Articles By Athlon Sports
Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo got caught having breakfast in Boston together last week. Pancakes, before a 113-96 victory by Rondo’s Celtics, then led to speculation about why the two were meeting. But Bryant insists the meal was not a recruiting pitch to the four-time All-Star.
"No, we get along extremely well," Bryant said Friday, as reported by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. ”We see the game in a similar fashion in terms of our aggressiveness and mindset. It was good to get together with him.” Bryant also referred to the sitdown as “a basketball geek conversation.”
And the notion of Rondo going to L.A. doesn’t seem too likely anyway.
Although the Celtics’ starting point guard is on the last year of his contract, and (like Bryant) doesn’t seem to enjoy losing a lot of games with a young, rebuilding team all that much — and although trade rumors about Rondo have persisted since last season — it’s hard to believe one of the game’s most obsessively competitive players is going to jump from one loser to another.
The Lakers aren’t in any better shape than the Celtics, of course. In fact, their standing is much worse, given that they're at the bottom of the suffocating Western Conference:
Fascinating as the Bryant-Rondo combo may be, it’s not one we should anticipate. The Lakers could try selling Rondo on the Hollywood brand, the future, post-Kobe keys to the superstar cockpit of what’s still Tinseltown’s team — as they did to Carmelo Anthony — but how much will it mean without the right roster?
Where Rondo does eventually end up is a mystery. But if he chooses glamour, money, or Kobe over some good old-fashioned title contention, it’ll be out of character for him.
— John Wilmes
Things are going okay for Kyrie Irving this week. Not only did his inaugural signature Nike shoe just debut, but his Cleveland Cavaliers have now won five straight after defeating the New York Knicks last night, 90-87. Irving played no small part in the contest, leading all scorers with 37 on a hyper-efficient 12-of-18 from the field.
This isn’t the first time Irving’s been a shining bullet on Broadway. About two years ago, Kyrie donned a sinister-looking black face mask after returning from injury and wowed the Madison Square Garden crowd with a 41-point performance, rife with clutch shots down the stretch. The Cavs lost that one, 103-102, but Irving’s message of superstar potential was sent loudly and clearly.
Today, Irving struggles with the heightened responsibilities his new super squad and max contract bring. The caveat to his most recent Big Apple bonanza is that he only tallied two assists in the game — he had zero until the fourth quarter, when he caught LeBron James all alone down the court for a pivotal breakaway dunk.
Kyrie has to learn not to over-indulge his appetite for show-stopping isolation basketball, even if he plays with such efficiency, and even if he’s the very best in the game at the art of hero ball — and even if it’s breathtaking to observe. As Cleveland’s starting point guard and primary ball-handler, Irving spins the wheel of one of the most impressive offensive vehicles in modern NBA memory, and he has yet to figure out how to maximize it.
The Cavs should not be eking games out against the pitiful Knicks, and Kevin Love — a power forward who enjoyed historically rich productivity with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year — shouldn’t look confused about his role on so many nights. The next challenge in Kyrie’s progression is next-level stuff; he's got to learn to use his potent teammates as extensions of himself.
— John Wilmes
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: THURSDAY-FRIDAY GAME SET
We are combining positions with such a small set of games.
1) RB Fred Coppet, Bowling Green vs. No Illinois ($4900)
Coppet has gone over 100 yards rushing in two of the last three games and could do some damage against a suspect Huskies run defense.
2) WR Argeros Turner, No Illinois vs. Bowling Green ($4000)
Turner is averaging 12.98 DK fantasy points over the last four games and comes in at a cheap price. He could easily reach value and will likely be under owned this week.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY ALL DAY GAME SET
1) QB Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. Cincinnati ($6600)
Ward could do plenty of damage with his arm and legs against Cincinnati this week. Look for Ward to reach value.
2) QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin ($6600)
Jones will be starting for the injured JT Barrett and could have a solid game versus Wisconsin. He could make some plays with his feet and account for a couple of scores.
3) QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma ($5300)
Rudolph looked decent in his first start last week and could find success against an overrated Sooners defense. His salary is low and he could be a decent punt option at QB this week.
1) RB Kenneth Farrow, Houston vs. Cincinnati ($5800)
Farrow has scored six rushing touchdowns over the last two games and could add to that total against Cincinnati. The Bearcats rush defense is ranked 79th overall.
2) RB Aaron Green, TCU vs. Iowa State ($6300)
B.J. Catalon is once again questionable to play this week. Green has been outstanding as the team’s feature back in Catalon’s absence, and the Horned Frogs will be looking to make a statement against the lowly Cyclones.
3) RB Ron Johnson, UCONN vs. SMU ($4400)
A pulse is all it takes to for a RB to get recommended against SMU. Johnson had 22 carries last week and tear up the Mustangs with that kind of work load.
4) RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Georgia Tech ($5800)
Cook had 144 yards rushing last week against Florida and could see a ton of carries with Karlos Williams dealing with a concussion. Look for Cook to top the 100-yard mark again this week in the ACC Championship.
1) WR Davonte Allen, Marshall vs. La Tech ($5900)
Allen returned from injury last week and responded with 141 yards receiving and two scores against Western Kentucky. He could have another big day against a La Tech pass defense ranked 74th in the country.
2) WR Bud Sasser, Missouri vs. Alabama ($5400)
Sasser is averaging 20 DK fantasy points over the past four games. He will likely see a ton of targets against the Crimson Tide and could find the end zone.
3) WR Darren Waller, Georgia Tech vs. Florida State ($3200)
Waller could see a huge increase in targets with DeAndre Smelter out for the season with a torn ACL. He could easily pay off on his low price and looks like a great punt option this week.
1) TE Jake Roh, Boise State vs. Fresno State ($2800)
Roh could find some open space against the 97th ranked pass defense in the country.
By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
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Remember when Dirk Nowitzki ruined LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s coming-out party in the summer of 2011? Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks were the squad no one saw coming, with a somewhat rag-tag crew of role players, featuring an offense run by a twilight-years Jason Kidd and a defense anchored by the indomitable Tyson Chandler. The world watched with disbelief as a young, unready James watched how it was done by the determined Mavericks.
Nowitzki is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league, and that was his chance to prove it to his largest audience yet. And while Dirk is now 36, he still has elite gravity over defenses, and he’s still a Maverick. And, augmented by a returned and rejuvenated Chandler as well as the team’s new leading scorer Monta Ellis and Houston Rockets exile Chandler Parsons, Nowitzki is once again at the heart of a championship contender.
It doesn’t hurt having coach Rick Carlisle still on board, either. Carlisle is one of the league’s very best, and his team’s night-to-night game-planning proves that much.The Mavs' democratic, pointed offense leads the NBA with an average 110.2 points per game, while their 11.2 turnovers per contest — made possible through a shrewd point-guard-by-committee system starring Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris — makes them third best in basketball at taking care of their possession time.
The 15-5 Mavericks put basketball on notice with their impressive performance in the Tuesday night’s double-overtime December classic against the burly Chicago Bulls, a game Dallas won behind Ellis’ 38-point explosion, including a handful of icy, clutch shots through both extra sessions. Even on an off shooting night from Nowitzki — who went 8-for-22 on the night — Dallas had the depth and resolve to slay one of the best teams in basketball on the road. Keep the Mavericks on your radar for this spring.
— John Wilmes
The Browns have made their decision, going with Brian Hoyer at quarterback for another week at least. But was it the right call? Athlon editors debate the Cleveland quarterback dilemma. Who should take the reins for the Browns for the remainder of the season?
Why did the Cleveland Browns trade up to draft Texas A&M rambler, scrambler, partier and needle-mover Johnny Manziel? To be the highest-profile bench-warmer in the league? Or be the electric personality to lead the Browns back to relevance on a national stage?
Local boy “done good” Brian Hoyer is fine for a team that has no other options. But the Browns have an obvious option. Manziel’s name might as well be flashing in neon lights. It’s past time for the Browns to open their eyes — unless, of course, they’re already wearing a brown paper bag of shame, which has unfortunately become a Cleveland tradition.
Continuing to force Johnny Football to ride the pine is the most “new Browns” thing possible. It’s a loser move, made by a loser franchise that has fallen deep into a rut it may never escape without a dynamite explosion in the form of Manziel.
Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999 — following the original Browns moving to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens in 1996 (and subsequently and painfully winning two Super Bowls since then) — there has been no joy at the Dawg Pound.
Heading into this season, the “new Browns” had a combined 73–167 record, for a 30.4 winning percentage, over the 15 seasons from 1999–2013. That tenure included one 10-win season in 2007, when Cleveland failed to make the playoffs, and one nine-win year in 2002, when the Brownies did make the postseason before losing in the Wild Card Round.
One of the harsh realities of the NFL is that only one team can win the Super Bowl every year. That’s it. Just one team. But every team can sell tickets, sell jerseys, build a fan base and build positive momentum that may or may not eventually crest in the form of a Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February. It is every team’s responsibility to do so.
The Browns will eventually come to their senses. But it will be too late to capitalize on the energy they have built during their unexpected early- and mid-season run this year. Not starting Johnny Manziel is yet another mistake by the lake.
— Nathan Rush
I think we’ve all reached a certain level of Johnny Football fatigue, Browns brass included. I don’t doubt that owner Jimmy Haslam has to fortify himself with a strong cup of morning joe before opening his daily Cleveland Plain Dealer to find out what PR nightmare awaits courtesy of Mr. Manziel.
It’s not as if Manziel is Broadway Joe Namath, able to maintain a party-boy lifestyle off the field while backing up bold guarantees on it. Manziel the pro has yet to show that he’s worth the considerable headache.
Hoyer, on the other hand, is the consummate pro. He goes about his business, then goes home to his high school sweetheart-turned-wife. His physical tools are beyond reproach. He’s 6'3" with a powerful arm and is among the league leaders in yards per completion. He also earned his NFL bona fides as a leader earlier this season in bringing the Browns back from a 28–3 deficit to a 29–28 road win over the Titans, throwing three touchdowns in the process.
Hoyer made an eloquent case for himself when this latest bout of Manziel mania started to gain momentum. “I don’t have any doubt in myself. I never have, throughout this entire process, going back to last year,” he said. “I feel like we’re 7–5, we still have a chance to attain all of our goals. It’s still there in front of us. We won three games last year when I started. I mean, 10–5 as a starting quarterback is not bad.”
When you’re Cleveland, not only is 10–5 not bad; it’s darn near a miracle.
I’m a big believer in proven production. With Hoyer, you have a leader who has put his team into playoff contention, while Manziel remains an unknown quantity and a wild card who could just as easily derail this season as save it. “You don’t get to 7–5 in the NFL just lucking into it,” Hoyer said. “I feel like I can carry us through the next four games. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be ready to go.”
Cleveland and its long-suffering fans should be ready to end their flirtation with Johnny Football and hand the reins permanently to Hoyer the Destroyer.
— Rob Doster
The speculation began almost as soon as the NFL season started, because that’s how long it took for the first reports to surface. Jim Harbaugh, it seemed, was wearing out his welcome in San Francisco. By many accounts, there is no way he’ll return.
Maybe he’ll be available via a trade. Maybe he’ll end up getting fired. Or maybe there’ll be some mutual agreement to rip up his contract and part ways. But there’s no doubt that if he’s somewhat available he’ll have no shortage of suitors. He’ll be the biggest name on the market, and a target of plenty of NFL and college teams.
And why not? All he’s done the last few years is turn Stanford University into a football power. Then he barreled into the NFL and turned the 49ers into a contender, taking them to three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in his three years. There may not be a better current coach in football. There certainly isn’t a bigger name.
So here’s a look at where he might end up:
The Oakland Raiders
They are a disaster, once again, and it sounds like they’re going to clean house after the season (yes, once again). They have a shortage of talent, but they do have a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. That’s a good building block, but they don’t have much else. So why would Harbaugh want to wade into that swamp? Well, for one, it’s home. He grew up in Northern California. He’s been coaching in Northern California since Stanford hired him in 2007. He’s been coaching in California since he became a Raiders quarterbacks coach in 2003. And according to reports, his wife doesn’t want to leave Northern California. He could make this switch and not even have to sell his home.
One thing Harbaugh seems to know is how to build an offense. Remember, he took the 49ers to an NFC championship game with flawed quarterback Alex Smith and some questionable weapons. Just imagine what he could do with flawed – but dangerous – quarterback Jay Cutler and arguably one of the most talented, underachieving offensive teams in the league. The Bears are loaded with receivers Ashlon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett. Yet they’ve been an inconsistent mess under Marc Trestman. Harbaugh played quarterback for the Bears from 1987-'93, so this is a bit of a homecoming, too. And he could earn a ton of money in a very major market as well.
New York Jets
They are one of the biggest disasters in football, one of the most dysfunctional franchises and seemingly headed for a major housecleaning. Also, many believe that Jets owner Woody Johnson will want to distance himself from his unknown hire of soon-to-be-former GM John Idzik by hiring a big name. Harbaugh, who is something of a grouch and not exactly charming, may not want a part of the New York media. He also can’t be excited about a team quarterbacked by Geno Smith. But what he could get in New York, where he might not get in many other places, is total control.
University of Michigan
This is the spot many think Harbaugh will land for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is he’s a former Wolverine. Now that Brady Hoke is out and Michigan is in desperate need of rebuilding to become a Big 10 (and national) power again, the bet is that UM’s boosters will spare no expense in luring Harbaugh back. He would have total control there, along with an easier-to-mold audience (translation: No millionaire athlete who may wilt under his dictatorial rule). And it shouldn’t be hard to take a program with Michigan’s prestige and restore it’s glory. The only question would be whether or not he wants to be a part of the recruiting grind again.
San Francisco 49ers
Yes, the 49ers. Maybe the reports are right, that there’s no way he’s coming back. But there have been bad sports marriages before that somehow got salvaged because both sides realized how good they had it. Harbaugh turned the 49ers into a power and has had them on the brink of a Super Bowl for three straight years – and not quite out of it this season either. Harbaugh has an organization willing to spend money and a place that many NFL players want to go play. Maybe whatever is causing the friction there can be figured out. Or maybe Harbaugh will emerge as the winner of the power play and get an enormous raise. Whatever it is, don’t be stunned if he returned even though no one thinks it’s possible. Why would either side want to throw something this good away?
—By Ralph Vacchiano
Color me surprised: The Philadelphia 76ers are (at least for this news cycle) winners.
After a predictable 0-17 start, the team built to lose finally accomplished something to be proud of with their 85-77 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Behind 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists from reigning Rookie of the Year winner Michael Carter-Williams, Philly achieved something concrete to hang their hats on.
Previously, the team and their fanbase have been relegated to satisfaction of a more abstract kind. General manager Sam Hinkie has led the franchise into a campaign of intentional losing of unprecedented proportions.
The team has signed an unheard-of number of fringe NBA players, leaving them with almost no tested, reliable veterans to learn winning habits from — or even the many mundane tricks of the day-to-day NBA lifestyle.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a 28-year-old who’s never averaged ten points or been out of the first round of the playoffs, is the closest thing they have to an active player with an impressive pedigree. For the most part, this is band of amateurs, lost at sea. And winning a professional game was clearly a bit of a surprise to them.
"For me personally, I think it's a big relief off my chest," Carter-Williams said after the game. "And the same is for the rest of the guys now that we got a win.”
It wasn’t hard to see, prior to last night, how the constant losing was weighing on the squad. Pain was etched on the Sixers’ faces; nobody wants to be one of the gerbils at the center of Hinkie’s experiment. Whether or not his project (which seems like more of a thesis toward a PhD in economics than anything we’d call “team-building”) works or not is yet to be seen. In the meantime, though, we know we’ve got some of the most interesting NBA losers we’ve ever watched.
— John Wilmes
Kevin Durant returned last night, and it didn't go as well as his buddy Russell Westbrook’s emphatic foray back into action last Friday night. Granted, the competition was much tougher: Westbrook slaughtered the lowly, 'Melo-less Knicks, while the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled into the Smoothie King Center to take on New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night. And last year’s MVP, Durant, got a rude awakening from the man who’s leading the race this year, Anthony Davis.
Durant had 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting in the matchup, but it wasn’t enough. Davis overwhelmed OKC with 24 points, 10 rebounds, six steals, four assists and four blocks as the Pellies took the win, 112-104. The Thunder’s tough sled back to playoff positioning is underway, and it’s clear that it won’t be easy.
Nothing came easy for the Chicago Bulls or Dallas Mavericks at the United Center last night, either. Though the Mavericks pulled out a win, it took two overtimes and a lot of Monta Ellis heroism (38 points) to get it done. They also had to survive this sensational shot from an otherwise spotty Derrick Rose, which beat the buzzer to send the contest into its second extra session:
Dallas got a bit bailed out in the 132-129 victory, as Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich made perhaps the season’s stupidest foul at the end of regulation to gift Ellis three free-throws that brought them back into the game. Dirk Nowitzki called it "one of the dumber fouls."
Over in Oakland, though, Steph Curry was making clutch shooting count for wins again. The Golden State Warriors continued to roll, winning their tenth straight, 98-97 over the upstart Orlando Magic. And they couldn’t have done it without one big shot from their star:
— John Wilmes
TomTom Runner Cardio GPS watch
Runners rejoice. A built-in sensor measures your heart rate without the need for an awkward chest strap. The large, easy-to-read display makes it a cinch to monitor your distance, speed, calories and more, even during a strenuous run. Set up takes only a few minutes and we recommend syncing it to your computer to track your long-term progress. It worked so well, in fact, that we almost forgot how much we disliked running. Almost.
Adidas miCoach Smart Ball
Whether for yourself or a group of kids your coaching, this high-tech soccer ball takes the game to a whole new level. Download the app, synch it to the ball via Bluetooth, and start kicking. It monitors your power (we managed 58 mph), ball rotation, ball-strike location and trajectory. The app features challenges, training videos and tracks your progress. Charging takes about an hour and lasts about a week (roughly 2,000 kicks). In other words, your leg will run out of steam long before the battery does.
Coleman 50 Quart Xtreme Wheeled Cooler
This party cooler on wheels keeps your beverages and food frigid even during the hottest of tailgating days. We love the telescopic handle and the fact that you can stand 2-liter bottles upright, or pack in 84 cans of soda (wink, wink). Best of all, Coleman helps you show your team pride with your favorite pro or college football team logo prominently displayed on the front.
Notre Dame Fantasy Camp
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Rudy” and thought, “Hey, I should do that.” Well, now you can. Sort of. Suit up in Fighting Irish gear, dress in the locker room, attend mass, and play a (flag) football game at the stadium, all under the guidance of Coach Brian Kelly’s staff, as well as current and legendary players. In previous years, campers at the multi-day event (June 1-5, 2015) have rubbed elbows with Joe Theismann, “Rocket” Ismail and Tim Brown.
If you watched the World Cup this year and thought, “What’s the big deal? I can do THAT.” Trust us, you can’t. But you can live out your soccer fantasies via one of EA Sports’ best titles. The graphics are stunning, the game-play feels authentic, and you never have to leave your couch to tell your friends that you just bicycle kicked one past goalkeeping great Tim Howard.
$59.99 (PS4); easports.com/fifa
Axe Bat Slowpitch Softball
The creator of the Axe Bat was inspired by hitting legend Ted Williams, who used to swing an axe as part of his off-season training. We tested it and were amazed at how much more pop we got off the bat, simply based on the extra leverage from the axe-shaped handle. It left us asking, “Why would you ever use a regular bat?”
Four Roses Small Batch
Four bourbon recipes were expertly selected by the Master Distiller at the peak of maturation to create a perfectly balanced small batch bourbon that offers a mellow symphony of rich, spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. At least that's what Four Roses says. All we know is that it tastes amazing, goes down sma-oooth and had us cheering even when our team got clobbered.
SensoGlove: The World’s First Digital Golf Glove
Finally — a glove to tell you what you’re doing wrong instead of an annoying playing partner. Made of the highest quality cabretta leather, SensoGlove is easy-to-use with built-in digital sensors that automatically tell you which finger is ruining your golf swing for a consistently accurate, smooth and powerful swing.
Mizuno JPX-850 Driver
Mizuno gets in on the customization kick with the JPX-850, which allows for 10 unique settings (4 neutral, 3 draw, 3 fade) to change launch angle and spin rate. By using twin 8-gram weights, which can be placed on either a central sliding rail or two lateral slots, golfers have the ability to customize the driver to fit their swing needs and, in turn, create the perfect launch conditions and spin rates to bomb drives down the middle of the fairway. Now if I could only customize my swing to look like Ernie Els’.
This American-made hunk of cast-iron goodness rests on your existing grill grates and turns it into a near steakhouse-quality grill. These portable grates reduce flare-ups, help seal in the meat’s juices and leave picture-perfect grill marks. It’s easily the greatest grilling innovation since fire.
$76.99 (two grates & brush); mangrate.com
Gary Player: A Game for Life 3 DVD Instructional Series
Gary Player has traveled more miles than any other athlete. In the process, he won nine majors, so he’s worth listening to. Player shares tips on sand play, efficient practice, short game, course management and fitness for a roadmap to improved play. Keep your cooped-up golfer entertained this winter with simple tips, fun stories and lifestyle advice from the Black Knight himself.
Nike Aeroloft Jacket
We’ve all been there: You get cold, so you put on a jacket, but then you get hot, and your golf swing gets constricted. The swoosh has an answer. Nike designers, with help from the Nike Explore Team Sport Research Lab, created an insulated performance jacket that allows the body to retain heat while regulating the temperature to keep the athlete comfortable. In other words, the down fill provides lightweight warmth, and the perforations provide ventilation, assisting the body's natural ability to regulate body temperature by dispersing excess heat.
The growing popularity of CrossFit has made kettlebells a common site at many gyms. If you’ve been thinking about trying it out at home, look no further. This 36-pound, chip-resistant piece of ape-faced iron has an enlarged handle for increased grip strength and is balanced to perfection. Worst-case scenario: it’ll make a great door stop in your man cave.
Topps’ Major League 25th Anniversary Wax Pack
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the iconic 1989 baseball movie, Major League, Topps is offering limited edition wax packs featuring cards of classic characters like Roger Dorn, Jake Taylor, Eddie Harris, Rachel Phelps and, of course, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. Winning.
Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out by John Calipari and Michael Sokolove
An inside look into the coaching and leadership philosophies of Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach John Calipari, arguably the most controversial figure of the “one-and-done” era of NCAA hoops. The book chronicles Calipari’s first four seasons in Lexington, including his 2012 national title team.
$21.77 (hardcover); barnesandnoble.com
Tempe, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The Arizona Cardinals are dealing with many key injuries following Sunday's 29-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Cardinals watched safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb), right guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) and running back Andre Ellington (hip pointer) exit the game early. In addition, left tackle Jared Veldheer suffered an ankle injury late in the contest.
Mathieu has a broken left thumb and his status for Sunday's game against Kansas City is unknown. He was at the doctor as Arizona coach Bruce Arians met with the media Monday.
Arians said Mathieu could have a pin inserted in the thumb to help it heal, a procedure that would cost him three weeks. There is also a chance Mathieu will be able to cast it up and play.
Fanaika, Ellington and Veldheer will be monitored as the week progresses.
Arians also said that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has missed the past two games with a sprained MCL in his left knee, should be able to practice on Wednesday.
Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) is expected to play Sunday. He has been practicing but wasn't allowed to be activated until this week after being placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list earlier this season.
New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL will not issue any discipline to five St. Louis Rams players who displayed a show of support to the protesters in nearby Ferguson, Missouri prior to Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
As the Rams' offense was introduced, wide receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt and Chris Givens and tight end Jared Cook all stood together and raised their arms to pay homage to those who protested a recent grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting African-American teenager Michael Brown in August.
The verdict triggered a wave of riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the players' actions while calling upon the NFL to hand out some sort of punishment, but the league denied that request in a statement issued Monday.
"We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation," NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said in the statement.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said after his team's 52-0 win over the Raiders that he was unaware of the players' intentions to conduct the gesture, which drew the ire of SLPOA and prompted the organization to demand a public apology from the NFL.
"The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory," the SLPOA stated.
"I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights," said SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda. "Well, I've got news for people who think that way -- cops have first amendment rights, too, and we plan to exercise ours. I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products. It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters."
Berea, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel?
Browns coach Mike Pettine isn't ready to make that decision just yet.
Pettine said Monday he'll announce on Wednesday who will start at quarterback for this Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. He added that general manager Ray Farmer will be in on the meetings.
"Not ready to make a decision on that at this point," Pettine said. "Not leaning one way or the other."
Hoyer was benched early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 26-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Manziel stepped in and engineered an 8-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown scramble.
Manziel, of course, performed his "money sign" celebration following his first NFL touchdown. He ended the game 5-of-8 for 63 yards, forcing the Browns into a critical decision about the team's future of the quarterback position.
Hoyer completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions before being benched. In the past three games, Hoyer has thrown only one touchdown pass and six interceptions.
Manziel, selected with the 22nd overall pick in May's draft, doesn't shy away from the spotlight. He was fined $12,000 by the NFL for a hand gesture (flipping the bird) that he made in a preseason loss to the Washington Redskins.
The flashy Manziel recently made headlines for an altercation that took place at an apartment complex in Cleveland last week, as a fan alleged that the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and his "entourage" assaulted him and his brother.
The 7-5 Browns enter Sunday's game tied with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for second place in the AFC North.
Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger's shoulder injury is not believed to be serious, head coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters on Monday.
The Titans are hopeful he'll be able to play Sunday against the Giants.
Mettenberger suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his AC joint following a big hit from J.J. Watt in the third quarter of Sunday's 45-21 loss to the Texans.
Jake Locker, who was replaced by Mettenberger as the Titans' starter last month, came on in relief, and his first pass was intercepted. Locker was picked off twice and tossed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 6-of-12 throws.
Mettenberger threw for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception before leaving.
Whisenhunt also provided an update on wide receiver Justin Hunter, who suffered a lacerated spleen Sunday and was taken to an area hospital. Whisenhunt said he should be released in the next day or two, but didn't comment on Hunter's status going forward.
The Cleveland Cavaliers just began a campaign to get the 2018 NBA All-Star Game at the Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James, as has been a trend for him lately, has already publicly reminded everybody who’s boss in Ohio, and undermined his franchise’s momentum with the effort.
"It would be too much for me," James said to reporters Tuesday, before his team’s 11-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, in which James collected 26 points and 10 assists. "It would be too much for me. I think it would be great for us to host (the All-Star game), but hopefully I'm no good in that year if we get it. Too much for me. I don't want it. My family, friends — I don't want it. Too much.”
In his second time around with the Cavs, James has been able to get things the way he wants them so far. He seems to hold more authority over his roster than rookie coach David Blatt, often acting as a de facto disciplinarian for a crew that he, at least partially, hand-picked. Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion were recruited by James this summer, while Tristan Thompson is largely believed to have survived the Kevin Love trade because he shares an agent with James, Rich Paul.
LeBron’s also already taken to the media, before, to critique fellow Cavs. Kyrie Irving’s ballhogging has been noted in so many words by the King, and he’s also openly wondered about the legitimacy of some of Blatt’s pedagogy. James has pushed the envelope in terms of how powerful a figure can be as an NBA player. He’s got an organization in the palm of his hand — and if he threatened to enter free agency again (a possibility in 2015, as James’ new contract has an opt-out clause) he could easily hold dominion over quite a few other teams, too.
— John Wilmes
Late in the third quarter, Alabama was struggling to score enough points to beat Auburn. The Crimson Tide’s quarterback Blake Sims, had thrown three interceptions and Alabama trailed Auburn 36-27. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, Sims connected with Amari Cooper for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
The Crimson Tide rolled on to score 28 unanswered points. The final score of the Iron Bowl was 55-44, with Bama coming out on top in the game and stayed at No. 1 in the Legends Poll receiving 12 of the 13 first place votes this week.
Oregon clobbered Oregon State in this year’s Civil War 47-19 and moves up to the No. 2 slot. The Ducks’ Marcus Mariota accounted for 6 TDs and looks to be the frontrunner for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Florida State dropped down to No. 3, after hanging tough against in-state rival Florida and pulling out another win 24-19 to become the only undefeated team through the regular season at 12-0. The Seminoles’ defense continually came up big stopping the running attack of the Gators. They received one first place vote from the Legends.
TCU Horned Frogs leaped to No. 4 after demolishing the Texas Longhorns on Thanksgiving night 48-10. Baylor remained at No. 5 by just squeaking past Texas Tech 48-46.
Ohio State struggled past Michigan 42-28, moving up one spot to No. 6. Even though they won, they lost true freshman quarterback Barrett to an ankle injury. The Buckeyes will have to play the Big 10 conference chamapionship with a new quarterback.
Arizona comes in at No. 7 after beating Arizona State 42-35 and earned the right to a rematch against Oregon in the Pac 12 conference championship to be played next weekend. Arizona has beaten the Oregon Ducks the last two times they played and gave them their only loss earlier this season.
Michigan State crushed Penn State 34-10 and moved to No. 8.
|3||Florida State (1)||12-0||79||2|
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference is bad, very bad — while its Western Conference is just the opposite. By season’s end, we might be facing a record-shattering competitive discrepancy between the league’s two halves. At time of publication, the Indiana Pacers’ ugly 8-10 start would have them in the East playoffs, while a superior 8-8 start from the off-the-radar Denver Nuggets has them tenth in their conference, outside of the postseason picture.
Understood in terms of point differential, the gap between the conferences is like this: The West has 10 teams who average more points than they give up, while the East has just five. Something, many believe, needs to be done about how much harder life is beyond the Mississippi, and you can count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among them.
"It's not like it'd be the first time we've ever realigned," Cuban said to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. "It's happened many times before, so there's precedent and I just think it shakes things up and makes things interesting. It's not like you're reducing competition. You keep Cleveland, Washington and other good teams in the East. It kind of shakes things up in terms of not just interest but also in terms of how people rebuild. It just changes things up and it changes the thought process of a lot of teams. It makes both conferences very competitive, at least for the short term and I think, based on the history of the teams, for the long term as well.
"I did the trial close right here," Cuban said about his plan, which would ship his Mavericks — along with the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets — to the East while the Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks would come west. "Then it'll turn into headline porn and then we'll see the response.”
— John Wilmes
Lucky for Tom Crean, the tumultuous offseason is over. Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers can breathe a little easier, for the time being, and concentrate strictly on basketball.
Just three weeks ago, Crean was feeling the pressure from an IU fan base starved for a sixth national title banner to hang in Assembly Hall. Or at least an Indiana program back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.
Instead, Bloomington had controversy.
Back then, the news that freshman forward Emmitt Holt had been driving a car that hit sophomore teammate and that both players were drinking underage led to an outcry for a changing of the guard in Bloomington. Police said Holt, 18, was not responsible for the accident and was below the legal blood alcohol limit, but the Nov. 1 incident was the latest in a series of off-court incidents involving Crean’s players.
After 17 wins and missing the postseason altogether in 2013-14, many called for IU athletic director Fred Glass to turn up the heat on Tom Crean. With the most recent string of off-court issues, the change in temperature may be justified.
Glass gave Crean his vote of confidence when he told the Indianapolis Star earlier in the month that Crean “is the solution, not even part of the problem.” The vocal majority was skeptical at best of a coach who failed to capitalize on the No. 1 team in the nation two years ago.
While the clamor for Crean’s job has diminished with the start of the season, Indiana faces a critical week to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The Hoosiers already have been on both sides of an upset, defeating a ranked SMU team on Nov. 20 and losing at home to Eastern Washington on Nov. 24.
IU’s next tests begin this week when the Hoosiers host Pitt in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge today and face Louisville at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9.
Those will be tall tasks for this Indiana squad, but Glass could be right in assuming that Crean is part of Indiana’s solution. Crean has dug Indiana out of a mess before. Seven years ago, when Crean was hired, the program faced NCAA sanctions from the Kelvin Sampson scandal.
The vast majority of the state’s top recruits had been overlooking IU for years, and the roster was riddled with failing grades, drug abuse allegations, nothing but walk-ons, and a lame duck interim coach in Dan Dakich.
In 2012, Crean helped deliver Indiana’s first Big Ten title in 20 seasons, back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and a No. 1-ranked team. For a time, Indiana was back among the elites.
Crean resurrected the program, recruiting players who succeeded academically and athletically. Last season, Indiana posted a perfect APR and received the APR Public Recognition Award for four consecutive years of academic excellence.
That counts for something, right?
Crean will have at least a season to deliver results, but what constitutes a success is open to interpretation. Athlon picked the Hoosiers eighth in the Big Ten and slotted them into the NIT, not a banner season by Indiana standards. Yogi Ferrell is one of the top point guards in the league, but his supporting cast is in question.
The arrival of freshmen James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson addressed the need for shooters and floor spacers the Hoosiers desperately lacked last season.
With sophomore sniper Collin Hartman returning from an ACL tear, and the arrivals of freshman Max Hoetzel and Illinois State transfer Nick Zeisoft, Indiana won’t be short on deep threats. In Indiana’s first six games they are averaging 9.7 3-pointers per game while shooting 43.6 percent from deep. Blackmon alone is shooting 57.1 from behind the arc.
The loss of big men Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft and Luke Fischer to Marquette is Crean’s biggest issue, leaving the Hoosiers looking and playing like a run-and-gun Big East roster in the meat and potatoes Big Ten.
Rebounding and post defense are going to be the biggest areas of concern for the Hoosiers, especially in conference play.
Unfortunately for Crean, the frontcourt woes have been magnified by the rash of off-court issues.
Six-foot-nine forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who was arrested in February for DUI, is Crean’s most experienced true post player and averaging only 4.7 rebounds and 8.2 points so far this season against inferior competition. Sophomore forward Troy Williams, who was suspended four games for a second failed drug test, will be asked to play out of position and help solidify the post for Indiana this season.
Yet Crean has done enough in his tenure at Indiana to give him a chance to dig the Hoosiers out of their current predicament. Whether Indiana misses the tournament for a second straight year or surprises every college basketball prognosticator in America and goes dancing, Crean has earned the right to clean up this mess. He’s done it before.
-by Jacob Rose
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets started out their first year with their new/old moniker on an exciting, “buzzy” note. Since then, it’s been nothing but downhill.
Currently on a nine-game losing streak, the Hornets are lost. And many have speculated that their maverick off-season acquisition is a big part of their new malaise. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson is, by all accounts, a handful as a personality in the locker room, and the Hornets have appeared ill-equipped to wrangle him in recent days. So much so that their front office is already considering moving the mercurial shooting guard. Here’s the word from the wire, via Grantland’s Zach Lowe:
“The Hornets are searching for upgrades on the wing and at power forward, per those sources, and they are willing to talk turkey on basically anyone other than Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. Free agents signed this past offseason can't be traded until December 15, and few would be surprised if the Hornets make and take calls on Lance Stephenson ahead of that trigger date.
“The Hornets viewed Stephenson as a dose of perimeter dynamism for a plodding offense built around Walker's pick-and-roll work and Professor Al's post-up trickery. The 2013-14 version of that offense didn't really have a third leg — a creative off-the-dribble threat waiting on the weak side when smart defenses snuffed out the good stuff. Stephenson didn't promise to solve Charlotte's fatal spacing issues, but with Indiana he was an average 3-point shooter and a bullying rim attacker on the pick-and-roll.
“It hasn't worked. ... Stephenson is an easy scapegoat, and that's partly his own doing. His body language has been horrible, and that degrades morale. He pouts when he doesn't get the ball on the weak side, flapping his wings and looking skyward as if his teammates have wronged him. He steals rebounds, and he hot dogs with the ball at times.”
While a deal involving Stephenson is unlikely at this premature moment, a few more weeks of losing and bad P.R. for Charlotte could push the needle to “move now” territory quickly. Stay tuned for updates.
— John Wilmes
When it comes to reborn players, Gerald Green is near the top of the genre. The 28-year-old was selected No. 18 overall, straight out of high school in Houston, by the Boston Celtics. He followed that with a six-team stretch that saw him struggle to find minutes or a defined NBA role. The extreme, eye-popping athleticism that got him into the league without any NCAA action appeared to be languishing by the 2012-13 season, when he played a reserve role with the Indiana Pacers and averaged less than 12 minutes per game in their playoff run.
Things have been different with the Phoenix Suns, though. Under the leadership of head coach Jeff Hornacek — last year’s runner up for Coach of the Year honors — Green’s springy style has blossomed. Watch as he creates one of our early season’s chief highlights last night, ooping it to himself for an emphatic finish against the Orlando Magic:
Green is now an indispensable rotation player for his team, running all over the floor in the Suns’ uptempo system and liberally shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip. He pairs with tiny dynamo Isaiah Thomas to make the Suns’ second unit nearly as devastating as their turbo-charged starters, led by the two-headed guard monster that is Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Green’s memorable flourish, this time, unfortunately came in a Phoenix loss. The Suns dropped the game 93-90 to the young, feisty Magic, who were led by the combined 39 points and 18 rebounds of Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. The Suns also got a chance to say hello to an old ally — Channing Frye, a floor-stretching big man who provided invaluable veteran resolve to last year’s 48-win Suns squad, which narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs.
— John Wilmes
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s race back into playoff contention began in earnest over the weekend, as Russell Westbrook returned from a hand injury to lead his team to a dominant, morale-boosting 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks. Westbrook controlled the game thoroughly in every moment he was in it, tallying 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t close. Russ’s emphatic dunk early on said pretty clearly that the Thunder are a frightening foe once again:
Reigning MVP Kevin Durant was still watching from the sidelines, excitedly cheering on his Thunder and looking like he badly wanted to join them. Durant’s been practicing with the team, so it’s only a matter of weeks before he returns. It’s a fun time to be an OKC fan: The team suffered greatly without its stars — going just 4-10 — but it’s still early enough for their hole to be manageable. A mere five-game deficit in the standings separates them from the conference’s eighth playoff seed.
Over in the Eastern Conference, Westbrook’s buddy Derrick Rose found rhythm with his Chicago Bulls. Behind the All-Star level play of Jimmy Butler and the out-of-hibernation mania of Joakim Noah, Rose and the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets over the weekend to finish their annual circus road trip with a 4-3 mark despite a litany of injuries to key players.
The Bulls now sit near the top of the Eastern Conference, where there may be a vacancy soon. During a 106-102 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Toronto Raptors lost shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who suffered a torn tendon in his left groin, as reported by ESPN and AP. The Raptors currently lead the East with a 13-3 record, but having DeRozan (arguably their best player) out for an indefinite period of time will make it hard for them to keep pace.
— John Wilmes
It does not matter which division you put them in, as the Wisconsin Badgers just have a knack for playing for the Big Ten championship game. In the four years the Big Ten has held an organized championship game, Wisconsin will be making their third appearance in Indianapolis this week. Perhaps it is time to respect Wisconsin as one of the top programs in the conference - if we have not done so already.
When the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams and opened the doors to a conference championship, many were quick to suggest the game would be dominated on a regular basis by Ohio State and Michigan. Perhaps this will be true over a longer period of time, but Michigan has yet to play in the game and Ohio State is making just its second appearance in part due to one year of a postseason ban. The Buckeyes came up short in their first Big Ten championship game trip a season ago, losing to Michigan State. Now, without quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes must find a way to slow down a red-hot Wisconsin running game, with their own Heisman candidate running back Melvin Gordon leading the devastating charge.
For Wisconsin, this is an opportunity to proclaim once more to be the team to beat in the Big Ten. Though the Badgers have seen plenty of success in the Big Ten over the last few years, the state of the Big Ten continues to be measured on a national scale based heavily on the status of Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin had a chance to change that slightly with a season-opening game against LSU, but the Badgers saw that win in Houston slip away in the second half. Now is a time for some redemption with a third Big Ten title in four years.
As it turns out, Wisconsin is being shown some respect heading to the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only have the Badgers climbed the rankings enough to hang just outside the top ten in the major polls, but Wisconsin has been tabbed the betting favorite heading to the Big Ten title game. The injury to J.T. Barrett carries some influence in that betting line for sure, but Wisconsin will issue no apologies for that situation.
Winning an outright championship was a rarity in the Big Ten until the introduction of the Big Ten championship game. No school other than Ohio State or Michigan has ever won three outright conference championships in a four-year span. Minnesota did it when the Big Ten was known as the Western Conference with just nine members (Michigan State had not joined the conference yet and Chicago was in its final days as a conference member). If it happened before the Allies claimed victory in World War II, it does not count for much in today’s game. Perhaps the Badgers are looking to establish dominance in the new era of the conference.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Running backs made a strong return to prominence in the 2014 college football season, and no other conference saw running backs take the spotlight the way the Big Ten did. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah entered the season as two of the most recognized running backs in the country, and more than lived up to the hype. With Gordon and Abdullah in the conference, it was easy to overlook the work done by Indiana running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman may be the nation’s most overlooked running back.
Two running backs rushed for 2,000 yards this season. Gordon at Wisconsin you already know. The Badgers running back leads the nation with 2,260 yards and he has a shot at the single-season rushing record with a Big Ten championship game and bowl game still to play. The other 2,000-yard rusher this season is Indiana’s Coleman, and his rushing total may be even more impressive.
Indiana’s offense was dealt a blow with various injuries this season, which put the pressure to keep the offense doing anything squarely on the shoulder pads of Coleman. He was up to the task, running for 100 yards in all but one game this season. He rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State and 132 yards against Michigan State. Though the Hoosiers were unable to string together enough wins to go to a bowl game, it was not for a lack of effort from Coleman. He just needed more of a supporting cast or a defense to get to the postseason.
Those who watch Big Ten football may be much more familiar with Coleman, but in a year that seemed to be heavy on running back depth in the Big Ten, missing out on hapless Indiana and their running back star must have been common for the casual college football fan. The Big Ten will see Gordon fly to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and Nebraska’s Abdullah is a household name. The Big Ten also saw Jeremy Langford be a big piece of top 10 Michigan State’s offense all season long. Minnesota’s David Cobb also had an impact for a Gophers team making a push for a division title. Coleman’s biggest flaw was playing on a losing team, which is often the case for talented players most people may not know much about.
If Coleman returns to the Hoosiers in 2015, he will no longer be flying under the radar. Running backs may have had a strong season in college football, but the importance of the running back has taken a hit in the NFL Draft. Maybe that will be enough to keep Coleman in Bloomington for another year. If so, then Kevin Wilson’s offense will have a valuable piece to work with in 2015.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
California ran into a brick wall on its path to the postseason in 2014, but the program appears to be in solid hands with head coach Sonny Dykes.
Cal ended its 2014 season sitting on five wins, one win shy of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. The first season under Dykes may have looked like a mistake with just one win to celebrate in 2013, but Dykes has shown Cal has potential to compete in the Pac-12 using his coaching style and system. It just took some time for that to become a reality.
The difference one season under Dykes made was undeniable. In his first season at Cal, the Bears ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring with just 23.0 points per game in 2013. That matched the 2012 scoring average of Cal, but the win total went down in the process as Dykes took over. No team in the Pac-12 improved its average scoring output in 2014. The Bears finished the season ranked second in scoring average, behind only Oregon, with an average of 38.3 points per game.
As expected, Dykes has used the passing game to lead his program. When Dykes took over, the Bears improved from ninth to third in the Pac-12 in passing offense, adding about 121 passing yards per game in 2013 compared to 2012. This season the Bears added even more to the passing game with 346.0 passing yards per game. Only Washington State and Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense had more passing yards per game. Cal may not be running the ball as much as it did before Dykes was named the head coach, but the running game did improve this season compared to 2013. The Bears rushed for nearly 150 yards per game this season, up from 123.7 ypg in 2013. More importantly, California more than doubled its rushing touchdown total in 2014, going from just 10 in 2013 to 22 in 2014.
Next season, Cal should be in line for a bowl trip if everything continues to develop the way it has this season. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff will return an experienced junior with nearly 4,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in 2014. Leading receivers Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs could all be back as targets next season as well. Throw in a potential senior running back in Daniel Lasco, with his 1,115 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and the ingredients of a healthy and potent offense are in place. There will be a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line, but Dykes is going to have an offense that will be ready to take the next step in 2015. If the defense can start to improve the way the offense has, getting to six wins should easily be within reach next season.
Cal’s defense allowed a Pac-12 worst 39.8 points per game in 2014. With four losses decided by one score, Cal does not need to be Stanford on defense to get back to the postseason. Trimming just five points from two losses would have resulted in two more wins. Cal is close to being a bowl team, and this is the first step. At Cal, the focus will not be on winning a Pac-12 title, or even a Pac-12 North title, but a step in the right direction. Dykes is leading Cal in the right direction.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
NC State added about a touchdown per game to its scoring average. At the same time, it trimmed three points off its defensive scoring average. The result? An increase of four wins and a bowl trip in Dave Doeren’s second season in Raleigh.
Year two under Doeren got off to a solid start, although it took advantage of a weak non-conference schedule. The Wolfpack picked up wins out of the gate against Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian. A 4-0 start is always nice, regardless of the competition, but it was not until a home date with Florida State in late September we got a true glimpse of the potential NC State would come to show off this season. NC State caught Florida State sleeping in Raleigh, but as so many teams have found out this season, putting Florida State to sleep for good is an incredibly difficult task. NC State showed plenty of firepower, but Florida State had just a little bit more in a 56-41 decision.
It looked as though NC State had already hit a wall. A week after the wild setback against the Seminoles, the Wolfpack were shutout on the road at Clemson, 41-0. Two more double-digit losses in ACC play to Boston College and Louisville appeared to drop NC State back to some reality that Doeren had plenty of work to still do. As it turned out, that is when NC State did get to work.
NC State forced three turnovers in a road win at Syracuse. Another setback against ACC Coastal champion Georgia Tech followed, but NC State finished on quite the high note in the regular season. The Wolfpack blew away Wake Forest to clinch bowl eligibility, and wrapped up the regular season with another in-state blowout victory against North Carolina, 35-7. Any time a North Carolina school can go undefeated against in-state opponents, it is a cause for celebration.
There is no question Doeren is leading NC State down a positive path, although there is much work to be done before making any plans to challenge Florida State, Clemson and perhaps Louisville for the Atlantic Division. Ending the season with a bowl victory would be nice, but the focus on 2015 should already begin.
NC State will lose a bunch of talent from the starting offense, and perhaps more if some juniors leave with a year of eligibility remaining. The defense will look to fill a bunch of holes as well. Playing in a bowl game can help give new faces some extra reps to prepare for the future, and that should not be overlooked. NC State looks to be heading to a rebuilding year, but it does not have to be if Doeren’s Wolfpack make the most of extra bowl practices and the bowl game.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
The Crimson Tide stayed at No. 1, with eleven first place votes. Alabama started slow against Western Carolina but trudged to a victory, 48-14.
No. 2 FSU slipped past Boston College on a last second field goal 20-17. The Seminoles came in with two first place votes and stay undefeated. They have a 27-game win streak.
Oregon maintained the 3 spot in the poll, as they continued to roll for another blowout, 44-10, against Colorado. The Ducks have won six straight games since losing to Arizona.
Vandy proved no contest for the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Commodores got shellacked 51-0.
Baylor beat Oklahoma State 49-28, TCU was idle, and Ohio State struggled past Inidiana 42-27. Those three teams come in ranked at No. 5 through No. 7, with Georgia staying at no. 8 after easily destroying Charleston Southern 55-9.
Next weekend will be what is always the most exciting of the year … Rivalry Weekend. The Iron Bowl in Alabama, the Egg Bowl in Mississppi, the Civil War in Oregon, and the Florida-FSU game could provide the biggest shake up in the top 4 this coming week.
|2||Florida State (2)||11-0||86||2|