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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17.
Arkansas kicks off our top 25 countdown at No. 25 as we preview the Razorbacks in what they hope is a breakout season under Mike Anderson.
The Arkansas edition is one of dozens available on newsstands everywhere this week.
A streak of eight wins in a nine-game stretch, including road victories at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and No. 17 Kentucky, appeared to have Arkansas on the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth in Mike Anderson’s third season. Then the Razorbacks inexplicably lost by 25 points at Alabama and fell to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament, and their would-be NCAA invite evaporated.
That late rejection is fuel for an Arkansas program that has shockingly not been to the NCAAs since 2008.
“I just look at the almosts,” Anderson says. “We were so close. We were just plays away from having a really, really special year. So we take that experience, and this year will be a special year.”
Arkansas boasts a roster loaded with talent, experience and depth, with veterans Ky Madden, Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell at guard and big men Bobby Portis, Alandise Harris and Moses Kingsley supported by an improved cast of role players. Five players with starting experience and seven who averaged nine minutes or more are back from last season’s 22–12 club.
The Razorbacks led the SEC in assists (15.3 apg), steals (8.4 spg), turnover margin (+5.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), all key elements in Anderson’s full-court style. But they struggled big time on the glass and consistently allowed too many second-chance opportunities.
Anderson understands the time is now to put Arkansas back on the college basketball map.
“This is the first year (in which) most of the guys fit what I’m doing,” Anderson says. “So from that standpoint, this probably will be the best team that we field, from top to bottom.”
No. 25 Arkansas Facts & Figures
Last season: 22-12, 10-8 SEC
Postseason: NIT second round
Last NCAA appearance: 2008
Coach: Mike Anderson (59-39 at Arkansas, 26-26 SEC)
SEC Projection: Third
Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32
Portis, who has grown to 6-11, was outstanding as a freshman, but he needs to improve his shooting (.509), rebounding (6.8 rpg) and low-post repertoire to become one of the elite big men in the nation. Portis worked at the Nike big man skills camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy in the summer and plans to have a stronger rebounding presence and upgrade his scoring and defense.
Harris provided toughness and a big-game presence last year, but he didn’t rebound enough (3.3 rpg) and too often settled for jumpers. Kingsley, now a sophomore, is a classic shot-blocking center whose offensive skills should be on the rise.
Jacorey Williams brings energy off the bench, but he has to shoot better than 39.8 percent to earn more time. Transfer Keaton Miles, a defensive standout, and signee Trey Thompson are quality players who will provide depth.
After leading the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and assists (2.8 apg), Madden should benefit from the addition of point guards Jabril Durham and Anton Beard to allow him to play off the ball more.
Qualls was a SportsCenter regular with a variety of circus dunks, but the Hogs hope his jumper earns him more notoriety this year. Qualls had a horrendous shooting slump to open SEC play and wound up shooting 42.9 percent overall. Bell, a streaky shooter, launched a team-high 151 3-pointers and shot 33.1 percent beyond the arc, a number that must improve for the junior to merit increased playing time. His defense is just adequate.
If this Razorbacks team doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, there will be great frustration in Fayetteville, and for good reason. Portis is a budding superstar who is driven to excel, and there are plenty of key pieces around him. The backcourt is stocked with veterans who can be distribute the ball, add scoring punch and play the kind of defense Anderson demands. This roster gives Anderson great flexibility.
How well Madden deals his role in the backcourt as the new point guards establish themselves, and whether the mercurial Bell can be a more consistent deep threat will say a lot about how far Arkansas can advance in March. The best Arkansas teams during Anderson’s 17-year tenure as an assistant to Nolan Richardson had strong defense, good rebounding, versatile talents, a few sharpshooters and great grit. If this Razorback team can deliver the grit, the ’14-15 season could be special in Fayetteville.
Keaton Miles, a 6-7 transfer from West Virginia, is a versatile forward who fits Anderson’s fast tempo style. Junior college transfer guard Jabril Durham was a good pickup. He and freshman Anton Beard are true points guards who can take some ball-handling pressure off of Ky Madden. Trey Thompson, a 6-9 forward, should give the Razorbacks a quality frontcourt reserve who can take his time to adjust to the college game.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 15:
• Congrats to Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2014. Although social media was not impressed with her talent, which consisted of banging cups on the floor while singing "Happy."
• We normally endorse ridiculous fan behavior and attire, but this Vikings fan crossed a line.
• Colin Kaepernick got flagged for inappropriate language. He was more guilty of inappropriate second-half suckitude.
• The Chargers claim they "exposed" Richard Sherman, who responded via Twitter (although he refused to talk to the media).
• A woman choked her husband for refusing to buy her a Cowboys hat. Them's Jerry Jones' kind of people.
• Unintentional failed dunk faceplant or pre-planned pratfall? You make the call.
• Some reporter tried to figure out how many times Derek Jeter has swung the bat in games. I think we've officially reached Peak Jetes.
• Watch Adam Jones destroy a camera with a foul ball, from the POV of the camera.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 2 of the 2014 NFL season concludes with what could be an entertaining matchup between Philadelphia and Indianapolis on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Andrew Luck and the Colts are hoping to bounce back at home after their second-half comeback in Denver last week came up short. On the other side, Chip Kelly’s Eagles are aiming to start their season 2-0 by defeating the defending AFC South champions in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Indianapolis -3
Three Things to Watch
|Philadelphia 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs JAC||W 34 - 17||Recap|
|9/15||@ IND||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/21||vs WAS||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/28||@ SF||L 21 - 26||Recap|
1. The Eagles’ Takeoff
After the first 30 minutes of Philadelphia’s season-opener last week against Jacksonville the home team and defending NFC East champions trailed the lowly Jaguars 17-0. Quarterback Nick Foles had committed nearly as many turnovers in just 20 minutes (3) as he had all of last season (4). Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense generated just 129 yards in the first half. Fortunately for the Eagles and the home crowd, things turned around in a big way in the second half, as Philadelphia outscored Jacksonville 34-0. Foles finished the game with 322 yards passing and two touchdowns, one of them a 68-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Maclin. New Eagle Darren Sproles got the rally started by taking a handoff on fourth-and-1 and busting up the middle 49 yards for the first touchdown. The scoring ended when Fletcher Cox recovered a fumble and returned it for a score with less than two minutes remaining. After a sluggish first half, Philadelphia found its footing and made enough plays on both sides of the ball to beat a Jacksonville team that everyone expected it to beat. The Eagles can’t afford another slow start tonight, not on the road against the Colts, the defending AFC South champions who went 6-2 in Lucas Oil Stadium last season.
2. Offensive Line Attrition
One week into the season and neither team is at full strength up front for different reasons. Philadelphia’s offensive line, one of the best units in the NFL in 2013, was already having to deal with starting right tackle Lane Johnson’s four-game suspension before things got worse against Jacksonville. All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre, who was filling in for Johnson at right tackle, both got hurt before halftime. Mathis has a MCL sprain, which is severe enough that the Eagles placed him on injured reserve with a designation to return. The earliest Mathis will be eligible to play is Week 10. Barbe meanwhile is done for the season after injuring his ankle against the Jaguars. The team signed former Houston Texan guard Wade Smith, a 11-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl in 2012, and elevated tackle Kevin Graf from its practice squad, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding how Chip Kelly will put all of these pieces together. For Indianapolis, its offensive line issues arose before the season started, as left guard Donald Thomas suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury and center Khaled Holmes sustained an ankle injury that limited him during the majority of training camp and the preseason. The Colts’ reshuffled line held up pretty well against Denver last week but will be tested tonight by an Eagles pass rush that generated three sacks in Week 1. The battle in the trenches is always important in the NFL and tonight’s game could likely be determined by which depleted offensive line rises to the occasion.
|Indianapolis 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DEN||L 24 - 31||Recap|
|9/15||vs PHI||L 27 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||@ JAC||W 44 - 17||Recap|
|9/28||vs TEN||W 41 - 17||Recap|
3. Balanced Offense Produces Winning Results?
Both Philadelphia and Indianapolis racked up more than 400 yards of total offense in their season openers, but the teams got there in different ways. The Eagles put together a more balanced attack, gaining 145 yards on the ground and 275 through the air. The Colts on the other hand were much more one-dimensional, throwing for 370 and rushing for just 54. Nick Foles played a big part in his team’s second-half comeback against Jacksonville, while Andrew Luck was practically his team’s entire offense in its similar attempt in Denver. Besides the passing, Luck was Indianapolis’ second-leading rusher with 19 yards and a touchdown, meaning Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for just 35 yards. Compare that to the 70-plus rushing yards LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles each produced. Foles and Luck are Pro Bowl quarterbacks who are capable of making plays with their arm and their legs. However, as last week showed with these two teams, asking your signal-caller to do it all is not necessarily the best formula for winning. Will this trend and the subsequent results continue tonight?
Offensively speaking, Philadelphia is a more balanced team with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in its backfield. However, Indianapolis has enjoyed quite a bit of success with Andrew Luck pretty much doing it all by himself. After falling behind in Denver big last week, Luck almost brought the Colts alll the way back with his arm and legs. Indianapolis, just like Philadelphia, is a defending division champion who is usually tough to beat at home. Even though the Eagles enter this one with the momentum of being 1-0, this is not a team without its own flaws. Tonight, I think Indianapolis is able to expose a depleted offensive line and take advantage of some holes in the Eagles' defense. And while McCoy and Sproles will do their part, I'm looking for either Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw to give Luck some support and help the Colts take care of business on their own home turf.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Philadelphia 20
Week 3 was supposed to be a quiet one in the ACC. With a slate of so-so matchups, Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina on bye, there wasn’t a ton of intrigue around the conference.
However, Week 3 brought several interesting games to the ACC, including East Carolina’s 28-21 upset over Virginia Tech and Virginia’s 23-21 win over Louisville. Boston College used its punishing ground game to shock USC 37-31, and Georgia Tech needed a late fumble recovery and touchdown on offense to rally against Georgia Southern.
Miami, NC State, Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh scored relatively easy victories on Saturday.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 3
Virginia Tech…Letdown or a Reason to be Concerned?
After pulling off a surprise win at Ohio State last Saturday, Virginia Tech fell victim to East Carolina’s upset bid in Week 3. Was it a letdown? Or is Frank Beamer’s team still dealing with concerns on both sides of the ball? It’s probably a little bit of both, but there’s no question the Hokies are a work in progress on offense. Quarterback Michael Brewer tossed two interceptions on 56 attempts, the rushing attack managed only 2.8 yards per carry, and the offensive line allowed three sacks. Virginia Tech’s woes from Week 3 also extend to the defense, giving up an uncharacteristic 427 passing yards to East Carolina’s Shane Carden. While the loss is damaging for the Hokies' playoff hopes, Virginia Tech is still unbeaten in conference play and remains the favorite in a wide-open Coastal.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Boston College’s Offense Finds its Stride
Behind a punishing rushing attack, Boston College scored one of the biggest upsets in Week 3 by defeating USC 37-31. Quarterback Tyler Murphy completed only five passes for 54 yards, but the Eagles gashed the Trojans for 452 yards and five scores on the ground. That’s right: 452 yards. Coming into Saturday’s game, USC allowed just 285 yards on the ground in its first two games. Murphy’s ability to make plays with his legs played a huge role in Boston College’s upset win, but Boston College’s five senior starters on the line also deserve credit. Even without Andre Williams, coach Steve Addazio isn’t hurting for options in the backfield. Sophomores Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, along with freshman Jon Hilliman have proved capable of handling the duties on the ground. There will be games where Murphy has to throw for Boston College to win. However, it’s clear the Eagles are going to win their share of games by pounding opponents with their ground attack.
Progress for Brad Kaaya
Before we dive into the statistics, let’s add a disclaimer: Miami played Arkansas State in Week 3 and was a heavy favorite. With that out of the way, it’s fair to say Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya took a step forward in his third career start. Kaaya was efficient (16 of 24), threw for 342 yards and tossed four touchdown passes. The freshman averaged 21.4 yards per completion and two of his touchdown scores went more than 60 yards. Again, we don’t want to overreact to one game against an overmatched opponent, but Miami has to be pleased with Kaaya’s development, especially with games against Nebraska, Duke, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech coming up next.
Virginia Will be a Factor in the Coastal
Heading into the 2014 season, the Coastal Division favorite was anyone’s guess. Six teams were considered by most for the No. 1 spot, with Virginia slated for the basement at No. 7. However, it’s clear after three weeks it’s time to adjust that thinking. Sure, it’s only three games are in the books, but let’s place the Cavaliers in that same class as Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Duke and North Carolina. Virginia’s offense is still a work in progress, but the defense is holding opponents to 4.8 yards per play and contained Louisville to just 21 points on Saturday. Quarterback Greyson Lambert still has to play better in big games (13 of 24, 162 yards against the Cardinals) for the Cavaliers to threaten for the division. However, Virginia is no longer a guaranteed win for the rest of the Coastal. With home dates against Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Miami, the Cavaliers will have a chance to factor into the division mix and should push for a bowl.
Does Louisville have a QB Battle?
In Saturday’s loss to Virginia, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino made the switch from Will Gardner to true freshman Reggie Bonnafon to help spark an offense that managed just 282 total yards. Bonnafon’s mobility helped counter the Cavaliers’ aggressive defense and compensate for the Cardinals’ struggling line, but the true freshman only finished with 39 passing yards on six completions. Gardner’s numbers weren’t much better (14 of 34, 164 yards and two picks), especially when you consider he started 4 of 4 for 49 yards and one score on the opening drive. Both quarterbacks should see time over the next few games, but Petrino is expected to turn to Gardner to start in Week 4. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap in Saturday’s game against FIU, they need more help from the offensive line and receiving corps.
ACC Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 4|
|2||1-1||Bye Week||at Florida State|
|3||3-0||W, 42-25, FIU||Iowa|
|4||3-0||W, 41-3, Kansas||Tulane|
|5||2-1||L, 28-21, ECU||Georgia Tech|
|6||2-1||W, 23-21, Louisville||at BYU|
|7||2-1||W, 37-31, USC||Maine|
|8||2-1||L, 23-21, Virginia||at FIU|
|9||2-0||Bye Week||at ECU|
|10||2-1||W, 41-20, Ark. State||at Nebraska|
|11||2-0||W, 40-3, Syracuse||Maryland|
|12||3-0||W, 49-17, USF||Presbyterian|
|13||3-0||W, 42-38, Ga. Southern||at Va. Tech|
|14||1-2||L, 36-24, Wake Forest||Army|
There was high drama in Columbia, where South Carolina recorded yet another win over its SEC East rivals from Athens. Georgia had ample opportunity to post a huge win, but once again the Bulldogs couldn’t get it done in a big spot. Elsewhere, Kentucky was impressive in a loss while Florida was a bit of disappointment in a win. And Missouri, the team that everyone forgets about, is really good again.
Key Takeaways in the SEC from Week 3
It was worth the wait for Thompson
No matter what happens the rest of the season, Dylan Thompson will always remember last Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. It would have been easy for Thompson, buried behind Connor Shaw the last two seasons, to transfer to another program that afforded him the opportunity to play earlier in his career. But the South Carolina native was willing to wait for his one season in the spotlight as the quarterback for Steve Spurrier’s program. And through three games as the no-doubt-it QB1, Thompson has been terrific, completing over 60 percent of his passes for a combined 903 yard with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. On Saturday night, he threw for 271 yards with three touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a season-saving win over Georgia.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Georgia lacks the championship DNA
It’s dangerous — and sometimes not fair — to make such generalizations, but you have to wonder why Georgia lacks the ability to make the right play at the right time in so many big spots. Whether it was ending the 2012 SEC Championship Game on the 5-yard line — so painfully close to an appearance in the BCS title game — or failing to convert from 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line in Saturday’s loss at South Carolina, this program consistently comes up one play short of greatness. We’ve learned in the past that one early season loss does not doom a season, but the Bulldogs let a golden opportunity slip away — yet again — in Columbia Saturday evening.
Kentucky has found its quarterback
Kentucky didn’t name a starting quarterback until 12 days prior to its season-opener. It’s clear that Patrick Towles was the correct choice. The third-year sophomore — one of the top recruits from the previous regime — has the ideal skill set to run Neal Brown’s “Air Raid” attack. Towles was sharp in the Wildcats’ two wins but made a bigger statement in Kentucky’s loss at Florida Saturday night. He threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns — numbers that are even more impressive when you consider that Kentucky had no running game to complement its passing attack. Towles did throw three interceptions, but two of his picks bounced off the hands of his receiver.
Florida offense still needs some work
Credit the Gators for persevering — and credit Kentucky for its improvement — but it was evident from watching Florida on Saturday night that this team is still a work in progress. The final offensive numbers were impressive — 532 yards and only one turnover — but Florida made seven trips inside Kentucky’s 40-yard line in regulation and came away with only 20 points. The offensive efficiency must improve if this team hopes to live up to the lofty expectations of its fan base.
Missouri is still pretty good
Missouri shocked the college football world by winning the SEC East last season. But due to the loss of some key personnel — most notably at wide receiver and on the defensive line — the Tigers were not a popular pick in the preseason to be much of a factor in the East in 2014. It’s obviously still very early, but Gary Pinkel’s team has been very impressive through three weeks. On Saturday, the Tigers rolled past UCF, the defending Fiesta Bowl champs, with ease, scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half on their way to a 38–10 win. Mizzou hosts Indiana in its final non-conference game next week before beginning a three-game stretch — at South Carolina, vs. Georgia, at Florida — that will tell us if this team is capable of repeating its unlikely SEC East title.
SEC Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
|Rk||Team||Record||Last Week||Next Week|
|1.||3-0||W, So. Miss, 52-12||Florida|
|2.||2-0||Bye||at Kansas St.|
|3.||3-0||W, Rice, 38-10||at SMU|
|4.||3-0||W, UL Lafayette, 56-15||Bye|
|5.||2-1||W, Georgia, 38-35||at Vanderbilt|
|6.||2-1||L, S. Carolina, 38-35||Troy|
|7.||3-0||W, ULM 31-0||Miss. State|
|8.||3-0||W, UCF, 38-10||Indiana|
|9.||2-0||W, Kentucky, 36-30||at Alabama|
|10.||3-0||W, S. Alabama, 35-3||at LSU|
|11.||3-0||W, Texas Tech, 49-28||No. Illinois|
|12.||2-1||L, Oklahoma 34-10||Bye|
|13.||2-1||L, Florida, 36-30||Bye|
|14.||1-2||W, UMass, 34-31||S. Carolina|
Congratulations, Nebraska and Penn State, you represent the Big Ten’s last hope.
A week after the Big Ten’s top Playoff contenders dropped key games, the league’s underbelly proved to be just as soft.
Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa and Indiana all took their turns with out-of-conference losses, leaving Nebraska and Penn State as the league’s last two unblemished team.
As Nebraska returned to form, Penn State had another close call that resulted in a win at Rutgers, the team that claims the Big Ten’s only win against a Power 5 program.
No, it wasn’t a pretty week in the Big Ten. Here’s what we learned:
The embarrassment continues
Entering Week 3, the Big Ten had no way to atone for a Week 2 that all but seemed to take the league out of the Playoff. All this week — with Maryland hosting West Virginia, Iowa State hosting Iowa and Minnesota visiting TCU — could do was keep the bottom from falling out. The Big Ten couldn’t even manage that. Big Ten teams lost to three Big 12 teams, lost in a rout in the Pacific Northwest and added a third loss this season to a MAC team. The Big Ten is 1-11 against the other Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame this season. The lone win, Rutgers over Washington State in Seattle — came from a team that lost a league game Saturday. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which hosts Miami next week, remain unscathed.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Hackenberg’s two-minute magic strikes again
Penn State’s offense isn’t pretty to watch. The run game, again, was a liability at 1.9 yards per carry against Rutgers. Even quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a spotty game thanks to five sacks. The sophomore has a knack for pressure situations, though, as he spoiled what Rutgers hoped would be a signature win in its Big Ten debut. Hackenberg was 3-for-4 for 84 yards on the game-winning drive of a 13-10 win, the second time he’s marched Penn State down the field in the fourth quarter for a victory. These things are becoming commonplace for a quarterback who has played only 15 games.
Michigan, Ohio State bounced back
Let’s not say this is anything other than it is — which is Big Ten name teams beating up on MAC teams on hard times. And apparently in this league in 2014, MAC wins aren’t automatic. Michigan got a key contributor back at full strength in tight end Jake Butt, who caught three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the absence of Devin Funchess. Meanwhile, Ohio State got production out of its tailbacks after they were absent last week. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Warren Ball combined for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett came back from his rough start against the Virginia Tech secondary to complete 23-of-30 passes with six touchdowns.
Iowa has gone from sleeper team to major disappointment
The schedule set up so nicely for Iowa. No Ohio State. No Michigan State. No Michigan. Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. That was enough to make Iowa a sneaky pick in the Big Ten West. No one really accounted for this Iowa team being lousy. A week after dodging a loss to Ball State (which turned around and lost to Indiana State), the Hawkeyes lost 20-17. All-America offensive tackle Brandon Scherff is playing hurt. The run game is dismal (3.6 yards per carry). And the offense is so conservative that a winless opponent needed only 337 total yards to win on the road. At this rate, the easy schedule may be what Iowa needs just to get to a bowl.
The McNeese State game was an aberration for Nebraska
That’s what the Big Ten has to hope, right? The league will grasp at all it can get, and a 55-19 rout at Fresno State has to count for something. Nebraska’s offense was back in its Week 1 form with 280 rushing, 282 passing and 8.5 yards per play. End Randy Gregory returned to the lineup, and although he didn’t record a sack, Nebraska doubled its season total with four sacks against the Bulldogs.
Big Ten Week 4 Power Rankings
|Rk||Team||Pvs||Record||Last Week||This Week|
|2||3||3-0||W, Fresno State 55-19||Miami|
|3||2||3-0||W, Rutgers 13-10||UMass|
|4||6||2-1||W, Kent State 66-0||Off|
|6||7||2-1||W, Miami (Ohio) 34-10||Utah|
|7||9||2-1||L, Penn State 13-10||at Navy|
|8||4||2-1||L, Iowa State 20-17||at Pittsburgh|
|9||8||2-1||L, West Virginia 40-37||at Syracuse|
|10||8||2-1||L, TCU 30-7||San Jose State|
|11||12||2-1||L, Washington 44-19||Texas State|
|12||11||1-1||L, Bowling Green 45-42||at Missouri|
|14||14||1-2||L, Notre Dame 30-14||Southern Illinois|
So much of the early portion of the schedule has to do with league’s jockeying for position. The Big Ten is down. The Pac-12 scored a key win. And no league seems to scream that it’s in charge.
Maybe the Big 12 should take that spot.
No non-conference win stands out from Week 3, but the Big 12 quietly picked up some key victories — Oklahoma over Tennessee, West Virginia over Maryland, TCU over Minnesota and Iowa State over Iowa.
If Texas finished the job against a weakened UCLA, maybe the Big 12 would be thumping its chest. Either way, the league has a chance to do so Thursday when Kansas State faces Auburn.
Before that, here’s what we learned out of the Big 12 in Week 3.
Key Takeaways from the Big 12 in Week 3
Oklahoma’s defense is championship-ready
Even if Tennessee has its flaws up front on offense, Oklahoma turned in an impressive performance against the Volunteers. The Sooners were relentless in the front seven, sacking Vols quarterback Justin Worley five times and intercepting him twice. Eight Oklahoma players recorded at least one tackle for a loss, and other than one 43-yard run after the game had been decided, the Sooners overwhelmed Tennessee up front. The Sooners haven’t faced a Playoff contender this season, but Oklahoma has a defense that looks ready to contend for a Big 12 title.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Texas missed an opportunity for a name win
The game started with a blunder when a Texas captain elected to defend after UCLA won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning UCLA started both halves on offense. That was only the start of Texas whiffing at an opportunity. UCLA star quarterback Brett Hundley left the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury, leaving the Bruins with untested backup Jerry Neuheisel. Texas is also down to a backup QB but one who has two games under his belt. The Longhorns led at half and led with with 5:45 to go. Texas didn’t have a turnover but a defensive breakdown gave Neuheisel the 33-yard game-winning TD. Texas could have used an extra offensive possession in a 20-17 loss.
West Virginia has turned a corner
The Mountaineers hinted at in a 33-23 loss to Alabama in Week 1. A 40-37 win at Maryland proved that West Virginia is a different team in 2014. A healthy Clint Trickett with a year in the system is only a piece of the transformation — a piece that completed 37-of-49 passes fro 511 yards with four touchdowns. After struggling in his first season from junior college, Kevin White has become an all-conference type receiver with 13 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown. Mario Alford added 11 catches for 131 yards and two scores. But most important, West Virginia learned to take a punch. The Mountaineers lost three games last season in which the led in the fourth quarter. This year’s team allowed Maryland to tie in the fourth but held for a game winning field goal in the final four seconds.
Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham Have transformed the TCU offense
Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson looked toward Texas Tech and Houston to add a spark to the TCU offense that had been lacking since Justin Fuente took a head coaching job at Memphis. Cumbie (from Texas Tech) and Meacham (from Houston) are making an impact. Nowhere is that more evident than with Trevone Boykin, who was moved to receiver at the end of last year and faced a challenge from Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel before the season. Boykin completed 27-of-46 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 30-7 win over Minnesota. He also rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries. If TCU can put him numbers like that in Big 12 play the Horned Frogs will be poised for a turnaround year.
Coach Cool can’t stop the run
Bret Bielema has had few easy answers as coach at Arkansas. A game against Texas Tech, though, presented an easy gameplan. Run the ball because Texas Tech can’t stop it. Arkansas rushed for 438 yards and attempted only 12 passes in a 49-28 win. It was the most rushing yards allowed by Texas Tech since 2011 but part of an alarming trend. Opponents have rushed for 293.7 yards and four touchdowns per game in the last nine contests. Tech’s defense can’t get off the field, and the offense hasn’t helped. Texas Tech has been on the wrong side of the turnover margin for 11 consecutive games for a total of minus-18 since Oct. 12.
Big 12 Week 4 Power Rankings
|Rk||Team||Pvs||Record||Last Week||This Week|
|1||1||3-0||W, Tennessee 34-10||at West Virginia|
|2||2||3-0||W, Buffalo 63-21||Off|
|4||4||2-1||W, UTSA 43-13||Off|
|5||5||2-1||W, Maryland 40-37||Oklahoma|
|6||6||2-0||W, Minnesota 30-7||Off|
|7||7||1-2||L, UCLA 20-17||Off|
|8||9||1-2||W, Iowa 20-17||Off|
|9||8||2-1||L, Arkansas 49-28||Off|
|10||10||1-1||L, Duke 41-3||Central Michigan|
The Pac-12 was 7-2 overall in Week 3. One of those losses was a conference game but the other was a horrendous road defeat for USC at the hands of Boston College.
But there were two other losses that could prove to be huge in the race for the Pac-12 South Division title. UCLA and Arizona State both finished costly wins with their star quarterbacks standing on the sidelines with could be significant injuries.
Here is what we learned from the Pac-12 in Week 3:
USC has major questions
The road win over Stanford had fluky characteristics and the Trojans didn't get nearly as lucky against Boston College. Facing an Eagles team that allowed 302 yards rushing and mustered just 4.4 yards per play on offense in a loss to Pitt last weekend, USC was completely dominated in the trenches on Saturday. In one of the most bizarre stats of the year, the Trojans were outrushed 452 to 20 in the stunning upset loss. While allowing 7.4 yards per play on defense, USC managed only 4.8 yards per play on offense. The questionable coaching decisions against Stanford didn't cost the Men of Troy (due in large part to luck) but Steve Sarkisian clearly didn't have his team ready to compete and the staff didn't make adjustments against a team many believed wouldn't be a challenge.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Taylor Kelly injury reshapes South race
Arizona State won on the road against Colorado in relatively easy fashion. But the win might be a costly one. Kelly, one of only two quarterbacks in college football to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in each of the last two seasons (the other is that Manziel guy) was on crutches with his right foot in a boot on Saturday night. While no immediate prognosis is available, Kelly seemed awfully emotional and dejected on the sidelines. The defending South Division champs looked better than preseason pollsters projected but will face UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington in the next four games. Even if Kelly can return for November, it's hard to see ASU surviving the next month of action still in Pac-12 contention. On a positive note, D.J. Foster is pretty much awesome. After another 206 yards from scrimmage and two more touchdowns, the Sun Devils tailback now has 510 yards rushing, 139 yards receiving and scored six times. No one in the nation has more yards from scrimmage than his 649 yards.
Without its star, UCLA finds balance
The biggest piece of news coming out of AT&T Stadium was Brett Hundley's arm injury. It certainly didn't appear to be as bad as Taylor Kelly's, but if the star quarterback is out for any extended period of time, UCLA could be in major trouble. The Bruins survived another scare with the gutty play from backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel. More importantly, the offense found some balance in the running game with 217 yards rushing (124 from Paul Perkins) and the Bruins played their most complete game without Hundley under center. Was Texas also depleted and not as good as its name brand indicates? Sure, but if the Bruins can consistently play games like they did against Texas and Hundley can return to the field, then UCLA clearly sit in the driver's seat in the South — even if it's looked like anything but a Playoff team.
Shaq Thompson is a Heisman candidate
If the Huskies can keep winning, it may have a legitimate defensive Heisman candidate in linebacker Shaq Thompson. The two-way star scored twice on defense this weekend against Illinois on a 36-yard INT return and a 52-yard fumble return. His absurd stat line through three games: 22 tackles, one INT, 1.0 sack, 82 yards rushing on 13.7 yards per carry and three total touchdowns. Hello, Charles Woodson.
Survive and advance
It goes without saying, but in a year that is feeling more and more like the wild and wacky 2007, winning is all that matters. UCLA, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State haven't looked like conference championship teams but those four are a combined 11-0 on the season. So while criticism is warranted for all four programs in how they struggled with lesser competition, they've remained unblemished and each appears to have started to iron out some of the early season kinks to enter conference play with perfect records. Additionally, Arizona State, Cal and Utah are a combined 7-0 as well. By comparison, the Pac-12 has more unbeaten teams left (8) as the Big Ten (2), Big 12 (4) and American Athletic Conference (1) combined and is tied with the SEC (8).
Pac-12 Power Rankings:
|Rk||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 2|
|1.||3-0||W, 48-14, Wyoming||at Washington St|
|2.||3-0||W, 20-17, Texas||Bye|
|3.||2-1||W, 35-0, Army||Bye|
|4.||3-0||W, 38-24, Colorado||Bye|
|5.||2-1||L, 37-31, Boston College||Bye|
|6.||3-0||W, 35-28, Nevada||Cal|
|7.||3-0||W, 44-19, Illinois||Georgia St|
|8.||2-0||Bye||San Diego St|
|11.||1-2||W, 59-21, Portland St||Oregon|
|12.||1-2||L, 38-24, Arizona St||Hawaii|
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter. Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 2 of the NFL season:
With Austin Davis starting for St. Louis in Week 2 and Shaun Hill starting for the team in Week 1, the Rams became the first team since 1991 to start two undrafted quarterbacks in the first two weeks of a season. Dave Krieg and Jeff Kemp started the first two weeks for Seattle in '91.
Alfred Morris scored his 21st and 22nd TDs for Washington in Week Two for his first multi-TD game since scoring three times against Dallas in 2012 (Week 17). Of the 22 touchdowns, nine of them have been 1-yard scores, including both scores in the Redskins' 41-10 against Jacksonville in Week 2.
With Buffalo's 29-10 win against Miami in Week 2, the Bills are 2-0 for the fifth time since 2000. Of course, the last four times Buffalo has been perfect through two weeks it has gone on to finish the season at .500 or below every time. The Bills had a 3-0 start in 2011 only to finish 6-10.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray Sunday surpassed Emmitt Smith for the most rushing yards in the first two games of the season in franchise history. With 167 yards against Tennessee, Murray now has 285 through two games to Smith's 277 set in 1995. Murray is the third player in Cowboys history with 100-yard days on the ground and a touchdown in the first two games of the season, joining Smith and Tony Dorsett.
A win's a win, it just did not light up the scoreboard as much as it usually does for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. With their 24-17 win against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, the Broncos were held under 25 points in a regular-season game for just the fifth time since Manning arrived in 2012. That's 28 of 33 games in which the Broncos have hit the quarter century mark.
Dallas pulled off a rare feat during the Jason Garrett reign in Week 2. With 43 rushing attempts to 29 pass attempts, the Cowboys rushed more than they passed for just the eighth time in Garrett's four-plus years as head coach. Dallas is 7-1 in those games. The Cowboys ran 43 times for 220 yards and completed 19-of-29 for 148 yards through the air in a 26-10 win in Tennessee.
Washington tied its team record (1977) with 10 sacks against Jacksonville in Week 2. Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne was on the wrong end of all 10 sacks, making him the most sacked QB in one game since Greg McElroy was dropped 11 times by San Diego in 2012 (Week 16). Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had four of those 10 sacks against Henne Sunday, tying the franchise's single-game record.
If it was not already clear that Jordy Nelson was Aaron Rodgers' favorite target, the Green Bay tandem let you know in Week 2. Nelson was targeted 16 times in the team's win over the Jets, making him the most targets Rodgers has ever sent toward one player in a single game. Nelson turned the 16 targets into 209 receiving yards, which were the most for a Packer since Don Beebe's 220 in 1996.
With a 50-yard pass and a 76-yard reception in Week 2, Cincinnati receiver Mohamed Sanu became the first player to throw a 50-plus-yard pass and have a 50-plus-yard reception in a single game since David Patten did so for New England in 2001.
Cleveland running back Terrence West rushed for 68 yards and caught for another 22 in a 26-24 upset of New Orleans Sunday and became the first rookie RB with 90 yards from scrimmage in his first two games since Chris Johnson and Matt Forte did so in 2008. West had 100 yards in the season opener (all on the ground).
With the New England Patriots’ 30-7 victory at Minnesota, quarterback Tom Brady earned his 149th career win, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (148) for the third-most victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady now has a 149-46 (.764) record as a starter.
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers’ 31-24 win over the New York Jets. Rodgers has 24,732 career passing yards and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr (24,718) for the second-most passing yards in franchise history. Brett Favre ranks first with 61,655 passing yards.
By Corby A. Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 3
3: Texas Tech’s Possessions in Second Half Against Arkansas
Saturday’s matchup between Arkansas and Texas Tech wasn’t just a Big 12-SEC battle, it also featured an interesting clash of styles. Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense met the ground-and-pound Arkansas attack, and there was no doubt which team was better on Saturday. The Razorbacks gashed the Red Raiders defense for 438 rushing yards (6.4 ypr) and seven scores. Time of possession is overrated stat at times, but Bret Bielema’s offense held the ball for 40:39, which limited the high-powered Texas Tech offense to just three second-half possessions. The Red Raiders only registered 6:05 in time of possession over the final two quarters. Running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams and a massive offensive line were simply too much for Texas Tech’s defense.
14: Teams Washington LB Shaq Thompson Outscored in Week 3
Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson turned in one of the top defensive performances of Week 3 by returning an interception 36 yards for a score and later scoring on a 52-yard fumble return. By scoring 12 points on those two plays, Thompson successfully outscored the following teams in Week 3: Central Michigan, Kansas, UCF, Minnesota, Tennessee, Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Rutgers, Eastern Michigan, Southern Miss, Rice, Army, South Alabama and ULM.
3: Teams that Ran 100 Plays in Week 3
Coincidence or just good luck? Three teams ran at least 100 plays in Week 3: Bowling Green, Western Kentucky and West Virginia. Two of those teams (West Virginia and Bowling Green) won, while Western Kentucky fell short in overtime against MTSU. Running a lot of plays doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s an interesting stat for up-tempo offenses. Northern Illinois leads the nation with 284 plays through three weeks, with the Hilltoppers checking in at No. 2 (276).
147:24: Minutes of Game Action in LSU’s Shutout Streak
Since allowing a two-yard touchdown run by Wisconsin running back Corey Clement in third quarter of the opener, LSU has held its opponents scoreless. The Tigers shutout streak ran to 147 minutes and 24 seconds of game action after defeating ULM 31-0 on Saturday. LSU is allowing just 3.5 yards per play and has registered eight sacks in three games. Sure, the competition will get better, but coach Les Miles and coordinator John Chavis have once again reloaded on the defensive side. The shutout streak will be put to the test in Week 4 with Mississippi State visiting Baton Rouge.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
227: Penn State’s Rushing Yardage Through 3 Games
With four new starters, it’s no surprise Penn State’s offensive line has struggled through the first three games of 2014. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been sacked eight times, and rushers are averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. In Saturday’s win over Rutgers, the Nittany Lions averaged only 1.9 yards per carry. Penn State also has only one rush of 20 or more yards this season. There’s no doubt the Nittany Lions can win a lot of games behind Hackenberg, a good defense and coach James Franklin. However, averaging only 75.7 rushing yards per contest versus Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State will be tough to overcome.
2: Touchdowns Allowed by Ole Miss in Three Games
The Rebels’ defense was one of the biggest reasons for optimism surrounding this team’s breakout potential in 2014. So far, so good. Ole Miss has allowed just two touchdowns through three games and is limiting opponents to just 10.3 points per contest. The Rebels are tied for the second-fewest touchdowns allowed in the nation with Alabama, while Stanford has surrendered just one in three contests. Ole Miss will face tougher competition ahead with matchups against Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn. However, there’s no doubt this defense is one of the best in the nation.
188: Yards by Louisville After Opening Possession
After going 75 yards in nine plays in Saturday’s matchup against Virginia, all signs pointed to a Louisville victory. However, the Cavaliers’ defense dominated for most of the game, limiting the Cardinals to just 188 yards on the next 15 possessions. Louisville managed to score touchdowns on back-to-back 50-yard drives in the second half, but Virginia forced eight punts and four turnovers after allowing the successful opening possession. Despite the Cavaliers’ shortcomings on offense, this defense is good enough to keep them in games this year.
61.6: Average Yards of Baylor WR KD Cannon’s TD Catches
Baylor is known for its big-play passing offense under coach Art Briles, but the Bears have a new weapon in true freshman receiver KD Cannon. In three games this year, Cannon has caught 14 passes for 471 yards and five scores. The true freshman is averaging 33.6 yards per catch, with his five touchdown catches averaging 61.6 yards per reception. Needless to say, this true freshman is already one of the top receivers in college football.
452: Rushing Yards by Boston College Against USC
In Saturday’s surprise 37-31 victory over USC, Boston College recorded a staggering 452 rushing yards on 54 attempts. The Eagles scored five times on the ground and averaged a whopping 8.4 yards per carry. Four Boston College rushers had at least eight carries, including quarterback Tyler Murphy (13 attempts) and Jon Hilliman (19). To put the Eagles’ 452 yards in perspective: Coming into Week 3, USC allowed only 285 yards on the ground through two games. The 452 rushing yards allowed were the most by a Trojans’ defense since the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl.
20.4: Yards Per Carry by Duke RB Shaun Wilson in Week 3
Wilson has quickly emerged as one of the top playmakers for Duke’s offense. The true freshman gashed Kansas for 245 yards and three touchdowns, along with recording one catch for seven yards. Wilson also averaged an insane 20.4 yards per carry and scored three times. The freshman’s 245 yards set a school record. Through three games, Wilson has 334 yards on 21 attempts.
Other Stats to Know
* Georgia Southern leads the nation by averaging 9.1 yards per play.
* Nebraska recorded four scoring plays of at least 50 yards against Fresno State.
* Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett averaged 50.3 yards per catch on Saturday. Four of Dorsett’s eight catches have gone for scores this year.
* Stanford has recorded two shutouts in three games this year. The Cardinal recorded only one shutout from 2011-13.
* Florida receiver Demarcus Robinson recorded 216 receiving yards on 15 catches against Kentucky. Robinson recorded the first 200-yard effort since Taylor Jacobs posted 246 receiving yards in 2002.
* In Saturday’s win over Ohio, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato became the second player (Chad Pennington) in school history to throw for 100 touchdown passes in a career.
* Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown accounted for 402 of the Terrapins’ 447 yards in the 40-37 loss to West Virginia.
* All three of TCU’s touchdown drives against Minnesota took less than two minutes. The Horned Frogs’ new up-tempo attack is paying dividends, as the offense has scored 78 points through two games.
* Michigan running back Derrick Green has rushed for 332 yards through three games. He had 270 in 13 contests last year.
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for five touchdowns and 325 total yards in Saturday’s 42-38 win over Georgia Southern.
* Wake Forest recorded -25 rushing yards against Utah State. The Demon Deacons have recorded negative rushing yards in two out of their first three games this year.
* Indiana and Bowling Green combined for 69 first downs and 1,153 yards on Saturday.
* After falling behind 3-0 to Central Michigan, Syracuse scored 40 unanswered points to win 40-3.
* Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight has two career 300-yard passing performances. Both have come against SEC opponents (Alabama and Tennessee).
* East Carolina recorded 502 yards of offense in Saturday’s upset win over Virginia Tech. The Pirates’ 533 yards were the most against the Hokies since North Carolina recorded 533 on Sept. 15, 2012.
* Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol has nine touchdown passes through three games. The Bulldogs had 10 touchdown scores all of last season.
* Virginia Tech’s first seven drives went only 30 yards against East Carolina.
* Pittsburgh running back James Conner has 544 yards through three games. That’s the most by a Panther running back in a three-game stretch since Tony Dorsett in 1973.
* Western Kentucky has recorded at least 700 yards of total offense in two out of three games this year.
* BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams recorded 499 of BYU’s 523 yards against Houston on Thursday night.
* Vanderbilt has started three different quarterbacks in three games.
* Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle has thrown for at least 400 yards in two out of his three games this year.
* Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson has thrown for 200 yards in back-to-back games.
* Colorado State averaged 10.1 yards per play in its 49-21 victory over UC Davis.
* 20 of Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer’s 30 completions went to freshmen in the 28-21 loss to East Carolina.
* Bowling Green freshman receiver Roger Lewis grabbed 16 receptions in Saturday’s win over Indiana. Lewis ranks No. 3 nationally with 30 catches through three games this year.
* Miami, Ohio recorded only eight first downs in Saturday’s 34-10 loss to Michigan.
* USF had more turnovers than third-down conversions in Saturday’s loss to NC State. The Bulls converted 2 of 10 third-down attempts and committed three turnovers.
* Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer’s 56 pass attempts against East Carolina are a school record.
* 75 of USF’s 89 passing yards against NC State came on a touchdown pass early in the first quarter.
* West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett’s 511 passing yards ranked No. 2 in school history.
* Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s 342 passing yards against Arkansas State were the most by a true freshman passer in school history.
* ULL has lost seven turnovers over its last two games.
* Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin ranks second nationally by averaging 186.5 yards per game. The true freshman gashed Idaho for 210 yards and three scores in Week 3.
* Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman averaged 19.8 yards per completion (16 of 30) in Saturday’s win over UTSA.
* Good sign for Texas A&M’s defense? Rice isn’t the toughest opponent, but the Aggies faced 91 plays and allowed only 10 points and held the Owls to 5.3 yards per play.
* Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson has recorded three consecutive 100-yard efforts.
* Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel threw six touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Toledo. Kiel’s set a NCAA record for the most passing touchdowns by a quarterback playing in his first FBS game.
* Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova tossed five interceptions in Saturday’s loss to Penn State. That’s the second time in Nova’s career he has tossed at least five interceptions in a game.
* In Saturday’s win over Kent State, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett tied a school record with six touchdown passes.
Saturday will bring the start of conference play in earnest as key games in the SEC, Big 12 and ACC dot our highlights for next week.
Before league play though, there’s one major heavyweight non-conference game, and it could be a critical momentum game for the SEC and Big 12.
Thursdays have quiet since the opening week of the season, but Auburn and Kansas State will bring us an anticipated midweek game to rival the NFL’s new presence on Thursday evenings.
Here’s a look at the top games for Week 4.
The Week Ahead: Sept. 18-20
All times Eastern. All games Saturday, unless noted.
Auburn at Kansas State
Where and when: ESPN, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
We’re watching because... we want to see how many times Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters can punch and counterpunch. Both are effective runners trying to prove their wares in the passing game. We’re not quite sure what Auburn is bringing to the table in the SEC this season as Marshall has played only one half of a meaningful game this season. A win for Kansas State puts the Wildcats into Big 12 contention with Oklahoma and Baylor.
Vegas says: Auburn by 9 1/2
Florida at Alabama
Where and when: CBS, 3:30 p.m.
We’re watching because... neither team has found its footing. No one expected Blake Sims to start Alabama’s SEC opener over Jake Coker, but Sims has done enough to hold onto the job. Will Sims’ short passing game and Alabama’s ample skill position talent be enough to win in the SEC? Meanwhile, Florida’s offense reverted to its 2013 form in a triple overtime home win over Kentucky. The Gators averaged 5.7 yards per play and just 2.9 points per trip inside the 40 in regulation (two touchdowns, two field goals, two missed field goals and a turnover).
Vegas says: Alabama by 14 1/2
Mississippi State at LSU
Where and when: ESPN, 7 p.m.
We’re watching because... Mississippi State will try to join the conversation in the SEC West. The Bulldogs have plateaued under Dan Mullen, not that regular bowl games are a bad thing for Mississippi State. But this is still a team riding a 15-game losing streak against ranked teams. The Bulldogs believe Dak Prescott is the quarterback to get Mississippi State over the hump, but LSU is outscoring opponents 108-0 since falling behind 24-7 to Wisconsin in the opener.
Vegas says: LSU by 10
Oklahoma at West Virginia
Where and when: FOX, 7:30 p.m.
We’re watching because... this will be strength against strength. West Virginia’s offense has returned to form with Clint Trickett and a pair of standout receivers in Kevin White and Mario Alford. The Mountaineers have improved each week on offense, impressive considering the starting point was 393 yards against Alabama. Will the Mountaineers’ passing game be able to move the ball against a speedy Oklahoma offense? The Sooners have looked the part of Big 12 favorite and Playoff contender all year, but this will be the toughest test of the year.
Vegas says: Oklahoma by 11
Clemson at Florida State
Where and when: ABC, 8 p.m.
We’re watching because... we’re expecting to see different teams than the ones that showed up in Week 1. Clemson was dreadful in the second half against Georgia, and Florida State hardly looked like a dominant title contender against Oklahoma State. Since the, both teams dispatched an FCS opponent and had a bye week. It’s the fourth week of the season, and Jameis Winston has been awfully quiet.
Vegas says: Florida State by 19
Crooked passing numbers are the hallmark of Big 12 teams. In that way, West Virginia is starting to fit in again.
After a one-year bowl absence and a rotating cast of injured and ineffective quarterbacks, West Virginia is starting to look like a real Big 12 offense after a one-year absence.
Quarterback Clint Trickett completed 37-of-47 passes for 511 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 40-37 win on the road over Maryland, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week.
The win is critical not only for helping to establish West Virginia as a factor in the Big 12 but also for the shaky tenure of third-year coach Dana Holgorsen.
Trickett had the help of two receivers who topped the 10-catch mark in Kevin White (216 yards, one touchdown) and Mario Alford (131 yards, two TDs) and Josh Lambert’s 47-yard field goal as time expired.
“I barely even did anything,” Trickett said. “I’m throwing it two yards and then they take it 90 and make me look good.”
That may be true, but Trickett also told Athlon Sports earlier in the week that he’s finally a complete quarterback for West Virginia. Trickett rose to the starting job last season without firm grasp of the offense, and by the time he was comfortable in the scheme, he was battling a shoulder injury.
“The only healthy guy these guys saw last year was a guy who had no clue what he was doing in the offense,” Trickett said earlier in the week. “Now they see a guy who is healthy and has a good understanding of what’s going on.”
National Defensive Player of the Week: Shaq Thompson, Washington
Washington finally got the lopsided win expected of the Huskies this season after close calls with Hawaii and Eastern Washington. As Shaq Thompson continues to see reps at running back, the linebacker was the focal point on defense with a pair of touchdowns in the first half in a 44-19 win over Illinois. Thompson returned an interception 36 yards for a score and a fumble 52 yards in the win.
National Freshman of the Week: Shaun Wilson, Duke
If there’s any concern Duke is more than a one-year wonder in the ACC, Blue Devils freshman Shan Wilson tried to ease it. Wilson entered the game as a freshman at No. 3 on the depth chart and left with a school rushing record. Wilson rushed for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-3 win over Kansas, averaging an astounding 20.4 yards per carry.
National Coordinator of the Week: Lincoln Riley, East Carolina
Riley is already one of the top coaches under 40 and an assistant who will be in demand thanks to East Carolina’s prolific Air Raid in Conference USA last season. This, however, might end up as the breakout game for the 30-year-old.
East Carolina defeated a ranked team for the first time since 2009 and did so against a pass rush and secondary that just demolished Ohio State in Columbus last week. East Carolina passed for 427 yards against Virginia Tech, the third most yards the Hokies have allowed an opposing quarterback.
Conference Players of the Week
ACC: Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in a 37-31 win over USC. Murphy completed 5-of-13 passes for 55 yards with an interception.
Big Ten: Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel and four tackles and three tackles for a loss in a 13-10 win over Rutgers.
Pac-12: UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was 23-of-30 for 178 yards with two touchdowns in relief of an injured Brett Hundley in a 20-17 win over Texas.
SEC: Arkansas running back Alex Collins rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 49-28 win over Texas Tech.
American: East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden completed 23-of-47 passes for 427 yards with three touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Virginia Tech. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammer completed 17-of-28 passes for 218 yards with a touchdown in a 50-47 win over Western Kentucky in triple overtime. He also rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
MAC: Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke completed 46-of-73 passes for 385 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 45-42 win over Indiana. The former backup also rushed for 37 yards on eight carries.
Mountain West: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo completed 29-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-28 loss to Arizona.
Sun Belt: Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle completed 26-of-42 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 48-38 loss to Air Force.
Independents: BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completed 21-of-34 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 33-25 win over Houston. He also rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Week 3 offered only one game between two ranked teams, so the notion of Heisman moments was in short supply this week.
There was one great play by the current frontrunner for the award, but that play came against Wyoming. It will live in Marcus Mariota’s highlight package, but there will be more to come in bigger games.
Instead, this was probably a more notable weekend for those who showed up in the sleeper category of all those preseason lists.
The Heisman race is the only sports award that determines its field of contenders before the season actually starts. As such, we’ll keep track of all the contenders (and pretenders) for the award here.
Knight completed 20-of-33 passes for 308 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 34-10 win over Tennessee. That gives him a pair of 300-yard passing games against SEC teams, though the gulf between Alabama and the Volunteers may be wide.
First off: Nothing Gurley did should be counted against him. He was magnificent as usual with 131 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Georgia’s decision to pass on first-and-goal from the 4 resulting in an intentional grounding denied Gurley a chance for a potential game-winning touchdown in a road game against South Carolina. Those plays are the bedrock of a Heisman campaign, but Georgia opted for another, less successful, direction.
Petty played his first game at full strength this season and looked like the Petty of 2013. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 416 yards with four touchdowns in a 63-21 win over Buffalo on Friday. Petty missed the last game and was in visible pain in the SMU opener due to cracked bones in his back.
Ho-hum, the Huskies linebacker is only Washington’s third-leading scorer with 18 points. The two-way star did it the old-fashioned way in a 44-19 rout of Illinois with an interception and a fumble returned for touchdowns. Reminder: a defensive player has as many touchdowns as Rice and South Alabama and more than Southern Miss and SMU.
Is the Pittsburgh tailback the 2014 version of Andre Williams? Perhaps so. He rushed for 177 yards on 31 carries in a 42-25 win over FIU. He added three touchdowns for a nation’s-best eight this season. Conner probably deserves another nod a week late after watching what Boston College’s run defense did to USC. Conner rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.
Under the circumstances, UCLA has nothing but good news surrounding its star quarterback. The Bruins found a way to beat Texas under backup Jerry Neuheisel for more than three quarters, and Hundley is expected back for UCLA’s next game at Arizona State on Sept. 25 after he mends a hyperextended elbow. He was off to a perfect start (4-for-4) against the Longhorns before his injury.
Kelly completed 13-of-21 passes for 195 yards and rushed for 70 and a touchdown in the 38-24 win over Colorado, but his status is in question. Kelly left the game in the third quarter and returned to the sideline on crutches and with his right foot in a boot.
History and Geno Smith remind us not to get too excited about West Virginia quarterbacks in September, but Trickett is one of the most improved QBs in the nation. He completed 37-of-49 passes for 511 yards with four touchdowns in a 40-37 win over Maryland and is in the top five nationally in yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4).
As long as Texas Tech’s run defense is abysmal, the Red Raiders will need 400 yards out of Webb. The sophomore completed 27-of-45 passes for 252 and offered up his second two-interception game of the season.
To the extend a Minnesota running back was a viable Heisman contender, Cobb rushed for 41 yards on 15 carries in a 30-7 loss to TCU.
San Francisco will christen brand-new Levi’s Stadium by facing off with Chicago tonight on NBC. The 49ers (1-0) look to continue the momentum from their convincing 28-17 win in Dallas last week by breaking in their new building with a victory in front of what’s sure to be a raucous home crowd. The Bears have the difficult task of heading to the West Coast to face a championship-caliber team while also attempting to rebound from a disappointing 23-20 overtime home loss last week to the Bills.
This will be the 60th all-time regular season meeting between these two proud and historic franchises. The series is tied at 29-29-1, but the 49ers have won the past two games as well as the last eight played at home, although this will be the first at Levi’s Stadium.
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: San Francisco -7
Three Things to Watch
|Chicago 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs BUF||L 20 - 23||Recap|
|9/14||@ SF||W 28 - 20||Recap|
|9/22||@ NYJ||W 27 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs GB||L 17 - 38||Recap|
1. Introducing Levi’s Stadium
After 43 seasons and 205 regular season victories, the most by any team in its home stadium, the 49ers have bid a fond farewell to Candlestick Park. Tonight’s game will mark the debut of Levi’s Stadium, a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly, forward-thinking facility in Santa Clara, Calif., that seats approximately 68,500 and cost $1.2 billion to build. The first NFL stadium built in California since 1967, Levi’s Stadium has already made a name for itself by becoming the first NFL venue to receive LEED Gold certification, a recognition of commitment to environmental sustainability in design and construction. The stadium’s other amenities and features are equally top-notch, even if the turf has already been replaced. The site of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game in December and Super Bowl 50 in February 2016, Levi’s Stadium is sure to get its share of coverage during tonight’s broadcast. On the field, the 49ers’ focus will be on making themselves comfortable in their new surroundings with the goal of ending the night 1-0 at Levi’s Stadium.
|San Francisco 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs CHI||L 20 - 28||Recap|
|9/21||@ ARI||L 14 - 23||Recap|
|9/28||vs PHI||W 26 - 21||Recap|
2. Bear-ing Down on the Ground
Chicago had trouble stopping the run last season and that’s putting it lightly. The Bears were dead last in the NFL at 161.4 rushing yards per game allowed. The defensive line was beset by injuries and a lack of depth in 2013, something the team focused on fixing this offseason. A trio of veteran defensive ends in Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were brought in and the team also drafted a pair of defensive tackles in Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Unfortunately, as Week 1 showed, coordinator Mel Tucker’s defense is still a work in progress. Buffalo rushed for 193 yards on 33 carries (5.0 ypc), including a 47-yard run by Anthony Dixon and a pivotral 38-yard run by Fred Jackson that set up the Bills’ game-winning field goal in overtime. Things won’t get any easier tonight against San Francisco, a team that loves to run the ball. Frank Gore has put together three consecutive 1,100-yard rushing seasons and the 49ers have added second-round pick Carlos Hyde to their backfield. This duo combined for 116 yards on 23 carries (5.0 ypc) in the Week 1 victory in Dallas, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s running ability can’t be overlooked either. To put it simply, Chicago’s defense needs to gel and quickly if it doesn’t want to get run over by the home team. One thing that could help the Bears’ defense is support from its running game. DeMarco Murray piled up 118 yards rushing last week on a depleted San Francisco defense and Chicago has its own Pro Bowl-caliber running back in Matt Forté, who had 82 yards on the ground against Buffalo.
3. Quality Quarterback Play
Last season, Chicago’s offense under first-year head coach Marc Trestman developed into one of the NFL’s most productive and explosive units. The Bears finished among the top eight in the league in total, passing and scoring offense. The triggerman for this attack is Jay Cutler, who needs to make smart decisions for this offense to be most effective. Case in point: Cutler threw two interceptions in last week’s overtime home loss to Buffalo. He has now thrown at least two picks in 29 career games. In those games, his teams are 6-23 compared to 50-25 when he limits his throwing miscues to one or fewer. The team showed its trust in Cutler when it signed him to a seven-year, $126 million extension. Now he needs to show that it was money well spent. On the other side, Colin Kaepernick is in his just his second full season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback, but the expectations are just as high as they are for Cutler, if not higher. That's what happens when come on the scene as a relatively unheralded rookie in 2012, take over for a concussed Alex Smith and lead your team to the Super Bowl. The 49ers made it back to the NFC title game last season and the goal remains the same in 2014. On a team that’s dedicated to running the football and playing tough defense, Kaepernick’s not asked to do too much, but if the 49ers want to become that much more dangerous, and likewise tougher to defend, on offense they will have to open up the playbook some. In 24 career regular-season starts, Kaepernick is 18-6 with a 33:11 TD:INT ratio. Kaepernick also has had success against the Bears before, as his first career start came against them in Week 11 of the 2012 season on “Monday Night Football.” In that game, Kaepernick threw for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in an easy 32-7 win. If he plays that well tonight chances are he will run his career mark to 2-0 against Chicago, especially if Cutler’s ball-security issues continue to make an appearance.
Football fans are in for a real San Francisco treat tonight as the 49ers unveil their brand spanking new stadium. The home team will no doubt be fired up and focused on breaking in Levi’s Stadium the right way – with a win. Chicago is reeling after last week’s disappointing overtime home loss to Buffalo, a defeat that opened up some old wounds from the 2013 season. The Bears’ offense, when healthy, is good enough to give any defense problems, especially a 49ers unit that’s missing some key pieces. However, Chicago enters this game missing two starters on the offensive line and with both of its top wide receivers dealing with injuries. Momentum is squarely on San Francisco’s side, as well as the added excitement, energy and emotion that’s associated with this being the first game in its new stadium. Chicago puts up a fight, but the 49ers make enough plays on both sides of the ball to make the first-ever game at Levi's Stadium a happy memory for the home fans in attendance.
Prediction: San Francisco 37, Chicago 20
Kansas City’s injury-ravaged defense could be in for another tough day at the office when it faces Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High this afternoon on CBS. The Chiefs (0-1) not only lost their season opener at home to the Titans last week, it also lost All-Pro linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive lineman Mike DeVito to season-ending injuries. The Broncos (1-0) meanwhile jumped out to a 24-0 lead on the Colts before holding off a furious rally by Andrew Luck and company to win their opener.
Denver has won its last four meetings against its AFC West rival, all of which have featured Peyton Manning under center. The Broncos have outscored the Chiefs 117-57 during this span, 65-20 at home.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Denver -13.5
Three Things to Watch
|Kansas City 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs TEN||L 10 - 26||Recap|
|9/14||@ DEN||L 17 - 24||Recap|
|9/21||@ MIA||W 34 - 15||Recap|
|9/29||vs NE||W 41 - 14||Recap|
1. Are the Chiefs Defense-less?
Nothing went right for Kansas City in its season-opening home loss to Tennessee. The Chiefs were outgained 450 total yards to 245, went 1 for 12 on third-down conversions and committed three turnovers. However, the biggest losses came on the defensive side when the aforementioned Johnson and DeVito each tore their Achilles. That’s two starters gone, Johnson being an All-Pro and one of the anchors, from a defense that was struggling to begin with. Also, no one is going to mistake the Titans’ offense, which is led by a third-year starting quarterback, for Denver’s, which set numerous records last season and is headed up by one of the greatest signal-callers to ever play the game. Peyton Manning is 11-1 (including playoffs) against Kansas City in his career with a 24:11 TD:INT ratio and close to 300 yards passing per game. The Chiefs’ defense had enough trouble slowing down the Broncos’ offense last season with Johnson and DeVito on the field. This task will be that much tougher without them.
2. Getting More out of the Ground Game
With Kansas City’s issues on defense, even more of the burden will fall on the offense to carry this team. The Chiefs’ offense starts and ends with running back Jamaal Charles, an All-Pro last season who tied for the NFL lead with 12 rushing touchdowns and led with 19 total scores. Last week against Tennessee, Charles finished with just 19 yards rushing on seven carries. Usually active in the passing game (7 TD catches in 2013), Charles was targeted only four times against the Titans. After the game, head coach Andy Reid said Charles’ lack of touches was “negligence” on his part, so expect that to change against Denver. A big key will be how successful Charles is running behind a revamped offensive line that saw three starters depart in free agency and is without another who is suspended. The Broncos gave up just 54 yards on the ground last week to Indianapolis, but the Colts don’t have an All-Pro talent like Charles in their backfield. Whether Denver’s Montee Ball is on the same level remains to be seen, but the Broncos are hoping for big things from their second-year back, who is taking over for the departed Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno racked up 134 yards rushing in his Miami debut, Ball was held in check by the Colts, finishing with 67 yards on 23 carries. As a team, the Broncos finished with 102 yards on the ground, but need to improve on their 3.2 yard-per-carry average. The Titans racked up 162 yards rushing last week against the Chiefs, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs IND||W 31 - 24||Recap|
|9/14||vs KC||W 24 - 17||Recap|
|9/21||@ SEA||L 20 - 26||Recap|
|10/5||vs ARI||4:05 pm||Buy Tickets|
3. The Other Passing Attack
Everyone is well familiar with the efficient, productive machine that is Peyton Manning and the Denver passing attack. Even though Eric Decker is now a New York Jet and Wes Welker is currently suspended, Manning and company did their usual thing against Indianapolis – 22-of-36 passing for 269 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Alex Smith barely completed half of his passes (19 of 35) for 202 yards, one touchdown and three picks in Kansas City’s home loss to Tennessee. To be fair, Smith was missing his best wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, who was serving a one-game suspension. That said, Bowe struggled last season and even if he rebounds to his 2010 Pro Bowl form, Smith’s group of pass-catchers simply doesn’t match up with Manning’s stable. Kansas City will have to find a way to move the ball and score some points to keep up with Denver’s high-octane offense at home, which means the passing game will need to do its part. And it will have to do so against a Broncos defense that has added a trio of Pro Bowlers in pass-rushing specialist DeMarcus Ware, lockdown cornerback Aqib Talib and hard-hitting safety T.J. Ward.
Even at full strength, Kansas City’s defense figured to have its hands full trying to slow down Peyton Manning and Denver’s offense, especially at home. The Chiefs’ pass rush could cause some issues for Manning in the pocket, but without Derrick Johnson in the middle and Mike DeVito up front, I just don’t see this defense being able to hold the Broncos down long. And regardless of what the defense is able to do, the Chiefs’ offense has its own issues and will be working to fix them against a markedly different defense than it faced last season. Denver was near unstoppable (9-1) last season at home, a trend I fully expect to continue this afternoon.
Prediction: Denver 38, Kansas City 20
The third week of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. On paper, Week 3 was supposed to be boring. After all, there were few matchups featuring top 25 teams. However, Week 3 provided plenty of entertainment, including several night games that went down to the wire.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football’s Most Viral Moments from Week 3
BYU Football 9-11 fan card tribute pic.twitter.com/Dbv2U43pIU— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) September 12, 2014
North Texas Mean Green new black helmets in action pic.twitter.com/lExedmJkpr— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) September 12, 2014
Hacker? Lane Kiffin's Official Alabama bio looks a bit off... pic.twitter.com/BLhxx1K2FF— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) September 12, 2014
Ruffin McNeill looked fly when he played for East Carolina in the '70s pic.twitter.com/NhReeKMxlo— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) September 13, 2014
What did Holgorsen say to Lambert before game-winning kick? "I haven't talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus."— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) September 13, 2014
Join the club RT @Mark__Snyder: Devin Funchess is NOT dressed— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) September 13, 2014
Spotted: Brady Hoke with a headset on.— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) September 13, 2014
whoops https://t.co/dNak65nsWb— Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) September 13, 2014
5 minutes to kickoff in Miami. Canes vs. Arkansas State. pic.twitter.com/ciJiZZIril— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) September 13, 2014
Wyoming lost to Oregon today, which means Craig Bohl has lost his first game in 700 days.— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) September 13, 2014
Here's the missed FG in the UMass/Vandy game. https://t.co/OUToOj80JF— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) September 13, 2014
This game is attracting all types of fans. This guy put tape on and then went to the beach. 90 minutes later: voila pic.twitter.com/9av2AfI7h2— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) September 13, 2014
New visiting sideline field banner at FAU Stadium reads 1.8 Miles To The Beach pointing out proximity to the ocean. pic.twitter.com/WJ4bBndS2z— FAU OwlAccess (@FAUOWLACCESS) September 13, 2014
So UCLA wins the toss and elects to defer. And then Texas chooses to kickoff. So UCLA will get it twice.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) September 14, 2014
Charlie Strong is not pleased.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) September 14, 2014
UNREAL pic.twitter.com/rmdwaF5PMb— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) September 14, 2014
Look how high the Rutgers guy got on the blocked field goal. pic.twitter.com/FYYyEs59pc— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) September 14, 2014
After injuring hikens elbow on a scramble, UCLA QB Brett Hundley was pushed down by Jim Mora to cause an injury timeout. http://t.co/CNEFvBDVbG— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 14, 2014
Here, have a Will Muschamp vine https://t.co/WbPSHJnZBN— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 14, 2014
Steve Spurrier: "I knew we had a good chance to beat them when I heard Finebaum pick them to win by 20 points."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 14, 2014
Jordan Phillips shmoney dance https://t.co/a55fERYrLD— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 14, 2014
Not what anyone wants to see. Chuckie Keeton on crutches. pic.twitter.com/LTCC7Rhm9k— torinkoos (@torinkoos) September 14, 2014
JerryWorld, indeed pic.twitter.com/AMnVHQjgxw— J.A. Adande (@jadande) September 14, 2014
Franklin said that students greeted the PSU buses by waving ... with one finger. Also said the stadium had a great atmosphere, great energy.— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) September 14, 2014
Several tight ends have already been ruled out for Week 2 because of injuries. Here are the names you need to know before setting your lineup.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
Probable – Knee
Gronkowski will probably remain a fixture on the injury report this season. Not only is he coming back from a serious knee injury, but the Patriots have been known to be very liberal, shall we say, when it comes to players’ injury statuses. That said, as long as Gronk is listed as Probable he should play. How much is the question. Last week in limited snaps Gronk still made his presence felt (44 yds., TD), but his owners just need to understand the risk that comes with employing the immensely talented, yet injury-prone tight end.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns vs. New Orleans Saints
Questionable – Shoulder
Cameron re-aggravated a shoulder injury last week, which held him out of practice this week. It’s a sprained right AC joint, which he initially suffered in August. The good news is that to this point, there doesn’t appear to be any serious concern regarding the injury. Even with the Questionable designation, head coach Mike Pettine said he’s hopeful he’ll have his tight end today. That said, it’s probably safest to go a different route unless you have the time and patience to wait until his status is known before kickoff.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Probable – Hamstring
A lingering hamstring issue has been enough of a problem to keep Gates out of practice. However, he’s listed as Probable and it could be the team just resting their veteran to make sure he’s fresh for the game. Gates’ fantasy outlook is somewhat cloudy to begin with because of the presence of Ladarius Green. Gates remains the starter, but Green’s definitely lurking, especially if injuries continue to be a problem for the former. That said, Gates is a risky enough option this week because of the matchup with the Seahawks. Consider yourself warned.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams
Out – Ankle
The Bucs’ second-round choice has been ruled Out for today’s game because of an ankle injury. Seferian-Jenkins’ NFL debut last week was limited to two targets and one catch for 26 yards, but it will be at least another week until he’s back on the field. The rookie still offers plenty of upside, so for now I would stay the course, find a replacement and hope Seferian-Jenkins’ ankle heals quickly.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Out – Hamstring
Reed has already been ruled Out because of a hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him for several weeks. Niles Paul will get the starting nod in Reed’s absence and could be a stealth add for Reed owners or someone not happy with their current TE situation. Paul led the team last week with 86 yards receiving on just four catches.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons
Out – Dislocated elbow
Eifert dislocated his elbow last week and has been placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He won’t be eligible to return to the field until Week 10 at the earliest. Jermaine Gresham will take Eifert’s place in the starting lineup and is worth considering if your league starts more than one TE.
A tough Texan and a wounded Jaguar are just some of the wide receiver injuries fantasy owners should be aware of for Week 2. Be sure to read this before setting your starting lineup today.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders
Probable – Ankle
Johnson has been nursing a minor ankle injury that’s limited his practice participation. But he is listed as Probable and it’s not like this tough Texan hasn’t played through injury before. Johnson has proven time and again that he can be effective even when he’s not at 100 percent so you can plug him into your starting lineup with confidence.
Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee, WRs, Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Redskins
Doubtful – Hamstring; Probable – Knee
Shorts missed last week because of a hamstring injury and it’s not looking good for Week 2 either. The hamstring continues to hamper him and causing him to miss practice, and don’t forget Doubtful is just one step removed from Out. Meanwhile Lee is Probable with a knee injury, so he should be able to play. Even though Lee is probably the safer bet long term, it appears that Allen Hurns, last week’s out-of-nowhere fantasy stud will get another week as a key target for Chad Henne. I don’t have an issue with having either in your lineup; just don’t bank on a repeat of Hurns’ Week 1 success.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Probable – Hamstring
Wallace was limited in practice earlier this week because of a hamstring issue, but he’s expected to be on the field today against the Bills. It’s just one game, but Wallace already appears much more comfortable in the Dolphins’ new offense than he did last season. He caught seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown against New England last week. Wallace is a fine WR2 option with upside.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Dallas Cowboys
Probable – Knee
Hunter missed practice on Wednesday because of a knee injury. He shows up on the injury report, but he’s listed as Probable and there’s no reason to not expect him to play. A popular breakout candidate entering the season, Hunter could post big numbers against a suspect Cowboys’ secondary. Nothing wrong with plugging Hunter in as a WR2/WR3/flex and seeing what happens.
The Week 2 fate of a pair of Chicago wide receivers could go down to the wire. Those are just a few of the injury stories we are keeping tabs on.
Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, WRs, Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers
Questionable – Hamstring; Questionable – Ankle
Last week was not a good one for Chicago, who not only lost at home in overtime to Buffalo, but also saw its top two wide receivers get hurt. Jeffery sustained a hamstring injury that kept him on the sideline for the rest of the game, while Marshall hurt his ankle, but was able to return. Both wideouts missed the majority of practice this week and are listed as Questionable for tonight’s game in San Francisco. Right now, Marshall’s chances of playing appear higher, but given the late kickoff it may be best to leave both on the bench and look elsewhere. Even if either plays, expectations should be tempered due to their health and the matchup with a 49ers defense that’s ready to come after Jay Cutler, who is missing two of his primary protectors up front.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Atlanta Falcons
Probable – Foot
Green missed some practice time this week because of a foot issue, but he’s Probable and head coach Marvin Lewis said he will play. This is more a team being cautious with their No. 1 wide receiver, who finished his Week 1 effort with an electrifying 77-yard touchdown reception. Green is a bona fide WR1 who only leaves your lineup when he’s on bye.
Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Probable – Quadriceps
Stills missed last week because of a quad injury, which was still limiting him in practice this week. However, he’s been upgraded to Probable, so there’s a chance he will play today. That doesn’t mean he should be plugged into your lineup right away, as rookie Brandin Cooks looked quite comfortable last week and Drew Brees also has Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Pierre Thomas to throw to. Stills could provide sneaky production down the road, but he’ll most likely only be valuable in deeper leagues.
Odell Beckham, WR, New York Giants vs. Arizona Cardinals
Out – Hamstring
The wait for the debut of the Giants’ No. 1 pick will continue, as Beckham will miss a second game because of a lingering hamstring issue. Those who have stayed with Beckham this long may as well continue to ride it out, but strong showings from either Rueben Randle or Jerrel Jernigan could push Beckham even further down the pecking order.
No Adrian Peterson in Week 2 and he’s not the only popular fantasy running back option who may not play. Here are some other key ball-carriers to keep an eye on.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams
Questionable - Knee
A shoulder injury limited Martin to just six games last season. Unfortunately his 2014 season also got off to a disastrous start, as he picked up just nine yards rushing on nine carries and just one catch for seven yards in Week 1. Martin’s leg also got rolled up at one point and the injury has been bad enough that he’s only been able to practice on a limited basis. He’s officially Questionable, but the Bucs are optimistic he will be able to play. The bigger question, however, is what exactly is Martin’s role in coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense? Ten total touches in Week 1 are not exactly a promising sign for a young player who was a workhorse just two seasons ago. It’s still early, but Martin owners probably need to be prepared to accept the fact Martin is not going to be a reliable RB1 this season.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
Questionable – Foot
Ellington was able to go on Monday night despite the foot injury, which was a good sign. He wasn’t all that productive, but indications are he can’t make the foot injury worse by playing on it. Ellington was in a walking boot earlier this week and has missed practice time, thus the Questionable label. However, there are positive vibes coming from Cardinals camp and the general expectation is that Ellington will be able to play. At least the early kickoff means his owners don’t have to sweat out the decision too long. If Ellington does play, it’s best to view him as a RB2/flex since there’s a chance his workload may be limited some by the injury.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers
Probable – Knee
Bush was limited in practice on Wednesday because of a knee injury, but it’s not believed to be anything serious. He is listed as Probable for today and should be out there splitting carries with Joique Bell. Bush and Bell are both somewhat risky options this week because of the matchup against a stingy Panthers defense. Temper your expectations if you plan to start either Lion back.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Redskins
Probable – Ankle
Gerhart rolled his ankle last week against Philadelphia, but he was able to return and finish the game. That’s all you need to know regarding his status for this week. Gerhart is Probable and will get his shot against a Redskins defense that gave up 103 yards rushing to Arian Foster last week. Gerhart can safely be employed as a RB2/flex option.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
Questionable – Hand
Jones-Drew injured his hand in his Raiders debut last week and while he has downplayed the severity of the injury, he did undergo some sort of procedure on it earlier this week. As a result, he has practiced very little and despite his Questionable tag, the expectation is he will not play. Then again after rushing for just 11 yards on nine carries, it’s probably very questionable to have him in your lineup in the first place. Not sure I would take a chance on any Oakland back this week not with a matchup against J.J. Watt and a Texans defense that roughed up Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. New Orleans Saints
Out – Knee sprain
Tate has already been ruled out for this week because of the sprained knee he sustained against Pittsburgh in the opener. He could miss up to a month because of the injury, but it’s best to consider him week-to-week for now. Rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell will handle the load while Tate’s out. West will likely see the bulk of the carries, making him an intriguing RB2/flex option, but Crowell also showed last week (2 TDs) what he can do, so don’t count him out.
The Carolina Panthers will have their starting quarterback for Week 2, but may be without their No. 1 running back. Meanwhile Green Bay’s workhorse should be back on the field after suffering a concussion last week. Here are some other QB and RB injuries you need to know about before setting your starting lineup.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers vs. Detroit Lions
Probable – Ribs
Newton was held out of the season opener because of bruised ribs, as the Panthers decided to err on the side of the caution. The move paid off as backup Derek Anderson led them to a road victory over the Buccaneers. But Newton is the franchise quarterback for a reason. He got in a good week of practice and head coach Ron Rivera has already said that Newton will start today. He may not run as much as usual, but if Newton’s your guy, you need him to put him in your lineup.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers vs. New York Jets
Probable – Concussion
Lacy spent more time on the sideline than on the field last week against Seattle due to a concussion he sustained. Not the first concussion the second-year back has had as a pro, Lacy was a late returnee to practice this week as he went through the league-mandated tests and protocols. The good news for Lacy owners is he’s listed as Probable, which means he has cleared the required tests and is able to play. The matchup against the Jets is better than last week, but it’s still no walk in the park. Also don’t be surprised if James Starks gets a few more carries to take some of the load off of Lacy. Still, Lacy is a must-start RB1 in any league.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
Questionable - Shoulder
Palmer was a somewhat surprise appearance on the injury report, but he’s reportedly dealing with a shoulder issue. He hasn’t thrown much this week due to what head coach Bruce Arians is calling a “nerve issue.” Palmer is listed as Questionable and that along with the curious diagnosis is enough reason to be concerned. Palmer was one of the biggest surprises of Week 1, but those looking to cash in on this Cardinal and the appealing matchup with the Giants better have a Plan B in place.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Probable – Shoulder
Moreno showed up on the injury report earlier this week because of a shoulder issue, which limited him in practice. However, it appears to be a minor issue, as he is listed as Probable for today’s interesting AFC East matchup with Buffalo. Moreno is the NFL’s leading rusher after one week, as he gashed New England for 134 yards. His stock may have been slipping entering the season, but those who took a shot on Moreno have already been rewarded. He’s a solid RB2 play this week.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. Detroit Lions
Questionable – Thigh
Williams missed practice both Thursday and Friday because of a thigh injury. He is listed as Questionable to play against the Lions and it’s probably best to find a different option for your lineup. If Williams does miss this game, Jonathan Stewart and MikeTolbert figure to see more work, especially since the Panthers may not let Cam Newton run that much after missing Week 1 because of bruised ribs. Stewart could be a flex option for those looking for help.
Shaun Hill, QB, St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Questionable – Quad
Already down one quarterback because of Sam Bradford’s torn ACL, Hill suffered a quad injury last week against Minnesota. He has not been able to practice, is listed as Questionable and head coach Jeff Fisher said Hill will be a “game-time decision.” Hill wasn’t exactly the most appealing fantasy option to begin with, so it’s probably best to stay away from any Ram QB as Austin Davis will make his first career NFL start if Hill can’t go.
Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury in the second half against Colorado and did not return to the game.
After suffering the injury, Kelly went to the locker room and later returned to the sidelines using crutches and sporting a walking boot on his foot.
Prior to his injury, Kelly threw for 195 yards and rushed for 70 yards against the Buffaloes.
Kelly was replaced by Mike Bercovici against the Buffaloes, and he was able to gain valuable reps in the second half.
Kelly’s status for the Sept. 25 showdown against UCLA is uncertain. And if Kelly is out for an extended period of time, he could miss the Oct. 4 game against USC and the Oct. 18 versus Stanford.
Last season, Kelly threw for 3,365 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 608 yards and nine scores.
On radio, @doug987FM reports Taylor Kelly near tears, getting hugs from teammates. This appears very bad.— Tyler Lockman (@TylerLockman) September 14, 2014
As expected, it was a rough day for Kent State against Ohio State. The Buckeyes easily handled the Golden Flashes, winning 66-0 to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2.
In addition to recording only 126 yards and turning the ball over three times, Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon completed only 14 of 27 passes for 76 yards.
And there was a pass Reardon would like to have back to avoid the highlight reels, as he rolled to his right and attempted to throw downfield. However, instead of the pass taking flight downfield, Reardon’s throw simply landed at his feet.
The biggest fail of Week 3?
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley suffered an elbow injury during the first half of Saturday’s game against Texas. Hundley’s injury was to his non-throwing elbow and his prognosis is uncertain.
Hundley was replaced by backup Jerry Neuheisel and returned to the locker room during the second quarter for more treatment. According to the broadcast team at FOX, Hundley was having trouble gripping a football and struggled with snaps on the sidelines.
Prior to his injury, Hundley completed all four of his passes for 48 yards and added nine yards on the ground.
UCLA’s offensive line has been a major concern this year, but a long-term injury to Hundley would be devastating for the Bruins. Coming into Saturday night’s game, Neuheisel completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards.
After injuring his elbow on a scramble, UCLA QB Brett Hundley was pushed down by Jim Mora to cause an injury timeout. http://t.co/CNEFvBDVbG— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 14, 2014
Hundley is headed for locker room #UCLAvsTEX— Ted Miller (@TedMillerRK) September 14, 2014
The ramifications of a South Carolina-Georgia game remain as unpredictable as ever. At least we know the SEC East matchup can still deliver the goods.
South Carolina defeated Georgia 38-35 to keep the Gamecocks in the SEC East race following the Week 1 blowout against Texas A&M.
What does the win mean? The winner of this game doesn’t necessarily win the East, more often than not in recent years, the opposite has been true. And in the new Playoff era, we don’t know yet if this is a game that pushes South Carolina in the conversation or pulls Georgia out of the running.
For sure, though, South Carolina couldn’t afford to fall to 0-2 in the league. The SEC East as a result, literally and figuratively, is separated by the slimmest of margins.
Read and React: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35
The SEC East is as wild as ever
One picture tells it all. As South Carolina ran a quarterback sneak at midfield. One chain link kept South Carolina’s possession and clinched the game. Preseason favorites Georgia and South Carolina now have one league loss apiece while defending division champion Missouri still looms.
UNREAL pic.twitter.com/rmdwaF5PMb— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) September 14, 2014
If you gave up on South Carolina, you shouldn’t have
Texas A&M gouged South Carolina’s defense in the opener, and the Gamecocks needed a long drive in the fourth quarter to put East Carolina away last week. South Carolina looked more like the team we expected against Georgia. No, the defense wasn’t great as Georgia amassed 406 total yards and 6.8 yards per play. But the Gamecocks had an answer for everything Georgia brought on defense. Dylan Thompson flourished early in the passing game, completing 21-of-30 attempts for 271 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. As the rain started to fall, South Carolina rode its offensive line as Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis combined for 159 yards on 31 carries.
Georgia’s coaches staff are going to hear about this one
Georgia has the top running back in the country and perhaps the deepest group of backs, but Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo may have been too cute in using Todd Gurley as a decoy. Fullback runs paid of in a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Other gambles didn’t. Most egregious was a first-and-goal after a turnover. The call for a pass play resulted in an intentional grounding penalty. A missed field goal meant Georgia went from four yards to a lead in the final five minutes to South Carolina preserving a three-point edge. It's worth worth noting all of Georgia's top three tailbacks averaged at least 6.6 yards per carry.
Kicking is not fun
Maybe kickers deserve more credit. After all, no reasonable person would sign up for this. Georgia’s Marshall Morgan made an SEC record 20 consecutive field goals, including his first two attempts. Morgan missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter and then a 28-yard attempt that would have tied the game on Georgia’s final possession. He may escape scorn because of questionable play calling, but this is an unenviable position nonetheless.