Articles By All
NFL reporter Chris Mortensen will be taking time away from ESPN.
The NFL Live and NFL Insiders regular has been diagnosed with throat cancer.
"More than a week ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage IV throat cancer," Mortensen said in a statement. "My focus shifted significantly gather information about the specifics of this cancer. the initial diagnosis was confirmed Friday and there is another test remaining that will determine the best possible treatment plan that will commence in a very immediate future. Consequently, with the support and encouragement from ESPN president John Skipper and many others at ESPN, I am temporarily stepping away from my normal NFL coverage duties to better engage this opportunity to fight the good fight that is projected to affect almost 1.7 million Americans with new cases in 2016."
Skipper later commented on the situation.
"Our thoughts are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge," Skipper said. "He is an extremely respected colleague who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses."
We will all be praying for Mortensen and his family during this difficult time.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine if Sunday evening’s AFC Divisional playoff matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) and Denver Broncos (12-4) is a football game or hospital drama.
Much like the Broncos on Dec. 20 were when they were without four players, most notably quarterback Peyton Manning, unable to play due to injury; the Steelers suffered serious injuries to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown in their 18-16 wild-card victory at Cincinnati last week. Roethlisberger sprained his throwing shoulder and revealed this week he also has torn ligaments while Brown sustained a concussion and was ruled out by the team early Friday morning.
To add insult to those injuries, the Steelers also will be without their leading rusher DeAngelo Williams, who is still not ready to return from the foot and/or ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago against Cleveland. This will mark the first time in NFL history that team will play a playoff game without its leading rusher and receiver from that season, according to Elias. Not the kind of history Pittsburgh fans were hoping their team would make.
Takes away from the drama of the AFC’s best offense (Pittsburgh) taking on the NFL’s top defense (Denver), doesn’t it? A playoff game is always important, but this game truly holds the legacy of the franchises in the balance.
It’s well known the Steelers have the most Super Bowl victories in history (6). This season they also became the most prolific playoff participant since the AFL-NFL merger with their 28th appearance, and if they can reach the Super Bowl, it will be for the NFL-record ninth time.
Denver has played on Super Sunday seven times. If the Broncos earn a trip to Santa Clara, Calif., they will tie Pittsburgh, Dallas and New England as the Super Bowl’s most prolific attendees.
Individually, the only thing that has prevented Manning from receiving more “Greatest Quarterback of All-Time” recognition has been his performance in big games (Tracy Porter INT in Super Bowl XLIV , 11-13 career playoff record, 0-4 against Florida in college). But if the Broncos win the Super Bowl behind Manning, he’d be 14-13 in the playoffs and have two rings, eliminating most of this criticism.
Furthermore, this will be the eighth meeting between the two teams in the playoffs, which ties Bears-Giants and Cowboys-Rams as the most common playoff matchup. The Broncos lead the all-time postseason series, 4-3, where the meek (Eric Williams, Tim Tebow, Merril Hoge) have often become the hero.
AFC Divisonal Round: Pittsburgh at Denver
Kickoff: 4:40 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Broncos -7
Three Things to Watch
1. The quarterbacks are Manning and Roethlisberger. Why don’t these teams want to throw?
In the Steelers’ case, it’s because nobody knows how well Roethlisberger can pass. After being temporarily knocked out of the game by Vontaze Burfict last Saturday, Roethlisberger returned to lead the Steelers to victory in Pittsburgh’s final drive, but struggled throwing the ball downfield.
At one point, facing 3rd-and-7 at their own 37-yard line with just 32 seconds remaining, the Steelers decided to run a draw play with third-string running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday the Steelers were open to everything, including activating third-string quarterback Michael Vick. Don’t look for Roethlisberger to start unless he legitimately can throw the ball downfield for an entire game. A quarterback of his stature is not relieved unless he is injured.
While it doesn’t bode well for the Steelers if backup Landry Jones starts, the Steelers were able to overcome a 17-point deficit against the Broncos less than a month ago when they changed their defense from zone coverage to man, confusing quarterback Brock Osweiler and shutting out Denver in the second half. If Jones starts, the possibility of confusing the Denver defense with multiple quarterbacks arises, although the passing game will be missing its primary target in Antonio Brown.
Manning, 39, faces many of the same arm strength questions Roethlisberger does. Manning earned praise for his relief performance against San Diego in the season finale, yet completed just five of his nine attempts for 69 yards, leading to speculation if Manning has really reclaimed his throne or if Osweiler’s sprained MCL is the real reason for the switch.
After all, Manning was the quarterback most likely to throw an interception in 2015, hurling 17 of them in fewer than 200 attempts against just nine touchdown passes.
2. The running games
Because of the questionable status of the quarterbacks, both teams may try to play a possession game.
Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combined to rush for 1,583 yards this season, but the running game failed to shine Dec. 20 against the Steelers, unable to protect a 17-point lead in a 34-27 loss with no player rushing for more than 48 yards.
Despite playing with third-stringers Toussaint and Jordan Todman, the Steelers surprisingly gained 169 yards on the ground against Cincinnati, the highest total of any of the eight teams playing on Wild Card Weekend.
With Williams set to miss another game, look for Todman to get on the field on running downs but Toussaint when the situation calls for a pass. Todman averaged nearly six yards on his 11 carries last week, and while Toussaint wasn’t as impressive, he’s considered the better blocker and caught four passes.
The key player to watch may be Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall, who famously intercepted Roethlisberger to give Denver hope late in the 34-27 loss to the Steelers. The Steelers’ offensive line was effective in taking out linebackers against Cincinnati, and if Marshall can’t get to the ball carrier on Sunday another unlikely player, in this case a backup running back, could prove to be the star as has happened so often when these teams meet in the playoffs.
3. The pass rush
Denver led the NFL with 52 sacks this season. Pittsburgh had 48 to place third.
Clearly both teams will blitz often. Luckily for Manning and Roethlisberger they have two of the quickest releases in the NFL. However, they also finished second and third in total interceptions thrown this season.
Don’t look for much deep passing, especially with Brown not playing.
The Steelers are banged up and a shell of themselves on offense. The Broncos are rested. For Pittsburgh to win, Peyton Manning will have to struggle. Are you really going to bet against Manning playing for his legacy against the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL?
Prediction: Broncos 23, Steelers 16
— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.
For two teams that reside in different divisions, clear across the country from one another, the Seattle Seahawks (11-6) and the Carolina Panthers (15-1) have grown very familiar with one another. Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game between these two cross-divisional rivals in Charlotte will mark their second meeting of the season and their fifth meeting in just four years.
In Week 6, the Panthers defeated the Seahawks 27-23 on the road in come-from-behind fashion. It would serve as Carolina’s first signature win of the season and play a significant role in fueling the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season record. Carolina’s victory also snapped a five-game losing streak to the Seahawks dating back to 2010. More importantly, the Panthers were able to avenge a 31-17 loss to the Seahawks in last year’s divisional playoff matchup.
Sunday’s rematch should be another epic showdown in what has already proven to be a hotly contested series in recent years. A well-rested Panthers team has no intention of letting their storybook season come to an end. While the perennial playoff powerhouse Seahawks are just fortunate to be here following last week’s stunning close call against Minnesota in their wild-card game. It is loser-go-home football at this point for two of the hottest teams in the NFL with a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line.
NFC Divisional Round: Seattle at Carolina
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Carolina -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The Panthers’ Pass Rush vs. The Seahawks’ Offensive Line
Pass protection has been a glaring weakness for the Seahawk offense all season. It was especially evident in Week 6 when a lackluster Seattle offensive line gave up four sacks to the Panthers. For the entire regular season, the Seahawks allowed 46 sacks. The sixth most in the NFL and an alarmingly high number for an offense with an athletically gifted and mobile quarterback under center.
You can expect a healthy Carolina pass rush to once again dial up the pressure on Sunday in an attempt to exploit a sub-par Seahawks’ offensive front. Only five other teams in the NFL had more sacks than a Panthers’ pass rush that yielded 44 during the regular season. Panthers’ defensive tackle Kawann Short is a specific player of note to keep an eye on. Short led the Panthers with 11 sacks on the season, two of which came against the Seahawks back in Week 6.
2. The Seahawks’ Defense: Remarkable on the Road
Thanks in large part to Seattle’s “12th Man” (aka the Seahawks’ rabid fan base), no other team in the NFL has enjoyed more success on their home field in recent years than the Seahawks. That being said, the road has been especially kind to the Seahawks in 2015, especially on defense. Since Week 5, Seattle has allowed one lone touchdown in six road games. Just one!
Seattle hopes to carry that same good fortune into Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. Standing in the Seahawks’ way will be a Carolina offense that led the NFL in scoring during the regular season (31.2 ppg). It seems crazy to even fathom that the Seahawks’ defense could keep the Panthers’ high-powered offense out of the end zone. However, the same thing was said about the Seattle defense before the Seahawks visited Arizona in the final game of the regular season.
The Cardinals also led the NFL in scoring prior to hosting the Seahawks. Arizona ended that game with just six points via two field goals. Seattle’s track record on the road speaks for itself, but it will still be a very tall order to prevent Carolina from finding paydirt on Sunday.
3. Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton
Sunday’s divisional game will feature two of the hottest signal-callers in the NFL. Wilson is 7-1 over the last games, during which he has averaged 283 total yards per contest, while accounting for 26 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Wilson will have his work cut out for him against the Panthers’ aforementioned pass rush and a Carolina secondary that features lockdown cornerback Josh Norman. Ball-hawking safety Kurt Coleman also is expected to return from injury this week to further complicate matters for Wilson.
Newton has also led his team to a 7-1 record in his last eight games. He has averaged 289 total yards per game, also with 26 touchdowns to his credit and just one interception during that span. Newton should be well rested following the bye, and the extra week to prepare should have him at the top of his game. Regardless, Newton will still have a tough task on Sunday against a Seahawks defense that once again ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed this season. It will be entertaining to see which of these elite quarterbacks can overcome the odds and come out on top against top-shelf competition.
It’s not difficult to make a case for either one of these teams to move on to the NFC Championship Game. Seattle has a proven playoff pedigree, an amazing defense that has only given up one touchdown in its last six road games, an elite quarterback, and a strong desire to avenge a Week 6 loss to the Panthers. The Seahawks also may get Marshawn Lynch back this week, which would bolster their chances even further.
As for the Panthers, they will be fresher and healthier following last week’s bye, they also have an elite quarterback, a stellar defense, and have no desire to see an amazing season come to an end at the hands of the Seahawks for the second year in a row. Carolina also will get starting running back Jonathan Stewart back from injury, along with deep-threat wide receiver Ted Ginn.
There is no question that this will be a hard-fought game that could go either way. That being said, it’s hard to bet against a Carolina team that has not lost a game at Bank of America Stadium since Week 11 of the 2014 season. It’s also fair to assume that Seattle will be a little worse for the wear heading into this matchup after last week’s tooth-and-nail struggle against Minnesota in sub-zero weather.
Prediction: Panthers 21, Seahawks 20
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.
In terms of wins and losses, I went 0-for-4 in my Outrageous Wild Card Predictions last weekend. Just because my picks were wrong, doesn’t mean the outrageous didn’t occur. In fact, I can’t remember a crazier weekend of NFL playoff games in my life. A missed chip shot, a meltdown and a shutout all stole the headlines during Wild Card weekend.
The Divisional Round features the eight teams that were really the class of the league for most of the year. Unlike last weekend, however, all four home teams are favored in the next round. That alone opens the door for the outrageous to happen. So what does this weekend have in store for us?
Outrageous Predictions for NFL Divisional Round
Denver wins, but Manning can’t finish
I have a tough time seeing the Steelers move the ball against the Denver defense, especially without a solid running game. The problem is, I’m not sure Peyton Manning is going to be on target, and the Bronco offense will sputter as a result. Look for this game to be close heading into the fourth quarter, when Gary Kubiak has to once again make a change at the quarterback spot to pull out a victory. Brock Osweiler steps in and hits one of the many throws Manning couldn’t make all day to win the game by one score.
There won’t be a single touchdown pass thrown in the Seattle-Carolina game
There will be offense, which will produce points. Most of that, however, will be due to the mobility of the two starting quarterbacks — not their arms. These defenses will be stingy against the pass in the red zone, forcing both offenses to keep it on the ground to punch it in. It’ll be dives, pitches and designed quarterback runs doing all of the damage in a game that will be decided by no more than a field goal.
Packers win by two scores
It looked like Aaron Rodgers found his mojo again against the Redskins — and that’s not a good thing for Arizona. The Cardinals are the sexy pick by many to get to Santa Clara, but this young team hasn’t had the pressure of being the favorite against a quarterback who has made a championship run on the road before. Green Bay Tight end Richard Rodgers will be big in the middle of the field, as he’ll have space to run with the attention Arizona’s corners will pay to the wide receivers. Look for the Rodgers-to-Rodgers connection to yield at least 120 yards and two scores en route to the Packers pulling away late.
Kansas City loses by the same score the Chiefs won by last week
New England is now healthy on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs were always going to struggle running it against the Patriots. Now, it’s looking like if wide receiver Jeremy Maclin plays, he’ll be nothing more than a decoy. Look for Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins to cover and take away tight end Travis Kelce, essentially taking away Alex Smith’s security blanket. When New England has the ball, it’s back to business as usually with short passes out of the backfield to James White, quick slants to a healthy Julian Edelman and darts down the middle of the field to Gronk. Oh, and lets not forget New England’s new hammer in the backfield, Steven Jackson, who has had a couple of weeks to get settled in and learn The Patriot Way. This will be a slow, methodical beatdown.
NFL Wild Card Weekend proved to be another profitable one for those who have been following along in this space all season. It was a crazy weekend with the home teams for the most part finding ways to lose when they were close to moving on.
Now we bring in the teams coming off of a bye and the recency effect is going to have a lot of gamblers thinking better of the teams on the road this weekend. One has to remember that this is the second straight road game for all of last weekend’s winners so that has to be a factor in handicapping.
Record: 45-24-2 (3-1 last week)
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Chiefs had the least issues last weekend and enter this one with a lot of momentum as the win streak hits 11 in a row. Jeremy Maclin’s status is important, as Kansas City doesn’t exactly have a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Chiefs have a good system, but we know that New England takes away what you do best. Because of that, you’ve got to think that Travis Kelce will be the Patriots’ main focus on defense. I hate to be the wet blanket, but look at the teams that the Chiefs beat during this win streak and you see a lot of garbage. It did begin with a home victory over Pittsburgh and does feature a road win at Denver, but other then that yuck.
The week off did great things for New England, which expects to have Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower all available for this one. This was a team that limped to the finish with four losses in its last six game, but the Patriots weren’t even close to healthy. Tom Brady struggled mightily down the stretch especially after he lost Edelman. With everyone back, this team is a force and a threat. Remember how well the Pats played, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots allow just 339.4 yards per game which is slightly higher then Kansas City’s 323.2.
All of this leads to my favorite pick of the weekend. People are giving the Chiefs a lot of credit and they deserve it. But let’s not overthink this though with New England 17-7 ATS at home over its last 27 games. SELECTION: New England -5 (Pats 28-13)
Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
It’s a rematch of an ugly 38-8 victory by the Cardinals in Arizona back on Dec. 27. Aaron Rodgers struggled terribly that game, as well as the rest of the offense, which managed just 178 yards total. Last weekend the Packers went into Washington, D.C. and beat the Redskins 35-18 in a game that channeled the Rodgers of old. He threw for just 205 yards, but the swagger seemed to be back. He’ll need that against the Cardinals, playing their third straight home game and four of their last five.
The reason I bring this up is because Green Bay has its fourth road game in its last five. The Bills had a similar stretch during the regular season and they ran out of steam by the end of it. When you get down to it, the Packers are still a flawed team. None of their WRs scare you and the run game still isn’t consistent enough to be a factor. Arizona had two weeks to hear about its 36-6 loss at home to Seattle so you know the Cardinals will be ready to rock. This is a group before that game that scored 128 points over a four-game span. Carson Palmer is rolling and he has a ton of weapons at his disposal. Rookie running back David Johnson is the biggest revelation and he makes it harder to defend Arizona, which also has three top-notch WRs. The Cardinals are 25-12 ATS the last three years against conference opponents. SELECTION: Under 50 (Cardinals 28-13)
Seattle Seahawks (11-6) at Carolina Panthers (15-1)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET (FOX)
Rematch No. 2 this weekend, as Carolina won in Seattle back in October a 27-23 contest that was 10-7 Seahawks at halftime. There are a couple of things to consider in this one. First, it’s another early kickoff for the visitors from the West Coast. Second, it’s the team’s third straight road game, going from Arizona to Minnesota and now Carolina. Third, the Seahawks’ defense is a lot better now than in October.
The numbers are fantastic for Carolina’s offense, but the Panthers are coming off a bye so who knows how good the timing will be? I’ll say this; they won’t get the 38 points that they’ve had in three of their last four. Seattle’s offense struggled in the cold in Minnesota, but the run game was without Marshawn Lynch. We still don’t know his status, but even if Lynch is able to return the Seahawks figure to struggle to get much going on the ground against the Panthers’ stout defense. Seattle has gone under in 25 of its last 41 games against conference opponents. SELECTION: Under 44 (Carolina 23-20)
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) at Denver Broncos (12-4)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS)
Injuries may make this summary relatively useless, especially since most books have not released totals. Antiono Brown has already been ruled out because of a concussion, while DeAngelo Williams and Ben Roethlisberger are questionable. That’s pretty much the Steelers’ offense. Williams doesn’t look good to play and Big Ben may not be able to throw the ball past 10-15 yards due to his shoulder injury.
Pittsburgh won the first game between the two at home back on Dec. 20 34-27. This is actually the Steelers’ fourth straight game away from home and fifth in their last six. Part of me almost thinks that they will pack it in and get blown out in this one especially playing in the thin air of the Mile High City. There is a small contrarian part of me that likes the Steelers, especially if the line gets a lot higher. If we lose the big three, this line could go up to 10 I bet.
It’s not like the Broncos are blowing anyone out. They beat the Chargers by seven in Week 17 after a three-point home win over the Bengals. Bottom line, right now at 7, I like Denver, but that’s also assuming Brown and Williams are out. This one could be an under as well. SELECTION: Nothing official due to injuries.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
The way the Vikings lost to the Seahawks on Wild Card weekend was nothing short of devastating.
EA Sports doesn't seem to care based on this Instagram post. Blair Walsh's kick in the final moments was wide left and it's all anyone can talk about. It's a little soon for the fans of Minnesota to laugh at their team's dashed Super Bowl hopes, but when they're ready they are sure to get a chuckle out of this.
A photo posted by EA SPORTS (@easportsinsider) on
Jason Whitlock. If I could, I would end the article there.
He is a writer who is the definition of an "acquired taste", but if you love hot takes he'd be the way to go. Now that he's released of his duties of trying to get ESPN's "The Undefeated" off the ground, he's making his rounds on Fox Sports 1.
During the national championship game between Alabama and Clemson, the controversial writer had some thoughts on singer Ciara's attire. He wasn't the only one to comment, but in true Whitlock fashion he took it a bit too far on Colin Cowherd's show.
For those who missed it, this is the dress Ciara wore.
It's inappropriate, Ciara. Cover up, Ciara. Insert eye-rolling emoji.
I'm 100 percent serious. I'm not a prude. Love nudity. Not at national champ game. Inappropriate. https://t.co/LoTzEqBQQJ— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) January 12, 2016
The cheerleaders are wearing less clothes for goodness sakes. The singer was wearing a gown that went all the way to her feet and somehow that came off as thirsty to Whitlock.
It's strange for him to say that Ciara demanded the attention. She's a very famous singer, in the public eye, and dating Russell Wilson. It's hard for her not to command everyone's attention. If anything, Whitlock spent much of the time once she was gone still tweeting about her. He made it more about her than he's willing to admit. Beware ladies because wearing a full-length dress can get you the "thirsty" label. Trust me, I've seen thirsty and that's not it.
Keep in mind that Whitlock is the same person who said Serena Williams was overweight. Take a minute and let that sink in. He also said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't get criticized because he's black. Again if you need a minute to let that marinate, please do so.
You know what a "thirsty" person wants more than anything? Attention. Based on the blazing hot takes and the constant nagging about things that make no sense, it's clear Ciara isn't the thirsty one in this equation.
When the Packers last made a trip to the desert, they might as well have been set upon by snakes and scorpions for all the fun they had. Arizona throttled Green Bay, 38-8 in Week 16, leaving the visitors confused about their future and wondering whether the 2015 season would be one of ultimate disappointment.
Expect things to be different Saturday when Green Bay returns to the Phoenix area. Not that a victory for the Pack is guaranteed; not by any stretch. But it’s highly unlikely the Cardinals will get a quick jump and roll to another easy win.
The Packers’ victory in Washington provided much-needed momentum after a pair of disappointing losses to Arizona and Minnesota that ended the regular season. While Green Bay enters the game on a high, it must face an Arizona team that has been able to rest and prepare for two weeks, the bounty from earning a first-round bye.
NFC Divisional Round: Green Bay at Arizona
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Arizona -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Back in the Saddle
The Packers weren’t overwhelming on offense in last week’s 35-18 triumph over Washington, but Green Bay certainly looked better than it had in a while. After a scoreless first quarter, the Pack cranked it up from there, finishing drives with touchdowns and getting balanced production from the passing and running attacks. Aaron Rodgers was 21-of-36 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, while Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined to rush for 116 yards and average 4.8 yards per carry. While the consistent production was important, so was the emergence — for one game anyway — of wide receiver Davante Adams, who had a couple of big catches, including a touchdown. The Packer attack wasn’t rollicking as it had been in years past, but it certainly had more life.
2. Cranking It Back Up
When we last saw the Cardinals, Seattle was slapping them around in the regular season finale, 36-6. Perhaps Arizona was coasting, since it had already clinched a first-round bye and couldn’t get the top spot in the playoff hierarchy. But after being so productive for so long, the Cards looked a little flat. Sometimes, a bye isn’t the best remedy for a poor performance, but at this time of year, it’s hard to argue with a team getting some time off to heal and rest. Now, it’s up to QB Carson Palmer and coach Bruce Arians to get things rolling again. A major player will be rookie running back David Johnson, who has emerged as a force following injuries to those ahead of him on the depth chart. Johnson rushed for 187 yards against Philadelphia in mid-December and has provided good balance to the potent Cardinal passing attack. “He’s played well. Hopefully, he continues to,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “The kid is humble. The kid works his butt off and he’s smart, so he’s got a bright future ahead. Hopefully, he can protect the ball like he’s been doing and we should be alright.”
3. Line Up
When the Cards and Packers played earlier, the Arizona pass rush was way too much for the beleaguered Green Bay line to handle. Cardinal defenders sacked Rodgers eight times and finished the game with a total of nine. The good news for Green Bay is that Rodgers was dumped only once last week, and the injuries that led to the trouble earlier in Glendale look to be gone, or at least minimized. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is ready to go, and left tackle David Bakhtiari practiced Wednesday and appears as if he will be out there. Their presence will allow Green Bay to keep Rodgers cleaner and the game closer.
The Cardinals used steady excellence to earn this home game and the bye last week, and they enter the game confident and rested. Those are two big factors against a Green Bay team that recovered its mojo, for one week at least, against Washington. There is no doubt Arizona has the weapons necessary to pile up some points against Green Bay, provided the Cardinals can get rolling again quickly.
The Packers, meanwhile, are pleased to have rebounded from two straight losses with a good performance against Washington. The question for Green Bay is whether it fattened up against a weaker opponent from a lousy division, or if it has turned the season around and is ready to make an improbable run to Super Bowl 50 from the wild-card spot. That would be a nice story, but the Packers have too many question marks to overcome a strong Arizona team that is playing at home.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Packers 24
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.
The NFL Divisional Round of the playoffs is here with the second-seeded New England Patriots welcoming the fifth-seeded Kansas City Chiefs for the right to go to the AFC Championship Game!
The Chiefs hammered the Patriots last season 41-14 on "Monday Night Football," leading some to write the obituary of the Belichick/Brady Pats, but New England flipped the script on that narrative, going on to win their fourth Super Bowl. Both teams have significant differences now and this will be a much different game that hinges on a small handful of areas.
We really don't quite know who the 2015 Patriots are. Are they the team that steamrolled its way to a 10-0 start? Or the one that limped to the finish line, losing four of its last six? Injuries finally caught up with the Pats at the end of the year, but with a number of key players set to return, this weekend's game will finally show us who the 2015 Pats are.
The Chiefs have had some key injuries of their own, but that hasn't stopped them from winning 11 straight, including last weekend's takedown of the Texans in the wild card round. The Chiefs feature an outstanding defense and an offense that will throw the entire playbook at their opposition. Read option, misdirection, bootlegs, play action... these are all wrinkles the Chiefs run, testing the discipline and the fundamentals of their opponent.
These are two well-coached teams and it should be a fantastic game.
AFC Divisional Playoff: Kansas City at New England
Kickoff: 4:35 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: New England -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Patriots' Return to Health
The Patriots are expecting a number of their walking wounded to return in this one, but the three key players are Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer and Dont'a Hightower. If all three can return at the level of play we're used to seeing, the Patriots will look far closer to the team that started 10-0 than the one that lost four of its last six.
Edelman and Vollmer are key to re-establishing New England's quick-passing offense, the bread and butter of their playbook and an element that has been missing in recent weeks. Both go hand-in-hand with not only allowing Brady to get the ball out quickly, but also with protecting No. 12 that extra second when there's no one open initially. Simply put, Edelman is the team's best playmaker with the ball in his hands, and how close he is to 100 percent will likely determine the fate of the Pats' season.
Hightower is crucial to the Patriots' run defense, and there might not be a more important key in this game than stopping the Chiefs' ground attack. Hightower is not only New England's most physical linebacker, but he also frees up Jamie Collins to be used in a number of creative ways. Without Hightower playing at his usual level, the Chiefs could establish the run and dictate how the game is played.
2. Chiefs' Ground Game
Most buried the Chiefs after Jamaal Charles went down for the season, but Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have done an admirable job replacing him. With Jeremy Maclin likely out after sustaining a high ankle sprain in last week's win over the Texans, the Chiefs will have to lean on West and Ware even more. The ground attack also includes quarterback Alex Smith, who will chip in with some key carries himself, often out of the read option.
The Patriots will focus their primary attention on tight end Travis Kelce, while primary wide receivers Chris Conley and Albert Wilson will be manned up on the outside by cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. This will mean plenty of eight-man boxes that the Chiefs must navigate to get their rushing attack going. No simple task against New England's physical and underrated front.
If they can't get going, it will play right into the Patriots' hands, setting up third-and-longs where the Chiefs' short passing game and misdirection runs won't be enough.
These two teams don't make a lot of mistakes with the football and feast on opponents who do. The Chiefs ranked second in the NFL in turnover differential, while the Pats ranked fifth.
The Patriots have a fascinating recent history with takeaways in the playoffs. From 2010-13 they failed to produce a takeaway in their four season-ending losses, and it took Malcolm Butler's interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX to avoid a fifth straight exit without one. The Patriots' defense didn't have to rely on turnovers quite as much this season, but the team still hasn't won a playoff contest without a takeaway since 2001's Tuck Rule game against Oakland.
Put this all together and it shows how critical turnovers will be in this game. Just one interception or fumble could be the difference.
The Patriots are extremely tough to beat at home, they've lost just three times in Foxboro in the playoffs under Bill Belichick. Kansas City certainly has the pieces to pull off the upset, but the game must unfold just right. This isn't going to be a shootout. If the Patriots get a significant lead it will be hard for the Chiefs to claw their way back into it.
The first quarter will be vitally important. The Chiefs must establish the run for their offense to be fully operational and if they can get a lead and force the Patriots out of their game plan, it will bode well for Kansas City's chance of victory. Defensively, the Chiefs have the pieces to attack New England's suspect offensive line, but ;they must get pressure on Brady early and often to prevent him from finding a rhythm. That's what they did in 2014 and it worked perfectly. Pressure Brady. Bust some long runs. That's what the Chiefs need.
For the Patriots, re-establishing their quick passing game will breathe new life into an offense that has looked stale and unable to protect its quarterback. The Chiefs have a strong run defense, but expect the Patriots to run Steven Jackson head on into it. Jackson is the biggest unknown (aside from the injuries) for the Pats this postseason. If he gets going look out. Defensively the Pats must play well fundamentally. It's not about getting pass rush pressure. It's about keeping Alex Smith in the pocket with nowhere to scramble, combined with sound tackling on the short passes. If New England does that Kansas City will be punting more than putting points on the board.
The Chiefs need too many things to go right to win the game and will struggle if they fall behind without Jeremy Maclin's presence. The Patriots will remind everyone just how good they really are with Julian Edelman and the rest of their injured players back in the lineup and head to their fifth straight conference championship game.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Chiefs 13
Welcome to the college football offseason — a barren wasteland of recruiting updates and news about transfers to and from programs around the country. There are only a couple of months until spring practices start, but it still feels like an eternity.
That’s where I come in. It&’s never too early to talk about the next season, especially when you are talking about outrageous predictions regarding young men in their late teens and early twenties. You can’t go wrong really with the 2016 season this far out, as almost nothing is off the table or out of the question. That said, it never hurts to be prepared for the outrageous, especially in the Big Ten.
Way Too Early Outrageous Predictions for the Big Ten in 2016
Penn State wins the East
Yes, the Nittany Lions are going to lose three high-profile guys who will likely start immediately on Sundays. It’s what they return, however, that has me optimistic. Saquon Barkley looks like the most talented returning running back in the conference, and he’ll have the help of an offensive line that should return four starters. All told, Penn State looks to return 18 total starters on offense and defense, and the fruits of three straight Top 25 recruiting classes should be ripe.
Nebraska fails to finish with a winning record again
The Huskers lost a handful of last-second heartbreakers in 2015, yielding a 5-7 mark in the regular season. Their sound bowl win over UCLA gave Husker Nation plenty of hope, but one glance at what the team returns combined with the 2016 slate should give the realistic Nebraska faithful pause. The one true game-changer the team has on offense is coming off of two significant lower body injuries and the Cornhuskers also lose two NFL-caliber defensive tackles. They’ll play Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa on the road and host Oregon in the non-conference portion of their slate. They’ll likely be underdogs in all five of those game, lose all five, and then lose to at least one team they don’t expect to — a hallmark of Mike Riley’s coaching career.
Michigan wins fewer than nine games
Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone outside of Ann Arbor in 2015. Next season will be a different story. A new signal-caller will bring some growing pains and the loss of a strong core of seniors on defense will be huge. They open the Big Ten season with back-to-back home games against Penn State and Wisconsin, then travel to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State during the last half of the year. Look for a sophomore slump in 2016 for the Harbaugh tenure.
Purdue goes bowling
The Boilermakers are returning eight starters on defense. They also bring back a talented quarterback and running back that will be protected by an offensive line with some experience. They got a signature win last season against Nebraska and are confident group heading into Darrell Hazell’s fourth year at Purdue. The schedule sets up nicely, as they don’t play a road game until Oct. 1 against Maryland. Additionally, they get four of their five toughest Big Ten opponents at home. Look for Purdue to turn the corner in 2016.
Ohio State fails to hit the double-digit win mark
The Buckeyes have won 10 or more game in every season but one since 2005. The 2016 slate combined with the fact that the Buckeyes are losing more than a dozen starters to the NFL Draft or graduation means an uphill climb for Urban Meyer’s bunch next season. They’ll be talented as always, but young at most positions. That will make games at Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State more interesting than they already were going to be. They also host Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan. Going 4-3 in those seven games and losing the bowl game should not be ruled out by anyone.
College football’s 2015 season ended in thrilling fashion, as Alabama edged Clemson for the national championship on Jan. 11. Even though the 2015 season just ended, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2016 and examine some of the teams poised to show improvement in the win column. Michigan, Florida State and Tennessee weren’t in the playoff picture last season, but all three could be a factor in 2016. The Wolverines are poised to take another step forward in coach Jim Harbaugh’s second season, the Volunteers are the favorite to win the SEC East, while the gap between Clemson and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic isn’t as wide as some may think.
With a few months to dissect rosters, opinions can change on teams – perhaps a couple of times in the offseason. Additionally, unexpected roster attrition, late coordinator changes or injuries can all change the outlook on how teams are viewed this offseason.
There’s a long ways to go until the 2016 season officially begins, but here are 10 teams we think are on the rise for next season.
College Football’s Top 10 Teams on the Rise for 2016
After a 27-1 mark from 2013-14 and a NFL Draft record with 29 players selected over a three-year span, a small step back in the win column was expected for Florida State in 2015. However, the Seminoles still finished 10-3 – with one of those losses coming on an unlucky blocked field goal return for a touchdown against Georgia Tech – and played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Houston. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has reloaded and is poised to challenge Clemson for the ACC title and a playoff berth next year. Running back Dalvin Cook leads the way on offense, and the offensive line returns standout left tackle Roderick Johnson. Development at receiver and the quarterback battle are Fisher’s biggest question marks on offense. The defense finished second in the ACC by limiting opponents to 4.68 yards per play in 2015 and returns freshmen standouts Josh Sweat (DE) and Derwin James (safety) and All-America candidate DeMarcus Walker. The schedule also breaks in Florida State’s favor. Clemson, Florida and North Carolina visit Doak Campbell Stadium in 2016.
Tom Herman’s arrival as Houston’s head coach propelled the Cougars to one of the best seasons (13-1) in program history. Herman’s encore could be just as successful, as Houston should be the top team from the Group of 5 conferences and ranked in the 10-15 range in most preseason polls for 2016. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. leads an explosive offense, but he will have to find a new go-to receiver after Demarcus Ayers left for the NFL, and go-to option at running back after Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson expired their eligibility. The Cougars may ask their offense to shoulder more of the load next season with a defense losing a few key pieces from a unit that limited opponents to 20.7 points per game in 2015. Standout cornerback William Jackson III, linebacker Elandon Roberts and safeties Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart are four big losses for coordinator Todd Orlando. After scoring huge wins over Power 5 teams Florida State, Louisville and Vanderbilt last season, the Cougars will have at least two more opportunities next fall with a neutral site matchup against Oklahoma to start the year, followed by a home game against Louisville in late November.
The ACC’s Atlantic Division will be top heavy next year, as Florida State and Clemson should be in contention for a playoff spot, while Louisville is poised to build off an 8-5 record in 2015. The Cardinals won six out of their last seven games last season, including a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl and a 38-24 victory over rival Kentucky. Led by dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson, the offense is poised for a breakout season in 2016. Jackson’s rushing ability is a huge asset for an offense looking for the right pieces up front, and this team returns every major contributor at receiver and running back. Linebacker James Burgess and ends Sheldon Rankins and Pio Vatuvei are big losses, but the defense returns largely intact. Linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields will be two of the best in the ACC at their position in 2016, while safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is back after a solid performance in the Music City Bowl. Louisville’s schedule is favorable for a run at 10 wins, including home games against Florida State and Kentucky, along with favorable crossover contests in league play against Duke and Virginia.
Are the Hurricanes ready to take a step forward and finally win the ACC’s Coastal Division? It certainly seems that way. Hiring Mark Richt as the program’s new coach to replace Al Golden was a step in the right direction, and Richt has assembled a solid staff for recruiting and player development. New defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski and coordinator Manny Diaz are key pickups for a defense that’s ranked 10th or worse in the ACC in points allowed per game in three out of the last four seasons. Richt plans to have a prominent role in the offense, and junior quarterback Brad Kaaya is poised for his best season in Coral Gables. Kaaya is surrounded by playmakers at receiver and one of the ACC’s top backfields with the return of Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton. Road trips to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame dot the schedule for Richt’s debut, while the Hurricanes have a favorable draw at home with Florida State and North Carolina visiting Sun Life Stadium.
It’s only a matter of time before Jim Harbaugh has Michigan in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines finished 10-3 in Harbaugh’s debut and closed the year on a high note by dominating Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl. Surpassing the 10-win mark in 2016 is realistic, but Harbaugh has to find a new quarterback to replace Jake Rudock and continue to develop a running game that averaged 4.19 yards per carry last season. Regardless of who steps in at quarterback, the Wolverines should have a solid group of targets in the passing game with the return of tight end Jake Butt and receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. The offensive line returns four starters, including All-Big Ten selection Erik Magnuson. New defensive coordinator Don Brown was one of the top assistant hires of the offseason, and the Wolverines return one of the Big Ten’s top defensive lines and secondary groups in 2016. There’s a good chance three road dates – at Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State – decide just how high Michigan can climb in next year’s playoff picture.
It may come as a surprise to some to see Nebraska mentioned in this space. Despite a 6-7 record in coach Mike Riley’s debut, things are looking up for the Cornhuskers. This team finished 2015 with momentum after a win over UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl and is due for better luck next fall. Nebraska’s minus-12 turnover margin played a huge role in why this team lost six games by eight points or less. Pushing the turnover margin to even or in the positive category could net an improvement of a couple of games in the win column. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to take better care of the ball, but a second offseason under Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf should help the senior have a better grasp of the offense. The biggest concern for Riley is the defense, which must replace standout tackle Maliek Collins and needs overall improvement after giving up 5.88 yards per play in 2015. The schedule has its share of tough games next fall, but Nebraska hosts Oregon in non-conference play and catches Maryland and Indiana in Big Ten crossover action.
After a 6-18 start to his tenure at South Florida, coach Willie Taggart needed to show signs of progress in 2015. Mission accomplished. The Bulls made a four-game improvement in the win column with an 8-5 final mark and an appearance in the Miami Beach Bowl. South Florida fell just short of winning the American Athletic Conference’s East Division and won seven out of their last nine games in 2015. Taggart will have a few voids to address this offseason, as South Florida needs to retool a bit in the trenches, and standout safety Jamie Byrd has expired his eligibility. However, the Bulls return quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack, and the schedule in conference play (no Houston) is manageable. Taggart has South Florida on the right track and there’s also another solid recruiting class on the way to Tampa.
The Volunteers are primed to take another step forward in 2016. After a 5-7 debut in 2013, coach Butch Jones has improved Tennessee’s win total by two games in each of the last two seasons. The best team of Jones’ tenure is in place next fall, starting on offense with the return of quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. Four starters are back on an improving offensive line, but the receiving corps has to improve after the passing attack generated only seven plays of 40 yards or more in 2015. Tennessee ranked fifth in the SEC in scoring defense last year and should be one of the best in the league with the addition of new coordinator Bob Shoop. This unit returns rising stars Kahlil McKenzie (DT) and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., while linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin turned down the NFL for one more season in Knoxville. Tennessee should be the favorite in the SEC East Division next year.
With Stanford losing a few key players from its Pac-12 Championship team, and the uncertainty at Oregon, Washington should contend for the conference title next year. The Huskies are 15-12 under coach Chris Petersen and closed 2015 by winning four out of their last six games. Additionally, four out of the team’s six losses came by 10 points or less, including a six-point defeat to Oregon in mid-October. Most of this team’s core returns for 2016, starting with quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. The defense loses a couple of starters but returns largely intact. The secondary could be one of the best in the nation, while linebacker Azeem Victor is a rising star in the front seven. Washington also hosts Stanford, USC and Arizona State next fall.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see two of the Pac-12’s best teams reside in the state of Washington next year. Washington is a sleeper candidate to win the league next season, and Washington State is coming off its best season (9-4) under coach Mike Leach. Offense – as expected with a Mike Leach-coached team – leads the way for the Cougars. Quarterback Luke Falk threw for 38 scores last season and returns a loaded receiving corps, including Gabe Marks (104 catches in 2015) and River Cracraft (53 receptions). Replacing the left side of the offensive line is Leach’s biggest priority in spring ball. The defense took a step forward in Alex Grinch’s first season as the coordinator. After giving up 38.6 points a game in 2014, the Cougars cut that total to 27.7 in 2015. Linemen Destiny Vaeao and Darry Paulo are big losses, but there are reasons to be optimistic on this side of the ball. Cornerback Darrien Molton and safety Shalom Luani are two building blocks in the secondary, while linebacker Peyton Pelluer returns after leading the team with 101 stops in 2015. The Cougars also have a favorable conference schedule, with UCLA, Arizona, Washington and Oregon visiting Martin Stadium next fall.
Five Group of 5 Teams to Watch
The Mountaineers should be the early favorite to win the Sun Belt next season. Coach Scott Satterfield’s team finished 11-2 in 2015 after a victory over Ohio in the Camellia Bowl, with most of this team’s core set to return in 2016. Quarterback Taylor Lamb leads the way on offense, with freshman Jalin Moore a rising star to watch at running back.
San Diego State
A rebound year is expected for Boise State next fall, but don’t forget about San Diego State as a team that could push Houston for the top spot among Group of 5 teams. The Aztecs return most of their core from a team that quietly won 11 games last season, including running back Donnel Pumphrey, safety Malik Smith and cornerback Damontae Kazee.
The Golden Eagles are coming off their best season (9-5) under third-year coach Todd Monken. Standout receiver Mike Thomas will be missed, but quarterback Nick Mullens is back and is a big reason why Southern Miss should get consideration as the favorite in Conference USA next fall.
New coach Jason Candle should keep the Rockets near the top of the MAC next season. Running back Kareem Hunt is one of the MAC’s top playmakers, and left tackle Storm Norton anchors a solid offensive line. The biggest question marks for Candle in 2016 revolve around the defense.
P.J. Fleck has guided Western Michigan to back-to-back 8-5 seasons, and the Broncos are coming off the first bowl win in program history. The pieces are in place for Western Michigan to win the MAC West next fall. Toledo and Northern Illinois visit Kalamazoo, and the offense is primed for another big season with the return of quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis.
When the jackpot gets to a certain point, everyone is playing the lottery.
Rams defensive end Chris Long even got in on the action as the pot rose to $1.6 billion, and got to live out a life-long goal of being on the local news. The station referred to him as "hopeful Powerball player" and he shared his plans for the winning ticket.
Some dreams come true finally made the local news tonight. pic.twitter.com/LmZNouUdoL— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) January 14, 2016
Unfortunately Long didn't win but we'll always have this gem of an interview.
Believe it or not, I shed a tear when I heard on Wednesday that former Nebraska and NFL running back Lawrence Phillips had taken his own life. That may seem incredibly odd for those that hate him with a capital “H-A-T-E” or others that saw Phillips as nothing more than wasted talent that made poor choices and ended up a prison rat. “Good riddance,” some have said.
No, I shed a tear because I knew I would never read a happy ending to a story I have been following ever since I was a teenager.
My introduction to college football coincidentally started during the 1994 season when Nebraska began its glory days. I knew nothing of American football, but I knew that this beast wearing No. 1 in scarlet pummeling members of the opposition as they attempted to knock him down in vain was special. I loved watching him make defenses look the fool every Saturday.
Lawrence Phillips was the athlete that Nebraska Cornhuskers fans pine for to this day.
He then assaulted his ex-girlfriend and who he truly was started to bubble to the surface. Brought up in horrific conditions, along with his understanding of consequence twisted and ability to rein in rage broken, this was Phillips: an angry, broken young man.
As time went on, I found out I had more in common with him than I thought.
I make no secret that I suffer from mental illness. I suspect Phillips did too despite no official diagnosis. I’ve not committed the crimes that he has, but as someone else who likely looked at the world through similar eyes trying to make sense of it all, I felt a connection with the part of Phillips that was screaming for help.
Thanks to his amazing athletic ability, he was given chance after chance from being selected as an NFL first-round draft pick to playing in the now-defunct NFL Europe to the AFL and CFL. He was just that good. I like to think that the organizations which took him on were of the same mind as me. Maybe this’ll be the time. Maybe he’ll finally understand.
I was actually enthused when I heard that letters were being sent to the small number of people he could call family in June 2015, those that had positive influences on his life. He wrote to Tony Zane, his coach at Baldwin Park (Calif.) High School and Ty Pagone, who helped him get everything straight academically so he would be able to attend college.
These letters didn’t read like something a “thug” would write, but a human being. The human being that I found myself becoming more and more connected to, hoping that something better could become of all this madness.
Yes, he did horrible things and I am not going to say that he did not deserve to be sentenced and serve his debt to society, he did. However, no person deserves to be shoved into a corner so small that the only way out is death by their own hand. Maybe Phillips would’ve been sentenced to death for the alleged murder of his cellmate, but that’s why words like “alleged” were invented.
According to a piece by USA Today, Phillips seemed “confident” and “optimistic” about winning his appeal. Unfortunately, in suicidal situations, a high can come before the eventual (and final) fall.
I wanted to wake up one day and read a story about how Phillips had hit rock bottom but was now on his way to a life he never knew. That he’d be happy and able to live life as an average human being who was getting help with deep-seated demons.
Now neither I — nor anyone — will ever get to read those words. That makes a brother sometimes in misery very, very sad.
Sometimes the NBA experience isn't what you think it would be. Not all arenas are created equal.
To be clear, these NBA arenas have great fan bases for the most part, but not even those could help you overlook your surroundings. Are there some arenas you go to and don't feel as if you've gotten your money's worth? With a few improvements, going to these arenas could be classified as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
|5. Wells Fargo Center||76ers||There's no doubt Philly has good basketball, but watching it in Wells Fargo Center is not all one would dream of. It's big with an intimate feel, but there are times when the crowd doesn't seem into it but that's not 100% their fault. They fail to "trust the process".|
|4. Verizon Center||Washington Wizards||D.C. isn't exactly what you would call a die-hard sports town. Sure, fans love the Redskins, Nationals, and Wizards, but it's one of those places where you don't get that excited at games because there's so much cool stuff happening at all times in the city. The regular season games aren't much to go crazy over, but the playoff atmosphere is up there.|
|3. Target Center||Minnesota Timberwolves||The Timberwolves need a new place. Plain and simple. The Target Center is less than ideal, but that doesn't stop fans from piling in. The fans keep the place just rowdy enough for someone to overlook the conditions the arena is in.|
|2. BMO Bradley Harris Arena||Milwaukee Bucks||Look around you in the Bradley Harris Arena and you will most likely see parts of it not in the best of shape. That's not going to do much for your fan experience, but lucky for the Bucks they have pretty faithful fans.|
|1. Sleep Train Arena||Sacramento Kings||The Kings owners fought hard to get a new facility. Their best option might be to leave town. There's no easy way to say it. They're a team that seems to always be on the verge of moving somewhere but never actually does. It would be in the best interest of the team and fans for the Kings to find a new place, in or out of Sacramento, to play.|
You want to make Dallas great? Vote Dirk Nowitzki!
The Mavericks star gets in his best Donald Trump wig in order to "build a wall of noise" and throw his hat in the ring for his city.
Vote Nowitzki 2016.
At the National Championship game Monday, there was one guy on the Alabama sideline that stood out. Not Lane Kiffin.
During a failed 2-point conversion by Clemson, Deshaun Watson veered off to the sideline and was yelled at by a man on the sideline while on the ground. Many football fans mentioned it but proceeded to let it go and get back into the game.
Thanks to the best of Twitter, people are trying to put two and two together to figure of the guy yelling is Nick Saban's son. How that makes them feel better, we'll never know.
Obviously it doesn't change anything but as with most things on the internet, people aren't going to let this go without a definitive answer.
The 2015 Georgia Bulldogs will be remembered for a lot of things. This team finished 10-3, marking the 10th time in the last 15 years that Georgia has reached double digits in the win column. The outgoing senior class will graduate with 40 wins to its credit. That’s pretty good for a team that played in only one SEC Championship Game in the past four years. It’s not easy to average 10 wins a season in any conference, let alone the SEC.
This season also will also be remembered as the year Mark Richt was fired. That’s right, the head coach who led the Bulldogs to two SEC titles, six SEC East Division championships, 145 regular season wins and nine bowl victories, was let go after another disappointing 10-win season (although Richt didn’t coach Georgia in its TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Penn State).
I say that tongue-in-cheek but it bears a lot of truth. This Georgia team may go down as the most disappointing 10-win team in a long time. I mean how many teams begin the season ranked in the AP top 10, finish with 10 wins and are then left out of the last top 25 poll? That’s just as amazing as finishing undefeated in my opinion. Even AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo thinks so:
According to STATS research, Georgia 1st team in a Power 5 league to win 10 and finish unranked, dating back to 1996 https://t.co/O8QHxsnxI0— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) January 12, 2016
1996! Pre-BCS days for those too young to know your college football history. Steve Spurrier was still running the fun-and-gun at Florida, Bob Stoops was still a defensive coordinator (also at Florida) and Alabama was saying farewell to Gene Stallings and welcoming in Mike DuBose.
So in 20 years of voting, no other 10-win team has ever missed out on the top 25 at the end of the year. But if you look at the Bulldogs’ schedule and results, it’s pretty self-explanatory why few of the AP voters felt Georgia deserved a top-25 ranking. While the Bulldogs’ three losses all were against teams that finished in the top 25, Alabama (1), Tennessee (22) and Florida (25), not one of Georgia’s wins were against a top 25 opponent.
In fact, the Bulldogs’ best win is even an arguable fact. Georgia Southern finished the season with nine victories, but the Eagles are a Sun Belt team whose seniors can brag about starting their career as a FCS member and making the move to FBS. The Bulldogs also needed overtime to win that game, which was at home.
Auburn and Penn State both finished with seven wins so they count as “quality” victories over Power 5 conference teams for Georgia. But the Bulldogs’ other seven wins aren’t nearly as impressive, including those against a team that lost eight games, two that loss nine and one that went 2-11. Combined, Georgia’s 2015 opponents had a winning percentage of .414. I didn’t look it up but that may be the worst for a team that won 10 games.
The AP voters did at least give Georgia the most votes out of all of the teams that didn’t make the cut. Georgia finished with 109 votes, just 17 votes short of No. 25 Florida. The Coaches Poll was a bit kinder to Georgia, as the Bulldogs were actually ranked above the Gators, who defeated their SEC East rivals 27-3 during the season so that makes total sense. (Insert sarcasm here.)
Six other teams finished the 2015 season with double-digit wins but did not land in the final AP Top 25 poll – Marshall (10-3), Temple (10-4), San Diego State (11-3), Bowling Green ( 10-4), Toledo (10-2), and Appalachian State (11-2). Out of those teams, San Diego State finished with the most votes, receiving 44. But none of these teams are a part of a Power 5 conference like Georgia.
I will say this, no one does forgettable 10-win seasons quite like Richt but this one takes the cake. Here’s to you, 2015 Georgia Bulldogs, and your history-making season.
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.
Sports fans live and die with their teams.
Although fans root for certain teams based on players they like or how they were raised, others go off of location. Born and raised in Chicago? Chances are good that you're a Bulls and Bears fan. Location, location, location.
It's no surprise that when a team moves, their fans are not too pleased about it. With the recent plans to relocate the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles, let's take a look at franchise moves that some fans may still be hurt by.
5. Brooklyn Dodgers —> Los Angeles Dodgers
As most sports franchise moves, this one begins with money. Owners of a team want a new stadium and when they don't get it, they make a threat. Before you know it, that threat becomes reality. For the youngsters it's difficult to hear the word "Dodgers" and not think about LA, but the more nostalgic sports fans will always acknowledge them as Brooklyn's team. At least New Yorkers have the Yankees and Mets to lean on.
4. Los Angeles Rams —> St. Louis Rams
Although it's a moot point now, it's hard to imagine being a Rams fan and losing your team to St. Louis. Some football fans will say things just never seemed right after the team was transported to Missouri. Legendary running back Eric Dickerson had to root for Missouri probably all the while holding on to hope that his team would come back home. Now that they finally are heading back west, it's safe to say he's pretty ecstatic about it.
3. Cleveland Browns —> Baltimore Ravens
People joke that people in Cleveland don't have much aside from their sports team, but it could be argued that it's partly true. When Art Modell tried to move the Browns to Baltimore, lawsuits were filed and fans went crazy. In the Browns last game of the season, the Dawg Pound was so out of control that they had to move to the opposite side of the field. Ripped out seats and fires were the last memory of the Browns in Cleveland until 1999 when they got the new Browns in town.
2. Seattle SuperSonics —> Oklahoma City Thunder
This one hurt. A city like Seattle with such rich basketball history was "rewarded" by having their team relocated by a new owner who, despite what he claimed, had every intention on moving them to Oklahoma City. Clay Bennett ripped the hearts from every Seattle fan's chest. Seeing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook make it to the NBA Finals and remain elite in the Western Conference has to hurt Sonics fans year after year, especially with no immediate plans to get a franchise of their own. There will never come a day when Oklahoma City Thunder sounds better than Seattle SuperSonics.
1. Baltimore Colts —> Indianapolis Colts
Imagine going to sleep one night and everything makes sense. Then imagine waking up and your sports team (and world) is gone. That's what happened to fans in Baltimore when their team was moved in the middle of the night to Indianapolis. Of course it doesn't help things that the Colts would eventually draft Peyton Manning and a Super Bowl win. Baltimore of course got the Ravens and a Super Bowl win of their own.
Only time will tell how the people of St. Louis (and Nelly) will react to their city no longer being home to an NFL team.
Even though the 2015 season just ended on Monday night, it’s never too early to consider the early favorites for the 2016-17 College Football Playoff.
William Hill Sportsbook has provided the first glance into Vegas’ early favorites for 2016, with two familiar teams (Clemson and Alabama) leading the way at the top.
The Tigers are listed at 6/1 odds, followed by the Crimson Tide at 7/1. Another playoff team from 2015 (Oklahoma) is listed at 10/1.
Here are the full and very early odds from the sportsbook for next season:
|San Diego State||300/1|
Alabama has been one of the top teams in college football over the past couple of decades, but how do Nick Saban’s four national championship teams at Alabama and one at LSU compare to other past national championship teams?
For the purposes of this updated ranking of top national championship teams, we will go back to the start of the BCS Championship Era in 1998 and roll right on up to the second season of the College Football Playoff. Here is how the champs stack up.
Note: Opponent’s ranking at time in parentheses
1. Miami, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Since the dawn of the BCS Era, few teams have carried the amount of NFL talent on one roster the way the 2001 Miami Hurricanes did. Larry Coker stepped in as head coach following Butch Davis’ departure for the NFL, and he took over a program as locked and loaded that any coach would dream of running. The season started off with a dominating victory over Penn State, which set the tone for the championship run. Miami ripped through Florida State, avoided a letdown against Boston College and nipped Virginia Tech while blitzing through the rest of the schedule, which included victories against four top-15 teams before the BCS National Championship Game. Nebraska wiggled its way into the national championship game but was clearly out of its league against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Miami’s 37-14 victory over the Cornhuskers capped an undefeated season for the best national championship team of the era.
Sept. 1: Miami 33, Penn State 7
Sept. 8: Miami 61, Rutgers 0
Sept. 27: Miami 43, Pitt 21
Oct. 6: Miami 38, Troy 7
Oct. 13: Miami 49, (14) Florida State 27
Oct. 25: Miami 45, West Virginia 3
Nov. 3: Miami 38, Temple 0
Nov. 10: Miami 18, Boston College 7
Nov. 17: Miami 59, (14) Syracuse 0
Nov. 24: Miami 65, (12) Washington 7
Dec. 1: Miami 26, (14) Virginia Tech 24
Jan. 3: Miami 37, (4) Nebraska 14
2. USC, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
The Trojans had to settle for the rare split national title during the BCS years in 2003, but left no doubt about who the top team was in ’04. USC started the season as the No. 1 team in the country and never lost a grip on the top spot in the poll, picked up a Heisman Trophy season from quarterback Matt Leinart and saw the running duo of Reggie Bush and LenDale White give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares all season long. In all, this USC team, which destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national championship, saw 18 players get selected in either the first or second round of the NFL Draft and was absolutely loaded on offense, is arguably one of college football’s best in decades.
Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13
Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 0
Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10
Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28
Oct: 9: USC 23, (7) Cal 17
Oct. 16: USC 45, (15) Arizona State 7
Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0
Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12
Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 20
Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9
Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10
Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24
Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19
3. Texas, 2005 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
The 2005 season saw No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas on a season-long collision course for the national championship. The two remained in the top two spots of the poll all season long, setting up the game for the ages in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship. But before Texas could let Vince Young turn in a game legends are made of, the Longhorns first had to get through the regular season. An early victory over No. 4 Ohio State was later followed up with blowout wins over Oklahoma, No. 10 Texas Tech and rival Texas A&M before tearing up Colorado, 70-3, in the Big 12 Championship Game. In the national title clash with defending champion USC, Young did it all in leading Texas to the victory. This Texas team had four consensus All-Americans and went on to send 24 players through the NFL Draft, while beating perhaps the best team to not win a national title since 1998.
Sept. 3: Texas 60, ULL 3
Sept. 10: Texas 25, (4) Ohio State 22
Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10
Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20
Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma. 12
Oct. 15: Texas 42, (24) Colorado 17
Oct. 22: Texas 52, (10) Texas Tech 17
Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28
Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0
Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14
Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29
Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colorado 3
Jan. 4: Texas 41, (1) USC 38
4. Florida State, 2013 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
We are not so far removed from watching Florida State be the dominant force in college football. Jimbo Fisher’s best team since succeeding Bobby Bowden brought the Seminoles back to the national championship discussion with a dominant start to the year. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston got things started by jumping head first into the Heisman Trophy discussion after his debut performance on a Monday night at Pittsburgh, and it was off to the races from there. Florida State’s offense was filthy. The Florida State defense was nasty, holding opponents to 14 points or fewer 11 times before facing Duke in the ACC Championship Game. A win in Charlotte sent Florida State’s juggernaut squad off to Pasadena for a matchup with SEC champion Auburn. A 34-31 come-from-behind victory over the SEC champs (FSU was down 18 points at one point) provided the validation needed for Florida State’s perfect season and snapped the SEC’s winning streak in the BCS title game.
Sept 2: Florida State 41, Pitt 13
Sept. 14: Florida State 62, Nevada 7
Sept. 21: Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6
Sept. 28: Florida State 48, Boston College 34
Oct. 5: Florida State 63, (25) Maryland 0
Oct. 19: Florida State 51, (3) Clemson 14
Oct. 26: Florida State 49, NC State 17
Nov. 2: Florida State 41, (7) Miami 14
Nov. 9: Florida State 59, Wake Forest 3
Nov. 16: Florida State 59, Syracuse 3
Nov. 23: Florida State 80, Idaho 14
Nov. 30: Florida State 37, Florida 7
Dec. 7: Florida State 45, (20) Duke 7
Jan. 6: Florida State 34, (2) Auburn 31
5. Alabama, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Nick Saban was hired by Alabama to win and win big. It did not take long to deliver on that expectation. With Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram (the first Heisman winner in Alabama history) and steady Greg McElroy at quarterback, Alabama had the makings of a reliable offense, but it was Alabama’s defense that took the Crimson Tide to the next level. Alabama held three ranked SEC teams to fewer than 16 points on the way to Atlanta for a showdown with Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and the No. 1 Florida Gators. This one was no match as Alabama squashed the Gators, 32-13, to advance to the national championship game, where it took out Texas quarterback Colt McCoy early on and never gave the Longhorns much of a chance. Alabama ended up sending 11 players through the first round of the NFL Draft in the years that followed.
Sept. 5: Alabama 34, (7) Virginia Tech 24
Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14
Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North Texas 7
Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20
Oct. 10: Alabama 22, (20) Ole Miss 3
Oct. 17: Alabama 20, (22) South Carolina 6
Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10
Nov. 7: Alabama 24, (9) LSU 15
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3
Nov. 21: Alabama 45, UT-Chattanooga 0
Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21
Dec. 5: Alabama 32, (1) Florida 13
Jan. 7: Alabama 37, (2) Texas 21
6. Florida, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Florida jumped out to a nice 3-0 start in 2008 with big victories over Hawaii, Miami and Tennessee, but Ole Miss stunned the Gators in the swamp in the fourth game of the season. From that point on, Florida was unbeatable. With Tim Tebow energizing the team with his leadership, Florida went on a tear with a decisive victory over Arkansas, a 30-point blowout of No. 4 LSU, a 39-point win over No. 10 Georgia, 50-point victory over No. 24 South Carolina, a 30-point thumping of No. 23 Florida State and then an 11-point triumph over No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Against No. 2 Oklahoma, Florida pulled away for a 24-14 victory to wrap up the national title.
Aug. 30: Florida 56, Hawaii 10
Sept. 6: Florida 26, Miami 3
Sept. 20: Florida 30, Tennessee 6
Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30
Oct. 4: Florida 38, Arkansas 7
Oct. 11: Florida 51, (4) LSU 21
Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5
Nov. 1: Florida 49, (8) Georgia 10
Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14
Nov. 15: Florida 56, (24) South Carolina 6
Nov. 22: Florida 70, The Citadel 19
Nov. 29: Florida 45, (23) Florida State 15
Dec. 6: Florida 31, (1) Alabama 20
Jan. 8: Florida 24, (2) Oklahoma 14
7. Tennessee, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
The first national champion of the BCS Era came one year after Peyton Manning moved on to bigger and better things in the NFL. Tee Martin took over as quarterback and Phillip Fulmer had plenty of talent around Martin to put together a strong season with a strong backfield with Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis and Peerless Price catching passes. The Vols’ defense held nine opponents to 18 points or fewer while racking up five wins against top 25 teams, including a confidence-boosting 20-17 victory over Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators. Paired up against Florida State in the BCS Championship Game, the Vols came out on top with a 23-16 win in the first BCS National Championship Game.
Sept. 5: Tennessee 34, (17) Syracuse 33
Sept. 19: Tennessee 20, (2) Florida 17
Sept. 26: Tennessee 42, Houston 7
Oct. 3: Tennessee 17, Auburn 9
Oct. 10: Tennessee 22, (7) Georgia 3
Oct. 24: Tennessee 35, Alabama 18
Oct. 31: Tennessee 49, South Carolina 14
Nov. 7: Tennessee 37, UAB 13
Nov. 14: Tennessee 28, (10) Arkansas 24
Nov. 21: Tennessee 59, Kentucky 21
Nov. 28: Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 0
Dec. 5: Tennessee 24, (23) Mississippi State 14
Jan. 4: Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16
8. Alabama, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Alabama took care of business left and right, whipping aside ranked opponents at ease – 27-11 vs. No. 23 Penn State, 38-14 vs. No. 14 Arkansas, 38-10 vs. No. 12 Florida – to remain on a collision course with division foe LSU. The much hyped Game of the Century between the top two teams in the country turned into a field goal extravaganza with Alabama coming up short, 9-6, in overtime in November. Little did we know at the time, these two teams would get a rare rematch in the BCS Championship Game despite Alabama not winning or playing for the SEC championship. Alabama, with a roster featuring nine first-round NFL Draft picks, would score their revenge in a big way by completely mastering LSU and keeping the Tigers from crossing the 50-yard line until the second half. This may have been Saban’s best defense.
Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7
Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (23) Penn State 11
Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North Texas 0
Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (14) Arkansas 14
Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (12) Florida 10
Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0
Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7
Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6
Nov. 5: (1) LSU 9, Alabama 6
Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7
Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21
Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14
Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (1) LSU 0
9. Oklahoma, 2000 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
The revival of Oklahoma football hit full force in 2000 when the Sooners showed off a fully equipped offense with quarterback Josh Heupel and defense early on and scored major victories in October. Oklahoma’s key three-game stretch with wins over No. 11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Nebraska came by a combined score of 135-59. The Sooners later handed Kansas State another loss in the Big 12 Championship Game to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State. Stoops’ defense shut down a potent FSU offense and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and scored a 13-2 victory for the national championship.
Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14
Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7
Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17
Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16
Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (11) Texas 14
Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (2) Kansas State 31
Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (3) Nebraska 14
Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7
Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (23) Texas A&M 31
Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, Texas Tech 13
Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7
Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (8) Kansas State 24
Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (3) Florida State 2
10. Florida State, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
With Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick on offense, few teams could handle Florida State’s offense. The Seminoles scored 40 points or more in each of their first five games, which included victories over No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 20 NC State. A 31-21 victory over No. 19 Miami helped push Florida State on its championship drive, and a season-ending victory over No. 4 Florida locked Bobby Bowden’s squad into the championship game, where it managed to outlast Virginia Tech quarterback Mike Vick in the Sugar Bowl for a 46-29 victory. This was Bowden’s second national championship team.
Aug. 28: Florida State 41, Louisiana Tech 7
Sept. 11: Florida State 41, (10) Georgia Tech 35
Sept. 18: Florida State 42, (20) NC State 11
Sept. 25: Florida State 42, North Carolina 10
Oct. 2: Florida State 51, Duke 23
Oct. 9: Florida State 31, (19) Miami 21
Oct. 16: Florida State 33, Wake Forest 10
Oct. 23: Florida State 17, Clemson 10
Oct. 30: Florida State 35, Virginia 10
Nov. 13: Florida State 49, Maryland 10
Nov. 20: Florida State 30, (4) Florida 20
Jan. 4: Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
11. Alabama, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Coming off a national championship season with a loaded roster once again, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide set the tone right out of the gate with a complete dismantling of No. 8 Michigan, 41-14, in Arlington. That was followed by two straight shutouts, including a 52-0 blasting of Arkansas. Everything was running smoothly for Alabama until a November afternoon when SEC newcomer Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel scored a wild upset in Tuscaloosa, but Alabama was one play away from avoiding the upset. Alabama remained in the national title hunt though and snuck back into the BCS Championship Game where it dominated and overpowered undefeated top-ranked Notre Dame, 42-14.
Sept. 1: Alabama 41, (8) Michigan 14
Sept. 8: Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0
Sept. 15: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0
Sept. 22: Alabama 40, FAU 7
Sept. 29: Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14
Oct. 13: Alabama 42, Missouri 10
Oct. 20: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13
Oct. 27: Alabama 38, (13) Mississippi State 7
Nov. 3: Alabama 21, LSU 17
Nov. 10: (15) Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24
Nov. 17: Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0
Nov. 24: Alabama 49, Auburn 0
Dec. 1: Alabama 32, (3) Georgia 28
Jan. 7: Alabama 42, (1) Notre Dame 14
12. LSU, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Before Nick Saban arrived on the scene to return Alabama to its place among college football’s elite, Saban’s first job in the SEC ended with a bang. In 2003, Saban’s LSU Tigers led the nation in defense and allowed just 11 points per game. With Joseph Addai running the football and a steady passing attack, the Tigers made their case for the rightful title of national champion with victories over four ranked teams in SEC play and a BCS championship victory over Oklahoma. LSU settled for a share of the national title after the AP gave USC its No. 1 spot, but nobody in Baton Rouge is complaining.
Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7
Sept. 6: LSU 59, Arizona 13
Sept. 13: LSU 35, Western Illinois 7
Sept. 20: LSU 17, (7) Georgia 10
Sept. 27: LSU 41, Mississippi State 6
Oct. 11: Florida 19, LSU 7
Oct. 18: LSU 33, South Carolina 7
Oct. 25: LSU 31, (17) Auburn 7
Nov. 1: LSU 49, Louisiana Tech 10
Nov. 15: LSU 27, Alabama 3
Nov. 22: LSU 17, (15) Ole Miss 14
Nov. 28: LSU 55, Arkansas 24
Dec. 6: LSU 34, (5) Georgia 13
Jan. 4: LSU 21, (3) Oklahoma 14
13. Auburn, 2010 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Auburn’s national championship run may have been a flash in the pan, but it was an incredible flash in the pan. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton towered over the competition and was unbeatable and unflappable, but he was not alone. Auburn was loaded on defense, led by Nick Fairley. Teams could score on Auburn’s defense, but the Tiger offense was ticking with Newton’s Heisman run. The highest-scoring Auburn team in school history put 65 points on No. 12 Arkansas and rallied from a deep hole in the Iron Bowl against Alabama before dropping 56 points on No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn capped the 2010 season with a BCS Championship win over Chip Kelly and Oregon thanks in large part to Michael Dyer managing to defy gravity to keep a run alive.
Sept. 4: Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26
Sept. 9: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14
Sept. 18: Auburn 27, Clemson 24
Sept. 25: Auburn 35, (12) South Carolina 27
Oct. 2: Auburn 52, UL Monroe 3
Oct. 9: Auburn 37, Kentucky 34
Oct. 16: Auburn 65, (12) Arkansas 43
Oct. 23: Auburn 24, (6) LSU 17
Oct. 30: Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31
Nov. 6: Auburn 62, UT-Chattanooga 24
Nov. 13: Auburn 28, (9) Alabama 27
Dec. 4: Auburn 56, (18) South Carolina 17
Jan. 10: Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19
14. Ohio State, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Today Ohio State is regularly in the national title mix, but it was not always that way. Jim Tressel changed the way we view Ohio State starting with the 2002 season. Fueled by freshman running back Maurice Clarett and a particularly strong defense, the Buckeyes rolled through their regular season schedule, which was highlighted along the way by a 25-7 victory over No. 10 Washington State, a 13-7 victory over No. 17 Penn State, a 34-3 win over No. 19 Minnesota and a 14-9 victory over No. 12 Michigan. That helped place Ohio State in the role of underdog against the defending national champions, the supremely talented No. 1 Miami Hurricanes, in a classic Fiesta Bowl overtime thriller. The game was not without controversy of course with a pass-interference call against the Hurricanes that is still intensely debated to this day, but Ohio State claimed the only BCS title by a Big Ten team nonetheless. This Ohio State team sent 14 players through the 2004 NFL Draft, in addition to five each in ’03 and ’05.
Aug. 24: Ohio State 45, Texas Tech 21
Sept. 7: Ohio State 51, Kent State 17
Sept. 14: Ohio State 25, (10) Washington State 7
Sept. 21: Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 19
Sept. 28: Ohio State 45, Indiana 17
Oct. 5: Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16
Oct. 12: Ohio State 50, San Jose State 7
Oct. 19: Ohio State 19, Wisconsin 14
Oct. 26: Ohio State 13, (17) Penn State 7
Nov. 2: Ohio State 34, (19) Minnesota 3
Nov. 9: Ohio State 10, Purdue 6
Nov. 16: Ohio State 23, Illinois 16
Nov. 23: Ohio State 14, (12) Michigan 9
Jan. 3: Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24
15. Ohio State, 2014 (14-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Ohio State’s most recent national championship managed to defy plenty of odds and naysayers. Of course, this also was the expectation when Ohio State hired Urban Meyer. After getting through a brief postseason ban and missing out on a Big Ten title the previous season, Meyer’s Buckeyes in 2014 were supposed to be one year away from competing for a national title. The preseason loss of Braxton Miller meant Ohio State had to work with a backup QB in J.T. Barrett for the majority of the season, and that inexperience may have cost Ohio State early on with a home loss to Virginia Tech. After the loss though, the Buckeyes went on a roll and scored their biggest wins at the perfect time. A 49-37 victory over No. 7 Michigan State thrust the Buckeyes back in the national title chase and a 59-0 blowout of No. 11 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game with Ezekiel Elliott and third-string QB Cardale Jones leading the way gave the Big Ten champs enough of a push to sneak past co-Big 12 champions Baylor and TCU for the fourth and final College Football Playoff spot. Ohio State then took out SEC champion Alabama and Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl and pulled away from Pac-12 champion Oregon and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to lay claim to the first College Football Playoff national championship.
Aug. 30: Ohio State 34, Navy 17
Sept. 6: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21
Sept. 13: Ohio State 66, Kent State 0
Sept. 27: Ohio State 50, Cincinnati 28
Oct. 4: Ohio State 52, Maryland 24
Oct. 18: Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17
Oct. 25: Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT)
Nov. 1: Ohio State 55, Illinois 14
Nov. 8: Ohio State 49, (7) Michigan State 37
Nov. 15: Ohio State 31, Minnesota 24
Nov. 22: Ohio State 42, Indiana 27
Nov. 29: Ohio State 42, Michigan 28
Dec. 6: Ohio State 59, (11) Wisconsin 0
Jan. 1: Ohio State 42, (1) Alabama 35
Jan. 12: Ohio State 42 (2) Oregon 20
16. Alabama, 2015 (14-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
The 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide grew from a losing experience the previous two seasons. Two years ago Alabama had been trounced by Oklahoma and in the first year of the College Football Playoff top-seeded Alabama was taken out by a red-hot Ohio State. In 2015, Alabama finished the job it could not do either of the previous two seasons. Despite an early loss to Ole Miss, Alabama used the best offensive line in the country to protect Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry and let the nation’s best front seven handle business on defense. Alabama racked up a big season-opening win against No. 20 Wisconsin in Arlington (35-17), destroyed No. 8 Georgia in Athens (38-10) and dismantled No. 4 LSU and derailed Leonard Fournette’s Heisman campaign while laying the final pieces of the track for Henry’s run. This time the Playoff would see a different ending with a complete manhandling of Big Ten champion Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl (38-0) and a thrilling 45-40 victory over No. 1 and previously unbeaten Clemson despite a performance for the ages from Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson. This win saw Nick Saban call a perfectly timed and executed onside kick to help seize the momentum and his Crimson Tide charges showed the ability to break big plays in the clutch to grab Saban’s fourth national title in seven years at Alabama. Saban is responsible for five of the national titles on this list.
Sept. 5: Alabama 35, (20) Wisconsin 17
Sept. 12: Alabama 37, Middle Tennessee 10
Sept. 19: (15) Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37
Sept. 26: Alabama 34, UL Monroe 0
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, (8) Georgia 10
Oct. 10: Alabama 27, Arkansas 14
Oct. 17: Alabama 41, (9) Texas A&M 23
Oct. 24: Alabama 19, Tennessee 14
Nov. 7: Alabama 30, (4) LSU 16
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, (20) Mississippi State 6
Nov. 21: Alabama 56, Charleston Southern 6
Nov. 28: Alabama 29, Auburn 13
Dec. 5: Alabama 29, (18) Florida 15
Dec. 31: Alabama 38, (3) Michigan State 0
Jan. 11: Alabama 45, (1) Clemson 40
College Football Podcast: Alabama-Clemson Recap
17. Florida, 2006 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
The rise of the Tim Tebow hype train hit its stride in 2006, but the Gators had more to offer than just Tebow. Florida’s stacked defense with Derrick Harvey, Reggie Nelson and Jarvis Moss set the tone every time the Gators stepped on the field. The Gators were tripped up once during the regular season, by Auburn, but Florida scored victories over ranked Tennessee, LSU and Georgia to remain in the hunt for a national title shot. A victory over Florida State followed by a 38-28 win against No. 8 Arkansas placed Florida in the BCS Championship Game as a significant underdog against the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Gators’ defense treated Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith like a rag doll, sacking him five times and limiting him to just 35 yards through the air.
Sept. 2: Florida 34, Southern Miss 7
Sept. 9: Florida 42, UCF 0
Sept. 16: Florida 21, (13) Tennessee 20
Sept. 23: Florida 26, Kentucky 7
Sept. 30: Florida 28, Alabama 13
Oct. 7: Florida 23, (9) LSU 10
Oct. 14: (11) Auburn 27, Florida 17
Oct. 28: Florida 21, (25) Georgia 14
Nov. 4: Florida 25, Vanderbilt 19
Nov. 11: Florida 17, South Carolina 16
Nov. 18: Florida 62, Western Carolina 0
Nov. 25: Florida 21, Florida State 14
Dec. 2: Florida 38, (8) Arkansas 28
Jan. 8: Florida 41, (1) Ohio State 14
18. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Les Miles
The 2007 LSU Tigers were the only national champion since the start of the BCS era to win a national title with two losses, but LSU more than made up for it with an impressive list of victories. That included a 48-7 shelling of No. 9 Virginia Tech and victories over No. 14 South Carolina, No. 7 Florida, No. 19 Auburn and No. 18 Alabama. The only losses suffered by LSU each came in triple overtime, against Kentucky and Arkansas. LSU still managed to sneak into the BCS Championship Game following an SEC title game victory over No. 15 Tennessee as chaos captivated the college football world. Against No. 1 Ohio State, LSU quarterback Matt Flynn tossed four touchdowns and the defense shut down the Buckeyes enough for a 38-24 national championship victory for Les Miles.
Aug. 30: LSU 45, Mississippi State 0
Sept. 8: LSU 48, (9) Virginia Tech 7
Sept. 15: LSU 44, Middle Tennessee 0
Sept. 22: LSU 28, (14) South Carolina 16
Sept. 29: LSU 34, Tulane 9
Oct. 6: LSU 28, (7) Florida 24
Oct. 13: (18) Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (3 OT)
Oct. 20: LSU 30, (19) Auburn 24
Nov. 3: LSU 41, (18) Alabama 34
Nov. 10: LSU 58, Louisiana Tech 10
Nov. 17: LSU 41, Ole Miss 24
Nov. 23: Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3 OT)
Dec. 1: LSU 21, (15) Tennessee 14
Jan. 7: LSU 38, (1) Ohio State 24
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every week during the regular season, 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. The same can be said after bowl games. While postseason matchups are just one game in sample size of around 13 contests, the bowl games often produce plenty of interesting or intriguing totals. Additionally, the bowl season often allows players to reach various statistical milestones they couldn't hit with just 12 regular season matchups.
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 college football bowl action:
20 Amazing College Football Stats from the 2015-16 Bowl Season
4: National Titles by Alabama Under Nick Saban
Alabama’s 45-40 victory over Clemson in the national championship secured the Crimson Tide’s fourth title in seven seasons. And the list of accomplishments and accolades for coach Nick Saban continues to grow, as Alabama has won at least 10 games in eight consecutive seasons and has not finished lower than 10th in the final Associated Press poll during that span.
4,000/1,000: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Sets FBS Record
Thanks to a monster performance in the national title (478 overall yards), Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson became the first player in FBS history to reach 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
51: Clemson’s Streak of Wins When Leading Into Fourth Quarter
Alabama’s outstanding special teams play helped to lead a 24-point fourth quarter in the national championship, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 45-40 victory. The fourth-quarter performance by Alabama ended Clemson’s streak of wins (51) when leading going into the final 15 minutes.
31: TCU Ties Largest Rally in Bowl History
The odds were stacked against TCU in the Alamo Bowl with starting quarterback Trevone Boykin suspended and a 31-0 deficit at halftime on the scoreboard. However, behind backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen – and a sluggish Oregon offense without its quarterback Vernon Adams – the Horned Frogs scored 31 unanswered points in regulation to tie (Texas Tech, 2006 Insight Bowl) the largest comeback in bowl history.
645: Baylor Sets Bowl Record for Most Rushing Yards in Single Game
Injuries hit Baylor’s offense hard in the final month of the season, leaving coach Art Briles’ team without quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Seth Russell, along with All-America receiver Corey Coleman for the Russell Athletic Bowl matchup against North Carolina. While Russell, Stidham and Coleman were missed, Briles and his staff showed why they are one of the best in the nation by tweaking the offense to fit the personnel available for the bowl game. The Bears gashed North Carolina for 645 rushing yards – a FBS bowl record – on 84 attempts. Johnny Jefferson led the way with 299 rushing yards, while Devin Chafin (161) and Terence Williams (97) also made key contributions.
88: Career Touchdowns by Navy QB Keenan Reynolds
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds clinched his spot in FBS history in the Midshipmen’s 44-28 victory over Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl. Reynolds completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards and one score and added 144 rushing yards and there touchdowns on the ground. Reynolds ends his career in Annapolis with 88 career touchdowns, which is the most by a player in FBS history.
87: Career Touchdowns by Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon
Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon finished his prolific career in Ruston with 87 overall touchdowns – just one short of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Dixon rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes for 113 yards and two scores in Louisiana Tech’s 47-28 win over Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl.
3,017: Michigan QB Jake Rudock’s Season Passing Yardage Total
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock capped a solid season with a standout performance in the Wolverines’ 41-7 victory over Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Rudock threw for 278 yards and three scores against the Gators, which pushed his season yardage total to 3,017. Rudock is just the second quarterback in school history to reach 3,000 passing yards in a single season.
625/10: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott’s Rushing Yards and TDs in Bowl Career
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott only received carries in three bowl games during his career, but he made the most of his opportunities. In those three contests – 2015 Sugar Bowl, National Championship against Oregon and 2016 Fiesta Bowl), Elliott recorded 625 rushing yards and 10 scores.
50-4: Ohio State’s Record Over Last Four Seasons
Ohio State’s senior class closed a prolific four-year run with a victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The win over the Fighting Irish gave the Buckeyes' senior class a 50-4 mark over the last four seasons, which ties Boise State (2008-11) for the most victories in a four-year span.
0.6: Northern Illinois’ Average Yards Per Play Against Boise State
Boise State thoroughly dominated Northern Illinois in a 55-7 rout in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Broncos limited the Huskies to seven first downs, 0.6 average on yards per play, generated five sacks and allowed zero offensive plays longer than 12 yards.
9,000/2,500: Miss. State QB Dak Prescott’s Career Totals Enter FBS Record Book
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott finished his career as only the fourth player in FBS history to pass for more than 9,000 yards and rush for over 2,500. The other three quarterbacks? Florida’s Tim Tebow, Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.
100: Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd Sets School Bowl Record
Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd became the first player in school history to eclipse 100 rushing yards in two bowl games. Hurd recorded 130 yards and one score against Northwestern this season and rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts against Iowa last year.
200: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson Joins Elite Company With 200/200 Performance
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is a rising star to watch for 2016, as the true freshman eclipsed 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in the Cardinals’ 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. Jackson is only the third player in FBS history to reach that mark in a bowl. Additionally, Jackson’s 226 rushing yards against the Aggies is the second most by a quarterback in a bowl.
3: Consecutive 1,000-Yard Seasons by Arkansas RB Alex Collins
Arkansas running back Alex Collins finished his career in Fayetteville with a standout performance (185 yards and three scores) against Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. The junior is off early to the NFL, but his career ends at Arkansas with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Collins is only the third player in SEC history to reach 1,000 rushing yards in three consecutive years.
123-16: Final Scores in Northwestern’s Three Losses in 2015 Season
Northwestern won 10 games for the fourth time in school history this season, but the Wildcats were easily handled (123-16) in their three losses.
368: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey Sets Rose Bowl Record for All-Purpose Yards
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey gashed Iowa for 368 all-purpose yards in the 45-16 Rose Bowl victory for the Cardinal. McCaffrey rushed for 172 yards, caught four passes for 105 yards and added 91 overall yards on returns. The 368 all-purpose yards by McCaffrey were the most in a Rose Bowl.
55: Virginia Tech Sets Bowl Record With 55 Points Against Tulsa
Frank Beamer’s tenure at Virginia Tech ended on a high note. The Hokies defeated Tulsa 55-52 to send the retiring coach out with a victory and finish the 2015 season at 7-6 overall. The 55 points scored by Virginia Tech in the Independence Bowl were the most by the Hokies in their bowl history.
3: Wins By 5-7 Teams in the Bowl Season
Allowing 5-7 teams to participate in bowl games wasn’t necessarily the most popular idea, but teams with a losing record weren’t fazed by the chatter. Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State won their postseason matchups, moving 5-7 teams to 3-0 in bowl games this year.
1: Akron and Western Michigan Win First Bowl Games in School History
Akron edged Utah State 23-21 in a defensive battle in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22. The victory over the Aggies was the Zips’ first bowl win in program history and propelled Akron to its highest win total (eight) since joining the FBS level. Western Michigan defeated MTSU 45-31 in the Bahamas Bowl to also earn the first postseason victory in program history.
* After losing only 10 turnovers in the regular season, Florida State lost five in its loss against Houston in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
* West Virginia and Arizona State combined for 85 points and 1,196 yards in the Cactus Bowl.
* USC recorded only 286 yards of total offense against Wisconsin in the 23-21 Holiday Bowl loss. The 286 yards were the fewest by the Trojans in 2015.
* Florida managed only 28 total yards in the second half of its Citrus Bowl loss to Michigan.
* Michigan State recorded a season-low 29 rushing yards in the Cotton Bowl loss against Alabama.
* Clemson’s defense recorded 18 tackles for a loss in its playoff games against Oklahoma and Alabama.
* Ole Miss’ victory over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl gave the program its first double-digit win total (10) since 2003.
* Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel threw for a career-high 458 yards in the program’s bowl win over Arkansas State.
* WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty ended a prolific career with a huge performance in the Miami Beach Bowl victory over USF. Doughty threw for 461 yards and three scores and completed 32 of 44 passes against the Bulls. Doughty threw a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games to end his career.
* LSU averaged 10.3 yards per play in its 56-27 victory over Texas Tech. The 10.3 mark is only the second time since 2008 the Tigers averaged double digits in yards per play.
* Three Duke players rushed for over 100 yards in the Pinstripe Bowl victory over Indiana.
* Nebraska recorded 326 rushing yards in its Foster Farms Bowl win over UCLA. That’s the highest mark for the Cornhuskers under new coach Mike Riley.
* MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill set the FBS record (327) for most completions by a freshman in a single season.
* Georgia Southern rushed for seven touchdowns in its 58-27 bowl win over Bowling Green.
* Auburn’s defense held Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to 108 passing yards in the Birmingham Bowl. The 108 passing yards are the fewest by Lynch against a FBS opponent in 2015.
The Lords of the National Football League have decided one fan base, and possibly two, that care about their pro football teams should lose them in favor of a market that does not.
The reason, we will be told, is the venues the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders play in are no longer suited for pro football, the fans and communities that supported these franchises and made their owners rich be damned.
But after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ violent 18-16 AFC wild-card game victory against the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday night, perhaps the Edward Jones Dome, Qualcomm Stadium, and O.co Coliseum aren’t the only venues that should be viewed as obsolete.
Football fans are odd birds. If somebody asked you to pay more than $100 dollars for the “privilege” to sit in the cold rain for hours among 63,257 angry people and on top of that pay obscenely inflated prices for concessions and parking, you’d ask if their next proposition was for the sale of magic beans.
But throw “supporting your football team” into the equation, and we can’t wait to take out our credit cards for this fleecing!
I know. I’ve had Pittsburgh Steelers season tickets for 20 years.
As such, I can make these legitimate requests. First, the franchise of my choice stay in the metropolitan area I desire, and two, that the venue I attend be safe.
And to be safe, I need to be protected from the elements.
Much has been said about the violence both on and off the field at Paul Brown Stadium last Saturday, but doesn’t it stand to reason that after being soaked in a cold rain, both fans and players would become unpleasant?
Now throw in the fact the game lasts three and a half hours because of the excessive penalties and incomplete passes that occur from playing in such an environment and the drama and circumstances of the game. While the violence that occurred, be it Vontaze Burfict’s late hit on Antonio Brown or the six fan arrests and bottles thrown onto the field, should not be condoned, it cannot be unexpected.
And it could have been prevented if Paul Brown Stadium was equipped with stadia technology that has been around since 1961.
That was the year Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena became the first sports venue to be built with a retractable roof.
Now it’s 2016. Why isn’t every stadium built this way?
Yes, some are. But 25 of the current venues used regularly for NFL games have been built in the last 30 years. Of them, only seven were or will be built with roofs, retractable or otherwise, and the Edward Jones Dome could be replaced by an outdoor venue if the Rams somehow moved to the Carson, Calif., site.
Yes, the list will grow to eight once the Vikings move into U.S. Bank Stadium for the 2016 season. Throw the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (built in 1975) and the list increases to nine.
That only means in 2016, more than a half-century after indoor sports venues were created, more than two-thirds of NFL venues ask their fans to sit in and players to play in the elements, be it cold, heat or precipitation.
Somehow, in a world in which a stadium is obsolete because it doesn’t have enough luxury boxes, keeping the vast majority of fans in a comfortable and safe environment is forgotten.
Yes, I understand the romanticism of football being played in the elements. The most famous game in NFL history is probably the “Ice Bowl” because of the minus-15 degree temperature it was played in.
There was also a fan at Lambeau Field that died of exposure that day. We seem to forget that.
Times have changed. The mud-caked uniform is a thing of the past. Just two years ago some critics were lamenting a Super Bowl being played outside in the New York City metropolitan area, fearing the weather would potentially affect the game and the players the way it certainly did in Cincinnati Saturday night. It’s why former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted the Super Bowl played indoors or in warm weather.
Why not every game?
While it’s not practical to, say, construct some sort of climate dome over all existing open-air stadiums immediately, insisting new stadiums be built with retractable roofs is. At the very least, this would mean more comfortable, safer environments for the players and fans alike, not just the elite in luxury boxes.
In return, Personal Seat Licenses and tickets could easily command greater prices, benefiting the ruling class as well.
And the violence in the stands and on the field that occurred in Cincinnati would be significantly decreased.
— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Braden Gall, Mitch Light and David Fox recap Alabama's thrilling win over Clemson for the 2015 National Championship.
- Who was Alabama's MVP?
- Did special teams win Bama the game?
- Where does Nick Saban rank historically against Bear Bryant and others?
- Where does this Bama team rank against Saban's other title winners?
- Where will Lane Kiffin be coaching next fall?
- What will Clemson's squad look like in 2016?
-The guys also offer up some replacements (some serious and others not so much) for Jeff Long as the Committee Chairman.
- And a quick look at the first weekend of action in 2016 already has the gang fired up.
Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcast, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.
For the most part, people are in agreeance that the Alabama-Clemson game was one for the ages.
It was entertaining, competitive, and had a little something in it for everybody. Despite all of that, ratings were still down. On "The Herd with Colin Cowherd", the host had an interesting theory and stated that people are simply bored with Alabama's dominance. Not too long ago Herd called the Crimson Tide the "Wal-Mart of college football", what ever that means.
"Not all dynasties are the same," Cowherd said. "America is bored with this dynasty."
As the final piece of confetti dropped to the University of Phoenix Stadium turf Monday, another college football season officially concluded. Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s fifth national championship since the 2003 season gave the ’15 campaign an ending that felt an awful lot like many of those written in the last 12 years.
But 2015 was hardly a repeat of seasons past, as the year’s bowl season proved. An unprecedented number of bowls -- 41 -- and the second season of the College Football Playoff made for new storylines. Some of the subplots that closed out this season write the early chapters for the 2016 campaign.
WINNER: Viewers of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game
Fans’ lasting memory of the 2015 college football season will be Monday’s national title tilt between Alabama and Clemson, a matchup fit for the sport’s biggest stage.
The Crimson Tide’s win was the most competitive national championship since Florida State and Auburn two seasons ago, but played at a much higher level for the duration. The final-minute finish brought back memories of the last title game played in Arizona, the 2011 BCS Championship Game between Oregon and Auburn. However, Monday’s contest provided more excitement for the full 60 minutes.
Alabama-Clemson was arguably the best national championship game since the epic 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas. From the torrid, back-and-forth pace, to star players Derrick Henry and Deshaun Watson showing up in a big way, this year’s championship had everything a viewer could want.
LOSER: TV Executives
The potential challenges of hosting the College Football Playoff semifinal matchups on New Year’s Eve were a hot topic throughout the 2015 offseason, and the concerns of naysayers were confirmed when the Orange and Cotton Bowls returned viewership ratings almost six points below the previous year. The Cotton Bowl drew a rating of 9.9, the Orange a 9.3.
In contrast, last season’s Sugar Bowl semifinal between Ohio State and Alabama garnered a 15.3 viewership. The Florida-State Oregon Rose Bowl Game scored a 15.5. Initial reports following Monday’s championship suggest the lag in viewership carried over to the finale.
Source: Last night's CFP championship game pulled a 15.8 overnight rating on ESPN, down 15 percent from last year.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) January 12, 2016
The 2016 editions of the Rose and Sugar Bowl drew record highs this season, per SportsTVRatings.com, but the Playoff is Disney’s centerpiece. To that end, BroadcastingCable.com reports ESPN owes advertisers $20 million in lost revenue for the New Year’s Eve setback.
WINNER: The SEC
The 2015 regular season was not good to the SEC. Though Alabama was dominant much of the season, the conference lacked another standout team, as evidenced by losses to The Citadel, Toledo, Texas Tech, Memphis and an especially painful missed opportunity against Oklahoma, as well as near-misses versus Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic.
Bowl season was the cure-all for college football’s most boisterous conference, however. A combined 9-2 record, capped with Alabama’s 45-40 defeat of Clemson in the national championship game, gave SEC proponents reason to puff their chests after a humbling few months, dating back to the 2014-15 bowl season.
LOSER: The Rest of the Power 5
The four Power 5 conferences not named the SEC had varying degrees of success in bowl season. The Pac-12 finished above .500 with its record 10 postseason participants, but Jan. 2 losses by Arizona State and Oregon denied the Conference of Champions a boastful offseason at 6-4.
Arizona State and Oregon’s setbacks were the Big 12’s gain, but West Virginia and TCU winning on what was ostensibly the last day of bowl season only improved the conference to 3-4 overall.
The Big Ten finished, appropriately, an even 5-5. A .500 mark isn’t exactly terrible, and the conference scored some impressive victories. Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan were all dominant against high-profile opponents. However, Northwestern and Michigan State’s lopsided losses to the SEC ensure a spring and summer of negative narrative about the once-burgeoning Big Ten revival.
WINNER: Nebraska and the Rest of the 5-7 Teams
The proliferation of bowl games in 2015 left more postseason invitations than eligible teams. Three 5-7 regular-season finishers -- Minnesota, Nebraska and San Jose State -- all received bowl invites, the most ever in a single season. And all made good on their unlikely opportunities.
Nebraska scored the most impressive win of the trio, dominating a UCLA team that was just a few weeks removed from an 8-3 mark and top 20 ranking. The Cornhuskers used a 326-yard rushing onslaught to wear down the Bruin defense in a 37-29 win. Nine different Nebraska ball carriers toted the rock for positive yardage in the deluge.
With its impressive bowl victory, Nebraska set a positive tone for head coach Mike Riley’s second season.
Fellow 5-7 finishers San Jose State and Minnesota defeated Georgia State and Central Michigan, respectively. Both used stout defensive efforts to give their head coaches, Ron Caragher and Tracy Claeys, their first career bowl wins.
The Bruins’ Foster Farms Bowl loss to Nebraska concluded a final month collapse, which began with a home defeat against Washington State. Rebounding at Utah put UCLA in position to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game, but head coach Jim Mora’s first career loss to rival USC denied the Bruins a shot at the Rose Bowl Game.
The egg laid in the Foster Farms Bowl compounded UCLA’;s season-ending disappointment. The Bruins did not receive a single vote in the final Associated Press Top 25, the first time in Mora’s four seasons as head coach they garnered zero poll support to conclude the campaign.
WINNER: The Heisman Trophy
Heisman Hangover is a mythical affliction that can impact both winners -- Troy Smith and Sam Bradford come to mind -- and finalists alike. Manti Te’o’s BCS National Championship Game flop is a notable, recent example.
In this year’s postseason, however, all three Heisman finalists produced at the highest level. Winner Derrick Henry rumbled to 158 yards and three touchdowns to cap his campaign, while runners-up Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey played arguably the best games of their illustrious careers in bowls.
Watson passed for 405 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for another 73 yards in Monday night’s national title game. McCaffrey electrified the Rose Bowl with 368 yards of total offense, scoring on the first play from the scrimmage with a 75-yard reception. He later returned a punt for a touchdown, making him just the third player in college football history to score via run, pass, reception, kickoff return and punt return in the same season.
LOSER: Bowl Game Matchups
This year’s bowl season was plagued by a number of bad matchups, which made for some lopsided contests. The Jan. 2 shootouts between TCU-Oregon and Arizona State-West Virginia saved what was a brutal run in the post-Christmas bowl games. Sixteen of the contests played between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 were decided by double digits.
The frustrating part for many observers is that more intriguing matchup possibilities existed. A Rose Bowl Game pitting Stanford against Ohio State, and a Fiesta Bowl featuring Notre Dame vs. Iowa likely would have produced more competitive games.
While Michigan was rocking Florida, and Tennessee was beginning its hype for 2016 with a rout of Northwestern, one couldn’t help but wonder how a Wolverines-Volunteers or Wildcats-Gators game might have gone.
WINNER: Keenan Reynolds and Kenneth Dixon
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon were engaged in a season-long chase for the NCAA career record in touchdowns from scrimmage. Former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball set the record in 2012, leaving Madison with 83.
Dixon surpassed Ball on the first night of bowl season, scoring four times -- twice on the ground and twice on receptions -- in Louisiana Tech’s defeat of Arkansas State. His four scores gave Dixon a final career tally of 87.
Having established a new record at the end of the regular season, Reynolds again set a new mark in the Military Bowl with three rushing touchdowns. He exits college football with a remarkable 88 touchdowns scored from scrimmage, all of which came via the run -- another NCAA record. And, were that not impressive enough, Reynolds set the new career touchdown mark in a game wherein he led in passing yards, rushing yards and receiving yards.
LOSER: Kenneth Dixon’s Jersey
En route to his record-setting night, Dixon had to change out of his No. 28 when the stitching was ripped out. When he broke the record, Dixon was actually sans number.
WINNER: Frank Beamer
Frank Beamer’s legacy at Virginia Tech is virtually unparalleled. In an era of coaches jumping for more attractive opportunities, be it the NFL or with programs offering more prominent stages, Beamer remained committed to Blacksburg for nearly three decades.
It’s only fitting Beamer said farewell on a high note.
His Hokies outlasted Tulsa in the Independence Bowl, 55-52, one of the most exciting of the postseason entries.
LOSER: The American Athletic Conference
Beamer’s replacement, Justin Fuente, engineered a minor miracle with his quick turnaround of Memphis. However, without its head coach, a dream season that included brief flirtations with the New Year’s Six (if not a Playoff bid) came to a disappointing conclusion in a 31-10 loss to Auburn.
Reggis Ball was dismissed from the program shortly after the game, the result of his stealing the game ball from an equipment manager.
Memphis’ loss was one of six for the American Athletic Conference. The league enjoyed a great regular season, scoring wins over such opponents as Ole Miss and Penn State. However, bowl losses for Memphis, Temple, South Florida, Tulsa, Connecticut and Cincinnati put an unfitting bow on an otherwise strong campaign.
Only Navy and Houston won, but Houston’s bowl victory was a biggie.
WINNER: Houston Cougars
The Group of 5 is now 2-0 in New Year’s Six bowls, thanks to Houston’s dominant, 38-24 defeat of Florida State. The Cougars capped a 13-1 season ranked No. 8 in the final AP Poll, and the retention of head coach Tom Herman for another year promises big things for the program.
Houston returns star, dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr. in 2016, making it the team to beat in the American once again. With a schedule that includes Oklahoma and Louisville, Houston could build a resume impressive enough to threaten crashing the College Football Playoff, should the Cougars navigate 2016 undefeated -- something no team could do in ’15 after Clemson’s loss to Alabama.