Articles By All
Washington quarterback Keith Price was forced to exit Friday’s loss to UCLA with a shoulder injury, and his status for next week’s game against Oregon State is uncertain.
Price’s x-ray was negative, but the senior will have a MRI performed to discover the extend of the injury.
Price left during the first half, but prior to his injury, the senior completed 10 of 18 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown.
In his absence, Cyler Miles completed 15 of 22 throws for 149 yards and two touchdowns. If Price cannot play, Miles would get the start next week.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was sharp in Thursday night’s win over Georgia Tech, completing 20 of 26 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns. Boyd also added 43 yards and one score on the ground.
However, Boyd was injured in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
The senior suffered a bruised sternum and collarbone but avoided a significant injury.
Boyd has some extra time to heal before Clemson’s Nov. 23 scrimmage against Citadel.
Even if Boyd isn’t 100 percent, next Saturday is his final home game and should see a handful of snaps before giving way to Chad Kelly and Cole Stoudt.
Clemson has two weeks to get Boyd healthy for the Nov. 30 showdown against South Carolina.
It’s been a long season for Tim Beckman and Illinois, but the Fighting Illini unveiled some sharp alternate helmets for Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
The helmets feature the outline of the state, with 10 stars representing 10 players who died in combat.
Here are the Illinois’ alternate helmets for Saturday’s game against Ohio State:
SMU plans to wear an alternate helmet for Saturday’s game against UConn, as the Mustangs will switch from a white to red scheme.
Here are the SMU helmets for Saturday’s game against the Huskies:
Here's a look at SMU's helmets for Sat pic.twitter.com/0UGV0yLeBj— Bill Nichols (@BillNicholsDMN) November 15, 2013
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry takes center stage on Saturday, as Georgia travels to Auburn in a pivotal SEC contest. The Bulldogs need to win to keep their SEC East title hopes alive, while the Tigers are riding a six-game winning streak and a victory over Georgia would keep their BCS bowl hopes intact.
The Bulldogs have been hit hard by injuries this year, but Mark Richt’s team received some reinforcements in recent weeks. Running back Todd Gurley played against Florida on Nov. 2, and receiver Michael Bennett also returned to the lineup against the Gators. Two more of quarterback Aaron Murray’s targets may also return against Auburn, as receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch are expected to be game-time decisions.
After a miserable 3-9 record last year, Auburn is still alive in the SEC West, largely due to the hire of Gus Malzahn. The Tigers need to beat Georgia on Saturday to setup a one-game showdown with Alabama for the division title.
The all-time series between Auburn and Georgia is tied at 54 with eight ties. The Bulldogs have won six out of the last seven in this series. The Tigers’ last victory against Georgia was in 2010. The last two matchups between these two teams have been a one-sided affair in favor of the Bulldogs (83-7).
Georgia at Auburn
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Auburn -3
Three Things to Watch
Auburn’s rushing offense vs. Georgia’s rush defense
Auburn’s rushing attack is averaging 278.5 yards per game and has recorded over 400 yards in two out of the last three contests. The Tigers barely used the forward pass in wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, combining for just 16 attempts in those two games. Can that continue on Saturday? Auburn likely needs more balance to beat Georgia, especially since the Bulldogs rank fourth in SEC-only games against the run, limiting opponents to 149.7 yards per contest. Georgia has allowed 15 touchdowns in six SEC games but is holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per carry. Running back Tre Mason leads the Tigers with 1,038 yards and 16 touchdowns. But the Auburn backfield isn’t a one-man show, with quarterback Nick Marshall (7.1 ypc), and running backs Cameron Artis-Payne (6.6 ypc) and Corey Grant (10.1 ypc) expected to get involved. Expect the Bulldogs to stack the box and force the Tigers out of their gameplan.
Aaron Murray’s supporting cast
A key element in Georgia’s losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt were the rash of injuries on offense. Over the last few weeks, the Bulldogs’ injury report has shortened, and quarterback Aaron Murray has a few more weapons at his disposal. Running back Todd Gurley is one of the best in the nation when healthy, and the sophomore has rushed for 175 yards on 30 attempts in his last two games. After a light workload against Appalachian State, Gurley should be closer to full strength. Gurley’s return is huge for an offense that is still shorthanded at receiver, but Michael Bennett is back, and receivers Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch are likely to be gametime decisions. Assuming Conley and Lynch can play, the Bulldogs will have a solid group of options for Murray. However, if Conley and Lynch are limited in any way, Auburn’s defense can shade more of its attention in the secondary on Bennett.
Auburn QB Nick Marshall
In his first year as Auburn’s starting quarterback, Marshall hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s the perfect fit to run Gus Malzahn’s offense. Marshall is only averaging 139 passing yards in SEC games and has tossed five picks to six interceptions. However, the junior has been dynamic on the ground, averaging 7.2 yards per carry in conference play. Marshall only completed three passes against Tennessee, but he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts. In Auburn’s only loss this year, Marshall threw 33 times and tossed two picks. The Tigers are clearly at their best on offense when the ground attack is able to lead the way. If Auburn falls behind, can Marshall pass the offense back into the game?
Key Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It’s a small sample size, but Georgia is 4-0 this season when Gurley rushes for at least 73 yards this year. Even if Gurley may not be 100 percent, his presence is a huge boost for the Bulldogs. The sophomore helps provide balance, and caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Murray against Florida. In six conference games, Auburn is allowing an average of 189.2 rushing yards per game. Gurley should be able to find space against the Tigers’ defense, and the Bulldogs should plan to give their sophomore back 25-30 carries.
Week 12 isn’t full of elite matchups, but Auburn-Georgia should be one of the best this Saturday. Both teams have a lot on the line, and with the firepower on the sidelines, a high-scoring affair should be expected. Auburn’s rushing offense has been on fire the last few weeks, but quarterback Nick Marshall will have to throw more for the Tigers to win on Saturday. This one is a tossup, with home-field advantage giving Auburn a slight edge.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Georgia 31
Stanford is fresh off one of the program's biggest wins in recent memory as they defeated the No. 2 Oregon Ducks 26-20. Despite the score, the game wasn't very close, as the Cardinal dominated the double-digit favorites from the opening whistle. Stanford piled up 274 rushing yards while holding Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota to 250 yards passing and -16 yards rushing. Meanwhile, USC has quietly played back into top 25 consideration as they are 4-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, having reeled off three straight victories by an average margin of victory of 22.3 points. In the last three seasons, the Stanford-USC matchup has been among the most competitive in the Pac-12. The Cardinal won all three games, though they failed to defeat the Trojans by more than one score. The last time the two programs met at the Coliseum was in 2011, when the game was decided by a USC fumble in the endzone in triple overtime. This is the 92nd overall meeting between these two early members of what was once the Pacific Coast Conference. USC holds a 59-29-3 record over Stanford since they began playing in 1905.
Three Things to Watch
Tre Madden & Company
The Trojans boast a four-headed monster of Madden, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen and Silas Redd. Madden leads the team with 671 rushing yards and four receiving touchdowns. Allen leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns and averages a team-best 7.9 yards per rush. Allen has been serving as the featured back as of late, as he 268 yards on 22 carries with five touchdowns in the Trojans' last two games at Oregon State and California. Davis is no slouch either, with six rushing touchdowns on 6.8 yards a touch. The four backs average a staggering 5.8 yards per carry and account for 70 percent of all USC touchdowns. It's unlikely the Trojans will be able to put up those types of numbers against the stingy, aggressive Stanford defense led by linebacker Shayne Skov. The Cardinal allow a conference-low 98.7 rushing yards per game and held Oregon to 62 rushing yards, which marks the Ducks' lowest total on the ground since September 2009.
Stanford Power Run vs. USC Front Seven
Last week, the Cardinal rushed the ball 66 times for 274 yards. In the fourth quarter, Stanford didn't attempt a single pass and actually ended the game with 21 straight rushing attempts. The Cardinal is unquestionably the best team in the nation at controlling the clock. Against Oregon, they had scoring drives of 5:59, 4:58, 8:26, 7:33, 4:27 and a 7:59 drive that ended in a blocked field goal. All in all, Stanford controlled the ball for 42 of the 60 minutes thanks to two 21-play drives, a 14-play drive, a 12-play drive and two 8-play drives. If the Stanford offensive line is able to push around the USC defense line like they did with Oregon, then expect much of the same from the Cardinal this week. Tyler Gaffney, the undisputed bell-cow of the Cardinal offense, had 45 rushing attempts versus Oregon, breaking the Stanford record for rushes in a single game. The previous record was 39 by Tommy Vardell in 1991 versus California. The senior is third in the Pac-12 with 1,043 yards while averaging 4.9 per carry with 14 total touchdowns. He's reached the end zone seven times in the past four games, including a 2-yard plunge against Oregon. USC has been successful in past years against Stanford due to its strong core of defense lineman. While their defensive front isn't as deep this year, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and outside linebacker Devon Kennard lead a Trojan defense that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown since September and is capable of causing some trouble for Stanford's offensive line. Still, Stanford is one of the most physical teams in college football, boasting a deep and stout offensive line.
Hogan vs. Kessler
Both quarterbacks have benefitted from the success of their respective running games, as neither signal caller has been asked to do too much the past few weeks. Kessler attempted just 17 passes last week, while Hogan dropped back a mere 13 times. Still, both have played efficient, smart football. While neither has thrown for 300 yards in any one game, each is completing over 60 percent of their passes and have at least a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio. Hogan will look to wide receiver Ty Montgomery early and often, as the junior wideout has caught 35 percent of Hogan's completions. In fact, nobody else on the Stanford offense has more than 21 receptions. Meanwhile, Kessler has been much better about spreading the ball around. Kessler looks deep to either one of his two dynamic receivers in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, while making smart check-downs to his halfbacks. In fact, Kessler has thrown six touchdowns to running backs, while still having two receivers with multiple 60+ yard touchdown receptions. When the running game stalls, whatever quarterbacks steps up and makes a few plays with his arm will walk out of the Coliseum with a big conference win.
Key Player: Nelson Agholor, WR/PR, USC
Agholor had two of USC's NCAA-record tying three punt returns for touchdowns as he started the scoring for the Trojans with a 75-yard return and added a 93-yarder late in the second quarter. Agholor has always been an explosive weapon in the passing game as he averages 18 yards per catch and has 11 receptions of 30+ yards. Against a team like Stanford who rarely makes mistakes, the mercurial Agholor becomes an x-factor for his ability to turn the momentum of a game at a moment's notice.
While many are quick to point at that Stanford could come out flat after such a big win last week, let's remember that David Shaw led this team a Pac-12 crown and a Rose Bowl win after upsetting Oregon a season ago. Last season's squad, which returns essentially the same core group of players, followed up their big win over the Ducks by going into Los Angeles and taking down a good UCLA Bruins team 35-17. Expect both teams to come into this game playing with a sense of purpose and passion. With a win, Stanford can all but lock up the Pac-12 North title. USC is still smarting for painful losses to Stanford the pass three seasons, and the Trojans still have a chance at winning the Pac-12 South if they win out and Arizona State drops two of its final three games. These games are always close, so I don't expect the Cardinal to run away with this one. Ultimately, I think Stanford is too reliable and fundamentally sound to experience a major letdown at this point in the season.
Prediction: Stanford 30, USC 21
Will Muschamp and the 4-5 Florida Gators travel to Columbia to take on Steve Spurrier and 7-2 No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks in an SEC East showdown at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN2. Suffice to say, this season hasn't gone as Florida fans planned. The Gators are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak, fresh off back-to-back home losses. Things came to a head last week after an ugly 34-17 home loss to SEC East perennial basement-dweller Vanderbilt. While head coach Will Muschamp's seat is getting much warmer, all indications is that the seven season-ending injuries to starters that the team has endured will be taken into account, and he will likely return next year. However, the Gators need to win two of their final three games to qualify for a bowl game. The last time Florida missed a bowl was South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's debut season at his alma mater. While the Gators finished 6-1 in the league they were ineligible for the postseason and SEC title. With their season finale against second-ranked Florida State, this game will likely determine whether Florida will see the postseason. South Carolina, on the other hand, is still within reach of overtaking SEC East leader Missouri as they sit just a half game back. If the Gamecocks win and the Tigers fail to win their final two games, the Gamecocks will head to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. A lot is on the line for both programs in what will be each team's SEC finale in 2013. The Gamecocks have won 15 straight at Williams-Brice Stadium, but Florida has won 19 of the past 22 games with South Carolina and owns the all-time series lead 24-6-3.
Three Things to Watch
QB Connor Shaw vs. Florida defense
Connor Shaw is 23-5 as South Carolina's starting quarterback, one victory away from tying Todd Ellis for the school's wins record. The senior signal caller has turned in a stellar campaign posting 18 touchdown passes against just one interception. Shaw is also the Gamecocks second leading rusher with 484 yards and three TDs. He faces his stiffest defense of the year as the Gators lead the SEC in overall defense, while they boast of a conference rank of first in passing defense and second in rushing defense. After losing defensive lineman Dominique Easley for the season a few weeks ago, the Gators will be without linebacker Antonio Morrison, who was ruled out for the season earlier this week with a knee injury. Despite the numerous injuries, Florida still ranks 15th in the country in points allowed, giving up 19.3 per game. It is worth noting that the Gators have yet to face a dual-threat quarterback this year, much less one of Shaw's talent.
Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has flashed big-play potential at points this season in completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns. His problem? Turnovers. He has thrown five interceptions and fumbled three times. He threw a season-high three interceptions and four total turnovers against Vanderbilt. Will Muschamp preaches winning the turnover battle. In going 11-2 last season, the Gators were plus-15 with 30 takeaways. After last week, Florida is now at minus-2, with just 15 takeaways. Additionally, its defense's streak of 19 straight games with forcing a turnover came to an end. On the other end of the spectrum, Shaw has only thrown one interception. To be fair, Shaw has four fumbles and halfback Mike Davis has put the ball on the turf three times. A South Carolina defense that has disappointed this year has only produced 16 turnovers, including five they forced two weeks ago against Mississippi State. The Gamecocks have been on the wrong side of the turnover differential in five of their nine games and are 3-2 in such games.
SEC's Leading Rusher
Running back Mike Davis became the Gamecocks first 1,000-yard rusher in three years in the last game against Mississippi State and has his sights set on the 1,149 yards that Marcus Lattimore gained as a freshman in 2010. Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 1,058 yards and has gone over 100 yards rushing in seven of his nine games. While Florida's rush defense has been impressive this season, it didn't look very strong in the red zone last week, as they allowed Vanderbilt to punch in three rushing touchdowns at the goal line.
Player to Watch: Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Taylor's emergence is one of the few positives that have come from the health problems in Gainesville. After the season-ending injury to Matt Jones, Taylor became the team's premier back. He received his first career start two weeks ago against Georgia, rushing for 76 yards on 20 carries, before his two-touchdown performance last week. Taylor is the centerpiece of the ground-heavy attack utilized by Muschamp and will be even more important if Murphy is out. For the Gators to be able to move the ball, Taylor will have to control the clock and grind on a South Carolina defense, which has shown to be vulnerable against the power run.
Injuries have destroyed Florida's mojo and with Tyler Murphy unlikely to play, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Florida offense can put up more than 20 points on Saturday. The Gators haven't missed out on a bowl game in 23 years and haven't had a losing season in 27 years. This will be the year both of those streaks will be broken. The Gamecocks will roll at home behind Shaw and Davis.
Prediction: South Carolina 35, Florida 17
Locks of the Week
These two are division showdowns featuring the AFC West’s “haves” and the NFC South’s “have nots.”
Patriots (+2.5) at Panthers
Cam Newton loves the spotlight and Charlotte will be abuzz Monday night, but Bill Belichick has a 10–3 record in New England in games the week following a bye.
Broncos (-8) vs. Chiefs
Kansas City has not allowed more than 17 points in any game this season, while Denver is averaging 41.2 points per game with a season-low of “only” 28 points.
Falcons (-1) at Buccaneers
The Schiano men have a lame duck coach and staph-infected locker room; one win seems like more than enough for this year’s crop of Pewter Pirates.
Continue to bet against Jacksonville — despite its shocking win last week at Tennessee — and bet on Seattle at home.
Seahawks (-12.5) vs. Vikings
Russell Wilson is a perfect 12–0 at home, having outscored opponents by a 364–152 margin (121–57 this season; 243–95 last season).
Cardinals (-8) at Jaguars
Jacksonville has not won back-to-back games — which it will attempt to do this week — since Dec. 12, 2010, when the Jags beat the Titans and Raiders.
Straight Up Upsets
A pair of road warrior clubs will take their best shots in harsh weather cities against backup quarterbacks in what could be sloppy games.
Ravens (+3) at Bears
Baltimore won three games away from home en route to winning the Super Bowl but is just 1–4 on the road this season.
Jets (+1) at Bills
The last time these two AFC East rivals went toe-to-toe they combined for 27 penalties and 255 lost yards.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on all the action.
Texans (-7) vs. Raiders
Seems like an awfully big number to give a Houston team with more problems than Apollo 13.
Bengals (-6) vs. Browns
Cleveland shocked the world with a 17–6 win over Cincinnati in the Buckeye Bowl in Week 4.
Giants (-5) vs. Packers
Eli Manning should be able to beat this Aaron Rodgers-less team. Eli should be able to do better than 11 TDs and 16 INTs.
Eagles (-4.5) vs. Redskins
The spread option offense showdown pits Chip Kelly against Mike Shanahan in an ego clash of the NFC East’s most-hyped teams.
Saints (-3) vs. 49ers
Turn out the lights, San Fran will be in N’Awlins for the first time since the power outage of Super Bowl XLVII.
Lions (-2.5) at Steelers
This bizarro Rust Belt pits the traditional losers from Detroit against the Super Bowl contenders from Pittsburgh. But in reverse order.
Chargers (-1.5) at Dolphins
With such beautiful women and weather in both cities, who cares about the NFL? Let’s go to the beach.
1. Face the facts: Cup championship is Johnson’s to lose
There’s a good share of NASCAR fans who probably aren’t too happy with what’s coming Sunday afternoon with the sport’s five-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, on the verge of making it six — all in a span of nine years.
Even if Matt Kenseth, Johnson’s closest competitor, can win Sunday’s race by leading every lap, the No. 48 car needs to finish just 23rd.
Of course this is NASCAR, and these are races conducted with machines that have thousands of critical, moving parts that ca fail and human drivers who can make a mistake. Johnson could lose a tire and smack the wall on the first lap, opening the door for Kenseth to capitalize. Even Kevin Harvick, at third in the standings, can’t be ruled out.
History, though, is on Johnson’s side. Each of the four times he’s entered the Homestead season finale with the series points lead (2006-09) he’s held serve and scored the title. Johnson came from behind at Homestead to win his fifth title in 2010 over Denny Hamlin.
Making matters worse for the competition is that Johnson will use the same chassis that dominated at Texas Motor Speedway, won at Dover and led more than 100 laps in Charlotte before a third-place finish.
Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team. have a long hill to climb. It’s a good bet to think Johnson will make that ascent unscalable.
2. France’s open letter misses on safetyNASCAR CEO Brian France opted to forego his seemingly annual “state of the sport” style address and press conference in Homestead ahead of Sunday’s season finale, and instead authored an open letter directed to NASCAR fans on the sport’s website.
The letter largely focused on France’s version of the sport’s successes over the past season — the Gen-6 car, Darrell Wallace Jr.’s win and the new tracks visited by the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in 2013 got the most play — and offered broad (and accurate) strokes about where he thinks the sport still needs to improve.
“We want more excitement, more passing, more drama,” France wrote. “We want to give (the fans) more reasons to go to the racetrack and continue to follow our sport week after week. Rest assured that we as an industry are working hard to accomplish this goal.”
However, France’s letter completely missed the issue still brewing underneath the surface of the sport: track safety.
There’s no doubt that the safety devices implemented post-Earnhardt and in the CoT platform have been a rousing success. The low numbers of driver injuries and zero fatalities in the 12 years since Earnhardt’s 2001 death have shown that.
But 2013 featured Kyle Larson’s brutally scary fence-shearing crash at Daytona that injured more than 30 spectators. It also had an incident that ruined a potential championship bid for Denny Hamlin when he crashed into an unprotected wall at Auto Club Speedway in the spring.
Both incidents exposed the sport’s most pressing safety concerns, but neither one produced a sense of urgency for correction from the sport’s leaders.
That lack of priority — both in the incident aftermath and now in France’s proverbial season wrap-up — is disconcerting. We can only hope a meeting with the media will be on the agenda for France in Las Vegas, where he can address such issues, when the sport holds its annual post-season banquet.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has put together an outstanding Chase That Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t won in 2013 will remain the first criticism both his fans and detractors will latch on to should he fail to reach victory lane Sunday night. And while that is a disappointment of Earnhardt’s 2013 campaign, it’s important to realize how good the No. 88 has been for much of the year and in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Earnhardt tied a career-high for top-10 finishes in a season (21) with a fourth-place finish at Phoenix last week and sits just one top-5 finish from his highwater mark of 10 in a season with Hendrick Motorsports.
His Chase performance has been a big improvement on his regular season results — even with a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway that ruined his title hopes in Week 1 of the 10-race stretch. Earnhardt has averaged a finish of 9.1 during the Chase, and if the Chicago result is excluded his average finish drops to a very competitive 5.9.
In the regular season, Earnhardt averaged a finish of 14.2. Comparatively, teammate Jimmie Johnson has averaged a finish of 4.6 in the Chase.
Earnhardt has been good enough to win often in 2013, and without some key mechanical failures likely would have rolled to victory lane. Still, his improved results bode well for the No. 88 team going in to 2014.
4. Last NASCAR go-round for Jeff Burton, Mark Martin?
Mark Martin seems to be a bit gun shy.
The 54-year-old all but confirmed last weekend at Phoenix that he’ll be stepping away from the competitive driver’s seat in NASCAR after Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But he seemed to stop short of calling it a retirement.
Blame that on his first “retirement” from the sport back in 2005, when a marketing approach that he wasn’t really on-board with was crafted around his planned-for final season at Roush Fenway Racing. He wound up returning the next year, and has taken criticism from fans ever since.
Martin has no confirmed rides in 2014, and plans to do some work with Stewart-Haas Racing as a test driver while Tony Stewart continues to recuperate and potentially serve as a mentor to Danica Patrick.
It’s somewhat a strange bit of fate, too, that Martin’s former Roush teammate Jeff Burton seems to be heading beyond the driver’s seat at the same time. Burton, of course, announced earlier this fall that he’s stepping out of the No. 31 at Richard Childress Racing after he was unable to commit to longer than one year in the ride.
He currently has no spot lined up for 2014, though rumors of a part-time role in Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 56 car continue to swirl.
NASCAR’s driver roster is forever in a state of change, a fact not lost on Burton and Martin. Still, it’ll be a bit jarring come February if both are watching the Daytona 500 from the sidelines.
5. Nationwide Series may go to a winless driverKyle Busch has won 12 races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year in just 25 starts. If he were eligible for points — he’s not, due to NASCAR rules permitting drivers to accumulate points in just one series — Busch would stand eighth in the series standings despite missing seven of the 32 races.
Meanwhile, point leader Austin Dillon enters Saturday’s season finale with an eight-point cushion on second-place Sam Hornish Jr. Should Dillon hold on to the advantage and claim his first series title without winning Saturday’s race, NASCAR would have its first series champion without a race win ever. In any series.
That’s indicative of a problem, but not necessarily a travesty for the sport. It just continues the dereliction of the Nationwide Series’ importance and stature to fans.
For years, the sport has wrestled with Cup drivers dominating the support series events. Event promoters like the fact that they can sell the sport’s best drivers racing in an event that requires a smaller sanctioning fee. Drivers like cashing in with extra money and trophies.
What’s the answer? If I had my way, I’d stack the deck against Cup drivers but still allow them to compete. Force Cup drivers to qualify on time for all Nationwide Series events, but send them to the rear during the pace laps.
It’d improve the show and make winning Nationwide events tougher for the more experienced and often better equipped Cup drivers. And hey, the 2014 Nationwide champ may actually have a checkered flag to hang up.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 15.
• Yesterday was the Day of the Colombian Woman, and I was out of town and missed it. To atone, here's a slideshow of beautiful Colombian women, including the wondrous Sofia Vergara (pictured).
• Where's the love for Chiefs-Broncos? It's only the biggest regular-season game of the year. At least one woman appreciates the enormity of the matchup, though; she sold her wedding ring for tickets.
• A Colts fan broke out the moves behind a Titans cheerleader. Check out his embarrassed companion in the VY/Locker jersey.
• Erik Walden got his money's worth: He ripped Delanie Walker's helmet off, then head-butted him. Gotta hand it to him; a head-butt is kinda useless if the helmet is still on.
• Barry Switzer prematurely tweeted his congratulations to Bob Stoops for tying his record against Iowa State. This coming weekend. Bulletin board fodder, but he's probably right.
• Melo almost pulled off a miracle last night, but the best part was the reaction from the Knicks fans.
• The SEC never fails to deliver, but here are five matchups we wish we'd seen in 2013.
• Toronto mayor Rob Ford is the gift that keeps on giving. Gotta feel for the missus, though. Enjoy this inevitable Ford/Chris Farley mash-up.
• The Harlem Globetrotters have been in the news a lot lately. A few days after one ripped down a goal, here's another Trotter making the Guiness Book of World Records.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-8 this season, tied with Tampa Bay for the worst record in the NFL. The only thing Jaguars fans really have to look forward to at this point is next season, and whatever the future holds for this struggling franchise, one important decision will have to be made.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be a free agent after this season. A second-round pick (60th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft, Jones-Drew has 7,700 rushing yards in eight seasons. The league's leading rusher in 2011 with 1,606 yards, injuries limited MJD to just six games last season and he has struggled with his production so far (432 yards in nine games) this season. That said, he will won't turn 29 until next March and figures to draw plenty of interest from other teams looking to add a three-time Pro Bowler to their roster. Should Jacksonville make Jones-Drew an offer he can't refuse to keep him in a Jaguars uniform long term or should the team bid the franchise's all-time No. 2 rusher a fond farewell? Athlon editors Mark Ross and Nathan Rush offer their thoughts on the future of the diminutive running back.
Lest we forget, it wasn't too long ago that Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the NFL's most productive running backs. In 2011, the bowling ball known as MJD led the entire league in rushing with 1,606 yards. A serious foot injury derailed him the following season, and it's not out of the question to say it's still bothering him. However, the real issue for Jacksonville's running game is its offensive line. According to ProFootballFocus.com the Jaguars' O-line is the worst in the NFL when it comes to run blocking. Certainly losing left tackle Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick of April's draft, to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 doesn't help, but it also sheds some light on what the Jags' main problem is — an overall lack of talent throughout the roster. Jones-Drew is a proven All-Pro-caliber running back who is still less than 30 years old and, in my opinion, has plenty of tread (career average of 214 carries per season) left on his tires. He certainly won't be cheap to re-sign, but money shouldn't be an issue in this instance, especially for billionaire owner Shahid Khan. Besides, who else can you expect the fans to come out and watch. Blaine Gabbert?
— Mark Ross
Re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew? The Jags should've traded him last year or two years ago when he still had some gas in the tank. Mojo's only wasting away in J-Ville. His value to the Jaguars is maximized as a trade asset and minimized as a player for such a pitiful team. Unfortunately, the running back trade market is nonexistent for anyone not named Trent Richardson. MJD has a lengthy injury history and plenty of wear on his tires. His best days were as Fred Taylor's tag team duo partner back when Jack Del Rio was coaching and Jacksonville was a playoff contender. Those days are long gone and Jones-Drew should be too. There's absolutely no reason for the Jags to re-sign their highest profile player.
— Nathan Rush
Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. The Texas Longhorns made me sweat last week but salvaged a .500 record for me with a tremendous fourth quarter and overtime (thanks). Mizzou I felt the best about and sure enough they crushed Kentucky. The Tigers might still be underrated despite all the big SEC wins thus far. BYU and Arizona State didn't help me much last weekend.
2013 Record Against the Spread: 33-25-1 (2-2 last week)
Week 12 Picks of the Week:
TCU (+10.5) at Kansas State
Few teams in the nation are playing better football than the Wildcats right now. Bill Snyder’s team has won three straight by outscoring its opponents 125-45 and is averaging more than 250 yards rushing over its last four games. TCU has scored more than 21 points only twice in its last six games and one of those (27) came against lowly Kansas. The Wildcats are 6-3 against the spread this year and TCU is a miserable 2-8. At home, this could get ugly. Prediction: Kansas State -10.5
Stanford (-3.5) at USC
Both teams play excellent defense, both teams can pressure the quarterback and both teams have elite-level talent. However, Stanford has eyes on the BCS national title and won’t be napping on a surging USC offense. The lack of depth will play a huge roll for the Trojans this weekend in what should be the most physical game of the season. Stanford's Kevin Hogan, Tyler Gaffney and a powerful offensive line shouldn’t have any issues moving the ball while USC's Cody Kessler will likely be running for his life much of the evening. Prediction: Stanford -3.5
Texas Tech (+27) vs. Baylor
The Red Raiders are reeling and the last thing they want to do is try to stop Baylor — neutral field or not. In AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Baylor will keep its BCS and Big 12 title hopes alive by abusing a team that is lacking in confidence and discipline. The Bears are 7-1 against the spread this year and Tech has given up 139 points in its last three games. There is nothing to indicate this team will be competitive against Art Briles — especially, without a true No. 1 starter at quarterback. Prediction: Baylor -27
Florida (-13.5) at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier’s alma mater is circling the drain right now and he would like nothing more than to bury his SEC East brethren. The Gators are coming off one of the worst home losses in school history, can’t score on offense and are on the road against a team with two weeks to prepare. Carolina has its sights set on Atlanta and posting a 6-2 SEC mark puts them in the lead in the clubhouse. The Gators are 3-6 against the number this season and are down to their third quarterback with Tyler Murphy out. Predictions: South Carolina -13.5
Kentucky (+12.5) at Vanderbilt
The Dores have owned Kentucky under head coach James Franklin, beating the Cats 78-8 over the last two seasons. Vandy is riding high after one of the most dominant defensive performances of the season in Gainesville last weekend. The Commodores have covered the spread in each of its last two games with SEC East opponents and should be able to shut down the Wildcats' offense. If Vanderbilt can get to 24 points, it should cover the spread easily — especially, with bowl eligibility on the line on Saturday. Prediction: Vanderbilt -12.5
Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:
Note: games with FCS opponents won't be included each week
|Top 25 Games||Mitch Light||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|No. 1 Alabama (-25.5) at Mississippi St|
|Syracuse (+38) at No. 2 Florida St|
|No. 3 Ohio St (-32) at Illinois|
|No. 4 Stanford (-3.5) at USC|
|Texas Tech (+27) at No. 5 Baylor|
|Utah (+26.5) at No. 6 Oregon|
|No. 25 Georgia (+4.5) at No. 7 Auburn|
|Florida (+13.5) at No. 10 South Carolina|
|No. 12 Oklahoma St (-3) at No. 24 Texas|
|Washington (+2.5) at No. 13 UCLA|
|No. 16 Michigan St (-6.5) at Nebraska|
|No. 17 UCF (-16.5) at Temple|
|Iowa St (+24.5) No. 18 Oklahoma|
|Oregon St (+13) at No. 19 Arizona St|
|Houston (+16) at No. 20 Louisville|
|Indiana (+23) at No. 22 Wisconsin|
|No. 23 Miami (-3) at Duke|
The Big Ten Legends Division title could be decided on Saturday, as Michigan State travels to Lincoln to play Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have experienced an up and down 2013 season, starting with a 41-21 loss to UCLA. Nebraska rebounded with three consecutive victories but lost at Minnesota 34-23, which prompted more speculation about the future of coach Bo Pelini.
However, Pelini's team has rallied with back-to-back wins, including a 17-13 victory at Michigan last Saturday.
While Nebraska has been on a roller-coaster ride in 2013, Michigan State has flown under the radar for much of the season. The Spartans are 8-1, with the only defeat coming at Notre Dame.
Michigan State has dominated its last three opponents (Purdue, Illinois and Michigan) by a combined score of 85-9.
Nebraska and Michigan State have met seven times, with the Cornhuskers winning every matchup. These two teams have played only twice as Big Ten foes, with last year’s meeting decided by four points.
Michigan State at Nebraska
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan State -6.5
Three Things to Watch
Michigan State’s defensive line vs. Nebraska’s offensive line
Led by sophomore end Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State’s defensive line has been one of the best in the nation. The Spartans are holding opponents to just 227.4 yards per game in Big Ten contests and have allowed only six touchdowns in conference play. Each unit of the defense can be considered a strength, and the line is led by Calhoun and Marcus Rush at end, while Damon Knox and Micajah Reynolds help anchor the interior. Nebraska’s offensive line ranked as one of the best in the Big Ten this preseason, but the Cornhuskers lost guard Spencer Long early in the year due to injury. Mike Moudy has stepped into the lineup in place of Long, but there’s even more questions about the line in Week 12 due to injuries. Tackle Jeremiah Sirles is unlikely to play due to a sprained MCL, which means Zach Sterup is expected to start on the right side. Nebraska has allowed 10 of its 12 sacks in conference play, and Northwestern and Michigan held the Cornhuskers below four yards per carry. With Nebraska’s injuries and Michigan State’s pass rush (25 sacks in nine games), this is shaping up to be a mismatch in the trenches in favor of the Spartans.
Nebraska’s secondary vs. Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Michigan State seems to have found its quarterback in sophomore Connor Cook. After the Spartans failed to throw a touchdown pass in their first two games, Cook has tossed 13 over the last seven games. Although Cook has provided a spark for the passing attack, Nebraska will be the toughest secondary he has faced in 2013. The Cornhuskers have allowed just three passing touchdowns in Big Ten play, and opponents are completing just 48.5 percent of their passes. Senior cornerbacks Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste have combined to start 44 games in their careers, while safety Corey Cooper ranks second on the team with 60 tackles. Michigan State does not have a receiver over 30 catches, but three players have at least 24. The Spartans prefer to lean on their ground attack, so unless they get behind, Cook won’t throw 40 times on Saturday. This matchup favors the Cornhuskers, especially if end Randy Gregory continues to wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines. The junior has 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss this season, which figures to test a Michigan State offensive line that has allowed only four sacks in Big Ten play.
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.
With Taylor Martinez sidelined indefinitely, Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III will get the nod at quarterback for Nebraska. Armstrong Jr. – a redshirt freshman – has yet to throw for over 200 yards in a game this season but was steady in the Cornhuskers’ 17-13 win over Michigan last week. Michigan State’s defense has intercepted 10 passes this season, which is a concern for the Nebraska coaching staff after Armstrong threw three against Northwestern. The Cornhuskers can’t rely on Armstrong to win this game on his arm, but the freshman’s mobility will be especially valuable when Michigan State’s pass rush collapses the pocket. Considering Nebraska’s defense has played well in its last two games, Armstrong has to limit his mistakes and keep his team in this game until the fourth quarter.
Key Player: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
With an inexperienced quarterback (Tommy Armstrong) starting against one of the Big Ten’s best defense, Nebraska’s offensive gameplan shouldn’t be too aggressive. Armstrong needs some early throws to get into the flow of the game, but the Cornhuskers have to find ways to get Abdullah involved. The junior leads the Big Ten with 149.6 yards per game in conference play and needs another 100-yard effort for Nebraska to earn the victory.
This series has been dominated by Nebraska, but Michigan State is the better team in 2013. Points could be at a premium, and in any close game, turnovers and special teams could play a huge role in the outcome. Michigan State’s defense has allowed only one opponent to score more than 20 points this season (Indiana), and coordinator Pat Narduzzi will throw several different looks at Armstrong. The Cornhuskers won’t ask Armstrong to win the game, but he will have to hit on a few throws early on to keep the Spartans from stacking the box against Abdullah. Nebraska gets this game to the fourth quarter, but the Spartans find just enough offense to win.
Prediction: Michigan State 27, Nebraska 20
The Heisman is but one award, and one award isn’t enough to contain the best of college football.
While we love prognosticating who will win college football’s most coveted individual trophy, we also love the glut of postseason awards that go to each position, each with a nod to the game’s history from Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker to Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe to Ray Guy and Lou Groza.
Everyone tracks the progress in the Heisman race, but Athlon Sports will try to keep an eye on who will take home college football’s positional awards.
Here’s our look at the “other” trophies through the ninth week of the season.
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Winston remains in contention for major awards at the end of the season, including the Heisman. While his on-field performance is among the country’s best, the redshirt freshman was revealed this week to be the subject of a sexual battery allegation dating back to late 2012.
Others: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Florida State’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty
Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey
Carey has rushed for at least 119 yards in every game this season, including a 28-carry, 149-yard mark against UCLA last week.
Others: Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, South Carolina’s Mike Davis, Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Boston College’s Andre Williams.
Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Texas A&M’s Mike Evans
Evans continued to build on his lead for top receiver honors by catching five passes for 116 yards against Mississippi State. Evans is one of two receivers with 50 receptions averaging better 20 yards per catch.
Others: Fresno State’s Davante Adams, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Penn State’s Allen Robinson
Mackey (Top tight end)
Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro
Amaro still wins the Mackey Award on the Athlon ballot even though the award committee considers him a receiver by his 2012 classification.
Others: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron
Outland (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Stanford’s David Yankey
The Cardinal’s grinding run game took control against Oregon last week as Stanford rushed for 274 yards on 66 carries behind Yankey and the Stanford line.
Others: Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
Nagurski/Bednarik (Defensive player of the year)
Our leader: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley
The leader of Alabama’s defense had perhaps his best game of the season with 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two pass breakups against LSU. Mosley’s 71 tackles is 33 more than anyone else on Alabama’s defense and leads the Tide with seven tackles for a loss.
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Missouri’s Michael Sam, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy
Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Mosley
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Missouri’s Michael Sam, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy
Butkus (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Mosley
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy
Thorpe (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard
Dennard had an interception and a forced fumble in Michigan State’s dominant defensive performance against Michigan. After an off week, Michigan State faces a Nebraska team without veteran quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Others: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner
Lou Groza (Top kicker)
Our leader: Niklas Sade, NC State
Sade has converted 19 of 22 field goals this season, the second-highest rate for anyone who has attempted 20. Only one miss was less than 48 yards.
Others: Florida State’s Robert Aguayo, Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin, Maryland’s Brad Craddock, Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt
Ray Guy (Top punter)
Our leader: Miami’s Pat O’Donnell
O’Donnell leads the nation at 47.9 yards per kick as Miami is fourth nationally in net punting.
Others: Ole Miss’ Tyler Campbell, Miami (Ohio)‘s Zac Murphy, Tennessee’s Michael Palardy
Freshman of the year
Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Winston is coming off a season-low 5.7 yards per attempt in the 59-3 rout of Wake Forest. The Seminoles freshman has five interceptions in his last four games and a new host of distractions.
Others: Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III, UCLA's Myles Jack
Coach of the year
Our leader: Baylor’s Art Briles
Baylor has only won one of its toughest four games down the stretch, but defeating Oklahoma, especially in a game where the offense started slow, signaled Baylor is as much of a national championship contender as Ohio State. Yes, that Baylor.
Others: Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Tulane’s Curtis Johnson, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, North Texas’ Dan McCarney, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel
Broyles Award (Top assistant)
Our leader: Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi
Narduzzi may have one of the best defenses of the BCS era with numbers that stack up with 2011 Alabama, 2008 TCU and 2008 USC. Michigan State pushed Michigan back for minus-48 yards rushing to improve its rush defense to 43.4 per game. Louisville is the only other team that averages fewer than 80 rushing yards per game.
Others: Baylor’s Phil Bennett, LSU’s Cam Cameron, Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, Texas’ Greg Robinson, Alabama’s Kirby Smart
The SEC East has been Injury Central this season with season-ending injuries derailing seasons for teams like Florida and Georgia. Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky haven’t exactly dodged the injury bug, either.
That division isn’t alone, of course. It’s mid-November and plenty of teams sending players to the training room or worse, the operating room.
A quick look around players who have suffered season-ending injuries reveals a pretty darn good team.
Here are the top players fans won’t have the joy of watching for the remainder of the year.
Athlon Sports 2013 All-Injured Team
QB Chukie Keeton, Utah State (knee)
One of the most dynamic players in the Mountain West saw his season end on Oct. 5 with torn knee ligaments sustained against BYU. Keeton led Utah State to a WAC title last season and had accounted for 20 total touchdowns (18 passing, two rushing) in six games in 2013. The injury not only cuts into the star power of the MWC, but it could also have BCS implications with Fresno State facing Boise State or a Keeton-less Utah State in the conference title game.
Others: David Ash (Texas), Austyn Carta-Samuels (Vanderbilt), Jeff Driskel (Florida), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska), Bryn Renner (North Carolina)
RB Duke Johnson, Miami (ankle)
Miami’s ACC championship hopes weren’t ended with a 41-14 loss to Florida State, but Johnson’s broken right ankle made winning the Coastal much tougher. Johnson had rushed for 960 yards and six touchdowns through seven games. The Hurricanes lost their first game without Johnson 42-24 to Virginia Tech.
Others: Johnathan Gray (Texas), Matt Jones (Florida), Venric Mark (Northwestern), Keith Marshall (Georgia)
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma (knee)
Millard, an All-Big 12 selection last season, was a do-it-all threat for Oklahoma. He could run, catch and line up in a handful of formations for the Sooners. In the second game without Millard, the Sooners mustered only one offensive touchdown in a 41-12 loss to Baylor.
WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland (leg)
The explosive sophomore receiver was supposed to be one of the key players to turn around the Terrapins this season, but those hopes were dashed after sustaining a broken right leg on Oct. 19. Making matters worse, second-leading receiver Deon Long also sustained a broken leg the same day. Diggs still had 236 more all-purpose yards than anyone else for Maryland.
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor (wrist)
One of Baylor’s two standout receivers, Reese sustained a dislocated wrist in the rout of Oklahoma on Thursday. Antwan Goodley is still leading the receiving corps, but Baylor, for all of its offensive production this season, does not have another receiver with 20 catches.
Others: Deon Long (Maryland), Malcolm Mitchell (Georgia), Justin Scott-Wesley (Georgia), Kasen Williams (Washington)
TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss (ankle)
A member of Ole Miss’ star-studded signing class, Engram saw his season end with an ankle injury on Oct. 19. Engram had caught 20 passes for 265 yards with three touchdowns.
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron in the Heisman race, where Stanford stands in the title race and make picks for Week 12 in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
A projected starter at left tackle, Davis was lost to a torn ACL before the season. The injury prompted a season-long shuffle on the Oklahoma State offensive line.
OL Chaz Green, Florida (shoulder)
A returning starter, Green was lost for the season due to a torn labrum. The Green injury, among others, cut into the depth of a suspect Gators offensive line.
OL Dan Feeney, Indiana (foot)
Feeney, a freshman All-American last season, was one of two starting linemen lost for Indiana the season, joining tackle Peyton Eckert.
OL Spencer Long, Nebraska (knee)
Nebraska lost its most experienced lineman on Oct. 15 when Long, a three-year starter at guard, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
OL Josh Williford, LSU
The veteran lineman’s career ended before the season started when he sustained his second concussion in a year during an August practice. Williford had started 19 games in his career and was slated to be a full-time starter at left guard.
Others: Kyle Lichtenberg (Iowa State), Ralph Oragwu (Houston)
DL Devonte Fields, TCU (foot)
The Big 12’s defensive freshman of the year started the season under a suspension and attempted to play through a foot injury when he returned. Fields, who had 10 sacks as a rookie, elected to have season-ending foot surgery on Oct. 9.
DL Dominique Easley, Florida (knee)
Easley was in the running for SEC Defensive Player of the Year before he suffered a torn ACL after three games. The junior elected to complete his eligibility and declare for the draft during his recovery.
DL Chris Whaley, Texas (knee)
Whaley had become one of the top defensive linemen for a Texas defense that had turned its fortunes since two early losses. He had five tackles for a loss and two defensive touchdowns when he was lost for the season to a knee injury last week.
DL Ben Gardner, Stanford (pectoral)
A scary thought for Oregon is that Stanford demolished the Ducks’ offense without one of its most experienced players. The fifth-year senior Gardner was lost for the season to a torn pectoral muscle sustained against Oregon State on Oct. 26.
Others: Kirby Ennis (Texas A&M), Junior Onyeali (Texas), Jordan Phillips (Arizona State)
LB Morgan Breslin, USC (hip)
One of the leaders on USC’s defense, Breslin was lost for at least the remainder of the regular season to a hip injury on Nov. 6. The defensive end/outside linebacker had eight tackles for a loss despite missing two games this season.
LB Jordan Hicks, Texas (Achilles)
Once considered the key player in Texas’ run defense, Hicks suffered a season-ending injury for the second time in two seasons.
LB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma (pectoral)
Nelson was the second-leading tackler on the top defense in the Big 12 when he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle against TCU on Oct. 5.
Others: Michael Doctor (Oregon State), Luke Knott (Iowa State), Antonio Morrison (Florida)
DB Christian Bryant, Ohio State (ankle)
The Buckeyes veteran safety suffered a broken ankle on the second-to-last snap of Ohio State’s biggest win of the season against Wisconsin. Bryant was considered one of the top leaders on the Buckeyes’ defense.
DB Tyler Hunter, Florida State (neck)
Florida State has had one of the top defensive backfields in the country, largely without the services of the starting safety Hunter. The junior suffered a bulging disk Sept. 21 against Bethune-Cookman.
DB Dexter McDougle, Maryland (shoulder)
Maryland’s injury issues started early this season when starting cornerback McDougle suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after recording eight tackles and an interception against Connecticut on Sept. 12
DB Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama (knee)
Sunseri was off to a great start this season with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first two games of the season. Sunseri suffered torn knee ligaments against Arkansas on Oct. 19, opening the door for star sophomore Landon Collins.
Others: Stefan McClure (Cal)
Art Briles has transformed Baylor from a struggling Big 12 program to a national title contender. And the 58-year-old coach has inked an extension with Baylor, bumping his salary to over $4 million a season.
The deal extends Briles’ contract with Baylor until 2023.
Considering Texas might be looking for a head coach in December, smart move on Baylor’s part to get this done and eliminate any doubt regarding Briles’ future in Waco.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is reportedly under investigation for sexual battery. The redshirt freshman is considered the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy, and is one of the key reasons why the Seminoles are in the national title mix this season.
Even though this story appeared on the radar on Wednesday, there is no change in Winston’s status, and he will play in Saturday’s game against Syracuse.
Although Winston is believed to be under investigation, there are a couple of important factors to note.
Winston has not been charged and was never questioned by the police about this incident.
Winston’s attorney indicated this investigation was previously closed.
The police description indicates the attacker is between 5'9 and 5'11 and 240 pounds. According to Florida State's roster, Winston is 6'4 and 228 pounds. Big difference.
Also, Florida State allowed Winston to speak the media on Wednesday night (about football matters only).
While that may not seem like a big deal, the program and coach Jimbo Fisher would not allow him to speak if there was concern about his status for the rest of the year.
Week 12 of the 2013 college football season will have a hard time matching the anticipating of Week 11. With national spotlight games in Oregon-Stanford, Oklahoma-Baylor and Alabama-LSU, Week 11 played a huge role in shaping the national championship picture.
Even if the slate is a little light in Week 12, there are still plenty of big games. And a few surprise outcomes should be expcted from around the nation on Saturday.
Athlon’s editors are back with another edition of the upset picks, and there are plenty of teams on alert this week.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 12 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): South Florida (+1.5) over Memphis
It’s really hard to call this an upset with a spread of just 1.5 points, but I’m surprised to see South Florida listed as an underdog. The Bulls started 0-4 but have two wins in American Athletic Conference play, and after losing 34-3 to Louisville, this team nearly won at Houston. South Florida has found a quarterback in freshman Mike White, who completed 26 of 41 throws for 311 yards and two touchdowns against the Cougars. The Bulls are holding opponents to just 24.8 points a game, but turnovers have been a huge problem for the offense, giving away 17 through three games. Much like South Florida, Memphis is struggling on offense (20.5 ppg in conference play), and the Tigers have lost 12 turnovers in American Athletic games. Points could be at a premium, but I’ll take South Florida and an improving offense to win on Saturday.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Georgia (+4.5) over Auburn
The Dawgs are starting to get healthy and still have a good shot at the SEC Championship game if and when Missouri loses. Aaron Murray's supporting cast is as complete as it has been since the early weeks of the season and he should have his full compliment of weapons on Saturday. Gus Malzahn has done an extremely good job rebuilding Auburn in short order, but his team will need to complete more than three passes to defeat Georgia — a team that has beaten the Tigers 83-7 the last two years. Both teams should be able to run the ball effectively but Murray has the ability to make big plays with his arm when needed where Nick Marshall still needs to prove his ability to create balance. And, frankly, the look ahead factor might be in play for Auburn with Alabama as their next game (in two weeks).
Mark Ross: USC (+3.5) over Stanford
I know what you're thinking. How could I possibly pick a USC team that fired its head coach earlier in the season over a Stanford squad that is still riding high off of last week's upset win over previously undefeated Oregon? Well for one, interim Trojans head coach Ed Orgeron has his boys playing pretty good football. The Men of Troy have won three in a row and have looked more and more impressive with every game. It never was about a lack of talent for USC, it was a matter of getting everyone on the same page, reducing the mistakes (especially the mental ones) and rediscovering that competitive fire. Somehow, someway Orgeron has done just that, as the Trojans are already guaranteed of a bowl berth and still have an outside shot of winning the Pac-12 South division. USC is basically playing with house money, which means the Trojans really have nothing to lose Saturday night in the Coliseum. The same can't be said for Stanford, which can't afford another loss as it applies to both the Pac-12 North race and the Cardinal's BCS hopes. There's no question all of the pressure is on Stanford, which makes the Cardinal a prime candidate for an emotional letdown. Orgeron has proven that this USC team is talented enough to win. If the Trojans can capitalize on this seemingly ideal opportunity for an upset, he will have made a strong case for shedding the "interim" tag in his title as well.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Kansas (+7) over West Virginia
I will start by saying this is not a great crop of potential upsets this week, especially once you get past the three-point spreads. Kansas at home against West Virginia may be as good an upset pick as any. West Virginia has been dreadful away from Morgantown. The Mountaineers’ only road/neutral win this season was over a lackluster TCU team, and the Mountaineers coughed up a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to go to overtime. The injuries have piled up for West Virginia all year, and now starting quarterback Clint Trickett is returning from a shoulder injury. Throw in the deflating loss in overtime to Texas last week, and all the ingredients are there for a West Virginia letdown. Kansas isn’t even an average team by any means, but the Jayhawks have returned two of their best players in Ben Heeney and Tony Pierson in recent weeks.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Michigan (+3) over Northwestern
Want to know the last time Northwestern was favored over Michigan? Over the course of 71 all-time meetings starting in 1892, Northwestern has NEVER been favored in this matchup between two Big Ten founding members. The Wildcats will get three points at home despite being losers of five straight games. Northwestern hasn't won since September 21 against Maine and has opened conference play at 0-5. Despite the struggles, four of the team's five losses have been by an average of 5.75 points, including Nebraska's Hail Mary two weeks ago. Michigan hasn't looked too hot as of late, especially on the offensive side of the ball where they managed just 19 points and -69 rushing yards over the last two games. It's the first time in Michigan history where they have recorded back-to-back games with negative rushing totals. From 2000-12, Michigan had one game with negative rushing yards. In fact, before the two-game slide the Wolverines had gone 12 consecutive contests by rushing for at least 100 yards. After absorbing his first loss ever at Michigan Stadium, I expect Brady Hoke to have his team prepared and hungry for some redemption. Despite their rushing struggles, I simply like this Michigan offense, which still averages 35 points per game, better than the Northwestern offense. Ultimately, I think Northwestern is even more of a mess than Michigan right now and will miss out on a sixth-straight bowl appearance.
“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, / He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game,” Grantland Rice famously wrote in his 1908 poem, “Alumnus Football.”
Not everyone in sports has lived by those words, obviously. The ongoing bullying saga between the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has brought several issues from the secretive shadows of an NFL locker room to the blindingly expansive spotlight of the national media.
With that mind, these are the 25 biggest bullies in sports history:
25. Richie Incognito
A threatening, profanity-laced, half-N-bomb, yo-mamma voicemail left for his Miami Dolphins O-linemate Jonathan Martin moved Incognito from “NFL’s Dirtiest Player” to “Notorious B.U.L.L.Y.”
24. Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The “Intimidator” was quick to remind his competition to “put a kerosene rag around your ankles so the ants won’t climb up there and eat that candy ass.” Dale Sr. had no problem putting other cars into the wall with his No. 3 Monte Carlo.
23. Michael Jordan
Isiah Thomas was bullied off the Dream Team; Steve Kerr was punched in the face; Jerry Krause’s Croatian sensation Toni Kukoc was harassed; and a teenage Kwame Brown was broken down to tears by “His Airness.” Plus, MJ absolutely abused everyone in the NBA during his reign.
22. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sports Illustrated declared Mayweather “a bully, one neatly wrapped in a cut 5-foot-8, 147-pound package. Like most bullies, Mayweather is intimidating. He sends promoters, managers and networks cowering in the corner with the mere threat of withholding his services. He holds the boxing world hostage by saying he will take his gloves and go home unless the fight isn’t when he wants, where he wants and at what weight he wants. He perpetuates a lie … because he is confident in the fact that no one in the industry will stand up to him.”
21. Randy Savage
“Oooooh, yeah!” The “Macho Man” broke into the WWF as a heel who bullied the “First Lady of Wrestling,” Miss Elizabeth, and was quick to “snap into” anyone who dared look at his manager.
20. Kermit Washington
“The Punch” nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich but also inspired the John Feinstein book, The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.
19. Ron Artest
The Artest currently known as “Metta World Peace” was not always the lovable, flagrant-fouling, elbow-throwing, physical defender we know today. He was once the instigator of the infamous “Malice at the Palace.” That poor fat fan in the stands didn’t stand a chance.
18. Quinton Jackson
“Rampage” is a terror in and outside the ring. Making countless MMA fighters tap out, dry-humping ring girls and driving on the sidewalk during an extended police chase.
17. Todd Bertuzzi
The consummate goon and longtime NHL enforcer, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s hockey career with a sucker punch in 2004.
16. Jack Tatum
“The Assassin” paralyzed Darryl Stingley with a vicious hit over the middle in 1978. Tatum was the leader of a gang of bullies in the Oakland Raiders' secondary who were known for headhunting.
15. Vince McMahon
The Chairman and CEO of the WWE is a marketing genius, but he has no problem taking a metaphorical folding chair (or a real folding chair) to the back of anyone standing in his way. McMahon has bullied and bulldozed his way to the top of the ropes. Look out below.
14. Ndamukong Suh
The Albert Haynesworth 2.0 of dirty defensive tackles, Suh saves his worst for Thanksgiving dinner, stomping in 2011 and kicking in '12. He's also bullied friends and cable guys off the field, making Suh arguably the young bully with the most upside.
13. Bill Romanowski
Romo was psycho — spitting on opponents, beating up teammates and causing widespread chaos everywhere he roamed. Romanowski's rage was often steroid-fueled, as the linebacker told "60 Minutes" he received the juice from none other than Victor Conte himself.
12. John Kreese
Cobra Kai's screw-loose leader had a simple instruction: "Sweep the leg."
11. Daniel Snyder
The Washington Post's Dave McKenna documented Snyder's bullying from A to Z, reminding us why the Redskins owner is everyone's least favorite NFL power player.
10. Bob Gibson
Don't crowd the plate or drive reckless when Gibson is in fastball range. The two-time Cy Young winner and 1968 NL MVP has no patience. After years of plunking batters to establish his dominance on the mound, Gibson was cited for assault in a road rage case in 2002 after establishing he was king of the road.
9. Bill Laimbeer
Laimbeer was the dirtiest of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," a group that also included noted bullies like Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn. Motown's modus operandi in the late 1980s and early '90s was to punish anyone who dared take the ball to the rim — looking at you, Michael. There were even "Jordan Rules" used to intimidate the Pistons' fiercest rival from Chicago.
8. Mike Tyson
"Iron Mike" was the youngest heavyweight champion (20 years, 4 months) in history and one of the most feared fighters of all time. With 44 KOs in 50 career wins, Tyson was a bully among bullies. The tortured champ was also convicted of rape in 1991 and served three years in the penitentiary. And one more thing… Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in Las Vegas back in 1997.
7. Broad Street Bullies
Philadelphia Bulletin scribes Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone coined the "Broad Street Bullies" nickname for the Philadelphia Flyers crew back in 1973. HBO Films made a documentary about the team that included Hart Trophy winner Bobby Clake.
6. Ty Cobb
Always angry? Check. Documented racist? Check. Slides into bases with his spikes up? Oh yeah. "I was the most hated man in baseball," Cobb famously told biographer Al Stump. Cobb was proud of his bullying.
5. Tonya Harding
The surreal attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 made Harding and her goon ex-husband Jeff Gillooly a national scandal. After finishing eighth (to Kerrigan's silver medal) at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Harding has gone on to a hodgepodge of pro wrestling and amateur boxing.
4. Lance Armstrong
"Live Strong" to beat testicular cancer. Blood dope to win seven Tours de France. Sue anyone who dares speak the truth about said blood doping. Most important, never apologize for anything — even if you're on Oprah. Because of Lance, millions of American sports fans will never again watch the Tour de France.
3. Bobby Knight
With his sideline, chair-throwing tirades, Robert Montgomery Knight evolved into the stereotypical coach who takes himself too seriously and uses his position of power to bully those cowering beneath.
2. Roger Goodell
The "Ginger Hammer" will not rest until the NFL has become a flag football league with an 18-game schedule and a team in London.
1. Sheila Kelly
Sure, Rutgers' Mike Rice also bullied his team past the breaking point. But Middle Delaware State women's basketball coach Sheila Kelly is the worst.
Hawaii is looking for a spark after an 0-9 start, and the Warriors plan to go retro for Saturday’s game against San Diego State.
Norm Chow’s team will break out the Rainbow Warrior look on Saturday night. Check out these retro uniforms that Hawaii plans to wear against the Aztecs:
Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
Max Bullough, LB vs. Ameer Abdullah, RB (Michigan State at Nebraska)
Sparty gets after the quarterback and will shut down the running game, so it falls to the Nebraska front line to protect an inexperienced quarterback and generate running lanes for Ameer Abdullah. The Big Ten’s leading rusher has come up big in huge spots over the last two weeks for the Huskers and this will be his toughest test to date in 2013. Bullough leads a Michigan State defense that gives up 43.4 yards rushing, 210.2 yards of total offense and 11.6 points per game.
Trent Murphy, LB vs. Chad Wheeler, OT (Stanford at USC)
The Trojans haven’t been able to protect the quarterback this year, ranking 83rd nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.3 spg). Wheeler is a 6-foot-7, 280-pound redshirt freshman who will be charged with protecting Cody Kessler’s blindside against the Stanford rush. Murphy leads a loaded Cardinal front seven that is surging right now, ranking fourth nationally in sacks per game (3.3 spg). Stanford has allowed just 153 combined rushing yards to UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon the last three weeks, so the Trojans' offensive line will have to play its best game of the season to 1) protect the quarterback and 2) run the football effectively.
Todd Gurley, RB vs. Cassanova McKinzy, LB (Georgia at Auburn)
We’re not breaking news here, but Gurley — when healthy — is one of the elite offensive players in college football. He missed three games with a ankle injury; Georgia lost two and won the other in overtime. He returned two weeks ago against Florida and keyed the Bulldogs’ win, rushing for 100 yards on 17 carries and catching three passes for 87 yards and a score. It’s pretty simple: Georgia is much more explosive when Gurley is in the lineup. McKinzy is the Tigers' leading tackler and has 17 total stops in his last two games. He and the rest of his young front seven will have their hands full with Gurley.
Desmond Roland, RB vs. Steve Edmond, LB (Oklahoma St at Texas)
The Pokes' tailback has started to take over in the running game for Oklahoma State. He has carried 73 times for 359 yards and eight touchdowns over his last three. Edmond is the physical leader and top tackler for the Longhorns' defense. He posted 12 tackles last week in the overtime win over West Virginia as well as the game-clinching interception. Both play with a hard-nosed attitude and they should meet head-to-head in the hole many times this weekend. With injuries along the front for Texas, Edmond becomes even more important this weekend with a shot at the Big 12 title on the line.
Shaq Thompson, LB vs. Brett Hundley, QB (Washington at UCLA)
Thompson, Princeton Fuimaono and John Timu are the top three tacklers for the Huskies this season. They have faced Marcus Mariota, Taylor Kelly, Nathan Scheelhaase, B.J. Denker and Kevin Hogan and UCLA’s Brett Hundley is as good as any of them. Hundley has scored seven total touchdowns over the last two games and reading run-pass quickly and effectively will be huge for U of W this weekend against a team lacking in skill position talent.
Stephen Morris, QB vs. Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
With running back Duke Johnson sidelined, Miami struggled to run the ball in last week’s loss to Virginia Tech. Without their top rusher for the rest of the year, the Hurricanes could ask more of Morris. The senior averaged 20.3 yards per completion against the Hokies last week and threw for 324 yards and two scores. Cockrell is one of the ACC’s top cornerbacks, recording 33 stops and two interceptions in 2013. Expect Cockrell to be matched up against wide receiver Allen Hurns or Stacy Coley most of the game, and it’s up to the Blue Devils' senior leader to keep those two receivers in check, as well as force Morris into a few bad throws.
Georgia Linebackers vs. Nick Marshall, QB (Georgia at Auburn)
It’s not often that a player has the opportunity to play against his former school. It’s even more rare — if it’s ever happened at all —when that player is a quarterback after playing a different position at his previous school. Well, that’s Marshall’s story. The former defensive back at Georgia is now running the show for Auburn, the most improved team in the nation. He is coming off of a brilliant performance at Tennessee, when he rushed for 214 yards and two scores on only 14 carries. Marshall hasn’t been asked to throw the ball a ton, but he did throw for 339 yards against Mississippi State and 200-plus against LSU and Texas A&M. Georgia coach Mark Richt compared Auburn’s rushing attack to Georgia Tech’s triple-option. The alignment isn’t the same, but the plan of attack is similar — the offense is “accounting for just about every single guy on your team,” Richt said, because the quarterback has the ability to run the ball. When Marshall initiates the action, a defender has to account for him and another defender has to account for the running back. What does this have to do with Georgia’s linebackers? A lot. This group will have to play with discipline and be able to tackle in space.
In front of a national audience tonight on the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football," Andrew Luck takes his division-leading 6-3 Colts to Nashville to take on Chris Johnson and the 4-5 Tennessee Titans at LP Field at 8:25 p.m. ET. Last week the Titans were upset at home by previously winless Jacksonville, losing three fumbles on their way to four total turnovers. Meanwhile, Indianapolis fared no better as they committed five turnovers in falling to St. Louis in lopsided fashion, 38-8.
This is the 37th all-time meeting between the two franchises, beginning when the Colts were in Baltimore and the Titans were in Houston as the Oilers. The Colts hold a 23-13 series advantage, including eight of the last nine highlighted by season sweeps in 2009, '10 and '12.
3 Things to Watch
Is the Trent Richardson trade officially a bust?
3.0 for a first-round pick. In essence that's what the Colts have acquired this season. 3.0 yards per carry from Trent Richardson. He has carried the ball 88 times for 250 yards for an average that has him topping only two backs with over 100 carries this year — Ray Rice's 2.51 yards per carry and Willis McGahee's 2.6. Richardson had five carries for two rushing yards last week and is clearly not the Colts' top halfback option in key situations. He has yet to post more than 60 yards rushing in any game this year and his longest run is 16 yards, one of only four runs over 10 yards on the season. With a poor showing against the Titans' 26th-ranked rush defense, it will probably be time to officially label the trade — and possibly Richardson — as a bust.
Can Andrew Luck return to form?
The second-year quarterback is averaging over 240 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdowns to just six interceptions this year; however, three of those came last week against St. Louis. Luck has had a bit of trouble adjusting without Reggie Wayne, who was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL following the Denver game. Since Wayne exited the lineup, Luck has competed just 54 percent of his passes. His favorite targets have become T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener. Luck has targeted Hilton 20 times in the past two games and the second-year wide receiver has rewarded him with 251 yards and three touchdowns. On the other hand, Fleener has been targeted 15 times in this span, but has just made seven catches for 97 yards. As defenses begin to roll coverages toward Hilton, Luck will need to find a way to spread the ball to others as 45 percent of all his completions go to either Hilton or Fleener. The former Stanford Cardinal will have his hands full against the NFL's eighth-ranked pass defense. The Titans allow just 211.3 passing yards per game and have given up only seven touchdowns through the air, by far the fewest in the league. Expect Alterraun Verner to be hanging all over Hilton. Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard should be in position to be giving safety help over the top as the Titans won't have to load up the box to defend against the run.
No Jake Locker
After injuring his hip in Week 4 against the Jets, it was initially thought Locker would miss close to two months. Locker made a quick recovery and was in the middle of his third straight start this past Saturday when he went down with a foot injury early in the game. It was revealed to be a devastating Lisfranc injury, which puts an end to Locker's season and likely to his career as a Titan. When looking at the stats, it seems pretty obvious that the Titans have been worse under Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tennessee is 0-3 in the games where Fitzpatrick has seen a majority of the action. The Harvard grad threw two interceptions in each of his two starts. But let's remember that his two starts came against Kansas City and Seattle, teams who own two of the best defenses and best records in the entire league. Against Jacksonville, Fitzpatrick looked much better as he completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Fitzpatrick has gotten almost no help from his running game in the three games where he was the team's primary quarterback, as the Titans have averaged just 84.6 yards rushing in these games. That's nearly 26 yards away from their season average, which ranks them as the 11th-best rushing offense in the NFL.
Key Player for Indianapolis: Vontae Davis, CB
In the past two weeks Davis has been absolutely torched by Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and the Rams' Tavon Austin. Davis bit bad on a double-move by Johnson in the Week 9 game, as he was wide open for a 72-yard touchdown from Case Keenum. On Johnson's third touchdown of the first half he out-fought the 5-10 corner on a fade route in the back left corner of the end zone. Last week, Davis was burnt twice by the rookie Austin. First, Austin simply blew by him on a go route for a 57-yard touchdown, on a play where it looked like Davis must've been expecting some safety help over the top. Austin's final touchdown of the day, an 81-yarder, happened after Davis failed to keep up with Austin on a drag route across the middle. Even more concerning than all the touchdowns he's giving up is the explosive nature of the plays Davis is allowing. Allowing three 50+ yard touchdowns in a two-week span is not a recipe for success, especially when Davis hasn't even been close to the receiver on any of these occasions. Davis did hold Denver's Demaryius Thomas to just three catches for 51 yards, but that was three games ago. Kendall Wright, a receiver in the mold of Austin, and Nate Washington, who is averaging over 16 yards per catch, wait in the wings. A few big plays through the air may be too much for the Colts to overcome.
Key Player for Tennessee: Chris Johnson, RB
After it appeared he had turned the corner two weeks ago with his first 100-yard rushing performance against St. Louis, Johnson took a massive step back against the the NFL's worst rushing defense, which is surrendering 153 yards per game on the ground. Johnson rushed just 12 times for 30 yards, with a long of just six yards. For a back that was once a 2,000-yard rusher and an electric playmaker, neither 3.6 yards per carry nor two touchdowns isn't very impressive. If the Titans want to win they need to control the clock and keep Andrew Luck and a Colts offense that has scored at least 20 points in seven of its nine games off of the field.
Both teams have disappointed in that they haven't been able to run the football this year. The Colts should be able to win this game without a rushing attack, however, as Andrew Luck is capable of carrying this football team. On the other hand, the Titans must have a viable running game to be successful. This is especially true when you consider that Tennessee will be starting Ryan Fitzpatrick, its backup quarterback, and that, without any ground threat, Robert Mathis, the NFL's leading sacker, will pin his ears back and have a field day.
If Luck can avoid turnovers and keep the Tennessee defense honest by spreading the ball around to receivers not named T.Y. Hilton, then I think he will be able to pick apart this Titans defense. The Colts will need to get things going early as they are notoriously slow starters. They have been down in the first quarter by double digits against Miami, Seattle and Houston. Ultimately, however, the Colts will bounce back and improve their playoff resume, while a loss almost certainly ends Tennessee's postseason hopes.
Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 23
Oklahoma State and Texas will meet this week in a game with Big 12 title implications at stake just as everyone projected back in August.
It just wasn’t pegged that way back in September.
Back on Sept. 28, Oklahoma State had lost to West Virginia and looked unimpressive on offense. A week earlier, Texas had defeated Kansas State for its first win after the embarrassment of lopsided losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
In other words, neither team looked like it would head into Nov. 16 playing a game of significance. But both programs adjusted. Mack Brown changed a defensive coordinator by choice and changed a quarterback by chance, and Mike Gundy shuffled his backfield.
Now Oklahoma State’s trip to Austin, where the Cowboys have won their last two meetings, is of utmost importance in the Big 12 championship race.
Week 12 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 12 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, All games Saturday
1. Oklahoma State at Texas (3:30 p.m., Fox)
In the week before one of its most important games of the season, Texas this week may have been dealt its biggest blow since the back-to-back losses against BYU and Ole Miss in September. The Longhorns needed overtime to beat West Virginia, but lost defensive tackle Chris Whaley and running back Johnathan Gray in the process. Desmond Jackson stepped in for Whaley to pick up eight tackles, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble, and the running back position has experienced depth. But the losses could be a momentum-stopper. On defense, the Longhorns have already lost linebacker Jordan Hicks for the season. Oklahoma State isn’t without its injury issues, too, as top receiver Josh Stewart was sidelined early in the week with a foot injury. Clint Chelf passed for a season-high 265 yards with three touchdowns despite no catches from Stewart last week, but that came against Kansas.
2. Texas Tech vs. Baylor in Arlington (7 p.m., Fox)
At one point, Baylor hoped this game would boost the Bears’ late-season schedule. Instead, Texas Tech is fighting to stay relevant after three consecutive losses. For a Bears team with national championship aspirations, maybe Texas Tech’s decline isn’t such a bad thing at this point of the year. Baylor came out of the Oklahoma game licking its wounds with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin hurt (the pair of running backs are day to day) and a regular season-ending injury to Tevin Reese (dislocated wrist). In place of Seastrunk and Martin, redshirt freshman Shock Linwood did fine in his first extended duty of the season with 182 yards on 23 carries against the Sooners. Meanwhile, Texas Tech has its own questions. The Red Raiders pulled starting quarterback Davis Webb to return Baker Mayfield to the role. Mayfield completed 34 of 44 passes for 276 yards with two interceptions in his first action since Oct. 5.
3. TCU at Kansas State (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net)
Kansas State’s run game has asserted itself during its three-game winning streak, but the Wildcats’ opponents (West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech) during that span all allow at least 170 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. TCU has the top run defense in the Big 12 at 125.2 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. For TCU, the Horned Frogs’ offense has been boosted by the return of quarterback Casey Pachall, which has enabled former starting QB Trevone Boykin to become a multi-faceted threat on offense. Boykin rushed for three touchdowns in the win over Iowa State and had 100 receiving yards in the loss to West Virginia.
4. Iowa State at Oklahoma (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Facing an opponent like Iowa State at home comes at a good time for Oklahoma. The Sooners are feeling the heat after an uncompetitive 41-12 loss to Baylor on Thursday. The offense is again under the microscope after putting up a combined three offensive touchdowns and four interceptions against Texas and Baylor. All signs point to Blake Bell remaining the starting quarterback, but Trevor Knight entered the game for a handful of running plays. Sophomore Kendal Thompson, who competed for the job in the preseason, also has not seen the field this season. Expect the Sooners' run game to rebound more than anything against the 103rd-ranked run defense in the country.
Related: OU's Heupel is among the top coordinators on the hot seat
5. West Virginia at Kansas (noon, Fox Sports Net)
West Virginia is fighting for bowl eligibility against the two teams winless in conference play in Kansas and Iowa State. The Mountaineers have been beat up in the last two weeks, splitting a pair of overtime games against TCU and Texas. West Virginia, though, hopes to get Clint Trickett back after the starting quarterback was knocked out of the loss to Texas with a shoulder injury. West Virginia is 1-4 away from Morgantown with opponents outscoring the Mountaineers 188-91.
Big 12 Week 12 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss where Baylor should fall in the rankings and make picks for Oklahoma State-Texas in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Two key reasons Oklahoma State and Texas recovered from early missteps to compete for a Big 12 championship is line play. The Longhorns are averaging a Big 12-best four sacks per game in conference play. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ offensive line has come together after speed bumps early in the season, starting when projected starter Devin Davis was lost to injury during the preseason. With an established six-man rotation, the line has helped stabilize the run game in recent weeks for the Cowboys. This will be the Cowboys' toughest test up front since rushing for fewer than 100 yards against Kansas State and TCU.
Case McCoy, Texas
The absence of Johnathan Gray puts more on who’s left at running back, but also on McCoy. Texas is probably better off when McCoy is attempting fwer than 30 passes, but the Longhorns needed him to complete 27 of 49 passes to beat West Virginia in overtime last week. The senior has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions in his last four games. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State ranks second in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense, thanks in part to 12 interceptions in six conference games.
Levi Norwood, Baylor
Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have 77 catches between them this season. No one else for Baylor has more than 19. With Reese out until the postseason, junior Levi Norwood is the top inside receiver. Norwood came up big against Oklahoma with a 17-yard touchdown catch to give Baylor a 31-5 lead in the third quarter.
Paul Dawson, TCU
Dawson has been the breakout player for the TCU defense this season, leading the Horned Frogs with nine tackles for a loss. He had four stops behind the line in the last two weeks against West Virginia and Iowa State, but Kansas State’s run game and offensive line has hit its stride in recent games. The Wildcats will bring three legitimate run threats against TCU in running back John Hubert, who rushed for a season-high 157 yards last week, and quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters.
Tyler Anderson, West Virginia
In the continuing story of injuries for West Virginia, linebacker Jared Barber, who was second on the team with 71 tackles, is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Fifth-year senior Tyler Anderson, who has two career starts, likely takes some of his snaps inside. Kansas is struggling on offense, but the Jayhawks returned running back/wide receiver Tony Pierson, their top player, last week.
Big 12 Week 12 Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|West Virginia (-6.5) at Kansas||WVU 28-10||WVU 34-10||WVU 38-20||WVU 41-17|
|Iowa State (+24) at Oklahoma||OU 31-13||OU 34-10||OU 45-17||OU 31-21|
|Oklahoma State (-3) at Texas||OSU 27-17||OSU 38-30||OSU 34-30||Texas 27-24|
|TCU (+10.5) at Kansas State||KSU 27-14||KSU 34-10||KSU 34-20||KSU 30-20|
|Texas Tech (+27) vs. Baylor||Baylor 49-24||Baylor 54-20||Baylor 55-31||Baylor 58-30|
There is no marquee top-five showdown out West like last weekend, but Week 12 features critical survival games for much of the league’s contenders. Oregon must survive against upset-minded Utah with their star quarterback’s health in question. UCLA must hold serve at home against a very talented Huskies squad. The same for both Arizona and Arizona State in the desert against two excellent passing attacks.
But the Stanford Cardinal will have the toughest task of the week now as the top team in the league. One loss will send Oregon to the Pac-12 title game and a road trip to USC is the final Pac-12 test for David Shaw’s squad (no disrespect to Cal).
Pac-12 Week 12 Game Power Rankings
1. Stanford (-3.5) at USC (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Ed Orgeron has done some great things with USC since taking over for Lane Kiffin, but this will be by far his toughest challenge to date. His offense has been scoring nearly 40 points per game in four Pac-12 wins but must face the hottest defense in the nation. The Cardinal have posted 15.0 sacks and forced five turnovers against UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon over the last three weeks. Cody Kessler has shown marked improvement but will need to distribute the football quickly to a host of talented weapons because he won’t have much time to throw — USC ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed (23.0). Without Jim Harbaugh or Pete Carroll here to spark the rivalry, this matchup has lost some luster, but Orgeron is making sure the Trojans go down swinging this year. An upset win over Stanford puts USC right in the heart of the Pac-12 South race at 5-2. Look for another heavy dose of Tyler Gaffney from Stanford, who posted a school-record 45 carries last week in the upset of Oregon.
2. Washington (+3) at UCLA (Fri., 9 p.m., ESPN2)
The Rick Neuheisel Bowl carries some serious weight for both coaching staffs. Jim Mora still has eyes on the Pac-12 South title as games with Arizona State and USC loom large in the final two weeks. And Steve Sarkisian needs to prove he can do better than 7-6. Both teams found out the hard way how good Stanford and Oregon were but both have bounced back nicely with back-to-back conference wins. Two red-hot quarterbacks will go head-to-head and should steal the headlines Friday night. Washington’s Keith Price has two consecutive 300-yard passing games and hasn’t thrown a pick in three games, while UCLA’s Brett Hundley has seven total touchdowns in his last two games. Both defenses have star power, both teams play physical football and both teams desperately need a win. Sounds like a recipe for a primetime thriller.
3. Oregon State (+13.5) at Arizona State (9:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Strangely enough, Mike Riley’s team might actually be excited about playing on the road this weekend. The Beavers are 4-0 on the road and just 2-3 in Corvallis in 2013. However, OSU should be careful what it wishes for as Arizona State is one of the best home teams in the nation. The Sun Devils are averaging 51.2 points and 544 yards of offense in five home games as opposed to 34.3 points and 423.5 yards per game away from Sun Devils Stadium. Oregon State has won four out of five in this matchup but lost its last trip to Tempe, 35-20 in 2011. Quarterback play will be the difference. Sean Mannion, the nation’s leading passer, has struggled of late, failing to reach 300 yards each of the last two games. Taylor Kelly, meanwhile, has scored two rushing touchdowns in three straight games and has a 10:2 TD:INT ratio during the four-game winning steak. More importantly, he led his team on two long, fourth-quarter scoring drives to come from behind last weekend in Salt Lake City. With an extra week, expect the Beavers to be ready to play, but Mannion will have to be flawless to pull the upset.
4. Utah (+25) at Oregon (4 p.m., FS1)
Want to know how important Marcus Mariota is to the Ducks? Oregon is a 25-point favorite if he plays and a seven-point favorite if he doesn’t. The star quarterback is worth roughly three touchdowns and his partially torn left MCL is all anyone is talking about in Eugene. Mariota claims he is “for sure” ready to go against Utah but he clearly wasn’t the same player against Stanford as he had been all season. He posted a career-low minus-16 yards on the ground in the loss. The Ducks still have a very real shot at the Pac-12 title should Stanford slip up this weekend on a tough road trip to USC. Utah is fighting for its postseason life and continues to come up short. Last week's 20-19 defeat at the hands of Arizona State was the Utes' third Pac-12 loss by one score or less. Travis Wilson will have to play the best game of his young career to have a chance to upset Oregon — Mariota or not.
5. Washington State (+13) at Arizona (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
After three straight wins, the Wildcats came up five points short of entering the Pac-12 South championship mix last week against UCLA. A win over Wazzu this weekend is a must if Rich Rodriguez wants to post a winning record in 2013 — Arizona gets Oregon and Arizona State in the final two weeks. His dynamic backfield of B.J. Denker and Ka’Deem Carey will be on full display against a Cougars defense that has allowed 665 yards rushing in its last two games. The bye week won’t be enough time for Mike Leach to stop Washington State’s three-game losing streak.
6. Cal (+3) at Colorado (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Someone has to win, right? The Buffs and Bears are a combined 0-13 in Pac-12 play this season under first-year head coaches thus far. Neither team has really challenged anyone in the league but both Mike MacIntyre and Sonny Dykes are well-respected offensive minds. This is likely the only chance for either to get a conference win.
Pac-12 Week 12 Pivotal Players:
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox preview discuss where Stanford should be ranked and Marcus Mariota's Heisman hopes on this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
The Trojans haven’t been able to protect the quarterback this year, ranking 83rd nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.3 spg). Stanford’s loaded front seven is surging right now, ranking fourth nationally in sacks per game (3.3 spg). Stanford has allowed just 153 combined rushing yards to UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon the last three weeks, so the Trojans' offensive line will have to play its best game of the season to 1) protect the quarterback and 2) run the football effectively.
2. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
The forgotten man on the Stanford offense will be called upon to make plays against a USC defense that has been excellent this season, particularly at home. USC is seventh nationally with 30.0 sacks on the season and is giving up just 86 yards rushing per game at home. So if the Men of Troy are geared up to stop workhorse Tyler Gaffney, it becomes Hogan’s responsibility to make plays through the air — something he hasn’t needed to do of late. Hogan has just 15 completions over the last two games.
3. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
One of the hottest names in college football could be in for yet another big performance against Washington. Jack is a star freshman linebacker with 63 total tackles this season but Mora has decided to give him a look on offense with his depleted depth chart. Jack answered the call with 120 yards rushing and a key TD last week in Arizona. The freshman two-way star has elite athletic ability, so keep an eye on No. 30 all night.
4. Washington’s linebackers
Shaq Thompson, Princeton Fuimaono and John Timu are the top three tacklers for the Huskies this season. They have faced Marcus Mariota, Taylor Kelly, Nathan Scheelhaase, B.J. Denker and Kevin Hogan already and UCLA’s Brett Hundley is as good as any of them. Reading run-pass quickly and effectively will be huge for U of W this weekend against a team lacking in skill position talent.
5. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State
If the Sun Devils can stop the run and get pressure on quarterback Sean Mannion, they will win going away at home against the Beavers. Oregon State has lost two straight due in large part to ineffective pass protection and a lack of any balance. The Beavers have allowed 10.0 sacks and rushed for 109 combined yards in two straight losses. Sutton is coming off one the best games of his season after 9.0 tackles, 1.0 for a loss and a critical interception in the one-point win over Utah.
Pac-12 Week 12 Predictions:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Stanford (-3.5) at USC||Stanford, 31-13||USC, 24-20||Stanford, 27-20||Stanford, 28-17|
|Washington (+3) at UCLA||UCLA, 34-31||UCLA, 37-30||UCLA, 34-30||UCLA, 31-21|
|Oregon St (+13.5) at Arizona St||Arizona St, 45-21||Arizona St, 28-20||Arizona St, 41-31||Arizona St, 42-31|
|Utah (+25) at Oregon||Oregon, 42-17||Oregon, 31-17||Oregon, 45-17||Oregon, 31-13|
|Washington St (+13) at Arizona||Arizona, 41-28||Arizona, 38-23||Arizona, 41-27||Arizona, 35-21|
|Cal (+3) at Colorado||Colorado, 42-38||Cal, 37-30||Colorado, 38-34||Colorado, 32-28|