Articles By All
With five weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is surrounded in uncertainty.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
While only five weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 5 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first five weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks, especially as the heart of conference play arrives in October.
College Football's Post-Week 5 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| Nevada vs.|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs.|
| UTSA vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
|Boise State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Air Force vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| ULL vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| FAU vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
|Colorado State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Rice vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs. |
| North Carolina vs. |
|Bitcoin St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| UCF vs. |
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs. |
| Temple vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Duke vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Virginia vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs.|
| Tennessee vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs.|
|West Virginia vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| TCU vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Ohio State vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American/Army vs.|
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Miami vs. |
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
|Kansas State vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
|Texas vs. |
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
| Florida vs. |
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Arkansas State vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Auburn vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| UCLA vs. |
|Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Florida State vs. |
| Alabama vs. |
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
* Indicates conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams.
The Pac-12 has reversed its fortunes among the major conferences, but there remains an area where the league is lagging.
Remember, this is a league that is two years removed from sending only two teams to the NCAA Tournament, its regular season champion not among them.
That has changed with 11 NCAA Tournament teams during the last two seasons, three more than the previous three seasons combined.
Getting to the Tournament is one thing. Advancing is another. No active Pac-12 coach has a Final Four appearance. Every other major basketball conference (the Power 5, plus the American and Big East) have at least two Final Four coaches. The ACC alone has 30 Final Four appearances spread among five coaches.
That figures to change eventually, as Arizona’s Sean Miller has twice reached the Elite Eight since arriving in the Pac-12.
Even without a ton of trophies, the Pac-12 cast of coaches is interesting: Miller is the star here, but Tad Boyle and Larry Krystkowiak have proven themselves program-builders in the last four years. Johnny Dawkins and Herb Sendek resurrected their tenures with NCAA appearances last year.
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
1. Sean Miller, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 129-48 (.729)
NCAA Tournament: 14-7
Number to note: Miller has reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five trips at Arizona and Xavier. The only two times he’s failed to reach the Sweet 16 were his first two NCAA appearances with Musketeers.
Why he’s ranked here: Miller has restored Arizona to national prominence and has the No. 4 signing class this year and the No. 1 class for 2015. The best coach without a Final Four appearance won’t carry that title for much longer.
2. Tad Boyle, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 92-50 (.648)
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: The Buffaloes have ranked in the top 50 of adjusted defensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons, according to KenPom.
Why he’s ranked here: This is the golden age of Colorado basketball. Colorado has as many NCAA appearances under Boyle in the last three seasons as it did from 1969-2011.
3. Steve Alford, UCLA
Record at UCLA: 28-9 (.757)
NCAA Tournament: 7-8
Number to note: In Alford’s first season, UCLA reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 ... with the help of a No. 13 seed (Tulsa) and No. 12 seed (Stephen F. Austin). That shouldn’t be ignored — two of Alford’s New Mexico teams were eliminated by double-digit seeds.
Why he’s ranked here: Alford’s hire wasn’t met with much excitement, but the jolt of energy seems to be working. UCLA had arguably its best team since the 2008 Final Four squad.
4. Dana Altman, Oregon
Record at Oregon: 97-47 (.674)
NCAA Tournament: 5-10
Number to note: A streaky program has stability. Oregon has winning conference seasons in three consecutive years for the first time in school history.
Why he’s ranked here: An offseason scandal casts a shadow over his tenure at Oregon. His career, though, has been marked by building consistent winners at Creighton and now Oregon.
5. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Record at Utah: 42-55 (.433)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Number to note: Utah won more Pac-12 games in his third season (nine) than the Utes won total games in his first year (six).
Why he’s ranked here: Krystkowiak brought Utah back from irrelevance, and now the Utes will contend for their first NCAA spot since 2009.
6. Johnny Dawkins, Stanford
Record at Stanford: 117-87 (.575)
NCAA Tournament: 2-1
Number to note: Entering 2014, Stanford hadn’t defeated a higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Dawkins did it twice in his first trip. No. 10 Stanford upset No. 7 New Mexico and No. 2 Kansas. The Cardinal still managed to lose to a lower-seeded team in the Sweet 16 (No. 11 Dayton).
Why he’s ranked here: After missing the NCAA Tournament in his first five seasons, Dawkins saved his job with a trip to the Sweet 16.
7. Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Record at Washington: 254-144 (.838)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7
Number to note: Washington’s ranking on KenPom.com has decreased in each of the last four seasons from No. 20 in 2011 to No. 57 to No. 76 to No. 95 in 2014. The latter is Washington’s worst since Romar’s first season in 2002-03.
Why he’s ranked here: Romar has led Washington to the Sweet 16 three times, won the conference tournament three times and won the league twice. Still, he’ll be under pressure to reverse the decline.
8. Cuonzo Martin, Cal
Record at Cal: First season
NCAA Tournament: 3-1
Number to note: After NCAA Tournament snubs at Missouri State and Tennessee, Martin made up for lost time by winning three games in his first NCAA appearance, starting in the First Four and ending the Sweet 16.
Why he’s ranked here: Martin hopes he’s landed where he’s more appreciated at Cal.
9. Herb Sendek, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 141-121 (.538)
NCAA Tournament: 7-8
Number to note: Sendek’s last two teams, led by guard Jahii Carson, were the first two of his eight-year tenure to average better than 70 points per game.
Why he’s ranked here: Sendek is a survivor, that’s for sure. His second NCAA bid at Arizona State keeps him in Tempe.
10. Andy Enfield, USC
Record at USC: 11-21 (.344)
NCAA Tournament: 2-1
Number to note: USC at least played fast for Enfield, ranking 26th in adjusted tempo by KenPom.
Why he’s ranked here: Enfield is the only coach to take a No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16. Rebuilding USC will take more than one weekend.
11. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State
Record at Oregon State: First season
NCAA Tournament: 0-3
Number to note: Montana won regular season and Big Sky Tournament titles two of the last three seasons under Tinkle.
Why he’s ranked here: Montana has a nice tradition of producing coaches who thrive on the next level — Jud Heathcote, Mike Montgomery, Stew Morrill, Blaine Taylor and Larry Krystkowiak. Tinkle may have an impossible situation at Oregon State, though.
12. Ernie Kent, Washington State
Record at Washington State: First season
NCAA Tournament: 6-6
Number to note: Kent is Oregon’s all-time wins leader with 235 victories from 1998-2010.
Why he’s ranked here: Kent has been out of coaching since 2010, and his last 20-win season came in 2007.
No. 14 Michigan State is riding its longest Final Four drought under Tom Izzo, but don’t pity the poor Spartans who last reached the national semifinals in 2010. Izzo, though, has a challenge with Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris gone from a team that won 29 games and reached the Elite Eight. As usual, he’ll have veterans ready to step into lead roles.
The Michigan State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
Tom Izzo has built Michigan State to the point where last year’s run to the Elite Eight after a Big Ten Tournament Championship was considered to be an unsatisfying campaign.
Izzo wants to feel good about last year’s injury-strained accomplishments, but wonders if his second national title might have been in store if former point guard Keith Appling hadn’t wrecked his wrist and if former power forward Adreian Payne hadn’t been weighed down by mononucleosis.
Now, the Spartans will need paybacks from the basketball gods in the health category and rapid development from freshmen if they are going to contend for a conference title.
“I like the direction we’re heading right now,” Izzo says. “I think that we could be really good (this) year and then really, really good down the road.”
No. 14 Michigan State Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-9, 12-6 Big Ten
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Consecutive NCAAs: 17
Coach: Tom Izzo (468-187, 221-101 Big Ten)
Big Ten Projection: Third
Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16
The Branden Dawson who averaged 17.5 points during a six-game postseason hot streak is the Dawson that Michigan State desperately needs on a consistent basis. Dawson has honed his perimeter shooting skills to the point of becoming capable of playing the 3. But Michigan State will need him to attack opponents as a mismatch 4, as he did last March when he was Big Ten Tournament MOP.
Dawson has been a transition-and-garbage scorer in the past. But his improved jump shot, coupled with solid ball-handling skills and explosive finishing ability, may allow him to take his game to the next level. It’s rare to find a senior with Dawson’s raw talent. Injuries have kept him in the college ranks. His focus and effort have fluctuated in the past. Now he is driven to have the type of senior year Payne enjoyed last season.
When properly charged, Dawson is one of the most dynamic players in the conference. However, with Payne and Gary Harris gone to the NBA, Dawson will experience defenses designed to contain him for the first time in his college career.
Junior center Matt Costello has added a layer of muscle and appears ready to blossom after a pair of seasons diminished by injury and illness. He has become a quality face-up shooter during the offseason, but his back-to-the-basket skills are average. He is strong enough to command respect on defense and the glass. He has been in the shadow of Payne and former Spartan Derrick Nix for two years. Now Michigan State needs Costello to emerge as a plus pivot, but that might be a year away from coming to fruition.
Interior depth is a major concern. Sophomore Gavin Schilling is a stock-rising banger off the bench. Muscular 6-7 freshman Marvin Clark Jr. will need to contribute due to Izzo’s dismissal of stretch-4 Kenny Kaminski in August.
The depth issues mean Costello will need to play hard while avoiding foul trouble — always a terrible conflict of interest in the Izzo program. That could make it difficult for Michigan State to lead the Big Ten in defensive field goal percentage for a second straight year.
Denzel Valentine is a dazzling passer as a point/wing, and a respectable shooter. He has All-Big Ten potential and a triple-double skill set. With last year’s quiet seniors gone, Valentine’s leadership vocals are providing a fresh vibe. He can provide spot duty at the 4 if necessary.
Combo guard Travis Trice has thickened his once-scrawny body and hopes to finally have a full, healthy season. He’s a streak shooter who is ready to take his role to 30 minutes per game, mostly at the point. Trice is being given the keys to the offense for the first time and could emerge as one of the surprise players in the Big Ten. He’s pretty good, not great.
Alvin Ellis can play defense, run the floor and hit the open jumper, making him a rangy, useful role player.
If Cleveland State transfer Bryn Forbes, a deep shooter, gains immediate eligibility, Michigan State’s depth and offensive firepower will receive a substantial boost.
Leadership is on an upswing with Valentine and Trice. With six departed players and a thinned-out roster, this energetic mix of good personalities is similar to the surprising 2012 group that won the Big Ten and advanced to the Sweet 16 with Draymond Green. But the conference is stronger at the top this year than in 2012.
Lourawls Nairn is the fastest point guard Tom Izzo has ever signed. He struggles with his jump shot and finishing at the rim. Marvin Clark has nice shooting touch and a strong build but must play harder in the medium-range game. Javon Bess is an Izzo-style blue collar battler at the wing. Bryn Forbes was second-team All-Horizon League at Cleveland State, averaging 15.6 points while shooting 42 percent from deep.
Miami beat Oakland 38-14 on Sunday in Wembley Stadium in London.
It was a putrid football game between one team that hasn’t won a game in its last 10 tries and another that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000. It meant very little to the AFC playoff picture or to NFL fans in general.
It mattered to the Dolphins' starting quarterback, the fans in London and, most importantly, to Roger Goodell.
Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played well this season but he put together his best outing of the season against the Raiders after back-to-back losses to the Bills and Chiefs. But that is the only real football-related headline to come from the United Kingdom.
No, the most important headlines lie in the periphery. Wembley Stadium, which began hosting one NFL game per year in 2007, hosted 83,436 fans for the Dolphins' win over Oakland. With two more games scheduled this season — Detroit faces Atlanta on Oct. 26 and Dallas battles Jacksonville on Nov. 9 — the powers that be are excepting nearly 250,000 tickets sold for NFL games in London this fall. And, you’ll notice, none of those six teams made the playoffs last season.
At roughly, 100 pounds per ticket, these three games will net approximately 25 million pounds just at the turnstile alone. That’s more than $40 million.
Goodell is shipping the bottom third of his product to London and the fans are eating it up. There is a reason that rumors indicate the number of games played in London could jump from three to five in the very near future. Clearly, Goodell wants to grow the brand internationally and a vast global reach is the only space left for the NFL to conquer.
Despite the unexpected popularity abroad of the mid-season trip across the pond and the pressure to find new streams of revenue locally, talks of a team calling London home permanently may be premature, however.
Exorbitant travel costs, impossible scheduling, salary cap implications and even things as simple as facilities could keep a team from relocating to London.
It’s nearly 5,000 miles from Seattle to London, so scheduling becomes enormously difficult for every team West of the Mississippi. Players aren’t going to want to live most of the year overseas and that could impact the salary cap in a way that 31 other owners won’t appreciate. And there is no guarantee that there’s even a stadium capable of hosting eight home games a season.
Today, fans are flocking to these games because they get to see something they don’t see every day. They get different teams spaced out over three months for a rare and special experience. London has yet to even prove it can successfully host games in back-to-back weekends.
Once the average European realizes he’s paying $160 per game to see Derek Carr lose, the novelty and interest may dry up quicker than anticipated.
At a combative press conference won’t be enough for Michigan coach Brady Hoke to explain the handing of injured quarterback Shane Morris.
Morris was lifted from the game due to a high ankle sprain and did not sustain a concussion to Hoke’s knowledge, Hoke told the media in a Monday morning press conference. The quarterback would have practiced Sunday if not for the ankle injury, Hoke said.
Hoke said he’d never put a player on the field if there was a risk he sustained a head injury, but assessing that risk is ultimately in the hands of the Michigan medical staff.
"I don't make decisions who plays, who doesn't play, as far as when there's injuries, in particular, if there were any head or head trauma," Hoke told the media. "Those of you who know or don't know, I would never put a kid in that situation. Never have and never will because you get into this to coach kids.”
In a contentious press conference Monday, Hoke fielded questions surrounding his handling of Morris, who sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit against Minnesota and continued for two more non-consecutive plays.
Morris needed help from a lineman to stand after taking a hit from Minnesota’s Theiren Cockran — a stumble Hoke says was brought about by an ankle injury. Morris stayed in for one more play but returned later in the series when Devin Gardner lost his helmet during a play.
The explanations Hoke gave, though, remain dubious.
Hoke says he “assumed” Michigan medical personnel performed the required tests for concussions, though those tests were not administered until after Morris stayed in the game long enough to throw an incomplete pass.
Hoke said he did not see the hit on Morris as the coach was following the ball downfield and attributed Morris’ stumble to his ankle giving out. Given the nature of the hit — the back of Morris’ head also hit the ground — Morris’ motions were consistent with those of a player who had suffered a concussion. Hoke said he did not see the quarterback struggling in real time and ultimately not until he viewed the coaches’ game film.
Hoke also repeatedly referred to a forthcoming statement from the Michigan medical staff, a statement that had not arrived as of four hours since the press conference. Hoke referred to the statement when asked if Morris received a concussion test on the sideline and why Morris still had his helmet after leaving the game for the first time.
Hoke also said he had not communicated with athletic director Dave Brandon since Saturday, though the school released a statement from Hoke on Sunday evening.
The Week 5 SEC slate was highlighted by Missouri’s surprising victory at South Carolina and Texas A&M’s comeback win, in overtime, over Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Here are some stats from the week that was in the SEC.
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 5 in the SEC
Third down conversion percentage rate allowed by the Tennessee defense in 2014, the best in the nation. Opponents have only converted 11 third downs in four games against the Vols. Last year, Tennessee ranked 92nd national in third down defense, allowing a 42.5 percent conversion rate.
Average carries per game by Todd Gurley, the most in his three seasons at Georgia. The Bulldogs entered the season with one of the deepest backfields in the nation, but injuries to some key reserves have forced Mark Richt to lean on Gurley more than he might have planned. Gurley had more than 20 carries seven times in 24 games in his first two seasons.
Consecutive possessions that ended with a punt by Texas A&M in the first quarter of the Aggies’ win against Arkansas on Saturday. It is the first time A&M punted on three straight possessions since the regular-season finale last season, a 28–21 loss at Missouri.
Games in which Arkansas has had at least 400 yards of offense this season — 684 vs. Nicholls State, 499 vs. Texas Tech, 427 vs. Northern Illinois, 484 vs. Texas A&M. Last season, the Hogs only topped the 400-yard mark three times, only one of which came against an SEC opponent (Texas A&M).
Touchdowns by Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims, who has not taken a snap on offense this season. Sims has two scores on kickoff returns and one on an interception return. No other Vanderbilt player has more than one touchdown.
Yards per passing attempt by the Kentucky offense, up from 6.8 last season, 5.5 in 2012 and 4.8 in ’11. The Wildcats rank fourth in the SEC in passing offense with 290.5 yards per game but have only thrown six touchdown passes, tied for second-fewest in the league.
Total yards accumulated by the Missouri offense in the 10 possessions from the middle of the first quarter through the middle of the fourth quarter in Mizzou’s 21–20 win at South Carolina. The Tigers then marched 68 yards and 51 yards, respectively, on their final two possessions, which both ended with touchdowns.
Touchdowns allowed by Ole Miss in four games this season. The Rebels gave up one score to both Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette and did not allow a touchdown to Vanderbilt or Memphis. Ole Miss ranks No. 3 nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 8.5 points per game.
Losses at home by South Carolina so far this season. It’s the first time since 2008 that the Gamecocks have lost at least two games at Williams-Brice Stadium. That season, Carolina lost at home to Georgia (14–7) and LSU (24–17). The Gamecocks have not lost three home games since 2007.
Plays from scrimmage by the Texas A&M offense that have gone for 10 yards or more. That’s the most in the SEC and it’s 20 more than any other team in the league. Nationally, only Washington State has more (104).
The future was on full display in Minneapolis and San Diego on Sunday when both the Vikings and Jaguars started rookie quarterbacks.
Teddy Bridgewater made his first NFL start against the Falcons at home while Blake Bortles made his first on the road against the Chargers.
Despite different outcomes, both played exceptionally well in their starting debuts.
Both quarterbacks came out of the gate firing. Bridgewater completed every pass on the Vikings' first two drives (6-of-6), both of which ended in touchdowns. Bortles connected on 13 of his first 15 passes, directing the Jaguars to two touchdowns in the first half.
Bridgewater finished the game 19-of-30 for 317 yards and no turnovers to go along with 27 yards rushing and a touchdown. His last carry was the most costly, as the unflappable rookie hurt his ankle. He was carted off the field, but an MRI taken later showed no fracture. (Luckily, it doesn’t appear like the talented rookie will miss much time.)
More importantly, the Vikings' offense rolled up 588 yards and didn’t turn the ball over in a win over Atlanta, a team many consider to be playoff-caliber. The offense was balanced and Bridgewater looked like he did his entire college career at Louisville – in control and confident.
The outcome for Bortles wasn’t as noteworthy, as the Chargers pulled away in the second half from the overmatched Jaguars. But don’t let that dampen the performance of the young gunslinger.
The former UCF star was also in complete control of the offense and showed poise in a hostile environment. He finished 29-of-37 passing with 253 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and 24 yards rushing on five carries.
Again, look past the numbers to evaluate Bortles in his first career start. This offense looked like it was in sync for the first time all season. Jacksonville was solid on third downs (9 for 14), was perfect in the red zone (2-2) and committed just three penalties all game. In a very tough situation against a quality opponent, Bortles performed more than adequately.
Coming into the 2014 NFL Draft and throughout the summer, Johnny Manziel got all of the headlines. Manziel was the Heisman Trophy winner. Manziel was the draft day story as he dropped down boards. Yet Manziel was still the player thought to have a chance to start in Week 1.
As it turns out, the two forgotten first-rounders — the two guys who actually won conference championships in college — are the two names making headlines just four weeks into the season while Manziel has yet to complete a pass in the NFL.
Fans in both the Twin Cities and Jacksonville should be excited about the future of their team's quarterback position.
Jason Garrett and the Cowboys find themselves in unfamiliar territory after thumping the Saints at home on Sunday night.
Ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing and two games above .500.
Dallas ranked 24th in rushing last season, was 31st in rushing in 2012 and 18th in rushing in Garrett’s first season in '11. But after rushing for 190 yards in the surprisingly easy win over New Orleans; the Cowboys are leading the NFL with 165.0 yards rushing per game.
A big part of that has been DeMarco Murray, who ran 24 times for 149 yards and two more touchdowns in Week 4. It was his fourth 100-yard effort to start the season, placing him in rarified NFL air. Murray became just the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards and a TD in each of his team’s first four games. The other three? Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith.
That’s pretty impressive company.
What’s more important for Garrett is the 3-1 record. It’s only the fourth time in Garrett’s coaching career in Dallas that his Cowboys were two games over .500. With a win over Houston at home next weekend, Garrett would move three games over .500 for just the second time in his career and the first time since Week 12 of his first season.
Tony Romo was excellent on Sunday night — 22-of-29, 262 yards, 3 TDs — but he is still a 34-year-old quarterback with a bad back and a tendency to throw interceptions. The defense still has plenty of work to do as well after allowing 438 yards in the win, leaving this unit ranked 24th in the NFL (390.0 ypg). If Dallas is going to make the playoffs, the running game has to continue to take pressure off of Romo.
The next few weeks will be critical for Garrett, Romo and Murray to prove this start isn’t a fluke, however. Four of the next five games will come at home for Dallas, giving the Cowboys an excellent chance to grab a foothold on at least a potential Wild Card berth. An in-state test against Houston at home is very winnable next weekend, as are critical NFC East home tilts with the Giants and Redskins.
Even if the trip to Seattle in two weeks is a guaranteed loss, Dallas is still looking at a glut of winnable games over the next six weeks before going on bye in Week 11. A home game with Arizona and road trip to Jacksonville is how Dallas will head into the off weekend.
A 7-3 record isn’t out of the question heading into the bye and that would put potentially put Dallas on a path to even less charted territory for Garrett. The playoffs.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Atlantic Coast Conference football action:
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson became Clemson's first true freshman quarterback to record a win in his first career start after leading the Tigers to a 50-35 win over North Carolina. He threw for six TDs in the win, also becoming the first freshman QB in ACC history to throw for six scores and tied the ACC single-game record for TD passes. Only five ACC players have thrown six TDs in a game. Clemson won for just the fifth time in 17 tries when starting a true freshman QB.
Wake Forest's Tylor Harris set an FBS record by recovering three fumbles in a 20-10 loss at Louisville. No FBS player had ever collected three fumbles in a game since it became an official statistic in 1992. His sack, forced fumble, and recovery in the end zone gave Wake a 10-7 lead in the third quarter before the Cardinals reeled off 10 unanswered points on the way to the win. The nose tackle is one recovery away from Wake's season record of five.
Andrew Motuapuaka handed Virginia Tech its fastest ever touchdown in the Frank Beamer era when he returned a fumble of the opening kickoff 11 yards for a 6-0 lead eight seconds into the Hokies game with Western Michigan. It broke Andre Davis' mark of 18 seconds after his 74-yard TD catch from Michael Vick against Rutgers in 1999.
On the way to its 20-10 win against Wake Forest Saturday, Louisville picked off Demon Deacons QB John Wolford three times. The Cardinal's defense has now forced 13 turnovers in the first five games this season, which is the most through five contests since forcing 14 in 2005. Wolford was also sacked eight times, the most for the UofL defense since eight against Rutgers last October.
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone suffered his first loss in 15 regular season career starts when the Blue Devils fell 22-10 Saturday at Miami. Boone tossed two interceptions, the final one in the fourth quarter helped the Hurricanes ice the game four plays later, and saw Duke's school-record tying 12-game regular season winning streak snapped.
N.C. State became the first-ever opponent to score 24 points in the first quarter against Florida State in school history - a span of 768 first quarters. In three previous games against the nation's No. 1 team, N.C. State had never lead at any point. On Saturday, the Wolfpack led 24-7 after one quarter and 24-21 at halftime. The Seminoles went on to win 56-41.
With its 31-15 win against Syracuse, Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in each of its first four games. That is a feat that has not been accomplished by the Irish since their 1943 national championship season. And for the fourth consecutive game in 2014, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 17 or less.
Since 2000, Florida State is 56-1 when it scores at least 40 points. The only defeat was 49-44 to Georgia Tech in 2009.
After gaining 64 yards over its first six possessions, resulting in five punts and an interception, Akron collected 280 yards and three touchdowns over its next five drives en route to a 21-10 win over host Pittsburgh. The Zips' seventh drive outgained its previous six alone when they went 75 yards to tie the game at 7 before halftime.
With its 45-13 win and 520 yards of total offense against Kent State, Virginia has registered 500+ yards in total offense in back-to-back games for the first time since 2004. The Cavaliers had a three-game span against Temple (504), North Carolina (549), and Akron (522) where they reached 500 to open the season on the way to an 8-4 season.
- Corby A. Yarbrough
@Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox cover all of the action from the college gridiron in Week 5. The Pac-12 races start to heat up, the ACC struggles again and Kansas is looking for a new coach. The guys also have some strong words for Brady Hoke and quarterbacks in the SEC.
You've no doubt read the headlines this morning after another disappointing U.S. Ryder Cup loss:
"Mickelson Unloads on Watson"
"Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson Feud"
"Phil Mickelson Was Wrong to Rip Tom Watson"
How about this: "Phil Asked a Probing Question, Gives Honest Answer"? Because that's what happened.
In an era when whitebread golfers give politically correct, pablum-flavored non-answers, Mickelson's candor concerning what constitutes effective Ryder Cup leadership was refreshing. If the U.S. is ever going to win back the Cup, Watson's failed captaincy needs to be dissected and important lessons extracted.
Mickelson was on the last U.S. team to win the Cup — the underdog 2008 team that posted a stunning win under Paul Azinger at Valhalla — and in yesterday's presser, he was asked what worked that year. What followed has been framed as a scathing condemnation of Watson; in actuality, it was a reasoned assessment of what has worked and what hasn't, from a guy who should know.
Here's the transcript of the offending remarks:
Q. Anyone that was on the team at Valhalla, can you put your finger on what worked in 2008 and what hasn't worked since?
Mickelson: There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who -- when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, we had Ray Floyd, and we hung out together and we were all invested in each other's play. We were invested in picking Hunter that week; Anthony Kim and myself and Justin were in a pod, and we were involved on having Hunter be our guy to fill our pod. So we were invested in the process. And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. And I think that, you know, we all do the best that we can and we're all trying our hardest, and I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.
Q. That felt like a pretty brutal destruction of the leadership that's gone on this week.
Mickelson: Oh, I'm sorry you're taking it that way. I'm just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It's certainly -- I don't understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going toward to bring our best golf out and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.
Q. That didn't happen this week?
Mickelson: Uh (pausing) no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.
Pardon me for not thinking of that as some sick burn of Watson, whose decision-making and demeanor were clearly questionable even to the most casual observer.
With momentum in hand on Friday, Watson benched the red-hot duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed for afternoon foursomes. On Saturday, the captain kept Mickelson and partner Keegan Bradley sidelined all day, despite Lefty's text pleadings that Watson later leaked to the press.
Watson was also quick to deride the players for their failures, and while it's true that the captain doesn't hit a shot, an effective leader deflects blame from players and absorbs the arrows himself.
Mickelson, who went 2-1 at this Ryder Cup and won his singles match against local hero Stephen Gallacher, could be forgiven for a little frustration. And while it was indelicate of him to criticize Watson while sharing the dais with him, that doesn't negate the accuracy of his statements.
Mickelson has earned his stature in the game. He has 42 PGA Tour wins — four more than Watson — and his five majors have come during an era when Tiger Woods has gobbled up major wins like Lefty gobbles In-N-Out burgers. Watson, on the other hand, had his major ascendancy during Jack Nicklaus' twilight years. Mickelson has earned his way onto every Ryder Cup team since 1995 on merits, without a captain's pick in the bunch. Granted, he hasn't always played well, but he's certainly not alone in that fact. Mickelson's all-time Ryder Cup match record of 16-19-6 looks mediocre on its face, but it outshines Woods' record of 13-17-3 and is merely symptomatic of American futility in the event. For comparison's sake, Jim Furyk, whose Cup experience coincides with much of Phil's, has a 10-20-4 ledger.
I'm as big a Watson fan as anyone — his run at the 2009 British Open was one of the most thrilling performances in the game's history — but his captaincy was clearly a disaster. The forum might have made Mickelson's observations a little awkward and hard to digest, but he wasn't wrong.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 29:
• This is interesting: The most popular female athletes according to Google. No. 1 is Maria Sharapova.
• Jerry Jones doesn't look like a man who still regrets missing out on Johnny Football. He looks like a creepy Bond villain.
• One failed captain sticks up for another: Nick Faldo says Phil Mickelson threw Tom Watson under the bus in the Ryder Cup presser.
• All you need to know: Simmons vs. the Worldwide Leader.
• Something to look forward to: This could be the best football Saturday in SEC history.
• Watch Sue Paterno dance to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." If you dare.
• Watch Hunter Pence rally Giants fans with a postgame speech.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
New England will try to extend its winning streak to three in a row by defeating Kansas City at home tonight on ESPN. The Patriots (2-1) have turned things around after dropping their season opener in Miami, but Bill Belichick’s team is still trying to figure out things offensively. The Chiefs (1-2) are coming off of an impressive win over those same Dolphins and hope to have their best offensive player back.
Even though he is off to a slow start statistically speaking, Tom Brady has enjoyed quite a bit of success on Monday night. Brady is13-5 in his career on this stage with a 42:15 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of 101.5. Kansas City last played on “Monday Night Football” back in 2012 when the Chiefs lost to Pittsburgh on the road in overtime, 16-13.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New England -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ MIA||L 20 - 33||Recap|
|9/14||@ MIN||W 30 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs OAK||W 16 - 9||Recap|
|9/29||@ KC||L 14 - 41||Recap|
1. Kansas City’s Suddenly Crowded Backfield?
After missing last week’s game with a high ankle sprain sustained early in the Week 2 loss in Denver, Jamaal Charles is expected to return to the starting lineup. Charles actually practiced some just a few days after suffering the injury, but the team decided to err on the side of caution and held him out against Miami. Knile Davis has been much more than a mere fill-in during Charles’ absence, rushing for 79 yards and two scores against the Broncos and following that up with 132 on the ground and another score in the 34-15 win over the Dolphins last week. Still, Charles is an All-Pro running back who totaled 1,980 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns last season. As productive as Davis has been, Charles’ return makes the Chiefs’ running game that much more dangerous, which is important considering the passing attack isn’t that explosive (197.7 ypg, 26th in the NFL). And Davis still figures to have some sort of role, considering Charles is coming back from the type of injury that has been known to linger or resurface. Besides, two backs may be better than one since New England has done a good job about the run (104 ypg, 12th) thus far.
|Kansas City 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs TEN||L 10 - 26||Recap|
|9/14||@ DEN||L 17 - 24||Recap|
|9/21||@ MIA||W 34 - 15||Recap|
|9/29||vs NE||W 41 - 14||Recap|
2. The Other 10 Guys on New England’s Offense
When asked earlier about the Patriots’ offensive struggles, Tom Brady was pretty succinct saying there’s been “one guy” playing well. And he wasn’t referring to himself. Instead he was talking about wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is top 10 in the NFL in both receptions (22) and yards (260) entering Week 4. As a team, New England is 26th in the league in total offense (301.3 ypg), which puts them right behind Kansas City (322.3 ypg) in that category. And while the Chiefs’ passing offense (197.7 ypg, 4 TDs) may have a reputation for being pedestrian, it has been more productive than the Patriots’ (196.3, 3). Brady’s slow start (24th in passing yards, 30th in yards per attempt) can be attributed to both a lack of reliable options and a lack of time to throw to them. Outside of Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski (11-116-2), Brady has completed a total of 19 passes to his other wide receivers and tight ends. Gronkowski’s snap counts have been held down as he’s coming back from a serious knee injury and no one outside of Edelman has stepped up to pick up the slack. However, a bigger issue could be an offensive line that’s struggling to open up holes for the running backs (3.5 ypc) and give Brady enough time to look down field for an open target (7 sacks). The running game has had its moments, such as Stevan Ridley’s 101 yards in the Week 2 win at Minnesota, but it too has been characterized by inconsistency (165 yards rushing total in the other two games) and a lack of big plays (longest run by a RB so far is 16 yards). It seems the preseason trade of longtime, reliable left guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay has impacted this unit more than anyone with the team (looking at you Belichick) is willing to admit. Perhaps that’s why Brady was not happy with the move to begin with? Regardless, that’s in the past and what matters now is how the “new” line performs from here out. The same can be said for any other offensive player not named Edelman or Gronkowski.
3. The Defense Rests?
With offenses ranked in the bottom fourth of the NFL, it takes a solid defense to keep your team competitive. And that has certainly been the case for New England and Kansas City. The Patriots enter tonight’s game third in total defense (272.7 ypg) and fourth in scoring (16.3 ppg). Since allowing Miami to run for 191 yards in the season opener, this unit has allowed a total of 121 yards on the ground and has twice as many takeaways (8) as touchdowns allowed (4). The Chiefs meanwhile have held their own despite suffering a rash of injuries that have cost them their All-Pro linebacker (Derrick Johnson), a starting defensive end (Mike DeVito) and impacted several other key players, such as All-Pro safety Eric Berry (ankle). After struggling mightily against Tennessee in Week 1, Kansas City limited Denver at home to just 24 points and 324 total yards in a seven-point loss and held Miami to only 191 yards passing and one touchdown in its 34-15 road win last week. Neither offense has been that productive or explosive to this point, so both defenses will need to keep up their good work or run the risk of putting their team in a hole it may not be able to climb out of.
New England’s offense is struggling, but the defense has picked up the slack and then some. Kansas City usually plays well at home and will get a huge boost with the return of Jamaal Charles, but until the Chiefs develop more consistency and more explosiveness in their passing game, this offense will struggle against good defenses. Tom Brady’s production may be down to start the season, but his track record speaks for itself. The Patriots stick with the script that has worked them for so well these past two weeks, relying on their defense to bottle up Kansas City’s running game just enough to leave Arrowhead Stadium with a hard-fought road victory.
Prediction: New England 23, Kansas City 20
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 5
8.0: Michigan’s Average Points Per Game Against Power 5 Opponents
Doug Nussmeier was hired to provide a quick fix for Michigan’s offense, but the Wolverines are still stuck in neutral after five weeks. The Wolverines are averaging just eight points a game against Power 5 opponents (Minnesota, Notre Dame and Utah), and the offense recorded just 171 yards on 53 plays against the Golden Gophers. If you take into account all five games, Michigan ranks last in the Big Ten by averaging just 22 points a game. Barring a major turnaround by the offense, Nussmeier and coach Brady Hoke will both be looking for new jobs at the end of 2014.
1.9: Purdue’s Yards Per Play on Final 10 Drives
Purdue’s upset hopes against Iowa got off to a good start in Week 5, as the Boilermakers jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But it was all downhill from there. Purdue’s offense managed just 70 yards on its final 37 plays and no drive in the second half lasted more than seven plays. During the final 10 drives, the Boilermakers averaged just 1.9 yards per play.
14: Passing TDs in California-Colorado’s 59-56 Shootout
If you like offense, Saturday’s California-Colorado matchup was the game to watch. The two teams combined for 64 first downs, 1,215 yards and 115 points. The passing game for both teams thrived, as Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau completed 46 of 67 attempts for 455 yards and seven touchdowns. California’s Jared Goff matched Liufau, completing 24 of his 42 passes for seven scores and 458 yards. How impressive are the 14 passing touchdowns in a game? Only six teams in the nation have more than 14 all season.
119: Yardage by Missouri on Final Two Drives
Let’s throw out the two-play drive Missouri used to run out the clock and focus on the Tigers’ final two possessions to score a huge win at South Carolina. Missouri’s first two possessions of the game went for 102 yards on 18 plays, but the Tigers managed just 69 yards until the last two drives of the game. Missouri went 68 yards on three plays to cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 20-14 and went 51 yards on nine plays to take a 21-20 lead. The Tigers didn’t have a particularly prolific day on offense, but the offense delivered in the clutch with the game on the line.
7: TD Drives Led by LSU Freshman QB Brandon Harris Against NMSU
The quarterback controversy in Baton Rouge should be over. If coach Les Miles starts Anthony Jennings in Week 6, he’s making the wrong decision. Sure, New Mexico State's defense was the toughest opposition on Saturday, but the Tigers’ offense has operated better in 2014 with Harris at the controls. Against the Aggies on Saturday night, Harris guided the offense to seven touchdowns on seven drives. The true freshman completed 11 of 14 throws for 178 yards and three scores and rushed for 36 yards and two touchdowns on five attempts. In five games, Harris has completed 22 of 30 passes for 394 yards and six scores. It’s pretty clear who is the better quarterback at LSU right now.
1: Touchdown Scored by SMU Through Four Games
SMU’s offense has been dreadful in 2014. The Mustangs have scored only 12 points through four games, with the only touchdown coming on the final play against North Texas on a 33-yard Hail Mary pass. SMU’s offense has been plagued by struggling options at quarterback, a ground attack that is averaging just 1.4 yards per rush, and an offensive line that has allowed 29 sacks through four games. Coach June Jones resigned after the loss to the Mean Green, and the road for SMU isn’t going to get any easier with Cincinnati, East Carolina and Memphis up next. To put in perspective how bad SMU's offense has struggled so far, UCLA's Ishmael Adams scored more touchdowns in one game (Arizona State) than the Mustangs have all year.
42.3: OSU QB Daxx Garman’s Average Pass TD Length Against TTU
With J.W. Walsh sidelined indefinitely, it’s Daxx Garman’s show at Oklahoma State. And Garman isn’t shy about attempting deep passes. In Thursday night’s win over Texas Tech, Garman averaged 42.3 yards on his four touchdown passes. Garman connected on a 33-yard score in the first quarter, a 39-yard touchdown toss in the second quarter and scoring plays of 47 and 50 in the third quarter. Garman completed only 17 passes and averaged 21.8 yards per completion on Thursday night.
2: Touchdowns Allowed by Stanford’s Defense in Pac-12 Games
Four new starters and a coordinator haven’t slowed Stanford’s defense through its first four games of the season. The Cardinal has allowed only two touchdowns in two Pac-12 games and limited Washington to just 179 total yards in Saturday’s 20-13 win. Stanford has also pitched two shutouts (UC Davis and Army) and has recorded 11 sacks this year. So far, the 2014 version of the Cardinal defense is shaping up to be as dominant as the one that allowed just 4.8 yards per play last season.
3: 200-Yard Games by Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah in 2014
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah continued his hot start to the season by gashing Illinois for 208 yards and three scores on 22 attempts. And if the Cornhuskers weren’t leading by a huge margin at halftime, Abdullah would have recorded a monster stat-line with a full game of opportunities. The senior has three 200-yard efforts in five games in 2014, rushing for 232 against FAU and 229 against Miami. Abdullah’s toughest test of 2014 takes place next Saturday against Michigan State.
2.7: Arkansas Yards Per Play on Final Six Drives
The Razorbacks are clearly improved in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. However, there’s no doubt Arkansas let a win slip away on Saturday against Texas A&M. But the Razorbacks had a little help, as the Aggies stepped up on defense after falling behind 28-14 in the third quarter. Over Arkansas final six drives, Texas A&M allowed just 92 yards on 34 plays (2.7 yards per play). The Aggies forced four punts over the Razorbacks final six drives, with the only other possessions resulting in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs to end the game. Texas A&M’s defense has been heavily criticized over the last two years, but the Aggies made plays at the right time on Saturday.
Other Stats to Know
* Georgia running back Todd Gurley set a career high by rushing for 208 yards in Saturday’s win over Tennessee.
* Ohio State’s pass defense continues to be a problem in 2014. The Buckeyes allowed four passing scores, averaging 60 yards per touchdown toss in the 50-28 win over the Cincinnati.
* Ole Miss has allowed just two touchdowns through four games.
* Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 25 consecutive passes in Saturday night’s win over Syracuse.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida ranks fourth nationally with eight rushing scores through five games. Breida has four touchdown runs of at least 56 yards and averages 33.5 yards per rushing score in 2014.
* NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play in the first half against Florida State. But the Seminoles tightened up on defense in the second half, allowing just 4.4 yards per play over the final two quarters.
* Temple has scored a defensive touchdown in all four games this year.
* UCLA averaged 10 yards per play in Thursday night’s win over Arizona State.
* Quarterback Brett Hundley recorded 427 total yards against Arizona State. The 427 total yards rank second in Hundley’s career for most total yards in a single game.
* Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is averaging just 9.8 yards per completion in 2014.
* Wake Forest has recorded negative rushing yards in three out of its five games.
* Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for six touchdowns against North Carolina on Saturday. Watson is the first quarterback in Clemson history to throw for six touchdowns in a game.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards and 45 first downs in Saturday’s 50-28 win over Cincinnati.
* North Carolina’s defense has allowed at least 500 yards in three out of its four games in 2014.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 434 yards over his last two games.
* Vanderbilt recorded only eight first downs and averaged just 3.0 yards per play in a 17-7 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.
* Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel has tossed at least four touchdowns in each of the Bearcats’ three games this year.
* UMass recorded 638 yards in Saturday’s 47-42 loss to Bowling Green. The 638 yards are the most by the Minutemen since they moved to the FBS level.
* USC is the only team in the nation to not allow a passing touchdown through Week 5.
* TCU quarterbacks Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel have thrown 10 touchdown passes through three games this year. The Horned Frogs had just 14 passing scores in 2013.
* Texas Tech committed 16 penalties in Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have committed at least 10 penalties in three out of their four games in 2014. Additionally, Texas Tech is one game of 10 penalties away from matching last year’s total (four) of games with double-digit penalties.
* Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova now owns the school record for most passing touchdowns in a career with 61. Nova threw four scores in Saturday’s 31-6 win over Tulane. That’s the second game for Nova with four passing touchdowns in 2014.
* The 24 points allowed by Florida State in the first quarter were the most allowed by the Seminoles in an opening quarter in school history.
* After throwing for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s part-time quarterback last year, Nate Sudfeld is off to a slow start in 2014. Sudfeld has two games of throwing for less than 130 yards and has just two scores through four contests.
* Boston College freshman running back Jon Hilliman has scored two rushing scores in three consecutive games.
* Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed at least two picks in four consecutive contests.
* On five drives in the first quarter, Iowa ran 13 plays and registered just 10 yards.
* Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff rushed for 129 yards on 17 attempts against Wake Forest. Radcliff had just 91 yards on 17 carries last season.
* Kansas State averaged 8.1 yards per play in Saturday’s win over UTEP. That’s the highest mark for the Wildcats since a 9.3 mark on Oct. 16, 2012 against Kansas.
* Army averaged 8.1 yards per play and won the turnover battle (2 to 0) over Yale, but the Black Knights lost 49-43 in overtime.
* Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 17-7 despite recording just 100 yards in the second half.
* Penn State freshman receiver DaeSean Hamilton has at least four receptions in every game and has three 100-yard efforts through five games.
* Bowling Green and UMass combined for 1,306 yards, 89 points and 59 first downs in Saturday’s 47-42 shootout. The Falcons also had three receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark.
* Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has scored in 13 consecutive games.
* Georgia converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s 35-32 win over Tennessee.
* By defeating Kent State 45-13 on Saturday, Virginia has already surpassed its win total (3) from last season (2).
* UAB committed six turnovers and gave up two defensive scores in Saturday’s loss to FIU on Saturday.
* Louisville true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon completed 16 of 32 passes for 206 yards and added 46 yards in his first career start on Saturday.
* Colorado ran 110 plays in Saturday’s loss to California.
* Wyoming has played two of college football’s top 10 teams in 2014, but the Cowboys averaged 5.9 yards per play against Oregon and 5.6 against Michigan State. That’s a good sign for coach Craig Bohl’s team as it moves deep into Mountain West play.
* Boise State lost seven turnovers in Saturday’s 28-14 loss to Air Force. That’s the most turnovers the Broncos have lost in a game since 1992.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards against Cincinnati in Saturday’s 50-28 victory. That’s the first performance for the Buckeyes over 700 yards of offense since Aug. 27, 1986.
* Seven of LSU’s nine touchdowns scored against New Mexico State were scored by true freshmen (Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette).
* Nevada was outgained 446 to 256, lost the turnover battle (3 to 0) and went 0-9 on third-down attempts against San Jose State. However, the Wolf Pack won 21-10.
* Wake Forest defensive end Tylor Harris set a FBS record by recovering three fumbles in Saturday’s loss to Louisville.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 4 of the season.
There have now only been two NFL regular season games without any punts after Green Bay and Chicago combined to keep their punters off the field in Week 4. The other came Sept. 13, 1992 when Buffalo and San Francisco did not punt in a game that featured 1,118 yards of total offense combined. An AFC Divisional matchup between Kansas City and Indianapolis (2004) is the only playoff game with zero punts.
J.J. Watt's 80-yard interception return for a score against Buffalo made him the first player in NFL history with 35-plus sacks, a receiving touchdown (Week 2 this year) and an interception touchdown return in his first four seasons.
Indianapolis' quarterback Andrew Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes (29 of 41) for 393 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a 123.3 passer rating in the Colts’ Week 4 win over Tennessee. Luck, who last week completed 79.5 percent of his passes for 370 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 140.4 rating, is the first player in NFL history to post consecutive games with at least 370 passing yards, four or more touchdown passes, a completion percentage above 70 percent and one or no interceptions.
With a punt return for a touchdown (Darren Sproles), a blocked punt return for a touchdown (Brad Smith) and an interception return for a touchdown (Malcolm Jenkins) against San Francisco Sunday, Philadelphia became just the second team in NFL history to pull off such a trifecta. In NFL history, teams that had three returns for TDs in a game were 71-1-1; the Eagles lost 26-21.
New Orleans was shutout in the first half for just the third time (2007, 2011) under head coach Sean Payton when Dallas took a 24-0 lead into halftime Sunday night. The Cowboys won 38-17.
Dallas' DeMarco Murray became the fourth running back in NFL history with 100+ rushing yards and 1+ rushing touchdown in each of the team's first four games, and the first since Dallas' Emmitt Smith did so in 1995. Jim Brown (1958) and O.J. Simpson (1975) are the other two. Brown stretched the streak to six games, while Simpson pushed it to five.
Rookie quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) and Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota) made their first NFL start in Week 4. Along with Derek Carr (Oakland), three rookies have started at quarterback this season. It marks the fourth consecutive season (2011-14) in which at least three rookies started at quarterback in a September game. That is the longest such streak in the Super Bowl era.
With their 41-17 victory against Tennessee in Week 4, the Indianapolis Colts have won eight consecutive games within the AFC South. It is the longest active streak in the NFL.
Over Philadelphia's first nine possessions of its Week 4 game against San Francisco, the Eagles collected just five first downs on 37 plays. They picked up six first downs on 15 plays on their second-to-last drive of the day, which was halted on a fourth-and-goal pass play from the 2 for a potential game-winning TD pass. Philly finished with 213 total yards of offense, which is the second lowest under Chip Kelly, and 22 rushing yards, which is the lowest by any team this season entering Monday night's game.
Entering Week 4, Philadelphia was the best second-half team in the league with a +50-point differential while San Francisco was the worst at -49, including zero points in the fourth quarter. The 49ers outscored the Eagles 13-0 in the second half, including three points in the fourth quarter.
Since opening up with a 17-0 halftime lead in Week 1 against Philadelphia, Jacksonville has been outscored 152-41. The 0-4 Jaguars have scored 21 of those points in the first half.
With Green Bay's 38-17 win against Chicago in Week 4, the Packers posted the franchise's 700th regular-season win. They joined the Bears as the only two franchises to achieve 700 wins. Chicago has 732.
Aaron Rodgers needed the fewest attempts in NFL history to reach 25,000 passing yards when he accomplished the feat in Week 4. He hit the mark in 3,065 attempts, besting Kurt Warner's 3,076.
Baltimore's Steve Smith had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina, his old team, in Week 4. The 429 yards he has this season are the most ever by a 35+ year-old player through the first four games of the season. In addition, Smith is the Panthers' all-time leading receiver (12,197) and became the second player in NFL history to have 100+ receiving yards in his first game against a franchise for which he had 10,000+ yards. He joined Torry Holt.
No. 15 Iowa State has rebuilt itself into a national contender, and that shouldn’t be any different despite the departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. With a healthy Georges Niang and another influx of transfers, Iowa State will be a team to watch again.
The Iowa State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
Iowa State’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2013-14 did more than stamp the Cyclones as a perennial contender in the Big 12. After knocking off North Carolina without an injured Georges Niang in the Round of 32, Iowa State made a name for itself nationally, and with that, Fred Hoiberg has acquired the reputation of being one of the top coaches in the game.
On the back of a trio featuring Niang, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Iowa State rattled off wins over Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor to win its first Big 12 Tournament championship since 2000. If it weren’t for a broken foot that Niang suffered in a second-round NCAA Tournament win over North Carolina Central, the red-hot Cyclones could have contended for an appearance in the Final Four.
With the departures of Melvin Ejim, the Big 12’s Player of the Year, and DeAndre Kane, a dynamic guard who averaged 17.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, it is natural to think that Hoiberg’s program could be due for a rebuilding season. However, with another round of transfers set to infiltrate the lineup, it appears that 2014-15 will be anything but that.
No. 15 Iowa State Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-8, 11-7 Big 12
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: 3
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (90-47 overall, 37-33 Big 12)
Big 12 Projection: Third
Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Chemistry and versatility are Hoiberg’s keys to a successful basketball team. Niang possesses both of those characteristics. Niang, who averaged 16.7 points per game as a sophomore, rebounded from the broken foot quite well in the offseason by losing 15 pounds.
“He has always been very tough for bigger players to guard,” Hoiberg says. “The way that he got his body as finely tuned as it is will allow him to be a more versatile basketball player and play more positions.”
What doesn’t show up in the box score is Niang’s natural leadership ability. “Georges is as good as I have ever been around as far as pulling a group together,” Hoiberg says. “I think he knows that this is his team next year.”
Iowa State’s frontcourt will be far from a one-man show. Transfers Jameel McKay (Marquette) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) will make their presence felt in a hurry.
“Jameel will have an immediate impact just because of his motor and his ability to run the floor and protect the rim,” Hoiberg says. “Plus, I think he can give us something on the offensive end.”
McKay, an athletic 6-9 shot-blocker, likely won’t be eligible until December but is the type of player Hoiberg has never had at Iowa State. Nader’s ability to play multiple positions is a strength.
Then, there is Dustin Hogue, an active 6-6 senior who exploded onto the national scene via a 34-point outburst in a Sweet 16 loss to UConn. Between Hogue, who averaged 8.4 rebounds per game last season, and McKay, there is a decent chance that a Cyclone could lead the Big 12 in rebounding this season.
A promising sophomore and a fifth-year graduate transfer are expected to lead the way for the Cyclones on the perimeter. Expect Monte Morris, who did a tremendous job taking care of the ball as a true freshman, to run the show at point guard. He committed only 28 turnovers in 1,013 minutes last season.
Former USC Trojan and UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Bryce Dejean-Jones could ultimately lead Iowa State in scoring. Jones started 26 games for UNLV last season and averaged 13.6 points along the way. He will have the ball in his hands a lot in Hoiberg’s fast-paced system.
Iowa State has depth, too. Junior Naz Long made 46.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range over the last 10 games of last season. Long is one of the program’s emotional leaders in addition to being one of the top sixth-men in the Big 12.
Sophomore Matt Thomas made the second most 3-pointers for freshman in Iowa State history. He averaged 21.2 minutes but did not play more than 20 in any of the final eight games. True freshman Clayton Custer should serve as a quality backup to Morris up at the point.
Once again, Hoiberg has replenished his roster with quality transfers who meld well with veterans like Niang, Long, Morris and Thomas. The talent is on hand for Iowa State to make a legitimate run at a Big 12 championship.
Transfers Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV), Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) and Jameel McKay (Marquette) will all make an immediate impact in Ames. Dejean-Jones is a natural scorer. At 6-6, Nader can hit an outside shot while being a force on the glass as well. McKay could be one of the top rebounders in the Big 12. Freshman Clayton Custer should be the backup point guard. Greek big man Georgios Tsalmpouris is a project.
Georges Niang is hardly a household name among casual fans, but he has earned respect the hard way: by winning. Niang played in the shadow of Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden in prep school but was part of an Iowa State trio a year ago — along with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — that wound up winning the league tourney.
Now it’s Niang’s team, and the 6-7 Massachusetts native has completely transformed his body. Niang discusses his trash-talking methods, why he stuck with Iowa State and where he got his first name from.
This interview and more appears in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports college basketball annual, available on newsstands and in our online store now.
OK, so why the “S” at the end of your first name?
I was named after one of my dad’s best friends, who was originally from Africa. It’s actually supposed to be pronounced with a French accent since he was French, but I don’t want anyone to do that. But the “S” is silent. I’ve heard people pronounce it so many different ways that I don’t even bother to correct them. I just go with it.
You played against Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden every day for two years at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. What did you learn from those guys?
I learned how to slow down playing against Nerlens, how to put the defender on the hot seat and make them guess on what move is coming. I learned how to compete against Wayne. Those guys made me a lot better, but the guy I really watched and learned from when I arrived at Tilton was Alex Oriakhi. I was a freshman and he was a junior at the time, and I really tried to model myself after Alex. He’s a great kid who worked so hard.
You committed to Iowa State as an unknown, but then started to get attention after a strong showing at the Peach Jam. Why did you remain loyal to the Cyclones despite high-profile schools trying to get you to re-open your recruitment?
I remember the first time Coach (Fred) Hoiberg saw me. I was playing St. Mark’s — which had Nik Stauskas, Kaleb Tarczewski and Alex Murphy — and I didn’t miss a shot. I was 11-for-11, and he said afterwards that he wanted me to be a part of Plan A at Iowa State. They were the first school that believed in me. I trusted them and committed on May 15 before my junior season. I’m not going to call out specific schools, but there were schools who called me and told me not to go to Iowa State — that there’s nothing in Iowa and to come play with us. But I knew Iowa State was where I wanted to be. I never even thought about going anywhere else.
You’ve had two pretty good seasons in Ames, and I saw that one ESPN writer even had you on his Preseason first-team All-America team. However, there are plenty of fans who have no idea who you are. Why is that?
I agree. I think there are plenty of fans who think I’m just a bum who should be down at the YMCA, but I think I get respect from the guys that really know basketball. I work so hard, and I don’t think people understand how hard I work to improve. A lot of players in the league are gifted with athleticism. I wasn’t really gifted with any.
You broke your foot in Iowa State’s opening-round NCAA win against NC Central and weren’t able to do anything until May, yet you look to be in the best shape of your career when you showed up at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July. How were you able to manage the transformation?
The first week of May, I was still in a boot. I went back to Massachusetts with my trainer, and he sat me down. I weighed 255 and had 16 percent body fat. He said we can do it the hard way or you can walk away. I went with the hard way. I did yoga every day, lifted and did conditioning every day for four weeks and went twice every day on the court. They were long days, but were worth it. Now everyone who first sees me reacts the same way: “Holy @#$%.” It feels good because I’m a lot healthier than I was before. I feel better when I wake up. I eat better. It’s just a lifestyle change. Now I’m at 227 to 230 and am trying to get that vertical up!
What do you remember about the game against NC Central in which you broke your foot?
I felt a snap and fell to the ground. I’d broken my left foot before. I came out of the game and Coach Hoiberg told me to sit down. After a little while, he told me to check back in. It didn’t hurt when I got up, but then it was bad when I took the first couple of steps. I went in, scored five points — on a 3 and a floater — and then told him to take me out of the game. They did x-rays and told me I broke it. I was upset, but more because I felt bad for my team.
DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are both gone now. How does that alter your role?
I think I’ll have to do more of what they did well — be a better rebounder since Melvin was such a great rebounder and be a better playmaker since that’s what DeAndre did so well. I was a leader last year, but I’ll have to step up in that area as well. I think the biggest thing for me is just to make plays.
Fred Hoiberg seems so mellow on the sidelines and even off the court. What’s an example when he actually showed some real emotion?
It came after we lost three games in a row — to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Usually, he walks into the film room and is really quiet. He rolls in, says “What’s up, fellas” and sits down. Well, that day he walked in and says, “Show some emotion, guys.” He goes up to one of our guys and chest-bumps him — he’s yelling and screaming. I thought Tom Izzo had walked in. But he wanted to let us know that we played with no life.
You are admittedly one of the better trash-talkers around. Who else do you respect for their trash-talking ability and what is your reasoning for talking to opponents?
DeAndre Kane knows how to get under guys’ skin. He’d make guys take tough shots. (Former Oklahoma State guard) Markel Brown can talk with the best of them. He’s a silent assassin and talks when no one is expecting it. I usually do it when someone is killing us and you want them to get off their game. You want to draw a rift between the other team. For instance, when (Oklahoma State’s) Marcus Smart is killing us, I’d start telling him he should have left last year — and then tell his teammates that he doesn’t trust them.
You guys will add a couple more transfers this year in Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) in addition to junior college transfer Jameel McKay. How different will this team be?
We’ll buckle down better defensively, but with Fred, you’ll always expect a team that will compete every night. I think we’ll have more overall talent this year than in my first two years, but the key is putting it all together. We don’t have the chemistry yet — and that can make or break a season.
What’s your favorite place to play other than your gym?
Phog Allen (Fieldhouse, at Kansas). There’s so much energy in that building. I love going in there. The fans are as crazy as our fans and it’s just wild.
What’s your least favorite place to play?
I don’t want to upset Buddy (Hield), but probably Oklahoma or TCU. We always play in Oklahoma in the morning and it’s so dull. There’s also nothing exciting about Norman. TCU is always dead, although they should be better this year.
Other than Coach Hoiberg, who would be a coach you’d want to play for?
This might get me into trouble, but (Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self. I really have a lot of respect for him, because I like the way he runs a tight ship — and even though he does it differently than Coach Hoiberg, he demands a lot from his guys.
Who is the toughest player you’ve had to guard?
It was Romero Osby from Oklahoma a couple years ago. I held him to seven points the first time we played, but then he dialed me up for 27 and did it with every type of move.
Where would you be if you weren’t at Iowa State?
If Boston College had offered me a scholarship, that’s where I’d probably be. I grew up down the road and always wanted to stay close to home.
Welcome to the Week of Doom.
The College Football Playoff selection committee will meet for the first time in less than a month, and this week almost certainly will shape the conversations for that group.
Every league will have powerhouse matchups between favorites and ranked teams, so much that our usual preview of the top five games of the week has been expanded to 10. And we still feel like we left out some important matchups.
The gauntlet starts Thursday with Oregon and Arizona and lasts through Nebraska and Michigan State in primetime on Saturday.
Title hopes will be crushed. Teams will have setbacks in conference races. And perhaps the postseason and Heisman pictures will start to take shape.
Get ready. This week will shape the rest of the year.
The Week Ahead: Week 6
All times Eastern, all games Saturday, unless noted
Arizona at Oregon
When and where: Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... games between Arizona and Oregon get weird. The Wildcats defeated Arizona 42-16 last season, effectively eliminating the Ducks from the Pac-12 and national title chase, and in 2007, they ended Oregon’s bid for a title. The Ducks are in contention again — with another Heisman favorite in Marcus Mariota — but their offensive line is in trouble. Behind redshirt quarterback Anu Solomon, Arizona has enough of an offense to put pressure on Mariota to perform on every possession.
Vegas says: Oregon by 22 1/2
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
When and where: Noon, ESPN
We’re watching because... the Aggies and Bulldogs keep proving their SEC West credentials. Texas A&M were able to take advantage of Arkansas’ fourth quarter miscues to stay alive, but the Aggies’ defense remains a liability. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is an emerging Heisman contender coming off his career game against LSU. Prescott has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games while improving as a passer. Could be trouble for the Aggies.
Vegas says: Mississippi State by 1
Ohio State at Maryland
When and where: Noon, ABC
We’re watching because... Ohio State may or may not be starting to putting its season together. J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 591 yards of total offense against Cincinnati, but Maryland’s defense has held its own despite mounting injuries. The Buckeyes pass defense remains vulnerable to long pass plays. Terrapins receiver Stefon Diggs, once a top recruiting target of Ohio State, can exploit that weakness.
Vegas says: Ohio State by 8
Alabama at Ole Miss
When and where: 3:30 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Ole Miss is playing its biggest home game in decades. The Rebels are 4-0 for the first time since Archie Manning was a senior, and they’re hosing ESPN College GameDay for the first time. Alabama is a week removed from 672 yards against Florida while Ole Miss has risen — surprisingly — to fourth in the country in fewest yards allowed per game (248) and yards per play (3.74). Ole Miss can’t afford another two-interception game from quarterback Bo Wallace.
Vegas says: Alabama by 5
Stanford at Notre Dame
When and where: 3:30 p.m., NBC
We’re watching because... Oct. 4 seems a little early for a Stanford-Notre Dame game, but the timing is right to sort out which team is for real. Stanford’s defense is masking the Cardinal’s inept offense inside the 40-yard line. The Cardinal is allowing 108.5 yards per game fewer than any other team in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s offense might not be as good as Everett Golson’s 25 consecutive completions against Syracuse indicate. Otherwise, Golson was responsible for two fumbles and two interceptions, one for a pick six.
Vegas says: Stanford by 1
Oklahoma at TCU
When and where: 3:30 p.m., Fox
We’re watching because... Oklahoma can further show why it’s the most complete team in the country. The Sooners have handled every opponent they’ve faced, including Tennessee and West Virginia, the latter on the road. TCU may be the toughest test. The Horned Frogs are stout defensively as usual with a Big 12-best 218.7 yards per game and 3.04 yards per play. But with Air Raid and spread concepts brought in by Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachem, TCU is fourth in the Big 12 in yards per play.
Vegas says: Oklahoma by 4 1/2
Baylor at Texas
When and where: 3:30 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Baylor’s eventually going to start playing tougher games, right? Texas might not be that much better than Iowa State, but the Bears will try to improve their stock with a third consecutive lopsided win on the road.
Vegas says: Baylor by 14 1/2
LSU at Auburn
When and where: 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... this SEC West rivalry may be LSU’s last chance to prove it belongs among league contenders. Auburn’s defense may be the real deal after allowing only 4.56 yards per play after giving up nearly six per play in each of the last four seasons. Facing New Mexico State may have masked some of LSU’s offensive issues, but freshman Brandon Harris established himself as Les Miles’ quarterback (11-of-14, 178 yards, three touchdowns).
Vegas says: Auburn by 8 1/2
Miami at Georgia Tech
When and where: 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
We’re watching because... neither team can be written off in the ACC Coastal race. The division separated by a razor-thin margin, and Miami and Georgia Tech each have a leg up for the time being. Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech two weeks ago, and Miami is coming off a 22-10 win over Duke. Hurricanes freshman Brad Kaaya gets better every week, but he’s 0-2 on the road. That needs to change if UM is a realistic ACC contender.
Vegas says: Pick 'em
Nebraska at Michigan State
When and where: 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... it’s safe to resume paying attention to the Big Ten now. The top two teams in the league rolled last week by a combined score of 101-28. Michigan State can regain ground lost by the loss to Oregon in Week 2 while Nebraska can establish itself as a Playoff contender. Ameer Abdullah enters a game against a stout Michigan State defense with momentum after rushing for of 437 yards in the last two games.
Vegas says: Michigan State by 9 1/2
Oregon State may not be a Pac-12 title contender but that didn't keep people like me from picking the Beavers to upset the Trojans this weekend. At the very least, most were taking Mike Riley's bunch to cover the 9.5-point spread.
The response from the Men of Troy after an extremely trying last two weeks was resounding. USC used stifling defense and a big play offense to cut through a solid Oregon State team with surprising ease.
The Beavers mustered only 181 yards of total offense on a putrid 3.2 yards per play, converted just 1-of-10 on third down chances, turned the ball over twice and allowed a Hail Mary touchdown on the final play of the first half.
This from a USC defense that allowed 452 yards rushing to Boston College — a team that lost at home to Colorado State this weekend.
Again, Oregon State isn't a team on par with league championship contenders but Sean Mannion is the all-time leading passer in OSU history and this team had yet to lose. USC totally slammed the door.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Despite the horrendous showing in Chestnutt Hill and longterm questions about depth hanging over the entire roster, this defense proved that it has the talent and ability to be dominant on any given night. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in interceptions (seven) and are seventh nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.75 per game), good for second in the league behind Washington (plus-2.20). It's also getting off the field on the most critical down, leading the league in third-down defense (25.5 percent).
The defense even got the scoring started this weekend as Su'a Cravens' 31-yard interception return for a touchdown posted the Trojans to an early first quarter lead.
The offense took advantage. Steve Sarkisian and Cody Kessler rolled up 461 yards of offense — rushing and passing for over 200 yards — and scored on plays of 48, 21, 17 and 16 yards. Kessler was brilliant once again, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing while protecting the football.
In fact, Kessler has been this perfect all season, but he often gets overlooked in a league with huge numbers and high-profile dual-threat players. The USC quarterback is 16th in the nation in pass efficiency (167.41) but is sixth in the Pac-12 in the same category. He's fifth in the nation in completion percentage by connecting on a crisp 72 percent of his passes — third in the Pac-12. He's throw 10 touchdowns and not one interception while averaging nearly 300 yards per game but is sixth in the league in both yards (1,107) and touchdowns.
The quarterback position cannot be executed much better than Kessler is playing it right now and, statistically, he's not even a top five player at his position in the league. It's a testament to the depth, talent and coaching that's under center in the Pac-12.
With Arizona State and Utah losing critical games in painful fashion, Sarkisian might have been the biggest winner in the Pac-12 South in Week 5. UCLA and Brett Hundley looked outstanding but have long been considered the favorite. And Arizona should figure heavily in the mix as well. But it feels like this will be a Los Angeles-centered battle for the right to represent the division in the Pac-12 title game.
The country has seen how ugly it can get when things start to go haywire for USC, but when the Trojans get balance on offense and are healthy on defense, this team is capable of beating anyone in the nation.
Coach Sark just needs to hope that anyone is the Bruins.
The Pac-12 South race got a little clearer in Week 5.
UCLA took a two-game lead on Arizona State. USC fixed its defensive issues and sits atop the South at 2-0. Utah missed a huge opportunity to enter the fray by choking away a big lead at home against Washington State.
UCLA's impressive victory over Arizona State on the road cannot be overstated. Brett Hundley returned to the field and destroyed the defending division champs totally reworked defense. He looked as good as he has looked at any point during this season.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
The win gives Jim Mora the first big leg up on the race to Levi's Stadium. Arizona State, without Taylor Kelly, is essentially two games behind UCLA and doesn't look like a team that will be capable of jumping back into first place. The Sun Devils next three games are road trips to USC and Washington sandwiched around a home game with Stanford.
Frankly, the only hope ASU had of repeating was a win over UCLA at home and it wasn't even competitive. Todd Graham's bunch could be out of Pac-12 contention by the first week of October if it can't beat the Trojans this weekend.
Speaking of the Men of Troy, USC was extremely impressive on both sides of the ball against a team it should defeat if it wants to contend with the Bruins. Against Oregon State, the Trojans defense was suffocating, and Cody Kessler was masterful. When this team is healthy on defense and balanced on offense, it's capable of beating anyone in the nation.
Meanwhile, Kyle Whittingham missed a major opportunity to get his team into the conversation. Utah hasn't been to the postseason in either of its first two Pac-12 campaigns and a bowl game would quiet a lot of Whittingham doubters in Salt Lake City. With a 21-0 lead after one quarter, a 24-7 halftime lead and a 13-point fourth quarter advantage at home, the Utes should have entered Week 6 with a perfect record. However, Utah's bowl hopes may have disappeared as Connor Halliday threw two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to complete the shocking comeback.
Arizona, which was off this weekend, should figure into the mix as it has yet to play a divisional game yet. Rich Rodriguez won't have to wait long to find out if his young team can contender in the South, however. The Wildcats will face Oregon, USC, Washington State and UCLA in the next four weeks with all but the Cougars coming on the road. Odds are Arizona will pull an upset somewhere along the line but likely won't be capable of contending week in and week out in the South just yet.
No, after five weeks of play, all signs point to USC and UCLA duking it out for the Pac-12 South championship over the next eight weeks. The two will meet on Nov. 22 in Pasadena. UCLA has a heavy depth advantage and gets the key late season game at home but the Trojans have a significant schedule advantage. UCLA still has to face Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington and Arizona.
After hosting the Kelly-less Sun Devils this weekend, USC faces just one ranked opponent in league play the rest of the season and that's the Bruins.
After Ohio State arguably lost ground during a bye week, the Buckeyes gained some of it back against Cincinnati.
Where that leaves Ohio State for the Big Ten season, which starts Saturday at Maryland, remains in question.
While Ohio State had last week off, the Buckeyes' lone loss of the season started look more and more embarrassing as Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech, its second consecutive loss since the win in Columbus.
As for the Buckeyes, they defeated Cincinnati 50-28 on Saturday, answering some questions about the offense’s ability to win in the Big Ten, but the defense may remain a liability.
First the good:
For a team that couldn’t move the ball consistently against Virginia Tech, the 50 points is a welcome sight.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was magnificent, completing 26-of-36 passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers to go with 79 rushing yards.
That said, the biggest development may have been running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries. Before that breakout by the sophomore, none of Ohio State’s tailbacks had rushed for more than 171 yards total this season.
Ohio State's 710 total yards also approached a school record.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Now the bad: Aided by a leaky secondary, Ohio State needed nearly all of that production.
Ohio State jumped to a 23-7 lead early in the second quarter, but that devolved into a five-point lead in the third.
The pass defense that prevented Ohio State from playing for a national title a year ago made this game more interesting than it needed to be. The Buckeyes allowed touchdown passes or 60, 83 and 78 yards, the last two in the second half.
How many Big Ten teams will be able to challenge Ohio State like Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel did? Perhaps a few.
Maryland passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana and has averaged better than 10 yards per attempt in each of the last two games.
To boot, the Terrapins gave up a mere 126 yards through the air against a high-powered Indiana offense.
With that kind of matchup arriving Saturday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talked of a “hard conversation” with defensive coaches coming this week.
“You don't give up 200 yards passing and be able to look you in the eye say that's a championship level football team out there,” Meyer told the media. “I see certain units playing at a very, very high level, not nine."
After a month of the season and a few close calls, Penn State learned a little bit about its ceiling.
The Nittany Lions can’t survive an off game by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and the offensive line continues to be the team’s Achilles' heel.
Starting with a disastrous first quarter, Penn State lost 29-6 at home to Northwestern. On paper, this may be a shocking result with one of the Big Ten’s two undefeated teams losing in a rout to a team that entered the game on a 2-9 skid.
In reality, though, this moment was coming. Penn State had been playing with fire all season, and the flaws brought about in part by injuries and scholarship limitations are finally starting to impact the record.
Maybe this was a market correction.
Penn State lucked out in the opener when UCF didn’t start the better of its two quarterbacks that day as a field goal from Sam Ficken helped Penn State win 26-24 in Dublin. The Nittany Lions started slow against Akron but won convincingly by a 21-3 margin. And two weeks ago, Penn State got help from five Rutgers interceptions to score 13 unanswered points in the second half of a 13-10 win.
All the while, Penn State’s offensive line couldn’t open holes for the running backs, and Hackenberg was forced into mistakes.
Northwestern was the first team to take advantage when the floodgates opened.
“I actually think you look how we've played all year long and we've started some games slow and we've been able to come back and rally late in games,” Penn State coach James Franklin told the media. “You can only do that so many times. You can only do that so many times before it comes back to haunt you.”
That moment happened Saturday.
Penn State punted on its first five possessions, four of which ending without a first down. That was better than the alternative, which included a blocked field goal, a Hackenberg fumble and the first pick six of Hackenberg’s career.
By the end of the second quarter, Penn State abandoned the run altogether. Hackenberg finished with 45 pass attempts. Tailbacks Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak carried 12 times.
The frustration was palpable.
Hackenberg and Belton put the moment behind them in the postgame interviews and on Twitter, but but the struggles of the offense won’t solve themselves as easily.
Penn State is averaging 3.1 yards per carry this season. Throw out a 226-yard outburst against UMass, and the Nittany Lions are averaging 2.1 yards per rush.
There are no easy solutions here. Penn State entered the season with a top-flight quarterback and established that its defensive front seven will be among the best in the country.
The offensive line, though, returned only one starter. The unit, especially after the spring injury to Miles Dieffenbach, was panned during the preseason.
That Penn State made it to Week 5 without a loss is probably something of a miracle and a sign the Nittany Lions are getting the most they possibly can out of a shorthanded group.
Saturday, though, showed how far resilience alone can go.
A finished product Stanford is not, but David Shaw in the fourth quarter watched a defense that re-established the Cardinal’s Pac-12 credentials.
As the offense sputtered at times, the Stanford defense picked up two critical stops in the fourth quarter to pick up a 20-13 road win to keep alive the Cardinal’s opportunity to repeat as conference champs.
A loss to Washington would have eliminated Stanford from the College Football Playoff and would have made winning the North or the Pac-12 unlikely. Avoiding 0-2 was a must for Shaw's bunch to remain relevant in the national conversation.
The nation's top defense wasn't brilliant only in the final few minutes, though. Stanford held Washington to 179 total yards of offense and six offensive points — all in the second quarter. The Huskies offense averaged just 2.1 yards per carry and passed for merely 98 yards. Four of Washington's seven second-half possessions ended in punts while the other three ended on failed fourth down conversions. This came against a team that had scored at least 44 points in three consecutive games. It's why the Cardinal were able to overcome three costly turnovers.
In four games this season, Stanford's defense has allowed 19 total offensive points.
However, if Stanford is going to repeat as Pac-12 champs, quarterback Kevin Hogan needs to take the next step in his development process. While Stanford's dismal red zone statistics indicate that maybe hasn't happened fully, Hogan led the game-winning drive in the final minutes of play.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
With the help of a facemask penalty, the veteran quarterback marched his offense 47 yards on six plays to take the lead with 5:14 left in the game. Hogan ran the ball four times for 21 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown. He got the job done when Shaw needed him most and the offensive line was adequate (one sack allowed) against a defensive line that entered Saturday leading the nation in sacks.
For what it's worth, Hogan is on pace to blow past his 2013 numbers. As a passer, he's increased his production (220.8 ypg vs. 188.2) and efficiency — improving on both his completion percentage (71 percent vs. 61 percent) and efficiency rating (167.57 vs. 151.64). Those are significant improvements since he's already faced two of the better Pac-12 defenses.
While Hogan is clearly taking the right steps forward, finishing drives is still a big problem for the Cardinal. Hogan was solid against Washington, getting points on four of his five trips into scoring territory. But even after that strong showing, Shaw's offense ranks dead last in the Pac-12 with a 63.2 percent red zone scoring percentage (12-of-19). This must improve as the schedule continues to get tougher.
While this Cardinal team is still searching for itself on offense to some extent, the gaping holes left by departures to the NFL and a defensive coordinator leaving for the SEC appear to have been filled. This team leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), passing defense (74.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed an opponent to drive into its red zone only three times all season — which, of course, leads the nation.
As long as this defense continues to thrive, there will always be time for the offense to play catch up in September. However, October is here and the final two months bring road games against Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. There is no more time for catch up.
Things don't get any easier for Washington, either. The Huskies will face road games in three of their next four, including a trip to Oregon. Home tilts with Arizona State and UCLA loom over the next few weeks as well. After 179 yards, six points and not one trip into the Stanford red zone, Chris Petersen must acknowledge his program may not be ready to compete in the North yet.
Stanford is back in control of its own destiny in the North after a huge road win in Seattle. Its defense looks as good as ever and its quarterback appears to be coming into his own as the leader of the offense.
Mark Helfrich and his woefully thin offensive line have been warned.
Defense hasn’t necessarily been a strength for Miami under Al Golden, but the Hurricanes delivered with a clutch performance in Saturday night’s 22-10 win over Duke.
Miami held the Blue Devils to its lowest output of the 2014 season, allowed just 3.5 yards per play and forced three turnovers. The 3.5 mark is the fewest yards per play allowed in an ACC game by the Hurricanes since 2011 (Georgia Tech).
Improving the defense was a priority for Golden after an embarrassing effort in 2013. Miami allowed 26.8 points per game (10th in the ACC) and 5.7 yards per play (12th in ACC).
The early returns were positive, as the Hurricanes held their first three opponents to 4.7 yards or fewer per play.
However, in last week’s 41-31 loss to Nebraska, Miami was dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Cornhuskers to rush for 343 yards and score 41 points.
Shades of last year’s defense against Nebraska prompted criticism once again for Miami coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and the matchup against Duke was critical to establish the direction of this unit in the heart of ACC play.
In addition to holding the Blue Devils to just 10 points and 3.5 yards per play, Miami forced punts on seven of Duke’s first eight possessions and held David Cutcliffe’s offense to just two third-down conversions on 16 attempts. Only two drives for the Blue Devils lasted longer than 50 yards, and the rushing attack was limited to 3.4 yards per carry.
Perhaps Duke isn’t as good on offense as it showcased through the first four games, and the Hurricanes still have to play Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Florida State, so the defense doesn’t have an easy path the rest of the year.
D’Onofrio entered 2014 on the hot seat, and if this coaching staff is going to succeed in Coral Gables, the defense has to take a step forward. So far, so good. But the upcoming schedule is certainly going to test the defense, especially against Florida State and Cincinnati.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Week 5 wrapped up the first month of the college football season, but Saturday night’s
game against Duke was a critical one for Miami. The Hurricanes already lost to Louisville and an 0-2 hole in the Coastal Division is tough to rebound from.
There’s very little margin for error among the Coastal Division teams, and Miami’s improving defense is a good sign for its hopes of finally winning the division and playing for the conference title in December.
After Saturday’s win in Raleigh against NC State, it’s clear Florida State is not as dominant of a squad as coach Jimbo Fisher’s national championship winning team from 2013. However, in a season that’s lacking a clear No. 1 team, the Seminoles are still very much in the mix to factor into college football’s new four-team playoff.
And this is a team poised to improve as the season progresses, especially on defense where Florida State needed the most help on Saturday against NC State.
After a slow start against the Wolfpack, the Seminoles’ defense stepped up when it mattered.
After allowing 24 points in the first quarter, Florida State held NC State scoreless in the second quarter and limited the Wolfpack to just three points in the final period.
First-year coordinator Charles Kelly dialed up the right adjustments after the first quarter, holding the Wolfpack to three consecutive punts before the end of the first half. After NC State converted 5 of 9 third-down attempts in the first two quarters, the Wolfpack went just 2 of 7 over the final two periods.
NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play during the first half, but Florida State held Jacoby Brissett and the red-hot Wolfpack offense to just 4.4 yards per touch in the second half.
In addition to tightening the defensive scheme, the Seminoles forced three second-half turnovers, resulting in 14 points for the offense.
The defense certainly didn’t play its best game for Florida State, but in a matchup that was decided by a 15-point margin of victory, the Seminoles got two key turnovers that resulted in 14 points. Not bad.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Some of Florida State’s defensive struggles have to be shared by the offense, as the Seminoles committed four turnovers and gave NC State a short field on drives that resulted in 13 points.
While winning a national championship has raised the expectation level for Fisher and this team in 2014, it’s important to consider this defense did not have a senior starter in Saturday’s win. And standout defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. did not play due to a concussion.
Sure, depth at defensive tackle and tackling are concerns, but Florida State picked up key performance from freshman defensive lineman Lorenzo Featherston (1.5 TFL, 1 FF), freshman linebacker Jacob Pugh (three tackles, 1 FR) and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey (two forced fumbles).
Clearly, the youth and depth in certain positions are two issues to watch as the season progresses, but the talent is there to improve over the course of 2014. And with an explosive offense, Florida State’s defense doesn’t necessarily have to be a shutdown unit – at least right now.
Fisher’s team has delivered in the clutch in its three games against Power 5 opponents, starting with a defensive stand against Oklahoma State, a win without Jameis Winston versus Clemson and rallying from a 24-7 deficit against NC State.
The final numbers on defense won’t be pretty, but the second half performance against the Wolfpack is something Fisher and Kelly can build on over the next few weeks.