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The first Thursday night game of the NFL season is just a day away, and there are plenty of early choices you need to make about your fantasy rosters this week — namely Michael Bush or Mike Tolbert in the battle of No. 2 running backs.
Bush, the No. 2 RB of the Oakland Raiders, takes the lead against San Diego on Thursday night as Darren McFadden has already been ruled out. Tolbert, the No. 2 RB for the Chargers (although that is debatable) might have to split time with No. 1 Ryan Mathews, who is battling a groin injury.
Mathews will likely have the dreaded “game-time decision” tag associated with his name as San Diego is preparing for the game on a short week and Mathews missed playing in Sunday’s game against Green Bay entirely. But would you trust Mathews even if he were in the lineup? I find it hard to at this point.
With that said, let’s look at which Mike to start — Bush or Tolbert.
The Chargers are the second-best team in the league when it comes to fantasy point production per game from the RB position. The Raiders are third, just four-tenths a game behind. San Diego is up that high thanks to 72 catches for 686 yards and two scores against Oakland’s 43 catches for 423 yards and four scores from RBs. The Raiders have rushed for 1,040 yards and seven scores to 862 yards and eight touchdowns for the Chargers. Both teams have run the ball 203 times.
It is not as even on the defensive side. San Diego remains near the top of the league in points allowed to fantasy RBs, ranking fifth. Meanwhile, Oakland is on the complete opposite end at 30th in the league against the position. The teams are separated by 8.4 points per game.
The Chargers have surrendered 30 catches for 219 yards and a score this season to running backs, which probably does not affect Bush. The five-year veteran has just 11 catches on the year. Bush will have to rely on getting in the end zone to produce, and that is something San Diego has allowed just three times to RBs this season.
Oakland has allowed backs to catch 37 balls for 434 yards and two TDs, and it is coming off a game where Denver’s Willis McGahee (20-163-2) and Tim Tebow (12-117-0) combined to rush for 280 yards and two scores.
Tolbert already has 32 catches for 290 yards and two scores. He has been targeted nine times in three games, including Sunday’s loss to Green Bay; he also added 83 yards rushing on 19 carries in the loss.
Both San Diego and Oakland allow over 19 points per game to fantasy receivers and over 20 points per game to fantasy quarterbacks. I see this one being a QB game, and that is where Tolbert certainly edges out Bush with his pass-catching ability. He had six catches for 47 yards the last time he played the Raiders.
Whether it’s legit called passes to Tolbert or check downs, he is producer out of the backfield via his receptions. And it is for that reason, even if Mathews were to play, that I would go Tolbert over Bush this Thursday night — in any scoring format.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Tony Stewart Momentum has clearly swung in Smoke’s favor. He’s always been a streaky driver, and now that he’s “on” it may be hard for Carl Edwards to hold him off.
2. Carl Edwards Averaging a 5.6-place finish in the Chase, but Stewart is blowing Cousin Carl’s doors off in the wins department. Still, NASCAR’s points format rewards consistency over winning, so is it advantage: Carl?
3. Matt Kenseth Talladega and Martinsville were considered the tracks that could derail Carl Edwards’ championship hopes. Turns out, they bit Matt.
4. Kevin Harvick It looked as if Harvick was going to pull another miraculous “Where’d he come from?” finish at Texas. However, a two-tire pit call dropped him to 13th, effectively ending his championship hopes.
5. Jimmie Johnson Johnson’s four finishes outside of the top 10 in this season’s Chase are more than in the last three Chases combined. That’s amazing.
6. Kasey Kahne Kahne has only one finish outside the top 15 in the last eight races. Credit the lame-duck driver and the Red Bull Racing team (who may lose their jobs at season’s end) for not throwing in the towel.
7. Brad Keselowski Since Keselowski and the No. 2 turned things around at Indy, they’ve recorded 11 top-12 runs in 15 races, winning twice. Unfortunately, Cinderella’s slipper isn’t going to fit.
8. Jeff Gordon Returns to the track where he won in February. Unfortunately for Gordon, the track has been repaved, reconfigured and has only one good racing groove. He better qualify well.
9. Deny Hamlin Was looking for a fourth consecutive top-10 run, which would have been his best string of finishes this year. Brad Keselowski saw to that, though.
10. Clint Bowyer Would be seventh in the standings had he made the Chase. Woulda, shoulda, coulda, right? It will be interesting to see if he can elevate Michael Waltrip Racing to the next level in 2012.
Alabama had to drop in the polls after its 9-6 overtime loss in Tuscaloosa to LSU. But how far? It makes sense that the Crimson Tide would fall below undefeated Oklahoma State and Stanford, which happened in the Athlon, AP and Coaches Polls. The BCS standings have Bama ahead of the Cardinal because of schedule strength. Boise State keeps winning Mountain West games, but the Broncos will need some breaks to reach the BCS title game. With its resume, LSU has to be considered the nation’s best team. But who’s next? We forget the rankings today and judge the teams on quality and body of work.
On the field, who is the second-best team in the country?
LSU is clearly the No. 1 team in the nation — having defeated Alabama in T-Town, Oregon at the Palace in Dallas and West Virginia in couch-burning country. After Les Miles' club, there are several worthy No. 2 candidates. But Nick Saban's Crimson Tide stand head and shoulders above the likes of Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, etc. Bama has it all — a mastermind coach (Saban), Heisman-quality running back (Trent Richardson), electric receiver-returner (Marquis Maze), powerful O-line and arguably the most-talented defense (highlighted by NFL-ready playmakers like Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron) led by one of the brightest young minds in the game (Kirby Smart). The Tide are a few missed field goals and unforced errors away from being the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. The "Game of the Century" strengthened my beliefs that LSU and Alabama are Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation. With all due respect, no other team comes close to the Tigers or Tide.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This question would be a bit easier to answer after this weekend because Stanford will have an opportunity to make a statement against a very good Oregon team. But right now, I will go with Alabama, even after the Tide’s loss at home to LSU. Alabama boasts the premier defense in the nation — and it’s not even close statistically. The Crimson Tide are giving up an average 187.0 yards per game. The next best team is Michigan State, at 249.4 yards per game. In nine games, Bama has allowed a total of 64 points, 34 points fewer than the No. 2 ranked scoring defense, LSU. And despite only scoring six points on Saturday night, Alabama is still a team capable of scoring a bunch of points. Keep in mind that Nick Saban’s club is averaging 39.4 points against teams not named LSU. And even after you factor in the stats against LSU, Bama still ranks 30th in the nation in total offense and 23rd in scoring offense. Combine that type of offensive production with the nation’s best defense, and you have a team that can make a strong case for a No. 2 ranking — even with a loss on its resume.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
The LSU Tigers? This is my subjective opinion, of course, since I still think Alabama is the best team in the nation. However, it's a good thing games aren't decided subjectively, but rather by scoring more points than the other team. Under that assumption, I would say that Alabama is the No. 2 team in the nation. However, there is no way to truly know if the Tide is better than Stanford, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech or Georgia without them actually playing the game. Otherwise, it is simply an educated guess by definition. We do know that LSU is better than Oregon and Alabama. We do know that Alabama is better than Penn State and Arkansas. We will know if Oklahoma is better than Oklahoma State. We will know if Stanford is better than Oregon. And we will know if LSU is better than Arkansas and Georgia. What we don't, and may never know if there is a "rematch," is if any of those other teams are better than Alabama or LSU — unless they actually take the field.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll say Stanford because Andrew Luck and crew have not lost, but Alabama would be favored in that game by the boys in Las Vegas. The Cardinal are balanced enough on offense to give the Tide some issues, and the defense does play well against the run. I’d love to see a very physical Stanford-Alabama battle on the field. As far as Oklahoma State, I think the Cowboys would probably lose close in a shootout with Stanford but would get beaten badly by the Tide (just not a good matchup for OSU). That being my opinion, the current rankings have Oklahoma State controlling its own destiny to the BCS Championship Game. The Cardinal and Tide will have to hope OSU or LSU lose down the stretch to get their chance. I know many fans are tired of SEC dominance, but Alabama may get that shot if OSU loses. For now though, I’ll take Stanford on the strength of 17 straight wins with 15 of those by over a touchdown.
By Mitch Light
Stanford lost its final three games of the 2008 season. Needing only one win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001, the Cardinal lost consecutive games to Oregon, USC and Cal by an average of 16.7 points.
Standing on the sideline that season was a true freshman by the name of Andrew Luck. A 5-star recruit from Houston, Luck chose the Cardinal over Northwestern, Rice and Purdue. “Stanford has great tradition,” Luck told the Houston Chronicle at the time of his commitment. “I hope to help them get back to the top of the Pac-10, where they belong.”
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Luck has succeeded on that front. Stanford, which hosts Oregon this Saturday in the West Coast version of the Game of the Century, is sitting at the top of the Pac-12. Since Luck was inserted into the starting lineup — in Week 1 of the ’09 season — Stanford is an amazing 29–6 overall and 21–4 in league play. With Luck leading the way, the SU offense has scored 30 points or more in 29 of its last 35 games.
This season, the Cardinal’s numbers are simply astounding:
• They are outgaining their opponents by an average of 181.8 yards per game. In league play, that number jumps to 190.1.
• They lead the Pac-12 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
• They are one of only three teams in the nation that is averaging over 220 yards passing and 220 yards rushing. (Wisconsin and Missouri are the other two).
• They are 5–0 on the road and have won those five games by an average of 24 points.
• They have given up more than 19 points only one time.
• They have allowed only eight plays of 30 yards or more.
• They are completing 53.4 percent on third down, tied for fourth-best in the nation.
• They have scored on all 52 trips inside the Red Zone and are the only team in the country with a 100 percent success rate.
Okay, you get it: Stanford is pretty good.
The one knock on the Cardinal has been the strength of schedule. Only one of their nine wins has come against a team currently ranked in the AP top 25 (USC) and only two other teams on their schedule (UCLA and Washington) have winning records.
That’s what makes this week’s showdown with Oregon so interesting. There are those (i.e. SEC fans) who still question whether Stanford has the talent and athleticism to beat one of the nation’s truly elite teams. Last year, the Cardinal jumped out to a 21–3 lead over the Ducks in Eugene but were overwhelmed by Oregon’s speed and were outscored 48–10 in the final three quarters.
Now, the Cardinal has another shot at the mighty Ducks, this time in Palo Alto, where they haven’t lost in nearly two calendar years. And this edition of the Oregon Ducks, while still strong, isn’t quite as strong as the team that played in the national title game a year ago. The offensive numbers for Chip Kelly’s club are similar to last season, but the Ducks aren’t quite as formidable on defense in 2011, especially against the run.
Stanford will be on a national stage on Saturday night. This team is still very much alive in national title chase. Luck and the Cardinal offense should be able to score plenty of points. It will be up to the defense, which gave up 626 total yards in this game last year, to slow down the Oregon attack.
AROUND THE PAC-12
• Utah has won two straight in league play after opening its first season in the Pac-12 with an 0–4 record. And with a relatively soft remaining schedule — UCLA, at Washington State, Colorado — don’t be surprised if the Utes end their inaugural Pac-12 campaign with a winning conference record.
• Oregon State is 3–8 in its last 11 Pac-12 games dating back to last season.
• The top three runners in the league, on a yards-per-carry basis, all play for Oregon — De’Anthony Thomas (8.5), LaMichael James (8.0) and Kenjon Barner (6.75).
• Washington State sophomore Marquess Wilson is closing in on his second straight 1,000-yard season. He had 1,006 on 55 catches as a freshman and currently has 974 on 59 catches with three games remaining.
• Washington quarterback Keith Price was held to 143 yards passing despite throwing the ball 35 times in the Huskies’ 34–17 loss to Oregon. Price’s previous low in Pac-12 play was 226 yards in a win at Utah.
• Just under 40 percent of Keenen Allen’s 1,074 receiving yards have come on third down. The sophomore from Cal has converted 19 of his 22 catches on third down into a first down.
• Colorado has given up 42 points or more in all but one Pac-12 game.
At halftime of the 2011 NFL season and the stretch run about to start, Athlon Sports takes a look at the award-worthy performers of this year’s first half:
Most Valuable Player
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
The Super Bowl XLV MVP is on pace to set the single-season records for yards, completion percentage and passer rating. Through eight games, Rodgers has thrown for 2,619 yards, 24 TDs and three INTs with a 129.1 rating, while also scrambling for another 127 yards and two trips to the end zone for the undefeated Packers. Brett Favre won three MVPs during his heyday in Green Bay, A-Rodg’s award-winning run starts this year.
Offensive Player of the Year
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills
The heart and soul of Buffalo’s offense, Jackson has rushed for 803 yards (5.4 ypc) and six TDs, while hauling in 30 catches for 391 yards (13.0 ypc). Philly’s LeSean McCoy, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson also deserve consideration for this award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jared Allen, DE, Vikings
On pace to break Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (22.5), Allen has tallied 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles through eight games. The Jets’ Darrelle Revis (four INTs for 184 yards, TD) is also making a strong case for himself.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
This has become a two-horse race between Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and Newton, who has thrown for 2,393 yards, 11 TDs and nine INTs while rushing for 319 yards and a rookie-QB record-tying seven TDs.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
If there were a Special Teams Rookie of the Year, Peterson (three punt return TDs) would be the clear winner. As it is, the athletic corner gets the nod for an award that is still very much up in the air.
Comeback Player of the Year
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Finally healthy, the strong-armed Stafford has thrown for 2,179 yards, a career-high 19 TDs and four INTs while leading the Lions to 6–2 start and a realistic shot at their first trip to the playoffs since 1999.
Coach of the Year
Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
Postgame handshakes aside, the former Stanford boss and brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been a difference-maker in the Bay Area — firing up the Niners’ defense and calming quarterback Alex Smith.
-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 vote receives one point.
It only took 10 weeks of football but Stanford's Andrew Luck has claimed all nine Athlon Sports first place Heisman Trophy ballots. And rightly so, considering he is the best player in the nation on an unbeaten team.
Despite being the best player on the field, Trent Richardon's kicker might have cost him the Heisman Trophy. Robert Griffin III got Baylor over the hump with a big win over Missouri, boosting his stock back into finalist territory. And Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Boise State's Kellen Moore simply produce huge numbers every week and hold onto Top 5-status once again.
As a side note, only four players landed on all nine ballots. Luck, Richardson, Moore and Houston's Case Keenum.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (90/90 total points, 9/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 194/272, 2,424 yards, 26 TD, 5 INT, 29 att., 147 yards, 2 TD
Luck and the Cardinal got off to a sluggish start in the cold and damp Corvallis this weekend. After a 0-0 first quarter, Stanford stormed off for a 38-13 win to give Luck his 17th straight victory. His two touchdown passes in less than two minutes in the third quarter put the Beavers away. Luck finished 20-of-30, for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the win. His Heisman Trophy, Pac-12 title and BCS National Championship are on the line this weekend. No pressure. Next Game: Oregon
|3.||Kellen Moore||QB||Boise State||66||-||2||3||1||2||9|
|4.||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||52||-||2||1||1||1||8|
|5.||Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma St||49||-||-||-||5||1||8|
|11.||David Wilson||RB||Virginia Tech||10||-||-||-||-||-||4|
|15.||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma St||4||-||-||-||-||-||2|
2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (75)
Season Stats: 172 att., 1,078 yards, 17 TD, 23 rec., 292 yards, TD
Trent Richardson was the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU in this week's "Game of the Century." He was truly the most productive player for either team (except maybe LSU punter Brad Win) as he carried 23 times for 89 yards and caught five passes for 80 yards. T-Rich consistently moved the Tide into LSU territory all night and is still leading the SEC in rushing at 119.8 yards per game. However, if Bama doesn't get its rematch in the BCS title game, will Richardson have done enough to overcome Luck? Next Game: at Mississippi State
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (66)
Season Stats: 192/259, 2,229 yards, 29 TD, 5 INT, 10 att., (-16) yards
In the 48-21 win at UNLV, Moore became the winningest quarterback in the history of NCAA football. His 46-2 record as the starter speaks for itself. Against the Runnin' Rebels, Moore went 18-for-31 for 219 yards and five touchdowns and he is now fourth in the nation passer rating at 179.51. Moore needs a huge showing in his last real test of the 2011 season this weekend against the Horned Frogs. Next Game: TCU
4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (52)
Season Stats: 202/273, 2,781 yards, 26 TD, 4 INT, 107 att., 375 yards, 4 TD
Griffin has not had any issues posting huge numbers all season. The difference this weekend is that he lead his team to a big win over Missouri 42-39. RG3 finished 27-of-41 for 406 yards and three touchdowns through the air to go with 19 rushing attemps, 53 yards and another score on the ground. Griffin III is the nation's No. 2 rated passer at 188.06 and has his team poised for a second consecutive bowl game for the first time since 1991-1992. Next Game: at Kansas
5. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (49)
Season Stats: 282/391, 3,212 yards, 26 TD, 9 INT, 14 att., (-85) yards
If the offensive ineptitude in Tuscaloosa wasn't your cup of tea, then maybe the defensive woes in Stillwater were. Oklahoma State and Kansas State combined for 1,082 yards of offense in the thrilling 52-45 back and forth affair. Weeden made a couple of bad throws (2 INT, one returned for a touchdowns), but he also set a school record with 502 yards passing. He was an incredibly efficient 36-of-46 passing and threw four scoring strikes of his own. Most importantly, he kept the Pokes national title hopes alive. Next Game: at Texas Tech
6. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (43)
Season Stats: 257/347, 3,626 yards, 34 TD, 3 INT, 32 att., 27 yards, 2 TD
Keenum was downright flawless in the 56-13 win over UAB this weekend. He completed 39 of his 44 attempts for 407 yards and two touchdowns. He also batted 1.000 in the ground game as he scored two touchdowns on two rushing attempts. Keenum is now the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense. In 2011, he is leading the nation in total offense at 405.9 yards per game and is the nation's No. 2 most efficient passer with a rating of 192.44 - which would be an single-season NCAA record if not for the player next on this Heisman list. And his Cougars remain one of the nation's five unbeaten teams. Next Game: at Tulane
7. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (30)
Season Stats: 144/201, 2,238 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT, 48 att., 276 yards, 4 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD
The records this Wisconsin team are establishing on offense are eye-opening. Wilson completed 15-of-20 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns to go with 10 carries, 76 yards and another score on the ground in the 62-17 win over Purdue. His 21 TD passes have tied a single-season school record set by John Stocco and he now has thrown a TD in 33 straight games - three short of the all-time NCAA mark of 36 set by Graham Harrell. Wilson is the nation's No. 1 rated passer at 196.66 - which would set a single-season NCAA record for passing efficiency (186.00). Too bad Wilson doesn't play safety. Next Game: at Minnesota
8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (26)
Season Stats: 254/393, 3,349 yards, 28 TD, 9 INT, 17 att., 22 yards, 2 TD
Jones is easily the saddest finalist on this list as he had to watch his partner in crime Ryan Broyles walk off the field in Norman in tears after tearing his ACL. But Jones led his team to victory and has the Sooners poised to sneak into the BCS title game should a few teams falter. Jones finished 18-of-38 for 255 and two touchdowns in the 41-25 dismantling of Texas A&M. He is No. 3 in the nation in total offense at 374.56 yards per game. Next Game: at Baylor
9. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (15)
Season Stats: 162 att., 1,076 yards, 21 TD, 13 rec., 229 yards, 3 TD, 1/1, 25 yards, TD
The accolades for the Wisconsin offense continue. Montee Ball scored his 22nd, 23rd and 24th touchdowns of the season in the 62-17 romp over Purdue. Ball is now two scores away from tying Ki-Jana Carter (1994), Anthony Thompson (1988) and Pete Johnson (1975) for the all-time Big Ten single-season touchdown record of 26. His 24 touchdowns (not counting his TD pass to Wilson) have already tied the Badgers single-season mark set by Brian Calhoun back in 2005. Ball also set a career high with 223 yards rushing and now sits No. 2 in the Big Ten with 1,076 yards. Ball leads the nation in scoring at 16.0 points per game. Next Game: at Minnesota
10. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (11)
Season Stats: 229/342, 2,608 yards, 28 TD, 6 INT, 20 att., 25 yards, TD
Barkley is putting his full NFL resume on display. The Trojan quarterback set a school record with six touchdown passes (four in the first half) in the 42-17 road win over Colorado on Friday night. He finished the game 25-of-39 for 318 yards. Barkley has already set a single-season career high in TD passes (28) and is 183 yards from setting his yardage record as well. It is a shame USC cannot play in the Pac-12 title game (and here's hoping he comes back for his senior year). Next Game: Washington
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 10
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7
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
Somehow the Penn State story just got even worse. After a weeping Joe Paterno reportedly spoke to Penn State students outside his living room window about the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse allegations, he came out, seemingly all smiles and addressed a student body that had formed on his lawn. While the students were chanting and holding up signs showing support for the only college football coach they've known for 46 years, Joe Pa quieted them down and said the following:
"It's hard for me to tell you how much this means to me. I've lived for this place, and I've lived for people like you guys and girls, and I'm just so happy to see that you could feel so strongly about us and about your school. The kids that were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. Tough life, when people do certain things to you. Anyway, you've been great. Everything's great, all right."
Now I think we know why Tuesday's press conference was cancelled. By saying things like "the kids that were victims or whatever they want to say" is not a great way to frame the children who were sexually abused. And the scary thing is, discrediting or attacking the victims is PR 101 in political scandals. But this is not a political scandal. This is bigger than Penn State, it's bigger than Joe Paterno and it's bigger than college football. These are unspeakable accusations and to call into question the victims, and to subtly point the finger is unforgivable.
To not speak with the utmost delicacy here is to only come across as defensive at best and heartless at worst. Maybe this is all a big set up for the senility defense. Either way, Joe Pa made an already horrific situation worse by what he did last night.
Whether he likes or knows it, Joe Paterno will no longer be the head coach at Penn State within two weeks (if not much sooner). But his words on Tuesday night paint the picture of a man who isn't ready to have the biggest thing he loves taken away from him. And when people feel like they are painted in a corner they don't want to be in, they start taking swipes at what they think is responsible for painting them in that corner.
But this is not the time to create an adversarial position with the victims. If Joe truly understands what happened, he would not refer to those children as "victims or whatever." He would express regret. He would show himself to be human. Instead, he called into question the people who were wronged the most, which is a subtle defense not only of himself, but of Jerry Sandusky as well. And there is no more indefensible person in America right now.
Joe Paterno, who once stood for class in a league known more for cheating and lying, is tarnishing his legacy, one word at a time.
And on another note, I'm not sure why the kids were chanting his support. This isn't a Jim Tressel situation. This isn't about tattoos. This isn't even about cheating. This is the most heinous act imagineable. And anyone who holds up a sign showing support for Paterno, given the facts that we currently know about his lack of action is foolish. Yes, I understand we don't have all the facts in the story, but given the gruesome details we do know, even the most ardent supporters of Joe Paterno and Happy Valley should wait until we know more before making a "I HEART Joe Pa" sign and marching on campus.
If 1% of the details we've heard are confirmed true, you will look even stupider than you do right now.
In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged child sexual abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now.
This article originally appeared in Athlon Sports 1995 Big Ten regional edition. Jerry Sandusky's quotes are in bold.
Deep Roots In Happy Valley
More than anything else, that explains why they come and, more to the point, why they stay.
They put down roots and those roots have a way of tunneling down as deep as the stately elms that ring the campus, Almost before they know it, time has done a silly thing to them: It has made a lifetime come and go. And the nice thing is, none of them ever seems to be gnawed by doubt or haunted by second-guess. None of them seems to harbor so much as a single regret about never leaving, about not sampling life beyond the leafy hills that wall of Happy Valley from the rest of the world.
The remarkable part about all of this, of course, is that they are gypsies by trade, members of an inherently nomadic profession. The lifters, the career coaches, they tend to change zip codes as casually as coats. But Penn State is a notable exception. In Happy Valley, they tend to stay put.
Since its first season of football, in 1887, the Nittany Lions have had only 14 head coaches, four of whom held that job for just one year. And only 74 assistant coaches in the university’s 108 seasons up to 1995. Many schools have gone through that many in barely a decade. But from “Anderson, Dick, 1973-83, 90-present” to “Yerger, H.C., 1918,” it takes barely half of one page to list every full-time assistant Penn State has ever had.
The most celebrated of them, of course, is Joseph Vincent Paterno himself. After his senior season at Brown in 1949, Paterno was awaiting graduation and anticipating his entrance into law school at Boston University. He had already been accepted there and fully intended to follow the career path taken by his father, who had set a worthy example by going to night school to earn his degree and them, in an admirable demonsration of persistence, passing the bar exam at the age of 44.
“I was all set,” Paterno recalls, “and then I got a surprising phone call from Rip Engle (who had been Paterno’s coach at Brown). He’d just been hired to be Penn State’s head coach, and he said his contract allowed him to bring one assistant.”
Paterno accepted, fully intending to leave after a year or two and resume the pursuit of that law degree. Forty-five years later, he is still in Happy Valley, and it is now impossible to distinguish where the man leaves off and the legend begins. Because he will start his 30th season as head coach this autumn, it is easy to forget that Joe Paterno was an assistant for 16 years. He seemed to set the tone of fidelity that has become so impressive.
There must be a reason for such an unremitting loyalty. Certainly, it is a pull more powerful than wealth and more seductive than ego. Because many of the assistant coaches at Penn State have had their chances to ramrod their own outfits.
Some of them try it, and then come back. Like Anderson. After 11 years on Paterno’s staff, he became the head coach at Rutgers in 1984, and lasted for six seasons. Relieved of that job, almost immediately he came back to Happy Valley and fell easily, naturally, back in step, as though he had left a 1950’s line dance, slipped out of the gym, and come back without losing the rhythm, the feel.
“In some ways,” says Anderson, coach of the quarterbacks and the passing game, “it was like I never left. There were some subtle changes in the offensive system, sure. All systems constantly evolve. They never stand still. But the guts were pretty much the same.”
Anderson’s tone suggests that you don’t mess with what works. The rest of it: the lifestyle, the Happy Days, Happy Valley insulation-that hadn’t changed. That never changes. Some people find that stunting and stultifying. Others find it charming and irresistible. Some of the assistants think about trying it out there on their own, being the boss man, but back away.
Like Jerry Sandusky. In 1988, Temple reached out to Penn State’s longtime defensive coordinator and offered him the head coaching job. Sandusky held it up t the light and examined it. And then politely handed it back.
“Who knows, I may set an NCAA record for staying on as an assistant coach at one school,” Sandusky says, laughing. Well, this will be his 28th season on Paterno’s staff. “Penn State’s my home. It’s more than just the place I make my living. It’s a place my family and I all love. They really don’t know any other place. Penn State spoils you. You get a perspective that doesn’t exist out there.” Some of the assistants accept a head-coaching job, only to have a change of mind-and of heart-literally overnight.
Like Fran Ganter, the offensive coordinator. He went to bed one night last December having decided to accept Michigan State’s offer to succeed George Perles. Like pepperoni pizza at midnight, it seemed to be a good idea at the time, but around 4:30 in the morning, emotional indigestion arrived.
“I thought, ‘What am I doing?’” Ganter says. “I realized then that I didn’t really want to leave.”
The money was infinitely better. The opportunity was there to make a program in his own image. And yet he stated. This will be Fran Ganter’s 25th year of coaching at Penn State.
They don’t all say, of course. Ron Dickerson is the head man at Temple now. Jim Caldwell took the Wake Forest job. Craig Cirbus, who was on Paterno’s staff for 11 seasons, left after the 12-0 season of 1994 to become the head coach at the University of Buffalo, which happens to be his alma mater.
So it’s not as though they’re locked up. It’s not as though Paterno doesn’t answer answer the inquiries, the feelers from other schools, and give them all ringing recommendations. It’s not as though they lack ambition or self-confidence, amd it’s not that they don’t think they can make it on their own or burn to do so. It’s just that, in the end, they can’t bear the thought of saying good-bye.
Corny as it may sound, they stay because no other place looks quite as appealing. They are hapy where they are and unashamed to say so. Besides, how bad is it being part of a program that wins 8- percent of its games, that frequently has a perfect season, that has won two national championships and will challenge for more, that comes to think of a bowl game as routine? Maybe it’s better to be an assistant at a successful school than the overseer of a losing program.
Certainly, there are more sophisticated communities than state college .but then part of the allure of Happy Valley is the absence of bright lights and of all the unsavory things they imply. No, State College exists, happily, in a time warp. It is its own Way Back Machine. It is trapped in an age of penny loafers and crew cuts and sha-boom, sha-boom. It is isolated and revels in its isolation.
“Its just a great place to raise a family,” says Jerry Sandusky. It is a subject he knows something about. He and his wife, Dorothy, have five adopted children. They also founded and run The Second Mile, a charitable organization that addresses the welfare of young people. It has expanded into eight separate non-profit programs, including foster homes and summer camps, and they in turn have touched more than 80,000 children.
Such a venture might not have been possible in a different environment, under different circumstances. The Sanduskys are so involved in what they began that to leave Happy Valley is virtually unthinkable. Some might say they are prisoners of their own making. And some might say they are an extraordinary couple that who would have succeeded wherever they lived. They happened to pick Happy Valley. Or was it, perhaps, the other way around?
“The uniqueness of Penn State football is the number of people who have stayed here and retired here,” says Sandusky. “I don’t know that you can explain the attraction. It’s a lot of small things. I guess you have to experience it.”
You can get a taste of it on Saturdays in the fall, on those tart apple-cider afternoons when 96,000 clog the pitifully few access roads, paralyzing the surrounding area in terminal gridlock. Beaver Stadium keeps expanding, the waves of “progress” keep lapping at the doorstep, but Happy Valley remains pretty much the same, pretty much immune.
Over the years, representatives from other football programs have made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley in an effort to entice Paterno away. He has turned them all down, and some of the opportunities were mightily tempting. Michigan, for one. The Wolverines wound up with Bo Schembechler instead, and went to nine rose Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for another, who settled for Chuck Noll and won four Super Bowls.
“I sure left he door open for some great careers, huh?” Paterno laughs. “The only job I wanted was at Yale, and John Pont got it.”
But the closest Paterno ever came to leaving was for a job in the pros, specifically with the Boston Patriots. “I had decided to accept,” he says, “but the next morning I woke up and told Sue (his wife), ‘You slept with a millionaire…for one night. I just can’t leave.’”
In his 1973 commencement address at Penn State, Paterno amplified on that decision thusly: “Money alone will not make you happy. Success without honor is an unseasoned dish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”
Paterno, who will be 69 in December, is quite likely to avoid retirement until he has completed half a century at Penn State.
Nor is the Paterno name apt to be severed from Penn State football when the patriarch does retire. To fill the vacancy created by Cirbus leaving this past winter, Joe Paterno named as his new recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach…Jay Paterno.
Conference realignment has been a constant theme in college football over the past year and a half. Nebraska got the ball rolling when the Cornhuskers — frustrated by the Big 12’s unequal revenue sharing and Texas’ influence over the league — left for the Big Ten. Colorado departed the Big 12 as well, joining Utah in the new Pac-12. But perhaps the most interesting move came from Texas A&M, who joined the SEC after having enough of the Longhorn Network and league instability. It was only a matter of time before the SEC added a 14th team, and Missouri became that school. The SEC is a gold-standard conference, but some have questioned if the Tigers can compete for the title in the country’s toughest league. And while Mizzou will enjoy the money and exposure of the SEC, there are some concerns over historical rivalries and geographical fit.
Missouri to the SEC: Good move for the Tigers?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I think it’s a good move for Missouri because the school, with all of its flirtation with other leagues in recent years, had reached a point of no return with the Big 12. From a strictly competitive standpoint, I don’t think it’s a good move. The football program has raised its profile in the last decade under Gary Pinkel and is now to the point where it can be a factor in the Big 12 almost every season. It might be a stretch to call the Tigers one of the league’s elite programs, but they are relevant almost every season. That won’t be the case in the SEC, at least not initially. There are too many programs in the SEC that simply have more to offer than Missouri — from recruiting to fan base to facilities to tradition, etc. From a basketball standpoint, it’s probably a lateral move — or a small step down — and the school is jeopardizing its rivalry with Kansas, one of the premier programs in the nation. Not playing the Jayhawks, even once per season, is not a good thing for Missouri basketball.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It’s an absolutely great move for Missouri. The Tigers just left the craziness of unequal revenue, constant rumors, the LHN, Dan Beebe leadership and an uncertain future for college sports’ royalty. Mizzou now has a permanent home with more money and exposure than ever before. Of course conference titles are difficult to win, but no big-time school is looking to join a league “because it is easy”. Geographical fit? Missouri borders as many SEC states as Big 12 ones. Rivalries? The Tigers can still play Kansas at the end of the season, just like the Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson rivalries. If KU wants to go “Rock Head, Jayhawk” and not play Mizzou because of jealously, then that’s Kansas’ fault. Recruiting in Texas? Plenty of recent SEC players — Matt Stafford, Ryan Mallett, DeMarcus Love, Brandon LaFell, Denarius Moore, Greg McElroy — were from the Lone Star State. Missouri fans are going to love trips to places like Neyland Stadium, Sanford Stadium, Rupp Arena, Bud Walton Arena and Alex Box Stadium. And they are also going to enjoy being in a top league with solid leadership and passionate fans.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
From a football viewpoint, I don’t think this move makes a lot of sense for Missouri. The Tigers never won the Big 12 title and now are moving to a tougher conference. Will there be years where Missouri can win the SEC East? Absolutely. However, I would rather take my chances in the Big 12. Also, the Tigers recruit Texas heavily, and it’s unclear how those pipelines would be affected with the shift in conferences. But this move isn’t all about football. Missouri simply had enough of the Big 12 and its instability. With that in mind, I can’t blame the Tigers for moving to the SEC. When an opportunity to join the best athletic conference in the nation comes along, it’s a very difficult invitation to turn down. Additionally, Missouri can make more money in the SEC, which is certainly very attractive to any athletic department. Only time will tell whether or not the Tigers are capable of competing for the SEC East title, but getting away from the instability and constant bickering in the Big 12 makes this move a good one for Missouri.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
This is a phenomenal move for the Missouri Tigers. The dollars and cents differential between the SEC and the new Big 12 contracts are not nearly as great as people think (a reported $12 million dollar difference per year is really more like $2-3 million). But when it comes to stability and recognition, there is no doubt that the SEC has a superior brand. And wins and losses on the field? Well, Mizzou won six conference championships since 1929 when they joined the Big 6 (which became the Big 8 and then the Big 12) and the last came in 1969, so not winning titles in the SEC won't be much of a change. Yet, the football program is currently cranking along at unprecedented levels as three of the school's five 10-win seasons have taken place in the last half-decade under Gary Pinkel. Additionally, Mizzou is 19-7-1 all-time against the current SEC programs and 7-2 all-time in bowl games against the SEC (even if most of them took place before the Cold War). This is the optimal time for Mizzou to make the move and it will be a huge win long-term for the school. Plus, as an added bonus, the SEC upgrades its academic standing and adds one of the more tradition-laden basketball programs in the country — even if both of which really have nothing to do with the move.
In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual child abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno's at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now.
This article was originally published in the 2000 Athlon Sports Big Ten Edition.
Joe Pa’s brought a half-century of excellence to Happy Valley. Now, he has the Bear in his sights
The antique shop stands a few hundred feet removed from the Route 322, the rural road that snakes its way through the Pennsylvania wilderness and allows folks from Harrisburg and points southeast access to Happy Valley.
Sitting there on the dusty floor, at first unremarkable among the disorganized mess of goodies, is a quartet of blue and white televisions trays, relics from polyester days of the early 1970s.
But a second glance reveals something very remarkable. Not so much about these particular cheesy bits of Americana, but of the man whose unmistakeable mug has been screened upon them.
Meet Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the only guy in the business who has been around long enough to have his face emblazoned on antiques. We’re not talking Junior Griffey’s rookie card here. These aluminum beauties are a quarter of a century old if they’re a day.
And, gauche though they may be, they’re about to climb in value.
Because Paterno, who is in his 35th year as head coach of the Nittany Lions, and his 51st year on the PSU staff, is on the brink of passing Alabama’s Bear Bryant for the top spot on the all-time major college win list. The 73-year-old needs six victories to tie the Bear at 323 and a seventh to claim the record as his own.
Considering the Lions have failed to capture at least seven games only three times in Paternon’s tenure as head coach, it’s a good bet the changing of the guard will occur this season.
But while Penn State’s sports information staff expects a deluge of credential requests as Paterno nears and passes the record — from the New York Tiimes to the Los Angeles Times and every outlet in between — there is one person who is not the slightest bit anxious for the big moment to arrive.
Joe Paterno himself.
The first of what will be hundreds of softball questions on the topic was lobbed at a press conference to kick off the Nittany Lions’ spring practice in late March. A reporter asked how he would react when the record became his. And Paterno responded as if he’d been bushwhacked by Jim Gray.
“I haven’t given it any thought,” he snapped. “You ask me questions coming out of the woodwork. I’m an Italian. Who knows how I’m gonna react for crying out loud? I may break down and cry, I don’t know.
“But that’s not gonna be a distraction, and it’s not gonna be anything I spend any time thinking about. If it happens, it happens. I’m more worried about making it happen.”
Barring some unforeseen disaster, he will make it happen. As for how he’ll react?
Well, after winning his 300th game (over Bowling Green at Beaver Stadium in 1998), Paterno broke into tears as he addressed the crowd. It was the first time anyone could remember him showing that particular emotion in public.
No one would be surprised to see more waterworks after Paterno passes Bryant. But those close to him insist the emotion won’t hit until after the record is passed.
“I’ve been around him long enough to know that he’s not gonna think about it until it’s over,” says Budd Thallman, PSU’s associate athletic director for communications. “That’s consistent. That’s how he was at 200 (wins), that’s how he was at 300. It’s almost like he has no clue. He’s remarkable in the way he dose that.”
He’s also remarkable in the way he endures. If Paterno’s health holds up, once he gets the record, it is doubtful anyone will catch him. Sure, Florida State’s 70-year-old Bobby Bowden has 304 wins and is charging hard. But the offseason saw Paterno sign a five-year contract extension, and he’s not entirely sure that will be his last deal.
“I really intend to coach at least five more years,” he says. “If I stay healthy and I can get the kind of people I have been able to get around me and work like they’ve been working, there is no reason I can’t coach five more years. I want to do it.”
As if to prove he’s up to the challenge, Paterno took the occasion of longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s recent retirement to shake up his staff, taking on more responsibility himself in the process. Sandusky used to have a free hand in guiding the defense. Replacement Tom Bradley can expect more input from the head man.
“I’m going to work with everything,” Paterno says. “I am going to have a hand in everything.”
And like the paraphernalia in that antique shop, he’s counting on improving with age. Which is why, even if Penn State wins its third national title in the next few years, he has no intention of slipping off into retirement.
“That has nothing to do with it,” Paterno explains. “Streaks have nothing to do with it, and records have nothing to do with it. I just get up in the morning and I like to coach. I don’t what I could do with myself that I could enjoy as well as I do coaching. That seems to be hard for people to understand. But people write books until they are 85, and why?”
Because they like writing, of course. Just as Joe Paterno likes coaching.
Antique or not.
In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual child abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno's at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now.
This is an open letter he wrote to the college presidents commission in 1992 regarding the importance of integrity and and the role that coaches play in helping provide for the welfare of young people.
An Open Letter To College Presidents - 1992
By Joe Paterno, Head Coach, Penn State University
Today more than ever, college presidents are taking responsibility for the preservation of intercollegiate athletics, ensuring the integrity of their programs, at the same time, maintaining the vitality of all sports.
I don't think any committed coach can take issue with the involvement of the presidents in the administration of intercollegiate athletics. At Penn State, we have had such institutional control, and the participation of the presidents on the national level is indeed welcome.
Having said that, I don't nexessarily subscribe to all the changes the President's Commission has instituted through the NCAA.
Many recollect that our coaches and other athletic staff have not done a good job informing our presidents on what constitutes constructive changes. As a result, I am afraid we have created new rules and restrictions which might diminish the coaches' ability to run athletic programs that are a source of personal growth and provide meaningful competition for our student-athletics. What we must work to establish are activities which add zest to a quality education and enrich life in the exciting mainstream of a vibrant college experience.
Eliminating an assistant coach and replacing graduate assistants with reduced-earning personnel as a cost-cutting measure would have made it more difficult for our coaching staffs to successfully assume the increasing responsibility for the welfare of our people, from guiding their lifestyles to being accountable for their graduation.
The release of institutional graduation rates increases the already significant pressure on football coaches who are held accountable for the academic proficiency of their players, a responsbility no othe runiversity administator or faculty member, with the exception of the president, shoulders in such a public manner. The elimination of graduate assistants would have scrapped the only intern program available to young people who desire to further their education and prepare themselves to be effective coaches.
As an aside, I hope that in the drive to improve graduation rates we will not overlook the necessity of providing a meaningful education or assume that the student does not have the prime responsibility to graduate.
We must continue to challenge our athletes in the classroom, not design or condone programs that will push them through the university for the purpose of improving the published rates.
In seeking to get more institutional control of the expenses and excesses of recruiting, we must be careful not to institute rules so restrictive, so complex and so cumbersome that we end up creating added costs and spending excessive time seeking interpreations. The best-intentioned coaching staff has trouble toeing the NCAA line when it has to deal with the abrupt changes of recruiting legislation.
For the past several years our rules have been effective and, contrary to the public perception, most of our people do not deliberately break them (even though we sometimes have to adhere to some which are neither fair nor practical).
The vast majority of football coaches want to do an honest job recruiting. Of course, as in all human endeavors, there are exceptions, bu, by and large, the climate is competitive rather than confrontational.
But before we change regulations, we need the input of coaches who have to deal with the rules on a daily basis. Our coaches, as would be the case with any faculty member, need to feel that they are contributing to the dialogue which leads to simple, enforceable rules.
Such participation adds to their responsibility to ensure that they and their colleagues abide by the rule changes.
I am encouraged that at the most recent NCAA Convention (January 1992) we were able to restore the assistant coaching position, the graduate assistants and pass some other refinement legislation. This, I think, was an indication of an improving climate of communication between presidents, athletic directors and coaches. I think presidential involvement is essential and will be a positive influence.
The necessity exists, however, for continuing informed input from coaches. This does not in any way imply that we should expect to have it only our way. Once we receive a fair hearing, we should support efforts to refine the reforms the Presidents Commission has originated and, as the Commission moves ahead, to discuss and supports additional improvements.
College football is a wonderful game, but I believe we have to be careful not to make changes without thoroughly evalutating their impact from every angle, including their effect on our other intercollegiate sports, both men's and women's.
If we can create this atmosphere of collegiality, we can use all of our resources to make college football and intercollegiate athletics what they shuld be: a meaningful educational experience for our maturing young people, a source of pride for our universities and enjoyment for the millions of people who love college sports.
By Mitch Light
We’ve all seen the game by now. Some have called it a classic. Others say it was disappointing due to a lack of offense. We can all agree, however, that there were some serious athletes on the field Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
LSU won the game, 9–6 in overtime, but one game isn’t a large enough sample size to determine which team is better. The Tigers are ranked No. 1, and obviously deserve the top spot, but if these two teams played 10 times on a neutral field, my guess is that each team would win five games.
Predictably, there has been a ton of commentary on the game and whether or not we will see a rematch in the national title game. Here are a few things that I’ve heard that just don’t add up.
The offenses aren’t any good.
My response: Alabama and LSU struggled on offense on Saturday night because they were playing each other. Keep in mind that both teams are averaging just a shade under 40 points in all games not involving the two best defenses in the nation. Alabama scored 27 points in Week 2 at Penn State — the most any team has scored on the Nittany Lions this season. The Tide also scored 38 points on Arkansas and Florida, 52 against Ole Miss, 37 against Tennessee and 34 against Vanderbilt. LSU has been equally as potent, scoring 35 points or more in all but two games this season — 19 in Week 3 against Mississippi State and nine vs. Alabama. I wouldn’t put these teams in the same class as Oregon, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, but both Alabama and LSU are very good on offense, and the numbers back it up.
Jarrett Lee is a bad quarterback
My response: Lee had a bad first half against a ferocious defense and wasn’t given the opportunity to atone for his mistakes. Through the first eight games of his senior season Lee was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation. He was fortunate to play with a tremendous supporting case, but there is no denying that Lee was playing very well — good enough to lead the SEC in passing efficiency and quarterback a team to an 8–0 start. Simply not playing well against Alabama doesn’t make you a bad quarterback. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, a legitimate NFL prospect and the triggerman of a top-10 passing attack, struggled in a 38–14 loss to the Tide in September. Is Wilson a bad quarterback? Didn’t think so. Neither is Lee.
Alabama’s special teams were a disaster
My response: Alabama missed four field goals, but most people seem to forget that all four kicks were from 44 yards or longer, including two from 50-plus yards. Sure, it would be nice if Alabama had a kicker capable of hitting from long range, but it wasn’t a special teams disaster, as many have indicated. The staff rolled the dice and attempted several long kicks, and it didn’t work out in most instances, though Alabama did make one from 46 yards. The Tide performed well in other areas on special teams, netting 39.5 yards on two punts and averaging 24.5 yards on two kickoff returns.
Other thoughts from the Game of the Century:
• It is amazing that Alabama only punted two times in a game in which it scored only six points.
• Was it a catch or an interception? After watching the replay a dozen times, I still can’t tell if Michael Williams or Eric Reid caught the ball. If I had to say, I would go with Williams, but the officials ruled that Reid intercepted the pass, and there wasn’t enough on replay to overturn the call.
• Morris Claiborne is a better cornerback than Tyrann Mathieu — he just doesn’t have a cool nickname or recover as many fumbles.
• Michael Ford is really good. Ford was the talk of the spring two years ago, but he only carried the ball 45 times for 244 yards as a redshirt freshman. Spencer Ware has received the bulk of the work in 2011, but Ford has been far more productive on a per-carry basis, averaging 5.7 per rush compared to 3.8 for Ware. My guess is that we are about to see more of Ford.
Around the SEC
• Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews has caught 15 passes for 321 yards the past two weeks, against Arkansas and Florida. In the first seven games, he caught a total of eight for 117 yards. Matthews leads the league in yards per catch at 19.0.
• Over the last three seasons, South Carolina has allowed an average of 39.3 points to Arkansas. In all other regular-season SEC games, the Gamecocks have allowed an average of 19.0 points.
• Auburn’s Michael Dyer leads the SEC with five rushes of 40 yards or more.
• Florida’s John Brantley isn’t regarded as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, but he does lead the league in one key stat — yards per attempt (8.5).
• AJ McCarron has converted 35 of his 71 passing attempts on third down into first downs, the highest percentage (.492) in the SEC.
• The top four teams in the SEC West (LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn) are a combined 8–0 vs. the SEC East. Mississippi State and Ole Miss are a combined 1–5.
• South Carolina has scored a touchdown on 21 of 28 trips inside the Red Zone, for an SEC-best 75 percent success rate. Interestingly, none of the Gamecocks’ 28 trips have ended with a field goal. They are the onlyteam in the nation without a field goal off of a Red Zone trip.
This article about expectations at Ole Miss appeared in Athlon's 2009 SEC regional edition. With the Rebels' decision to force coach Houston Nutt out at the end of the year, here's a look back at the high expectations surrounding the program going into the 2009 season.
Ole Miss football has been here before. Wins. Rankings. Notoriety. Expectations. They’re all engrained in Ole Miss football — at least the way it was half a century ago.
That picture of Ole Miss football in the 1950s and 1960s was a motivating factor for two men who have helped revive the program. They were part of a plan that has Ole Miss positioned as a consensus top 15 team heading into the 2009 season, a team with a chance to win the SEC — the ultimate conference championship — and a team in the discussion for a BCS bowl game.
Robert Khayat was a kicker and lineman on what was arguably the best football team in the rich history of the University of Mississippi. He was a senior under legendary coach John Vaught in 1959 when the Rebels lost only to a tricky LSU punt returner named Billy Cannon, who cut to the inside instead of the sideline in the Tigers’ 7–3 win on Halloween night. Three outlets proclaimed Ole Miss, at 10–1, the national champion that season.
Pete Boone, now the athletic director, came onto the scene later, lettering from 1970-72. The best times were in the rearview mirror but were still fresh in the minds of Rebel fans.
The lives of Khayat and Boone intersected in the university community. They became good friends and handball buddies.
They longed to see Ole Miss football as what it had been, not what it had become, and they found themselves in position to do something about it.
“We certainly had, and have, that desire,” says Khayat, the school’s outgoing chancellor, who will retire in June.
“What our fans want is consistency in a winning program,” Boone says. “To me that means they come to every game believing we’re going to win. If we don’t win, they feel we should have and that we’re going to win next week.”
Ole Miss fans indeed expect to win this season.
Boone began his first term as AD in 1995. Khayat began his run as chancellor the same year. Under their combined leadership the school has increased its commitment to facilities and coaches’ salaries. The missing piece of the puzzle — a successful, experienced coach — was added in November 2007 when Houston Nutt jumped from Arkansas to Oxford.
Nutt is the primary reason for this season’s expectations.
The Rebels floundered under former coach Ed Orgeron. Khayat and Boone hired a proven recruiter instead of a proven head coach when replacing David Cutcliffe, whom they fired following the 2004 season.
“David Cutcliffe’s last two years we virtually had no recruiting, no signing of people who could play,” Khayat says. “It was pretty natural to go for the person who was viewed as the best recruiter in the country. What we didn’t realize was that Ed was going to have so much difficulty coaching.”
The Orgeron Experiment concluded with the coach’s 3–21 SEC mark in three seasons. He was shown the door but left behind plentiful talent, which Nutt managed more successfully in 2008.
The Rebels started slowly but showed promise in some close losses. In late September they dealt eventual national champion Florida its only defeat, but it was in late October that the football program began to win like it had under Vaught.
Ole Miss won its last six games, routing LSU 31–13 in Baton Rouge, rival Mississippi State 45–0 at home and ultimately handling media darling Texas Tech, ranked No. 7 at the time, 47–34 in the Cotton Bowl.
The Rebels — having suffered through a winless SEC season in Orgeron’s last hurrah — won their four November games by a combined count of 152–20. They finished 9–4, and the Cotton Bowl win propelled them to a No. 14 final ranking. Ole Miss finished 5–3 in the SEC, second in the West.
Virtually every playmaker from the SEC’s No. 2 scoring offense returns. Eight starters are back from a defense that was playing at an elite level late last season, though replacing All-America defensive tackle Peria Jerry will be a challenge.
Boone approaches the topic of expectations cautiously.
“Do I feel like we made a lot of progress last year? Absolutely. Are we going in the right direction? Absolutely. Do I think we’re there? Absolutely not,” he says. “Over the course of a season so many things have to happen to end up in the championship event.”
Many Ole Miss fans in the offseason have bypassed talk of getting to Atlanta — the Rebels are the only Western Division team yet to make the league’s championship game — in favor of their chances for a BCS bowl.
A BCS bid could be hindered by a lack of strength of schedule. After waiting on ESPN to finalize a Thursday night game at South Carolina, then having talks with TCU break off, Boone found himself with a late vacancy and added Northern Arizona for Nov. 7. The move gives the Rebels two FCS opponents.
Nutt hopes his team is in the BCS mix when the time comes.
“I told our players they can no longer hide,” Nutt says. “No longer will they not be on the radar screen. Last year, people didn’t even know about them. This year they’re picked in all the magazines.”
“With what they have coming back, I think they’ll be under-achieving if they don’t at least get back to a New Year’s Day bowl,” says John Darnell, a quarterback on Billy Brewer’s Ole Miss teams in the late 1980s. “That’s not to put any pressure on them; I think they would say that too. Expectations have been raised not only by the fans but by the players and coaches themselves.”
Modern-day Ole Miss football has less experience with high expectations than Nutt did at Arkansas. The Rebels have never been preseason favorites to win the West. Since the SEC split into divisions in 1992, league media have picked the Rebels has high as No. 2 only twice.
In 2003, senior quarterback Eli Manning’s team went 7–1 in the league — losing at home in November to LSU in what amounted to a Western Division championship game — then won the Cotton Bowl and finished No. 13 in the rankings. That team was only picked third in the division.
In the cannibalistic landscape of SEC football, the Rebels may not start the season on top in the West. The national exposure they received at the close of 2008, however, should have them ranked high enough to continue the important season-long ascent if they prove to be as good as many people believe.
“I think we can handle the expectations,” senior wide receiver/tailback Dexter McCluster says. “We handled it pretty well last year when we had no expectations.”
In one year Nutt’s challenge has changed from making players believe they were better than they thought to making them remember that pride cometh before a fall.
“It’s about being humble and going back to work. It’s doing the little things right, it’s the sacrifice and investment you have to make,” he says. “We’re in the toughest league in America. What we did last year doesn’t just happen.”
At Ole Miss it hasn’t happened with consistency since the days of Vaught. Fans are hoping that 2008 wasn’t lighting in a bottle, but rather the beginning of something big. For six straight games last season, grandfathers talked of how it used to be, and for the first time, grandchildren had a visual aid on the field.
“There’s a level of passion here that I haven’t seen in a long, long time,” Khayat says.
Twitter can range between being awesome and being the most annoying thing in on the Internet. To help sports fans figure out which Twitter accounts they should follow, we put together the list of the best 100.
This list contains everything from journalists to athletes to comedians. To make sure there's a broad enough apeal, we tried to keep it national (sorry, the guy who tweets about your high school football team didn't make the list). Feel free to let us know who we missed in the comments.
100. Athlon Sports, @athlonsports
Category: All Sports, College Football
Our Athlon Sports Monthly is the largest sport publication in America and our college football annuals have, at times, been referred to as “Bibles” by people who enjoy college football. And, hey, we made this list, so we should at least be on it somewhere.
99. Stephania Bell, @Stephania_ESPN
Category: Sports, Injuries, Fantasy
Her breakdown of player injuries goes beyond “probable” and “doubtful” to give you the expert’s take on what a torn Achilles means in layman’s terms.
98. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, @SI_Swimsuit
Sports Illustrated showed their social media genius by creating an account devoted entirely to their swimsuit issue.
97. Jim Irsay, @jimirsay
The Indianapolis Colts' owner says a lot of awesome stuff on Twitter you don’t expect an owner of a professional football team to say. He also gives away free tickets to games, so there’s that.
96. Andrew Brandt, @adbrandt
Category: Sports Business
ESPN's NFL business analyst used to work in the Packers' front office. If you’re interested in the business side of sports, he’s someone you need to follow.
95. Adrian Wojnarowski, @WojYahooNBA
Yahoo’s NBA guy provides a nice mix of news, links and anything else NBA-related.
94. Joe Sports Fan, @JoeSportsFan
Category: Humor, All Sports
If you like to laugh, follow this feed. If you don’t like to laugh, do nine shots of tequila, then follow this feed (after you puke).
93. Ken Rosenthal, @Ken_Rosenthal
Fox’s MLB reporter breaks news and gives an insider’s take on the big stories in baseball.
92. Coaches By The Numbers, @CoachesBTN
Category: College Football
Coaches By the Numbers dives into college football coaching stats to figure out if your favorite coach is actually good at coaching. No other site delves in and analyzes the statistics of college football coaches like Coaches By The Numbers.
91. Fake Kyle Orton, @KingNeckbeard
Fake Kyle Orton has a lot of awesome (NFSW) things to say. Can someone start a petition that makes him the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos?
90. Sports By Brooks, @SportsByBrooks
Category: All Sports
Sports By Brooks' Twitter account is a mix of funny and juicy bits of news from the sports world.
89. Kyle Petty, @kylepetty
NASCAR needs more twittering and less fighting (or more twittering and more fighting). Either way, Kyle Petty is the man for the twittering part of the job. On a side note, he seems to answer every tweet, so we suggestion hitting him up with ANY question you have (like the one below).
88. Mike Tyson, @MikeTyson
Category: Celebrity, Athlete
If you’re like me, you could listen to Mike Tyson philosophize all day. Reading his tweets is a close second.
87. Jay Bilas, @JayBilas
Category: College Basketball
If there's anyone on this planet who knows more about college basketball, I probably don’t want to meet them.
86. Rory McIlroy, @mcilroyrory
Rory has sweet hair and a good attitude, and if you want to follow the biggest rising star in golf, you should probably follow Rory.
85. The League, @theleaguefx
This is more a promotion of the show than the show’s Twitter page. If you haven’t seen the show, you’re wasting your TV.
84. Dave Telep, @davetelep
Category: College Basketball
Hardcore college hoops recruiting info.
83. Joe Lunardi, @ESPNLunardi
Category: College Basketball
I’m not sure if he coined the term Bracketology, but you should at least follow Joe in March so you’ll know which No. 14 seed will make it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
82. Paul Finebaum, @finebaum
Category: College Football
He’s sort of the Rush Limbaugh of Southern sports. (How’s that for a ringing endorsement?) But to put his reach and authority in the world of Southern sports in perspective, when the guy who poisoned the trees at Auburn wanted to let everyone know what he’d done, he called Paul Finebaum’s radio show.
81. The Sklar Brothers, @SklarBrothers
The Sklar Brothers have a geniusly titled podcast called “Sklarbro Country.” They also tweet funny stuff about sports.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
The Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss is over. Through three-plus seasons in Oxford, Nutt has a 24-23 record, but never managed to raise the profile of the program. During his time at Arkansas, Nutt did a good job of exceeding expectations, but that was never the case at Ole Miss. The Rebels appeared in back-to-back Cotton Bowls during Nutt’s tenure, but took a step back with a 4-8 record in 2010 and is a disappointing 2-7 this year. Losing 12 consecutive games in SEC play also weighed heavily in Ole Miss’ decision, especially after blowout defeats to Vanderbilt and Kentucky this year.
This coaching search is shaping up to be an interesting one, especially with the Rebels looking for a new athletic director. In addition to the decision to make a coaching change on Monday, current athletic director Pete Boone also announced his intention to resign by the end of 2012.
With Boone out, Archie Manning and FedEx executive vice president Mike Glenn are in charge of finding the next Ole Miss coach. However, chancellor Dan Jones will have the final decision.
Here is a statistical look at Nutt's tenure and how the potential candidates fit
Mario Cristobal, head coach, Florida International – Cristobal inherited a disaster at Florida International, and has slowly transformed the Golden Panthers into a Sun Belt contender. The program made its first bowl appearance last season, winning 34-32 over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Cristobal is 21-36 in four-plus seasons at FIU, but the seven victories posted last year were the most in program history. He does not have much experience outside of Florida, with a short stint at Rutgers (2001-03), serving as his only coaching job outside of the Sunshine State. Cristobal has shown he can turn around a program with a little time. Also, he is regarded as a good recruiter, and his pipelines into Florida could pay dividends for Ole Miss.
Larry Fedora, head coach, Southern Miss – Fedora has the Golden Eagles off to an 8-1 start and a spot in the Associated Press Top 25. Southern Miss hasn’t faced the most difficult schedule, but it is in position to play for the Conference USA title for the first time since 2006. Fedora has plenty of experience at high-profile schools, serving under Ron Zook at Florida from 2002-04 and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2005-07. And he’s regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football, coordinating Southern Miss’ offense to an average of 37.6 points a game this year. Fedora’s record is a solid 29-18 in four years at Southern Miss, which includes a 3-5 record against BCS opponents.
Hugh Freeze, head coach, Arkansas State – Ole Miss is certainly very familiar with Freeze and he is probably near the top of its wishlist. Freeze worked in Oxford from 2005-07 under Ed Orgeron, and helped develop offensive tackle Michael Oher at Briarcrest High School. He spent two years as the head coach at Lambuth, posting a 20-5 record. In one year at Arkansas State, Freeze has led the Red Wolves to a 6-2 record, and Arkansas State is the only undefeated team in Sun Belt play. Freeze is a gamble considering his lack of overall head coaching experience on the FBS level, but his results at all stops have been impressive. He is also regarded as a great recruiter and would have no trouble winning the press conference.
Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida – Holtz’s profile was at its peak early in the season, as South Florida got off to a 4-0 start. However, the Bulls have lost their last four games and are in danger of missing out on the bowl season. Despite the struggles this year, Holtz would be a solid hire for Ole Miss. He has an 84-58 overall record in 12 years as a head coach. Holtz has an outgoing personality, which would be a hit on the recruiting trail and at Ole Miss. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, Holtz may be looking to make another move.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, UL Lafayette – Hudspeth has been at UL Lafayette only one season, but has made an immediate impact. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 8-2 and in position to win the Sun Belt title. Hudspeth has injected some much-needed energy into the program and even after one year on the FBS level, appears ready for a jump to a high-profile job. Before coming to Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth recorded a 66-21 record at North Alabama and coached receivers at Mississippi State from 2009-10.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach – Considering what transpired at Texas Tech, Leach certainly has some baggage. However, he wants to go back into coaching, and for a school that is paying a buyout (Nutt), Leach may come a little cheaper than anticipated. During his tenure in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were 84-43 and made 10 bowl appearances. Leach’s pass-first offense would bring some excitement to Oxford, and he has SEC coaching experience, working at Kentucky from 1997-98. There’s no question Leach is an effective coach and is hungry to get back to work. However, would Ole Miss make a risky hire after firing its last three coaches?
Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator, Auburn – Malzahn was close to accepting the Vanderbilt position last year, so he definitely has interest in becoming a head coach. Malzahn’s only head coaching experience came at three Arkansas high schools – Hughes, Shiloh Christian and Springdale, but has worked under two successful head coaches – Todd Graham and Gene Chizik – during his time at the FBS level. Malzahn and current Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt have some history, as the two worked together at Arkansas in 2006. There’s some risk considering Malzahn has not been a head coach, but his offenses have been dynamic and would help fill the stands at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – Morris has had quite a rise in the coaching ranks. As recently as 2009, Morris was the head coach at Lake Travis High School in Texas, before spending one season as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Under his direction, the Golden Hurricane averaged 41.4 points a game and ranked fifth nationally in total offense. Morris has made an immediate impact at Clemson, as the Tigers rank 14th nationally in scoring offense. There’s some risk involved with Morris, especially since he has no FBS head coaching experience. However, his offensive background is certainly appealing for a program that needs a jolt of energy.
Rich Rodriguez, CBS Sports analyst – Rodriguez has been mentioned as a possible candidate at Tulane, but there’s no doubt he can get a BCS job again. He was fired after a 15-22 record at Michigan, but the team made showed progress each year during his tenure, and the players he recruited are 7-2 under Brady Hoke this season. Before coming to Michigan, Rodriguez was 60-26 at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers to two BCS games. He doesn’t have any SEC coaching experience, but Rodriguez is a much better coach than his short tenure at Michigan indicated.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – There’s little doubt Sumlin’s name is going to be at the top of BCS coaching jobs that come open this year. Under his direction, Houston is 32-16 over three-plus seasons and is ranked No. 11 in the latest release of the BCS standings. Sumlin worked under Bob Stoops from 2003-07 and has previous stops at Wyoming, Minnesota, Purdue and Texas A&M. He would bring a high-powered passing attack to Oxford and is regarded as a good recruiter. With Arizona expected to show interest in Sumlin, Ole Miss will have to move fast if this is the coach it wants.
Kent Austin, head coach, Cornell – Austin is an alum and was a popular coach during his short tenure as Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator from 2008-10. However, his record at Cornell is just 5-13.
Shane Beamer, associated head coach, Virginia Tech – Beamer is a long shot, but certainly a name to watch in coaching searches. He has plenty of experience coaching in the SEC, working as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, and then stops as a defensive assistant at Misssissippi State and South Carolina. This is Beamer’s first season in Virginia Tech, where he works under his father Frank Beamer.
Gunter Brewer, wide receivers coach, Ole Miss – In addition to his current job as the receivers coach, Brewer is well-known in Oxford, as his father served as the school’s head coach from 1983-93. Gunter has worked as an assistant at North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Marshall, but does not have any FBS head coaching experience. Although Brewer has ties to the school, Ole Miss may want to look outside of the Houston Nutt circle for a new head coach.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz has steadily worked his way up the coaching ladder and appears ready for his first head coaching job. In addition to his current home (Texas), he has stops at Florida State, NC State, MTSU and Mississippi State. Diaz isn’t short on enthusiasm, which is something Ole Miss desperately needs after the losing record.
Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator, Alabama – McElwain wouldn’t be a flashy hire, but has a solid resume. The veteran coach has stops at Louisville, Michigan State, Fresno State and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. McElwain has done a good job developing sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron this year, and was Alabama’s offensive coordinator on the 2009 national title team.
Garrick McGee, offensive coordinator, Arkansas – McGee came close to landing the Tulsa head coaching position last offseason, but decided to return to Arkansas. He has worked with Bobby Petrino for the last four years, including serving as the offensive coordinator in the last two seasons. It seems like only a matter of time before McGee lands a head coaching job. However, he may be more likely to land somewhere outside of the BCS, before jumping into a premier job.
Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken returned to Oklahoma State last offseason after coaching with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-10. He also has stops at LSU, Louisiana Tech and Eastern Michigan on his resume. Although Monken is a highly-regarded offensive mind, he does not have any experience as a head coach.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Nick Saban assistants are always popular in the coaching rumor mill, and Smart could become the third Saban disciple (Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley) to be a head coach in the SEC. Smart has coached at Alabama since 2007, but has stops at LSU, Georgia and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. He is a Georgia alum, so he could be more interested in waiting for that position, rather than jump to Ole Miss.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops has done a good job in his two years at Florida State and appears to be ready to take his first head coach position. The Seminoles ranked 108th in total defense in 2009, but Stoops took over in 2010 and brought immediate improvement. Florida State finished 42nd nationally in total defense last season and ranks seventh in scoring defense after nine games this year.
Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Strong is going to be mentioned for a lot of BCS vacancies, but it’s hard to see him leaving Louisville. Strong recently signed a contract extension, which is designed to keep him with the Cardinals until 2018.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart is a rising star in the coaching ranks. The Hilltoppers won only two games from 2008-09, but since his arrival, they are 7-14 and in the mix for the 2011 Sun Belt title. Taggart also served under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09 and is college football’s youngest coach at age 35. Taggart may not be ready for this job, but he’s going to be generating a lot of consideration for BCS jobs in the near future.
With the recent announcement that Houston Nutt will be resigning from Ole Miss at the end of the season, we thought it would be useful to update an earlier piece we wrote on Coach Nutt and expand our list of recommended coaches to be the next head coach at Ole Miss.
The only thing worse than Ole Miss replacing the famed Colonel with the new and more politically correct "Rebel Black Bear" is their on-field performance this season. When Ole Miss decided to replace the Ragin' Cajun Ed Orgeron with Houston Nutt, it appeared they made a solid hire. At the very least, Nutt helped Ole Miss win the press conference. From 2001-2007 as the head coach at Arkansas, Nutt won nine or more games three different times and competed for an SEC Championship.
Coach Nutt is extremely familiar with the SEC and is a four star coach in our system. What is there not to like, right? Let's dig into Houston Nutt's numbers since 2001 and see what we find;
|Coach||Years||Overall WP%||Conf. WP%||Non-Conf. WP%||WP% vs. Over .500 Teams||WP% vs. Top 25 (time of game)|
A few more numbers to consider:
|Coach||Years||Wins||Conf. Wins||Non-Conf. Wins||Non-Conf. Non-AQ Wins|
Almost one in every three of Coach Nutt's wins since 2003 came against a Non-AQ Conference opponent. And one final set of numbers:
|Coach||Years||WP%||Conf. WP%||WP% Against Over .500 Teams|
|Houston Nutt||2001-2004 & 2010-Present||50.70%||40.48%||35.37%|
From 2005 to 2007 Nutt had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis in the backfield (three NFL starting running backs) and from 2008 to 2009, Nutt had Jevon Snead at quarterback (one of the nation's top QB's from 08-09), Michael Oher protecting his blind side, and Dexter McCluster and Mike Wallace at the skill positions. Every coach is better when they have superstars, but good coaches don't just win when they have special talent. Given the talent level of McFadden and Jones alone, you could argue that Nutt didn't win nearly big enough during the years they were in the backfield.
So, what do the above numbers tell us about Houston Nutt?
From our perspective, they tell us if you hire Houston Nutt, you better be prepared for the roller coaster ride on which he likes to take programs. If he gets the right talent and the right offensive coordinator, he is bound to put up a good year or two. However, if he doesn't have the right talent or the right offensive coordinator, he is bound to have some rough years.
For example, in his first two years at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt was 18-8 with elite skill position players on the offensive side of the ball. Since Snead, Wallace, and Oher have departed, Nutt is 6-15 with some really embarrassing losses (see Jacksonville State 2010, Vanderbilt 2010 & 2011, and Kentucky 2011).
So, should Houston Nutt have been forced to resign by Ole Miss? From our perspective, it depends?
If Ole Miss fans and alumni are content with a few good years mixed in with a few bad, than Nutt is your man. If Ole Miss fans want a little more out of their program, they are going to have to look beyond Houston Nutt. At this point, the numbers on Houston Nutt do a pretty solid job of telling his story as a head coach.
Now that the Ole Miss fan base has spoken and made it clear that they are not content in riding the Houston Nutt wave, it's time to assess the situation and make some job recommendations. Before we get to specific names, let's discuss the job itself. Looking at our proprietary CBTN Job Ranking, Ole Miss is the 26th best head coaching job in the country. The bad news about this number is that there are eight other SEC jobs ahead of Ole Miss and four are in the SEC West.
So, this is a good job in a great conference, but it certainly comes with its challenges. There are only three teams in the SEC (Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt) that have had lower average recruiting rankings over the last decade than Ole Miss. This isn't saying Ole Miss doesn't have talent. They just don't have talent like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida have talent.
Let's consider this as well:
|Years||Games||% Played w/Superior Talent||% Played w/Equal Talent||% Played w/Inferior Talent|
For some comparison, since 2004, Alabama has only played 12.50% of its game with inferior talent (only 2 since Saban arrived). This is all to say that while Ole Miss is an attractive job it is not attractive enough to lure a Gary Patterson or Chris Petersen from their current jobs or an Urban Meyer from the ESPN booth.
So, what kind of coach does Ole Miss need?
Looking at the data and information above, Ole Miss is not going to win by lining up and trying to out-physical the rest of the SEC. They simply don't have the horses to do this. They need a coach who can out-think his peers and take a solid talent base and help it overachieve, not through "motivation" or "energy" (see failed attempt with Ed Orgeron) but through better schemes and preparation. With this in mind, we are going to give the Rebel Black Bears (hurts to event write that) ten names to consider:
This guy is the extremely obvious choice. He knows the conference, region, and has put up video game numbers as an OC at Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn. Additionally, he wants to become a head coach. You always take a risk with a coordinator, but given his numbers, Malzahn is well worth the risk. Fun stat on Malzahn: As an OC, his offenses have scored 30+ points 58.97% of the time, 40+ points 41.03% of the time, and 50+ points 23.08% of the time.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know he has some baggage. Read his book and you will understand that Leach's "baggage" is not really 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. Mile Leach is anxious is to get back on the sidelines and Ole Miss would be a great place for Leach to land.
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 we were interviewing Rich Rod for a job, our first question would be regarding who he would hire as his defensive coordinator (we hear Mike Stoops is looking for a job). If we liked the answer (of course checking the numbers on the DC's he mentions), Rich Rod would be very high on our list. Even with three very subpar years at Michigan, Rich Rod still won over 60% of his games from 2001-2010, including four seasons with nine or more wins.
If you are wondering why Illinois is looking like a respectable program once again, look right past Head Coach Ron Zook to Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino. Ron Zook's winning percentage without Petrino at Illinois (2005-2009) is 35.00%. Ron Zook's winning percentage with Paul Petrino calling plays for the Fighting Illini is 59.09%. Additionally, Petrino has helped increase Illinois' scoring offense by 25.29% compared to the five years prior. Like his brother Bobby, Paul is not going to win any beauty contests or PR awards, but he is going to help you win football games. Hiring a coordinator brings a certain amount of risk with it, but like with Malzahn, we believe the numbers make the risk one worth taking.
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 cellar 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 points or more. 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 9-0 start. 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. So, there are some things we really like about Coach Sumlin, but overall, there are too many question marks to warrant putting him on our A list.
When it comes to numbers, there's not much to dislike about Kirby Smart. Since being named the defensive coordinator in 2008, Alabama has won 88.00% of the time and has an average national scoring defensive rank of 3.25. Kirby Smart played in the SEC (UGA) and has spent a large portion of his coaching career in the SEC. He knows the conference and looks like he should be an A-Lister. The reason Coach Smart is not on our A-List is because of 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 (especially on the defensive side of the ball), and you have to be careful not to assume that because someone works for a great head coach they will be a great head coach. Additionally, don't forget that since Saban took over at Alabama, the Tide have entered 100% of its games with equal or superior talent. Ole Miss is not Alabama, and the Rebel Black Bears have entered just over 70% of their games 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.
The biggest problem we have with June Jones is that we can't picture him without that Lei, stache, and Hawaiian shirt. Once we get past this, we like what we see. In the five years prior to Jones taking over at Hawaii, the Fighting Rainbows had won 20.34% of their games. From 1999-2007, Jones won 64.96% of his games and won nine or more games in six of the nine seasons he was head coach. In the five years before Jones took over at SMU, the Mustangs won 25.86% of their games. Since Coach Jones took over in 2008, the Mustangs have won 45.83% of their games (this includes Jones' first year when SMU went 1-11). If SMU can avoid losing their last four games (assuming a bowl bid), they will have seen their first back-to-back-to-back .500 or better seasons since the mid 1980's. His name doesn't get mentioned that much, but June Jones is one heck of a coach.
Mark Hudspeth is currently in his first year as head coach of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. So far in 2011, Hudspeth is off to a 8-2 start. The Ragin' Cajuns have not won more than six games since 1993, so it's safe to say that Coach Hudspeth is having an immediate impact. After the first ten games, the Ragin' Cajuns are scoring 47.78% more points per game compared to 2010. Hudspeth spent the 2009-2010 seasons working as the passing game coordinator under Mississippi St. head coach Dan Mullen. Prior to his stop in Starkville, Hudspeth was the head coach at Division II North Alabama from 2002-2008, where he won 75.86% of his games. It's always risky to hire coaches after one year, but Hudspeth has a nice resume and a history of winning. He knows the state of Mississippi and Southeast and is definitely worth a call.
(see here for pre-season analysis we did on Coach Freeze) One of the primary things we look for in coaches is coaches who are doing things out of the ordinary. In the five years before Hugh Freeze took the head coaching job at Arkansas State, the Red Wolves won 41.67% of their games. In fact Arkansas State has not won more than six games in a season since 1987 when they were playing FCS football. In Freeze's first year at the helm, the Red Wolves are 7-2. Considering that this is the best year they have had since 1987 (there are still three games remaining, all of which the Red Wolves can win), we would call this "out of the ordinary". Making the jump from the Sun Belt to one of the more challenging SEC jobs is not an easy one, and this accounts for Coach Freeze being on our C-List. If some of the bigger names say no, the Rebel Black Bears could do a whole lot worse than Hugh Freeze.
Along with Kevin Sumlin, Larry Fedora is probably the most popular flavor of the month in college football. Southern Miss is off to an 8-1 start and has a great chance at a 10+ win season. However, one great year doesn't make a coach great, nor does one lousy year make a coach lousy. In the five years prior to Fedora taking the job in Hattiesburg, the Golden Eagles won 60.94% of their games and had two 9-win seasons. In the nearly four years that Fedora has been the head coach, Southern Miss has won 62.50% of his games. Fedora has always been impressive on the offensive side of the ball, but hasn't always been so impressive in the win-loss column. From 2001-Present, as an OC and HC, Larry Fedora has had top 25 nationally-ranked scoring offenses seven times. However, during this same time period, as an OC and HC, Fedora's teams have lost at least five games in eight of eleven years. Additionally, Southern Miss traditionally has recruiting advantages in Conference USA. Since 2008 when Fedora took over, only UCF has had on average better recruiting classes. In fact, 62.22% of the games Fedora has coached have been with superior talent. We like a lot of things about Fedora, but we don't want to let this year's success blind us to yesterday's red flags.
If you were truly starting to believe that Dabo Swinney's pre-game speeches were finally starting to take hold at Clemson, then we would like to introduce you to Chad Morris. Three years ago, Chad Morris was coaching high school football in Texas. During a 16-year head coaching career in Texas, Chad Morris won 169 games, including six state championships. In 2010, then Tulsa head coach Todd Graham hired Chad Morris to succeed Gus Malzahn as Tulsa's offensive coordinator. In 2011, Dabo Swinney hired Chad Morris from Tulsa to become Clemson's OC. To say the least, Morris has put up some impressive numbers. In his two years as an OC, Chad Morris' offenses have scored an average of 39.69 points per game and gained a total of 489.42 yards per game. In his 22 games as an OC, Morris has only tasted defeat three times. Morris would be a huge risk for Ole Miss (much smaller than Ed Orgeron of course), but he also might be the next great head coach. Hiring head coaches is much more art than science, but that doesn't mean there's zero science involved. We believe the above list is a list that based on the numbers gives Ole Miss a shot at hiring a successful head coach.
We take a bye from the byes for one week before the final four teams get their week off next Sunday. We have our first Thursday night game of the season (Oakland-San Diego) in Week 10. Here are quite a few names you should be able to get off the waiver wire to help you in your efforts to make a playoff push over the final four weeks of the regular season (if you’re postseason begins Week 14).
Matt Moore, Miami
Who expected a 22-point fantasy day from Moore in Kansas City on Sunday? Not many (read: any) of us. He had a consensus ranking of 29 on FantasyPros.com, but produced a three-TD game against a Chiefs team that hadn't allowed a QB to throw a TD in three games and just four TDs in the last five. Moore is probably not the first choice you'd pick up off the waiver wire and want to send out there at QB, but if you are really in a pinch he could produce. If your fantasy playoffs start in Week 14, here's the schedule for Moore leading up to that point: Washington, Buffalo, Dallas and Oakland. Washington has allowed at least one TD pass in all but two games and 200-plus yards in all but one. Buffalo has allowed just four touchdown passes the last five games and 200-plus yards in every game after Week 1. Dallas has allowed two TDs per game in all but three games and 221-plus passing yards in all but two games. Oakland has allowed at least two passing TDs in all but two games and 215-plus yards in all but the last two games.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis
Bradford, whose status was up in the air all week, ended up playing through the ankle sprain and doing very little in Arizona. It's about par for the course for Bradford's year thus far. Plus, he lost his second slot receiver this season when Danny Amendoala's replacement, rookie Greg Salas, broke his leg. Bradford is available on the waiver wire in 71 percent of Yahoo leagues, but you'd be pretty hard up if you're starting him at this point. The preseason optimism can only go so far that he is finally going to break through. He has just two double-digit performances this season, capping at 16.74 points in Athlon's 6 points for everything format. The Rams draw Cleveland and Seattle the next two weeks (both top 13 fantasy defenses against QBs).
Carson Palmer, Oakland
I told you he would be a top-12 fantasy QB in Week 9 with his matchup against the Broncos. Leading into Monday night's Philadelphia-Chicago game, Palmer had the fourth-best week amongst QBs with three TDs, three INTs and 332 yards. Next up is San Diego, who Aaron Rodgers threw for 247 and 4 TDs against on Sunday. Palmer's no Rodgers, but the Chargers have allowed 681 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions against Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez and Rodgers in the last three weeks. I would think Palmer comes out somewhere abouve the average of those three. So you're looking at 227 yards, 2.6 TDs and an INT for Palmer next week. The Raiders then get Minnesota, Chicago and Miami leading up to Week 14; all three are bottom six against fantasy QBs this season.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
Steady as she goes would describe the rookie from TCU. He's not going to give you much great but he's also not going to kill you. He had games of 7.2, 21.6 and 4.8 the first three weeks, since then he's never dipped below 13 points or gone above 21. The schedule certainly stiffens the next five weeks with Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore, Cleveland and Houston. All four are top five defenses against fantasy QBs. He does draw St. Louis (22nd) and Arizona (23rd) in your semifinals and finals.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota
The rookie quarterback certainly has a favorable fantasy QB schedule over the next month to help lead you into the postseason. Here's a look at the teams he gets over the next month and their rank against fantasy QBs. Green Bay (31st), Oakland (25th), Atlanta (20th) and Denver (32nd) is the schedule leading up to the postseason. There are very few schedules that favorable to a QB going down the pre-playoff stretch. But get it while you can because his postseason schedule certainly tightens up with Detroit (7th), New Orleans (15th) and Washington (10th).
Roy Helu, Washington
The rookie got the start against San Francisco, you know the best fantasy defense against running backs. So of course we all inserted Helu into our lineup. All Helu did was rushed for 4.1 yards per carry (10-41) and catch 14 balls for 105 yards. The 49ers had surrendered 33 catches over the first seven games and Helu got nearly 50 percent of that in 60 minutes. Well now we will all run to the waiver wire to add him, hope he reproduces his first start each week and we will all be happy. But there are a couple of things to remember. First, he's a back under coach Mike Shanahan so we never know when/if he will get his number called. Second, how often can we expect a reception day even remotely clost to that from a Redskins RB? No Washington back had more than five catches all season heading into the 49ers game.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis
He's been the bulk carrier the last three weeks, carrying 35 times for 150 yards and a score compared to rookie Delone Carter's 23 carries for 143 yards and a score. Brown is a pick up only because of opportunity. He's not hitting it out of the park, and draws some tough defenses against fantasy RBs in Jacksonville (8th), Carolina (11th) and New England (16th) in the three weeks leading to the fantasy postseason. If you are really just looking for someone who touches the ball a majority of the time, then pick up Brown; otherwise, look elsewhere.
Ben Tate, Houston
The Houston defense is playing well enough to continually get the ball back to the offense. And the Texans are the second-best rushing offense in the NFL (155.1 YPG). Tate has gone from just a mere handcuff to a great flex option after 41 carries for 302 yards and one score the last four weeks, including 27 for 219 and a score in two of the last three games.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland
Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty have already been ruled out for Week 10 against St. Louis. Ogbonnaya was a dud against Houston's No. 4 run defense (91.4 YPG). He carried 13 times for 28 yards and caught just one pass for 13 yards and lost a fumble. But he could be a solid play against the Rams in Cleveland this week if the Browns use him the right way (i.e. take advantage of his pass-catching ability). The Rams' rush defense has tightened up the last two weeks after DeMarco Murray gashed them for 253. They have faced six backs in the last two games, but surrendered just 89 yards on 32 carries. But St. Louis has allowed backs to catch 16 balls for 107 yards in that same time. Don't waste a priority spot on Ogbonnaya, but if you think the Browns might actually utilize his skill set out of the backfield then he'd be a decent PPR play.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco
Frank Gore suffered an ankle sprain against Washington (x-rays negative), so Hunter has the potential to do something this week against the Giants and their bottom 10 rush defense (127.1 YPG). The 49ers are the No. 6 rushing team (137.6 YPG) in the league heading into the Monday night game. Don't waste a priority claim on Hunter, but monitor Gore's status and pounce on the rookie from Oklahoma State if Gore looks gimpy at all.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas
Just as DeMarco Murray was a few weeks ago, Robinson is easily the No. 1 waiver priority claim of the week. Miles Austin is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after re-aggrevating his hamstring, and Robinson was already cutting into both Austin and Dez Bryant's production before that. The Cowboys are the seventh-best team when it comes to production from fantasy receivers. Robinson has been a steady producer since his debut in Dallas in Week 3. He has 33 targets for the season for 24 catches, 368 yards and touchdowns in each of the last two games. Robinson was the leader in targets two weeks ago when the Cowboys got destroyed by the Eagles, pulling eight targets for five catches 103 yards and a score, and this was with Austin and Bryant in the lineup.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland
It's hard to tell which Oakland receiver you are going to get from week to week. But we can only hope that coach Hue Jackson was telling the truth in the preseason when he said they needed to use Ford much, much more. Ford is healthy after battling injuries throughout a good chunk of the season, and if he and Palmer can get a good rapport going, Ford will be a helluva play the remainder of the season.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
I've been telling you about him for weeks. He was good with Hines Ward was in the lineup. H was good when Hines Ward was out of the lineup. He was good with Emmanuel Sanders in teh lineup. He was good with Emmanuel Sanders out of the lineup. Brown continues to get the most targets of the Steelers receivers over the last three weeks (35) and he has turned it into 21 catches for 278 yards and one score in that time.
Josh Cribbs, Cleveland
I'm not sure if I would trust any of the Browns' receivers, but Cribbs has been getting targets all season long. Cribbs has 40-plus yards receiving in five games this season and has posted a touchdown in back-to-back weeks. The Browns still pass the ball a lot, and if Cribbs is the emerging receiver alongside Greg Little, who's doing nothing with the targets he receives, then he's worth a look. Little has eclipsed 40 yards just twice this season and is still scoreless. I wouldn't waste a waiver claim, but just assess your roster as the week goes along and see if you want to make the move to pick up Cribbs.
Steve Breaston, Kansas City
Do you trust him as a receiver on a run-based team with an emerging rookie in Jonathan Baldwin starving for targets? A week after going 3-42 on four targets, third in targets on the team., Breaston went 7-115 with 11 targets as the leading target guy on the Chiefs. Here’s why Breaston is worth a look, at least for the next two weeks: Denver and New England. He draws the Nos. 1 and 3 worst fantasy defenses against receivers that are actually decent against the run (15th for Denver, 20th for New England).
Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Paging Cris Carter. Paging Cris Carter. All the rookie Torrey Smith does is catch touchdowns. Well, not really, but four of his 20 catches have gone for scores, including the game-winner against Pittsburgh Sunday night. That has to build some trust with QB Joe Flacco after Smith had struggled with drops earlier in the game. Smith has been targeted XX times, catching 20 for 397 yards and the four scores. He has seen nine targets in each of the last two games after having seen five apiece in the previous two games.
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati
A.J. Green is a bad, bad man as a rookie. And the more he emerges the more Simpson has the chance to shine and be the receiver he was in the final three games of last season. Of course the consistency with which the Bengals use Simpson is hair-pulling. He had 10 targets Sunday against Tennessee, catching three of them for 43 yards and a score. This is a week after catching one of two targets for 14 yards and a score. In the two games prior to the 10 and 2 targets were games of nine targets, 6 catches, 101 yards and seven targets, four catches and 40 yards.
Austin Pettis, St. Louis
With Greg Salas breaking his leg on Sunday, fellow rookie Pettis steps into the slot. We are still waiting for this position to be the “next Wes Welker” position under OC Josh McDaniels. It has shown flashes, but no consistency perhaps due to the injuries and inexperience. Sam Bradford has lived well below expectations, but in PPR leagues, Pettis could be a nice grab for you as the Rams try to get some life into the passing attack.
Jake Ballard, New York Giants
I've told you for three weeks to go pick up the Giants' TE. It is a position that QB ELi Manning loved when Kevin Boss was there, and Manning's still looking that way. Ballard has been targeted seven times the last two weeks and was targeted 12 times in the three games before that. And over those 26 targets in the last five games, Ballard has caught 19 of them for 308 yards and three scores. He's the tight end to have off the waiver wire and has been for a while now, yet he's still available in 67 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Anthony Fasano, Miami
He caught two of his three targets and turned both into TDs against Kansas City on Sunday. But he has been targeted just 12 times for six catches and three scores with Matt Moore at the helm. If there's such a thing as a poor man's Scott Chandler, it's Anthony Fasano. And I'd leave both on the wire.
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis
Dallas Clark (leg) may be done for the year. But weren't all Colts pass catchers really done for the year when we learned Peyton Manning would be out for an extended period of time? Tamme was a complete stud when he stepped in for an injured Clark last season. But that was with Manning at the helm. Now he may step in with Dan Orlovsky under center. Orlovsky replaced the benched Curtis Painter at QB. The ONLY solace you could take from this pairing of Orlovsky and Tamme is that they have probably been working together on the practice field as back ups and could have some rapport as long as they are on the field together.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota
I already told you about QB Christian Ponder's schedule against fantasy QBs over the next four weeks: Green Bay (31st), Oakland (25th), Atlanta (20th) and Denver (32nd) is the schedule leading up to the postseason. Well, the Vikings are the 24th-best team at using fantasy TEs and the same four defenses, save for Green Bay, are pretty good against the position: Green Bay (29th), Oakland (16th), Atlanta (5th) and Denver (4th). However, in the three games Ponder's seen significant action, Shiancoe has been targeted 19 times for 12 catches, 127 yards and a score. He might be worth a shot against Green Bay and Oakland to get you through the Week 11 bye, and then see how he is still working with Ponder to see if you hang on to Shiancoe.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. LSU (9-0) – Alabama owned our top spot in the SEC power rankings through the first nine weeks, but there’s a new No. 1. LSU defeated Alabama in a 9-6 defensive slugfest on Saturday night, improving to 9-0 and jumping into the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. Although the Tigers struggled to get much going on offense, the defense held Alabama running back Trent Richardson in check and forced two timely turnovers. LSU steps out of conference for a matchup against Western Kentucky this Saturday.
2. Alabama (8-1) – For the first time this year, the Crimson Tide are no longer No. 1 in our power rankings. Alabama suffered a 9-6 loss to LSU on Saturday night, dropping it out of control for the SEC West title. Although the Crimson Tide suffered a setback in the national title race, they may get another shot at LSU if things break their way. Alabama needs a lot of help, starting with an Oregon win over Stanford this Saturday. With plenty to play for, expect an angry Crimson Tide squad on Saturday at Mississippi State.
3. Arkansas (8-1) – Most of the attention on Saturday night was focused on Tuscaloosa, but while that game was in progress, the Razorbacks scored a big win over South Carolina. Quarterback Tyler Wilson had a solid outing against the Gamecocks, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Arkansas has now won five games in a row and is still alive in the SEC West title race. The Razorbacks host Tennessee and Mississippi State on the next two Saturdays, before traveling to Baton Rouge for a matchup against LSU in the season finale.
4. Georgia (7-2) – If the Bulldogs can win their final two SEC games, you can bet coach Mark Richt will be sending a Christmas card to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. With the Razorbacks win over South Carolina, Georgia is now in control of the SEC East. The Bulldogs stepped out of conference for a 63-16 blowout victory over New Mexico State last Saturday, and return to SEC play with a date against Auburn this week. Georgia still has some work to do, but with Auburn and Kentucky both visiting Athens, the odds are in favor of the Bulldogs winning out.
5. South Carolina (7-2) – Without running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks knew they had an uphill battle to hold onto their lead in the SEC East. And the injuries finally caught up to South Carolina, as a 44-28 loss to Arkansas has knocked it out of the lead in the SEC East. The Gamecocks still have a chance to return to Atlanta, but need a loss by Georgia in one of its final two games – Auburn and Kentucky. South Carolina plays its final SEC game of 2011, hosting 5-5 Florida on Saturday.
6. Auburn (6-3) – The Tigers had a bye in Week 10 and return to action on Saturday at Georgia. The Tigers have struggled in the recent series against the Bulldogs, losing four out of the last five games. However, Auburn defeated Georgia 49-31 last season and will have a chance to play spoiler on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs need a win to hold onto their lead in the SEC East. Even though the Tigers aren’t as good as they were last season, Georgia will have its hands full in this rivalry matchup.
7. Florida (5-4) – The Gators got all they could handle from Vanderbilt, but eventually emerged with a 26-21 victory. Getting quarterback John Brantley back in the lineup from an ankle injury has made a difference, as Florida has scored 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time since September. The Gators still need one more win to get bowl eligible and play their final SEC game of 2011 at South Carolina this Saturday. If Florida can’t get past the Gamecocks, it should earn win No. 6 against Furman on Nov. 19.
8. Mississippi State (5-4) – The Bulldogs moved closer to bowl eligibility, thanks to a 55-17 blowout win over Tennessee-Martin last Saturday. Quarterback play has been an issue most of the year for Mississippi State, and quarterback Tyler Russell completed 9 of 18 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown, while Chris Relf threw for 61 yards and two scores. Coach Dan Mullen is expected to continue using the two-quarterback system the rest of the year. Mississippi State has a tough battle ahead, hosting Alabama in Starkville on Saturday.
9. Vanderbilt (4-5) – The Commodores suffered another close SEC loss on Saturday, losing 26-21 to Florida. Vanderbilt’s last three losses have all been by five points or less. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has provided a spark, averaging 301.7 yards of total offense in his last three starts. First-year coach James Franklin has Vanderbilt on the door step of a bowl game, but it still needs two more victories. The Commodores should be able to get one of those needed wins, as they host Kentucky this Saturday.
10. Tennessee (4-5) – A 24-0 shutout over MTSU is just what the doctor ordered for the Volunteers. Tennessee does not have a win in SEC play, but the victory over the Blue Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak and moved it closer to bowl eligibility. Freshman quarterback Justin Worley was solid in his second start, throwing for 291 yards and one touchdown. However, the Volunteers continue to struggle to find a rushing attack. Tennessee travels to Arkansas on Saturday, before finishing out the regular season with Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
11. Kentucky (4-5) – It has been an up and down year for coach Joker Phillips, but the Wildcats appear to be building a little momentum. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith has jumpstarted the offense in the last two games, including 283 passing yards in the 30-13 win over Ole Miss last Saturday. The victory over the Rebels was Kentucky’s first SEC win of 2011. The Wildcats travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt this Saturday.
12. Ole Miss (2-7) – Rumors about Houston Nutt’s job security have been circulating for weeks and after the 30-13 loss to Kentucky, the Ole Miss administration finally had enough. Nutt will not return for the 2012 season and the search is on for a new head coach. The Rebels have been largely uncompetitive in SEC play this season, with their closest loss coming to Arkansas 29-24 on Oct. 22. Also, Ole Miss has not won a conference game since Oct. 2, 2010. It’s all about pride the next three weeks, as the Rebels have been eliminated from bowl contention.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Clemson (8-1) – The Tigers had a much-needed bye last week and return to action against Wake Forest this Saturday. With a win over the Demon Deacons, Clemson would clinch the ACC Atlantic title. If the Tigers are able to knock off Wake Forest, they will earn their second trip to the conference title game under coach Dabo Swinney. The Demon Deacons are a much-improved team this year, but have lost four out of their last five matchups to Clemson. The Tigers also expect running back Andre Ellington to return to the lineup, after missing the Week 9 matchup against Georgia Tech due to injury.
2. Virginia Tech (8-1) – The Hokies can add a little more breathing room to their lead in the ACC Coastal on Thursday night, as they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The winner of the last three matchups in this series has only won by seven points or less, so expect another close one on Thursday night. With injuries taking its toll on the defense, having some extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ option attack will be valuable for the Hokies.
3. Georgia Tech (7-2) – If the Yellow Jackets have any hope of getting back into the ACC title game, they desperately need a win on Thursday against Virginia Tech. With a victory over the Hokies, Georgia Tech would setup a three-way tie atop the division. The last matchup in Atlanta was won by the Yellow Jackets 28-23 and they nearly upset the Hokies 28-21 in Blacksburg last year.
4. Florida State (6-3) – The Seminoles have been on a roll the last four weeks, posting blowout wins over Duke, Maryland, NC State and Boston College. Sure, the competition hasn’t been great, but Florida State is starting to put everything together and will be a dangerous team looking ahead to 2012. The Seminoles host rival Miami this week and have won two out of the last three in that series. Since returning from a shoulder injury, quarterback EJ Manuel has thrown for 1,290 yards, eight touchdowns and only four picks.
5. Miami (5-4) – After a disappointing loss to Virginia in Week 9, the Hurricanes bounced back with a dominant 49-14 win over Duke. Running back Lamar Miller gashed the Blue Devils for 147 yards, which put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Quarterback Jacory Harris is quietly having a good year, throwing for 1,757 yards, 18 scores and only four interceptions. Although the Miami-Florida State matchup may not feature two top-10 teams, this is still one of the top rivalries in college football. The Hurricanes have won the last two in Tallahassee, but last season's game in Miami was a complete mismatch in favor of the Seminoles.
6. Virginia (6-3) – Mike London has done a great job in a short amount of time in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers earned their sixth win of 2011 on Saturday, defeating Maryland 31-13. The win over the Terrapins should send Virginia back to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Although the Cavaliers are headed back to a bowl, there’s still a lot to play for over the final three games of 2011. If Virginia can beat Duke, Florida State and Virginia Tech, it will have a chance to play for the ACC Championship on Dec. 3. Thanks to beating Georgia Tech on Oct. 15, the Cavaliers control their destiny in the ACC Coastal race.
7. North Carolina (6-4) – Interim coach Everett Withers lobbed a few jabs in NC State’s direction, which certainly added some spice to the rivalry leading up to kickoff. However, the result on the field is all that matters, and North Carolina dropped its fifth straight game to NC State, losing 13-0 on Saturday. The shutout was the first time since 1960 the Tar Heels failed to score against the Wolfpack. North Carolina has a bye this Saturday, before making a trip to Virginia Tech for a Thursday night matchup on Nov. 17.
8. Wake Forest (5-4) – The Demon Deacons have been on a slow slide in the power rankings over the last few weeks. After starting 4-1, Wake Forest has lost three out of its last four games, including Saturday’s 24-17 defeat to Notre Dame. However, even with the struggles in recent weeks, the Demon Deacons can take control of the ACC Atlantic with a win at Clemson this Saturday. Wake Forest will be a heavy underdog against the Tigers, especially considering it has not won in Death Valley since 1998.
9. NC State (5-4) – It has been an up and down season in Raleigh, but Saturday’s 13-0 win over North Carolina should give the Wolfpack some momentum over the final three weeks of regular season play. Coach Tom O’Brien has only a 30-29 record at NC State, but has won five in a row over the Tar Heels. Considering O’Brien has been feeling a little pressure, that winning streak over rival North Carolina should buy him another year. And the Wolfpack still have a shot to get bowl eligible, especially with Boston College and Maryland remaining on the schedule.
10. Duke (3-6) – The Blue Devils have suffered some close losses in ACC play this year, but Saturday’s game at Miami wasn’t one of them. Duke suffered its worst defeat in conference play this season, losing 49-14 at Miami. Defense has been a significant question mark for the past couple of seasons in Durham, and the Blue Devils rank near the bottom of the ACC in total, scoring and pass defense. Also, the rushing attack ranks 11th in the conference, managing only 105.3 yards per game. Coach David Cutcliffe has Duke on the right track, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get to a bowl in 2012.
11. Boston College (2-7) – One week after scoring their first ACC win of 2011, the Eagles suffered a blowout 38-7 loss at the hands of Florida State. Looking for a spark on offense, Boston College turned to Josh Bordner for a few snaps at quarterback and he finished with 45 rushing yards. However, Bordner and starter Chase Rettig wasn't able to get much going through the air. The Eagles host NC State this Saturday, which is probably their best shot at victory in the final three games.
12. Maryland (2-7) – An awful season in College Park continued to spiral downhill with a 31-13 loss to Virginia. There are many reasons on both sides of the ball for the 2-7 record. Despite entering the year with one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Danny O’Brien), the offense has yet to find its rhythm. Also, the Terrapins rank 10th in the ACC in points scored. Injuries, most notably to linebacker Kenny Tate, have been a factor in the defense’s poor play. With Notre Dame, Wake Forest and NC State remaining, there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule. Coach Randy Edsall has a lot of work to do this offseason, especially if Maryland wants to get back into ACC title contention next year.
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – In a league where there is clearly no definitive No. 1 team, Michigan State used a Le'Veon Bell fourth-quarter touchdown run to beat lowly Minnesota 31-24 to take over the top spot in the Big Ten. The Spartans were smarting from last week's loss, and it took until 10:58 left in the fourth for MSU to put away the Gophers. Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and two scores, but the Spartans defense allowed uncharacteristically long (82-, 83- and 80-yard) scoring drives for Minnesota. The Spartans now control their own Legends Divison destiny with trips to Iowa and Northwestern sandwiched around a visit from Indiana. There is still plenty of work to do, but MSU got the help it needed to get to Indianapolis.
2. Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) – This is going to be the season of what-ifs and could-have-beens for Big Red fans. This team looks like the most complete, most talented team in the league but could be on the outside looking in come championship Saturday. The Badgers put up 62 points and 605 yards of offense, including 364 yards rushing, in a blowout win over Purdue. Tailback Montee Ball scored his 22nd, 23rd and 24th touchdowns to bring him within two of the all-time single-season Big Ten record of 26 while rushing for a career-high 223 yards on 20 carries. Russell Wilson (15-of-20, 205 yards, 2 TD) was efficient again and is the nation's No. 1 passer with a 196.6 raing (which would be a new single-season NCAA record). Wisconsin needs help to reach Indy and faces road tests against Minnesota and Illinois before the home finale against Penn State.
3. Penn State (8-1, 5-0) – The Nittany Lions were on bye this week and it likely could not have come at a worse time. Atheltic Director Tim Curley and senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz have surrendered to police after charges of child sexual abuse were filed against former PSU assistant Jerry Sandusky. With a three-game finish against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Penn State and its anemic offense cannot afford any distractions as they attempt to earn a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game.
4. Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) – The Big Ten rollar coaster ride for Cornhuskers fans continued this weekend with a heartbreaking home loss to Northwestern 28-25. The inability of Nebraska to consistently run the football against a defense that had been allowing 32 points and 432 yards per game was the story. Rex Burkhead was held to 69 yards on 22 carries (3.1 ypc) and Taylor Martinez mustered only 53 yards on 12 carries (4.4). The defense, on the other hand, could not stop Northwestern backup quarterback Kain Colter, who accounted for three second-half touchdowns. The Huskers now need to win out against Penn State, Michigan and Iowa and hope for a Michigan State loss in order to reach the Big Ten title game.
5. Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) – Woody Hayes would be proud. Ohio State ran the football with authority and played timely defense in a closer-than-anticipated 34-20 win over Indiana. The Buckeyes had three players top the century mark for the first time since 1989 as Carlos Hyde (15 att., 105 yards, TD), Boom Herron (14 att., 141 yards, TD) and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller (14 att., 105 yards, 2 TD) each contributed in a big way. Miller's 81-yard TD run was the longest scoring jaunt by any FBS quarterback in 2011. Luke Fickell used a Tre Roberson interception with just over four minutes to go in the game to seal the victory for the Buckeyes. OSU visits Purdue, hosts Penn State and plays that team from up North in the wrap-up to the season.
6. Michigan (7-2, 3-2) – Denard Robinson had four chances to tie the game from the three-yard line and 16 seconds left on the clock. And Shoelace threw not one, two or three but four incompletions to lose 24-16 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. In a game of inches, Michigan was on the losing (yet, correct) end of two tough calls in the final minutes that took two touchdowns off the board. In the end, the Wolverines were held to roughly half of their average on the ground (127 yards), and Robinson threw 20 incompletions and one key interception. The dynamic quarterback has topped 63 yards rushing only once in his last five games — a stretch in which UM is 3-2. The Maize and Blue finish with Illinois, Nebraska and that team from down South — and need lots of help to land in the Big Ten title game.
7. Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – Ron Zook hopefully took some time during the bye week to refine his offense. The Illini ranked 13th nationally in rushing offense, were averaging 447.7 yards of total offense and 34.7 points per game after six weeks. Orange Crush was 6-0 then. Zooker's squad has averaged 312.3 yards per game and has scored 28 total points in the three games since (0-3). With Michigan and Wisconsin up next on the schedule, the offense will need to show marked improvement if Illinois expects to reach eight wins.
8. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – The Hawkeyes defense was the story of the 24-16 win over Michigan this weekend. The Wolverines entered Saturday leading the Big Ten in rushing at over 250 yards per game. Iowa held Michigan to 127 yards on the ground, got some timely (and correct) officiating and stopped Denard Robinson on four straight pass attempts from the three as time expired. Marcus Coker was the star on offense as he scored twice and rolled up 132 yards on 29 carries. With Michigan State visiting Iowa City this weekend and a trip to Nebraska to end the season, the Hawks still technically control their own destiny in the Legends Division race.
9. Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) – No Dan Persa, no worries. The growth and maturation of Kain Colter were on full display in the Wildcats' 28-25 upset of Nebraska as 17-point underdogs on Saturday. Colter steadily moved his purple offense up and down the field, passing for 115 yards, rushing for 57 and accounting for three second-half touchdowns after Persa left in the third with a shoulder issue. Jeremy Ebert set a personal high with 147 yards, including a massive 81-yard touchdown early in the fourth to put Northwestern up by 11. The defense held the Huskers running game in check all night (122 yards, 3.4 ypc). With Rice and Minnesota up next (followed by the finale with Michigan State), Pat Fitzgerald has his sights set on his fourth straight bowl game.
10. Purdue (4-5, 2-3) – The upset win over Illinois, the hard-nosed tight loss to Penn State and the blowout win over Minnesota seem a distant memory after two postseason-destroying losses. Purdue got pummeled at the hands of Wisconsin 62-17 this Saturday and now has to upset either Ohio State or Iowa at home to get to a bowl game — assuming the Boilermakers can beat Indiana on the road in the season finale.
11. Minnesota (2-7, 1-4) – If nothing else, Jerry Kill's Golden Gophers have shown marked improvement from the early season losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. In the last two weeks, Minnesota has upset rival Iowa and pushed Michigan State to the brink before losing 31-24 this weekend. Paul Bunyon's Axe is on the line this weekend with Wisconsin coming to town before the Gophers finish with Northwestern and Illinois. If Minny can pull off one more upset, fans in Minneapolis might have something to be excited about in 2012.
12. Indiana (1-9, 0-6) – The Hoosiers were on the Ohio State 44-yard line, down by seven with less than five minutes to go against the mighty Buckeyes. But freshman Tre Roberson made a bigger mistake than his freshman OSU counterpart Braxton Miller when he threw his lone interception to Travis Howard over the middle to seal IU's fate. Still, the 34-20 road loss was arguably the best showing by Kevin Wilson's bunch all season. Indiana is on bye this week before facing Michigan State and Purdue to finish 2011.
By Rick Rogers
WACO, Texas — Surrounded by a cluster of children dressed in Baylor Bear green and gold and with flashes popping nearly every second from the photographers following his every move, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn’t keep the big grin off his face.
Life is good when you are a quarterback that leads an offense in putting up crazy video-game-like numbers — and your team wins.
Griffin dazzled as a dual-threat quarterback by passing for 406 yards and three scores and running for another 64 yards and one TD to lead a Baylor offensive attack to a 42-39 win over Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 5. Griffin’s efforts helped Baylor finish the game with a school-record 697 yards total offense.
Life is good for a quarterback that hit the 400-yard passing mark for the third straight game, and who now has his Bears (5-3, 3-2 in the Big 12) one win away from being bowl eligible for the second-straight season.
Life is also good when you snap a two-game road losing streak and do so by beating a Missouri team that went into College Station the week before and upset a nationally-ranked Texas A&M team.
“It feels good to come back home and right the ship,” Griffin said of getting the win over Missouri after back-to-back road losses at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. “It is about scoring touchdowns, and we did that tonight. (The win) lets our fans know that when we play at home, we are going to have a great showing. Not that we won’t win on the road, but you know how fans can get sometimes — they might lose faith. This was a big win against Missouri, and this will let the fans know that they need to keep purchasing tickets.”
Griffin seems comfortable in the spotlight. He cracks jokes during his post-game press conference. He interacts with the pint-sized Baylor fans who surround him on the field at the end of the game, asking for autographs, wristbands and for him to stop on his way to the locker room for pictures.
The Bears are Griffin’s team.
Baylor is Griffin’s university.
Waco is Griffin’s town.
Ask anyone who follows Baylor football, and for that matter those who don’t, what “RG3” stands for, and they will be quick with an answer, Robert Griffin III.
While Griffin’s first two 400-plus yard passing games didn’t go unnoticed, they were a little hard to swallow for the quarterback and the Bears because they came in a pair of lopsided losses to the Aggies and Cowboys.
Griffin’s third 400-yard passing game — he came into the game as the nation’s second-most accurate passer in college football — was something to savor.
Griffin passed for two touchdowns in the second half, including a 68-yard score to receiver Tevin Reese, who bobbled the ball en route to the end zone. Those touchdown strikes proved critical as the Bears and Missouri combined to score 39 points in a fourth quarter that turned into a track meet.
The Bears are one win away from being bowl eligible, but Griffin understands that one victory will not be easy. The Bears will have to travel to play the struggling Kansas Jayhawks Saturday in Lawrence, followed by three home games to end the season against Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1), Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4) (at Cowboys Stadium) and Texas (6-2, 3-2).
“Every game in the Big 12 is going to be a tough game,” Griffin said. “We have to protect our house. Kansas is not going to be a walk. Everybody we play is going to be a tough game. For us to get this win helps us, because we can go on the road next week and get a win and get bowl eligible, which is one of our goals.”
Rick Rogers is a freelance sports reporter for Athlon Sports. Channel and article photos by Rick Rogers
In light of the recent, disgusting events that have come out regarding Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual child abuse while working as an assistant under Joe Paterno's at Penn State, we feel that some of our archival content regarding Joe Paterno is worth revisiting now. This is expected to be Paterno's last year as head coach.
Twitter can range between being awesome and being the most annoying thing in on the Internet. So to help sports fans figure out which Twitter accounts they should follow, we put together the list of the best 100.
This list contains everything from journalists to athletes to comedians. To make sure there's a broad enough apeal, we tried to keep it national (sorry, the guy who tweets about your high school football team didn't make the list). Feel free to let us know who we missed in the comments. Here's 20-1.
20. Dan Patrick Show, @dpshow
Category: All Sports, Humor, Commentary
Dan and the Danettes put on one of the better sports radio shows on the airwaves. Their Twitter feed overrunneths our passion bucket.
19. Fan Graphs, @fangraphs
The most in-depth fantasy baseball statistics site’s Twitter feed is like the "Moneyball" movie with more FIP and less Brad Pitt.
18. Chris Broussard, @Chris_Broussard
Category: NBA, News, Commentary
I’m pretty sure all the NBA news you’ve ever heard has originated from Chris Broussard.
17. Buster Olney, @Buster_ESPN
Category: MLB, News, Commentary
Buster Olney is a fount of baseball information. He probably also knows what a “fount” is. (Or is it font?)
16. Adam Schefter, @adamschefter
Category: NFL, News
It’s hard to pick a side between Mort and Schefty. We’ll put Schefty higher because he has more followers.
15. Trey Wingo, @wingoz
Category: NFL, News, Commentary
Trey Wingo doesn't get enough credit for being the smartest and funniest anchor on ESPN. This is my feeble attempt to give him said credit.
14. Paul Bissonnette, @BizNasty2point0
Category: Hockey, Humor
Paul Bissonnette plays for the Phoenix Coyotes and doesn’t take himself seriously. His twitter feed makes me want to go drinking with him (that’s the best endorsement I can give.) (Extra Parens: Paul, if you're ever in Nashville and want to go drinking, hit me up at @corygavinjones )
13. John Clayton, @ClaytonESPN
Category: NFL, News
The “Professor” knows more about football than you know about yourself. (By the way, the Professor says you’re “probable” for needing to drop 20 pounds.)
12. Ozzie Guillen, @OzzieGuillen
Category: Baseball, Humor
Back in the day, when he was using Twitter to unleash his special brand of Spanglish a lot more, Ozzie would have been #1 on this list. Now, he’s #12 on this list.
11. Kenny Powers, @KF---INGP
Kenny Powers' Twitter is in. And you’re f---ing out. If you don’t know who Kenny Powers is, you need to immediately go out and purchase the first season of "EastBound and Down". (Not that you need to be told, but the language in this feed is slightly NSFW.)
10. Jimmy Traina, @JimmyTraina
Category: Humor, All Sports
Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard editor is a daily must read for sports fans or who like hot girls, funny videos, lists and weird sports news.
9. Jim Rome, @jimrome
Category: All Sports, Commentary
Read his Tweets with the classic Jim Rome delivery and they’re almost as entertaining as his radio show.
8. Rotoworld’s Football Feed, @Rotoworld_FB
Category: Fantasy Football, News
This is everything you need to know about fantasy football from breaking news to injuries to who you should pick up now that your first round pick is in a wheelchair. They have feeds for other sports, too, but since it’s football season, this is one's on the list.
7. Deadspin, @Deadspin
Category: All Sports, Commentary
It’s not just photos of Brett Favre’s penis. It’s photos of Michael Vick's penis, too.
6. Logan Morrison, @LoMoMarlins
Category: Humor, Athlete
The Marlins OF has consistently the best Twitter feed of any athlete in the whole Twitterverse. Our only concern is if he gets traded, it may have to change to @LoMoExpos.
5. Eric Stangel, @ericstangel
The head writer for David Letterman tweets about sports (as well as dead squirrels on cars) and is a lot funnier than you (unless you're Eric Stangel).
4. Bill Simmons, @sportsguy33
Category: All Sports
The best part of Simmons’ twitter feed is that sometimes he’ll be overcome with rage and fire off a six-tweet series breaking down why both sides of the NBA lockout are complete idiots.
3. Onion Sports, @OnionSports
The Onion is always amazing. This is their sports feed. That’s all.
2. Peter King, @SI_PeterKing
Category: NFL, News, Commentary
The ultimate NFL insider. I’m pretty sure the breaking news on Peyton Manning’s career, neck and hairline will originate through this twitter feed.
1. Darren Rovell, @DarrenRovell
Category: All Sports
CNBC and Versus sports business analyst consistently has the most interesting factoids and links around the sports world every day. More than just sports business info, his informative tweets give a context to stories that few other journalists give.
Twitter can range between being awesome and being the most annoying thing in on the Internet. So to help sports fans figure out which Twitter accounts they should follow, we put together the list of the best 100.
This list contains everything from journalists to athletes to comedians. To make sure there's a broad enough apeal, we tried to keep it national (sorry, the guy who tweets about your high school football team didn't make the list). Feel free to let us know who we missed in the comments. Here's 60-41.
60. John Daly, @PGA_JohnDaly
Category: Golf, Fat
If you didn’t know who John Daly was, this probably wouldn’t make the list. But knowing he’s sending these tweets with a Bud Light in one hand, a fifth of Jack in the other while one cigarette (or possibly two) dangles from his mouth paints a very special visual for each tweet.
59. Kissing Suzy Kolber, @KissMeSuzy
One of the funniest sports blogs in the blogosphere, is also worth following in the Twittersphere (Or is it Twitterverse?)
58. MLB Trade Rumors, @MLBtraderumors
Whenever you wonder “Hey, will my team sign Albert Pujols?” @MLBTradeRumors will make sure you’re aware that your team has no chance at signing Albert Pujols.
57. Tom Deinhart, @BTNTomDienhart
Category: College Football
Everything you wanted to know about Big Ten football. Nothing you wanted to know about PAC-12 football.
56. Mike Wilbon, @RealMikeWilbon
Category: NBA, All Sports
The balder half of the PTI team likes it mix it up on Twitter and gets into it with his followers even more than he does with Tony Kornheiser.
55. Scott Van Pelt, @notthefakeSVP
Category: All Sports
You know Scott Van Pelt from the Scott Van Pelt radio show and a multiude of ESPN televised programs. You also know he delivers smart sports knowledge mixed with humor. So there’s no point in me explaining his Twitter feed anymore.
54. Michael Lombardi, @michaelombardi
NFL Network reporter’s twitter feed is a mix of football news and articles of interest from around the web.
53. Andy Roddick, @andyroddick
Category: Tennis, Athlete
Andy Roddick is married to Brooklyn Decker. Any other questions?
52. Jon Heyman, @SI_JonHeyman
Sports Illustrated writer gives breaking news and insight around the MLB.
51. Andy Katz, @ESPNAndyKatz
Everything you wanted to know about college basketball, plus other stuff you may have wanted to know about Andy Katz.
50. Jason McIntyre, @TheBigLead
Category: All Sports
The Big Lead is a solid collection of sports smatterings from around the Interwebs (my grandfather did not understand that previous sentence.)
49. Mike Pereira, @MikePereira
The former VP of officiating for the league is now the rules analyst at Fox weighs in on plays and reviews during games. He also responds to questions, so you’ll at least get an answer as to why your team’s linebacker was just fined $100,000 for tackling another player.
48. Bleacher Report, @bleacherreport
Category: All Sports
The fan’s take on everything sports gives you some of the best lists and sports-related girl galleries on the web.
47. Mel Kiper Jr, @MelKiperESPN
Category: College Football, NFL Draft
The man with the hair is all business when it comes to the NFL draft. If you want to know how high an 18-year old can jump, he’s the man to follow.
46. David Feherty, @Fehertwit
Category: Golf, Humor
The Golf analyst can break down a dogleg on the final Sunday of a major, while also providing a collage of weird insights over Twitter every other day of the week.
45. Grey Albright, @Razzball
Easily the most entertaining fantasy site, Grey Albright and the Razzball crew are the only fantasy writers who have made me actually LOL (that’s an Internet term) while reading a sentence about Yovanni Gallardo. (They’d be higher on this list if their feed consisted of more of their trademark dry wit, and fewer link dumps.)
44. Colin Cowherd, @ESPN_Colin
Category: All Sports
Colin will say something you hate one minute, and then something you like the next. Plus, he retweets stuff like this.
43. Tony Reali, @AroundTheHorn
Category: All Sports
Tony Reali has the best job in the world: He gets to yell at sports writers for a half an hour, and then tell other sports writers why they’re wrong.
42. Alyssa Milano, @alyssa_milano
Alyssa tweets a lot (I’m not kidding) and most of it is about her new baby, but you can forgive her because she’s Alyssa Milano and she really likes baseball.
41. Grant Wahl, @grantwahl
Category: MLS, All Sports
The senior writer at SI has an interesting take on all spectrums of sport. Plus, he’s an MLS guy and this list was woefully short of MLS guys.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
The Super Bowl XLII rematch was deja vu all over again for the G-Men. Four seasons ago, Manning found Plaxico Burress on a 13-yard TD pass with 35 seconds to play for a 17–14 upset of the then 18–0 Patriots. This time around, Manning hit Jake Ballard for a one-yard score to take a 24–20 edge with 15 ticks on the clock, capping an eight-play, 80-yard game-winning drive. Although Manning’s final stat line was not off-the-charts (20-of-39 passes for 250 yards, two TDs and one INT), his heroic final drive could not have been better. As defensive end and team captain Justin Tuck said afterwards, “You can’t spell elite without Eli.”
Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
It was a good weekend to be an LSU Tiger. One day after Les Miles’ club won the “Game of the Century” over Alabama, 9–6 in overtime, the Bayou Bengals’ most recent top-five pick had the best game of his young NFL career. The rookie cornerback snagged his second INT of the season, winning a one-on-one jump ball against Brandon Lloyd on an underthrown pass by Sam Bradford. But the highlight of the night was Peterson’s 99-yard walk-off punt return TD — his third return TD of the year — giving the Cardinals a 19–13 overtime win over the Rams.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
The rookie out of Alabama hauled in three catches for 131 yards and two TDs, while also adding two carries for 33 yards on the ground during a 31–7 blowout of the winless Colts. Jones had scoring grabs of 50 and 80 yards — showing off the big-play ability that prompted the Falcons to trade their first- (No. 27 overall), second- (No. 59) and fourth-round (No. 124) picks in 2011, as well as their first- and fourth-rounders in 2012, to the Browns in exchange for the No. 6 overall pick and a chance to add Jones to an already impressive offense.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
Baltimore swept Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006, rallying for a 23–20 Week 9 win on Sunday night after an impressive 35–7 Week 1 victory to start the season. Flacco led a 13-play, 92-yard game-winning drive that ended with a 26-yard scoring strike to rookie Torrey Smith with eight seconds remaining. Smith went from goat to great after dropping a sure TD five plays earlier and being called for holding on the first play of the night, negating a 76-yard trip to the end zone by Ray Rice. The Ravens’ road win was especially sweet considering that two of their past three seasons have ended in playoff losses at Heinz Field.