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All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/10-biggest-disappointments-nfl-so-far-2014
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More than halfway through the NFL season, most “experts” have already thrown their preseason predictions out the window. But the predictions back then weren’t as ridiculous as they seem now. They were probably based on reasonable expectations.

 

Then teams, units or players started falling woefully short.

 

That’s just how it goes in sports. Disappointments are a big part of the games. So with only seven weeks left until the NFL playoffs start, here’s a look at the league’s biggest disappointments. They’re either disappointing teams in general, or the units, players or coaches that have caused their teams to fall short:

 

The Chicago Bears offense

They are unbelievably loaded with weapons to make Jay Cutler’s life easier. There are few receiving corps as talented as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Martellus Bennett developed into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. And whatever Matt Forte lacks as a runner, he makes up for as a dual-threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Yet the Bears are 3-6 and their offense ranks 15th in the NFL. Cutler’s numbers aren’t even terrible, but clearly the Bears should be scoring a lot more than they are.

 

The New Orleans Saints

They were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl because they seemed to have it all, including a rejuvenated Rob Ryan defense. Then they stumbled out of the gate in part because that defense (now ranked 19th) turned out to be much worse than expected. The Saints are still in good position in the awful NFC South, but at 4-5 they are hardly the NFC power many thought they would be.

 

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III

Finally back to health and free of any Mike Shanahan-caused controversy, this was supposed to be RGIII’s breakout season. But yet another injury – a dislocated ankle – has limited him to only two full games this season. He’s back now and maybe things will get better. But he still has just one TD pass in his two starts, which is less than anyone expected given all the weapons around him.

 

Panthers QB Cam Newton

The fourth-year quarterback’s numbers took a dip last season, but he became a winner and showed signs of maturing into the franchise quarterback many expected him to be. But this year he’s become a little more erratic, his interceptions are surging, and he’s been far more sack-able behind a suspect offensive line. Maybe it has more to do with the crumbling cast around him, but Newton is taking steps backwards this year.

 

Bucs coach Lovie Smith

The confusion and controversy of the Greg Schiano era was supposed to be vanquished by the arrival of Smith, an ultra-professional coach who had plenty of success in Chicago. The Bucs were supposed to be underachievers in the past, which seemed to set up a successful quick transition. Instead, the Bucs began the season mired in a quarterback controversy and now they’re 1-8, searching for talent and an identity. It looks like it’ll take Smith a lot longer than expected to turn this mess around.

 

The Atlanta Falcons

They were the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season, plummeting from one of the best teams in the NFC to one of the worst. But they had so much talent – especially on offense – that last year could easily be excused as an anomaly. It wasn’t. The offense is a little better, but their defense is the second-worst in the NFL, leaving them at 3-6 and barely holding their heads above water in the worst division in the NFL.

 

The New York Giants defense

They spoke before the season of how they could carry a still-growing offense and even be one of the Top 5 defenses in the league. Instead, as their rebuilt secondary crumbled around them, they plummeted to rock bottom. The Giants rank dead last in the NFL in defense right now, and they earned it with a horrendous performance in Seattle on Sunday when then gave up an incredible 350 yards on the ground.

 

Bengals QB Andy Dalton

In August, Dalton signed a six-year, $115 million contract which seemed to solidify his place among the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the game. But he has taken a nosedive, especially lately. More than halfway through the season he’s even thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight). Now there are serious questions about whether the Bengals invested in the right quarterback, and whether they’ll need to find a way out of that deal in a couple of years.

 

Packers RB Eddie Lacy

When Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie last year it seemed to be only the beginning. He was on a terrific team with the pressure off because of MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers. His performance has been fine – especially since it can be argued he’s been underused – but fantasy owners surely are dissappointed in his 478 yards and four touchdowns through nine games. It’s not that he’s having a bad season. It’s more that expectations were much, much higher than what he’s done.

 

Lions RB Reggie Bush

The last three years Bush finally was starting to live up to his potential and looking like a former top draft pick. And this year, even at age 29, he figured to build on what he had started on a team loaded with offensive talent. Instead, with injuries slowing him down, he’s starting to show his age and no longer looking like anything other than a part-time running back. With 191 rushing yards and 169 receiving yards, he actually looks like a guy playing his way right out of the league.

 

—By Ralph Vacchiano

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/buffalo-bills-vs-miami-dolphins-preview-and-prediction
Body:

There's no rest for a pair of weary and discouraged AFC East teams this week, as the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins look to bounce back tonight on the NFL Network. Both the Bills (5-4) and Dolphins (5-4) suffered disappointing, largely self-inflicted Week 10 losses and now must head back into action off a short week of practice for a matchup that amounts to a playoff elimination game for the loser. This longstanding divisional rivalry has tilted in Buffalo's direction of late, as the Bills are gunning for their fourth straight win over the Dolphins 

 

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: Miami -5.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Fight for Survival

Two 5–4 teams in must-win mode collide at Sun Life Stadium. Both the Dolphins and the Bills are two games behind the division-leading Patriots, but more alarming is the fact that nine of the 11 AFC teams with winning records are ahead of these two teams in the playoff race. But before even contemplating the big picture, these teams must apply a laser focus to what amounts to a win-or-stay-home-for-January game. Their respective margins for error grew smaller this past Sunday with a pair of missed opportunities. The Bills blew a 13–3 lead against the Chiefs, while the Miami offense was MIA in a 20–16 loss to Detroit. "We can't change anything. It's time to get ready for Miami," said Bills safety Aaron Williams. "If we want to get back to the playoffs, this is a really important game."

 

2. Playing Takeaway

The turnover battle plays a big part in every game, but especially in a division game between evenly matched teams. Both the Bills and Dolphins are plus-5 in the turnover department, seventh in the league, and they're in a three-way tie with the Cardinals for second in the NFL with 19 takeaways apiece. But both teams lost the turnover battle in disappointing Week 10 losses. The Bills had a particularly devastating miscue against the Chiefs when Bryce Brown fumbled out of the back of the end zone on his way in for a touchdown and a 17–3 lead in a game the Bills ultimately lost 17–13. Look for the Bills to be especially careful with the football this week after having the importance of ball security drummed into their heads by coach Doug Marrone. "We had an opportunity to get to 6-3," he said. "Now we're going to have to fight our way back and come back and find a way to win our next game."

 

3. Protecting Tannehill

Buffalo leads the NFL with 34 sacks, including six in the Bills' most recent game against Kansas City. The Dolphins are playing with a patchwork offensive line, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 18 times in five starts against the Bills. Left tackle Branden Albert is lost for the season to a knee injury, and left guard Darryn Colledge is still nursing a back injury and could miss a third straight start. The ingredients are in place for a long and painful afternoon for Tannehill. It will be up to a couple of young Tennessee products — rookie Ju'Wuan James at left tackle and second-year man Dallas Thomas at right tackle — to keep Tannehill upright and open lanes for whoever's healthy enough to carry the football. "What you saw is probably what you're going to get (Thursday)," coach Joe Philbin said of the line's performance in the Dolphins' season-worst 228-yard outing against Detroit. "Those guys weren't perfect, but overall I thought they held their own.”

 

Final Analysis

 

Buffalo beat Miami 29–10 in September and are gunning for its fourth straight win in the head-to-head series, while the Dolphins are literally limping into this game off a short week with a taped-together offensive line and a lead running back (Lamar Miller) who's nursing a sore shoulder. The last time Miami played at home, the Dolphins dominated the Chargers 37–0 on Nov. 2, but suddenly, that seems like a long time ago. 

 
Prediction: Buffalo 24, Miami 17
Teaser:
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-12-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Welcome to the spotlight, Ohio State and Nebraska.

 

Just as Michigan State bows out of the playoff race and the national top 10, Ohio State and Nebraska takes the Spartans’ place at least in terms of being the  face of the Big Ten down the stretch.

 

Certainly, both teams have work to do to be considered legitimate playoff contenders, and both probably need help from teams in the top seven of Tuesday’s rankings.

 

Saturday will be a chance for both to continue to build their case as factors on the national scene.

 

Nebraska faces perhaps its top challenger for the Big Ten West division when it visits Wisconsin while Ohio State tries to follow its landmark win over Michigan State with a road win over a newly ranked Minnesota team.

 

The Big Ten needs Nebraska and Ohio State to reach the league title game as one-loss squads for its playoff hopes to remain alive. This will be one of the key weeks for the Cornhuskers and Buckeyes to achieve that goal.

Week 12 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Big Ten Week 12 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.

 

1. Nebraska at Wisconsin

3:30 p.m., ABC 

The Big Ten West won’t necessarily be won Saturday, but the winner will be the clear frontrunner. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin finish with Minnesota and Iowa. Those stakes, though, seems secondary compared to the showdown between Heisman-contending tailbacks — and friends — Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah. Combined, they’ve rushed for 2,751 yards and 36 touchdowns. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin, though, have emerging stars in the front seven. Cornhuskers defensive end Randy Gregory is one of the nation’s stop pass rushers, and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has compared his rising star defensive tackle Maliek Collins to LSU’s Glenn Dorsey. At the same time, Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel has recorded 10 tackles for a loss in the last five games.

 

Listen to the Week 12 predictions podcast:



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2. Ohio State at Minnesota

Noon, ABC

What should we make of Minnesota? The Gophers needed a second-half comeback to beat Purdue 39-38 at home and a week later lost 28-24 to an Illinois team down to its second-string quarterback. So, naturally, Minnesota went on to beat Iowa 51-14 with an uncharacteristically effective passing attack. Minnesota may need that kind of balance from Mitch Leidner for any shot of an upset of the Buckeyes, but the run game could help neutralize the impact of Big Ten sack leader Joey Bosa. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is an emerging star, but Minnesota has done a good job of limiting explosive pass plays. The Gophers lead the Big Ten in fewest yards per pass attempt (5.5) and fewest passing plays of 30 yards or more (four).

 

3. Michigan State at Maryland

8 p.m., Big Ten Network

Michigan State is in a rare spot compared to the last two seasons — the Spartans don’t have a clear carrot in front of them. The Spartans are coming off their first Big Ten loss since 2012 and have seen their playoff hopes evaporate with the 49-37 loss to Ohio State. Maryland is a solid team, but Oregon and Ohio State needed at least 490 total yards and 46 points to beat Michigan State this season. Maryland hasn’t hit either of those marks against an FBS team this season. Making matters worse, the Terrapins will be without receiver Stefon Diggs, who is out with a lacerated kidney.

 

4. Temple at Penn State

Noon, ESPN2

Penn State is 37-0-1 against Temple since the Owls’ last win in the series in 1941, but the margin is getting closer. The last three Penn State wins have come by an average margin of eight points. The average Penn State win from 1977-2009 was by more than four touchdowns. The book on Penn State this season remains unchanged from September — the defense plays lights out, the offensive line and run game are a mess, and quarterback Christian Hackenberg is frustrated. Get ready for another low-scoring slog for Penn State: Temple is seventh in the American in yards per play and fifth in yards allowed per play.

 

5. Iowa at Illinois

Noon, Big Ten Network

How much worse could it get for Iowa this season? The Hawkeyes have already lost to Iowa State (winless in the Big 12), Maryland and Minnesota in a rout. Just a reminder: Illinois beat Minnesota, a team that drubbed Iowa by 37 last week. Illinois returns quarterback Wes Lunt this week after the Oklahoma State transfer missed the last three games with a broke bone in his leg. Lunt has completed 66.5 percent of his passes this season with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.

 

6. Northwestern at Notre Dame

3:30 p.m., NBC

Northwestern likes to claim it is Chicago’s Big Ten team while Notre Dame may be the most popular team in the area. Chicago may want to disown both after recent games. Northwestern is coming off its fourth consecutive loss, the latest an avert-your-eyes 10-9 effort against Michigan. Only Penn State has given up more sacks in the Big Ten than Northwestern’s 3.2 per game. Notre Dame, meanwhile, continues to be turnover-prone as quarterback Everett Golson coughed up the ball five times in a 55-31 loss to Arizona State.

 

7. Indiana at Rutgers

3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

After a run of three ranked teams — at Ohio State, at Nebraska and Wisconsin — Rutgers has a more manageable opponent this week against Indiana. And it’s an important one for the Scarlet Knights, looking to become bowl eligible in their final home game before visiting Michigan State and Maryland. Indiana’s offense has fallen apart since the season-ending injury to Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers have passed for 103 yards — total — in the last three games.

 

Big Ten Week 12 Staff Picks

 

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Temple at Penn State (-11)

Temple 13-10PSU 27-10PSU 24-17PSU 20-13

Iowa (-5 1/2) at Illinois

Ill 21-14Iowa 27-20Iowa 31-20Iowa 27-20

Ohio State (-12) at Minnesota

OSU 38-21OSU 40-20OSU 34-17OSU 41-17

Nebraska at Wisconsin (-6)

Neb 28-14Wisc 29-28Wisc 27-24Wisc 31-20

Northwestern at Notre Dame (-18)

ND 35-10ND 40-21ND 38-17ND 28-14

Indiana at Rutgers (-7 1/2)

Rut 21-7Rut 27-17Rut 30-20Rut 30-20

Michigan St (-12) at Maryland

MSU 42-14MSU 41-17MSU 34-20MSU 31-23
Last week3-22-33-23-2
This season68-2365-2568-2362-29

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 12 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-12-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The latest installment of the Game of the Year in the SEC takes place in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama hosts No. 1 Mississippi State in a crucial SEC West clash. Elsewhere, Auburn tries to get back on track against Georgia in Athens; Florida hopes to keep its offensive momentum going against South Carolina; Arkansas seeks to break its SEC losing streak against LSU; Tennessee and Kentucky meet in Knoxville; and Missouri visits Texas A&M in a battle of former Big 12 rivals.

Week 12 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 

 

SEC Week 12 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Mississippi State (+8.5) at Alabama (3:30 ET, CBS)

These neighboring schools have played 97 times since their first meeting in 1896. Never has so much been at stake. Mississippi State is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Alabama is 8–1 overall and 5–1 in the SEC. The winner will seize control of the SEC West race (though both teams still have significant challenges ahead) and be well-situated for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Alabama probably cannot afford a loss; the Tide simply don’t have enough quality wins (even with a potential win against Auburn) to make the four-team field with two defeats. So this game is obviously vital for Nick Saban’s club. Mississippi State is in better shape, but the Bulldogs have a difficult closing slate, with trips to Alabama and Ole Miss among their final three games. MSU has been outstanding on offense all season but has been mediocre (at best) defensively, allowing 548 yards to UAB, 526 to Texas A&M and 504 to Kentucky. And it will be these deficiencies on defense that will knock Mississippi State from the ranks of the unbeaten.

 

Listen to the Week 12 predictions podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Auburn (+2.5) at Georgia (7:15 ET, ESPN)

Certain weeks, Georgia looks like a top-five team in the country. Other weeks, the Bulldogs look quite average. Last Saturday was one of the good weeks. Georgia jumped out to a 21–0 lead at Kentucky and cruised to an impressive 63–31 victory. True freshman Nick Chubb was once again brilliant, rushing for 170 yards on only 13 carries — his fourth straight game with at least 140 yards. Chubb will be joined in the backfield this week by Todd Gurley, who was a Heisman Trophy favorite before being slapped with a four-game suspension. Gurley’s return will no doubt help, but it’s not like the running game was an area of weakness while he was out. Auburn must regroup after a shocking loss at home to Texas A&M. The Tigers battled from behind all game and had two opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes but fumbled twice in A&M territory. Many have assumed that loss eliminated Auburn from the Playoff picture, but the Tigers, if they win out, would have road wins at Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, plus a win at home vs. LSU. That would be by far the most impressive résumé for a two-loss team. Auburn by 3

 

3. South Carolina (+6.5) at Florida (12 ET, SEC Network)

Florida’s resurgence in recent weeks has coincided with the move from Jeff Driskel to true freshman Treon Harris as the starting quarterback. Harris wasn’t asked to do much in the Gators’ 38–20 win vs. Georgia two weeks ago, but he showed his entire skill set in last week’s 34–10 victory at Vanderbilt. Harris threw for 215 yards on only 13 completions and added 49 yards rushing and two scores on the ground in Florida’s 24-point win. For the first time in several years, the Gators’ offense appears to have an identity. Offense has not been the issue at South Carolina. It’s the Gamecocks’ inability to stop the other team that has led to their current four-game SEC losing streak. In the last two games, they have given up a total of 1,196 total yards, including a staggering 739 on the ground. Not good with the one-two punch of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor on the horizon.

 

4. LSU (+2) at Arkansas (8 ET, ESPN 2)

Let’s get this straight: Arkansas, a team that has lost 17 straight SEC games, is favored over LSU, which has won three of its last four league games — with the only lose coming in overtime to Alabama? Do the boys in Vegas believe the Razorbacks are ready to break through, or is this just a lack of faith in a young LSU team that is playing a true road game for only the third time this season? It’s probably a little bit of both. Arkansas has played very well at times this season and could easily have a win or two in the league. And LSU, despite its recent run of success, is still shaky on the offensive side of the ball. Last week, sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings completed only 8-of-26 passes for 76 yards in the loss to Alabama, and he has not completed more than 10 passes in a game since the Tigers’ 36–29 loss vs. Mississippi State in September.

 

5. Kentucky (+8.5) at Tennessee (4 ET, SEC Network)

The stakes are high for these two programs, both with second-year head coaches and both desperate to reach bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2010. Tennessee, with a softer closing schedule, is in better shape despite having one fewer win than Kentucky. The Vols are rejuvenated after rallying to beat South Carolina in overtime two weeks ago, though coach Butch Jones spent the bye week advising everyone to pump the breaks on the Joshua Dobbs hype. The sophomore quarterback was brilliant at South Carolina but still lacks — according to his coach — the consistency needed to play the position at a high level. Dobbs will have to play well for his team to pick up win No. 5 on Saturday.

 

6. Missouri (+5.5) at Texas A&M (7:30 ET, SEC Network)

This is quite telling: The SEC East leader (Missouri) is a 5.5-point favorite over a team tied for fifth in the West (Texas A&M). And it’s not surprising. Missouri is 4–1 in the league despite averaging no more than 4.1 yards per offensive play in four of its five league games. The Tigers have gotten it done with a high-level pass rush, by forcing turnovers and by making clutch plays on offense down the stretch. Texas A&M got its swagger back last week with a stunning win at Auburn. With Mizzou and LSU both visiting Kyle Field down the stretch, a nine-win regular season is suddenly within reach.  

 

Week 12 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
S. Carolina at FloridaUSC 24-21UF 24-21UF 27-24UF 34-25
Miss State at AlabamaUA 31-21UA 30-20UA 27-20UA 20-17
Kentucky at TennesseeUT 28-14UT 38-31UT 31-24UT 24-20
Auburn at GeorgiaAU 35-31UGa 38-35UGa 34-31AU 30-24
Missouri at Texas A&MA&M 30-21A&M 40-31A&M 31-27A&M 31-20
LSU at ArkansasLSU 21-17LSU 23-20UA 24-20UA 20-13
Last Week5-15-15-15-1
Season69-1971-1770-1873-15

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-12-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Rivalry week is usually reserved for the last full Saturday of action in November, but three intriguing rivalry matchups in the ACC headline a slate with national and conference title implications.

Florida State travels to Miami, and with a win over the Hurricanes, the Seminoles would clinch a spot in the ACC Championship. And of course, there are bigger goals for Florida State ahead, as coach Jimbo Fisher’s team hopes to climb higher than No. 3 in the playoff committee rankings.

Clemson-Georgia Tech has potential Orange Bowl implications, while NC State hosts Wake Forest in a key game for bowl eligibility for the Wolfpack.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Pittsburgh travels to North Carolina and Duke hosts Virginia Tech.

 

Week 12 Previews and Predictions:

Big 12Big TenPac-12SEC

 

ACC Week 12 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Florida State (-2) at Miami
8 p.m. ET, ABC


With Florida State riding a 25-game winning streak, combined with Miami’s improvement in 2014, there’s some spark returning in this rivalry. This game is always huge in terms of recruiting, but this rivalry has lost a little of its luster in recent years, largely due to Miami’s decline on the gridiron. The Seminoles have won four in a row over the Hurricanes and seven out of the last nine in this series. Coach Jimbo Fisher is undefeated against Miami, and Florida State has won the last two meetings by at least 13 points. This year’s matchup should be closer, as the Seminoles aren’t as dominant as they were in 2013, and the Hurricanes have improved in coach Al Golden’s fourth year. Florida State’s biggest problem in 2014 has been the play of its offensive and defensive lines. And stopping the run is a huge concern for the Seminoles on Saturday night, as Miami running back Duke Johnson is averaging 168.6 rushing yards over his last five games. Florida State is giving up 135.7 yards per game on the ground, but Johnson will be the best running back this team has played. In addition to Johnson’s performance, two other areas are worth noting in Miami’s improvement. Freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya leads the ACC in rating (157.64), and the defense is allowing only 4.3 yards per play in conference games. Miami is certainly improved on defense, but the Hurricanes have not played an offense of Florida State’s potential. The Seminoles average 39.3 points per game in conference action, and quarterback Jameis Winston should be able to attack a secondary that has allowed back-to-back games of at least 60 percent completion percentage. There’s no doubt Miami has improved. But will the Hurricanes’ recent play against weaker Coastal teams translate against one of the best squads in the nation? Or will Florida State resume its dominance in the series?

 

Listen to the Week 12 predictions podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Clemson (-3) at Georgia Tech
Noon ET, ESPN

 

This matchup may not seem like a huge game in terms of national importance, but assuming Florida State reaches the college football playoff, Clemson or Georgia Tech could play in the Orange Bowl against a team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. With major bowl implications and a rivalry aspect between these two teams, there’s plenty on the line in Atlanta this Saturday. Clemson is expected to get true freshman Deshaun Watson back at quarterback, and the offense has received a boost from running back Wayne Gallman (back-to-back 100-yard efforts) over the last two games. The Yellow Jackets are allowing 6.4 yards per play but have helped their defensive woes by forcing 21 turnovers. While Georgia Tech’s defense will have its hands full against Watson and a potent offense, the Yellow Jackets create plenty of challenges for Clemson’s defense. The Tigers are first in the nation in third-down defense, while Georgia Tech is converting 59.3 percent of its third-down opportunities (best in the nation on offense). Clemson allows just 69 yards on the ground in ACC contests, but that number should be challenged by the Yellow Jackets’ option attack, which is averaging 335.6 yards per game. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the offensive catalyst for coach Paul Johnson, but Synjyn Days has three 100-yard efforts, and Zach Laskey (595 yards) and Charles Perkins (10.9 ypc) are expected to return from injury this week. Clemson has won three out of the last four meetings in this series but lost its last trip to Atlanta (31-17 in 2011).
 

3. Pittsburgh at North Carolina (-2)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3

 

With Pittsburgh and North Carolina each sporting a 4-5 record, Saturday’s meeting is critical to bowl eligibility. The Panthers have lost five out of their last six games, while the Tar Heels won two in a row before a 47-20 defeat at Miami. Scoring points shouldn’t be an issue for both teams. Pittsburgh and North Carolina each average 29 points per game in ACC contests, and both squads allow six yards per play in conference matchups. The Tar Heels should expect a heavy dose of Pittsburgh running back James Conner. The sophomore averages 149.1 yards per game, and North Carolina is allowing 218.6 rushing yards in ACC contests. The Panthers have been vulnerable to a few big plays in the secondary (eight plays allowed of 40 yards or more), and the Tar Heels average 291.9 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Marquise Williams is tied for third in the conference with 17 touchdown passes. Tempo and pace of play will be critical in this matchup. North Carolina wants to go fast, while Pittsburgh wants to turn to its ground attack and control the time of possession.
 

4. Virginia Tech at Duke (-5.5)
Noon ET, ESPNU


How’s this for a role reversal? Duke is fighting to win the Coastal Division, while Virginia Tech needs to win two out of its last three to earn bowl eligibility. Most years, that narrative is usually flipped, but the Blue Devils won the Coastal last year and are in great shape to repeat in 2014. Last year’s meeting was a low-scoring 13-10 affair, with Duke winning without a third-down conversion (0-11) and four lost turnovers. Two key components of the Blue Devils’ 8-1 record is only six lost turnovers and a balanced attack on offense. On the other sideline, Virginia Tech has lost 18 turnovers, and its offense is recording just 4.8 yards per play in ACC contests. Defensively, the Hokies have allowed 23 plays of 30 yards or more but are still active around the line of scrimmage (31 sacks). Stopping the run has been a challenge for Duke (203.4 ypg), and Virginia Tech should benefit from a healthy Marshawn Williams at running back. The Hokies need a big game from Williams, while getting a flawless effort from quarterback Michael Brewer. An individual matchup to watch is standout Virginia Tech cornerback against Duke receiver Jamison Crowder. Fuller is one of the ACC’s top defensive backs, while Crowder is a dangerous all-purpose threat and has at least eight receptions in each of his last three games. Only one game during Duke’s four-game winning streak was decided by more than seven points. If Virginia Tech can limit its mistakes and establish the run, coach Frank Beamer’s team should have a shot at the upset.
 

5. Wake Forest at NC State (-15)
3 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3


The home team has won the last seven meetings in this series and only one of the last four matchups was decided by seven points or less. The history seems to fit appropriately with the spread and the overall landscape of both teams. Wake Forest could be headed for a winless season in ACC play, while NC State needs one more win to get bowl eligible. The Demon Deacons continue to struggle on offense, but the defense has held its own in conference play. Freshman quarterback John Wolford has showed promise for first-year coach Dave Clawson and threw for two touchdowns in the 34-20 loss to Clemson. Wolford needs more help from a rushing attack that is recording less than one yard (0.7) per carry in ACC games. NC State’s offense scored 40 or more points in four of its first five games but has not recorded more than 24 in each of its last five games. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett had his first multi-interception game this season (two) in last week’s loss to Georgia Tech. If Brissett takes care of the ball, NC State should have too much firepower for a Wake Forest team that is good on defense, but struggling to find production on offense.
 

ACC Week 12 Predictions

 David
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
FSU (-2) at MiamiFSU 35-21FSU 31-30FSU 34-27FSU 30-23
Clemson (-3) at GTGT 35-24Clemson 27-24Clemson 30-27GT 27-23
Pitt at UNC (-2)UNC 38-31UNC 40-38Pitt 38-34Pitt 34-33
VT at Duke (-5.5)Duke 28-14Duke 38-21Duke 27-20Duke 24-20
Wake at NC State (-15)NC State 28-7NC State 38-21NC State 30-17NC State 24-14
Last Week:4-14-15-04-1
Season Record:69-2270-2173-1868-23

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Week 12 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-12-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Survive and advance would be the theme of a rather uninspiring weekend of action on tap in the Pac-12.

 

The Ducks are at home resting for their final two tests of the regular season with the North Division all but wrapped up. But in the South, the name of the game in Week 12 is don’t slip up. USC, Arizona and Arizona State all still have a shot at the Pac-12 title game and all three are double-digit favorites this weekend.

Week 12 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC


Pac-12 Week 12 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Washington (+9) at Arizona
3:30 p.m., FOX

The Wildcats still control their own destiny with a home date versus Arizona State looming in the season finale. So holding serve at home against a team it should beat is obviously critical. Anu Solomon got back on track last weekend with a huge game against Colorado but he will face a much more physical and disruptive front seven this week. Washington is second in the league in sacks and tackles for a loss but struggled to stop Brett Hundley last weekend. The Huskies will have to win on defense because Chris Petersen’s offense isn’t capable of keeping pace with Rich Rodriguez' if this turns into a shootout.

 

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2. Arizona St (-10) at Oregon St
10:45 p.m., ESPN

Despite dominating the overall history of the series (26-13-1), Arizona State has struggled mightily with the Beavers recently. The Sun Devils have lost four of the last six overall and three straight in Corvallis. That said, Oregon State has lost six straight home Pac-12 games. Something has to give. Sean Mannion has gotten back on track in the last two games, throwing for 739 yards in losses to Washington and Cal. The same could be said for Taylor Kelly, who had his best game since returning from injury in the win over Notre Dame. As long as Todd Graham’s rebuilt defense stays aggressive and can attack a Beavers offensive line that ranks last in the league in sacks allowed (3.11 per game), Arizona State should return home unscathed.

 

3. Cal (+14.5) at USC
Thur., 9 p.m., ESPN

When Cal has the ball, this will be a battle of strength on strength as the Bears rank No. 2 in the league at 41.9 points per game and USC ranks No. 2 at 22.6 points per game allowed. When USC has the ball, this will be a battle of strength on weakness. USC, led by the sterling play of Cody Kessler, is scoring 34.9 points per game while Sonny Dykes' defense ranks dead last in the league at 39.9 points allowed per game. At home with a division crown still very much within reach, USC’s defense should be the difference. Cal’s only shot at the two-touchdown road upset is Jared Goff, the Bears' incredibly impressive second-year starting quarterback.  While the Trojans defense leads the Pac-12 with 11 interceptions and has been stingy on the scoreboard, it hasn’t pressured opposing QBs and has allowed plenty of yards through the air. Goff must be brilliant if Cal wants to pull the upset and get to bowl eligibility.

 

4. Utah (+7) at Stanford
6 p.m., P12 Net

Two of the best defenses and two of the most painful offenses to watch will do battle in Palo Alto this weekend. Stanford (4.11 ypp) and Utah (5.09) hold opponents to the lowest yards per play in the Pac-12 and both offenses rank 75th or worse nationally in yards per game. Utah, despite taking major strides forward this season, has lost close games and probably feels like it should be in the Pac-12 South mix rather than staring at three straight losses. Stanford can’t seem to build any momentum, alternating wins and losses in six straight games. Whichever struggling quarterback can protect the football against a nasty pass rush will give his team the best chance to win. Home field advantage and the revenge factor gives Stanford an edge entering this weekend.

 

Pac-12 Predictions:
 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Wash (+9) at ZonaZona, 34-28Zona, 40-30Zona, 34-23Zona, 31-27
ASU (-10) at OSUASU, 38-27ASU, 44-20ASU, 28-17ASU, 38-20
Cal (+14.5) at USC USC, 40-20USC, 34-30USC, 28-20USC, 41-30
Utah (+7) at StanfordStan., 21-17Stan., 20-17Utah, 14-10 Stan., 24-20
Last Week:3-23-24-13-2
YTD:54-2059-1559-1555-19

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 2014 Week 12 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-12-preview-and-predictions
Body:

There is no way the Big 12's Week 12 slate will be able to match last weekend’s drama. TCU made a national statement, Baylor did something it’s never done in school history, Texas continued to right the ship and Kansas, well, acted all Kansas after beating Iowa State.

 

Yes, Texas’ visit to Stillwater should be plenty entertaining. But that’s about it in the Big 12 this weekend.

Week 12 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


Big 12 Week 12 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Texas (-2.5) at Oklahoma St
7:30 p.m., FOX

Crowd-surfing Charlie Strong was literally riding high after an upset over West Virginia got the Longhorns back to even on the year. Texas is doing it the way Strong supporters have envisioned: Run the football on offense and play stifling defense. The Horns ran for 241 yards against Texas Tech and 227 against the Mountaineers while holding both high-powered passing attacks in check. While the Horns come to Stillwater riding their first two-game winning steak of the year, the Cowboys are looking to snap a three-game losing streak. Is two weeks of preparation enough to fix a team that has lost three straight by an average of 30 points per game? With road trips to Baylor and Oklahoma left, the Pokes are staring at a six-game losing streak to end the year if they can’t upset the Horns.

 

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2. Oklahoma (-17) at Texas Tech
3:30 p.m., ESPN

For the first time in his career, Bob Stoops is starting to take some heat in Norman. While that might be completely irrational, the facts are Oklahoma has slipped over the last half-decade. Stoops is facing a four-loss season for the first time since 2005 and has been outplayed in convincing fashion in two lopsided losses to Baylor. The Sooners have a manageable final few weeks but have to win their final road game against a team that has had two weeks to prepare. If Oklahoma can take care of business against an overmatched Red Raiders squad in Lubbock, the Sooners will likely finish 9-3 and would still be very attractive to bowl executives. This season can only be described as disappointing, and it could get worse with Stoops one bad upset away from his worst campaign in a decade.

 

3. TCU (-28) at Kansas
3 p.m., FS1

Gary Patterson clearly understands the art of politicking (see postgame comments about Sterling Shepard) and that could make for a rough weekend for Kansas. TCU is ahead of Baylor in the playoff rankings, but with a head-to-head loss on its resume, how long will that last? Trevone Boykin was brilliant on the ground and the Horned Frogs' defense was stellar against Kansas State so will the Jayhawks even be competitive? Don't expect Patterson to call off the dogs, not when his team is in desperate need of style points over the final few weeks of the season.

 

Big 12 Predictions:
 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Texas (-2.5) at OSUTexas, 30-24Texas, 17-14Texas, 21-13Texas, 27-17
Okla. (-17) at T. TechOkla., 44-21Okla., 41-20Okla., 38-17Okla., 45-20
TCU (-28) at KansasTCU, 49-10TCU, 44-17TCU, 41-7TCU, 45-10
Last Week:1-33-11-31-3
YTD:52-951-1054-753-8

 

Teaser:
Big 12 2014 Week 12 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/15-college-basketball-mid-majors-watch-2014-15
Body:

It’s November and that means the college hoops season is knocking on the door. Next thing you know we will be engulfed in January conference play. Come March, we will all be filling out our brackets, looking for the perfect 12-5 upset, seeking out the the dark horses and searching for Cinderella.

 

Relax.

 

We’ve got the top 10 mid-majors to keep an eye on throughout the college hoops season and heading into March Madness.

 

A bit of a disclaimer: The lines between mid-major and high-major programs are always blurred. Though teams like Wichita State, Gonzaga and VCU may may in the so-called mid-major conferences, we consider those perennial NCAA contenders and top 25 teams to be high-major programs.

 

Akron

After three NCAA trips in six seasons, the Zips are to a spot where 21 wins qualifies as a down season. Akron won 20 games for the ninth consecutive season but failed to reach the MAC title game for the first time since 2007. All-MAC power forward Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell returns, but the Zips will need to find scoring punch to complement him.

 

Belmont

Longtime coach Rick Byrd is a basketball institution at Belmont. Byrd loves to use his backcourt’s depth, ball handling and shooting ability to leave opposing team’s defenses baffled. Guards Craig Bradshaw, Reece Chamberlain, and Caleb Chowbay have big shoes to fill as they have to replace last year’s OVC Player of the Year J.J. Mann.

 

Dayton

A No. 11 seed, the Flyers were one of the last at-large teams in the field but made it count with upsets of Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford on the way to the Elite Eight. Coach Archie Miller is already a hot contender for other programs even if he has his work cut out for him this season. Two starting forwards are out of eligibility, and his starting point guard transferred. Leading scorer Jordan Sibert is back, and sophomore Scoochie Smith should step up at the point.

 

George Washington

Even without leading scorer Maurice Creek and forward Isaiah Armwood, George Washington has three players who averaged in double figures a year ago, plus starting point guard Joe McDonald. If Kethan Savage and Patricio Garino stay healthy, the Colonials could have a second consecutive NCAA Tournament team.

 

Georgia State

It’s hard to say a team that went 17-1 in conference play has unfinished business,  but Georgia State has unfinished business. After winning the Sun Belt regular season title by five games, GSU was one point shy of a bid to the Big Dance last season when the Panthers lost to third-seeded UL Lafayette 82-81 in the conference tournament final. Reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year R.J. Hunter and all-conference first-teamer Ryan Harrow, a Kentucky import, highlight a GSU team bound for spot in the field.

 

Green Bay

Returning conference player of the year Keifer Sykes and the rest of the Phoenix have their sights set on much more than a Horizon League title. Guard play is what wins in March, and Sykes can be that guard that turns heads at the Dance. Green Bay also returns four starters from last year’s team that went 24-7. The one departure is a big one in 7-1 center Alec Brown.

 

Harvard

After NCAA wins in each of the last two seasons, coach Tommy Amaker is looking to keep the Crimson’s March hot streak rolling. In three consecutive NCAA appearances, Harvard has been known for its backcourt and deadly perimeter shooting. This season, Amaker has plenty of frontcourt depth, easing the burden on returning guards Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers. The Crimson are again the clear favorite in the Ivy. 

 

IPFW

First-year coach Jon Coffman is looking to build upon last season’s 25-win breakout. The Mastodons will lean heavily on 6-foot-9 forward Steve Forbes and Gardner-Webb transfer Max Landis will be critical to shoring up the backcourt. While IPFW might not be the belle of the ball come late March, the Mastodons are more than capable of winning the Summit League.

 

Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs are early Conference USA favorites because they not only return four starters from last year’s squad that won 29 games, but coach Michael White turned down a chance to go to Tennessee to return to Ruston. Bulldogs fans should savor this season because White is going to be one popular fella to bigger schools come March. 

 

Northern Iowa

Keeping up with Wichita State will be tough, but the Panthers could make the Missouri Valley a two-bid league again. The Valley has been a one-bid league five times in the last seven seasons. Ben Jacobson’s team returns five seniors and loses one role player from a team that went 10-8 in the Valley a year ago. This is Northern Iowa’s best squad since the 2010 Sweet 16.

 

Rhode Island

The Rams haven’t won more than five Atlantic 10 games since 2011 but the rebuilding project is in full swing under Dan Hurley. The roster was full of transfers and freshmen a year ago. Now, Rhody is hopeful that group will come together around rising A-10 star E.C. Matthews.

 

Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks might be the Southland Conference team to beat for the next decade if head coach Brad Underwood isn’t scooped up by a higher profile program. The 32-win team of 2013-14 will be hard to top, but SFA returns plenty of talent, including the conference player of the year, Jacob Parker, Thomas Wallup and point guard Trey Pickney.

 

Toledo

Thirty-five years is a long time to wait for anything, especially an NCAA Tournament berth. But this is the year the Rockets can reverse their self-inflicted curse. Toledo has the senior leadership in point guard Julius Brown, Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon that could lead this team to their first Tournament since 1980. If Toledo can improve on the defensive end, the rest of the MAC better look out, the Rockets are for real. Fifth-year coach Kowalczyk built the Rockets from 4-28 in his first season to 27-7 season and the best record in the MAC by his fourth.

 

UTEP

UTEP will battle Louisiana Tech for the crown of Conference USA and for possibly a bid to the Tournament. With the help of sophomore forward Vincent Hunter and senior swingman Julian Washburn, the Miners have a legitimate chance of upsetting the early favorite Bulldogs or at least making at the case that Conference USA is a two-bid league. 

 

Wofford

The Terriers have to be the early SoCon favorites going into 2014-15. Coach Mike Young returns essentially the entirety of last year’s 20-win squad including first team all-conference and SoCon tournament MVP Karl Cochran and third team all-conference player Lee Skinner. Two of Young’s best guards, Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia, were just freshmen last year. Look for that backcourt duo to leave their mark on the conference as sophomores.

 

-By Jacob Rose

Teaser:
15 College Basketball Mid-Majors to Watch in 2014-15
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-11
Body:

When it comes to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 11, look no further than the Sunday night matchup. The Colts play host to the Patriots in prime time and Andrew Luck vs. Tom Brady won’t be the only fantasy positional pairing to keep an eye on. Stephen Gostkowski and Adam Vinatieri are currently first and second in fantasy points among kickers, with the former maintaining a 13-point lead. Gostkowski is No. 1 in both field goal makes (24) and attempts (25), while Vinatieri has yet to miss (20-of 20 on FGs, 32-of-32 on PATs). A 19-year veteran, the always-reliable Vinatieri is a perfect 7-for-7 on field goal attempts longer than his age (41).

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

 

Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Stephen GostkowskiNEat IND
2Adam VinatieriINDvs. NE
3Cody ParkeyPHIat GB
4Mason CrosbyGBvs. PHI
5Steven HauschkaSEAat KC
6Chandler CatanzaroARIvs. DET
7Phil DawsonSFat NYG
8Caleb SturgisMIAvs. BUF (Thurs.)
9Cairo SantosKCvs. SEA
10Shaun SuishamPITat TEN (Mon.)
11Brandon McManusDENat STL
12Shayne GrahamNOvs. CIN
13Nick NovakSDvs. OAK
14Kai ForbathWASvs. TB
15Dan CarpenterBUFat MIA (Thurs.)
16Blair WalshMINat CHI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-11
Body:

Jacksonville doesn’t play this week, so for once the Jaguars don’t factor into Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 11. Instead, our top billing goes to Miami, the DST that has scored the most fantasy points (76, Athlon scoring) over the last four weeks. The Dolphins’ defense has been especially tough at home, as evidenced by a 37-0 whitewashing of San Diego two weeks ago, and should have the upper hand at Sun Life Stadium Thursday night against the Bills. On Sunday, Arizona hosts Detroit in a matchup featuring two of this season’s top-scoring fantasy DSTs. We like both as starting options, but ranked the Lions a little higher because backup Drew Stanton will be at quarterback for the Cardinals in place of an injured Carson Palmer (torn ACL).

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

 

Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets

 

RankPlayerOpp
1Miami Dolphinsvs. BUF (Thurs.)
2Denver Broncosat STL
3Detroit Lionsat ARI
4Buffalo Billsat MIA (Thurs.)
5Arizona Cardinalsvs. DET
6Seattle Seahawksat KC
7Kansas City Chiefsvs. SEA
8Pittsburgh Steelersat TEN (Mon.)
9San Francisco 49ersat NYG
10Houston Texansat CLE
11Cleveland Brownsvs. HOU
12New Orleans Saintsvs. CIN
13Green Bay Packersvs. PHI
14New England Patriotsat IND
15San Diego Chargersvs. OAK
16Philadelphia Eaglesat GB

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-11
Body:

With both big bye weeks a distant memory, the upper tier of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 11 looks a lot like many expected it would entering this season. An argument could be made when it comes to the first two spots, but no TE has been hotter than Rob Gronkowski. Even though he was on bye last week, none of his peers can match the 23 catches or 322 yards he has piled up over the past four weeks. And the only one who has as many touchdowns as Gronk (4) during this span is none other than Jimmy Graham, who has been a beast the past two games. Both should fare well this Sunday against Indianapolis and Cincinnati, respectively, and that’s not to take anything away from Julius Thomas, who leads the NFL in touchdown catches (12). Let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with any of these three (or Antonio Gates or Greg Olsen for that matter), that is unless you’re facing one of them.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

 

Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Rob GronkowskiNEat IND
2Jimmy GrahamNOvs. CIN
3Julius ThomasDENat STL
4Antonio GatesSDvs. OAK
5Greg OlsenCARvs. ATL
6Dwayne AllenINDvs. NE
7Martellus BennettCHIvs. MIN
8Travis KelceKCvs. SEA
9Larry DonnellNYGvs. SF
10Jordan ReedWASvs. TB
11Jared CookSTLvs. DEN
12Charles ClayMIAvs. BUF (Thurs.)
13Mychal RiveraOAKat SD
14Vernon DavisSFat NYG
15Heath MillerPITat TEN (Mon.)
16Zach ErtzPHIat GB
17Kyle RudolphMINat CHI
18Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat WAS
19Jordan CameronCLE 
20Coby FleenerINDvs. NE
21Scott ChandlerBUFat MIA (Thurs.)
22Jermaine GreshamCINat NO
23Tim WrightNEat IND
24John CarlsonARIvs. DET

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-11
Body:

Calvin Johnson may not be No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 11, but he’s not that far off either. After missing three games with an ankle injury, Megatron was back to his old tricks last week, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in Detroit’s win over Miami. This Sunday presents an interesting matchup against Arizona’s athletic and physical secondary, but there’s a reason Johnson was a consensus first-round pick in fantasy drafts. Elsewhere, Demaryius Thomas should have the advantage against a decimated St. Louis secondary while Jordy Nelson will try to follow up his 152-yard, two-touchdown performance last week against Chicago when his Packers host the Eagles. Antonio Brown, who continues to lead the NFL in catches (79) and yards (1,070), will look to bounce back on Monday night against Tennessee after delivering a rare dud (8 rec., 74 yds., 2 lost fumbles) in last week’s loss to the Jets.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

 

Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Demaryius ThomasDENat STL
2Jordy NelsonGBvs. PHI
3Antonio BrownPITat TEN (Mon.)
4Calvin JohnsonDETat ARI
5Jeremy MaclinPHIat GB
6Julio JonesATLat CAR
7Emmanuel SandersDENat STL
8Randall CobbGBvs. PHI
9T.Y. HiltonINDvs. NE
10A.J. GreenCINat NO
11Brandon MarshallCHIvs. MIN
12Alshon JefferyCHIvs. MIN
13Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. ATL
14Odell Beckham Jr.NYGvs. SF
15Mike WallaceMIAvs. BUF (Thurs.)
16Golden TateDETat ARI
17Mike EvansTBat WAS
18Roddy WhiteATLat CAR
19DeSean JacksonWASvs. TB
20Sammy WatkinsBUFat MIA (Thurs.)
21Vincent JacksonTBat WAS
22DeAndre HopkinsHOUat CLE
23Julian EdelmanNEat IND
24Martavis BryantPITat TEN (Mon.)
25Brandin CooksNOvs. CIN
26Keenan AllenSDvs. OAK
27Andre JohnsonHOUat CLE
28Anquan BoldinSFat NYG
29Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. DET
30Pierre GarconWASvs. TB
31Mohamed SanuCINat NO
32Reggie WayneINDvs. NE
33Michael CrabtreeSFat NYG
34Jordan MatthewsPHIat GB
35Brandon LaFellNEat IND
36Marques ColstonNOvs. CIN
37Doug BaldwinSEAat KC
38Cordarrelle PattersonMINat CHI
39Malcom FloydSDvs. OAK
40Kendall WrightTENvs. PIT (Mon.)
41Dwayne BoweKCvs. SEA
42Rueben RandleNYGvs. SF
43Michael FloydARIvs. DET
44James JonesOAKat SD
45Greg JenningsMINat CHI
46John BrownARIvs. DET
47Andre HolmesOAKat SD
48Jarvis LandryMIAvs. BUF (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-11
Body:

Aaron Rodgers needed just one half to put up the most fantasy points last week, so it’s only fitting that he lead off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 11. Rodgers tossed six touchdown passes against a helpless (and some might say hapless) Chicago defense in the first half, and now has his sights set on keeping pace with Philadelphia’s up-tempo offense. This will be Mark Sanchez’ first road game as the Eagles’ starter, but given how he fared Monday night and the potential for a shootout against the Packers, we have him ranked as a borderline QB1. However, the QB pairing everyone will be watching is Tom Brady vs. Andrew Luck. Brady has been red hot, tossing 18 touchdowns and just one interception over his past five games, while Luck continues to lead his peers in scoring. It should make for an entertaining Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

 

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

 

Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Aaron RodgersGBvs. PHI
2Peyton ManningDENat STL
3Andrew LuckINDvs. NE
4Tom BradyNEat IND
5Drew BreesNOvs. CIN
6Philip RiversSDvs. OAK
7Ben RoethlisbergerPITat TEN (Mon.)
8Colin KaepernickSFat NYG
9Matthew StaffordDETat ARI
10Robert Griffin IIIWASvs. TB
11Russell WilsonSEAat KC
12Jay CutlerCHIvs. MIN
13Mark SanchezPHIat GB
14Matt RyanATLat CAR
15Cam NewtonCARvs. ATL
16Josh McCownTBat WAS
17Eli ManningNYGvs. SF
18Ryan TannehillMIAvs. BUF (Thurs.)
19Andy DaltonCINat NO
20Teddy BridgewaterMINat CHI
21Derek CarrOAKat SD
22Alex SmithKCvs. SEA
23Kyle OrtonBUFat MIA (Thurs.)
24Brian HoyerCLEvs. HOU
25Shaun HillSTLvs. DEN
26Drew StantonARIvs. DET

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/season-over-49ers-lb-patrick-willis
Body:

Santa Clara, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The San Francisco 49ers placed linebacker Patrick Willis on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

 

The seven-time Pro Bowler will undergo surgery on his strained left big toe, according to multiple reports.

 

Willis injured the toe in a win at St. Louis on Oct. 13 and had missed the 49ers' last three games. He registered 49 tackles and one interception in six games this season.

 

The 49ers signed running back Alfonso Smith to fill the spot on the active roster.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/cardinals-place-qb-carson-palmer-ir
Body:

Tempe, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The Arizona Cardinals placed quarterback Carson Palmer on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

 

The move comes one day after Cards coach Bruce Arians confirmed Palmer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he was sacked by Rams safety Mark Barron early in the fourth quarter of Arizona's 31-14 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

 

Drew Stanton threw a late touchdown pass in relief of Palmer, helping the Cardinals improve to 8-1 and remain perfect in five home games this season. Stanton will be under center for the Cardinals the rest of the year.

 

Palmer, who missed three games earlier this season with a shoulder injury, had reconstructive surgery on the same knee in 2006 as a member of the Bengals. Both of his ACL tears came just days after signing lucrative contract extensions.

 

On Dec. 29, 2005, Palmer agreed to a six-year extension with Cincinnati. Ten days later, the Bengals met Pittsburgh in the first round of the AFC playoffs and Palmer lasted just one play, injuring his knee on a 66-yard pass to rookie Chris Henry.

 

Palmer signed a three-year, $50 million contract extension with Arizona last Friday.

 

Arizona signed quarterback Ryan Lindley off the San Diego Chargers' practice squad to fill the spot on the active roster.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:35
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-cut-ties-santonio-holmes
Body:

Lake Forest, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Bears released Santonio Holmes on Tuesday to end the former Super Bowl MVP's unproductive nine-game stint with the team.

 

Holmes signed a one-year contract with the Bears in August to presumably serve as the club's No. 3 receiver, but managed just eight catches for 67 yards over nine games.

 

The nine-year veteran became expendable with fellow wideout Marquess Wilson ready to be activated from injured reserve/designated to return.

 

Holmes' numbers have declined since he posted career bests of 79 catches and 1,248 yards with Pittsburgh in 2009. He had only 23 receptions totaling 456 yards with one touchdown in 11 games last season with the New York Jets, who released the 30-year-old in March.

 

The 2006 first-round pick helped the Steelers to a dramatic victory in Super Bowl XLIII to conclude the 2008 season, compiling nine catches for 131 and scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of Pittsburgh's 27-23 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-coaches-rise-2014
Body:

Coaching is a hot topic in any sport, but college football seems to bring out the most discussion when it comes to hot seat chatter and finding the next wave of rising stars. With job vacancies and hot seat rumblings only going to increase over the next month, it’s time to take a look at some of the rising stars in the coaching ranks for 2014.

Memphis’ Justin Fuente inherited a mess from former coach Larry Porter but engineered a quick turnaround in just three years with the Tigers. Fuente has Memphis in contention for the American Athletic Conference title this season and will be a name to remember in coaching searches this offseason. In addition to Fuente, some of the other rising stars in coaching ranks include Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz, UL Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth and Colorado State’s Jim McElwain.

Who are some of the coaches doing a noteworthy job outside of the Power 5 leagues? Athlon tackles that question below and provides a few coordinators to watch as well.
 

Head Coaches on the Rise

 

Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers was a well-traveled assistant prior to taking the top job at Eastern Illinois, and the 53-year-old coach has been on a quick rise over the last three years. From 2012-13, Babers went 19-7 at Eastern Illinois and is 6-3 during his first year at Bowling Green. Babers worked under Art Briles at Baylor and runs a similar up-tempo offense, which is averaging 32.9 points per game this season.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Bohl is in his first season at Wyoming after a very successful stint at North Dakota State. From 2003-13, Bohl guided the Bison to a 104-32 record and three consecutive FCS Championships. The Nebraska native is 4-6 through 10 games with the Cowboys, which includes losses against top 25 teams in Oregon, Michigan State and Colorado State. Wyoming also has two losses in conference play by 10 points or less. Bohl is a proven winner and is a good fit at Wyoming. Considering his track record of success, Bohl could be the top coach in the Mountain West and just needs time to recruit to his style of play to turn the program into a consistent bowl contender.

 

Matt Campbell, Toledo
At 33 years old, Campbell is one of college football’s youngest coaches. The Ohio native was promoted to head coach after Tim Beckman left for Illinois, and the Rockets are 23-13 under his direction. Campbell led Toledo to a bowl game in 2012 but missed out on the postseason despite a 7-5 mark last year. The Rockets are one of the top teams in the MAC West this year and should return to a bowl in 2014. Prior to taking over as Toledo’s head coach, Campbell spent three years as an assistant with the Rockets and worked from 2006-08 at Bowling Green. The Ohio native was a standout defensive lineman in his playing career at Mount Union.

 

Bill Clark, UAB
The future of UAB’s football program is uncertain, but whether he’s in Birmingham or moves on to another school, Clark has a bright future in the coaching industry. After a 5-19 mark in two seasons under Garrick McGee, the Blazers are 5-5 this season and should have a good shot at playing in a bowl. Prior to taking over at UAB, Clark spent one season as Jacksonville State’s head coach (2013) and recorded an 11-4 record. Clark also has a stint as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator (2008-12) and spent several years as a high school coach in Alabama.

 

Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Fritz has been a huge success in his first year at Georgia Southern. The Eagles are ineligible to play in a bowl game this season since they are transitioning from the FCS ranks, but that hasn’t slowed this team. Georgia Southern has won seven in a row and boasts an 8-2 record heading into Week 12. The Eagles' only losses? By one to NC State and by four to Georgia Tech. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz was very successful at three different jobs. He recorded a 40-15 mark at Sam Houston State, a 97-47 record at Central Missouri and went 39-5-1 at Blinn College. Fritz is a proven winner and has successfully blended his desired style of play to the returning talent at Georgia Southern. The Kansas native could be a name to watch for the opening at Kansas this offseason.

 

Justin Fuente, Memphis

Fuente inherited a roster and program in need of significant repair. Three years later, Memphis is one of the front-runners to win the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers went 3-21 in the two seasons prior to Fuente’s arrival but improved to 4-8 in his first year and 3-9 in 2013. In his third year, Fuente already has Memphis bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008. Considering how far the program has progressed in three seasons, Fuente should be a hot commodity for Power 5 openings this offseason.

 

Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

Hudspeth is a name to keep on the radar for any SEC openings this offseason. The former Mississippi State assistant is 33-15 in four years at UL Lafayette and has the Ragin’ Cajuns are on track to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Prior to his current stint at UL Lafayette and two years at Mississippi State, Hudspeth went 66-21 from 2002-08 at North Alabama. Hudspeth signed a six-year contract extension in June, but his track record of success, energetic personality and ability to recruit will no doubt be attractive to any Power 5 program with an opening.

 

Pete Lembo, Ball State

Lembo is 28-19 through four seasons at Ball State and received a five-year contract extension in March. The Cardinals went to back-to-back bowl games in 2012-13 after going 6-6 in Lembo’s first year. Ball State lost a handful of key players from last season’s team and is off to a 3-6 start. Even though the Cardinals are likely to finish with a losing record for the first time under Lembo, the New York native is still a rising star in the coaching ranks. Prior to taking over in Muncie, Lembo went 44-14 in five years at Lehigh and 35-22 in five seasons at Elon.

Jim McElwain, Colorado State
McElwain’s stock has skyrocketed this fall. The Rams are 9-1 and ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll after Week 11. The Montana native went 4-8 in his first season in Fort Collins, but went 8-6 with a victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. Colorado State has won 13 out of its last 15 games, with its only loss this season coming at Boise State. Prior to taking over at Colorado State in 2012, McElwain worked on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as the offensive coordinator and has stints at Fresno State, Michigan State, Louisville and in the NFL with the Raiders.

 

Matt Rhule, Temple
Last fall, Temple bottomed out with a 2-10 record in Rhule's first season as a head coach, but a deeper look at the Owls’ resume suggests the win-loss mark wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. Temple lost each of its last four games by 10 points or less and carried that momentum into the start of this season. The Owls opened the year with a victory at Vanderbilt and defeated East Carolina on Nov. 1. Temple is 5-4 through nine games and should reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. Rhule returned to Temple after a one-year stint with the Giants. The Pennsylvania native worked on the Owls’ staff from 2006-11 under Al Golden and Steve Addazio.

 

Matt Wells, Utah State
Wells inherited a good roster from former coach Gary Andersen, but the former Aggie quarterback has navigated some difficult circumstances in his first two years on the job. Utah State won the Mountain West’s Mountain Division last season even though it lost quarterback Chuckie Keeton to season-ending injury in early October. This season, the Aggies are already on their fourth starter under center, as Keeton, backup Darell Garretson and senior Craig Harrison have been lost due to injuries. True freshman Kent Myers has filled in admirably so far, and Utah State still has a shot at defending its division title. Prior to joining the Utah State staff in 2011, Wells made stops as an assistant at New Mexico, Louisville, Tulsa and Navy. Wells isn’t just benefiting from following Andersen. With the injuries over the last two years, it’s clear Wells knows what he’s doing in Logan.

 

Other Head Coaches to Know

 

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
DeRuyter went 20-6 in his first two seasons at Fresno State but is just 4-6 this season. The Bulldogs are rebuilding without Derek Carr under center, and barring an upset over Nevada, Fresno State is likely to miss out on a bowl this year.
 

Doc Holliday, Marshall
Holliday was always regarded as an excellent recruiter, and his work on the trail has paid dividends for Marshall this fall. The Thundering Herd is 9-0 and poised to grab the Group of 5 bowl spot. Holliday entered this season with a 27-24 record in four years in Huntington.

 

Curtis Johnson, Tulane
The former NFL assistant and New Orleans native is a perfect fit at Tulane. In 2013, Johnson guided the Green Wave (7-6) to their first winning record since 2002.

 

Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

Moglia might have the most interesting back story of any coach on the FBS or FCS level. Moglia coached from 1968-83 but went into business and became the CEO of Ameritrade in 2001. After seven years in that role, Moglia worked as a voluntary assistant at Nebraska from 2009-10 and spent one year as the AFL's Omaha Nighthawks coach in 2011. Moglia was hired as Coastal Carolina’s coach in 2012 and is 28-8 through three seasons. At 65 years old, Moglia isn’t an up-and-comer, but he would be an interesting (and likely successful) hire for a Group of 5 program.

 

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
Wilder was the first hire for Old Dominion after the school restarted its football program. The Monarchs are in their first season in the FBS ranks after tranisitioning from the FCS (2009-13), during which they did not record a losing season. Old Dominion also made the FCS playoffs in 2011 and '12. Through 10 games as a full-fledged FCS member, Wilder has led the Monarchs to a 4-6 mark. The staple of Wilder’s teams are a high-scoring offense, which is currently led by standout quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

 

And Don’t Forget About….

 

Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach
Schiano isn’t technically on the rise, but his name is likely to be associated with vacancies this offseason.

 

Coordinators on the Rise

 

Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda is a relative unknown to most around the nation, but the California native has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top defensive signal-callers over the last two years. Despite replacing eight starters, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (14.3 ppg) this season. This coming after Aranda’s 2013 unit ranked second in the conference (16.3 ppg) and limited offenses to just 4.2 yards per play. Prior to joining coach Gary Andersen in Wisconsin, Aranda served as the defensive coordinator at Hawaii (2010-11) and at Utah State (2012). Under Aranda’s direction, the Aggies’ defense allowed just 4.3 yards per play in 2012.


Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs’ offense and quarterback Dak Prescott are garnering most of the attention in Starkville, but don’t overlook the defense. Mississippi State is holding opponents to 5.7 yards per play in SEC games, and led by one of the best defensive fronts in the league, the Bulldogs lead the league with 32 sacks. This is Collins’ fourth year in Starkville, and prior to joining Dan Mullen’s staff, he spent time at FIU (defensive coordinator), UCF and Alabama. Collins also is regarded as an excellent recruiter.
 

Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

Frost has picked up where Chip Kelly left off when he departed for the NFL. Under Frost’s direction, the Ducks are averaging 7.3 yards per play this fall after leading the Pac-12 with a 7.5 mark in 2013. Prior to his promotion to call the plays in Eugene, Frost worked Oregon's receivers coach from 2009-12 and spent two years at Northern Iowa working on the defensive side of the ball. The former Nebraska quarterback will be a name to remember in coaching searches over the next few seasons.

 

Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t missed a beat. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has emerged as the Big Ten’s top quarterback under Herman’s direction, and the Buckeyes are averaging 6.8 yards per play in conference games this year. The Ohio native has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International.

 

Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham and fellow co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie are a big reason why TCU is squarely in the mix to earn a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff. In 2013, the Horned Frogs ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 by averaging just 5.0 yards per play and 25.1 points per game. One year later, TCU’s offense is among the best in the nation. The Horned Frogs are averaging 47.2 points per game and 6.9 yards per play in Big 12 contests. Meacham and Cumbie also transformed quarterback Trevone Boykin into one of the nation’s most-improved players. Prior to joining the TCU staff, Meacham worked for one season as Houston’s play-caller (2013) and worked from 2005-12 at Oklahoma State.

Chad Morris, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Morris is one of the nation’s highest-paid assistants and has coordinated a prolific Clemson offense since 2011. The Tigers averaged 40 points a game in 2012-13 and over 30 points in '11. And so far this fall, Clemson is putting up 32.4 points per contest. Morris has never been a head coach on the FBS level (only high school head-coaching stints), and his only FBS experience prior to Clemson was a stint as Tulsa’s play-caller in 2010. The Texas native could be a candidate to watch at SMU.
 

Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi’s is in no hurry to leave East Lansing, but the Ohio native is regarded as one of - if not No. 1 - top assistant coaches in college football. Narduzzi joined coach Mark Dantonio’s staff in 2007 and has developed an elite defense during his tenure in East Lansing. Michigan State led the nation by limiting opponents to just 4.0 yards per play last season, and the Spartans ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring defense from 2012-13. Prior to taking over the controls for Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi worked on Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati (2004-06) and had stints as an assistant at Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.   

 

Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell owns one of college football’s best titles, as he’s technically the deputy head coach to Todd Graham at Arizona State. Norvell has worked under Graham for the last eight years, and his three offenses with the Sun Devils have averaged at least 36 points per game.

Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Pruitt has made a quick ascension through the coaching ranks. The Alabama native spent nearly 10 years as a high school assistant in the state, including from 2004-06 as Hoover High School. Pruitt worked in an off-field role from 2007-09 at Alabama and was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2010. After three years in that role, Pruitt was hired to coordinate Florida State’s defense in 2013. The Seminoles had one of the nation’s best units under Pruitt’s direction, allowing just 4.09 yards per play. Defensively, Georgia isn't as stocked talent-wise as the Seminoles were last season, but Pruitt’s arrival has had an impact on a unit that allowed 29 points per game in 2013.

 

Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, East Carolina
is only 31 years old, but the Texas native is ready for a chance to run his own program. After spending 2003-05 as a student assistant coach at Texas Tech, Riley was promoted to a staff assistant on offense in 2006 and wide receivers coach in '07. Riley stayed on staff in Lubbock until 2010 and followed Ruffin McNeill from Texas Tech to East Carolina. The Pirates are leading the American Athletic Conference in yards per play (6.8), as quarterback Shane Carden has thrived under Riley’s tutelage. An Air Raid disciple who learned under Mike Leach, Riley knows how to develop a passing attack. However, East Carolina’s offense has plenty of balance this year, averaging 188.3 yards rushing per game.

 

Nick Rolovich, Offensive Coordinator, Nevada
The former Hawaii quarterback has quietly built an impressive resume as an assistant. Rolovich started his coaching career in 2003 at Hawaii and made a stop at City College of San Francisco (2006-07) before coming back to Honolulu to call plays in '10. The Warriors led the WAC in yards per play (7.6) that season and averaged 31.5 points per game in 2011. Rolovich joined coach Chris Ault’s staff in Nevada in 2012 and was retained by Brian Polian in '13. The Wolf Pack are averaging 30 points per game this fall. Could Rolovich be a name to remember at Hawaii if Norm Chow doesn’t return in 2015?

 

Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
Shoop has been under the radar over the last few years, but the Pennsylvania native is one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators. Shoop was hired by James Franklin at Vanderbilt and brought immediate improvement to a defense that allowed 31.2 points per game in 2010. The Commodores did not allow more than 25 points per game in Shoop’s three years and forced 30 turnovers (second in the SEC) in '13. Through six conference games this season, Penn State is holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per play and is allowing only 16.6 points per game.
 

Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Utah
Sitake could be one of the nation’s most underrated assistant coaches. The former BYU fullback started his coaching career at Eastern Arizona in 2001 and later spent one year at BYU (2002) and two at Southern Utah (2003-04). Sitake joined the Utah staff in 2005 and was promoted to defensive play-caller in 2009. The Utes have never allowed more than 5.4 yards per play in a season under Sitake’s direction and rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense this year. Heading into Week 12, Utah leads the nation with 43 sacks. Sitake is also regarded as a good recruiter.

 

Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Smart helps coach Nick Saban coordinate the Alabama defense, which has been one of the nation’s most dominant units over the last few years. The Crimson Tide has not allowed more than five yards per play since Smart was promoted to call the defensive signals in 2008. Alabama has also ranked inside of the top five nationally in scoring defense for six consecutive seasons. Smart has a good job now and is well compensated. Don’t expect the former Georgia defensive back to rush into a head coaching job.
 

Other Coordinators to Know

 

Tim Beck, Offensive Coordinator, Nebraska

Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest

Rhett Lashlee, Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

Brian Lindgren, Offensive Coordinator, Colorado

Philip Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

Scottie Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Duke

Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, UAB

Justin Wilcox, Defensive Coordinator, USC

Teaser:
College Football's Coaches on the Rise for 2014 Week 12
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-11-heisman-trophy-voting
Body:

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

 

Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.

 

The Panel:

 

Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

 PlayerTeamPts1st2nd3rd4th5th
1.Marcus Mariota6513----
2.Dak Prescott49-1111-
3.Trevone Boykin33-2631
4.Melvin Gordon28-1541
5.Amari Cooper13--134
6.J.T. Barrett4----1
7.Duke Johnson2---1-
8t.Ameer Abdullah1----1
8t.Jameis Winston1----1
8t.Gerod Holliman1----1

Dropped out: Shaq Thompson, Everett Golson, Nick Marshall, Tevin Coleman

 

Listen to the Week 11 predictions podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

The Top 3:

 
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Possibly the last big road test for Mariota took place this weekend in Salt Lake City and the Ducks quarterback was brilliant once again. He threw for 239 yards, rushed for 114 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the 51-27 win. It was his seventh game with at least four touchdowns, which leads the nation, and his 184.56 QB rating still leads the nation by a wide margin. On the year, he’s scored 37 touchdowns and thrown just two interceptions.

 

Season Stats: 2,780 yards, 67.1%, 29 TDs, 2 INTs, 524 rush yards, 8 TDs

 

2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St

Mississippi State sort of played a football game in Week 11. Prescott didn’t play the entire game but still posted solid numbers in a 45-16 win over UT-Martin. The Bulldogs signal-caller threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns while rushing six times for 54 yards and another score on the ground. Prescott leads the SEC in total offense with 3,010 yards

 

Season Stats: 2,231 yards, 61.1%, 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 779 rush yards, 11 TDs

 

3. Trevone Boykin, TCU

The TCU quarterback has slowly but surely worked his way into the top three. And it’s warranted after his performance against a very good Kansas State team. In the Horned Frogs' 41-20 win over KSU, Boykin threw for 219 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions, but he did most of his damage on the ground. He rushed 17 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns. Boykin is fourth nationally with 359.7 yards of total offense per game.

 

Season Stats: 2,691 yards, 58.0%, 23 TDs, 4 INTs, 546 rush yards, 7 TDs  

Teaser:
Expert Poll: Week 11 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-12
Body:

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.

 

The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 12.

 

Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.

 

A QB will score the game-winner in Madison

 

Nebraska heads to Wisconsin this weekend in a critical Big Ten West elimination game. It will feature two of the best running backs in the nation as Ameer Abdullah (138.9 ypg) and Melvin Gordon (166.8) will battle in Madison. But with all eyes focused on two Heisman tailbacks, one of the two quarterbacks will make the game-winning play. Joel Stave is showing signs of life and Tommy Armstrong has scored five times in his last two games.

 

Listen to the Week 11 predictions podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Amari Cooper will jump over Dak Prescott on Heisman ballots

 

Dak Prescott was sensational in the back-to-back-to-back wins over Top 10 teams. And his numbers are better than anything Starkville has ever seen under center. However, Alabama’s defense has been dominant all season and will shut down Prescott in a home win over the No. 1 Bulldogs this weekend. Instead, the star of the show will be Bama’s wide receiver Amari Cooper. State has given up big yards through the air this season as UAB (435), LSU (341), Texas A&M (365) and Kentucky (401) each topped 300 yards passing against MSU. Cooper has been unstoppable and will torch the questionable Mississippi State secondary en route to a huge SEC West victory.

 

Todd Gurley will go beast mode on Auburn’s defense

 

Gurley has rushed for 154.6 yards per game this fall and is back on the field for the Dawgs after serving a four-game suspension. And he will be motivated and extremely productive against an Auburn defense that has allowed at least 469 yards of total offense and at least 31 points in four straight games. Against the Tigers, Gurley will blow past his career high of 208 yards rushing. Georgia is upset after the way they lost to Auburn last year and is still eyeing a trip to Atlanta. Beware, Auburn.

 

A made field goal will win the Miami-Florida State game

 

When these two programs were both surging, this meeting was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. And it resulted in some seriously dramatic finishes. Three wide right missed field goals (1991, 1992, 2000) and a wide left missed kick (2002) have cost both teams critical wins in the past. However, this game will be decided by a made field goal. Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo is arguably the best kicker in the nation and Miami’s Michael Badgley has made all but one attempt this year (7-of-8). Watch for a successful attempt to be the difference in this one.

 

Arkansas will win an SEC game

 

Arkansas has lost 16 consecutive SEC games and this is the weekend they get into the win column. LSU is a better team. There is no doubt. However, Arkansas is improved from last year and this Razorbacks team nearly topped the Tigers in Baton Rouge last fall. The Tigers expended a lot of energy in the physical overtime loss to Alabama last weekend and a hangover is likely. 

Teaser:
Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 12
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-50-college-basketball-coaches-2014-15
Body:

Believe us, we don’t like repeating ourselves. Naming the same coach as No. 1 in the country for a third consecutive season is a little boring.

 

We tried to justify a new coach at the No. 1 spot if only to freshen things up a bit.

 

But each of the candidates for the top spot had a flaw. The last time we saw Mike Krzyzewski, he was walking off the court after a loss to Mercer. 

 

The coach of our preseason No. 1 team ended last year in the title game but only after limping to a No. 8 seed during the regular season. And a coach with three Elite Eights and a Final Four in the last four seasons (Billy Donovan) has a 5-8 record against the coach we just mentioned (John Calipari).

 

Given all that, we saw no reason to move our No. 1 coach from a year ago. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is our pick again. His team won 29 games for the second time in three seasons and won the Big Ten Tournament.

 

The Spartans reached the Elite Eight, upsetting No. 1 seed and ACC champion Virginia along the way. Only the eventual national champion kept Michigan State from reaching Izzo’s seventh Final Four.

 

And all of this occurred despite a team that was snakebit by injuries all season.

 

Now, just because our No. 1 coach is the same as it was a year ago doesn’t mean we resisted change elsewhere.

 

Tony Bennett, an overachiever at Washington State and Virginia, moved onto the fringe of the top 10. National champion Kevin Ollie makes his debut in our rankings at No. 30 in only his second season as a head coach. And we also welcome back Bruce Pearl, who slides back into our top 20 coaches.


As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.

Want to tell us how wrong we are? Tweet us at @AthlonSports or talk to us on Facebook.

 

1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State

Record at Michigan State: 468-187 (.715)

NCAA Tournament: 42-16, six Final Fours, one national title

Number to note: Consistency is the name of the game here. Izzo’s teams have ranked in the top 32 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings in 10 of the last 12 seasons. Michigan State has been in the top 30 of the offensive efficiency ratings in eight of the last 10 seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: An injury-plagued season cut into Michigan State’s ability to reach the Final Four, leaving Izzo with the longest Final Four drought of his career (four consecutive years). The Spartans still won 29 games and the Big Ten Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, losing to eventual national champion UConn.


2. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Record at Duke:
910-247 (.787)
NCAA Tournament: 82-26, 11 Final Fours, four championships
Number to note: The Blue Devils ended a streak of 121 consecutive weeks in the AP top 10 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Forget about a loss to Mercer in the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski will reach 1,000 career wins this season.

 

3. John Calipari, Kentucky

Record at Kentucky: 152-37 (.804)

NCAA Tournament: 43-14, five Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: Despite missing the 2013 Tournament, Calipari has 15 NCAA wins since 2010, most in the country during that span.

Why he’s ranked here: The disappointing 2013-14 regular season may not have been one of Cal’s shining moments, especially on the heels of an NIT exit a year earlier. The disappointment subsided with a run to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.

 

4. Billy Donovan, Florida

Record at Florida: 451-169 (.727)

NCAA Tournament: 35-12, four Final Fours, two national championships

Number to note: Donovan has the second-most NCAA wins (13) since 2010 behind Calipari. The figure that doesn’t include two championships in 2006 and 2007.

Why he’s ranked here: Donovan will reach the 500-win mark next season and will be one of the top 25 fastest coaches to do so. His name will land somewhere around Lute Olson and Nolan Richardson in the record books in that category.


5. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Record at Louisville:
341-117 (.745)
NCAA Tournament: 50-17, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Cardinals are 22-2 in conference and NCAA Tournament games the last three years.
Why he’s ranked here: Pitino’s teams are consistently among the toughest defensive squads in the country.

 

6. Bill Self, Kansas

Record at Kansas: 325-69 (.825)

NCAA Tournament: 36-15, two Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: Last season was the first time since 2005 that Kansas ranked outside of the top 11 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: Kansas lost 10 games last season, most for Self since 1998-99 at Tulsa. The Jayhawks still won (or shared) its 10th consecutive Big 12 title by two games.

7. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse:
948-320 (.748)
NCAA Tournament: 53-30, four Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: Syracuse has declined in adjusted tempo in each of the last seven seasons. The Orange were the ninth-slowest team in the country in KenPom last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Syracuse has six 30-win seasons all time. Half have come in the last five seasons.

 

8. John Beilein, Michigan

Record at Michigan: 104-60 (.615)

NCAA Tournament: 16-9, one Final Four

Number to note: Michigan is 40-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. The Wolverines posted one winning conference record during the previous 13 seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: Since arriving at Michigan, Beilein is 15-35 against Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta, but he’s caught up to the pack. He’s 6-3 in the last nine vs. Izzo, 2-3 vs. Ryan after losing his first 10 and 4-2 in his last six vs. Matta.

 

9. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

Record at Wisconsin: 321-121 (.726)

NCAA Tournament: 20-13, one Final Four

Number to note: The Big Ten has been the best basketball conference the last few years, and Wisconsin has thrived. The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth in the league in 13 seasons under Ryan.

Why he’s ranked here: After 2014, no one can say Ryan is the best coach never to reach the Final Four. He’s now in the discussion for best coach to never win a national title. Could that change in 2015?

 

10. Sean Miller, Arizona

Record at Arizona: 129-48 (.729)

NCAA Tournament: 14-7

Number to note: Miller has reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five trips at Arizona and Xavier. The only two times he’s failed to reach the Sweet 16 were his first two NCAA appearances with Musketeers.

Why he’s ranked here: Miller has restored Arizona to national prominence and has the No. 4 signing class this year and the No. 1 class for 2015. The best coach without a Final Four appearance won’t carry that title for much longer.

11. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record at Virginia:
106-60 (.639)
NCAA Tournament: 5-4
Number to note: Bennett led Virginia to its first sweep of the ACC regular season and tournament titles in 2013-14.
Why he’s ranked here: In eight seasons as a head coach, Bennett ended a 19-year Sweet 16 drought at Virginia and gave Washington State its deepest Tourney run in 67 years.

12. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina:
306-89 (.775)
NCAA Tournament: 63-22, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Tar Heels are 25-11 in the ACC, 12-11 on the road and 1-3 against Duke in the last two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The career achievements may demand a higher ranking, but schools like Virginia and Miami have been closer to Carolina territory than Carolina during the last two seasons.

 

13. Thad Matta, Ohio State

Record at Ohio State: 275-83 (.786)

NCAA Tournament: 23-12, two Final Fours

Number to note: At Butler, Xavier and Ohio State, Matta has never had a losing season in conference play. The lone .500 season conference season of his career came in his debut at Ohio State.

Why he’s ranked here: Matta could make the case for being the nation’s most underrated coach. Before a round of 64 loss to Dayton last year, Ohio State’s last four Tournament appearances yielded a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s.

 

14. Shaka Smart, VCU

Record at VCU: 137-46 (.749)

NCAA Tournament: 7-4, one Final Four

Number to note: Smart has won 72 percent of conference games in his career but, oddly, has never won a regular season conference title in the Colonial or Atlantic 10.

Why he’s ranked here: The 37-year-old Smart has carved out an identity at VCU. Hard to believe even better days may be ahead of him.

 

15. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Record at Wichita State: 174-71 (.710)

NCAA Tournament: 6-10, one Final Four

Number to note: Marshall’s last four teams at Wichita have ranked in the top 40 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.com.

Why he’s ranked here: Since March 1, 2013, three teams have defeated Marshall’s Wichita State teams — one won a national title (Louisville), one reached the title game (Kentucky) and one had Doug McDemott (Creighton, twice).

 

16. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Record at Iowa State: 90-47 (.657)

NCAA Tournament: 4-3

Number to note: Iowa State’s 34 Big 12 wins during the last three seasons are one more than the Cyclones won during the previous seven seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The Mayor has a formula that has returned Iowa State to national prominence: Owning the transfer market, high-powered offense and analytical savvy.

 

17. Bruce Pearl, Auburn

Record at Auburn: First season

NCAA Tournament: 10-8

Number to note: Pearl has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice as a Division I head coach, both in his first three seasons at Milwaukee. 

Why he’s ranked here: Pearl already pulled three four-star recruits (one junior college) for the 2015 class. Auburn will be competitive soon enough.

 

18. Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Record at San Diego State: 312-176 (.639)

NCAA Tournament: 25-13, three Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: A program that never won an NCAA Tournament game until 2011 has won five with two Sweet 16 appearances in the last four years.

Why he’s ranked here: Fisher has turned San Diego State into one of the best programs out West. His ability to build a foundation and restock a once-dormant program has been astounding.

 

19. Jay Wright, Villanova

Record at Villanova: 286-149 (.657)

NCAA Tournament: 13-11, one Final Four

Number to note: Villanova’s Big East title in 2014 was the Wildcats’ first outright conference title since 1982. Nova hasn’t won a conference tournament since 1995.

Why he’s ranked here: After a brief dip in 2011-12, Villanova has returned to where Wright has had the program for most of his tenure. Villanova went 16-0 vs. Big East opponents not named Creighton during the 2013-14 regular season.

20. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh:
288-96 (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 12-10
Number to note: Pitt has never ranked lower than 45th in adjusted offensive efficeincy on KenPom in 11 seasons under Dixon. The Panthers have been ranked in the top 20 in that category six times in the last eight years.
Why he’s ranked here: The 2011-12 season marked the only time in Dixon’s career he failed to reach the NCAA Tournament or win 10 conference games.

 

21. Tim Miles, Nebraska

Record at Nebraska: 34-31 (.525)

NCAA Tournament: 0-2

Number to note: Miles ended combined NCAA Tournament droughts of 25 seasons at Nebraska (16) and Colorado State (nine) in addition to laying the groundwork for Division I newcomer North Dakota State.

Why he’s ranked here: The Big Ten is as good as ever, and Nebraska is a relevant program here. The next step is to pick up the Cornhuskers first NCAA Tournament win.

 

22. Tad Boyle, Colorado 

Record at Colorado: 92-50 (.648)

NCAA Tournament: 1-3

Number to note: The Buffaloes have ranked in the top 50 of adjusted defensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons, according to KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: This is the golden age of Colorado basketball. Colorado has as many NCAA appearances under Boyle in the last three seasons as it did from 1969-2011.

 

23. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Record at Oklahoma: 58-38 (.604)

NCAA Tournament: 14-15, one Final Four

Number to note: Oklahoma ranked 17th in tempo last season. Kruger didn’t have a top-100 team in that category since 2005.

Why he’s ranked here: Got a problem? Lon Kruger will solve it. He’s led clean-up jobs at Florida, UNLV, Kansas State and now Oklahoma and taken all of them (plus Illinois) to multiple NCAA Tournaments.

 

24. Mark Few, Gonzaga

Record at Gonzaga: 403-100 (.801)

NCAA Tournament: 16-15

Number to note: Few is the active leader in career win percentage (.801), pulling ahead of Roy Williams last season.

Why he’s ranked here: He’s reached the NCAA Tournament all 15 seasons as a head coach but he’s reached the Sweet 16 just once since 2006.

 

25. Rick Barnes, Texas

Record at Texas: 382-166 (.697)

NCAA Tournament: 21-21, one Final Four

Number to note: Since 1993-94, Barnes has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice.

Why he’s ranked here: Barnes reversed the slide of his tenure with a surprising 24-11 season and 11-7 finish in the Big 12. The Myles Turner arrival signaled he still has some Lone Star State recruiting clout.

 

26. Bob Huggins, West Virginia

Record at West Virginia: 150-91 (.622)

NCAA Tournament: 27-20, one Final Four

Number to note: Huggins averaged 8.3 losses per season in 21 years at Akron and Cincinnati. He’s averaged 12.9 since his return at Kansas State and West Virginia.

Why he’s ranked here: Though West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers improved offensively by 11 points per game thanks to Huggins’ most up-tempo team in nearly a decade.


27. Jim Larranaga, Miami
Record at Miami:
66-36 (.647)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four
Number to note: Masterful coaching job in 2013-14 preserved a streak of 16 consecutive winning seasons. At Bowling Green, George Mason and Miami, he’s had one losing season since 1993.
Why he’s ranked here: Larranaga had a nice career by the time he was 55. Then he took George Mason to the Final Four and swept the ACC regular season and tournament titles at Miami.

28. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech:
First season
NCAA Tournament: 8-5
Number to note: From 2011-13, Marquette reached the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once.
Why he’s ranked here: Williams proved he could go toe to toe with Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. Can he compete against those three, plus Duke and North Carolina, at Virginia Tech?

29. Larry Brown, SMU
Record at SMU:
42-27 (.609)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: The Mustangs missed the NCAA Tournament but went 2-0 against eventual national champion Connecticut.
Why he’s ranked here: After only two seasons, the 73-year-old Brown has done what no SMU coach has done since Doc Hayes — make the Mustangs relevant.

30. Kevin Ollie, UConn
Record at UConn:
52-18 (.743)
NCAA Tournament: 6-0, one Final Four, one championship
Number to note: Ollie won a national title only four years into coaching career — two seasons as an assistant and two seasons as a head coach.
Why he’s ranked here: The future is limitless for a 42-year-old who took over for a legendary coach (Jim Calhoun) and recovered from NCAA sanctions a year earlier to win a title.

 

31. Scott Drew, Baylor

Record at Baylor: 206-150 (.579)

NCAA Tournament: 8-4

Number to note: Drew is 17-5 combined in the NCAA Tournament and NIT, claiming two Elite Eights, a Sweet 16 and an NIT title.

Why he’s ranked here: The even-year, odd-year trend for Baylor predicts a down year in 2014-15.

32. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati:
162-107 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: Cincinnati has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defense on KenPom in each of the last four seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: With 101 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons, Cronin brought Cincinnati back from hitting the reset button 10 years ago.

 

33. John Thompson III, Georgetown

Record at Georgetown: 227-104 (.686)

NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four

Number to note: Before last season, Georgetown ranked in the top 100 in defensive efficiency in KenPom's rankings every year of Thompson’s tenure, including three times in the top 10.

Why he’s ranked here: Thompson may get dinged for early NCAA losses, but the Hoyas are a year removed from a Big East title. Besides, Georgetown’s NCAA draws have included Florida Gulf Coast, Final Four-bound VCU and Stephen Curry-led Davidson.

 

34. Fran McCaffery, Iowa

Record at Iowa: 74-63 (.540)

NCAA Tournament: 2-6

Number to note: McCaffery ended a seven-year drought of 20-win seasons at Iowa and an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought for the Hawkeyes.

Why he’s ranked here: McCaffery’s turnaround at Iowa has been remarkable but Iowa hasn’t posted a winning Big Ten record since 2006-07.


35. Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Record at Notre Dame: 300-159 (.654)

NCAA Tournament: 6-11

Number to note: Notre Dame has one NCAA win since 2008.

Why he's ranked here: Notre Dame averaged 11.6 conference wins from 2006 through 2013 before falling to 6-12 in its first season in the ACC.

 

36. Steve Alford, UCLA

Record at UCLA: 28-9 (.757)

NCAA Tournament: 7-8

Number to note: In Alford’s first season, UCLA reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 ... with the help of a No. 13 seed (Tulsa) and No. 12 seed (Stephen F. Austin). That shouldn’t be ignored — two of Alford’s New Mexico teams were eliminated by double-digit seeds.

Why he’s ranked here: Alford’s hire wasn’t met with much excitement, but the jolt of energy seems to be working. UCLA had arguably its best team since the 2008 Final Four squad.

 

37. Dana Altman, Oregon

Record at Oregon: 97-47 (.674)

NCAA Tournament: 5-10

Number to note: A streaky program has stability. Oregon has winning conference seasons in three consecutive years for the first time in school history.

Why he’s ranked here: An offseason scandal casts a shadow over his tenure at Oregon. His career, though, has been marked by building consistent winners at Creighton and now Oregon.


38. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Record at Florida State:
241-157 (.606)
NCAA Tournament: 6-7
Number to note: Florida State hasn’t had a losing ACC record since 2006-07, though the Seminoles went 9-9 the last two years.
Why he’s ranked here: The Seminoles have reached the NCAA Tournament four times and the NIT five times in the last nine seasons. Not a bad stretch for FSU.

 

39. Tom Crean, Indiana

Record at Indiana: 101-97 (.510)

NCAA Tournament: 8-7, one Final Four

Number to note: Indiana won one road game in Crean’s first three seasons. The Hoosiers have won 14 in three seasons since.

Why he’s ranked here: Indiana’s collapse from spending most of 2012-13 at No. 1 to missing/declining the postseason altogether is a major concern. The same can be said of the alarming rate of off-court issues. Still, Crean brought Indiana back from 6-25 in his first season.


41. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Record at Houston:
First season
NCAA Tournament: 12-14, one Final Four
Number to note: Sampson’s teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 14 of his last 15 seasons in college coaching at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana.
Why he’s ranked here: He may be a risk to ignore NCAA rules, but he’s proven he can thrive in adverse situations at OU and Wazzu.

 

41. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Record at Utah: 42-55 (.433)

NCAA Tournament: 1-2

Number to note: Utah won more Pac-12 games in his third season (nine) than the Utes won total games in his first year (six).

Why he’s ranked here: Krystkowiak brought Utah back from irrelevance, and now the Utes will contend for their first NCAA spot since 2009.

 

42. Dave Rose, BYU

Record at BYU: 232-78 (.748)

NCAA Tournament: 4-7

Number to note: Rose had never lost more than nine games in a season in his career until he lost 12 in each of the last two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The departure of Jimmer Fredette and the move to the West Coast Conference has slowed BYU’s momentum, but Rose still has seven NCAA appearances in nine years as a coach.

 

43. Archie Miller, Dayton

Record at Dayton: 63-38 (.624)

NCAA Tournament: 3-1

Number to note: Dayton improved its road record from 5-16 in Miller’s first two seasons to 7-4 last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Sean’s younger brother has made himself a hot coaching candidate in his own right wins over Ohio State and Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight last season.


44. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record at Temple:
167-97 (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
Number to note: Before the bottom fell out in Temple’s first season (9-22) in the AAC, the Owls averaged 24.3 overall wins and 12.3 wins in the Atlantic 10 the previous six seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Only Temple predecessor John Chaney (516) has more wins in Philadelphia Big 5 history than Dunphy at Temple and Penn (477).

 

45. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech

Record at Texas Tech: 14-18 (.438)

NCAA Tournament: 30-16, one Final Four, one national championship

Number to note: Smith hasn’t led a team to a winning conference record since his final season at Kentucky.

Why he’s ranked here: In what seemed like questionable hire at first, Smith led Texas Tech to its best Big 12 record since 2007-08 with wins over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.

46. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record at Memphis:
130-44 (.747)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Pastner ended a 12-game losing streak against ranked teams last season by going 5-5 against top 25 teams after an Oklahoma State loss in November.
Why he’s ranked here: Pastner’s not John Calipari, but he’s come into his own as a head coach the last two seasons.

 

47. Tommy Amaker, Harvard

Record at Harvard: 139-71 (.662)

NCAA Tournament: 4-4

Number to note: With wins over New Mexico and Cincinnati the last two seasons, Harvard is the first Ivy team since the field expanded to 64 to win games in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

Why he’s ranked here: After a mediocre tenure at Michigan, Amaker has found a home at Harvard, where he’s won four consecutive league titles.

 

48. Rick Byrd, Belmont

Record at Belmont: 299-175 (.631)

NCAA Tournament: 0-6

Number to note: Byrd has 689 career wins in the NCAA record book, counting Belmont’s time in the NAIA.

Why he’s ranked here: Belmont has won regular season conference titles in each of the last five seasons in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.

 

49. Mike Anderson, Arkansas

Record at Arkansas: 59-39 (.602)

NCAA Tournament: 7-6

Number to note: Mike Anderson is 4-1 against Calipari-coached Kentucky teams. While at UAB, Anderson went 1-1 against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

Why he’s ranked here: Once considered a home run hire when the Razorbacks hired Nolan Richardson’s right-hand man, Anderson will need to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time at Arkansas to truly shift the momentum of his program.

 

50. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt

Record at Vanderbilt: 292-192 (.603)

NCAA Tournament: 6-8

Number to note: During the last two years, Vanderbilt endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 13 seasons under Stallings.

Why he’s ranked here: Vanderbilt is still searching for answers since the John Jenkins/Festus Ezeli/Jeff Taylor class left school two years ago.

Teaser:
The Top 50 College Basketball Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 07:00
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Body:

Twenty-four hours after NASCAR’s Phoenix finish, the landscape within the sport is buzzing with more diverse opinions than we’ve heard in any recent election. On one side sits a growing chorus of voices claiming this new format is the best decision CEO Brian France ever made, a life-saving choice for stock car racing that turns the tide for NASCAR after years of steady decline. Early returns help support that theory, as Sunday’s race pulled a 12 percent increase in the overnight ratings, joining Texas to give the Cup Series two straight audience increases for the first time this year. The Phoenix grandstands were sold out, a rarity these days and the hope is Homestead’s season finale will be just as jam-packed.

 

The pro-NASCAR faction — growing after Sunday’s last-lap madness — has plenty of ammo in its corner. One: the sport is on the verge of a first-time Sprint Cup champion, the first time that’s happened since Jimmie Johnson started a dynasty in 2006. Two: the Final Four includes a driver, Kevin Harvick, who has arguably been the most dominant all year (series-best 2,083 laps led) that would be unable to compete for a title under the old system. Joey Logano has had a breakout year (five wins) and also gets a chance he wouldn’t have had. Three: the intensity has brought out more raw emotion in drivers within the last 10 weeks than perhaps the last 10 years. Keep in mind a lot of those happy fans skew younger, part of the crucial 18-to-34 crowd NASCAR needs to hook if its sport is set to survive another generation.

 

On the flip side sits the older, traditionalist fan fed up with any type of playoff system. Their first argument hangs on the following stat lines, presented without comment:

 

ELIMINATOR ROUND RESULTS

OUT: Jeff Gordon (four wins, series point leader without a Chase system)

OUT: Brad Keselowski (series-best six wins)

IN: Ryan Newman (zero wins, four top-5 finishes, ranked 22nd in laps led (41))

IN: Denny Hamlin (one win (Talladega), seven top-5 finishes, one top 5 in the Chase, missed a race this season, 14th in points without a playoff reset)

 

The very racing that sparked emotional outbursts is also the kind making fans angry. Newman, to earn his spot at Homestead, chose to dive-bomb rookie Kyle Larson, slamming the No. 42 car in the last turn of the last lap at Phoenix to gain entry. Gordon’s exclusion was the direct result of aggressive racing courtesy of Keselowski that caused a flat tire on his Chevrolet. Gordon joins Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski as drivers with clear championship credentials this season and nothing to show for it. Playing with points in the form of strategy calls, this group feels is a cover-up for poor side-by-side competition during races, with aerodynamics cutting down passing aside from some frantic double-file restarts.

 

The opinions are fierce, yet with all the talk heading into the Homestead finale, you have to feel like there’s a tremor building inside the walls of this sport. 

 

People may love it. People may hate it. Either way, there’s talk in the midst of football season — and after a year filled with further decline. That tells you the Chase format is making some sort of impact.

 

Where does NASCAR end up? At this point, after one of the most unpredictable playoff races since NASCAR went this direction in 2004, I have absolutely no idea. The experts are left scratching their head, knowing any one of a thousand different outcomes are possible on Sunday, running the gambit from “huge boost” of the sport’s popularity to setting it up for permanent destruction. (A Newman title, however unlikely, tops the list of damaging outcomes.)

 

At this point, there’s only one thing I can tell you for certain: more people will be watching than last year. NASCAR, along with its title contenders, has 400 miles to show a bigger audience that its sport is worth switching over from the NFL for.

 

“Through the Gears” we go …

 

 

FIRST GEAR: Gordon and Keselowski strike out 

All eyes were on Gordon and Keselowski Sunday, one week after their pit road fight made national news. Both had top-5 runs, with Gordon second and Keselowski fourth, but it was ultimately not enough to make the Final Four. Both men, whose seasons were worthy of a championship, were ultimately derailed by one bad performance this round: Keselowski’s broken gear at Martinsville which led to desperation — desperation which perhaps led to the aggressive moves and flat tire it caused Gordon one week later at Texas. That incident left Gordon 29th, one lap down and ultimately one point from making the title round.

 

“That one race, that one race is going to stick with me for a little while,” said Gordon after two second-place finishes this round made him the first loser. “I got over it this week, knowing that we could come here and compete like this. Now it makes it sting that much more.

 

“I hope we taught somebody that you can race clean and still go out there and give it your best. You don’t have to wreck people to make it in the Chase or win the championship. I’m not going to wreck a guy that’s racing me clean all year long just to make it into the Chase.“

 

Meanwhile, Keselowski’s aggression didn’t play out into on-track revenge. No drivers knocked him out of the way in crunch time but the speed just wasn’t there for the No. 2 car to contend. No career wins at Texas or Phoenix wound up biting the 2012 champion, who couldn’t pull a second straight save after a Talladega win advanced him into the round of eight.

 

“It’s been a good effort. It’s been a great year,” he said. “It’s nothing to hang our head on. We controlled the things we could control … that’s just how this deal works. It still feels like it has been a great season, winning six races. Nobody is going to win anymore than that, and that’s something we’re proud of.”

 

Both men made had just one bad moment. Both men won during this 10-race playoff, something Hamlin and Newman can’t say. But in this format, one catastrophic DNF (or awful performance) is all it takes to cause a knockout, like you’re a 1 seed going down in the NCAA Tournament. No one’s used to that format in a sport where 36 races used to determine the champion — not three-race sprints. 

 

 

SECOND GEAR: Harvick’s dominating performance

In the meantime, Harvick turned a “must-win” situation into a relaxing walk in the park. Leading 264 laps, the No. 4 car was in another time zone at Phoenix, building leads of well over three seconds during long green-flag runs. He now has three straight wins at the one-mile oval while leading a whopping 488 of the last 624 laps run there (78 percent).

 

“This is one of those places that for me as a kid, this was our Daytona 500,” said Harvick, a nearby California native. “I don't think we ever talked about anything but trying to come here and win the race.”

 

Now, the desert served as a save for a man who enters Homestead with a bit of an edge. With four wins, a career high in laps led and the most momentum the No. 4 team is going to be hard to beat. Pit road problems have been patched up with a crew swap prior to the Chase stabilizing stops as Tony Stewart’s former group now services Harvick. The man whose shove started the brawl at Texas now hopes to play it smart with so much on the line.

 

“I guess you could say, at Homestead, you just go down there and approach the week just like we approached this week,” the driver said. “Have fun with it, prepare your cars just like you've done all year, and feel like you've already been in that position as far as knowing how to prepare and how to mentally prepare yourself going into the week because we just came here and did it.”

 

As for bad behavior — #Harvicking has gone viral — his lesson learned came in a “what if” for when Harvick’s son, Keelan, asks about the Texas tangle one day: do as I say, not as I do.

 

“Last week ate me up,” he said. “The biggest failure in the world would be to be a bad dad. The last two weeks have been good learning lessons.”

 

A championship trophy would be the ultimate reward for them.

 

 

THIRD GEAR: David vs. Goliath: Hendrick’s shocking shutout

Four drivers from four teams — Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing — will fight for the title at Homestead. Nowhere on that list is the team that’s won six of the last nine titles on the circuit: Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon’s loss meant an HMS shutout of epic proportions: barring a miracle, the four-car team will have no drivers finish fifth or better in points for just the third time since 2000.

 

Gordon’s loss came at the hands of furious comebacks by Final Four combatants Logano and Hamlin. Both drivers were a lap down at times, victims of bad handling and self-induced mistakes that left them outside the top 20. For Logano, it was a pit road speeding penalty that left him fighting through traffic; Hamlin suffered a broken valve stem on a tire after winning the pole. It took all their effort to sneak into the top 10, and while neither driver won this segment, consistency gave them the points to move on.

 

That’s a word lost in the Hendrick shop for much of the nine-race Chase. Johnson, Earnhardt and Gordon all won in the playoffs only to suffer through disastrous performances. For Johnson, it was a spin not of his making at Kansas after a poor qualifying effort; for Gordon, it was a flat tire after leaving an opening for Keselowski; and for Earnhardt, it was a blown tire at Kansas, followed by a shifter issue that cost him too many positions at Charlotte. 

 

HMS, long regarded as the model for racing teamwork, also saw cracks in the armor. Earnhardt won at Martinsville while Gordon finished second; a swap there sees Gordon, not Newman, in the Final Four. Johnson and Earnhardt also failed to work together at Talladega during the closing laps, ruining a dominant day and opening the door for Keselowski to advance. Even Kasey Kahne seemed on an island for much of the Chase, quietly fading when a strong Talladega effort would have left him, not Matt Kenseth, sitting inside the final eight. It’ll be a long offseason for HMS now, going through at least two crew chief changes (Kahne and Earnhardt) while Gordon mulls retirement and Johnson enters the last year of his sponsor agreement with longtime backer Lowe’s.

 

 

FOURTH GEAR: Was Newman right?

The most hotly debated item, post-Phoenix, is whether Newman was right to nudge the rookie Larson out of the way. With a Chase spot on the line, the freshman driver understood Newman’s rationale even though he wasn’t completely happy with it.

 

“Coming to the finish, there were a lot of cars racing really hard,” he told Motor Racing Network. “I knew (Newman) was right around me and knew he needed to gain some spots to keep from getting eliminated from the Chase. It's a little upsetting he pushed me up to the wall, but I completely understand the situation he was in and can't fault him for being aggressive there.”

 

“I didn’t want to do what I did at the end,” added Newman. “But I did what I had to do.”

 

Luckily, no team orders came into play. But this one push ultimately made the difference, setting a precedent along with the last couple of weeks that success in this Chase is defined by aggression, aggression and more aggression. 

 

“I’m afraid if it was that ugly the last couple of weeks,” said Gordon. “It’s going to get really ugly next week [at Homestead].”

 

 

OVERDRIVE

As a domestic investigation surrounding Kurt Busch continues, owner Gene Haas is vocally supporting his driver. Haas never considered removing Busch from the car (he was seventh Sunday) despite a damning deposition from the driver’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, in which she claims Busch bashed her head against the wall during a race weekend at Dover. Innocent until proven guilty? Absolutely. But Haas was so brazenly outspoken this weekend about the facts of the case he’s going to look like a fool if it goes the other direction — especially with domestic violence a hot-button issue in the sporting world these days. … ESPN took great care Sunday to ensure fans saw every piece of debris that caused a caution. Were there some flags thrown that were bad calls? Certainly. But at least each fan was able to see the trash on the track with their own eyes so they know a yellow wasn’t thrown just because NASCAR wanted to bunch up the field. In our rules-driven culture, that practice was good to see in advance of a Homestead finale that will be heavily scrutinized. … Chase Elliott, just 18 years old, became both the youngest Nationwide Series champ and the first to win the title as a rookie. Congratulated by heavy hitters in Victory Lane including primary owner Earnhardt Jr., father Bill (a 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee) and Rick Hendrick, it’s clear he’s got a bright future. Kahne, on the verge of a crew chief change and with just three top-5 finishes this year, better hope Gordon considers retirement next season; that’s the only way Elliott doesn’t bump him out of the No. 5 Cup car in 2016. … Clay Rogers, running for a new NASCAR owner and sponsor, Mark Beard and Beard Oil, failed to qualify at Phoenix. Instead, Mike Bliss driving a third car for Tommy Baldwin Racing made the field only to start-and-park. While the practice of showing up for a check, not to compete has declined significantly this season it was still disappointing to see it cost a new program. NASCAR needs fresh teams, desperately and every time this practice occurs, to the detriment of new competitors is one time too many.

 

 

Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles

 

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

 

 

Teaser:
Post-race reaction from the NASCAR SPrint CUp race in Phoenix, where Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano will advance for next week's final showdown.
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 01:09
Path: /nascar/celebrating-athlons-nascar-rookie-year-kyle-larson
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

 

Today, David celebrates the 2014 Athlon Sports NASCAR Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson.

 

 

Kyle Larson is going to finish the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with at least a 47.2 percent top-10 finish rate, which is better than the rookie-year rates of Richard Petty (42.9 percent) and Jeff Gordon (36.7). Larson’s 2014 Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER), a weighted results measurement, will likely finish above the stellar first-year ratings that took place in NASCAR’s current era, such as Ryan Newman (2.264), Carl Edwards (2.222), Kasey Kahne (2.153) and Denny Hamlin (1.986). He’ll soon be named the Cup Series Rookie of the Year for 2014. We at Athlon Sports will happily make him our Rookie of the Year as well.

 

It’s hard to believe that there were ever cynics of Larson’s immediate impact, but there were.

 

To make room for Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing jettisoned former Formula One grand prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya, a move that caught many, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., by surprise, despite Montoya’s middling race results for a half-decade that contributed to CGR’s ghastly five wins-in-383 races record dating from 2002 to the beginning of this season. Larson didn’t win, although this weekend’s race at Homestead isn’t out of the question, but he has at least ignited what was a sleepy organization.

 

Larson’s selection to replace Montoya was questioned because of his lack of wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013 with an entire Turner Scott Motorsports stable that failed, with three total entries, to crack the win column. It was flawed logic from the get-go, because if anyone was really paying attention, the former Dirt Sprint Car standout’s rapid assimilation and dominance had been on full display in front of everyone’s eyes.

 

He amassed the highest PEER, a 2.932 rating, among Nationwide Series regulars in 2013. He was also the highest-ranking regular in pass efficiency, making 53.42 percent of his pass encounters passes in his favor. Both of those measurements typically translate from Nationwide to Cup and Larson was no exception.

 

Prior to Homestead, he ranks seventh among all drivers in PEER with a 2.300 rating that’s better than the production of Jimmie Johnson (2.129), Kyle Busch (1.564) and two of the four championship contenders. Only seven drivers have more top-10 finishes than Larson’s 17. His passing has been nothing short of stupendous — he sports an adjusted pass efficiency (APE) for the season (52.96 percent) that ranks fourth among series regulars. Specific to the quad-oval tracks of Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta, the facilities synonymous with modern-day NASCAR, he holds a 54.22 percent APE, which ranks first among all drivers.

 

It’s reasonable to suggest that Larson is the future of the sport, but statistically, he has already arrived and has started wreaking havoc. There are still some areas that require improving, though.

 

Hamlin’s status of the being the most recent rookie to qualify for a Chase spot (in 2006) remains intact, even with the number of Chase participants expanding from 12 to 16 this season. Larson’s crashing, something that also translated from the Nationwide Series where he averaged 0.36 crashes per race in 2013, was a hindrance — he holds a 0.37 per race crash frequency through Phoenix. Luckily for the 22-year-old rook, there’s time on his side and a precedent for improvement and a lengthy stay in the sport if we can trust the chronological development of his closest comparison.

 

In February 2013, I touted Larson as being “as naturally gifted as any driver since Tony Stewart.” In most ways, his is a reincarnation of Stewart’s instinctive ability. To make the leaps that Larson has made — from the stomping grounds of USAC to a win in his first Late Model race to a championship in his first Stock Car season to being this good as a rookie in Nationwide and Cup — one needs the Smoke-like tendency to acclimate quickly. Larson has that. Instead of the take-no-prisoners nature that Stewart, a winner of three races in his first full Cup Series season and a champion as a rookie in IndyCar, displayed early in his career — he led over 40 percent of the race in six of his first nine wins and has averaged a laps-led percentage of 41.5 in wins during the course of his career — Larson’s laps near the front are minimal, but effective. He’s led just 53 laps total in 2014 and has spent just 55.7 percent of his completed laps inside the top 15. Considering his 65.7 percent top-15 finish rate, it’s clear that Larson is picking the right time to make his move. Eventually, that trait will result in wins, especially if Larson is the second coming of the three-time champion and future Hall-of-Famer.

 

A pint-sized version of Tony Stewart that picks his spots is a dangerous image if you’re a competitor. It’ll be the first time that a bull’s eye, on the hood of Larson’s Target-sponsored Chevrolet, is the symbol of attack, haunting the rearview mirrors of fellow Cup Series drivers.

 

The NASCAR landscape has never looked better, and this party of parity is about to be crashed by a kid with a once-in-a-generation natural ability. Larson's future is sure to be fun because his present is already staggeringly productive.

 

 

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA

 

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Celebrating a spectacular rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by Kyle Larson.
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 00:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-rankings-analysis-week-12
Body:

The first major dilemmas for the College Football Playoff selection committee may be on the way.

 

Baylor’s trouncing of Oklahoma in Norman vaulted the Bears into the top 10 of the weekly rankings, but it wasn't enough to push Baylor ahead of TCU, raising questions about head-to-head wins and non-conference scheduling.

 

Indeed, Baylor may force the selection committee some interesting explanations if the Bears continue to win.

 

Here's why:

 

• The question of head-to-head wins: Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11, but four spots in the rankings separated the two Tuesday. Selection committee chair Jeff Long said head-to-head weighs more as the teams are considered closer in the rankings. Essentially, the committee views TCU’s body of work strong enough at this point to override Baylor's head-to-head win. 

 

TCU has wins over two top 25 teams (No. 13 Kansas State and No. 25 Minnesota) and a loss to No. 7 Baylor. Meanwhile, the Bears have one top-25 win (TCU), and their loss is more lopsided to an unranked West Virginia.

 

• One theme in the run up to the playoff was that the system would encourage teams to take on more challenging non-conference schedules. That wouldn’t seem to be valid if Baylor makes the playoff with a non-conference schedule of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo.

 

• As much as Long wants to say the committee is starting each week with a “clean sheet” evaluating each team’s body of work, that won’t ease the feelings of fans who watch their teams climb into a playoff scenario and then out without ever losing a game. 

 

With Kansas, Texas and Iowa State remaining, TCU has completed the toughest part of its schedule. Meanwhile, teams like Alabama, Arizona State and Baylor all have opportunities for major wins down the stretch. By the end of the season, Long may have to explain TCU's plight to a horde of angry fans.

 

Here’s how the second top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.

 

College Football Playoff Rankings: Nov. 11
1. Mississippi State10. Ole Miss18. Notre Dame
2. Oregon11. UCLA19. Clemson
3. Florida State12. Michigan State20. Wisconsin
4. TCU13. Kansas State21. Duke
5. Alabama14. Arizona22. Georgia Tech
6. Arizona State15. Georgia23. Utah
7. Baylor16. Nebraska24. Texas A&M
8. Ohio State17. LSU25. Minnesota
9. Auburn  

Notables:

 

Oregon at No. 2

In reality, Oregon’s move from No. 3 to No. 2 ahead of undefeated Florida State probably doesn’t mean too much. If the season ended today, the two teams would play in the semifinal at the same site, the Rose Bowl. But it does signal that the selection committee won’t necessarily honor the zero in the loss column for the sake of doing so. Selection committee chair Jeff Long explained that Oregon has three top-25 wins (at No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 Michigan State, at No. 23 Utah) whereas Florida State has two (No. 18 Notre Dame, No. 19 Clemson). FSU’s signature win of the season over Notre Dame was devalued by a 55-31 loss at Arizona State by the Irish.

 

Naming the “Group of Five” contenders

For the second week, the top 25 lacked a team from the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt. The highest ranked champion of one of those leagues is guaranteed a berth in the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange or Peach Bowl this season, and now it seems we have a field to consider. Long identified Marshall, Colorado State, Boise State, Northern Illinois and East Carolina as teams in the discussion for the top 25. Only “a little” of that discussion was about ECU, a bad sign for a Pirates team that was the clubhouse leader before a loss to Temple two weeks ago.

 

Who Shouldn’t Worry:

 

Alabama

The Crimson Tide is sitting at No. 5 with games against Mississippi State and Auburn at home, plus a potential SEC championship game. Win, and the Tide are in the playoff, perhaps as a top seed in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised

 

Arizona State

The Sun Devils continue their rise up the rankings, though the committee is reticent to describe it as such. Arizona State was ranked No. 14 two weeks ago, but wins over Utah and Notre Dame put the Sun Devils at No. 6. Arizona State has the opportunity for two more landmark wins — at No. 14 Arizona to finish the season and potentially No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Long said the committee considered that Arizona State’s only loss to UCLA occurred when the Sun Devils were missing starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, another good sign for Todd Graham's team. Arizona State lost 62-27 at home to UCLA, but the committee holds the Bruins in some high regard. UCLA is No. 11 despite one-score wins over Virginia, Memphis, Texas, Cal and Colorado and a loss at home to Utah.

 

Who Should Worry:

 

TCU

Certainly, the Horned Frogs would rather be at No. 4 than behind an Alabama team that will face perhaps two more top 10 teams. TCU helped its resume with a 41-20 win over Kansas State, but the Horned Frogs have reason for concern. First, Alabama is at No. 5 with a chance to move up if the Tide are able to beat No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 9 Auburn. Long described the margin between the Frogs and Tide as “extremely thin.” Second, Long indicated that this was the first week that TCU and Baylor were in the same group of six evaluated at a given time by the selection committee. 

 

In other words, the discussion between TCU and Baylor is getting closer. Should TCU and Baylor be more comparable teams in the committee’s eyes, Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU may loom large. The Horned Frogs going from No. 4 in the rankings to outside of the playoff even if they don’t lose a game is a possibility.

 

If the Season Ended Today:

 

National Semifinals:

Sugar: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 TCU

Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

 

Other bowls (projected)

Cotton: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ohio State

Fiesta: No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Ole Miss

Orange: No. 19 Clemson^ vs. No. 5 Alabama

Peach: Marshall* vs. No. 9 Auburn

*automatic Group of 5 bid

^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl

Teaser:
College Football Playoff Rankings Analysis: Week 12
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 20:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-8-college-football-rankings-week-11
Body:

For the first time this season, the SEC West did not hold the majority in the Legends Poll Top 8.

 

The top four remained largely unchanged, with No. 4 Oregon replacing Auburn. And the biggest surprise might have been Florida State receiving zero first-place votes for the first time all year while still holding on to its second-place ranking.

 

But No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Arizona state were all newcomers to the rankings this week, each after prevailing in statement games.

 

Baylor manhandled Oklahoma, 48-14, in its first-ever victory in Norman. Seventh-ranked Ohio State vaulted to the top of the Big Ten with a road victory of its own, outlasting Michigan State, 49-37. And No. 8 Arizona State continued to roll with a 55-31 victory over Notre Dame in Tempe.

 

Top-ranked Mississippi State and No. 3 Alabama are set up for a showdown this coming weekend, with the winner in the driver’s seat to take home the SEC West crown.

 

Auburn, Michigan State and Notre Dame dropped from the top 8 this week. No. 5 TCU moved up two spots.

 

RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1Mississippi StateMississippi State (10)9-01011
2Florida StateFlorida State9-0872
3AlabamaAlabama (3)8-1803
4OregonOregon9-1695
5TCUTCU9-1497
6BaylorBaylor8-135-
7Ohio StateOhio State8-129-
8Arizona StateArizona State8-118-

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 15:18
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-biggest-trash-talkers
Body:

A list of the NBA’s best trash talkers might also read as “the game’s most old-school dudes.” In our modern, hyper-aware media era, such behavior can quickly become public knowledge, as nearly all affluent Americans carry a phone that’s also a video camera and a microphone. So it takes a truly dedicated verbal bully — a special sort of vinegar-tongued competitor — to keep speaking in dirty, destructive insults when they could so easily be outed for it.

But to those with a genuinely vindictive approach, the possible reputation hit is more than worth it. As our president recently reminded us in his public squabbling with Michael Jordan — who chided POTUS about his golf game, only to be cited by Mr. Obama for poor management of the Charlotte squad he owns — athletic dominance is great, but sometimes, there’s nothing that cuts as deep as the perfectly chosen piece of rhetoric. If you say certain words, and target the most sensitive parts of a man’s psyche with them, you can cut to the quick. Here are the best of the best at doing so.

 

5. Lance Stephenson

Forget language for a second. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson tries diving into the brain of his adversaries through more visceral means. In his attempt to rattle LeBron James in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals (when Stephenson was still with the Indiana Pacers and not Jordan’s Hornets) one of the silliest, most unforgettable acts of the contemporary NBA occurred when Lance blew into LeBron’s ear:

Stephenson learned from one of the best when he was in the midwest — Pacers executive Larry Bird. Lance recently told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that the former Celtics legend hasn’t lost his cagy touch with words. “Yeah,” Stephenson said, “he talks a lot once you get to know him. He’s a cool guy. Of course he talks trash. If that’s you, that’ll always be you. He talks a lot, and he’s always challenging us to 3-point contests.”

 

4. Kendrick Perkins

The enforcer of the Oklahoma City Thunder holds value not so much for his abilities as an athlete as for his effect on the comfort of his teammates and enemies; he makes his allies feel protected, while the other team grows weary of his menacing scowl and hulky figure. Kendrick Perkins is one of the scariest people in the league, and he uses it to his advantage.

He’s also a proud fighter whose character doesn’t break after the game. Once, he let Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah know that as Noah entered the OKC locker room to greet former teammate Thabo Sefolosha. Perkins didn’t want the enemy in his barracks, looking at Noah to rhetorically ask, “We just let anyone in here now?” After some more heated squabbling between the two centers, Perkins said to Noah, "get your ass up out of here.”

 

3. Paul Pierce

When the acidic Stephen Jackson says you’re being “disrespectful,” you know you’re a top-tier trash talker. Paul Pierce earned that badge in 2010 when saying God-knows-what to Jackson, then with the Charlotte Bobcats. Jackson, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, had this to say: "I respect them as a team, they're a great team and they play hard, but when they get to a point where they get to disrespecting people, and it's not about basketball, that's where I have a problem. Everybody knows me as a basketball player, but everybody knows me off the court, too. So if it's about basketball, I'm cool, I respect everybody on their team, and I respect them as being a good team. But when it gets to the point where you're disrespecting [me] as a man, that's another problem… Certain things were said, quotes by certain people, and there's no need for me to drop names, they know what was said,” Jackson said, obviously referring to Pierce after the two looked heated during the Celtics victory.

 

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe’s slithery, Jordanesque scoring maneuvers on the court are still what he’s most known for — but it seems only a matter of time before he becomes remembered as a hyper-charged personality above all. Bryant’s downright sociopathic commitment to his process and winning basketball games has seen him smear irrelevant former teammates like Smush Parker and even become the target of some zen-laden scourge in a book by his old coach Phil Jackson.

 

Kobe is difficult to deal with. He’s also not afraid to talk big to King James, the man who stole the NBA’s throne from Bryant long ago. After James’ infamous “The Decision” production, Bryant sent him some gamey texts. From Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding: “With a brutal seven-game victory over the Celtics in the bank for Bryant, the 2010 offseason is dominated by LeBron James' decision to leave Cleveland for Miami. What matters to Bryant is Phil Jackson agreeing to return to coach the Lakers again in pursuit of a third consecutive NBA title. Bryant sends James a text message. It goes like this: ‘Go ahead and get another MVP, if you want. And find the city you want to live in. But we're going to win the championship. Don't worry about it.’"

 

1. Kevin Garnett

The stories surrounding KG’s crippling levels of verbal venom are endless. But perhaps none is more memorable than the 2013 tale of his words that got New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony so riled up that he waited for Garnett at the Boston Celtics team bus after the game. Police officers were on hand at the stadium, and the two never came to blows — but what could Garnett have said to so get under Melo’s skin?

According to now-infamous rumors, KG told Anthony that his wife LaLa Anthony “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.” Anthony never confirmed that phrasing — no one did — but in regards to what started the fissure between the two players, he replied, “there’s some things as men that you just don’t say.”

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 14:02

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