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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.
Virginia Tech scored a surprise win over Ohio State in Week 2, but the Hokies fell victim an upset-minded East Carolina team in Week 3.
The Pirates won 28-21, but there were a few highlight plays for Virginia Tech, including receiver Isaiah Ford’s touchdown catch in the second half. Ford's catch was reviewed but the touchdown was upheld.
Check out Ford's nifty one-handed grab:
Whether it’s by air or via the ground, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the nation’s best. And on Saturday against Wyoming, Mariota made a highlight reel play by taking a rushing touchdown for a score.
Mariota didn’t find an open option on his passing reads and chose to take off on the ground. The junior needed some help to score, choosing to take to the air to reach the endzone.
Check out Mariota’s touchdown run:
Atlanta and Cincinnati, two teams riding the high of improbable Week 1 victories, will meet up in Paul Brown Stadium Sunday afternoon on CBS, and the winner will take an important early step toward playoff contention. The Bengals won a division game in a venue — Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium — where quarterback Andy Dalton had never won as a starter, while the Falcons shocked NFC South rivals (and popular Super Bowl picks) Drew Brees and the Saints with an offensive explosion in the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Cincinnati -5
Three Things to Watch
|Atlanta 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs NO||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/14||@ CIN||L 10 - 24||Recap|
|9/18||vs TB||W 56 - 14||Recap|
|9/28||@ MIN||L 28 - 41||Recap|
1. Will Matty Ice Stay Red-Hot?
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is merely coming off the best performance of his career in Atlanta's 37–34 overtime win over New Orleans. Ryan completed 31-of-43 passes for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. But it was some unexpected scrambling that really frustrated a helpless Saints defense that was able to sack the statuesque Ryan only once. Rushing for 15 yards on three carries, Ryan also extended a number of plays with some deft movement in the pocket, including sidestepping the rush on a 39-yard pass to Roddy White that led to an important field goal right before halftime. "He's played a lot of games, made a lot of plays for us," coach Mike Smith said after the game. "But I was really impressed with his ability to extend some plays by moving around in the pocket. And he was very, very accurate. When you have (568 yards) of total offense and 448 through the air, your quarterback is playing well." Now, the question becomes: Can he do it away from the comfort of the Georgia Dome?
2. A.J. Green: The AFC's Best Wideout
As long as Megatron keeps slicing through defenses for Detroit, the title of Best Wideout in the NFL is taken, but Green is staking a strong claim for Best of the Rest. Coming off a season stat line of 98-1,426-11, Green resumed his abuse of hapless defensive backs, burning the Ravens for six catches for 131 yards and a decisive 77-yard touchdown in Cincy's 23–16 win in Baltimore. Quarterback Andy Dalton's comfort level with his prime target is only growing; against the Ravens, Dalton was 6-of-8 for 131 yards and a touchdown when targeting Green. In only three-plus seasons, Green has 12 touchdown catches of 30 yards or longer, and that ability to produce the big play assures that Dalton will continue to look his way. Against a Falcons defense that surrendered 333 passing yards in Week 1, Green could run wild.
|Cincinnati 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ BAL||W 23 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||vs ATL||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||vs TEN||W 33 - 7||Recap|
|10/5||@ NE||8:30 pm||Buy Tickets|
3. Protecting the Jungle
Paul Brown Stadium is suddenly one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The Bengals have won nine straight regular-season games at home, and the Jungle will present a challenging setting for Atlanta's attempt to chalk up its first two-game winning streak since 2012. The Bengals' propensity for protecting their home turf is an important component of this new golden era for a team that is gunning for its fourth consecutive winning season, which would be a first in the history of a downtrodden franchise. If Cincinnati is to take the next step and win a playoff game, the Bengals need to play that postseason game at home, and protecting home turf during the regular season — especially against ostensibly weaker teams — is critical to reaching that goal. Of course, given the Bengals' surprising home playoff loss to San Diego last season, there are no guarantees.
Both defenses will be under the gun on Sunday. The Bengals allowed 423 yards to the Ravens and needed the cooperation of Joe Flacco & Co. via some well-timed mistakes to come out of Baltimore with a win. The Falcons needed every one of their 568 total yards against the Saints, because the defense was busy surrendering 472 yards and a number of big plays. The Bengals seem to have the edge in physicality, and given the Falcons' 1–7 road record in 2013, home should be very sweet indeed for Cincy on Sunday.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Atlanta 21
Minnesota Vikings’ All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson will not play Sunday against New England following an indictment from a Texas grand jury. Peterson has been indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. A warrant has been issued for his arrest and he has been deactivated by the team, meaning he will not play in Sunday’s game.
While the legal process runs its course, the question becomes, what’s a Peterson owner to do? The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s drafts according to many fantasy experts and analysts, Peterson is widely considered the top running back in the NFL. Now those who drafted Peterson won’t have his services on Sunday, if not longer depending on how this situation turns out.
With that in mind here are some potential replacement options for those Peterson owners who may be scrambling.
Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings
When the starter goes down due to injury, it’s only natural to turn to the backup. That could be the wisest course of action here too, as the expectation has to be that Asiata will carry the load in Peterson’s absence. At the end of last season with Peterson and then-backup Toby Gerhart both sidelined, Asiata rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries against Detroit. Hopefully Peterson owners went ahead and used a late-round pick on Asiata, his handcuff, but if not now would be a good time to consider adding him. Rookie Jerick McKinnon can’t be overlooked either, but for now it appears that Asiata will get the first opportunity to try and fill Peterson’s huge shoes.
Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
West, a rookie, is expected to get the bulk of the carries while starter Ben Tate is sidelined by a sprained knee. The Browns’ third-round pick, West was quite impressive in his first game action, rushing for 100 yards on 16 carries against Pittsburgh. Fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell (2 TDs last week) will get some touches too, but West is ahead of him in the pecking order for now. If West is still out there, go get him.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
Rookie Bishop Sankey got all the attention, but for the time being, it looks like Greene will get the carries. Greene led the team with 71 yards rushing on 15 carries in the win over Kansas City, while Sankey actually got fewer carries (6) than “new” running back Dexter McCluster (9). Greene is a former 1,000-yard rusher so he’s been productive before and if Ken Whisenhunt continues to give him a starter’s workload he could provide reliable production. Especially this week against a Dallas defense that gave up 127 yards rushing against San Francisco in Week 1.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
It’s just one game, but the fact the Saints ran the ball 28 times (versus 42 pass attempts) in Week 1 is a good sign. In Ingram’s case, it’s worth pointing out that he got as many carries (13) as Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson combined. If New Orleans stays committed to the run and Ingram continues to be effective around the goal line (2 three-yard TD runs), he may be worth taking a chance on this week, and perhaps longer.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams is questionable for Sunday’s game against Detroit with a thigh injury, which could present a golden opportunity for Jonathan Stewart. A talented, but injury-prone back, Stewart picked up 20 yards on nine carries last week while Williams led the way with 72 yards on 14 totes. If Williams can’t go, those carries presumably would go to Stewart, which would increase his fantasy potential. Another factor that could go in Stewart’s favor is that even though Cam Newton will start after missing the opener with bruised ribs, chances are he will not run as often as he usually does as the team will more than likely be careful with its franchise signal-caller. Stewart has always been more potential than promise, but this could be a good week to take a chance and see what happens.
Adrian Peterson was handed a tasty matchup, which was why he was the easy choice for the top spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Week 2 Running Back Rankings. However, Peterson was deactivated by Minnesota on Friday night after it was announced he had been indicted by a Texas grand jury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Peterson owners need to go a different direction as unheralded Matt Asiata (No. 27) will likely see the bulk of the carries against New England.
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.
2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs
|1||LeSean McCoy||PHI||at IND (Mon.)||No TDs, but 27 total touches.|
|2||Jamaal Charles||KC||at DEN||Expect to see him double his 11 touches.|
|3||Marshawn Lynch||SEA||at SD||Beastly (110, 2) in opener against Packers.|
|4||Arian Foster||HOU||at OAK||51 of his 103 yards rushing came after contact.|
|5||Matt Forte||CHI||at SF||Can 49ers' D bottle up Forte?|
|6||Montee Ball||DEN||vs. KC||Scored a TD, but held in check by Colts.|
|7||Le'Veon Bell||PIT||at BAL (Thurs.)||Put up 197 total yards, TD vs. Browns.|
|8||Giovani Bernard||CIN||vs. ATL||Should see about 20 touches per game.|
|9||DeMarco Murray||DAL||at TEN||Put up 118 yards rushing on 49ers last week.|
|10||Alfred Morris||WAS||vs. JAC||Gained 91 yards on the ground on just 14 att.|
|11||Eddie Lacy||GB||vs. NYJ||Concussion concerns already?|
|12||Frank Gore||SF||vs. CHI||Bears' run D still lacks bite.|
|13||Shane Vereen||NE||at MIN||Scored rushing TD, but did little else.|
|14||Chris Johnson||NYJ||at GB||Caught a TD pass in his Jets' debut.|
|15||Toby Gerhart||JAC||at WAS||Redskins gave up 115 yards rushing, but just 3.0 ypc.|
|16||Zac Stacy||STL||at TB||Tough sledding (43 yards rushing) vs. MIN.|
|17||C.J. Spiller||BUF||vs. MIA||Caught a TD, got 18 total touches vs. Bears.|
|18||Andre Ellington||ARI||at NYG||Played, but foot injury a factor vs. SD.|
|19||Rashad Jennings||NYG||vs. ARI||Finished with 96 total yards, TD in Giants' debut.|
|20||Knowshon Moreno||MIA||at BUF||Huge (134 yds., TD) debut for Dolphins.|
|21||Doug Martin||TB||vs. STL||16 yards on 10 touches is not going to cut it.|
|22||Ryan Mathews||SD||vs. SEA|
|23||Joique Bell||DET||at CAR||Needed late TD to salvage his output.|
|24||Reggie Bush||DET||at CAR||More effective as receiver than rusher vs. NYG.|
|25||Terrance West||CLE||vs. NO||Gets start w/ Tate (sprained knee) out.|
|26||Shonn Greene||TEN||vs. DAL||Led Titans in yards (71) and carries (15).|
|27||Matt Asiata||MIN||vs. NE||Surprise starter following Peterson's deactivation.|
|28||Darren Sproles||PHI||at IND (Mon.)||Impact came on ground w/ 49-yard TD.|
|29||Fred Jackson||BUF||vs. MIA||Big 38-yard run set up game-winning FG in OT.|
|30||Steven Jackson||ATL||at CIN|
|31||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at GB||71-yard TD run upstages CJ's Jets debut.|
|32||Justin Forsett||BAL||vs. PIT (Thurs.)||Took over (70 yds., TD) when Pierce faltered.|
|33||Pierre Thomas||NO||at CLE||Saints backfield could be a true timeshare.|
|34||Mark Ingram||NO||at CLE||Only 60 yards, but 2 TDs.|
|35||Lamar Miller||MIA||at BUF||Fewer touches following Moreno's big debut?|
|36||DeAngelo Williams||CAR||vs. DET||Averaged 5.1 ypc (14 att.) vs. Bucs.|
|37||Trent Richardson||IND||vs. PHI (Mon.)||More of same (6 att., 20 yds.) from T-Rich.|
|38||Maurice Jones-Drew||OAK||vs. HOU||Jets held him to 11 yards on 9 carries.|
|39||Bernard Pierce||BAL||vs. PIT (Thurs.)||Can he seize starting job?|
|40||Jeremy Hill||CIN||vs. ATL||Got just 4 carries last week.|
|41||Stevan Ridley||NE||at MIN||Practically non-existent (28 total yds.) vs. MIA.|
|42||Carlos Hyde||SF||vs. CHI||Made his presence felt (50 yds., TD) vs. DAL.|
|43||Isaiah Crowell||CLE||vs. NO||No. 2 behind West w/ Tate out. 2 TDs last week.|
|44||Danny Woodhead||SD||vs. SEA|
|45||Khiry Robinson||NO||at CLE||Took one goal-line look away from Ingram.|
|46||Ahmad Bradshaw||IND||vs. PHI (Mon.)||More effective (85 total yards) than T-Rich.|
|47||Bishop Sankey||TEN||vs. DAL||Not big part (6 att., 25 yds.) of Week 1 game plan.|
|48||James Starks||GB||vs. NYJ||Next in line if Stacy's concussion issues persist.|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com.
Each week, Geoffrey Miller's "Five Things to Watch" will help you catch up on the biggest stories on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' upcoming race weekend. This week, the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off — complete with a
hokey shiny new format. Also, Matt Kenseth looks for a Chi-town repeat, Jimmie Johnson begins his quest for a seventh title in earnest and some movement in the Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward Jr. investigation highlight the storylines heading into the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
No going back from NASCAR’s new Pandora’s Box
This was the case 10 seasons ago when NASCAR implemented the first edition of what we now call the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and it’s true again Sunday. With the start of the first-ever elimination-style championship system occurring with Sunday’s green flag at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR has taken a path it can’t walk back.
A sport that existed and grew for more than 50 years with a championship determination based on how well a driver raced both in February and October has now transitioned to an entirely unlikely but still plausible scenario of winning nine of the final 10 races not being enough to win the sport’s crowning jewel.
It’s not without precedent across the sports world, of course. We’ve watched as undefeated teams have gone down in just one contest several times in recent years — think Wichita State in the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament or the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl — but that unreal possibility of a driver winning every race except the last one, and thus losing the championship, has never existed in motorsports.
More ironic about it all may be that the one problem that the Chase and its numerous iterations since set out to solve still isn’t fixed: NASCAR can still have a champion who hasn’t won a race all year. The new Chase will let winners advance, sure, but the semifinal round of races allows the chance that one driver can make it to Homestead without a win.
But beyond these what-if intricacies, NASCAR has also completely ruined any chance that the sport’s champion can ever be considered in context with title winners of its past. Comparing Johnson’s six titles with those of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty was already a reach, but now, with a one-race, winner-take-all finale such comparisons are completely delusional.
NASCAR has started a new era. Only time will tell how it goes.
Kenseth looking to start Chase buoyed by Chicago repeat
Matt Kenseth won seven times in 2013 and finished runner-up in the point standings to Jimmie Johnson during his first full season with Joe Gibbs Racing. It was a commanding performance, and one that left him as a strong pick to take the title this year.
That’s still a possibility for Kenseth, but in a manner few expected because he’s yet to score a win in 2014. Does his No. 20 have actually still have a chance for the title?
“I feel like we’ve been getting closer,” Kenseth says. “We’ve been running in the top 5 a lot. The finishes don’t show it because we’ve been caught up in so many accidents.”
One of those accidents was self-inflicted last week at Richmond when Kenseth lost control and struck the Turn 1 wall. But Kenseth could very well make up for it in a big way this weekend by repeating his 2013 win at Chicago.
Kenseth has top-10 finishes at every race contested on 1.5-mile tracks this season and finishes of fourth or better in the last three. At Atlanta two weeks ago, Kenseth narrowly lost to Kasey Kahne on a late restart. He also posted the fifth fastest speed in opening practice in Joliet on Friday.
That has to bode well for Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson has to remain Chase favorite
Winning five straight championships — and later a sixth, of course — has to count for something. For Jimmie Johnson on the eve of the Chase starting anew, it counts as making him a prohibitive championship favorite even after a decidedly un-Jimmie regular season.
Johnson wrapped the 26-race prequel to this championship fight as the fifth-best driver in terms of scoring points, 112 behind teammate Jeff Gordon. When the Chicagoland Speedway race starts, it will have been 103 days since the No. 48 was in victory lane. Still, we can’t count him out.
Johnson endured a disastrous summer stretch with a five-race span that included four finishes 28th, 39th, 42nd and 42nd. Three of those races ended in a crash.
But the ship seemed to list more favorably just before the Chase as Johnson reeled off four straight top-10 finishes. It was a return to consistency that became Johnson’s hallmark during his record-setting championship run.
Johnson has two wins already this season at tracks to come in the Chase and top-10 finishes at three others. And you’ve got to think Texas (Johnson suffered damage from an early incident in the spring race and finished 25th) and New Hampshire (he blew consecutive tires before a crash knocked him out of the event) will go much better on the second go-round.
No, 2014 hasn’t allowed Johnson to treat the Sprint Cup Series as his personal playground. But we’ve all seen this story before, and we’ve seen how it has often ended with Johnson taking pictures with trophies in Homestead. Can you really argue that it won’t happen again?
Resolution to Stewart case coming soon
Just over a month since Kevin Ward Jr. was killed in the crash with Tony Stewart at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, the county sheriff has completed the incident’s investigation. Now, Stewart’s future hangs in the balance of the Ontario County, N.Y., district attorney’s office.
The county D.A. will determine if charges are to be filed in the case — a process expected to be complete late next week, according to a statement.
“The entire thorough investigation, including a forensic video enhancement recently received from the New York State Police Laboratory in Albany, has been submitted to the Office of the Ontario County District Attorney for review,” said a statement released Thursday by the sheriff’s office.
It was unclear if the enhanced video was the one widely shown in the days following the incident, or if the sheriff’s office was referring to a second video it had confirmed receipt of in the initial days after the investigation.
The next seven days are going to be a tedious time for Stewart, his business holdings and NASCAR. Criminal charges in the case would be disastrous to each of those entities — Stewart for obvious reasons, potential fallout for his companies and NASCAR, for its unequivocal backing of Stewart in the process by letting him race and brazenly approving him for a championship waiver should he have won in the final two regular season races of his return.
Stewart didn’t win of course and won’t be racing for the title — saving NASCAR from the embarrassment of one its “nations” not being able to participate in any of this week’s Chase-promoting hoopla. But the damage may become more than embarrassing next week once we know the decision of the district attorney.
Will you take the “The Field” for the Chase?
Sixteen drivers are eligible for this new format of NASCAR’s Chase. But if you’re in Las Vegas, only 14 drivers are routinely available for placing futures bets on who will actually win the Sprint Cup title.
Not on most lists? The Double A’s: AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola. They instead have been lumped in the ubiquitous category of “Field.”
As of Friday morning, only Bovada was providing direct odds for all of the Chase entrants. Others, like Sportsbook.ag, were listing the 14 drivers individually and the Allmendinger/Almirola combination in “Field” at +25,000 — meaning a $10 bet would pay $2,500.
Comparatively, Jeff Gordon is Sportsbook’s favorite at +350.
“I understand it, it’s part of it. I relish being an underdog team,” Allmendinger says. “Tad and Jodi (Geschickter, partial owners of JTG-Daugherty Racing) started this team in a barn in ’94 so they’ve always been an underdog.”
Allmendinger is bringing a stronger horse to battle than you might expect, however. Richard Childress Racing, the JTG-D alliance partner, built Allmendinger a new car for Sunday’s race. In a sense, Allmendinger becomes the second RCR car in the Chase, joining Ryan Newman.
We’ll see how that pans out.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
Arkansas and Texas Tech aren’t ranked in this week’s latest top 25 poll, but the matchup between the Razorbacks and Red Raiders is certainly one of the most intriguing games of Week 3. This contest features an interesting contrast in styles, as Texas Tech will attempt to win this one through the air, while Arkansas plans to use its ground attack to control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage. Will the Red Raiders’ high-octane style win out? Or will the Razorbacks successfully take the air out of the football and earn a key non-conference victory in Bret Bielema’s second year?
In addition to watching the style of play, this game is a matchup between two old Southwest Conference rivalries. Arkansas and Texas Tech have played 35 previous times, with the Razorbacks owning a 28-7 series edge.
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Texas Tech -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack Versus TTU's Defense
There’s a good chance this aspect is where Saturday’s game will be decided. Arkansas prefers a methodical approach on offense, averaging 30:26 per game in time of possession last year, while Texas Tech averages 23:42 through two games this year. Tempo is a huge factor in how Saturday’s matchup will be decided. The Razorbacks want to use their ground game to keep the Red Raiders’ passing offense off the field. Arkansas goes three-deep at running back, headlined by sophomore Alex Collins. Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall will also see significant time, but Collins (23 carries) is expected to be the workhorse. Texas Tech’s rush defense has been an issue this year, and UTEP recorded 277 yards (5.3 ypc) last week. The Red Raiders’ rush defense hopes to get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Rika Levi (367 pounds) this week. Arkansas has played only two games but is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. If the Razorbacks establish the line of scrimmage and keep Texas Tech’s offense on the sidelines, this plays significantly into Arkansas’ favor.
2. Texas Tech’s Passing Offense
As we mentioned in the section above, this game is all about tempo and controlling the pace of play. Texas Tech wants to go quick, while Arkansas plans to establish the run and own an edge in time of possession. If the Red Raiders jump out to an early lead, it’s a worst-case scenario for the Razorbacks. Texas Tech’s ability to score quick and on big plays (seven of 30 or more yards in 2014) is a tough matchup for Arkansas. Quarterback Davis Webb is off to a fast start (7 TDs, 2 INTs) and is completing 67.5 percent of his throws. He also has plenty of talent at the skill positions, starting with running back Justin Stockton and in the receiving corps with Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant. The biggest weakness on Arkansas’ defense is the secondary. The Razorbacks allowed 19 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2013, but coordinator Robb Smith can counter a questionable secondary with a good pass rush.
3. Turnovers and Special Teams
With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover battle and what transpires on special teams. Arkansas has an inexperienced kicker (John Henson), but punter Sam Irwin-Hill is one of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks also have options on returns with D.J. Dean and Korliss Marshall. Texas Tech has the edge on field goals with Ryan Bustin (1 of 2 in 2014), while punter Taylor Symmank is in his first year as a starter. In the turnover department, Texas Tech is -3 through two games, while Arkansas sports an even margin (0). A mistake on special teams or a turnover could be the deciding factor on Saturday.
Think of this game like a basketball matchup. Which style and tempo will control the pace of play? Will Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense win out? Or will Arkansas’ ground-and-pound style dominate the clock and keep the Red Raiders’ offense on the sidelines? The guess here is both sides will land some punches. The Razorbacks will churn out a big day on the ground, but Texas Tech also lands big plays in the passing game against a suspect secondary. However, in the fourth quarter, Arkansas leans on running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to melt the clock away, giving Bret Bielema a key non-conference win in his second year in Fayetteville.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Texas Tech 34
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 12:
• Plenty of weak matchups in college football this weekend, but the cheerleader matchups are pretty good.
• There were an alarming number of purple No. 27 jerseys on display in Baltimore last night. Perhaps the news cycle is a little behind up there.
• Scary moment last night: Giancarlo Stanton got carted off in an ambulance after being beaned in the face. The beaner, Mike Fiers, offered a heartfelt apology via Twitter.
• First-pitch follies: Joakim Noah botched his first try, but got a mulligan and threw a strike.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at firstname.lastname@example.org
UCLA and Texas meet in Arlington, Texas for a neutral site matchup that is one of the marquee games on college football’s Week 3 slate. While this game is big on name value, the actual on-field matchup has lost some of its luster. Texas is 1-1, but its depth chart has changed drastically due to suspensions and injuries since spring practice. While UCLA is off to a 2-0 start, the Bruins have not impressed. After a close call against Virginia in Week 1, Jim Mora’s team won by seven points in a home date against Memphis. Both teams have plenty to prove heading into this matchup, but it’s unlikely either program will be able to answer of all its question marks with a win in Arlington.
These two teams have met six times, and the overall series is tied at three wins apiece.
UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: UCLA -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. UCLA’s OL Against Texas’ DL
The biggest weakness of UCLA’s offense meets the strength of Texas’ defense. The Bruins have allowed 21 tackles for loss and eight sacks through two games. UCLA has played two solid defenses (Memphis and Virginia), but this unit needs to show progress if the Bruins want to win the Pac-12 title. Center Jake Brendel missed the opener due to a knee injury and returned last Saturday against Memphis. With Brendel back in the mix, UCLA should improve up front over the course of the season. Texas is allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and has registered 10 sacks in two games. End Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson are all-conference candidates and present a tough matchup for the Bruins. Can UCLA’s offensive line protect quarterback Brett Hundley?
2. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes
In Swoopes’ first career start (BYU), he completed 20 of 31 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for seven yards on seven attempts. While Swoopes’ numbers certainly won’t match those of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, there were positives for coordinator Shawn Watson to build on in Week 3. One potential problem for Swoopes is a lack of proven options at receiver. The Longhorns may not have Jaxon Shipley due to a head injury, leaving Marcus Johnson and John Harris as the team’s most experienced options. UCLA’s secondary should be one of the best in the Pac-12 this year, and the Bruins have allowed only three passing touchdowns through their first two matchups. How much will Swoopes improve in his second start? Could the sophomore make a few more plays with his legs this week?
3. Supporting Cast
With UCLA’s offensive line struggling, and Swoopes making his second start for Texas, which team’s supporting cast steps up this Saturday? Can the Bruins get consistent production from running back Paul Perkins? Or will linebacker/running back Myles Jack play a bigger role on offense this week? Will Jordan Payton or Thomas Duarte provide opportunities for big plays from Hundley? On the Texas side, the Longhorns need running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to find running room against a Bruins’ defense allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. If Shipley sits out, will Harris or Johnson provide a consistent threat at receiver?
Expect a low-scoring game on Saturday night. With UCLA’s struggles on the line, the Longhorns should be able to create pressure on quarterback Brett Hundley. But Hundley’s ability to make plays with his legs could be a valuable asset against a solid front seven. Thanks to its defense, expect Texas to hang around in this game. However, the Bruins eventually pull away in the second half and move to 3-0 before a key Pac-12 matchup against Arizona State.
Prediction: UCLA 27, Texas 13
It’s only Week 3, but the race to win the SEC's East Division heats up on Saturday, as Georgia visits South Carolina in a key conference game. The Bulldogs impressed in their Week 1 victory over Clemson, while the Gamecocks lost 52-28 in their opener to Texas A&M. South Carolina was able to regain some of its momentum by defeating East Carolina 33-23 in Week 2, but this team still has several question marks entering this Saturday’s matchup. Georgia was off last Saturday, and the Bulldogs are 16-4 under Mark Richt after a bye week.
It’s too early to call any game an elimination contest, but the Gamecocks simply can’t afford to go 0-2 in the SEC. For Georgia, this is an opportunity to beat another top-25 team and wrestle (early) control of the East Division.
Georgia at South Carolina
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -6
Three Things to Watch
1. South Carolina’s Pass Defense
The secondary has been especially problematic for the Gamecocks in 2014. South Carolina is allowing 416 passing yards per game, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 71.7 percent of their throws. The Gamecocks’ pass defense catches a small break on Saturday, as Georgia isn’t likely to throw the ball as much as East Carolina (46) and Texas A&M (60) did in their matchups. However, the Bulldogs – even without Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley – have options at receiver. Chris Conley and Michael Bennett are expected to see the majority of targets at receiver, and tight end Jay Rome is another player to watch in the passing game. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is making just his second start on the road. Can the Gamecocks tighten up some of their struggles in the secondary? Or will Mason and the Bulldogs’ receivers torch the pass defense for another huge performance?
2. Todd Gurley and Georgia’s Running Backs
Considering South Carolina’s struggles against the pass, Georgia could open up the offense and allow Mason to throw more than he did in the opener (26 attempts). Even if coordinator Mike Bobo does allow Mason to approach 30-35 passes, the bread and butter of the Bulldogs’ offense remains on the ground. Running back Todd Gurley recorded 293 all-purpose yards in the opener and is a tough matchup for a Gamecocks’ defense allowing 5.0 yards per carry (150.5 ypg). Gurley is the nation’s top running back, but he isn’t the only option for Richt. Keith Marshall and freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will each see opportunities on Saturday afternoon. Georgia’s offense is more traditional (pro-style) than the spread attacks South Carolina has played so far. Will that help the struggling Gamecocks’ defense?
3. Dylan Thompson Versus Georgia’s Secondary
Coming into 2014, Georgia’s biggest concern on defense was its secondary. The coaching staff rotated several players into the lineup during offseason practices, and while this unit allowed only 203 passing yards to Clemson, the Tigers recorded three passing plays of 30 yards or more. Big plays have been South Carolina’s specialty in the passing game this year. Quarterback Dylan Thompson is averaging 14.0 yards per completion, while receiver Nick Jones (15.7) and Pharoh Cooper (12.9) are the preferred targets through the air. To protect their secondary, expect the Bulldogs to be active with their front seven. New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will send different blitzes at Thompson, and the Bulldogs were able to sack Clemson quarterbacks five times in the opener. If Thompson has time to throw, he could find Cooper and Jones for big plays. But if Georgia’s front seven controls the pace of the game, Thompson and the passing game will be neutralized.
Despite Georgia’s impressive showing in Week 1 and South Carolina’s sluggish start to the season, this has the makings of a close game. The last two meetings in this series were decided by more than 10 points. But from 2004-08, four out of the five matchups were decided by a touchdown or less.
After struggling to stop spread offenses in the first two games, South Carolina’s defense will have its hands full once again on Saturday. Gurley recorded 132 yards and one touchdown against the Gamecocks last season and a similar effort could be in store in Week 3. But even if the Gamecocks contain Gurley, can they stop Mason and the Bulldogs’ passing offense?
A healthy Mike Davis at running back should help South Carolina’s offense, and Thompson will have chances for big plays in the passing game. Keeping Thompson upright and away from Georgia rushers is a huge task for the Gamecocks’ offensive line.
Expect a close game into the fourth quarter, but Mason, Gurley and the Bulldogs’ front seven will be enough for Georgia to win for the first time since 2008 in Columbia.