Lattimore's third straight underwhelming performance. This weekend marked the first time he failed to reach the endzone. With Stephen Garcia on the bench — and now off the roster for good — Steve Spurrier clearly wanted to get new starter Connor Shaw some work. Shaw threw the ball 39 times for 311 yards and four scores — eating into Lattimore's Heisman campaign. Next Game: at Mississippi State
8. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (27)
Season Stats: 67/117, 1,130 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT, 102 att., 720 yards, 8 TD
Robinson played flawless football two weeks ago and then proceeded to revert back to the sloppy passer that has plagued his career thus far by throwing three bad interceptions in the first half. But he, as Shoelace tends to do, rallied the troops to overcome a 24-14 halftime deficit to beat Northwestern 42-24. Robinson led three straight scoring drives to begin the second half and finished by scoring the game's final 28 points. His final line included 17-of-26 passing, 337 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, 25 carries, 117 yards rushing and two more touchdowns. Robinson's 720 yards rushing lead the Big Ten. Next Game: at Michigan State
9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (26)
Season Stats: 166/219, 1,880 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT, 11 att., (-67) yards
It must be hard to be a Cowboys fan right now. If Weeden doesn't lead the team to 70 points or throw for five touchdowns, you might just get disappointed. After averaging 47.7 attempts per game, Weeden needed only 28 tosses to score five times and rack up 288 yards in the 70-28 win over Kansas. He completed 87% of his passes (24/28) and now has eight touchdowns in two games against the Jayhawks. At 51.4 points and 577.4 yards per game, Oklahoma State leads the nation in scoring and is No. 2 in total offense. Things start to get interesting for the Pokes this weekend, however. Next Game: at Texas
10. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (12)
Season Stats: 95 att., 852 yards, 8 TD, 11 rec., 159 yards, TD
James returns to the Athlon Sports Heisman Top Ten after three consecutive 200-yard games. This one against Cal — featuring 30 attempts for 239 yards and a TD — came at a huge price, however. James landed awkwardly on his right elbow late in the second half and suffered a severe dislocation. James expects to return soon, but will likely miss at least this week's game against Arizona State. James is leading the nation in yards per game at a 170.4 clip. Next Game: Arizona State
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jimmie Johnson Haven’t we seen this movie before? Summer turns to fall and the 48 team shifts into another gear that no one else has, and that it seemed to be hiding all along.
2. Carl Edwards Edwards’ tough-it-out third- and fifth-place finishes the last two weeks are the type of performances that championships are made of. Dare we call them “Johnson-esque?”
3. Brad Keselowski Keep doubting. Yes, this ranking may seem high, but Keselowski has averaged a 5.8-place finish since the Brickyard 400 in late July. Pressure just doesn’t seem to affect the kid.
4. Kevin Harvick It’s hard to proclaim that the driver sitting second in the point standings (by one point, no less) is flying under the radar, but that argument could be made for Harvick. And that makes him all the more dangerous.
5. Matt Kenseth Consecutive runs of sixth, fifth and fourth find Kenseth right in the middle of this fight. However, he’s already used his mulligan in a 21st-place, fuel-mileage run gone bad in Chicago, so staying on point is important from here on.
6. Tony Stewart Smoke somehow salvaged a Chase-saving 15th-place run in Kansas, but his 25th the week prior will be the one that bites him. Not out yet, but like Kenseth, out of mulligans.
7. Kyle Busch Despite reasonable finishes of 11th, sixth and 11th (offset by a 22nd) in the Chase, it feels like Kyle and the boys have quietly made their playoff disappearing act already.
8. Kurt Busch All the guys on this list have Kurt to thank for poking the sleeping dog, as Jimmie Johnson is once again proving that he’s the one getting in others’ heads — not vice versa.
9. Jeff Gordon Gordon and the 24 team could still post a win and some nice numbers going forward, but at 47 points out, it’s likely they’ll go into R&D mode in preparation for 2012.
10. Clint Bowyer It seems Bowyer’s performance has improved since it became clear to him where he’ll be driving next year, as evidenced by three runs of eighth or better in the last four races.
11. Kasey Kahne Probably should be ranked higher after four straight top 15s, but it’s hard to trust the organization.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. The hard fact is, on a day when fuel mileage stays out of the equation, the 88 is a 12th- to 16-place car.
13. Greg Biffle It’s hard to pin this team down. They’re as capable — and likely — of running third as they are 27th.
14. Marcos Ambrose Consecutive ninth-place runs here. Credit him for continuing to run hard when others may not be.
15. Ryan Newman His supposed drop in performance during the Chase may speak to others dogging it late in the regular season.
Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.
Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro
We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.
These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.
2011 NFL Week 6 — Running Back Rankings
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee
|1||Adrian Peterson||MIN||at CHI|
|2||Darren McFadden||OAK||vs. CLE|
|3||Fred Jackson||BUF||at NYG|
|4||Ray Rice||BAL||vs. HOU|
|5||LeSean McCoy||PHI||at WAS|
|6||Arian Foster||HOU||at BAL|
|7||Ahmad Bradshaw||NYG||vs. BUF|
|8||Matt Forte||CHI||vs. MIN|
|9||Frank Gore||SF||at DET|
|10||Maurice Jones-Drew||JAC||at PIT|
|11||Michael Turner||ATL||vs. CAR|
|12||Cedric Benson||CIN||vs. IND|
|13||Steven Jackson||STL||at GB|
|14||Pyeton Hillis||CLE||at OAK|
|15||Shonn Greene||NYJ||at MIA|
|16||Jahvid Best||DET||vs. SF|
|17||Darren Sproles||NO||at TB|
|18||Felix Jones||DAL||at NE|
|19||James Starks||GB||vs. STL|
|20||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||NE||vs. DAL|
|21||Rashard Mendenhall||PIT||vs. JAC|
|22||Ryan Torain||WAS||vs. PHI|
|23||DeAngelo Williams||CAR||at ATL|
|24||Mark Ingram||NO||at TB|
|25||Earnest Graham||TB||vs. NO|
|26||Daniel Thomas||MIA||vs. NYJ|
|27||Ryan Grant||GB||vs. STL|
|28||Jonathan Stewart||CAR||at ATL|
|29||Tim Hightower||WAS||vs. PHI|
|30||Delone Carter||IND||at CIN|
|31||Pierre Thomas||NO||at TB|
|32||Reggie Bush||MIA||vs. NYJ|
|33||LaDainian Tomlinson||NYJ||at MIA|
|34||Montario Hardesty||CLE||at OAK|
|35||Stevan Ridley||NE||vs. DAL|
|36||Michael Bush||OAK||vs. CLE|
|37||Brandon Jacobs||NYG||vs. BUF|
|38||Kendall Hunter||SF||at DET|
|39||Bernard Scott||CIN||vs. IND|
|40||Donald Brown||IND||at CIN|
|41||Roy Helu||WAS||vs. PHI|
|42||C.J. Spiller||BUF||at NYG|
|43||Ricky Williams||BAL||vs. HOU|
|44||Isaac Redman||PIT||vs. JAC|
|45||Ben Tate||HOU||at BAL|
|46||DeMarco Murray||DAL||at NE|
|47||Marion Barber||CHI||vs. MIN|
|48||Jacquizz Rodgers||ATL||vs. CAR|
- By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, along with TCU’s decision to join the Big 12, the Big East is in desperation mode when it comes to expansion. Only six teams are locked into the league for 2012: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are scheduled to remain in the league until 2014, but both teams could explore a buyout agreement to get out of the league earlier.
Believe it or not, it could get worse for the Big East. Louisville and West Virginia are both rumored targets for the Big 12 if Missouri decides to depart for the SEC. The Mountaineers are also believed to be a candidate to be the SEC’s 14th team.
Although the conference is in trouble, the six remaining teams – Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia – isn’t a bad place to start rebuilding. And this assumes West Virginia or Louisville won’t bolt to the Big 12 or SEC anytime soon.
In order to secure the future of the league, the remaining six schools have to agree to up the buyout. A payment of $5 million to leave a league simply isn’t enough.
Once the buyout is increased, potential expansion candidates will be interested in joining a league that has some stability. If the buyout is not increased, the Big East could have trouble attracting some members.
Considering what the Big East is working with in terms of available options, it may have to get creative in order to rebuild the conference. And there’s not much time to waste. Since losing Pittsburgh, Syracuse and TCU, the Big East seems to be moving at ridiculously slow rate when it comes to making decisions.
Forget what has made conferences in the past. Geography is out the window.
In order for the Big East to survive as a long-term, viable BCS league, it needs to land the best possible candidates and move to a 12-team setup. With the available candidates on the board, an East/West split is probably the most likely scenario.
Which team should get the first expansion invite? Boise State. Yes, the Broncos are a strange fit in terms of geography, but again, the Big East can’t think about that. Adding Boise State would give the conference an instant boost and a team that’s capable of competing for a spot among the top 10-15 every season. Academics have been a concern for conferences interested in Boise State, but rebuilding the football image of the Big East is important.
After Boise State is locked into the Big East as the seventh member, it’s time to add to the western edge.
Houston and SMU are logical targets from Conference USA and would get the Big East into two key television markets. While neither is going to outdraw the Big 12, it’s important to have a presence in Dallas and Houston.
The other question with the teams from the west is the service academies. Navy was prepared to join the conference, but the defections of Syracuse and Pittsburgh have slowed that possibility. Air Force seems prepared to leave the Mountain West, which makes the Falcons a logical target for the Big East. Air Force may not win a national title, but they can compete in the Big East and helps to bolster the conference’s national appeal.
In Athlon’s plan for the Big East, we are going to project Navy will decide to remain an independent. The Falcons may choose to turn down an invitation if Navy and Army don’t join. However, we will guess they accept a bid and join the remodeled Big East, which still leaves plenty of flexibility to schedule Army and Navy in non-conference games every year.
Choosing teams to build the east division was pretty easy. Temple and UCF are right in the Big East’s footprint and get the conference into the Philadelphia and Orlando television markets. If Temple or UCF say no, East Carolina is a strong fallback option.
South Florida may have some second thoughts about allowing another school from its state into the conference. However, the Big East can’t be choosy at this point. And there’s plenty of room for both schools in the conference.
Although Villanova is a member of the Big East’s basketball conference and is located in Philadelphia, the football team would need a couple of years to transition and sort out the stadium issues to move to the FBS level. Temple was kicked out of the Big East, but is a logical fit for the conference. Making a play for the Philadelphia market is key for the Big East, but Temple has a better shot at doing that right now, as opposed to waiting a couple of years for Villanova to move up and get ready to play at the FBS level. Additionally, the Owls are no longer a doormat and would be competitive in their first season.
There have been a lot of rumors and ideas thrown out on how to rebuild the conference, but here’s Athlon’s proposed Big East divisions for 2012:
There you have it. The new Big East Conference and a title game played on the campus of the team with the best record or ranked the highest in the BCS if a tie occurs.
The divisions are fairly balanced, with West Virginia and Boise State as the anchors in each.
It’s not going to win the award for the most difficult conference, but at least it keeps the Big East relevant. Adding Boise State is the key. With the Broncos in the mix, it gives the conference a team that already has credibility on the national level.
Time is running out for the Big East to stay relevant on the college football landscape. But this is a reasonable plan that makes sense for the conference in many ways.
With Mike Stoops out at Arizona, we turn to who we, by the numbers, believe can be successful head coaches for the Wildcats. Arizona is a bit deceiving in that it's not as good of a job as you would think.
According to our proprietary CBTN Best Head Coaching Job Ranking, Arizona is the 51st best job in the nation and the 10th best job in the Pac-12 conference. The question we have to ask is if Arizona has had unsuccessful coaches because it's a bad job or it's a bad job because it's had unsuccessful coaches?
From out standpoint, Arizona has simply not found the right captain for its ship. The school is a large, state school with lots of available resources and is located in a region of the country that produces plenty of quality talent (Mike Stoops did have two top 20 recruiting classes in his time Arizona). So, who is the right coach for the Wildcats? Here is our list:
The question with Petersen is not where to look for good numbers, but where to look for bad numbers. As hard as we have tried, we have not yet found a statistical flaw for Petersen. The real question is whether or not he would consider this job enough of an upgrade to leave what appears to be a really good situation for Petersen in Boise.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know he has some baggage. Read his book and you will understand that Leach's "baggage" is not baggage at all. This guy is a great coach and a good man and should be on the list of any program looking to get better on the field. From 1970-1999, the 30-year period before Leach took the reigns at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders won eight or more games only six times. During Leach's ten years at the helm of Texas Tech, he accomplished this feat eight different times. From 2001-2009, among active and inactive head coaches with two years minimum experience, Mike Leach was our 23rd rated head coach. Keep in mind that during this same period, Leach had an average recruiting ranking of 31. From 2004-2010, among active and inactive coaches with two years minimum experience, Mike Stoops was our 61st rated head coach. During this time, Stoops has an average recruiting ranking of 38.86.
The Rich Rod Michigan experiment failed, but we don't believe it failed because Rich Rodriguez is a bad coach. The Rich Rod experiment in Michigan failed because Rich Rod wasn't able to find a competent defensive coordinator (for more details, click here). If I was an AD interviewing Rich Rod, my first question would be regarding who he would hire as his defensive coordinator (we hear Mike Stoops is looking for a job). If I liked the answer (of course checking the numbers on the DC's he mentions), Rich Rod would be very high on my list. Even with three very subpar years at Michigan, Rich Rod still won over 60% of his games from 2001-2010.
A quick note for Arizona fans: If you think you're too good to run the option, please review your history and realize that you're not. Ken N is one of the biggest overachievers in our system and the guy flat knows how to coach. He is from Hawaii and played at Hawaii, and we think a move West may just be appealing to Coach Ken. He has a great mentor in Paul Johnson and has all those other soft factors that ADs love so much, like the ability to win the press conference. Any coach that can win over 64% of his games at the Naval Academy, deserves a hard look.
From the information we have, the likelihood of Gus Malzahn heading West is extremely low, but we simply like this guy's numbers too much (see here for The Malzahn Effect) not to put him on the list.
If you are wondering why Illinois is 6-0 for the first time since Eisenhower was President, look no further than the guy calling the plays. From 2005-2009, the Illinois offense averaged 23.45 points per game. From 2010-Present, the Paul Petrino-led Illini offense is averaging 33.60 points per game, a 43.28% increase in scoring offense. Additionally, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley (2005-2008) averaged 0.33 points per play and 5.61 yards per play and Mike Shultz (2009) averaged 0.35 points per play and 5.70 yards per play. In his year and half directing Illinois' offense, Paul Petrino is averaging 0.48 points per play and 6.00 yards per play. Arizona fans may cringe at the thought of hiring the wrong brother again, but sometimes you just have to jump back on the saddle.
Chryst is the current offensive coordinator at Wisconsin and is currently our 12th best rated offensive coordinator among active OC's with a minimum of two years experience. Chryst has done two stints as OC at Oregon State and since taking the reigns of the Badger's offense in 2006, Wisconsin has averaged almost 35 points per game and has won 10 or more games three different times and appears to be heading for a fourth 10-win season this year. You have to be careful to not make the assumption that just because someone works for a great head coach that they in turn will be a great head coach. That being said, we believe Bret Bielema is one of the best coaches in college football (see statistical love fest article here) and it's always better to have good mentors than bad ones.
We recently did a write-up on Manny Diaz and those with short-sighted vision are probably going to think we are crazy to recommend a coach whose defense was just embarrassed by Oklahoma this past weekend. However, we like to throw away the emotion of a single game or even a single season in many cases and look at the overall picture. The simple fact of the matter is that when Manny Diaz shows up on campus, his team gets statistically better. Diaz would be seen by many as a huge risk given his age (37), but don't forget that Bob Stoops was only 39 years old when Oklahoma named him their head coach. Additionally, we frequently see hires by ADs who have previously worked with a coach. Diaz and AD Greg Byrne were both at Mississippi St. together in 2010. So, there you have our names. There are no guarantees in life and there are certainly no guarantees in the world of college football coaches. However, there is good thinking and bad thinking. When all is said and done, the thought process behind hiring Mike Stoops was solid. He was one of the top defensive minds in the country and came from a great coaching pedigree. He ultimately failed to do the job he was hired to do, but that doesn't mean the thought process failed. When it comes to hiring the next head coach, we would urge AD Greg Byrne to focus on the process. Study the numbers, study the man, and find the right coach that can make Arizona football relevant again.
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Other names to consider and why there aren't on our A List:
• Kevin Sumlin: Since taking the reigns at Houston in 2008, Kevin Sumlin has won 64.44% of his games and has had a top 15 nationally ranked scoring offense in each of his seasons coaching the Cougars. Houston's overall winning percentage in the five years prior to Sumlin's arrival was 53.97%. However, Sumlin did take over a program that Art Briles had resurrected from the depths of Conference USA. In the two years before Sumlin took over, Briles' Cougars won 66.67% of their games. Additionally, in Sumlin's first two years as Houston's head coach, Dana Holgorsen was running the offense and calling the plays. In 50% of the games Holgorsen has either been the offensive coordinator or head coach, his team has scored 40 or more points. In Sumlin's one year without either Case Keenum at QB or Dana Holgorsen as OC, the Cougars went 5-7. With Keenum back at the helm of the offense, Houston is off to a 6-0 start, bu there is still half the season left to play. Additionally, Sumlin has coached 65.85% of his games at Houston with superior talent. Coach Sumlin has won 70.37% of games when he has superior talent. However, with equivalent or inferior talent, he has won 42.86% (6-8) of the time. For some perspective, of the 84 games Mike Stoops has coached at Arizona, he has had superior talent 20.24% of the time, inferior talent 39.29% of the time, and equivalent talent 39.29% of the time. So, there are some things we like about Sumlin, but overall, there are too many question marks to warrant putting him on our A list.
• Skip Holtz: Skip Holtz is currently a three star coach in our system and three stars is probably the best way to describe coach Holtz. He is good but not great. He is solid and will probably never have a 3 or 4 win season, but he will also probably never have a really great season. Consider that since 2001 as an offensive coordinator (2001-2004) and a head coach (2005-2010), Skip Holtz has lost five or more games in every season but one (South Carolina went 9-3 in 2001 when Holtz was the offensive coordinator). He is off to a solid 4-1 start this year at USF but has the majority of his tough games left to play. If we were betting on it, we would go ahead and chalk up five losses for Coach Holtz.
• Jim McElwain: In his four full seasons as an offensive coordinator (2007-2010), Jim McElwain has never lost more than four games. In fact, as an offensive coordinator he has been on the winning side of the scoreboard 85.00% of the time. Coach McElwain has West Coast ties (OC at Fresno St. in 2007 and OC at Montana St. from 1995-1999) and is currently part of our number one rated staff in college football. The thing you have to worry the most about with Coach McElwain is what we call the "Belichick Effect". For a while there, if you wanted to become an NFL head coach all you needed to do was work for Bill Belichick. First it was Romeo Crennel, then it was Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini, and finally Josh McDaniels. The last time we checked, not one of these coaches was still a head coach as of the writing of this article. Nick Saban is one of the best minds in college football, and you have to be careful not to assume that because someone works for a great coach they are in turn a great coach. Also, don't forget that since Saban took over at Alabama, the Tide have entered 100% of its games with equal or superior talent. Arizona is not Alabama, and under Stoops the Wildcats entered less than 60% of its game with equal or superior talent. Every job is unique and you have to make sure that you match up the right coach given the job at hand.
by Matt Taliaferro
For those who have followed Jimmie Johnson’s five-year reign in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, his performance in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup is none-too-alarming. A deceptive 10th-place run to start the playoffs, followed by an 18th-place hiccup placed the five-time defending champion in a 29-point hole out of the gate. Were fans, pundits and competitors watching and wondering intently? Of course. Were they writing off Johnson and ace crew chief Chad Knaus as afterthoughts under a new, simplified, points-format. Absolutely not.
Johnson and Knaus proved why they are not to be counted out with so many miles left to go in NASCAR’s grueling 10-race Chase marathon, making statements with second- and first-place showings in the latest two events. The win — a dominating run in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway — landed Team 48 in third place in the Chase standings, a mere four points behind Carl Edwards, who has proven to be the playoffs’ most consistent driver thus far in 2011.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff,” Johnson said of any naysayers. “If you’re watching and reading all the headlines, you can get caught up in a lot of stuff that just really isn’t important.
“I’ve known in my heart the speed that we’ve had as a race team when we were in Chicago and unfortunately finished 10th because of fuel mileage. I know we were a heck of a lot better than 18th at New Hampshire but the damage to the car put us in 18th; Dover we were strong, and then (the win) here.
“Again, I don’t pay attention to that stuff that’s out there — I live in my little world, and I know what my team is capable of. We showed today what we’re capable of when we’re all performing at the top of our game, and hopefully we can do that for six more weeks.”
The praise Johnson heaped on his team was well deserved. His pit crew — at times the Achilles heel of the operation and Knaus’ target for multiple changes — was spot on throughout the day, maintaining all-important track position.
The event came down to a green-white-checker restart — NASCAR’s version of overtime — when Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, suffered a blown engine. The field was bunched up for what would be the deciding three laps, and Johnson wasted no time in disposing of second-place (and eventual runner-up) Kasey Kahne, on the restart and cruised to a .548-second win. Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Edwards.
Edwards had an especially eventful day, realizing just two laps into the 272-lap affair that he and crew chief Bob Osborne had missed the setup. His No. 99 team diligently went to work adjusting his Ford, and although they lost a lap at one point, screamed through the field late to record the top-5 finish.
It was the type of effort that wins championships, though Edwards was more apt to shrug it off as good old-fashioned racing luck.
“We’re lucky because we had to have luck go our way,” he said. “We had two cautions that were timed perfectly, so that was a big deal. But we’ve messed up enough in the past that I’m pretty proud of our ability to just kind of take our bad days and just keep plugging along. It’s kind of a little test when you go through something like this to see if somebody melts down or if you can kind of keep going through it, and I’m glad it worked out today, but there was a lot of luck involved, as well.”
Kevin Harvick, who sits second in the point standings, was sixth. Last week’s winner, Kurt Busch, was 13th, now 16 points out of the Chase lead.
Gordon, whose blown engine with three laps remaining brought out the final caution, finished 34th and fell a whopping 47 points back in the standings with six races remaining.
By Mitch Light
If it were a political race, the networks would already have declared Arizona State the winner of the Pac-12 South. Yes, we are barely into October, but it’s quite clear that the Sun Devils will be playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 2 — likely in Palo Alto or Eugene.
Dennis Erickson’s club is already 3–0 in the league, with wins over USC, Oregon State and Utah. UCLA is the only eligible team — USC can’t play in the league title game — in the South with fewer than two losses, but does anyone really consider the Bruins, who have wins over Washington State and Oregon State, to be a legitimate threat? Didn’t think so.
The other three teams in the division — Colorado, Utah and Arizona — are a combined 0–9 in the Pac-12.
So there you have it: Arizona State will win the Pac-12 South. It’s over.
Now, let’s move on to the next issue: Can this team win the entire league and play in a BCS bowl for the first time? The key is hosting the Pac-12 title game. Here’s how that can happen:
• Arizona State somehow beats the LaMichael James-less Oregon Ducks this weekend in Eugene.
• Arizona State wins the rest of its league games — quite manageable, with Colorado, Arizona and Cal at home and UCLA and Washington State on the road. Note: No Stanford!
• Oregon beats Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 12. This is the big component, because even if ASU wins the Pac-12 South with a 9–0 record, an undefeated Stanford team out of the North would be ranked higher and earn the right to host. However, an undefeated ASU team would host over a one-loss Stanford or a one-loss Oregon.
So if you thought that this week’s game at Oregon was big — and it is, ESPN College GameDay will be on hand — it’s even bigger when you take a look at the long-term ramifications.
Erickson, however, isn’t really concerned with any big-picture talk. He’s far more concerned with the task at hand — beating a very good Oregon team on foreign soil.
“We have to learn how to go at warp speed,” he said earlier this week. “They are what they are. They do it week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out since Chip (Kelly) has been there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team as fast offensively. It’s unbelievable watching.”
Erickson believes his team is in the right frame of mind for what figures to be the biggest game for the program since its trip to Eugene in November 2007, when ASU, 8–0 at the time, lost to 7–1 Oregon, 35–23.
We’re a confident football team,” said the veteran coach. “They believe in each other. I don’t know if you even call it confidence — they have a strong belief in each other and a strong belief that their teammate is going to do the job he’s supposed to do and give the effort he’s supposed to. In the first six football games we’ve done that extremely well.”
Arizona State will have to do everything extremely well to win Saturday night.
Around the Pac-12
• Cal’s Zach Maynard has completed only 51.4 percent of his passes, the lowest among any of the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation in yards passing per game. All but eight of the top 50 passers have completed at least 60.0 percent of their attempts.
• Oregon has 14 plays from scrimmage of at least 40 yards. No other team in the league has more than eight.
• Utah leads the Pac-12 in turnovers committed (13) and ranks second in turnovers forced (13).
• Washington’s Keith Price has thrown at least three touchdowns in each game this season.
• Andrew Luck has only thrown more than one interception in a game only twice in his two-plus years as the starter at Stanford. He was picked off twice against Notre Dame and Oregon last season.
• UCLA is over .500 in league play after three games for the first time since 2007, when Karl Dorrell’s final Bruin team opened with a 4–0 Pac-10 record.
• Arizona has averaged 33 points in its last three losses.
• LaMichael James has four carries of at least 40 yards. Only one other player in the league has more than one — USC’s Curtis McNeal has two.
This video of the lamest fight ever is apparently of two NBA cameramen who got into an argument outside of a hotel and decided to settle their differences with fisticuffs.
Acutally, "fisticuffs" isn't the right word. Maybe "dancing around and pawing at the air near each other every once in a while" is a better way to put it.
Either way, this was way better than a regular season NBA game.
by Josh Kipnis
Never before have fans been more enthusiastic about a 1-4 team than the fans of the Mile High city. This morning, the Denver Broncos announced that backup quarterback Tim Tebow will be promoted to starter following this week’s bye. Kyle Orton started all five of the Broncos’ games this season.
The timing of this decision could not be any better for Tebow and the rest of the Broncos organization. A bye week allows Tebow to get plenty of reps with the first-string offense, and the game following the bye is against the 0-4 Miami Dolphins.
But will Tebow be the answer to Denver’s demise? Does he improve the Broncos’ chances that much more than Kyle Orton?
Versatility: Tim Tebow adds another dimension to the Broncos offense; one that Kyle Orton could never provide-a dual running attack. With Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee in the backfield, Tebow’s running ability is one more aspect of the game that opposing defenses will fear. In his second half appearance against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Tebow rushed six times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Orton has run for 17 yards this entire year, having never scored on the ground.
Turnovers: Many NFL scouts bashed Tebow’s throwing motion and other mechanics when he entered the NFL draft. Despite these malfunctions, however, Tebow has proven to be much less turnover-prone than Orton. This season, Orton leads the NFL in interceptions, throwing seven in his first five games. Tebow, on the other hand, threw three picks in the nine games he played in last year.
Energy: 1-4 is a very slippery slope. At this point in the year, a team can lose faith easily. Tebow provides a new direction, a new hope for Denver and its fans. I wish I were able to show the difference in decibel levels at Sports Authority Field when Orton was on the field compared with that of Tebow. Fans love Tim Tebow. He is a winner; he says all the right things at the right time. And not just the fans, but his teammates also love him. “There is no ego with Tim,” said veteran safety Brian Dawkins. “He wants to work, he wants to learn, asks a lot of questions…he’s trying to learn as much as he can to make himself a better player. And that’s always an encouraging sign to see a young guy who’s been a star [at the University of Florida] to come in and be a humble player.”
Gameplan: Tebow is not the only link in this chain towards success. Head coach John Fox is going to have to restructure his team’s offense around their new strengths. If Fox keeps the same system as before with Orton, Tebow will surely fail. The Broncos need to adopt a new gameplan, one filled with shotgun formations, screen passes, and running plays. Tebow is not the kind of guy who can take five step drops from under center, sit in the pocket, and throw the ball downfield. Fox is not going to be able to ask him to throw forty or fifty times a game. Denver will need to rely on quicker three step drops, dumps and screens to tailbacks, and play-action rollouts. With these ingredients, Denver may just be able to turn their dreaded season around, and put a sweet taste back into their mouths.
Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks have dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia from the team, sources indicated on Tuesday.
One week after being removed from the starting line-up, Garcia fowl-ed up for the last time as a Gamecock college football player. He has a litany of poor decisions and off the field transgressions on his resume, and this final incident (allegedly, a failed alcohol test) was the straw that broke The Big Spur’s back.
South Carolina Athletic Director Eric Hyman released an official statement:
"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right, and we remind all of our student-athletes that there are consequences for their actions. For Stephen to return to and remain with the football squad this fall, we agreed on several established guidelines. Unfortunately, he has not been able to abide by those guidelines and has therefore forfeited his position on the roster. We wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in life.”
Garcia is the SEC’s career active leader in total offense (8,374), touchdowns responsible for (62), completions (589), passing yards (7,597) and passing touchdowns (47). Well, I should say, was the SEC’s career active leader. The stubborn and immature signal caller could have easily finished in the SEC’s top 10 all-time in total offense (9,577) and might have even slipped into the top 10 of passing yards (9,287). He posted a 20-14 record as a starter and is statistically the third-best player to ever play quarterback at South Carolina.
Garcia’s story is a sad tale of short-sighted and juvenile pig-headedness. He was blessed with tremendous physical talents and abilities that few human beings will ever possess. He was given the reins to an SEC championship-caliber offense. And he was a starting quarterback in the SEC Championship Game.
And he chose to throw it all away. Stephen Garcia has no one to blame but himself.
Connor Shaw is now the captain of the Gamecock ship that still has its sights set on Atlanta. And South Carolina did roll up 54 points against Kentucky in Shaw's first trip back to the starting line-up last Saturday. However, the Gamecocks' SEC title hopes might have vanished with Garcia's departure.
It normally would be outrageous to see a school dismiss a player who ranks at or near the top of most career statistical categories for his position, but unfortunately for Garcia and Spurrier, the only shocking element to this pathetic story is that it didn’t happen two years earlier.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Gary Pinkel has had a successful run in his decade-plus at Missouri. After experiencing losing seasons in three of his first four years in Columbia, the veteran coach has taken Mizzou to the postseason six consecutive times. That six-year run includes three bowl victories and two Big 12 North Division titles, which shows that Pinkel has built a solid college football program and has had more than just a two- or three-year run with a great quarterback. While much of the Missouri talk this season has centered on a Big 12 departure and a possible SEC upgrade, the players and coaches are focused on making a seventh-straight bowl. The Tigers currently stand at 2-3, and there are four Top 25 opponents — Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas — remaining on the schedule.
Does Missouri make a bowl game?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Missouri will make a bowl. It might not be easy, but Gary Pinkel’s team will find a way to get tosix wins and extend the school’s postseason streak to seven seasons. The Tigers are off to a bit of a slow start, but keep in mind that this team has faced a very difficult schedule, with road games against three teams currently ranked in the top 20 of both the AP and coaches poll — Arizona State (lost by three points in overtime), Oklahoma (by 10) and Kansas State (by seven). Let’s make the assumption that the Tigers will beat Iowa State at home this weekend and win at Kansas on Nov. 26 to close the season. That gives them four wins. So can they get two more from playing Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech at home and Texas A&M and Baylor on the road? The guess here is yes. Mizzou continues to get strong play from sophomore quarterback James Franklin, who has only thrown two interceptions in 161 attempts. The running game is a strength with Franklin and underrated tailback Henry Josey (11th in the nation in rushing). And the defense has been relatively strong as well. This is still a good team. No need to panic in Columbia despite the losing record.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’m a little worried about this Missouri team. The Tigers have not lost a bad game — Oklahoma and Kansas State are undefeated while Arizona State only has one loss — and all three were on the road. However injuries (left tackle Elvis Fisher, running backs Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore, etc.) have been a major issue, and that attrition may cost Mizzou down the stretch. The Tigers should beat Iowa State this week, but then that four-game gauntlet of top opponents begins. While James Franklin is improving at quarterback, I’m not sure that the Tigers can keep up in Big 12 shootouts like they did in the past. Additionally, the defense is solid but not the top ten nationally-ranked unit from a year ago. Gary Pinkel is a quality coach and could very well rally the troops against a tough league schedule, but I see Missouri finishing 5-7 and missing the postseason.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s going to be tough, but I think Missouri can get to six wins and a bowl game this year. I think the Tigers will knock off Iowa State this Saturday, which gets them back to .500 with six games remaining. Kansas in the season finale should be in a win, so it’s just a matter of picking up two victories. Missouri has been really close to beating some good teams, with a 10-point loss to Oklahoma and seven-point defeats to Kansas State and Arizona State. With sophomore quarterback James Franklin continuing to get better as the season progresses and a defense that ranks third in the Big 12 in points allowed, Missouri is more than capable of pulling off a couple of upsets the rest of the season. With Texas and Texas Tech visiting Columbia in November, I think the Tigers will be able to finish with a 6-6 record and make another bowl trip under coach Gary Pinkel.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
It will not be easy, but I think Mizzou inches its way to six wins. The Tigers crushed Texas A&M, Kansas and Iowa State last season and so the Jayhawks and Cyclones are must wins. That means two more wins are needed somewhere. Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State visit Columbia and at least one of those must be a win. Then there are road trips to Baylor and Texas A&M - in which Gary Pinkel's bunch would probably have to split to get bowl eligibility. With two quality wins - most likely Baylor and Texas Tech - the Tigers will go bowling.
- By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Arizona is the second school to make a coaching change this year, with coach Mike Stoops getting the ax after a 1-5 start. Stoops went 41-49 in seven seasons, but the slow start this season was the final blow. Stoops inherited a program that was a disaster under John Mackovic, and led the Wildcats to three straight bowl trips from 2008 to 20010. However, Stoops’ sideline antics, an in-your-face demeanor, and the program failing to get any higher than eight wins under his watch was enough for the Arizona administration to make a switch.
The Wildcats will have a new head coach in 2012 and this will be an important hire for a program looking to climb the ladder in the Pac-12 South. With USC’s probation, UCLA struggling and Utah adapting to the Pac-12, the division is wide-open for Arizona to contend with the right pieces in place.
Athletic director Greg Byrne has been on the job for just over a year and was successful during his tenure at Mississippi State. His last football hire was Dan Mullen - a young, energetic coach who could recruit. Will Arizona follow a similar path?
Who could be the next coach at Arizona? Here are 15 names to watch:
Gary Andersen, head coach, Utah State – Andersen has a losing record in his tenure at Utah State, but there’s little doubt the program is headed in the right direction. The Aggies are 2-3, but have lost all three games by a combined eight points. Andersen has head coaching experience at two stops – Southern Utah and Utah State – but has not coached in a BCS league.
Major Applewhite, co-offensive coordinator, Texas – An up-and-coming assistant, who currently serves as Texas’ co-offensive coordinator with Bryan Harsin. Applewhite is only 33 and has never been a head coach. However, he is similar to Byrne’s hire of Mullen – young and a bright offensive mind.
Mike Bellotti, former Oregon coach – Bellotti was very successful during his time at Oregon, posting a 116-55 record. Bellotti resigned as Oregon’s head coach in 2009 and became the school’s athletic director. After a short stint in that position, Bellotti moved to the television booth with ESPN. Byrne was at Oregon during Bellotti’s tenure, so there is some familiarity. Bellotti is 60 years old, but being out of coaching for a few years likely has recharged the batteries.
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor - It would be somewhat of a surprise if Briles left Baylor, but Arizona is a better job. Briles has spent all of his coaching career in Texas, and his recruiting ties would probably allow him to establish a pipeline of recruits to the Pac-12. Briles has done a good job of elevating Baylor's program during his tenure there. However, how high can that program go? With Texas A&M departing, there is a possibility for moving up in the Big 12 pecking order every year. Coaching at Arizona would be an easier path to a conference title.
Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force – Calhoun is very happy at Air Force, and the Falcons could be moving to the Big East, which would help the school’s ability to get into the BCS. Calhoun has been successful at Air Force, posting a 37-19 record in five-plus seasons. Although he played at Air Force, could Calhoun be ready for another challenge?
Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin – Chryst has done an excellent job during his tenure at Wisconsin, currently coordinating the Badgers to a No. 3 national ranking in scoring offense. Chryst has NFL experience, coaching with the Chargers from 1999 to 2001. His experience in college isn’t limited to Wisconsin, as he coached at Oregon State for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Chryst does not have any head coaching experience, but is regarded as one of the top offensive coordinators in college football.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz is definitely on Byrne’s radar, considering the two worked at Mississippi State for a short period of time last season. Diaz did a good job with the Bulldogs’ defense last year, as they allowed only 19.9 points a game. Texas gave up 55 points in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, but the defense has not been a problem. Diaz is young and energetic, but does not have any head coaching experience.
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes previously coached at Arizona from 2007 to 2009. However, his tenure at Louisiana Tech has produced only a 7-11 record. Dykes is a longshot, but is a name to watch considering his past experience.
Bryan Harsin, co-offensive coordinator, Texas – Harsin and fellow co-coordinator Major Applewhite definitely fit the mold of Byrne’s last football hire at Mississippi State. Harsin is considered one of the nation’s top offensive minds, serving as Boise State’s coordinator from 2006-2010 and Texas in 2011. Harsin does not have any head coaching experience, but is regarded as one of the top assistants in the nation.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech coach – There’s no doubt Leach has some baggage from what transpired at Texas Tech. However, his record was 84-43 and his pass-first offense would generate excitement from the Arizona fanbase and likely help boost season-ticket sales. The Wildcats went the defensive route last time, but expect an offensive hire to be the selection his time around. Leach should be near the top of Arizona’s list.
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State – Mullen is a longshot, but deserves a mention with his familiarity with Byrne. Highly unlikely Mullen would depart for Tucson, but winning at Arizona and competing for a division title is probably easier at Arizona than Mississippi State.
Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Another longshot. Petersen’s name turns up every time a BCS job opens, but he is very happy in Boise. Byrne is supposedly good friends with Petersen, but it’s unlikely that relationship will factor into leaving Boise State.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – A sleeper candidate. Roman has 14 years of NFL experience and worked under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but helped to develop Andrew Luck and was in the mix to get the Vanderbilt job last year.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – Sumlin is a Bob Stoops disciple, coaching at Oklahoma from 2003 to 2007. Sumlin has been the head coach at Houston since 2008, leading the Cougars to a 29-16 record. He has hired some top-notch coordinators to run the offenses at Houston, including Dana Holgorsen (head coach at West Virginia) and current co-coordinators Kliff Kingsbury and Jason Phillips. Sumlin is a proven commodity and would bring a high-scoring offense to Tucson. Considering Houston's 6-0 start this year, Sumlin will be a hot name in coaching circles this offseason.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Stoops came to Arizona as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator, so it would be a surprise if the school went in the same direction. However, Venables is considered one of the top assistants in college football and Oklahoma’s defense has solid during his watch. If Venables doesn't land this job, it won't be long before he gets his first head-coaching gig.
As you probably know, Al Davis, the enigmatic and controversial owner of the Oakland Raiders died on Saturday. And what better way to commemorate the death of someone who was important to you, than to get a gigantic tattoo of their head and famous slogan all over your legs.
That is apparently what this Raiders fan did. I'm not sure if this tattoo is old, and he just whipped it out and walked around bare-legged to show the world what Al Davis meant to him after he died. Or if this is fresh off the ink presses. But really, it doesn't matter.
By Mitch Light
Toben Opurum spent his first season at Kansas on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Jayhawks in rushing as a true freshman in 2009. He scored a touchdown in each of his first six games. He knows what it’s like to score points.
The past two seasons, Opurum has learned what it’s like to give up points — a lot of points. In 2010, his first season on the defense, Kansas ranked 98th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up an average of 34.4 points per game. This fall, the Jayhawks have taken several large steps back.
After five games, Kansas ranks 120th in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The Jayhawks have given up at least 42 points in all four games against FBS opponents, including 66 vs. Georgia Tech and 70 vs. Oklahoma State. Last week, KU trailed O-State 56–7 at halftime.
“It is embarrassing, and is something I do not want to be a part of,” said Opurum, when asked what it’s like to see an opponent score 70 points. “We cannot do anything about it right now. We need to put it behind us and continue to work hard.”
Turner Gill is now 5–12 in his one-plus season as the boss in Lawrence, but only two of those wins (Georgia Tech and Colorado in 2010) have come against BCS conference opponents. Last season, Kansas was outgained by a staggering 219.4 yards in its eight Big 12 games. This year, the Jayhawks have allowed an average of 632.7 yards per game to three the BCS conference foes they have faced. To be fair, KU has played Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — three of the top offensive teams in the country — but its defensive numbers are still alarmingly bad.
Here are a few more stats to chew on: The Kansas defense is allowing 7.8 yards per play, the worst in the nation by almost a full yard. The Jayhawks have given up 34 touchdowns, 15 more than any other team in the Big 12. They have yielded 21 plays of 30 yards or more, nine more than any other team in the Big 12.
“We just have to keep improving,” Gill said after the O-State game. “We have some work to do on that side of the ball, or all sides of the ball for that matter. We just have to keep working. We have to improve.”
The Jayhawks don’t have much time to figure things out. The mighty Oklahoma Sooners — featuring an offense that has scored 113 points the past two weeks — visit Lawrence this week, and KU still has dates with Kansas State (which beat the Jayhawks 59–7 last year), Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri.
“We have people getting mad and we have people that are sad,” cornerback Greg Brown said. “We need to keep our heads up because it is still early in the season and we can still turn it around.”
AROUND THE BIG 12
• Texas A&M lost seven straight games in Lubbock from 1995-2007, but has now won two in a row on the road vs. the hated Red Raiders. With the Aggies off to the SEC, it’s highly unlikely that these two teams will meet in the near (or distant) future.
• A big key to Kansas State’s 6–0 start has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in total defense (298.8 ypg) and rank second in scoring defense (16.6 ppg). Last year, K-State ranked 11th in total defense (445.7 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (29.1 ppg).
• The Big 12 is home to three of the top 10 scoring teams in the country — Oklahoma State (first, 51.4 ppg), Texas Tech (eighth, 45.8 ppg) and Oklahoma (tied for ninth, 45.0 ppg).
• Texas has given up 50 points or more three times in the Mack Brown era, all to Oklahoma — 63 points in 2000, 65 in ’03 and 55 in ’11.
• Iowa State’s three wins have come by an average of 2.7 points per game. Its two losses have come by an average of 23 points.
• The losing team has averaged 35.7 points in Texas A&M’s last three games.
• Missouri’s Henry Josey ranks 11th in the nation in rushing (117.6 ypg) despite not having more than 14 carries in any single game this season.
• Baylor has scored 35 points or more in five straight games (in the same season) for the first time in school history.
College football is very much a game of the Haves vs. the Have Nots. Here is a list of the last 10 AP National Champions:
2002: Ohio St.
What do the above schools have in common? They are all loaded with NFL-caliber talent and, with the exception of Miami, have large undergraduate enrollments and 80,000+ seat stadiums they fill up each and every week. We are not trying to squash the hopes of the smaller schools out there or state that they cannot have successful years or programs, Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson have proved as much. We are simply trying to point out the existing reality of college football. It's very much an arms race and those with the bigger and better guns typically win the most battles and wars.
With this in mind, let's turn to Mike Sherman and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M is definitely among the Haves of college football. The school has over 36,000 undergraduates, fills its 80,000+ seat stadium virtually every Saturday with rabid and loyal fans, and routinely recruits NFL-caliber talent from one of the nation's largest pools of talented high school football players (Texas A&M's average recruiting ranking since 2002 is 17.70).
Now with this in mind, let's look at some of Coach Sherman's numbers: The first number we want to consider with Coach Sherman is the number one. One is the number of "NFL Guys" who have achieved a real level of success in college. For details, click here. Now, for the rest of Sherman's statistical story:
|Years||Overall WP%||Conf. WP%||Non-Conf. WP%||Avg. Recruiting Rank|
|2008-Present||51.16% (22-21)||46.15% (12-14)||58.82% (10-7)||20.50 (out of 120 teams)|
Let's dig into the winning percentage numbers a little deeper:
|Years||WP% Against Top 25 (time of game ranking)||WP% Against Over .500 Teams||WP% in Close Games (4 pts. or less)|
|2008-Present||21.43% (3-11)||38.46% (10-16)||28.57% (2-5)|
A few offensive and defensive stats for you as well:
|Avg. Scor. Off. Rank - Natl||Avg. Scor. Off. Rank - Conf.||Avg. Scor. Def. Rank - Natl||Avg. Scor. Def. Rank Conf.|
|33.75 (out of 120)||6 (out of 12)||79.25 (out of 120)||8.25 (out of 12)|
A few more defensive stats to consider:
|Total Games||# of Times Giving up 30+ Pts.||# of Times Giving up 40+ Pts.|
|43||24 (55.81%)||14 (32.56%)|
Let's also consider what we call our Good Hire/Bad Hire analysis. Essentially, we look at the state of the program in the five years prior to a coach's arrival and compare it to the state of the program under the current coach.
|Overall WP%||WP% in Five Previous Years||Differential|
|Conf. WP%||Conf. WP% in Five Previous Years||Differential|
Finally, let's look at how Coach Sherman has performed against opponents of varying talent levels. The way we do this at CBTN is to average out a 4 year period of recruiting rankings and assign it to that year. This gives us a good idea of the average talent of that particular team (though not an exact science, we believe it’s better to be somewhat right than precisely wrong). From there, we then evaluate each team according to their talent level and determine whether or not the games were against superior talent, equivalent talent (having an average within 10 ranking spots), or inferior talent. Let’s see how Coach Sherman performed:
|WP% w/Superior Talent||WP% w/Inferior Talent||WP% w/Equivalent Talent|
|62.07% (18-11)||20.00% (1-4)||25.00% (2-6)|
See how all other coaches perform relative to talent here. To be fair, Mike Sherman's teams do appear to be getting a bit better with last years 9-4 season and the seeming promise of this year's team, which started the season in the Top 10, before blowing two big leads in losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas.
However, when you closely examine the numbers above, it's hard to believe that you aren't looking at the numbers of a coach of one of the Have Nots in college football. With what seems like every advantage possible, Mike Sherman and Texas A&M simply aren't getting it done. What makes matters even worse for the Aggies is the announcement of their move from the Big 12 to the SEC. While this may be great for their pockets, we are bit skeptical that this will be great for Coach Sherman's numbers.
In the Big 12, only Oklahoma and Texas have talent advantages over Texas A&M. In fact, Coach Sherman has coached 67% of his games with a talent advantage and 86% of his games with superior or equivalent talent. When you consider that 67% (8) of SEC teams had top 25 recruiting classes last year compared to 33% (4) of Big 12 teams and also keep in mind that Coach Sherman has won 30% of his games with equivalent or inferior talent, it's easy to see how Coach Sherman's numbers might look even more like those of a Have Not.
Rashard Mendenhall is having a bad season. Even when he's not injured, he's not getting the production you probably paid for with a late first or early second round pick.
So when is it time to cut the cord on some of your starters and look elsewhere? That's a hard decision to make because usually you're so invested in high draft picks, and it also tells the other owners in your league "Look at me, I'm an idiot who was stupid enough to draft this guy."
But that's what you have to do if you want to put your team in the best possible spot to win your league. Here's five guys who you should probably bench at the very least, drop at the very most, or trade, if you think you can get any value for them.
Rashard Mendenhall: Trade Immediately or Bench
Mendenhall had 324 carries last season, more than any other back in the league. And it seems like all those carries are taking a toll on his body. Rashard didn't see any playing time last week against the Titans due to a tweaked hammy, but even before then he was not showing the same explosiveness and power he had last year, averaging just 2.8 and 2.1 yards per carry in his last two contests. With Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer performing at least capably, it doesn't seem like Mendenhall is going to give you nearly the production you would expect out of him this year. If you can get someone to buy low on him, get what you can. Once a running back's body turns the corner, it rarely comes back into it's prime.
Chris Johnson: Trade Him Immediately
It feels like there's a correlation between an NFL player missing training camp and then having a severe lack of production. And Chris Johnson is this year's poster child for that. In the first five weeks, Johnson shas had one good game. and he's only found the end zone once. And you probably drafted him no lower than 6th overall. In the next few weeks the Titans play the Texans (who shut down Darren McFadden), the Colts (who he should have a decent game against), the Bengals (who have a solid run defense). So you're left with two good games in the first nine weeks of the season. It's best to cut your losses and see if another owner think Johnson is the 2,000 yard rusher he was two years ago.
Chad Ochocinco: Drop
Chad Ochocinco sucks. There's no other way to describe his play this year in one of the most potent offenses in the league. You'd think anyone in that lineup would at least be good for 5 catches and 80 yards a game, but Ochocinco is lucky to get 2 and 20. After the first couple of weeks, we were cutting him some slack. Without the regular offseason workouts, it would take a while for Ocho and Tom Brady to get on the same page. But it's been over a month now and Ocho's just not doing anything. Tom's so locked into Wes Welker and his two tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) that it looks less and less likely for Ocho to get in on the fantasy bonanza. He may have a big game here or there, but consistent production looks like a thing of Ochocinco's past now.
Mike Williams: Bench Until He Shows Signs of Life
The Tampa Bay wide receiver hasn't done much to garner his 3rd/4th round draft slot with only one TD in the first five weeks, he's not getting open in space and he's opting for more short passes instead of long balls. If you're in a PPR league, he might give you a little consistent production, but I'd rather have the guy who could go for 3 catches, 100 yards and a score, instead of 5 catches for 40 yards and a whole lot of nothing. If you're very thin at WR, then keep him in your lineup, but frankly, I think almost anyone in our week 6 waiver wire has more upside than Mike Williams right now.
Dallas Clark: Drop
Dallas Clark needs Peyton Manning. And Curtis Painter is not Peyton Manning. The once lofty piles of points Clark used to put up seem to be a thing of the past now. He's found the end zone only once this year and hasn't had more than 46 yards or four receptions in a game. With tight end being so deep this year, it's probably time to look to the waiver wire or your back-up to find a new starter. If Manning comes back next year, then Clark will find fantasy prominence again, but until then, he's not going to help your team in 2011.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
That is right, after five weeks of NFL action, Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson is fantasy football's No. 1 running back.
One of my favorite aspects of fantasy is charting the season of progress. So after five weeks of play (and a 3-2 record in all three leagues), I took a look at the fantasy rankings of Athlon Sports Keeper NFL Fantasy League to see just who the best running backs have been thus far in 2011. And here is what I found:
1. Fred Jackson, Buffalo: 110.7 Total Fantasy Points
Stats: 90 att., 480 yards (5.3), 5 TD, 19 rec., 232 yards, 0 Fum
The Bills workhorse back deserves much of the credit for where the Bills are in the standings right now. He has three 100-yard efforts (his lowest total is 66 yards against the NFL's No. 1 defense two weeks ago) and has scored a touchdown in four straight games. He also has caught at least five passes in three straight games. Expect his workload to stay right where it is, and finishing in the top ten at the end of the season is a near lock. This is not a sell high candidate — ride this wave all season. However, expectations could be lowered with the Giants, Redskins and Jets as his next three.
2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia: 106.8 TFP
Stats: 77 att., 443 yards (5.8), 5 TD, 19 rec., 110 yards, 2 TD, 0 Fum
Shady McCoy has scored a touchdown in every game and will always find a way to get into the offense — even when he can't run the ball (see nine rushes for 18 yards against the Niners with six catches and a TD through the air.) With Michael Vick battling inconsistency and nagging injuries, you can bet Andy Reid will keep feeding the ball to the playmaker. However, if the Eagles continue to tumble, you might want to try to get full market value for McCoy.
3. Matt Forte, Chicago: 105.5 TFP
Stats: 82 att., 440 yards (5.4), 30 rec., 345 yards, TD, 0 Fum
That is not a misprint, Forte has 30 receptions for 345 yards in the passing game. Only Darren Sproles has caught more passes at the RB position, and no one is close to Forte's yardage total (Sproles, 264). Forte is doing his best Marshall Faulk impression and is not just the focal point of the offense, but maybe the only point of the offense. Especially if Mike Martz is going to give him 23.5 carries per game, like he has over the last two games.
4. Darren McFadden, Oakland: 99.3 TFP
Stats: 91 att., 519 yards (5.7), 3 TD, 17 rec., 149 yards, TD, 1 Fum
The NFL's leading rusher has the talent to be an elite player in this league for a long period of time. However, Run-DMC dealt with injuries throughout his college career at Arkansas and has never played more than 13 games in a season. If you can max-out McFadden's value in a trade, this might be the time to capitalize.
5. Ryan Mathews, San Diego: 96.4 TFP
Stats: 85 att., 413 yards (4.9), 20 rec., 261 yards, 1 Fum
Fantasy owners held their collective breath on Sunday when Mathews left the game against the Broncos with a calf injury. Reports are that it is not serious and that Mathews won't miss any time (whew!). However, like McFadden, Mathews was hurt frequently at Fresno State and during his rookie season last fall. Keep an eye on his carries and don't hesitate to pull the trigger if you can get value for him.
Best of the Rest:
6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota: 96.2 TFP
7. Darren Sproles, New Orleans: 87.35 TFP
8. Ray Rice, Baltimore: 85.9 TFP
9. Jahvid Best, Detroit: 85.2 TFP
10. Beanie Wells, Arizona: 78.3 TFP
Week 6 NFL Fantasy Waiver Wire
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0) – The Badgers were on bye in Week Six and might as well be on bye again this weekend. The Badgers, whose smallest margin of victory this year was a 31-point win over Nebraska, will host Indiana at Camp Randall this weekend. The No. 1 offensive attack in the Big Ten will face the league's worst rush defense and the conference's 11th-ranked scoring defense. Wisconsin has beaten the Hoosiers in six straight and 12 of the last 14, including an 83-point drubbing last season. In fact, UW has scored at least 50 points against IU in three of the last five meetings. The Badgers are the No. 4 team in the nation according to the Athlon Sports College Football 120.
2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) – Taylor Martinez giveth and Taylor Martinez taketh away. The much-maligned Huskers quarterback has had a rough week answering questions about his play in Madison. And after falling behind 27-6 early in the third quarter on Saturday to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the boos were raining down upon his shoulders once again. But less than 30 minutes later, Big Red Nation showered Martinez with wild adulation after he led the biggest comeback (21 points) in Nebraska history. Martinez scored on an 18-yard dash, threw a 36-yard touchdown pass and tossed another 30-yard touchdown to Rex Burkhead (two of those coming off OSU turnovers) en route to 28 unanswered points in the second half. Nebraska won 34-27 and Martinez finished with 102 yards rushing, 191 yards passing (16-of-22) and three total touchdowns. The Huskers get a break before visiting Minnesota on October 22.
3. Illinois (6-0, 2-0) – After three straight three-point wins, Illinois scored 27 of the game's final 34 points to pull away from Indiana 41-20. The Nathan Scheelhaase to AJ Jenkins connection was once again unstoppable as the duo hooked up six times for 182 yards and two very long (77 and 67 yards) touchdowns. Scheelhaase finished with 210 yards and three touchdowns passing while adding 88 yards on 18 carries and another score on the ground. Ron Zook's squad rolled up 308 yards rushing in the first road game of the season and is poised to challenge Wisconsin in the Leaders Division — especially with Ohio State coming to town next weekend, where the Illini will have a chance at their first 7-0 start since 1951. The last time the Illini beat Ohio State in Champaign was a 7-0 win in 1991.
4. Michigan (6-0, 2-0) – After one week of flawless Denard Robinson, Michigan fans saw their star quarterback revert to shaky passer. Robinson threw three ugly first half interceptions to put the Wolverines in a 24-14 halftime hole. But Shoelace showed Maize and Blue nation why he is squarely in the Heisman Trophy hunt as he led Michigan on three consecutive scoring drives to start the second half. The quarterback, who left the game briefly with a minor injury, finished with 450 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The Wolverines were a fantastic 14-of-17 on third down conversions. Michigan now faces its toughest test of the season with a road trip to East Lansing to battle the Spartans.
5. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) – The Spartans got to sit at home and rest this weekend after their brutal 10-7 win in the Horseshoe two weeks ago. It could be a huge advantage with the in-state undefeated arch-rival from Ann Arbor set to visit East Lansing this weekend. The Spartans boast the nation's No. 1 overall defense (173.4 ypg allowed) and will have their hands full with Denard Robinson. From 2002 to 2007, Michigan owned this game (6-0), but the tables have turned over the last three seasons with the Spartans owning a current three-game winning streak. Sparty has averaged nearly 32 points per game in its three straight wins over Michigan.
6. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) – The Nittany Lions needed a big confidence booster, and this weekend, got a massive shot in the arm by beating Iowa 13-3. The Hawkeye offense had been rolling (No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing) and was rested after a bye week, but could not move the football against a staunch PSU defense. Iowa mustered only 253 yards of offense, while Penn State turned back the clock (and controlled it) by pounding the football on the ground to the tune of 231 yards. Tailback Silas Redd led the way with 28 carries for 142 yards. Penn State's offense has been anemic all season, but at 2-0 is still very much alive in the Leaders Division race. With Purdue this weekend and Northwestern following that, PSU could be 7-1 before it gets Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
7. Ohio State (3-3, 0-2) – Just when you thought it couldn't get any more painful for Buckeyes fans, Taylor Martinez happened. The Nebraska quarterback led the biggest comeback in Husker history to beat Ohio State 34-27. Ohio State was up 27-6 when freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was stripped of the football, and shortly thereafter, suffered an ankle injury. Miller had rolled up 95 yards through the air and 91 yards on the ground before leaving the game, and the Buckeyes couldn't recover with Joe Bauserman at the helm. Reports indicate that Miller might be able to return this weekend against Illinois in Champaign with heavy Leaders Division implications on the line.
8. Iowa (3-2, 0-1) – Quarterback James Vandenberg had been leading the Big Ten's top passing offense until he walked into Beaver Stadium. The Hawkeye passer completed only 17-of-34 passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Vandenberg had one total interception prior to the 13-3 loss at the hands of the Nittany Lions. The offensive line didn't help much either by allowing five sacks and paving the way for 84 total yards rushing on 30 carries (2.8 ypc). Iowa will welcome Northwestern to Iowa City this weekend.
9. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) – Stop me if you have heard this before, Wildcats' fans. Dan Persa plays excellently efficient football in leading his team to a big first-half lead only to watch the defense cough up a chance at an upset win. After blowing a 28-10 lead over Illinois two weeks ago, Northwestern blew a 24-14 lead over Michigan to lose 42-24 this weekend. Persa, in only his second start of the season, completeed 32-of-44 passes for 331 yards (11 to Jeremy Ebert), but couldn't make things happen with his legs and couldn't get his team into the end zone in the second half. The heartbroken Wildcats visit Iowa this weekend in what could have major bowl eligibility implications.
10. Purdue (3-2, 1-0) – For this week, Boilermaker fans have plenty to blow their horns about. Purdue used ten different players to run for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries in the 45-17 win over Minnesota. Caleb TerBush got the majority of the snaps, passing for 140 yards on 21 attempts, while Robert Marve also saw time with six of his own attempts. Each quarterback threw a touchdown. Purdue now plays at Penn State at the start of a terribly brutal stretch of schedule. The Boilers' next six: at Penn State, Illinois, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. Yuck.
11. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) – The Gunner Kiel era cannot begin soon enough for Indiana. Edward Wright-Baker missed his second straight game with an ankle issue. Dusty Kiel started but hurt his own ankle in the second half. So true freshman Tre Roberson took over and completed 11-of-17 passes for 148 yards and one interception in the 41-20 loss to Illinois. One has to think that Kevin Wilson — whose team scored one offensive touchdown late in the fourth — is already designing plays for Gunner. The Hoosiers travel to Wisconsin this weekend to play a team that scored 83 points on them last fall.
12. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) – The Gophers turned the ball over three times, converted only 4-of-12 third downs, posted 11 total first downs and 213 yards of total offense in the 45-17 loss to Purdue. The Boilermakers raced to a 31-0 lead and never looked back, giving Minnesota its 14th loss in 17 games (how they beat Illinois and Iowa to end 2010 still astounds me).
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (6-0) – Vanderbilt put up a valiant effort in the first half, but the Crimson Tide eventually pulled away for a 34-0 victory. Quarterback AJ McCarron tossed a career-high four touchdown tosses in the win, while completing 23 of 30 throws for 237 yards. Running back Trent Richardson posted another solid performance, rushing for 107 yards and one score. The Crimson Tide hits the road for a matchup against Ole Miss this Saturday, before returning home to face Tennessee on Oct. 22.
2. LSU (6-0) – After Saturday’s 41-11 victory over Florida, LSU stands only two games away from its huge showdown against Alabama on Nov. 5. The Tigers hit the road for a date against Tennessee this week, but the Volunteers are without quarterback Tyler Bray due to a thumb injury. The two-quarterback system of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson has been a success so far, while LSU’s defense has allowed only two touchdowns over the last two games.
3. Arkansas (5-1) – The Razorbacks trailed 14-7 exiting the first quarter in Saturday's game against Auburn, but pulled away for a 38-14 victory. Quarterback Tyler Wilson posted another solid outing, throwing for 262 yards and two scores. Arkansas has an uphill battle to knock off Alabama or LSU in the SEC West race, but barring an upset, the Razorbacks seem locked into the No. 3 spot in that division. Arkansas is off this Saturday, before returning to action on Oct. 22 against Ole Miss.
4. South Carolina (5-1) – Coach Steve Spurrier finally had enough of Stephen Garcia’s inconsistency and inserted sophomore Connor Shaw into the starting lineup against Kentucky. So far, so good. Shaw torched the Wildcats for 311 yards and four scores, including 42 yards on the ground. Although the offense showed signs of life, Kentucky isn’t exactly the best measuring stick this season. The Gamecocks hit the road for a matchup against Mississippi State this Saturday.
5. Georgia (4-2) – The Bulldogs have been on a roll since losing the first two games of the season. Georgia has won its last four contests, led by a defense that has allowed no opponent to score more than 13 points over that span. The victory over Tennessee on Saturday was huge for the Bulldogs’ SEC East title hopes. Georgia has only one loss in conference play, and the schedule is favorable the rest of the way, with a date against Florida in Jacksonville the biggest hurdle. There’s a lot to be sorted out in the SEC race, but Georgia looks like the best team in the East.
6. Florida (4-2) – Winning in Baton Rouge with your starting quarterback is tough enough. However, winning with your third quarterback is nearly impossible. With John Brantley and Jeff Driskel out, Florida was forced to turn to Jacoby Brissett under center against the Tigers. The true freshman completed 8 of 14 throws for 94 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two picks. The Gators could get Driskel back for Saturday’s game against Auburn, but Brissett may also play. The Gators are reeling a bit with two consecutive losses. However, a win on Saturday night would keep Florida in the race to win the SEC East.
7. Auburn (4-2) – After boasting one of the top offenses in college football last season, the Tigers are struggling to find the answer at quarterback. Barrett Trotter completed only 6 of 19 throws for 81 yards in Saturday’s loss to Arkansas. True freshman Kiehl Frazier has been getting more snaps as the season progresses and could see his role increase this Saturday against Florida. The Tigers’ defense will catch a break this week, as Gators’ quarterback John Brantley will be out due to an ankle injury.
8. Mississippi State (3-3) – Most expected the Bulldogs to have an easy victory on Saturday, but that wasn’t the case. UAB led 3-0 at halftime and was down by only four points going into the final quarter. However, Mississippi State’s offense got a spark from backup quarterback Tyler Russell, who completed 11 of 13 throws for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Considering starter Chris Relf has been struggling, coach Dan Mullen may turn to Russell more in this week’s game against South Carolina.
9. Tennessee (3-2) – The Volunteers had a shot for a key SEC win on Saturday, but fell short, losing 20-12 to Georgia. The defeat was not only costly in the standings, but also on the depth chart. Quarterback Tyler Bray suffered a thumb injury and will likely miss six weeks of action. With Bray sidelined, Matt Simms will move back into the No. 1 role. The Volunteers have a brutal two-game stretch the next two weeks, as they host LSU this Saturday, before playing at Alabama on Oct. 22.
10. Vanderbilt (3-2) – The Commodores have lost their last two games, but still deserve to be ranked over Kentucky and Ole Miss. Vanderbilt played well in the first half against Alabama, but two missed field goals and a struggling offense prevented the Commodores from making things interesting in the final two quarters. After two road games, Vanderbilt is back home for a matchup against Georgia this Saturday.
11. Ole Miss (2-3) – The Rebels had a bye in Week 6 and return to action on Saturday against Alabama. Ole Miss hasn’t had much success against the Crimson Tide, with its last victory in the series in 1993. Quarterback Randall Mackey showed promise in the win over Fresno State and will remain the No. 1 passer for now. The Rebels still have an outside shot to get to a bowl, but it’s not going to be an easy road with Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule.
12. Kentucky (2-4) – Another week, another disastrous performance by the Wildcats’ offense. Kentucky’s only points (three) were setup by a South Carolina turnover on the opening kickoff. Quarterback Morgan Newton continued to struggle, completing only 4 of 21 passes for 17 yards. Backup Maxwell Smith wasn’t any better, misfiring on all three attempts, with two of them picked off. The Wildcats have a bye this Saturday, before hosting Jacksonville State on Oct. 22.