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Welcome to Sports Lite, everybody. Just so you know, I’m giving 110 percent and taking it one paragraph at a time. …
Nothing says office Christmas party like cash bar, and nothing says Big East like Texas Christian. What, the British Premier League didn’t extend an invitation? …
These are the days in Madison, Wis., where the Badgers appear headed for the Rose Bowl and their second string is favored by six in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. …The Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman. Honey, on second thought, I’ll get right on that filthy garage. …
Word out of New York is that the Captain, Derek Jeter, is insulted by the Yankees’ three-year, $45-million offer. At least he was until he realized every other offer out there included free lessons in Japanese. …Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, says Jeter is the modern-day Babe Ruth. Um, C.C., do the words Boston Braves mean anything to you? …
This just in. Stud rookie Blake Griffin has been suspended by the Clippers for conduct detrimental to the team’s sucky image. …
The 2010 college fantasy season is over…
After that very serious moment of silence and a single tear, I will put the college fantasy season behind me with one office championship (BCS-only) and one runner-up finish (120-league). So one final longing glance back at the stars of the college fantasy season is in order. Here were the top performers by position of the 2010 college fantasy season:
Quarterback was an interesting position this season. First of all, the No. 1 overall pick was lost for the season before it really even got started. Dwight Dasher’s gambling issues caused major first-round heartburn. Colin Kaepernick lived-up to the hype and finished as the No. 3 overall player in the draft. A new system at East Carolina, packaged with a Boston College transfer, delivered a sterling season for Dominique Davis owners. It was a blast to see Robert Griffin stay healthy, and he rewarded gambling owners with a top-10 season in his return to the gridiron.
But after it was all said and done, it was two new dual-threat starters at two college football powers that topped the charts. Cam Newton’s numbers, and clutch play, speaks for itself as he finished as the top player in the nation. Shoelace Robinson became the first player in NCAA history to post a 1,500-1,500 season (or 2,000-1,500 for that matter) and could have finished at No. 1 if not for knee-head-finger injuries keeping him out large chunks of multiple games.
1. Cameron Newton, Auburn (434.06 Total Fantasy Points)
2,254 yards, 24 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,336 rush yards, 18 TDs, 2 rec., 42 yards, TD
2. Denard Robinson, Michigan (390.94 TFP)
2,316 yards, 16 TDs, 10 INTs, 1,643 rush yards, 14 TDs
3. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (381.44 TFP)
2,671 yards, 20 TDs, 7 INTs, 1,026 rush yards, 17 TDs
4. Dominique Davis, East Carolina (349.68 TFP)
3,687 yards, 36 TDs, 14 INTs, 142 rush yards, 9 TDs, 2-pt conv.
5. G.J. Kinne, Tulsa (332.18 TFP)
3,307 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs, 557 rush yards, 7 TDs, 2-pt conv.
6. Russell Wilson, NC State (316.62 TFP)
3,288 yards, 26 TDs, 14 INTs, 394 rush yards, 9 TDs, 2 rec., 27 yards
7. Bryant Moniz, Hawaii (313.16 TFP)
4,229 yards, 32 TDs, 10 INTs, 47 rush yards, 2 TDs
8. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (312.30 TFP)
3,195 yards, 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 591 rush yards, 8 TDs, rec., 9 yards, 2-pt conv.
9. Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State (304.26 TFP)
2,934 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs, 477 rush yards, 11 TDs
10. Alex Carder, Western Michigan (296.56 TFP)
3,334 yards, 30 TDs, 12 INTs, 226 rush yards, 6 TDs
11. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (292.04 TFP)
12. Andrew Luck, Stanford (290.30 TFP)
13. Austin Davis, Southern Miss (286.22 TFP)
14. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (284.24 TFP)
15. Kyle Padron, SMU (282.94 TFP)
As I’ve stated before in this space, I don’t think fantasy saviors tend to reside on the waiver wire at this point in the season – nor should they. If anyone worth weekly starting consideration is freely available nearly three-quarters of the way through the year, it’s a sign that your league lacks either ideal size or competitiveness.
With that in mind, simply passing along top pickup candidates for a given week is probably not helpful. If you’re serious enough about your fantasy to be seeking out online advice, odds are you’re about as aware of the recently emergent names as I am. This late in the year, most such names represent a crapshoot. I could tell you why Danario Alexander makes sense, but if he needs a sixth knee surgery after the second quarter of his Week 13 game, then it’s all moot.
Instead, I’m opting this week to suggest some waiver-wire strategy for the final quarter of the fantasy season. Keep in mind that you’ll have to adjust any suggestions to your particular situation and format, but here are some fairly general rules for free-agent treatment that I think differ from the early part of the season.
Back up all positions (except kicker)
This is akin to backing up everything on your computer’s hard drive to avoid losing it all in the case of a crash. It might make sense through much of the year to simply ride Aaron Rodgers and use what would be a second quarterback slot to take some chances on guys like Steve Johnson, LeGarrette Blount or even Anthony Gonzalez – waiver shots that may or may not pay off. After all, David Garrard, Jon Kitna and a couple of others have been dangling out there pretty much all year in case Rodgers goes down, and there’s always the trade desk.
At this point, though, the waiver wire is extremely picked over and trading is closed for many leagues (or not a worthwhile option for flailing redraft teams that won’t sniff the playoffs). With all of the byes long gone, it’s time to realize that a fifth running back or sixth receiver is probably not going to do anything for you the rest of the way. Dump that guy for a backup quarterback, whatever real option might still be available. Chad Henne might not have looked very attractive all year, but if you’re staring at him and the Panthers’ rancid flavors of the week on your wire, then it’s time to suck it up and support your starter with the lackluster Dolphin. Better to have a guy with at least some upside than watch one injury end your fantasy season prematurely.
Favor handcuffs over fringe options
Javon Ringer and Bernard Scott made a lot of sense at draft time to those who picked up Chris Johnson and Cedric Benson (respectively). As the starters have made it this far without injury, though, and helped lead to their backups producing nothing, it has gotten a lot easier to view such players as fungible assets.
Why continue to wait for Tashard Choice to start getting meaningful carries, though, or hold out on Derrick Ward just in case when you should be more concerned about your starter going down? Even if he has made it through 11 games unscathed, it takes just one hit (or misstep in the turf) to end a player’s season.
Players such as James Davis or Michael Bush could be worth keeping around if you have the space, but neither is likely to start as long as you have Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew healthy. If one of those two goes down, you can feel pretty certain that Chester Taylor or Rashad Jennings would be in for some more work. Davis and Bush, meanwhile, could still represent no change from the previous week.
A second defense is OK
Most of the time, keeping a second defense around will be good only for producing your own aggravation. So many relatively unpredictable factors go into a unit’s fantasy scoring that it’s often tough to figure out what might be a positive matchup and which might be the better play in a given week.
If you’ve gotten to this point without a strong weekly fantasy defense, though, why not drop an unimportant player for a second choice? Check out what the crappy Houston D did against Tennessee in Week 12, or how positive any matchup with Carolina appears. There are times when playing the matchups with your defense will pay off, and even if you’re happy with the option already on hand, you could take a free-agent candidate away from your fellow playoff contenders.
Grabbing insurance in this area is far from imperative. As with the rest of the suggestions, though, if your roster size and situation allow, it’s a move that could pay off.
… And it’s Tolzien by a nose.
Now that the Big Ten season is in the books (all except Illinois’ final contest), it’s time to hand out the end-of-season awards …
Most Valuable Player: Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin
It’s a crowded field, with Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor not far behind the Badgers signal caller. Voters may give Robinson style points for setting a new NCAA rushing mark for a quarterback, but I felt Robinson failed to excite in his team’s biggest games. Tolzien, on the other hand, was consistent throughout the year. He owns the nation’s best completion percentage and the fourth-highest QB rating. And while it’s clear John Clay was replaceable in Wisconsin’s run-first offense, I doubt the same can be said of Tolzien.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Badgers’ J.J. Watt has picked up momentum at the end of the year due to some outstanding play, but Watt has more help surrounding him than Kerrigan, who might as well play on an island at Purdue. In terms of statistics, Kerrigan dominated the league like no other; he led the Big Ten in sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and posted a respectable 70 tackles. His 12.5 sacks rank second nationally.
Top Freshman: Nathan Scheelhasse, QB, Illinois
Another Badger — James White — will be the frontrunner for this award, but the fact that fellow backup running back Montee Ball put up similar numbers to White in the final month of the season should scare voters. Scheelhasse played a bigger role in getting his team to the bowl season. The first-year signal caller has a two to one touchdown-to-interception ratio (16 to 8), with 12 touchdowns and just one interception in the past five weeks. And he’ll finish the season among the top 10 in the conference in rushing yards.
Coach of the Year: Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Little room for debate here. Bielema guided his club past No. 1 Ohio State at home, then went to Iowa City the following week and knocked off the Hawkeyes. Throughout the year Bielema kept his club prepared and focused and he refused to look ahead. Voters may deduct points if they believe Bielema is guilty of “piling it on” in games against Austin Peay, Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern.
Best Game: Illinois at Michigan, Nov. 6
Fans will remember the score — a 67-65 Michigan victory — but the three-overtime game was exciting for the simple fact that neither team owned more than a seven-point lead at any point in this game. It was back and forth from the start. Illinois held Denard Robinson to just 3.3 yards per carry; too bad they couldn’t stop the Michigan passing game: 419 yards and five touchdowns. The win gave Michigan its sixth win, earning the program bowl eligibility after a two-year layoff.
Indiana 34, Purdue 31
Michigan State 28, Penn State 22
Ohio State 37, Michigan 7
Minnesota 27, Iowa 24
Wisconsin 70, Northwestern 23
Penn State comeback falls just short
It was a valiant effort, but Penn State came up just short against Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans held a 21–3 lead entering the fourth quarter, and a 28–10 lead with less than nine minutes to play, but Penn State kept fighting. The Nittany Lions actually had more total yards and committed fewer turnovers, but that wasn’t enough.
Hoosiers take home the Bucket
Freshman Mitch Ewald nailed a 26-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to help his Hoosiers send their game with Purdue into overtime. There Ewald made a 31-yard field goal that earned Indiana the Old Oaken Bucket. The Hoosiers celebrated for a day until coach Bill Lynch was fired after a 5–7 season.
Clay plays, not needed
Star running back John Clay was healthy but his team did not need him in its win over Northwestern. In fact, the coaching staff did not insert Clay into the game until the second half when things were already in hand. He carried four times for seven yards after missing two games with a bum knee.
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
No one believed Northwestern would have a chance without Dan Persa in the lineup — and for good reason. The Wildcats were never in this game. The Badgers forced six of the Wildcats’ seven turnovers, and outgained their opponent, 559 to 284. Wisconsin scored 70 points, all in the game’s first three quarters. Total domination.
Disappointment of the Week: Iowa
If you didn’t know better, you’d think Iowa tossed in the towel this week. Sure, Floyd was probably a big motivator for a Minnesota team with nothing to lose, but how could Iowa play so poorly? They gained just 3.4 yards per rush against the conference’s worst run defense. They allowed the Gopher offense to convert nine of 16 third downs. And Iowa lost the time of possession battle, 36:06 to 23:54. Ugly, plain ugly.
Offensive Player of the Week: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
The numbers don’t suggest it, but Pryor had a magnificent day in Ohio State’s win over rival Michigan. He made difficult passes to sustain drives, and found Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey for second quarter touchdowns. And Pryor’s feet did some work, too — 49 yards.
Defensive Player of the Week: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt’s effort against the Wildcats may have been the best defensive performance of the season. He stripped quarterback Evan Watkins of the ball early, leading to a Badger fumble recovery. Then he pressured Watkins into an interception. On another down, Watt chased down the ballcarrier from behind and stripped the ball for another fumble. Oh yeah, and he blocked an extra point.
Freshman of the Week: Rob Henry, QB, Purdue
It may have come in a losing effort, but Henry’s performance was still noteworthy. He posted season bests of 252 yards and three touchdowns and led his club in rushing. Henry has much to learn, but he will give the Purdue coaching staff reason to consider their options at quarterback when spring camp opens in a few months.
The Week Ahead
Player to Watch: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
The junior has caught a touchdown pass in three of the past four games. In a week when the passing game will be important to Illinois’ success, Jenkins will be a key figure in his team’s hopes for a seventh victory.
When Illinois and Fresno State met at the end of the 2009 season, the Bulldogs won thanks to a last-second touchdown pass from Ryan Colburn to Jamel Hamler. Fresno State decided to go for the win instead of the tie and was successful on its two-point try in the 53–52 win.
Fresno State ranks 82nd in the country in points allowed per game (29.7). The Illini rank 29th in the country in scoring (32.9).
Fresno State 31, Illinois 24
There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.
Finally there's a light from Darko
PF/C Darko Milicic will certainly be remembered more for being selected in the 2003 NBA Draft second overall — before Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — than for his efforts on the basketball court. However, those efforts are finally starting to shine through eight years later. The Timberwolves are getting 9.1 ppg, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.1 assists from Milicic in 27 minutes a game. He had a string of three-straight performances over 20 points snapped Saturday, which has finally made him more than just the guy that contributes in the blocks category.
No go for Bogut
Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut did not travel to Utah for tonight's game due to a back injury. Bogut, who is already battling an arm/hand injury from last season, might not play Wednesday at Denver either. That would mean one game played over the team's three-game schedule at best. Milwaukee kept Bogut at home, and you should keep him on your bench this week.
Bogut is not the only Buck battling injuries. PF/C Drew Gooden and SG/SF Corey Maggette are both dealing with foot injuries. SG/SF Carlos Delfino has missed nine straight games with concussion symptoms. That leaves forward Ersan Ilyasova to pick up some of the slack. He got his first start of the season Saturday — 17 points on 5-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, 4-of-4 from the stripe with nine boards, six assists and three steals. This came after a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Detroit the night before. There is risk in playing Ilyasova, but the Bucks just snapped a five-game losing streak and are having trouble getting anything together offensively. So roll with multi-category help that Ilyasova gives you.
More than just jumpers
Orlando's JJ Redick is benefiting from Vince Carter's knee injury that has sidelined him for the last three games. So you should benefit from it, too. Redick scored in double digits on three occasions last week, averaging over four assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in four games. Carter is likely to return this week, but his minutes may be monitored. So feel safe to go with Redick.
The Lakers are averaging 9.2 points more a game than their opponents, thus giving bench players more court time. Shannon Brown has certainly taken advantage. The SG/SF is playing 18.9 minutes a game, scoring 10.9 points with 1.7 3s, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals. You will have to deal with up-and-down percentages, but Brown has scored in double digits in nine of 17 games so far, and has added three or more rebounds six times. The Lakers play Memphis, Houston and Sacramento this week, meaning there should continue to be opportunities.
Like 3-pointers from your center-eligble players? Last year it was Channing Frye, Al Harrington, Troy Murphy, Andrea Bargnani and Matt Bonner. All five hit 90 or more 3-pointers. Four of those five are on pace again. Harrington leads the charge with 31, while Frye has 27, Bargnani has 21 and Bonner, who recently returned from injury, has 21 in 10 games. Bonner is still available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues and 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Murphy, who on Sunday saw his first action in seven games, is available in 42 percent of ESPN leagues and 24 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you have your choice between the two, go with Bonner. The Spur is at least getting minutes. His percentages will be lower, but the risk-reward should give you more from Bonner. Murphy has been a healthy scratch, according to the 10-year veteran, and doesn't seem to be meshing well with the New Jersey Nets.
Warrick an iffy play
Hakim Warrick now gets his shot to replace Amar'e Stoudemire. The Phoenix Suns tabbed him as the new starter at power forward. He averaged over 25 minutes off the bench, scoring 13.1 points a game with 4.6 rebounds. His first start left plenty to be desired. In a 138-133 loss to Denver, Warrick played 27 minutes with one foul and scored just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting to go along with nine boards. The Suns play Golden State, Indiana and Washington this week. Golden State and Washington allow over 104 points a contest. So feel OK, not great, about placing Warrick in your lineup.
Hold the Mayo?
OJ Mayo started the first 13 games of the season for Memphis, but has found himself coming off the bench for the last four. Could he find a spark on the second unit? Could he lead the second unit? Could he benefit from playing vs. other second teamers? Through four games off the bench, that doesn't seem to be the case. The guard's scoring is down seven points, and his shooting percentages are worse as are his rebounds, assists and steals. Were the Grizzlies going up against a tougher defensive slate this week I would leave Mayo on the bench, but three of the four teams they face allow over 100 points a game, so feel safe in adding a little Mayo to your lineup.
Find other options
Jonny Flynn still isn't back and might not be for another three weeks or so. Sebastian Telfair isn't tearing up the court. So that leaves Luke Ridnour to run the point in Minnesota. He is back after a hamstring injury sidelined him. In the four games since his return, Ridnour is scoring at 11.8 a game with 5.3 assists and 1.3 3-pointers. The Timberwolves play Dallas, San Antonio and Cleveland this week, all surrendering less than 100 points a game. I would hold off on Ridnour and go find a guy like Washington's Kirk Hinrich or Houston's Kyle Lowry to run the point for you for a week. They both have four-game slates.
Crash says he'll go
Gerald Wallace came crashing down to the floor with 7.1 seconds left in Saturday's game against Milwaukee, hyperextending his left elbow. He looked to be in a lot of pain as he was helped off the court, the kind of pain that means time will be missed. Further evaluation revealed an elbow contusion. He was limited in Monday's practice but says he will play Wednesday in New Orleans. The Bobcats also play New Jersey and Philly this week. It's a risky play, but the guy is playing over 38 minutes a game this season and is a stat stuffer. If he says he is going all you can do is believe him and put him in the lineup.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
Isn’t it absolutely wonderful in life when things live up to their hype? So rare, but so delightful. And it was a week of met expectations, when you think about it.
Thanksgiving lunch and dinner and leftovers? Check. Check. Check. Iron Bowl? Check.
When Alabama jetted out to a 24–0 lead, did anyone turn the channel? No. First of all, nothing else was on. Secondly, Auburn has taught us lessons all year about starting (extremely) slowly and coming on fiercely. Why would the biggest game of the Tigers’ season play out any differently?
The Tide left a whole bunch of points on the field, no doubt. But those turnovers didn’t cause themselves. As South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier pointed out Sunday, the Tigers might give up a bunch of yards and points, but they always seem to make a play when necessary.
It’s no fluke if you navigate an SEC schedule with a 12–0 record. Especially in a division that features two other 10-win teams — and a nine-win team that won the national title a year ago.
Cam Newton and the Tigers have one more hurdle to clear — one that it’s already cleared once. The Gamecocks were pesky back on Sept. 25, for sure. They led Auburn 20–7 in the second quarter at Jordan-Hare before Newton went into unstoppable mode for, really, the first time all season.
It’ll be interesting to see if that furious rally in Tuscaloosa took anything out of Auburn. That could mean anything at all, mentally or physically.
Auburn has had an amazingly interesting season. But winning so many tight games does take a toll. It has to. Right? Have the Tigers got enough left for one more and then a month to breathe before Oregon or TCU?
Auburn 28, Alabama 27
Tennessee 24, Kentucky 14
Arkansas 31, LSU 23
Florida State 31, Florida 7
Mississippi State 31, Ole Miss 23
South Carolina 29, Clemson 7
Wake Forest 34, Vanderbilt 13
Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 34
BCS championship game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
Capital One Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State
Cotton Bowl: Louisiana State vs. Oklahoma State
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Penn State
Chick-fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State
Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Iowa
Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida
Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina
Compass Bowl: Kentucky vs. Pitt
• When Arkansas lost Greg Childs for the season, some basically wrote off the Razorbacks’ offense. Or, at least many presumed it would lose a step or two. Sophomore Cobi Hamilton, though, has negated the effect of the loss. Hamilton had 85- and 80-yard touchdowns against LSU on Saturday, providing a Childs-like deep threat for Ryan Mallett. Don’t underestimate, too, what running back Knile Davis has done. Saturday’s 152-yard day gave him four consecutive 100-yard game and fifth in six games. Consider it took Davis, a sophomore, the first four weeks to get to 100 yards. The Hogs are left rooting this week for Auburn. If the Tigers are in the national title game, there’s a good chance that puts Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
• No truly impressive wins, but just the fact that Derek Dooley held Tennessee together enough to reach a bowl game is impressive in and of itself. After a 14-point loss at South Carolina, the Volunteers had lost four in a row and six of seven. Dooley made the bold (and correct) move of going with freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, and immediately Bray breathed life into one of the league’s worst offenses. Bray, who had 354 yards and two scores in increasing UT’s win streak against Kentucky to 26, gives Tennessee fans reasons to be hopeful about the future. That didn’t seem possible a month ago.
• Happy trails to Vandy coach Robbie Caldwell, who decided the head job with the Commodores just wasn’t suited for him. Caldwell seems like a genuinely good dude who, like all those before him, wasn’t up for the impossible task of trying to win at Vandy. Caldwell should land a good O-line job somewhere, if he still wants to coach.
• Seven-win teams never turn down bowl bids, but Florida should consider it. The Gators have gotten progressively worse since beating Georgia in overtime a month ago. A month that Florida has owned in recent years featured two utter embarrassments, to South Carolina and Florida State. Urban Meyer has a pretty pedestrian 16–8 record in games he’s coached at UF without Tim Tebow at quarterback. Makes you wonder about 2011, doesn’t it? Meyer should strongly reconsider sticking with the status quo and Steve Addazio. Meyer conceded after the game that the Gators “are down a little bit.”
• Now that the regular season is done, it’s worth noting just how bad the East was, as a whole. Congrats to South Carolina and everything, because the Gamecocks did what they had to do. But, really, it is unbelievable how down the division was, relative to the West. The East won just three games head to head against West teams. And two — by Vanderbilt and Tennessee — were against an Ole Miss team that finished in the West cellar. Without South Carolina’s signature victory against Alabama, No. 1 at the time, the East would’ve looked even worse. Extending the previous thought about Florida, wonder what this division will look like in 2011. South Carolina, you’d think, will again be in good shape, with Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore back. But what about the rest of the East? SEC Least again?
Stud of the Week
Knile Davis, Arkansas RB. The sophomore is the biggest reason why the Hogs are suddenly in the BCS picture — even more than QB Ryan Mallett.
Dud of the Week
Kentucky. The Wildcats might have to wait another quarter-century for another chance this golden to finally beat Tennessee.
The Holiday Bowl representative who came to the Washington-Cal game on Saturday may not have been thrilled with what he saw. But at this point, he may want to be satisfied simply having a Pac-10 team in the game at all.
Because of the unique dynamic of the conference — two national title contenders, seven so-so teams and one on NCAA probation — the bowl games with Pac-10 tie-ins don’t exactly have a large pool to choose from this season. The conference has arrangements with six bowls, and as few as one Pac-10 team could fill those slots this season.
Oregon appears headed for the Bowl Championship Series national championship game — a win over Oregon State in Saturday’s Civil War will punch the Ducks’ ticket to Glendale, Ariz. Stanford moved up to No. 4 in the BCS standings this week. The Cardinal’s regular season is over, and unless another team jumps over it, it is guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS games based on the top-4 finish. But it likely won’t be the Rose Bowl. If Auburn and Oregon meet in the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl is obligated under BCS rules to invite TCU, because the Horned Frogs are an automatic qualifier from a non-BCS conference.
So under that scenario, neither of the Pac-10’s top two teams would play in the Rose Bowl this season.
But wait, there’s more. There are five other bowl games that have contracts with the Pac-10 — the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Entering the weekend, Arizona is the only other conference team that is bowl-eligible. If it remained that way, the Wildcats would go to the Alamo Bowl and the other four bowl games would have to start searching for bowl-eligible teams from other conferences.
There are three other Pac-10 teams that could become bowl-eligible this weekend. Washington appears to have the best chance. The Huskies were 3–6 at one point and needed three wins in a row to close out their season to qualify. After Saturday’s exciting yet uneasy-on-the-eyes 16–13 win at Cal, Washington is two-thirds of the way there. Now, all the Huskies have to do is beat Washington State in Saturday’s Apple Cup. The Cougars are just 1–7 in conference play, but that win came in their last game over Oregon State.
Washington State has had two weeks off to prepare for the Huskies.
Arizona State and Oregon State each need a win Saturday to become bowl-eligible. The Sun Devils have a legitimate chance at Arizona, which has lost three in a row. The Beavers, meanwhile, don’t figure to stand much of a chance against the Ducks.
Even if Washington and Arizona State both win, they would only fill slots in the Holiday Bowl and Sun Bowl. That would still leave the Las Vegas Bowl and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl without a Pac-10 representative in their games this year.
Arizona State 55, UCLA 34
Oregon 48, Arizona 29
Washington 16, California 13
Stanford 38, Oregon State 0
Notre Dame 20, USC 16
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore may have seen his Heisman Trophy support wane after the Broncos’ overtime loss to Nevada on Friday. With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck gaining momentum at the same time, this season’s Heisman ceremony could have a strong Pac-10 flavor.
While many still believe Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the favorite despite widespread reports that question his eligibility, the next two top candidates appear to be Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James. Depending how players like James and Moore fare in their regular season finales this weekend, there could be just three players invited to New York for the ceremony on Dec. 11. Two of them could be from the Pac-10.
Nothing to lose
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said he never even thought about going for the tie at the end of Saturday’s win over Cal.
Faced with 4th-and-goal at the Bears’ 1-yard line, Sarkisian called timeout with one second left and the Huskies trailing 13–10. Instead of attempting a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime, Washington went for the win. Running back Chris Polk easily scored, setting off a wild Husky celebration while the Bears slowly trudged off the field with their season having abruptly come to an end.
Filling the hole
With top big-play receiver Chris Owusu out with an undisclosed injury, Stanford’s Doug Baldwin has been stepping up his production in recent weeks. The senior caught five passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns during the Cardinal’s 38-0 rout of Oregon State last week. In the three games Owusu has been sidelined, Baldwin is averaging 6.7 catches for 105.3 yards in receptions. He’s also scored three times.
Randy Shannon helped Miami’s football program make big strides with regard to discipline and academic achievement. Unfortunately for him, those positives weren’t enough to outweigh some noticeable negatives: not enough victories and not enough fans in the stands at Sun Life Stadium.
A few months after giving Shannon a contract extension, Miami athletics director Kirby Hocutt decided Saturday that Shannon no longer was the right man to lead the program. Hocutt fired him in the wake of a 23–20 overtime loss to South Florida that took place in front of 26,369 people and dropped the Hurricanes to 7–5 this season.
Hocutt said he didn’t base his decision on the final game, but this much is undeniable: When the tradition-rich program located in South Florida loses at home to an unaccomplished program called South Florida (located in Tampa, by the way) led by a freshman walk-on quarterback, there’s a problem.
In many ways, Shannon fell victim to the championship expectations that he helped create. He was a linebacker at Miami from 1985-88 and served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for 13 seasons, playing a role on three of the program’s five national championship teams.
Shannon restored Miami as a premier destination for the nation’s elite high school talent, bringing in highly rated recruiting classes. Fans and alumni expected those classes to turn Miami back into “The U,” but the Hurricanes have yet to play for an ACC title since joining the conference. So as Miami continued to fall out of contention for championships despite having talent that analysts agreed was championship-worthy, someone had to pay the price.
Shannon finishes with a 28–22 record, including 0–2 in bowl games, in four seasons as head coach of the Hurricanes. That ledger includes a 16–16 mark in ACC play, including a 10–10 mark against Coastal Division opponents Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Shannon made some mistakes during his tenure, most recently when he started true freshman Stephen Morris at quarterback against South Florida after originally saying that Jacory Harris would be his starter when Harris returned to health from his concussion.
But Shannon also did plenty of good things, which Hurricanes fans will realize in the years to come. Just check out Miami’s depth chart leading up to the South Florida game: Only five of the 25 offensive players on it are seniors, and just seven of the 24 defensive players listed are seniors. The offensive line loses just one of its top 10 players next season, and the defense loses just three starters.
Bottom line: The next coach — whoever that is — will take over a Miami program in better shape than the one Shannon inherited. And no one should be surprised if the Hurricanes win big in 2011.
The only question will be whether Shannon could have done the same if given the opportunity.
Boston College 16, Syracuse 7
South Florida 23, Miami 20, OT
Virginia Tech 37, Virginia 7
Florida State 31, Florida 7
Maryland 38, N.C. State 31
North Carolina 24, Duke 19
South Carolina 29, Clemson 7
Wake Forest 34, Vanderbilt 13
Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 34
Championship Game Set
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher probably said it best when he described Saturday as “a perfect day for Florida State football.” Two games were important to the Seminoles, and both produced the result that the Seminoles desired.
First — and most important in Fisher’s mind — Florida State ended its six-game losing streak against rival Florida by thumping the Gators in convincing fashion. Minutes later, Maryland wrapped up a victory over NC State to give the Seminoles the Atlantic Division title and send them to the ACC championship game for the first time since 2005.
Florida State (9-3, 6-2) will take on Virginia Tech, which extended its winning steak to 10 games with a dominating victory over Virginia, on Saturday night in Charlotte. The Hokies (10-2, 8-0), who became the first team to go through ACC play undefeated since Florida State in 2000, have won 10 games for a nation-best seventh consecutive season.
The flip side to the thrill of victory for Florida State and Virginia Tech was the agony of defeat for NC State. The Wolfpack (8-4, 5-3) would have played in the ACC championship game for the first time had they defeated the Terrapins, but they couldn’t hold on after taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
NC State resembled a team of destiny down the stretch when it pulled out wins over Florida State and North Carolina thanks to an improbable fumble recovery and a touchdown pass that coach Tom O’Brien called “a prayer.” But dropped passes, including a couple that could have been touchdowns, and an inability to contain Maryland’s passing game prevented the Wolfpack from grabbing one more close victory.
“We had all those chances, and guys who usually take advantage of those chances didn’t make the plays,” O’Brien said. “It’s just a tough way to end a heck of a season and what could have been a chance to keep going. But it didn’t turn out the way we would have liked.”
Smith Enjoys Record Day
Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith saved his best performance for the final game of the regular season. Smith posted career highs across the board against NC State with 14 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns. He tied a school record for receptions in a game and became the first player in Maryland history to catch four touchdown passes in a single game.
Smith’s effort helped Maryland overcome its lack of production in the running game. Quarterback Danny O’Brien completed 33 of 47 passes for a career-high 417 yards, the first 400-yard passing game for a Maryland player since Scott Milanovich in 1993, as the Terrapins (8-4, 5-3) finished with a net minus-9 yards rushing.
“Torrey has been able to make big plays all year long,” Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin said. “We saw early on that he was kind of hot, so we wanted to feed the hot hands. They’re a good defense, and we weren’t able to run the ball consistently enough, so at some point you just have to go with what’s working.”
Smith’s big day also paved the way for some individual milestones near the end of his junior season. He became the second player in school history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, set a single-season school record for touchdown catches (12) and broke the school record for career all-purpose yards (5,183).
BC’s Williams runs … and runs … and runs
Andre Williams entered the weekend with 34 carries in his brief college career. Then Boston College’s true freshman tailback surpassed that total in one afternoon.
Filling in for injured star Montel Harris, Williams rushed for 185 yards and one touchdown on a school-record 42 carries to lead the Eagles past Syracuse.
“I’m a little tired, but I feel fine,” Williams said after helping Boston College (7-5, 4-4) earn its fifth consecutive victory. “Coach now knows he has more than one back and he can be comfortable with me in the game.”
Williams spent a large portion of this season as Boston College’s third-string tailback, but unforeseen circumstances allowed him to show his talent in the regular-season finale. Backup Sterlin Phifer left the team last month, leaving Williams as Harris’ backup. Then Harris, who leads the ACC in rushing and has more career rushing yards than any junior in ACC history, suffered a knee injury last week against Virginia.
Williams rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries in relief of Harris against the Cavaliers, and he moved into the starting role against Syracuse after Harris had arthroscopic surgery Monday.
“I can’t say Andre surprised us because we knew he had that ability,” Boston College left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “I’m sure you saw him bursting through those holes. He just runs with no fear. It was impressive. He was running like a man possessed.”
Tigers Turn To Boyd
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney changed quarterbacks after Kyle Parker threw an interception that South Carolina’s Antonio Allen returned 37 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd entered the game, giving the Tigers a glimpse at their future.
“I was a little surprised to get the call,” said Boyd, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 73 yards. “I felt like I didn’t have a lot of opportunities and a lot of reps this season, so this really helped me out a lot. It was really a confidence booster.
“We have a lot to look forward to with this young team. We have a bowl game coming up, and we have to help the seniors go out victorious.”
Parker tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins on Clemson’s first possession, but he struggled for the rest of the night. He completed just 7 of 17 passes for 117 yards in his final regular-season game. Parker is just a sophomore in terms of football eligibility, but he is likely to pursue a professional baseball career next year.
“I always want the best for Kyle,” Boyd said. “I wish he could have finished his last game here, but I think everything happens for a reason. Hopefully this will lead to some good things.”
The Tigers (6-6, 4-4) were short-handed once again in the backfield, with leading rusher Andre Ellington still bothered by his toe injury. Ellington, who missed Clemson’s previous three games, carried just one time for no yards against the Gamecocks because his foot still didn’t feel right.
Ellington will have surgery soon and won’t play in Clemson’s bowl game.
• Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has to wait for a bowl game to get another chance to break the school’s single-season sack record. Bowers, who had recorded a sack in a school-record nine consecutive games heading into the weekend, had none against South Carolina. He has 15.5 sacks this season, just shy of Keith Adams’ school-record 16 sacks.
• Four turnovers and Scott Blair’s first missed extra-point attempt in 78 tries short-circuited a dominant effort by Georgia Tech’s offense in the Yellow Jackets’ loss at Georgia. The Yellow Jackets racked up 512 total yards, including 411 rushing yards, and a season-high 38:14 of possession time. Georgia Tech also ran 92 plays and picked up 32 first downs, its highest totals in those categories since 2000.
• Miami senior Leonard Hankerson became the third player in school history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, joining Eddie Brown in 1984 and Andre Johnson in 2002. Hankerson, who had nine receptions for 127 yards against South Florida, went over 2,000 yards receiving for his career.
• North Carolina dominated Duke — just not on the scoreboard. The Tar Heels outgained the Blue Devils 519-275, amassing more than 500 yards of offense for the first time since 2004. North Carolina also controlled the ball for a season-high 39:33 of possession time en route to beating Duke for the 20th time in the last 21 meetings between the teams.
• NC State’s run defense was strong in the month of November. The Wolfpack, who held North Carolina and Maryland to a combined minus-16 rushing yards in the last two games, allowed a total of 140 rushing yards on 132 attempts (1.06 yards per carry) in four November games. NC State helped its cause in those games with 16 sacks, which count against rushing totals in college football.
• Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor enjoyed his final game at Lane Stadium, completing 13 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown against Virginia. Taylor became the school’s all-time leading passer (6,532 yards), surpassing the previous record of 6,508 yards set by Bryan Randall from 2001-04.
• Wake Forest snapped its nine-game losing streak thanks in part to two blocked punts against Vanderbilt. The Demon Deacons blocked two punts in a game for the first time since Nov. 29, 2008, their last game against the Commodores.
Oklahoma vs. Nebraska: One More Time
Anybody for an encore?
Since 1921, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been together, sharing a conference and mostly sharing the spotlight as league rivals and championship contenders.
The Big 12 is breaking up, in number if not in name. Nebraska and Colorado head for the exits after this school year. So, fitting it is that the Sooners and Huskers ready for one final showdown in the Big 12.
That’s the matchup — Saturday, 7 p.m., Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas — in what is being billed as the league’s last championship game. A wild, surprise-filled season sending out new-era vibes eventually returned an old-school matchup, as Oklahoma and Nebraska clinched division titles on the final weekend.
The Huskers tied with Missouri in the North, but advances based on their head-to-head win over the Tigers, after rolling Colorado 45-17 in the regular-season finale. The Sooners emerged from a three-way tie with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the South based on the BCS standings, after surviving a wild Bedlam game in Stillwater, 47-41.
So now it’s on, Oklahoma-Nebraska, again.
Overall, the Huskers own 43 conference crowns; the Sooners 42. And 20 times previously since World War II, the OU-Nebraska game were all but de facto conference title game, whether in the Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight or Big 12.
“It doesn’t get any better than Oklahoma and Nebraska for the Big 12 championship,” said Sooners linebacker Travis Lewis. “The rivalry goes way back to even before the Big 12 started. Who better to play than Nebraska?”
Texas A&M 24, Texas 17
Nebraska 45, Colorado 17
Oklahoma 47, Oklahoma State 41
Missouri 35, Kansas 7
Kansas State 49, North Texas 41
Texas Tech 35, Houston 20
Player of the Week: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. The Aggies back ran for a career-high 223 yards on 27 carries in A&M’s win over the Longhorns. It was the most yards by an Aggie back against Texas and the fifth-best rushing day in school history.
They call it Bedlam when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meeting in anything. The tag started with football. And it played out Saturday night, with the Sooners finally prevailing in a game that featured 31 points in the final 4:06.
“Wow, what a game,” said OU coach Bob Stoops.
And then some.
The Sooners ran a school-record 107 plays and quarterback Landry Jones tied the OU passing record with 468 yards.
And still it nearly wasn’t enough.
The Cowboys kept coming, making big plays to stay in the game, including an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Justin Gilbert to make it 40-38 with 2:34 to play, after the Sooners had seemingly delivered a knockout blow with a third-and-long, 86-yard scoring pass to Cameron Kenney.
Then came another blow, with Jones finding tight end James Hanna running free for a 76-yard scoring pass.
Again, the Cowboys weren’t finished, marching to a field goal that pulled them within the final score and set up an onside kick try with 36 seconds left.
Only then, when the Sooners’ Ryan Broyles secured the kick, did OU breathe easily.
Throughout the Big 12 schedule, Nebraska and Colorado embarked on farewell tours of sorts, before both head off to new conferences for 2011. Friday in Lincoln, the tours came together, signaling the end of what became a solid rivalry.
It wasn’t the classic showdown like many before, but it was important, with Nebraska seeking the North title and the Buffs battling to become bowl-eligible.
The Huskers prevailed behind the passing of running back Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, but also passed for two more scores out of the Wildcat formation, with starting quarterback Taylor Martinez sitting out with an ankle injury.
“Nothing Rex Burkhead does surprises me,” said Huskers coach Bo Pelini. “He’s what a football player is supposed to be. They ought to put his picture next to it in the dictionary. He just does so many things to help you.”
Colorado couldn’t help itself, with three second-half turnovers a killer after a late-season rally under interim coach Brian Cabral, who replaced Dan Hawkins with three games to go, two of them wins.
The Buffaloes need a coach to lead them into the Pac-10. Maybe Cabral made a case to be that coach.
“Would I like to be the next head coach? Yes, but that’s not up to me,” Cabral said after the game. “I just had a wonderful ride these last three weeks. I had the best seat in the house for three weeks.
“There isn’t a Buff alive that wouldn’t give anything for that. I just feel so privileged to have been in this position. Where this goes, only God knows.”
Texas Two Step
The Lone Star showdown sent Texas A&M and Texas in different directions. And into different scenarios, drastically different than we’re used to, or we even expected as few as six weeks ago.
A&M’s 24-17 win kept the Aggies streaking, the Longhorns reeling.
Once 0-2 in the Big 12, A&M won six straight to close the regular season, finishing in a tie for first in the Big 12 South and positioning itself for a possible Cotton Bowl berth.
For the first time since 1998, the Aggies beat two Top 10 teams (Oklahoma and Nebraska) and were a major player in November.
“We set out at the beginning of the season to do this,” A&M senior center Matt Allen said. “Beat Texas and win in November.”
The Longhorns won but once in November (and that was against Florida Atlantic) on their way to a 5-7 finish, the worst of the Mack Brown era. Texas had won at least twice as many games every season since 2001.
“We’re sick of this,” Texas offensive lineman David Snow said. “We’re not used to this, and I for darn sure do not want to stay used to this, so it’s going to get fixed.”
At the beginning of the season, Connecticut was looked upon as a dark horse to win the Big East football title. Today, the Huskies are the front-runners.
With only three games remaining within the conference, three teams remain alive for the coveted BCS berth. Five could still lay claim to a share of the conference championship. There are all kinds of possible outcomes in regard to the title. An outright winner could be crowned. There could be three different two-way ties. There could be a three-way tie. Heck, there could even be a five-way tie.
But all eyes will be on UConn this weekend. Because in this case, the Huskies hold the reins.
The men of coach Randy Edsall are in a three-way 4–2 league logjam with West Virginia and Pittsburgh. However, Connecticut holds tiebreaker advantages over both the Mountaineers and Panthers.
The Huskies put themselves in that position by downing Cincinnati 38–17. They also received help from WVU, which drubbed the former first place team, Pitt, by 35–10. Now the task for Connecticut is to win at South Florida this Saturday in an 8 p.m. game.
“It’s on the road, but you know what? It’s what you want. This is why you play the game, to be in this position,” said Edsall.
This past weekend, the Huskies pulled away in what had been a close game late in the second quarter when defensive end Kendall Reyes intercepted a pass at the Connecticut 16-yard line as Cincy tried to tie the game before halftime. Reyes returned the pick 79 yards to set up a UConn touchdown that made the score 24–10 at the break. Back Jordan Todman, the nation’s No. 2 rusher averaging 148.1 yards per game, had two of his three touchdown runs in the second half. Todman had 175 yards to help lift Connecticut to 7–4 overall.
Beating South Florida, however, may not be easy. The Bulls, now 7–4 overall and 3–3 in Big East play, surprised Miami, Fla., this past Saturday 23–20 in overtime. Quarterback Bobby Eveld came off the bench in the second half to manage two touchdown drives, including one that was capped by his own 1-yard scoring run to tie the game with two minutes left in regulation.
If USF can win, West Virginia, 8–3 overall, will benefit after picking up its third straight win. The victory over Pitt in the 103rd Backyard Brawl not only gave WVU hope, but also seemingly cooled the seat of Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart.
“I can’t tell you how big of a win this is for West Virginia, for this staff and for me personally,” Stewart said afterward.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith threw three touchdown passes against Pitt, but, once again, the Mountaineer defense was the story, forcing three first-half turnovers and holding the Panthers to 78 rushing yards on the day.
The Mountaineers need to defeat Rutgers at home this weekend and hope Connecticut loses in order to snatch away the BCS berth.
In other league play last weekend, Louisville defeated RU 40–13 to finish 6–6. The Cardinals’ victory makes the team bowl-eligible for the first time since defeating Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl after the 2006 season.
U of L running back Bilal Powell had two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run before two minutes had been played in the second quarter. He finished with 123 rushing yards. Scarlet Knights freshman running back Jordan Thomas had a career-high 120 yards.
Syracuse, meanwhile, ended its regular season at 7–5 after a 16–7 non-conference loss to Boston College at the Carrier Dome.
Louisville 40, Rutgers 13
West Virginia 35, Pittsburgh 10
South Florida 23, Miami, Fla. 20, OT
Connecticut 38, Cincinnati 17
Boston College 16, Syracuse 7
All weekend there were rumors that West Virginia coach Bill Stewart was retiring at the end of the season. On Sunday, he straightened out those rumors. “First and foremost, let me begin by saying the reports of my retirement are greatly exaggerated,” he said via a teleconference call. “In fact, you’re hearing it directly from me, Bill Stewart, I have no intention of walking away. I’m not focusing on retirement. Lastly, and most importantly, I’m focusing on Rutgers.”
The Big Four?
South Florida’s football program still isn’t considered at the level of the Sunshine State’s Big Three of Florida, Florida State and Miami. But the Bulls are making progress. Last season, USF defeated then-No. 18 Florida State 17–7 in quarterback B.J. Daniels’ coming-out party. Then, Saturday, the Bulls upended Miami in overtime. “This is a big win for the program,” said USF coach Skip Holtz. “This is the level we aspire to be.”
Connecticut running back Jordan Todman injured his right shoulder against Cincinnati and sat out a few series in the first half, but re-entered the game. Rutgers back Joe Martinek tried to play against Louisville, but his high ankle sprain didn’t allow for much success. Martinek may be done for the season. Cincinnati wideout Vidal Hazelton, who tore his ACL early in the season, was cleared to play but did not against Connecticut. He could play against Pitt. Meanwhile, Bearcats receiver D.J. Woods was limited against the Huskies with ankle, knee and shoulder injuries. Also, Syracuse senior Delone Carter left his team’s loss to Boston College with an undisclosed injury. He had a bruised hip earlier in the season.
When Connecticut defeated Cincinnati, it was senior day. The family of Jasper Howard, stabbed to death last year, was in attendance. Huskies coach Randy Edsall said after the game he couldn’t talk about the presence because “I’ll break down.”
The Heat Is On
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is feeling heat after his team’s 40–13 rout at the hands of Louisville. The Scarlet Knights have now lost five straight games, and the loss snapped RU’s streak of five consecutive bowl appearances. Rutgers quarterbacks have been sacked 55 times this season, which leads the nation.
The heat is on, part two
Fans of the Pittsburgh Panthers are likewise unhappy with coach Dave Wannstedt after his team’s 35–10 home loss to West Virginia. Pitt fumbled six times, turning the ball over four times, against the Mountaineers. The preseason favorite to win the league is now 6–5 overall.
Hitting the canvas
When reigning back-to-back Big East champions Cincinnati fell to Connecticut, it not only bruised the Bearcats’ egos, but it also meant they would not appear in a bowl after four straight. Cincy is assured of its first losing season since 2005.
Powell packing punch
Louisville’s Bilal Powell is the nation’s 10th-leading rusher, averaging 120.91 yards per game. His 123-yard effort against Rutgers gave him seven 100-yard games this season, tying the school record previously set by Frank Moreau in 1999 and Walter Peacock in 1973. He’s third on the U of L all-time rushing list with 1,330.
Quote of the week
From South Florida coach Skip Holtz on his true freshman walk-on quarterback Bobby Eveld, who helped the Bulls upset Miami: “If a dog’s going to bite you, he’ll do it as a pup.”
By Ken Davis
It’s relatively safe to predict at least one lull by the Connecticut Huskies Tuesday night against New Hampshire at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. It might be caused by the final remnants of jet lag. Or it could be the overconfidence that results from coming out of nowhere (almost) to win the Maui Invitational.
But it will happen.
Carrying a championship trophy home from an exotic location like the Hawaiian islands can lead to a strain of complacency — even in this reality-based age of TSA pat-downs. But coach Jim Calhoun has been around the block a time or two. And he can be more imposing than any TSA agent. At the first sign of difficulty, he will call timeout and bring Kemba Walker and the Huskies back to the mainland with a verbal assault worse than any body scan ever invented.
It’s a good problem for the Huskies. Returning as Maui champions is a much better alternative than anything offered by the loser’s bracket. Depending on what happens the rest of the season, the Huskies should look back at their first-round victory over Wichita State and call it the turning point. We weren’t kidding last week when we wrote the Maui opener could set the tone for UConn’s season. The Huskies were fortunate (not lucky, but fortunate) to get past Wichita State, especially after Walker got into first-half foul trouble.
Instead of dropping into the wrong side of the bracket and facing Chaminade, UConn got a shot at No. 2 Michigan State and made the most of it. In fact, the Huskies literally grew up overnight. UConn outcoached and outplayed the Spartans. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish against Tom Izzo’s program. But UConn was not the same team that observers — or coaches — had seen in preseason drills or the early portion of the regular season.
The Huskies, led by the scoring of Walker and the rebounding of Alex Oriakhi, then handled Kentucky impressively in the championship game. The team picked to finish 10th in the Big East won the most prestigious Thanksgiving week tournament.
The main topic of conversation has been Walker, who was unstoppable in Maui and now has scored 150 points in five games. Walker has been remarkable. Around the state of Connecticut, where expectations were low coming off an NIT season and a summer dominated by talk of NCAA allegations, the reaction was pure joy. That was based on UConn’s approach to playing more than anything else.
The Huskies proved they will be fun to watch again. Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards were not leaders, and as last season progressed the fan base was turned off by their lack of aggression and intensity. Walker and co-captain Donnell Beverly have set a different tone, whether it has been in workouts or gathering for team meals prepared by Walker. This is a young squad that appreciates the leadership and direction. The desire to learn was evident early. Now the desire to win has returned to the program after a brief but disturbing absence.
Walker and Oriakhi, averaging 13.4 points and 12 rebounds, have responded to the heavy demands place on them. But they didn’t win Maui alone.
Freshman guard Shabazz Napier is playing outstanding on-ball defense. His shot selection needs improvement, but Calhoun has already learned that Napier can run the offense, while Walker stays on the floor and gets a rest from handling the ball every minute. German import Niels Giffey seems to have a high basketball IQ and made backdoor cuts that haven’t been part of UConn’s offense in recent years — if ever. Jeremy Lamb looks solid and steady at guard. Roscoe Smith is teasing with his raw potential and athletic ability.
One lingering concern is finding help up front for Oriakhi. What happens if Oriakhi gets into foul trouble or has an off night? Charles Okwandu is not the answer and never will be. Freshman Tyler Olander, a big surprise the first three weeks of practice, has a lot to learn and could be physically overmatched once Big East play begins.
Suddenly the challenges of a Big East schedule aren’t too far away. UConn opens at Pittsburgh on Dec. 27 — a showdown that will dominate Calhoun’s thoughts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
But after Maui, the holidays seem much brighter for the Huskies.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
If you were watching college basketball during your Thanksgiving break, you may have heard more than one TV analyst say that Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker has been the best player in the nation at this stage of the season. No argument here. We were impressed by his 42 point performance against Vermont on Nov. 17 and named him POW in last week’s notebook. Then he went to the Maui Invitational and really shook things up. Walker scored 90 points in three games as the Huskies shocked the field and won the Maui championship with impressive victories over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky. Don’t forget his 12 assists and eight steals. During the tournament, an earthquake centered on the Big Island could be felt in the Lahaina Civic Center. We’re still awaiting confirmation that Walker caused the Earth to move.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
With so much attention given to the ineligibility of freshman center Enes Kanter and the debut of point guard Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones was under the radar as he began his career at Kentucky. Jones changed that last week in Maui. Walker overshadowed the 6-9 Wildcat forward, but Jones was sensational in all three games — 29 points, 13 rebounds vs. Oklahoma; 16 points, 17 rebounds vs. Washington; and 24 points, four rebounds vs. UConn. Jones leads Kentucky in scoring (21.2 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg) through five games, is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent on threes.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Monday, Nov. 29
Virginia at Minnesota
The Golden Gophers, led by guard Blake Hoffarber, are 6-0 heading into the start of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Virginia is 3-3 with losses to Stanford, Washington and Wichita State.
Tuesday, Nov. 30
Georgetown vs. Missouri
The Hoyas of the Big East visit the Tigers of the Big 12 in Kansas City. Austin Freeman is averaging 20.2 points to lead Georgetown. Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers share the scoring load for MU.
North Carolina at Illinois
Not exactly the 2005 national championship game, but this should be an interesting offering from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Carolina is searching for some offense.
Wednesday, Dec. 1
Purdue at Virginia Tech
The Boilermakers suffered a surprising setback against Richmond and will have a tough time bouncing back at Tech.
Michigan State at Duke
Could this be a preview of the national championship game? Both teams are capable of going that far. Only time will tell. Sneak preview or not, this should be fun.
Thursday, Dec. 2
Arizona State at Baylor
Baylor has LaceDarius Dunn back from his suspension. He scored 24 points with seven 3-pointers in his return against Lipscomb. Now it is time for the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
UCLA at Kansas
The Jayhawks are entering the Pac-10 portion of their schedule. Kansas is coming off a victory over Arizona and welcome the Bruins to Allen Fieldhouse next. Bill Self’s team plays USC on Dec. 18 and at Cal on Dec. 22.
Friday, Dec. 3
Saint Joseph’s at Villanova
Bad timing for Saint Joseph’s to open Big Five play with Villanova. The Wildcats are coming of their first loss to Tennessee on Friday night.
Saturday, Dec. 4
Kentucky at North Carolina
Two historic programs, two successful coaches, and two of the top recruiting classes for 2010 — all in one big game.
Butler vs. Duke
They gave us a great national championship game in Indy. Now the site will be East Rutherford, N.J. Duke might be significantly better than the 2010 national championship team. Butler is struggling out of the gates.
Sunday, Dec. 5
Temple at Maryland
Temple is struggling in every aspect of the game. The Owls lost to Cal and Texas A&M over Thanksgiving weekend and playing the Terps in College Park is never easy.
THEY SAID IT:
“I was trailing the play, so I knew [Tyshawn Taylor] was going to throw it. It was a good pass, but it was an even better catch. Coach [Bill] Self always says to put it in with two hands, but there was no way he could do it on that one.” — Kansas guard Tyrel Reed, commenting on a powerful one-handed catch and slam dunk by teammate Thomas Robinson during an 87-79 victory over Arizona.
“I don’t know how he caught that. It wasn’t a great pass, but that was a big-time play.” — Bill Self, talking about the same play.
“It was like the bully at lunchtime out on the playground.” — Cal coach Mike Montgomery, describing his halftime scolding to his team Friday when the Golden Bears trailed Notre Dame 21-5.
“I was trying to do the math. I’ve never had 21 points at halftime and been up 16.” — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, commenting on that first half against Cal.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I know he’s a good guy. I do know it. I know he has integrity. This business is tough. It can get to you. He might have skipped, but I admire the way he’s handling all of it. His team, man, he’s doing a great job coaching.” — Villanova coach Jay Wright, on embattled Tennessee coach Bruce Peal.
• How many Mountain West teams can command our attention? BYU, San Diego State and UNLV are all 6-0 and New Mexico has started 4-1. Steve Fisher’s Aztecs are receiving the most national love in the rankings but Lon Kruger’s Runnin’ Rebels turned a few heads while winning the 76 Classic at Anaheim, Calif. Kruger has brought together a band of transfers from major programs and kept his philosophy of emphasizing defense first. Chace Stanback (UCLA transfer) had 17 points and eight rebounds and was named most outstanding player as UNVL topped Virginia Tech 71-59 in the tourney’s title game. Quintrell Thomas (Kansas), Tre’Von Willis (Memphis) and Anthony Marshall were big contributors. Against Tech, the Rebels forced 18 turnovers, scored 24 points off them and won the battle inside 34-14. “Our guys have been able to be disruptive,” Kruger said. No argument from Tech on that point.
• Arizona coach Sean Miller had to be pleased with his team’s performance in Las Vegas. The young Wildcats (5-1) lost to Kansas, 87-79, primarily because they fell behind 31-15 early. There’s no doubt Arizona’s Derrick Williams will be a candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year. Williams had 27 points and eight rebounds against the Jayhawks. Kansas coach Bill Self called him “the best player on the court.” New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies recently said of Williams: “He’s an NBA player. What can I say?” That sums it up pretty well.
• Kansas returns to action Thursday at home against UCLA. The Jayhawks will be in quest of their 64th consecutive victory at Allen Fieldhouse. KU made school history with No. 63, an 82-41 rout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Jayhawks still have three more games before the Dec. 18 debut of freshman sensation Josh Selby. It will be interesting to watch Self juggle playing time when Selby starts dominating minutes at point guard. The KU offense has been functioning at a high level without Selby. Kansas leads the nation in assists per game (22.0) and field goal percentage (57.8). The Jayhawks are second nationally in points per game (92.0). And they’re about to get better? Well, yes. Selby will provide the backcourt leadership KU is missing. Right now the Jayhawk bigs are carrying the load.
• By defeating Wisconsin in the Old Spice Classic championship game, Notre Dame won its third in-season tournament title in 11 seasons under coach Mike Brey. And the Irish are 7-0 for the second time ever during Mike Brey’s tenure at Notre Dame. The other time was 2001-02.
• By the way, that five-point half by Cal against the Irish wasn’t even a record low for a half. Kansas State outscored Savannah State 48-4 in the second half back on Jan. 7, 2008. K-State won 85-25.
A• stomach virus that bothered Stanford guard Jeremy Green all last week appears to be the reason why he collapsed following Sunday’s 81-74 victory over DePaul. “As Jeremy was leaving the court following the game, he began to experience some dizziness and stomach pain due to exhaustion," Stanford’s sports information department said in a statement. "After receiving treatment at the arena, Jeremy was then transported to a local hospital for further treatment.” Green had played 39 minutes and scored 19 points.
Ken Davis is the author of Basketball Vault books covering the history of the University of Kansas and the University of Connecticut. Both are available through the publisher
(http://www.whitmanvaultbooks.com/) and autographed copies are available at Ken’s web page (http://kendavis55.wordpress.com/).
A Cut Above
Jay Cutler seems to alternate between moments of brilliance and displays of sheer knuckleheadedness and incompetence. Yesterday, he had plenty of the former and virtually none of the latter, outshining Michael Vick in the Bears’ 31–26 win over the Eagles. Cutler maximized his 14 completions, tossing four TD passes and avoiding the costly interception that has been his calling card during his five seasons in the league. “I don’t know for him personally but me playing with Jay, this has to be in the top five games that I've seen him play,” said receiver Earl Bennett, whose history with Cutler extends to their two seasons together at Vanderbilt. The talented but hard-headed quarterback is on the cusp of his first winning season in the NFL and first playoff appearance — but don’t pop the champagne just yet. There’s still time for him to screw it up.
Dome Sweet Dome
With their 20–17 win over the Packers in the best game of the day, the Falcons moved to 6–0 in the Georgia Dome, where they hope to be playing meaningful games in January. Atlanta made a statement with another money performance in a pressurized atmosphere, winning on Matt Bryant’s 47-yard field goal with nine seconds left. Quarterback Matt Ryan moves to a nearly unfathomable 19–1 within the confines of the Georgia Dome; expect that number to get significant coverage if the Falcons sew up homefield advantage in the playoffs. “I have no plans of going to Lambeau Field in January,” said receiver Roddy White. “I plan on staying right here and sleeping in my own bed in the playoffs.” He might just wake up in Dallas come February 6.
Up Goes Frazier
Conventional wisdom says you don’t fire a coach in midseason. Conventional wisdom isn’t always right. The Vikings responded to the removal of their unpopular coach and the insertion of interim boss Leslie Frazier with a spirited performance in a 17–13 road win over the Redskins. Brett Favre looked particularly spry for a grandpa, scrambling for a key first down. “He looked like he was 38 on that run,” quipped Adrian Peterson, who injured his ankle and couldn’t do much to help. AD’s teammates had his back — Favre threw no interceptions, Toby Gerhart rushed for 76 yards and the Minnesota defense shut down Donovan McNabb and the Redskin offense. “He's well-respected,” Peterson said of Frazier. “It felt like when he talks, guys’ ears are pinned up; they listen to everything that's coming out of his mouth.” Let’s see if they keep listening as the Vikes play out the string.
What’s wrong with Peyton Manning? The Colts quarterback threw four interceptions against San Diego, two of which were returned for decisive touchdowns in the Chargers’ 36–14 win in Indy, their fifth win over the Colts in the last six meetings. The normally unflappable Manning, who has tossed seven interceptions in his last two games, visibly wilted under the pass rush, even though he was sacked only once. His postgame comments shed little light on just what went wrong. “San Diego did a good job,” Manning said. “Offensively, we didn’t do a real good job. I didn’t do a real good job. Everybody needs to play better, I need to play better, our execution needs to improve.” Well, I’m glad that’s cleared up. Fortunately, the Colts play in the AFC South, where a 6–5 record gets you a share of the division lead. But with three key division games left to play, Manning & Co. had better get something figured out.
Texans in a TKO
The Titans’ motto this season seems to be, when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, grab a jackhammer. The only fight that Tennessee put up yesterday in a pathetic 20–0 loss to the Texans came in the form of some fourth-quarter fisticuffs between Titans instigator Cortland Finnegan and Texans good guy Andre Johnson — and even that went the Texans’ way, as Johnson landed a couple of unimpeded shots to Finnegan’s elegantly coiffed melon. Titans coach Jeff Fisher seemed intent on proving that he could win via the arm of his rookie quarterback; Rusty Smith tossed 31 mostly errant passes, while Chris Johnson got only seven carries. Granted, those seven carries produced only five yards, but Johnson has proved throughout his career that if you keep feeding him the ball, eventually he’ll break one. The Titans’ inexplicable game plan, combined with Arian Foster’s gashing runs, resulted in a two-to-one advantage for the Texans in time of possession. The one true professional on the Titans’ sideline yesterday (atrocious gameplan aside): Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who postponed cancer treatment to put in one last week of work. Godspeed, Mike.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Nevada stuns Boise State – With a 24-7 lead at halftime, Boise State appeared to be in full control and another WAC victory seemed to be in the books. However, just as Auburn did to Alabama earlier on Friday, Nevada rallied from a 17-point deficit and shocked the Broncos to win 34-31 in overtime. Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman had two costly misses, one from 26 yards at the end of the fourth quarter for the win and one in overtime. Leading the Nevada comeback was the rushing attack, wearing down the Broncos in the trenches and dominating the time of possession in the second half. One of the biggest surprises for Boise State was the usage of running back Doug Martin. Martin had only five carries in the second half, after gashing the Nevada defense in the first half. Quarterback Kellen Moore was solid once again, but struggled under constant heat from the Wolf Pack in the second half. After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Nevada defense stepped up and allowed only one touchdown in the final two quarters. Although Brotzman’s two misses were costly, not getting Martin the ball more in the second half, some questionable play calling in overtime and struggling to stop the Wolf Pack rushing attack were each a key factor in the loss.
The loss in Reno seemed eerily similar to West Virginia’s to Pittsburgh in 2007, when the Mountaineers suffered a crushing defeat with a national championship bid on the line. Although the Broncos weren’t necessarily playing for a spot in the title game, had they won against Nevada and beat Utah State this Saturday, a berth in the Rose Bowl would’ve been a great ending to the season. Even though this was a crushing loss, don’t expect the Broncos to slip from contending for a spot among the top 10-15 teams in the near future.
2. Auburn wins Iron Bowl Classic – The 2010 Iron Bowl was one of the most-anticipated games in this fierce rivalry and the play on the field certainly lived up to the hype. Alabama jumped out to a 24-0 lead, but Auburn fought back – just like it has done all season. The Crimson Tide defense held Cam Newton in check on the ground, but the junior made big plays through the air to bring the Tigers back. Newton connected with Terrell Zachery on a 70-yard pass to cut the deficit to 24-14 one minute into third quarter, and Philip Lutzenkirchen on a seven-yard score early in the fourth, which put Auburn up for good 28-27. The Tigers struggled mightily on defense in the first half, allowing 379 yards. However, the defense surrendered only 67 yards to Alabama in the second half. Even though the defense gave up a lot of yards in the first half, it forced two critical turnovers as Alabama was moving into scoring position to keep the game within reach. The win by Auburn in Tuscaloosa snapped a 20-game home winning streak for Alabama.
The Tigers still have one hurdle remaining to play for a national title – South Carolina in the SEC Championship. Even if the Tigers lose next Saturday, Cam Newton likely locked up the Heisman with his performance against Alabama. After a sluggish start and an impressive effort by the Crimson Tide on defense, Newton rallied the Tigers to the victory, making several big plays in the second half. Auburn has lived dangerously on defense all year, but seems to find the answers at halftime to solve their struggles. Gene Chizik’s team is far from perfect, but with an offense that can score in bunches until the defense figures things out, Auburn will be difficult to beat the rest of the year.
3. Sooners claim Bedlam, Big 12 South – As expected, the annual Bedlam matchup provided plenty of fireworks on the scoreboard, but when the dust settled, Oklahoma emerged victorious and as Big 12 South champions. Oklahoma State was hoping to make its first appearance in the Big 12 Championship and everything pointed to a win over the Sooners. However, the Sooners solved their recent road woes, thanks to a big game from quarterback Landry Jones. The sophomore threw for 468 yards and four scores, including two late touchdown tosses to seal the victory. The Oklahoma defense did its part, holding Oklahoma State’s prolific passing attack to 257 yards and picked off quarterback Brandon Weeden three times. The Sooners will face Nebraska in their seventh appearance in the Big 12 title game in the last nine seasons. The last time these two teams met in the Big 12 title game was in 2006, with the Sooners winning 21-7.
4. Three-way tie atop the Big Ten – With the addition of Nebraska and a conference title game, determining the Big Ten champion in 2011 will be an easier process. Wins by Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State on Saturday created a three-way tie atop the Big Ten, leaving the BCS standings as the tiebreaker. Wisconsin ranks as the No. 5 team after the Week 13 release, with Ohio State at No. 6 and Michigan State at No. 8. The Buckeyes appear unlikely to jump Wisconsin, which means the Badgers will play in the Rose Bowl, their first trip to Pasadena since 2000. The Buckeyes are in prime position to be selected as an at-large team into the BCS, with a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl.
The Auburn Tigers are 12–0, ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings and are headed to the SEC title game after pulling off the biggest comeback in school history.
Auburn rallied from a 24–0 deficit to take down reigning national champion Alabama on the road in front of 101,821 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, winning 28–27 in one of the greatest games in an Iron Bowl series that dates back to 1893.
"That was a game that will certainly go down in history. It's hard to come back when you're down 24–0," said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, during his postgame press conference following the come-from-behind win.
"It was a great win for Auburn football and it was a great win for Auburn University. I couldn't be more proud of that locker room in there. It is full of a lot of love, I'll tell you that. They deserve this win tonight because they fought for it. And again, I just feel proud to be a part of it."
As has been the case all season, Heisman Trophy frontrunner Cam Newton carried the Tigers, completing 13-of-20 passes for 216 yards, three TDs and zero INTs, while rushing for 39 yards and another TD.
After going into the locker room at halftime down 24–7, Auburn outscored Alabama 21–3 in the second half. More important, the Tigers were able to stop the rolling Crimson Tide momentum and quiet the rowdy crowd — especially following two successful fourth-down conversions.
"We came here to win the game. We did not come here to tie," said Chizik. "I have as much faith in our guys on a fourth-and-four or fourth-and-two or fourth-and-inches as anybody on the planet. When you feel that way, you're going to come on the road in a tough place to win and you're going to come here to win the game. That's what we did."
Now, the Tigers will go to the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to face SEC East champ South Carolina and Newton will head to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, where he will undoubtedly answer about $180,000 worth of questions regarding the rumors that have continued to swirl around the man with the big smile who seems unfazed while leading an undefeated team from the eye of a tremendous media storm.
The biggest little upset in the country went down on Friday night when Nevada took down Boise State, 34–31 in overtime, in Reno.
The Wolf Pack fought back from a 17-point deficit and pulled off the unlikely come-from-behind victory, thanks in large part to Broncos kicker Kyle Broztman, who missed field goals of 26 yards (with two seconds left in regulation) and 29 yards (in overtime).
As a result, Boise State's BCS-busting days are over, the Rose Bowl paycheck is out the window and Kellen Moore's Heisman chances have all but hit zero. And, fair or not, many will question what coach Chris Petersen's record would be if he had to guide the Broncos through an SEC or Big Ten schedule — a subject Ohio State president Gordon Gee brought into the spotlight just last week.
The Randy Shannon era is over in Coral Gables following a 23–20 overtime loss at home to in-state "rival" South Florida.
Shannon posted a disappointing 28–22 record (16–16 ACC) over four seasons as the head coach. But, all things considered, the 44-year-old is one of the more distinguished figures in Hurricanes football history — as a Miami native who played linebacker for Jimmy Johnson's 1987 national title team and served as defensive coordinator for Larry Coker's 2001 national title team before taking over the top spot on the sideline.
A nationwide coaching search is underway, with Super Bowl-winning ESPN analyst Jon Gruden leading a candidate list that almost certainly includes usual suspects like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Rutgers' Greg Schiano, as well as outside-the-box candidates like Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Georgia's Mark Richt, or coordinators such as Auburn's Gus Malzhan and Texas' Will Muschamp.
New Mexico: BYU vs. Toledo*
Humanitarian: Nevada vs. Ohio
New Orleans: Florida International vs. UTEP
St. Petersburg: Southern Miss vs. Pittsburgh
Las Vegas: Utah vs. Boise State*
Poinsettia: Navy vs. San Diego State
Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Little Caesars: Northern Illinois vs. Louisville*
Independence: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
Champs Sports: NC State vs. Notre Dame
Insight: Michigan vs. Oklahoma State
Military: Maryland vs. East Carolina
Texas: Illinois vs. Baylor
Alamo: Arizona vs. Oklahoma
Armed Forces: SMU vs. Army
Pinstripe: Syracuse vs. Kansas State
Music City: Tennessee vs. North Carolina
Holiday: Washington vs. Missouri
Meineke Car Care: Clemson vs. Connecticut
Sun: Miami, Fla. vs. Temple*
Liberty: UCF vs. Georgia
Chick-fil-A: Mississippi State vs. Florida State
TicketCity: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Outback: South Carolina vs. Iowa
Capital One: Alabama vs. Michigan State
Gator: Florida vs. Penn State
Rose: TCU vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Nebraska vs. Stanford
Orange: West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Sugar: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
GoDaddy.com: Troy vs. Miami, Ohio
Cotton: LSU vs. Texas A&M
BBVA Compass: Kentucky vs. South Florida
Kraft Fight Hunger: Fresno State vs. Boston College
National Championship: Auburn vs. Oregon
* Based upon our projections, some conferences will fail to fill all bowl slots.
Who’s Better: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?
If I were going to enter a laboratory to design the perfect NFL quarterback, I’d use Peyton Manning as the blueprint. In fact, I wouldn’t bother with the lab version — I’d stick with the real thing.
You want physical gifts and durability? Like Manning himself said in that old Sprint commercial: “That guy’s pretty good — if you like 6-5, 230-pound quarterbacks with a laser rocket arm…” That laser rocket arm provides equal measures of touch, accuracy and velocity. He manages to avoid pass-rushers with a quick release and deft footwork — he is the active leader among NFL quarterbacks in lowest sack percentage (3.15 percent heading into this season). As a result, Manning has never missed a start in his 13 seasons in the league.
You want intangibles and leadership? Manning is the closest thing to a player-coach in NFL history. As you watch Colts head coach Jim Caldwell stand passively on the sidelines, is there any doubt in your mind who the true coach of this team is?
Watching Manning direct traffic at the line of scrimmage is like watching a maestro conduct the New York Philharmonic. His control over the team extends to the sidelines and the practice field as well. He does everything for this team but wash the socks and jocks.
You want mind-boggling stats? Manning is building the greatest statistical resume in history and will retire with most of the meaningful passing records. And for much of his career, he’s done it without the support of an elite ground game or defense.
You want postseason honors? Manning has earned three MVP awards and five first-team All-Pro designations and has made 10 Pro Bowl trips.
Most important, do you want wins? Manning has guided the Colts to an unprecedented run of excellence — seven straight seasons with 12 or more wins.
Bottom line: By any conceivable metric, Manning’s the man.
– Rob Doster
The 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft is clearly better than the first overall pick of 1998. And the reason is intangible. Tom Brady’s blue collar rags-to-riches journey has added a killer instinct that Peyton Manning’s blue blood NFL royalty upbringing did not allow for him to develop. It’s not the destination, but the journey that makes these passers.
Brady’s backup role to son-of-a Super Bowl winner Brian Griese and ill-conceived timeshare plan with two-sport “superstar” Drew Henson only added fuel to the fire for the Michigan man. Meanwhile, Manning’s heir to the throne status included signing with Tennessee rather than Ole Miss — to side step Archie’s 18 mph legacy in Oxford — and being “snubbed” by the Heisman voters in favor of Brady’s UM teammate Charles Woodson. As fate would have it, Brady’s hard road to the top is his best asset, and Manning’s tremendous advantages have spoiled him in subtle ways.
When times are tough, Tom Terrific has an aura of calm confidence, convincing his team the impossible is within reach — which has been true for a man who personifies the American dream. On the other side, Peyton often makes a “Manning face” because his teammates don’t live up to his own amazing talent and lofty expectations. As is the case in all walks of life, it’s not so much what they do as how they do it.
Brady also leads Manning in nearly every category of worth. Brady posted a league-leading 76.6 winning percentage (105–32) after defeating Manning head-to-head in Week 11. He also carries a 14–4 mark in the playoffs and trails only Joe Montana (4) and Terry Bradshaw (4) with three Super Bowl wins.
Granted, Manning may have more individual awards and better career statistics, but Brady stacks up well with one MVP, two Super Bowl MVPs and the greatest statistical season in history — throwing for 4,806 yards, 50 TDs and eight INTs for a 117.2 rating during a 16–0 year in 2007.
Both are among the best ever. But, when “it” really matters, Brady is the best.
– Nathan Rush
Team on the Rise
Oklahoma City — The Thunder entered this season as the darlings of the Western Conference. They were the cool pick to make the big jump from the eighth seed that went six games with the Lakers a season ago to possible conference title contenders in 2010-11.
Oklahoma City hit some bumps along the way. After winning their first two games, the Thunder went 3-4 over the next two weeks. The experts started to wonder: Have we predicted the Thunder to rise too quickly? They are still a very young team — average age on opening day was 24 years and 268 days for the third-youngest team in the NBA.
Well that young roster reeled off five straight wins over a seven-day span, finally falling Wednesday night to Dallas, 111-103. The only recent blemishes have been the late run Dallas went on to win the game Wednesday, and the late run Minneosta put together before falling to OKC on Monday.
But, for the most part, the Thunder are proving they know how to win.
They are 5-1 on the road, have given up a halftime lead just twice and a third-quarter lead once. Otherwise, OKC is 8-2 when leading at the break, 7-1 when leading after three quarters and have even thrown in a win after being tied after the third.
The trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green have scored at least 20 points apiece in the same game on nine occasions this year — the highest total for any three teammates all younger than 25 since Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill did so 11 times in the 1992-93 season for Charlotte.
Perhaps youth will rule the day before it's all said and done.
Team on the Decline
Golden State — Give them a lead and there's a good chance the Warriors are leaving the arena with a win. But jump ahead and they have done nothing this season to show they can score a comeback victory.
The numbers speaks for themselves. Golden State is 6-1 when ahead at the half, 7-1 when leading after three quarters. However, the Warriors are 1-7 when trailing at the half, and 0-7 when behind after the third.
Golden State has dropped its last four games and six of its last seven since center David Lee's exit from the lineup. Lee has not played since his elbow collided with Wilson Chandler's teeth in New York on Nov. 10. The center got an infection from the collision and is not expected to return for at least another week. With games at Memphis, at Minnesota, home against Houston and maybe without Lee at home against Phoenix, this streak could run to eight in a row.
The Warriors are allowing 107.8 points a game, while only scoring 94.4 during the seven-game span without Lee. Three of the seven losses have been by 30, 28 and 17.
Numbers to Know
19 & 21 — The Jazz made 19 of 19 free throws in a Wednesday victory over New Orleans. It followed a 21-of-21 performance against Portland on Nov. 20. Prior to the Portland perfection, the Jazz had only been perfect in one of its previous 470 games.
5 — Portland's Andre Miller needs five assists to pass Derek Harper (6,577) for 18th on the league's all-time assists list.
-19 — The Kings enter tonight's game against the Clippers on quite a shooting slump. They shot a season-low 35.8 percent on Monday in a loss to Utah. After starting the season 3-1 and scoring 108.8 points a game, Sacramento has lost eight of the last nine and is scoring just 89.8 a game during that stretch.
Beyond the Arc
Double the Love: Kevin Love scored 32 and had 22 rebounds in an OT loss to San Antonio Wednesday. It marked the second time (31 and 31) that Love had a game this season with more than 30 points and more than 20 rebounds. Only four other active players have accomplished this — Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Zach Randolph.
Rare win ... in more ways than one: When the Clippers, then 1-13, met the Hornets, then 11-1, Monday night it marked the 19th time in league history a team with a winning percentage of .900-plus team met a .100 or lower team at least five games into the season, according to Elias. That oddity was then followed by something even more rare when the Clippers won the game, 99-95. Only one of the other 19 meetings ended with the team that had the losing record coming out on top — Golden State (5-0) lost to Minnesota (0-6) on Nov. 15, 1994.
Perfect Pau: Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol scored 28 points on 10-of-10 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line in a Sunday win over Golden State. It was the highest point total for perfection in over 15 years, according to Elias. Gary Payton scored 32 on 14-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe for Seattle on Jan. 4, 1995.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
By Charean Williams
Once the Hail Mary landed in his hands, and he crossed the goal line, Mike Thomas knew his career had changed forever. Only two seasons into his NFL career, the Jaguars receiver already is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas’ jersey and gloves were sent to Canton, Ohio, for display after he caught a 50-yard touchdown pass on the final play to give Jacksonville a miraculous, 31-24, victory over the Texans two weeks ago.
“I’m just blessed and honored that things are happening for me and happening to me,” Thomas said. “I’m grateful for them. It’s definitely been a lot going on these last couple of weeks.”
It was the start of the best eight days of Thomas’ life.
He caught the Hail Mary on Nov. 14; he traveled to Bristol, Conn., the next day to appear on ESPN; his girlfriend Angelica delivered his second child, Audrina Jervae Thomas, on Sunday; and, later Sunday, he caught a touchdown pass in the Jaguars’ 24-20 victory over the Browns.
“It’s been fun,” Thomas said, “and tiring.”
Thomas always will be linked to the Hail Mary, but he isn’t a one-catch wonder. He is the team’s leading receiver with 46 catches for 572 yards and three touchdowns. In the past three games, he has 17 receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
“Honestly, I believe in my abilities,” Thomas said. “I’ve always believed in my abilities. I’m a very confident player if you don’t know anything about me. People that know me know that I’m not cocky; I’m real down to earth, but I just believe in myself. This kind of thing, the season that I’m having, it’s expected of me, just because I’ve put in so much work, and I’m real dedicated to what I do. A lot of people try to look down on me because of my height. It is what it is. I go to work every day and try to get better. I definitely believe in myself and I believe this season is well deserved for me. I just keep working and hope things will get better.”
Thomas, who is only 5-8, 198 pounds, produced one of the biggest plays in NFL history. Texans defensive back Glover Quin knocked down David Garrard’s pass in the end zone, but Quin inadvertently batted it right to Thomas. Thomas caught the ball at the 1-yard line and stepped into the end zone as the Texans watched in disbelief.
“It was just a reaction,” Thomas said. “It was unconditioned. You can’t control it. There’s a reaction. I reacted to the ball and caught it. The next thing you know, it was a touchdown.”
Now, he’s a hero.
“Some people recognized me before the play,” Thomas said. “Now that I’ve been on ESPN quite a bit, people are starting to recognize me a lot more.”
Defending a championship
It took the Saints 43 years to win their first championship. They are figuring out why it’s harder the second time.
Only seven of the 43 previous Super Bowl champions repeated.
“There’s always challenges with a new season anyway, but especially coming off a championship year, it’s even harder to win, because every time you step on the field, people are gunning for you,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “You have what they want.”
Brees said before the season he sought advice on winning multiple titles. The Saints are not satisfied with just one Lombardi Trophy.
“It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to actually go out and experience it for yourself,” Brees said. “There’s always going to be those times where you just have to work through it, as a team, on your own. There’s going to be adversity, you know there is, for every team no matter what the circumstances were the year before. I feel like we’re a pretty battle-tested team for what we went through in the early part of the season. Now is the time to be playing our best football.”
Mr. Smith goes to St. Louis
As the No. 2 overall pick last year, Jason Smith received a six-year deal with $33 million in guarantees from the Rams. He immediately was tabbed “the next Orlando Pace.”
But Smith has yet to play left tackle, and he has been slowed by three injuries in two seasons. He has missed nine of a possible 25 games with a knee injury and two concussions.
Smith’s first head injury came in a Nov. 22 game against the Cardinals. He missed the rest of the 2009 season. His second came in practice this season before the Oct. 31 game against Carolina. He missed one game.
He also had one documented concussion at Baylor.
“It’s one of those deals where they happen,” Smith said. “In the NFL, guys are hitting hard every day. You’ve got to just deal with. With my belief being in God and knowing that he does everything to us for a reason, I just pray about it and seek to find out what it is he has in store for me and not basically worry about what happened to me.”
Smith has allowed two sacks this season, according to STATS, Inc., and he has been called for two holds. The Rams starting right tackle has been a solid run blocker and is working on becoming a better pass blocker.
“I feel like I’ve got room for improvement,” Smith said. “There are things I’ve got to keep working on until the last game is played, and then we’ll go back and evaluate and hear how I did and basically just judge myself and see what can I do better, what can I focus on for the future.”
• Vince Young may have played his last game in Tennessee. He needs season-ending surgery on his right thumb, but his relationship with coach Jeff Fisher might be beyond repair. Young and Fisher both have a year remaining on their current contracts, which could force the Titans to make a decision on whether to go forward with Fisher or with Young.
• The Redskins have a plus-6 turnover ratio. Through 10 games last year, they were minus-8. Washington has 21 takeaways this season, putting them on pace for 34. They haven’t had more than 34 takeaways since 1999 when they had 37.
• Rams quarterback Sam Bradford isn’t far off the pace of several rookie passing records. Bradford has completed 228-of-276 passes for 2,158 yards with 14 touchdowns. Peyton Manning was 326-of-575 for 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns as a rookie in 1998.
• Since head coach Raheem Morris took over the defense, the Bucs are 9-7. Their 21-0 victory over the 49ers last week was their first shutout on the road since 2003. The Bucs have allowed 16 points in their past two games and now rank 16th in overall defense.
• Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a 138.6 passer rating the past two games, having completed 49-of-65 passes for 590 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. …
• The Eagles lead the NFL in takeaways with 26, including 19 interceptions. Cornerback Asante Samuel leads the league in interceptions with seven. He has 36 picks since 2006, the most by any player in the league.
• The Steelers will put new sod in Heinz Field on Sunday. The field first came under scrutiny after former kicker Jeff Reed criticized it. The Patriots and the Raiders also reportedly have filed complaints with the league. The field will host the Pitt-West Virginia game Friday and then four high school championship games on Saturday before the new sod goes down.
• The Texans rank 32nd in pass defense and 31st in total defense. They are on pace to become one of the worst passing defenses in NFL history. The 1995 Falcons are the worst in history, allowing 4,541 passing yards. Defensive coordinator Frank Bush has come under fire, but coach Gary Kubiak said Bush will continue to call the defense.
• Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has three consecutive 100-yard games and four for the season. For the season, he has 878 yards on 209 carries.
• Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is 9-4 in his past 13 starts and has won six of his past seven games.
• Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles continues to lead the NFL in yards per carry, as he averages 6.1 yards. Charles has 1,204 offensive yards, fourth in the league. His 28 runs of 10-plus yards is tops in the NFL.
• Eagles tight end Brent Celek had no receptions last week, the second time in three games he’s gone without a catch. Celek, who led the team in receiving last season, has been used more as a blocker this season because of the Eagles’ issues with their offensive line.
• Dolphins quarterback Tyler Thigpen is 1-11 as an NFL starter. His only NFL victory came in a 20-13 decision over Oakland on Nov. 30, 2008.
• Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw has lost his starting job after losing five of six fumbles. In his career, Bradshaw has lost eight of 14 fumbles.
• Raiders safety Michael Huff has 62 tackles, surpassing last season’s total of 59.
• Ravens receiver Donte’ Stallworth, who is back from a year-long suspension and a broken bone in his left foot, had a 15-yard catch last week. It was his first catch in almost two years.
• The Bills owe Shawne Merriman the remaining $1.7 million on his 2010 contract. They may get nothing for their money. Merriman, who the Bills claimed off waivers, re-injured his Achilles’ tendon 10 minutes into his first practice with his new team. The Bills have doubts that Merriman will play this year, and he becomes a free agent after the season.
• Bears rookie right tackle J’Marcus Webb had three holding penalties last week against the Dolphins. The team’s seventh-round pick now has four holding penalties and has allowed seven sacks, according to STATS, Inc.
• San Diego is 23-5 in November and December under Norv Turner.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 12 in the NFL:
1. Did Brad Childress deserve to be fired?
Braden Gall: Childress got a raw deal. The inmates were running the asylum up in Minneapolis, and any good businessman knows that a clearly defined chain of command is imperative to success. Let's look at some facts. Childress improved the Vikings by two wins every season (from 6 to 8 to 10 to 12) in his first four years and was one bad pass away from the Super Bowl last fall. His starting quarterback didn't participate in the preseason. His star wideout mistakenly put off surgery and cost himself half of the season. Finally, I have had bosses that I did not get along with, but I never went to the media bitching and crying about how mean he was to me. Chilly was the boss and carries the burden of responsiblity ultimately, but the Viking players need to be held accountable for their play on the field as well.
Steven Lassan: After going 6-10 in Childress’ first season, the Vikings improved their win total each year until the disappointing 3-7 start in 2010. Although the performance on the field improved, Childress clearly lost the support in the locker room this season and it was time for a change. The Vikings have an uphill battle to make the playoffs and this gives Leslie Frazier a chance to earn the job for next year or allow the team to look outside of the organization for the next head coach. Childress can’t be blamed for all of Minnesota’s problems, but when the players disrespect their head coach, something has to give.
Nathan Rush: Yes. Brad Childress lost control of that team a long time ago. He probably should have been fired after his unilateral decision to release Randy Moss following the Patriots loss of Week 8. At that point, Childress was in panic mode, desperately trying to salvage his respect within the locker room — after both Brett Favre and Moss tore him down publicly as a strategist and as a man. But the team still had half a season to play, including two division games (at Chicago, vs. Green Bay) that have since been lost. At 3–7, the season is all but over for interim coach Leslie Frazier. But if Childress left with Moss a month ago, things might have been different.
2. Jeff Fisher or Vince Young. Which side are you on?
Braden: For starters, neither are perfect and both probably have regrets on how they have handled this quagmire. Also, an owner should have no say in who starts at QB. Fisher's ego and stubbornness are apparent, and at times, maybe unfair. But he is a Super Bowl-caliber coach that has a 17-year track record that is as good as any in the league. In his 15 full seasons of coaching, he has four losing seasons. He has a golden repuation for looking out for his players almost to a fault. And the laundry list of Vince Young decisions that were directly detrimental to his team's success is as long and (un) distinguished as his throwing motion. The bottom line is that Young has never dedicated himself to being a professional quarterback. Professional being the key word. Maybe this will shake him back to reality — which is 2010 in Nashville (for now), not 2005 in Austin.
Steven: I know Jeff Fisher doesn’t trust Vince Young and that may have held the Titans back since he was drafted, but there’s no way anyone can defend the quarterback in this case. Young may be competitive, but there are over 1,000 players in the league that share that same characteristic, yet know how to handle themselves after a loss. Think Peyton Manning liked losing to the Patriots on a late interception? Did he throw his shoulder pads into the stands after the game? I know Young gets credit for being a winner, but he’s an average quarterback with a great running game and offensive line in front of him. There’s a reason why Fisher is the longest-tenured head coach in the league and the Titans would be foolish to choose an immature quarterback over him. It’s time for Tennessee to say goodbye to VY.
Nathan: I’m on owner Bud Adams’ side. Jeff Fisher is a proven coach and Vince Young is a winning quarterback. These two guys need to work it out. Fisher can’t hold a grudge against V.Y. because he wanted to draft Matt Leinart back in the day and resents the fact that Adams hand-picked the Houston hero as Steve McNair’s heir. And Young needs to stop being so sensitive to criticism from his coach or the home crowd. Fisher and Young don’t have to be best friends or go out for a beer together after the game; they just have to act professional — which neither of them is doing right now.
Team on the Rise
New York — What a difference seven days can make.
A week ago the Knicks sat in the "Team on the Decline" spot after losing six in a row. Seven days later, they enter another Wednesday contest, but this time as winners of four in a row.
Even during the losing streak, New York was scoring 101.6 points per game, but were surrendering 111.8. Oddly enough, during the winning streak, Mike D'Antoni's team is still giving up exactly 111.8, but the offense kicked it up a notch, averaging 118 a game.
Three of the four wins came on the road — a West Coast trip that resulted in a 3-1 record — and the team returned to Madison Square Garden to hold off Charlotte 110-107 Tuesday. The Knicks complete the home-and-home with the Bobcats tonight before taking on Atlanta, Detroit and New Jersey over the next week.
If New York could ever develop a defensive presence they could be a scary team in the Eastern Conference. But third in scoring against 27th in points allowed is a discrepancy that will eventually catch up with them.
Team on the Decline
Miami — Yikes. This is what a team that is third in the East has to endure?
The Miami Heat thought they were putting together the perfect team with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but apparently didn't account for chemistry, a post presence or injuries.
Back-to-back losses to sub-.500 teams Memphis and Indiana after an eight-point win over a then 4-7 Charlotte has the 8-6 Miami Heat seemingly reeling heading into their second meeting with Orlando tonight.
Within the organization, injuries are compounding what is perceived as poor play.
Superstar guard Dwyane Wade is battling a wrist injury. Center Udonis Haslem may be out for the season with a torn ligament in his foot, leaving the team to scramble and sign Erick Dampier. Mike Miller (thumb) is out until at least the middle of December.
Outside of the organization, Lakers coach Phil Jackson is taking shots that can be heard from LA to Miami when he questioned on Wednesday whether Erik Spoelstra can hold onto the coaching job should the struggles continue.
All of this is while the team is still eighth in the league in scoring and fifth in points allowed. Miami is second in offensive and defensive efficiency. Bosh has finally started to make a difference with three straight double-doubles.
However, inside is where the Heat are still getting killed. That's not the recipe to defeat Orlando, Boston or even Chicago if the trio of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson have anything to say about it. Miami is scoring 33.8 points a game inside while allowing 38.8 and are 19th in rebounding.
The only thing saving the Heat right now is the fact they are in the Eastern Conference. In the West, they would be battling for the seventh or eighth seed right now.
Numbers to Know
16 — Derrick Rose dropped in his 16th 3-pointer of the season in Chicago's loss to the Lakers Tuesday. That's a significant number for the third-year player because he had only hit 16 3-pointers in each of his first two seasons. He now has 16 in 12 games.
4 — Speaking of the long ball, Indiana's Danny Granger had five in the Pacers' win over Cleveland Tuesday. It's the fifth time Granger has hit at least four 3-pointers this season. That ties him with Charlotte's Stephen Jackson.
44 — New York's Danilo Gallinari has made 43 straight free throws heading into Wednesday's game with Charlotte. One more and he can tie the franchise mark set by Chris Duhon in 2008.
8 — Detroit heads to Memphis tonight to play a Grizzlies franchise it has owned on their own court. The Pistons are 8-1 in Memphis since the franchise moved from Vancouver. The lone victory for the Griz came Dec. 11, 2004. That dominance may end tonight as the Pistons are 2-6 on the road this season.
Beyond the Arc
Going to a fifth quarter without ever leading: Atlanta never lead in its game against New Jersey Tuesday night, but still took the Nets to overtime. New Jersey went on to win 107-101. According to Elias, it was the first NBA game since Feb. 8, 2006 that went to overtime with one team never having taken the lead. The Spurs defeated a Raptors team that never had the lead in that game.
15 down. No problem: Washington erased a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime against Philadelphia Tuesday, the first time the Wizards had overcome a margin that big in the fourth quarter since Jan. 30, 2004. Washington went on to win the game 116-114, ending a 136-game streak of not being able to come back down 15 in the final quarter.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
by Tom Bowles
So Jimmie Johnson won his fifth straight championship. What? You don’t want to hear about it?
Fine. Enough about him. But you can’t ignore the record, love or hate, so in honor of it we’ll do a season review encapsulated by the number 5. If this were Sesame Street, I’d add two letters to that so we’ll pull up our two sponsors: C and E. What do they stand for?
Chase Eliminated. If only that could be the case for 2011 … but I digress. Let’s look at a Five Pack of Five Season Snapshots of 2010:
Five Best Races
5. Daytona 500 Sure, the pothole threw a kink in everyone’s Valentine’s Day plans, but those who stuck around saw a fascinating set of green-white-checker finishes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. nearly pull off the biggest comeback of his 10-year career and an upset winner in Victory Lane. Leading the last two laps, Jamie McMurray was No. 1 on the car and in our hearts with a fabulous start that would set the stage for a career year.
4. Watkins Glen Phenomenal racing between two wily road course aces caring about only one thing: the victory. Chase be damned, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose went at it to the point it looked like one or both would end up wrecked, a duel that spawned six of the 10 lead changes in the race – quite a bit for a 90-lap road course. During a nightmare year for both participants, it was nice for them to have one shining moment in the sun; and for Montoya, it was his first trip to Victory Lane since Infineon in 2007.
3. Texas A fight between two of the sport’s veteran leaders. A pit crew swap in the middle of the race between two four-time series champs. A driver in Greg Biffle who led 224 circuits, only to lose track position and the race in the closing laps. And a frantic drive from 30th to first, completed by a man (Denny Hamlin) who took the points lead and put the pressure on a certain No. 48 team that had dominated the Sprint Cup circuit for four years. Easily the best race in the Lone Star State since this track opened up in 1997.
2. Martinsville (Fall) One of the most wide open short track races in recent memory, with Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – yes, that guy – all spending extended time at the front. When Junior took to the point for 90 circuits, the stands turned into a sea of AMP Energy green with so much shouting and stomping you’d think there was a minor earthquake. In the end, though, it was Hamlin fighting back from a bad set of tires that put him outside the top 10 within the first 50 laps of the race. His battle with Harvick was classic, but the real threat was Mark Martin, coming up just short with a car that looked like someone cut through the chassis with a buzzsaw. Add in a little Gordon/Kurt Busch brouhaha, and voila! You have the perfect recipe for 500 laps of success.
1. Martinsville (Spring) The showstopper of the year whose only fault was not enough fans got to see it: the race was held on Monday after a rain delay. The winner, Hamlin, came from ninth to first in the final 10 laps, surviving a green-white-checker where Gordon and Matt Kenseth nearly took each other out going for the victory. And did I mention that Hamlin’s checkers came two days before going under the knife for ACL surgery? This victory could have been the confidence builder that left Hamlin within a whisker of unseating Johnson in the Chase.
Honorable Mention: Both Talladega races. 175 combined lead changes, two nail-biting finishes, plenty of on-track passing. But when Gordon and Johnson can sandbag all race, then magically push to the front in three laps at will you know this whole restrictor plate thing is broken. Not a big fan of a track that specializes in needing a giant catchfence and crossed fingers to hope no one gets killed.
Five Best Drivers
5. Greg Biffle Edwards may have had sizzle, but Biffle had more steak in the Ford camp: 19 top-10 finishes and two victories – his first wins in over two years. Until the rest of the team got its act together, the No. 16 was the only one worth a damn running in the Blue Oval crowd through midsummer.
4. Kevin Harvick Three victories – his first in three years – a third-place finish in the final point standings, and a reported three-year deal with Budweiser were the highlights for this year’s regular season points champ. What a turnaround for a driver who was looking to bail Richard Childress Racing until Pennzoil stuck the knife in his back and left him for Penske in early April. Sometimes, forced remarriages do wind up turning out.
3. Denny Hamlin A season-high eight victories, seven of which came after ACL surgery showcased a year in which this 30-year-old officially grew up. Add in a Chase where Johnson was pushed to the brink, at least laying out a blueprint of how to beat the No. 48 and one word comes to mind for what he’s earned this season: Respect.
2. Jamie McMurray He didn’t make the Chase, but who cares? 20 years from now, you won’t know Kurt Busch wound up 11th with a “postseason bid.” But a man who won both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year, just months after getting released and nearly winding up unemployed? That’s the type of comeback season movie producers drool over.
The Heisman Trophy is college football's most prestigious trophy, so the editors here at Athlon take the voting for the 13.5-inch, 25-pound award very seriously. Each week, the ballots are collected and tallied from inside the walls of Athlon Sports. Each editor votes for five players (unlike the official three), and a first-place vote is worth 5 points, a second is worth 4 points so and so forth down to the fifth-place vote earning 1 point.
Follow our voters on twitter: Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch), Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden), Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster), Nathan Rush (@AthlonRush) and Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman).
by Braden Gall
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn (34 pts, 6 first place votes)
Auburn was on bye last week, but it was a huge win for Newton — because nothing seriously damaging about his recruitment leaked this week. If I am an Auburn fan, every day without a story is a moral victory.
What's Next: This Friday at 3:30 PM ET, Newton will have his defining moment. All of his death-defying runs and game-winning grindhouse drives will have been for naught if he cannot beat rival Alabama. No pressure Cam.
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (23 pts, 1 first place vote)
Another week, another mediocre 174.1 QB-rating for Moore. His team won 51-0. He threw for 333 yards and 4 TDs. Yet, his season passer rating actually went down. His 188.84 rating would still be the single best season by a passer in history.
What's Next: The Broncos' final big test en route to a second consecutive undefeated season will be in Reno this weekend. Moore did not play in the FBS' highest scoring game back in '07, but he was on the sideline watching the 69-67 overtime thriller. Colin Kaepernick was magical that night and is still under center (a loose term) for Nevada. He will have to pull something crazy out of his hat if the Wolfpack expect to pull the upset.
3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (21 pts)
Oregon was on bye last weekend.
What's Next: The Ducks can clinch the Pac-10 title and at least a Rose Bowl berth with a win over Arizona at home. The Wildcats have been stingy against the run, leading the conference with 112 yards allowed per game on the ground.
4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (11 pts)
This guy could be the single best football player on the planet not getting an offical paycheck. Luck was 16-of-20, for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 72 yards rushing. His QB-rating for the game was 211.7 against a team that had been much better at home than on the road. Luck made a mockery of The Big Game in the 48-14 rout.
What's Next: The final game of the year and a potential BCS bowl berth could be on the line for Luck and the Cardinal this weekend agianst Oregon State. The home-field advantage should be too much for the undermanned but still very pesky Beavers squad.
Each week, Athlon will take a deeper look at the fantasy matchups that affect your lineup. Some players will deserve a second look from managers, while others could create some concern. Check out Athlon's College Fantasy Start or Sit for Week 13:
QB — Deserves A Second Look
T.J. Yates, North Carolina (@ Duke)
He might not be the most consistent option, but he is capable of putting up a big number. See Florida Stae, NC State, LSU and Virginia games this season. Against a Duke defense that made Marc Verica (417-4), Chase Rettig (230-2) and an option-based Tevin Washington (90-1) look like actual quarterbacks, Yates has a good chance to post a big yardage total. Duke is 109th in scoring defense and 111th in total defense.
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa (@ Minnesota)
The Iowa quarterback has thrown a TD pass in 18 straight games, so owners should have a good idea of what to expect this weekend. With Adam Robinson out again, Stanzi will be the unquestioned leader of the offense. Oh yeah, Minnesota ranks 114th in pass efficiency defense and 101st in scoring defense.
Aaron Murray, Georgia (Georgia Tech)
There is a lot more on the line for the Bulldogs this weekend than the Jackets. Bowl motivation gives a huge edge to Murray and the Georgia offense. The Yellow Jackets have given up some passing yards of late, allowing Sean Renfree of Duke to pass for 334 yards last weekend. Expect Murray and A.J. Green to have big days in the Clean, Old Fashioned Hate match-up.
Chris Relf vs. Jeremiah Masoli (Mississippi State @ Ole Miss)
The Bulldogs quarterback is coming off his career-high passing day (224 yards) last week and has been very effective on the ground all season. He has averaged 82 yards rushing per game over his last five games against teams not named Alabama. He scored a rushing TD in four of those five. Masoli, after a terrible showing agianst the Vols, bounced back in a big way last weekend against LSU. He rushed for 64 yards, threw for 177 yards and totaled three TDs. Expect a high-scoring Egg Bowl this year. These are the SEC's ninth- and 11th-rated defenses.
Bryan Ellis vs. Taylor McHargue (UAB @ Rice)
The Blazers quarterback has averaged 24.4 TFP over his last six games, so he might already be on top of mind. On the the other side, in his first action in nearly two months, McHargue posted a huge 36.1 fantasy day accounting for four total TDs last week against East Carolina. Rice is 116th in scoring and total defense while UAB is 85th in total defense and 93rd in scoring defense. If there is a fantasy option in this game on your roster, he should probably be in the lineup.
Rob Henry, Purdue (Indiana)
Henry is coming off his career high for passing yards (189) last week against a good Michigan State squad. He is also less than one yard per game away from leading the Boilers in rushing for the season (51.9 ypg). At home against the Big Ten's worst pass efficiency defense (115th nationally) and scoring defense (102nd), Henry should find plenty of room to make plays.
QB — Better Think Twice
Denard Robinson, Michigan (@ Ohio State)
And here is where things get interesting. This might be the single-toughest call any fantasy owner will have to make all season long (and I am both lucky and unlucky enough to have to make this call in both of my champisonship games). I have yet to bench Robinson in either league (with Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor on the bench). This issue with Robinson isn't whether he can produce against Ohio State — he can produce against anyone. It's can he stay healthy the whole game? In only the Purdue game did Robinson play the entire game and not score at least 28 TFP.
How do you bench the only player in NCAA history to both run and pass for 1,500 yards in a season? And how do you predict injuries? I leave you with this: In my BCS championship battle, he is starting over T.J. Yates, Jake Locker and Jeremiah Masoli. In my 120 title game, it has come down to Luck, Ryan Mallett and Robinson (Colin Kaepernick is my other starter, more on that in a second). I think I am going with Luck for the first time all year — although my opponent dropped Mallett this week, so I might play him just because!
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (Boise State)
Much like Robinson, Kaepernick's skills are largley matchup-proof. Like Shoelace, only you can ultimately make the call to bench Crazy Legs, so here are some stats to consider. Boise State boasts the nation's No. 1 rush defense, No. 2 total defense, No. 2 scoring defense and No. 7 pass defense. In three career losses to BSU, CK10 has thrown seven TDs and no INTs. But he has never topped 250 yards (141, 241, 243). He has rushed for 278 yards in those three games but 177 came in that historical 69-67 loss during his freshman year. He ran for 31 yards on 16 attempts in Boise last season. The Wolf Pack have been able to score on Boise, however, by putting up 45 ppg in CK10's tenure under center. Nevada has had this game circled for over a year and will be fired up to play at home on a national stage. I am playing him. You make up your own mind. How is that for advice!
Cameron Newton, Auburn (@ Alabama)
The other two are on this list, so we might as well round out the fantasy triumverate with Mr. Newton. In real terms, all that Newton has accomplished this year might be for naught if he can't beat Alabama. One has to expect Bama to stack the box and force Newton to throw down the field. Bama is third nationally in scoring defense (SEC No. 1) and seventh nationally in total defense (SEC No. 2). And how does he continually keep himself insulated from the off-the-field issues? So in the fantasy world, Newton's upside is closer to that of games like Clemson (20.9 TFP) and Mississippi State (22.1) this year than Kentucky (51.2) and South Carolina (49.9). My guess is that he is closer to 20 than 50. Make your call accordingly.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (LSU — Little Rock)
There are few options nationally that have more stability than Mallett. Owners are almost guaranteed 300 yards and at least two scores from the tall passer. And this matchup has been a high scoring affair three years running — LSU won last year 33-30 and Arky won the two previous games 31-30 and 50-48. The Tigers have slipped on defense since the loss to Auburn when they were sixth nationally in rushing (83 ypg) and 11th in scoring (14 ppg). They have dropped to 41st in rushing defense (135 ypg) and have given up 27 points per game in three SEC games since. Wait, aren't I supposed to be telling you not to play Mallett?
Zach Collaros, Cincinnati (@ UConn)
After dealing with an injury issue, Collaros delivered in a huge way last week posting 37.34 TFP against Rutgers. This isn't Rutgers. Do not be fooled by last week's explosion; UConn will be much tougher to deal with. The Huskies have the conference tie-breaker over Pitt and WVU and are playing for a Big East title. In their last four conference games, UConn has allowed the following stat lines to starting QBs: 171-0-1 (Ryan Nassib), 220-1-2 (Tino Sunseri), 160-0-0 (Geno Smith) and 195-1-0 (Adam Froman). That is a 186 ypg, two total TDs and three total INTs.
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (Colorado)
The drama on the sidelines and the soap opera in the locker room make Martinez an intriuging fantasy play this week. They should not need him too much, however, as the Huskers will look to pound the football in a game they have to win. He also has the hurt ankle. When fully healthy and motivated, Martinez is a great play. After watching Bo Pelini fully undress the youngster last week on national TV, I am not so sure. I would look elsewhere for more dependable options.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Marcus Coker, Iowa (@ Minnesota)
Against one of the nation's elite defense, Coker posted an admirable 14.6-point fantasy week on 10 touches. Owners can expect his number of touches to at least double with Adam Robinson not playing this week. And, have I mentioned how bad the Gopher defense is?
Anthony Elzy, North Carolina (@ Duke)
In two tough games against Va. Tech and NC State, Elzy delivered. In his first real action of the year, the senior tailback posted modest totals of 38 yards on eight touches (and a TD) against FSU three weeks ago. He got 24 touches against the Hokies and responded with 184 yards and another score. Last week, it was 21 touches for 210 yards and a TD. He is seriously involved in the passing game (19 catches in three games) and should have plenty of success against Duke's lowly defense.
Alex Green, Hawaii (@ New Mexico State)
After a huge week against Utah State back in Week 8, Green has been a strong play. He has scored in every game since and has been a big part of the passing game, catching four passes for 93 yards last week. The Aggies rank 102nd against the run and are 113th in scoring defense.
Pat Shed vs. Sam McGuffie (UAB @ Rice)
As I stated earlier, this should be a high-scoring game and both backs should see some room to work. Shed has averaged over 26 TFP over his last four games while the great McGuffie has leaped his way to more than 22 TFP per game over his last four. Again, as I mentioned earlier, these two defenses rank 85th and 116th respectively.
Brian Fields, Western Michigan (@ Bowling Green)
Over his last two games, Fields has scored 54.1 TFP against Eastern Michigan and Kent State. Fields has at least 11 carries in three straight games and should again be the focus against BGSU — who ranks 113th nationally agianst the run allowing 208.9 yards per game.
Some really deep options if you need 'em:
Kennard Reeves, Vanderbilt (Wake Forest)
Deacs defense is atrocious and there is no one else left to run the ball for Vandy.
Dan Dierking, Purdue (Indiana)
Has had double-digit carries in five straight and IU is very, very beatable.
Lamar Miller, Miami, Fla. (South Florida)
Has 48 of his 94 attempts, 373 of his 625 yards and three of his five TDs over his last three games.
Matt Asiata, Utah (BYU)
Has more carries than Eddie Wide in two straight — posted 19 carries, 87 yards, TD last week.
1. Who are your top three national Coach of the Year candidates?
Braden: The easy choices are named Kelly, Chizik, Patterson and Peterson. But I don't look at the C.O.Y. award that way. Who has done the most unexpected job with the least amount of potential? My three names would be Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State, Tom O'Brien of NC State and Bret Bielema of Wisconsin. Gundy gets the edge in my book, especially if the Pokes win the Bedlam Series this weekend and earn their first trip to the Big 12 title game in school history.
Steven: Several candidates come to mind – Mike Gundy, Chip Kelly, Doug Marrone, Jim Harbaugh and Bret Bielema. An argument could be made for each of those coaches to win the award, but I’ll go with Gundy. Oklahoma State was expected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 South, had five returning starters and was breaking in a new offensive coordinator. The Cowboys are one win away from their first bid to the Big 12 title game – quite an accomplishment considering the question marks entering the season.
Mitch: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State. His team was picked to finish fifth or sixth in the Big 12 South. He had a ton of starters to replace on both sides of the ball, yet his team is 10-1 with a chance to win its first-ever division title. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford. He lost Toby Gerhart, No. 2 in the Heisman race last year, and the Cardinal offense is better. This team has only one loss, at No. 1 Oregon. Gene Chizik, Auburn. It’s easy to give all of the credit to Cam Newton, but Chizik has done a great job in his two years at Auburn, and he has the No. 2 team in the nation right now.
2. Will Oregon and Auburn finish the season unbeaten and play for the national championship?
Braden: No. I am not sure if its a Civil War upset on the west coast or Auburn losing to either Alabama or South Carolina, but I think one of these two will drop a game somewhere. Can Gene Chizik keep his team insulated from all of the off-the-field garbage that is swirling around his program for two more weeks? Those are two brutal games in and of themselves — Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier don't need any help to pull an upset.
Steven: Oregon will finish the year unbeaten, but I believe Auburn will lose on Friday to Alabama. The road to an undefeated season isn’t easy for Oregon, as Arizona and Oregon State won’t be pushovers. However, if quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James stay healthy, the Ducks will finish 12-0 and play for the national championship against Boise State.
Mitch: My guess is that Oregon will play for the national title, but I think Auburn will lose one of its final two games. I’m not sure which game it will be — I just think the Tigers won’t beat both Alabama and South Carolina.
Need some help setting your college fantasy lineup? Instead of wasting hours trying to decide which player to start, check out Athlon's weekly fantasy ranks, which will help get your team on the winning track.
Week 13 Running Back Rankings
|1||DeMarco Murray||Oklahoma||at Oklahoma State|
|4||Daniel Thomas||Kansas State||at North Texas|
|5||Zach Line||SMU||at East Carolina|
|6||Bobby Rainey||Western Kentucky||at Troy|
|8||Kendall Hunter||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma|
|9||Chad Spann||Northern Illinois||at Eastern Michigan|
|10||Marcus Lattimore||South Carolina||at Clemson|
|11||Marcus Coker||Iowa||at Minnesota|
|12||Ed Wesley||TCU||at New Mexico|
|13||Daniel Herron||Ohio State||Michigan|
|14||Jacquizz Rodgers||Oregon State||at Stanford|
|15||Robbie Rouse||Fresno State||Idaho|
|17||Lennon Creer||Louisiana Tech||at San Jose State|
|18||Lance Dunbar||North Texas||Kansas State|
|19||Pat Shed||UAB||at Rice|
|20||Kendrick Hardy||Southern Miss||at Tulsa|
|21||Vick Ballard||Mississippi State||at Ole Miss|
|24||Orleans Darkwa||Tulane||at Marshall|
|25||Darriet Perry||Florida International||Arkansas State|
|26||Vai Taua||Nevada||Boise State|
|28||Anthony Elzy||North Carolina||at Duke|
|29||Doug Martin||Boise State||at Nevada|
|30||Stevan Ridley||LSU||Arkansas (Little Rock)|
|32||Derrick Locke||Kentucky||at Tennessee|
|33||Edwin Baker||Michigan State||at Penn State|
|34||Bilal Powell||Louisville||at Rutgers|
|35||Cyrus Gray||Texas A&M||at Texas|
|36||Knile Davis||Arkansas||LSU (Little Rock)|
|38||Brandon Bolden||Ole Miss||Mississippi State|
|40||Ronnie Hillman||San Diego State||UNLV|
|41||Baron Batch||Texas Tech||Houston|
|42||Latavius Murray||UCF||at Memphis|
|43||Adonis Thomas||Toledo||Central Michigan|
|44||Jonathan Williams||East Carolina||SMU|
|45||Stepfan Taylor||Stanford||Oregon State|
|46||Alfred Morris||Florida Atlantic||at MTSU|
|47||Matthew Tucker||TCU||at New Mexico|
|48||Anthony Allen||Georgia Tech||at Georgia|
|49||Noel Devine||West Virginia||at Pittsburgh|
|50||Brian Fields||Western Michigan||at Bowling Green|
|51||Rodney Stewart||Colorado||at Nebraska|
|52||Isaiah Pead||Cincinnati||at Connecticut|
|54||Alex Green||Hawaii||at New Mexico State|
|55||Chris Polk||Washington||at California|
|56||Ryan Williams||Virginia Tech||Virginia|
|57||Dion Lewis||Pittsburgh||West Virginia|
|58||Evan Royster||Penn State||Michigan State|
|59||Lamar Miller||Miami, Fla.||South Florida|
|60||Bryce Beall||Houston||at Texas Tech|
|62||Johnathan Franklin||UCLA||at Arizona State|
|63||Jamie Harper||Clemson||South Carolina|
|64||Darrian Mallary||Florida International||Arkansas State|
|66||Darren Evans||Virginia Tech||Virginia|
|67||Cierre Wood||Notre Dame||at USC|
|68||Delone Carter||Syracuse||Boston College|
|69||Kennard Reeves||Vanderbilt||Wake Forest|
|70||Willie Geter||Bowling Green||Western Michigan|
|71||Phillip Tanner||MTSU||Florida Atlantic|
|73||Keola Antolin||Arizona||at Oregon|
|74||Washaun Ealey||Georgia||Georgia Tech|
|76||Michael Dyer||Auburn||at Alabama|
|77||Charles Clay||Tulsa||Southern Miss|
|78||Cody Johnson||Texas||Texas A&M|
|79||Ronnie Weaver||UCF||at Memphis|
|80||Chris Rainey||Florida||at Florida State|
|81||Marc Tyler||USC||Notre Dame|
|82||Cameron Marshall||Arizona State||UCLA|
|85||JJ Di Luigi||BYU||at Utah|
|86||Dwayne Priest||Eastern Michigan||Northern Illinois|
|87||Tim Cornett||UNLV||at San Diego State|
|88||Michael Hayes||Houston||at Texas Tech|
|89||Bryan Kariya||BYU||at Utah|
|90||Eric Stephens||Texas Tech||Houston|
|91||Deantre Lewis||Arizona State||UCLA|
|92||Caleb King||Georgia||Georgia Tech|
|93||De\'Vion Moore||Missouri||Kansas (Kansas City)|
|94||Andre Williams||Boston College||at Syracuse|
|95||Ray Graham||Pittsburgh||West Virginia|
|96||Chris Thompson||Florida State||Florida|
|97||Keith Payne||Virginia||at Virginia Tech|
|98||Eugene Jarvis||Kent State||Ohio|
|99||James Sims||Kansas||Missouri (Kansas City)|
|100||Deonte Jackson||Idaho||at Fresno State|
|101||Davin Meggett||Maryland||NC State|
|102||Frank Goodin||UL Monroe||UL Lafayette|
|103||Mike Trumpy||Northwestern||at Wisconsin|
|104||Jeremy Avery||Boise State||at Nevada|
|105||Vince Davidson||Ohio||at Kent State|
|106||Anthony Wilkerson||Stanford||Oregon State|
|107||Damien Berry||Miami, Fla.||South Florida|
|108||Moise Plancher||South Florida||at Miami, Fla.|
|109||Robert Clay||New Mexico State||Hawaii|
|110||Mustafa Greene||NC State||at Maryland|
|111||Ty Jones||Florida State||Florida|
|112||Onterio McCalebb||Auburn||at Alabama|
|113||Josh Harris||Wake Forest||at Vanderbilt|
|115||Perry Jones||Virginia||at Virginia Tech|
|117||DuJuan Harris||Troy||Western Kentucky|
|118||Zurlon Tipton||Central Michigan||at Toledo|
|119||Carl Volny||Central Michigan||at Toledo|
|120||Tevin Drake||Western Michigan||at Bowling Green|
|121||Jermaine Robertson||Arkansas State||at Florida International|
|122||Da\'Rel Scott||Maryland||NC State|
|124||Jasmin Hopkins||Northern Illinois||at Eastern Michigan|
|125||Vincent Smith||Michigan||at Ohio State|
|127||Aaron Spikes||UL Lafayette||at UL Monroe|
|128||Henry Josey||Missouri||Kansas (Kansas City)|
|129||Brandon Rutley||San Jose State||Louisiana Tech|
|130||Joseph Randle||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma|
|132||Donte Harden||Ohio||at Kent State|
|133||A.J. Ellis||Fresno State||Idaho|
|134||Waymon James||TCU||at New Mexico|
|135||C.J. Gable||USC||Notre Dame|
|136||Roy Finch||Oklahoma||at Oklahoma State|
|137||Josh Quezada||BYU||at Utah|
|138||Shawn Southward||Troy||Western Kentucky|
|139||Jyruss Edwards||UL Monroe||UL Lafayette|
|140||Trea Burgess||Indiana||at Purdue|
|142||Jeremy Wright||Louisville||at Rutgers|
|143||Ike Nduka||Buffalo||at Akron|
|144||Jesse Callier||Washington||at California|
|145||Mario Fannin||Auburn||at Alabama|
|146||Silas Redd||Penn State||Michigan State|
|147||Seth Smith||New Mexico State||Hawaii|
|148||Nic Grigsby||Arizona||at Oregon|
|149||Jacquise Terry||Kent State||Ohio|
|151||Kasey Carrier||New Mexico||TCU|
|152||Desmond Scott||Duke||North Carolina|
|153||Jamad Williams||Tulsa||Southern Miss|
|154||Demetris Murray||South Florida||at Miami, Fla.|
|155||Princeton McCarty||Idaho||at Fresno State|
|156||Mike James||Miami, Fla.||South Florida|
|158||Paris Cotton||Central Michigan||at Toledo|
|159||D.J. Adams||Maryland||NC State|
|160||Antwon Bailey||Syracuse||Boston College|
|161||Derrick Coleman||UCLA||at Arizona State|
|162||James Washington||NC State||at Maryland|
|163||Josh Adams||Wake Forest||at Vanderbilt|
|164||Jonas Gray||Notre Dame||at USC|
|165||Orwin Smith||Georgia Tech||at Georgia|
|166||Chris Anderson||Troy||Western Kentucky|
|167||David Wilson||Virginia Tech||Virginia|
|168||Jeff Demps||Florida||at Florida State|
|169||Jermaine Thomas||Florida State||Florida|
|170||Montel Harris||Boston College||at Syracuse|
Scoring our weekly running back rankings based upon -
1 reception = 0.5 fantasy points
1 rushing touchdown = 6 points
1 receiving touchdown = 6 points
10 rushing yards = 1 point
10 receiving yards = 1 point
2 point conversions = 2 points
Fumbles lost = - 1 point