Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, Troy Aikman, NFL
Path: /nfl/tony-romo-better-hall-famer-troy-aikman
Admit it. You knew it was coming. Everybody in Dallas did. Everybody everywhere did. As the score got higher, the game got wilder, and more people started flipping their TV over to the game, everyone had the same thought going through their head: When is Tony Romo going to blow it?
He was brilliant against the high-flying Denver Broncos on Sunday, at least as good as Peyton Manning who right now is the best there is. He completed 25 of 36 passes for a ridiculous 506 yards and threw five touchdown passes. He was having what might have been the finest game of his 11-year career.
Then, on his final pass of the game, right at the two-minute warning, he ignored an open running back DeMarco Murray underneath and tried to squeeze a tight pass into tight end Gavin Escobar deep in his own territory. It was, of course, picked off by Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, giving the Broncos the ball and the time to set up the game-winning field goal in a 51-48 win.
In a game where Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, “Tony played as good a football game as I've ever seen him play,” everyone knew it was bound to happen. That’s the way it us with Romo. Everyone just sits back and waits for him to fail.
And really, that’s just unfair.
 Tony Romo's numbers, through his first 98 starts, absolutely blow away Troy Aikman's stats. 
Romo has been a terrific quarterback for the Cowboys, better than they ever should’ve expected from an unheralded, undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2003. He wasn’t brought in to be the next great quarterback of “America’s Team.” But that’s exactly what he became.
To say he chokes — or that he choked in that game against the Broncos — is a terrible label. Sometimes things happen, even to the greatest quarterbacks in the game.
“You know, those plays happen in split seconds,” Garrett said. “And you saw something that he liked. He cut it loose. Their defender made a good play. It was a difference-making play of the game.”
It only seems like Romo is on the wrong end of those difference-making plays far too often. But the truth is, without him, the Cowboys of the last decade wouldn’t have been in very many big games.
In other words, Romo hasn’t been the complete failure that some make him out to be. In fact, when you compare him to the Dallas Cowboys’ last great quarterback – Hall of Famer Troy Aikman – Romo’s numbers absolutely blow his away. Granted, it’s a different era now and the passing game has exploded since Aikman’s day. But the numbers are startling nonetheless.
Through 98 starts, Aikman (1989-95) completed 62.8% of his passes for 16,607 yards, 98 touchdowns and 85 interceptions. Romo, in that span, has completed 65.2% of his passes for 26,998 yards, 187 touchdowns and 90 interceptions. Aikman had a passer rating of 81.6 and was only over 90 in two seasons. Romo is at 96.6 and has never been below 91.4.
Aikman won more (60 to 57). And he also had an enormous advantage in the postseason. Aikman was 10-1 in the playoffs in those years and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles. Romo has been to the playoffs just three times with a record of 1-3.
Of course, Aikman had the benefit of Emmitt Smith in his backfield. Romo has only had a Top 10 rushing attack once. And Aikman played with defenses that were better, and ranked higher too. Also, it should be noted, that Aikman was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft while Romo was an undrafted free agent.
So the fact that Romo has accomplished as much as he has isn’t bad.
But there’s a truth about quarterbacking that Peyton Manning once learned and so did his little brother, Eli, and so has Drew Brees and Joe Flacco and many, many others before them. Quarterbacks, as former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi once said, are judged by only one criteria: “Can they take their team down the field, with the championship on the line, and into the end zone?”
In other words, can they perform when it really counts?
Romo has had plenty of terrific moments in his career. He’s made plenty of big passes in big spots and seized his share of big games. But in the biggest games, with the eyes of the world upon him, with playoff berths or playoff games on the line, there’s just something about him that seems to make him constantly fall short.
So for now he falls to a place where the Mannings and Flacco and Brees and so many others once resided: To the dark hole of great quarterbacks not great enough to win the big one. And no matter what he does in his career, the truth of the matter is that his reputation isn’t going to change until he finally does.
— By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-cincinnati-preview

This preview and more on Cincinnati and the American Athletic Conference are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Cincinnati Facts & Figures
Last season: 22-12 (9-9 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Mick Cronin (135-100 at Cincinnati)
American projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64

After spending the last eight years in the Big East struggling for its share of national recognition in a league loaded with college basketball heavyweights, Cincinnati will immediately be viewed as one of the top dogs in the new American Athletic Conference.

The Bearcats would have preferred to have landed in the Atlantic Coast Conference like three of their former Big East colleagues, but the move to The American might be beneficial in some respects. They won’t have to plow through the meat grinder of the Big East schedule. But they’ll also have to strengthen their non-conference schedule to compensate for the loss of games against marquee Big East opponents, a formula that worked well under Bob Huggins in the Bearcats’ old Conference USA days.

Mick Cronin begins his eighth season as the head coach at his alma mater armed with a contract extension through 2018. He’ll have to replace three starters, including point guard Cashmere Wright, who ran the Cincinnati offense for the past four years and is the only player in school history with 1,300 points, 475 assists and 175 steals.
The Bearcats will lean heavily on shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, a fifth-year senior who decided he would enhance his NBA prospects by returning to school for one more year. They will also feature one of the school’s most promising newcomers in years in 6-9 freshman power forward Jermaine Lawrence, a national top-25 recruit whom many believe could be a one-and-done player.


Cronin believes he has solved what was one of Cincinnati’s glaring weaknesses from a year ago by adding low-post scoring with Lawrence and 6-10 freshman Jamaree Strickland. He’s also hoping for increased production from senior Titus Rubles. Last year, Rubles averaged 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting only 33.8 percent from the field. Senior backup center David Nyarsuk, at 7-1 the tallest player in Cincinnati history, blocked 29 shots in limited playing time, but he averaged only 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds.

The wild card for Cincinnati could be forward Shaquille Thomas. A 6-7 sophomore, Thomas has the athletic ability to become a 1,000-point scorer, but he still has a long way to go to translate that athleticism into a skill set.

Senior Justin Jackson has proven to be a consistent shot-blocker and solid rebounder, but has not developed offensively and still has a tendency to get into foul trouble. Jermaine Sanders, a 6-5 junior, must become more assertive and improve his shooting to make an impact. He made only 13-of-48 from long range last year and shot 53.1 percent from the free throw line.


The likely successor to Wright at point guard is freshman Troy Caupain, a prolific scorer who averaged 26 points in high school last season. One of Caupain’s strengths is his ability to get to the rim, but it’s always risky to rely on a freshman to run the offense. Junior Ge’Lawn Guyn was last year’s backup at the point, but he would have to make major improvements to win the starting job.

At shooting guard, sophomore Jeremiah Davis III received a medical redshirt after missing most of last season with a wrist injury. He could provide long-range scoring punch to complement Kilpatrick, who led the team in scoring (17.0 ppg) despite shooting a career-low 39.8 percent from the field.  


Cincinnati’s top-25 recruiting class is led by freshman power forward Jermaine Lawrence, who’s expected to make an immediate impact. Center Jamaree Strickland is a traditional back-to-the-basket, low-post scorer but missed all of his junior year in high school and part of his senior year with a knee injury. Troy Caupain is a prolific scorer who will be given a chance to run the offense. Kevin Johnson is a Cincinnati prep product who can play both guard positions, and DeShaun Morman will be asked to provide depth from the wing.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Sean Kilpatrick needs to score 556 points to become only the second player in school history to score 2,000 points, joining Oscar Robertson, who scored 2,973 in three years.

Cincinnati has thrived in recent years with veteran players who used their experience and physical toughness to compete successfully in the Big East. This year, however, the Bearcats will be younger, relying heavily on at least two freshmen — Lawrence and Caupain. That’s a lot to ask of first-year players, but it might be easier to get away with in the American than it was in the Big East.

Cincinnati will also have be more efficient on the offensive end after ranking 260th nationally in 2-point shooting (45.5 percent), 255th in 3-point shooting (31.6) and 302nd in free throw shooting (64.7). The hope is that UC will be able to increase its tempo — and create easier baskets — against less physical defenses in its new league.

Kilpatrick, who played for Team USA in the World University Games, was named team captain last spring and will be expected once again to carry the scoring load for a team that is seeking its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

College Basketball: 2013-14 Cincinnati Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:16
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-iowa-state-preview

This preview and more on Iowa State and the Big 12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Iowa State Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (62-39 at Iowa State)
Big 12 projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32

With three junior college transfers and a pair of high school signees all vying for playing time, Fred Hoiberg says it may be a while before he has a good feel for his Iowa State basketball team.

“Right now there are a lot of unknowns,” Hoiberg says.

The scenario isn’t all that new for the Cyclones, who continue to win at a high level despite a roster that features so many new faces each year that people jokingly refer to Iowa State as “Transfer U”. While transfers — many of whom arrive with baggage — often flounder at other schools, Hoiberg has proven to be as good as any coach in America at incorporating new parts and getting them to blend with those already in place.

It worked with transfers such as Royce White, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson, who led the Cyclones to 23 wins, a top-four finish in the Big 12 and the third round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons. Cyclones fans are hoping former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane and the other new arrivals can help continue the trend in 2013-14.


While most of Iowa State’s rotation will be dotted with new faces, the Cyclones couldn’t feel better about what they have returning in the post, where starters Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang return after starting every conference game last season. “When they’re on the floor,” Hoiberg says, “I like our chances against anyone.”

Ejim, who will be a fourth-year starter, is a bit undersized at 6-6. But that didn’t stop him from averaging 11.3 points and a league-best 9.3 boards a year ago. The highly skilled Niang is fresh off one of the best freshman seasons in Iowa State history. The 6-7, 245-pounder averaged 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot a team-high 51.5 percent from the field. Niang has the versatility to score from anywhere on the court, including 3-point range.

The Cyclones are counting on junior Percy Gibson to step up after a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hoiberg describes junior college transfer Daniel Edozie as “a big, physical kid who will get in there and battle. He’s a good rebounder.”


As comfortable as Iowa State feels about its frontcourt, the Cyclones are in a state of flux on the perimeter, where Babb, Lucious, Clyburn and Tyrus McGee all graduated. That foursome combined to average 47.2 points last season. “It’s going to be a completely different look,” Hoiberg says. “There’s going to be a battle for minutes. I’m excited to see who emerges.”

The Cyclones received a huge boost in May when Kane announced he was leaving Marshall and transferring to Iowa State, where he will be eligible to play immediately. A combo guard, Kane is one of two active Division I players to average 15 or more points in each of his first three college seasons. He averaged 15.1 points and seven assists in 2012-13.

Senior Bubu Palo is a candidate to join Kane in the backcourt. Off-court issues limited Palo to 17 games last season, but the former walk-on is still one of the squad’s most experienced players and its top perimeter defender.

A pair of junior college transfers, K.J. Bluford and Dustin Hogue, could also factor prominently into the mix. Hoiberg likes the 6-6 Hogue because of his ability to play multiple positions. And he says Bluford is a “Tyrus McGee type” because of his ability to connect from long range.

Matt Thomas, who is considered one of the top shooters in the Class of 2013, could be a factor, too, along with freshman Monte Morris and redshirt freshman Sherron Dorsey-Walker.


Don’t be surprised if Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, a combo guard, leads the team in scoring. Matt Thomas and Monte Morris are both top-100 prospects who could make significant impacts as freshmen. K.J. Bluford led the junior college ranks in 3-pointers per game last season. Dustin Houge in another juco who could play a big role on the perimeter.

Final Analysis
Factoid: 9.9. The Cyclones led the nation by averaging 9.9 made 3-point field goals per game in 2012-13. Iowa State ranked third nationally in scoring (79.4 ppg).
Iowa State has the talent to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth for the third straight year, but only if the newcomers jell in a hurry. Hoiberg has dealt with a plethora of fresh faces before, but in most of those scenarios, the players were transfers who had spent a year on campus practicing with the team before becoming eligible. “With the other guys, we knew what we were getting and who they were going to be,” Hoiberg says. “These guys are going to have to bond right from the start.”

College Basketball: 2013-14 Iowa State Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:05
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, NFL
Path: /nfl/the-10-greatest-quarterback-seasons-nfl-history

Peyton Manning might be the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. And what he is doing to the rest of the NFL this fall is downright unfair.

After five games, Manning has 1,884 yards, 20 touchdowns, one interception and has completed 75.8 percent of his passes at a 9.5 yard per attempt average. His per game averages are 376.8 yards, 4.0 touchdowns and 0.2 interceptions and his QB rating is 136.4.

This puts the Broncos signal-caller on pace for 6,029 yards, 64 touchdowns and three interceptions — which would shatter the single-season records for yards held by Drew Brees (5,476) and touchdowns held by Tom Brady (50). His 75.8 percent completion would also obliterate Brees’ present NFL record (71.2 percent) and his 136.4 QB rating would dwarf Aaron Rodgers’ single-season record (122.5).

Simply put, Manning is on pace to produce the best single regular season by a quarterback in NFL history. And it’s not even close.

However, for this season to be considered the greatest of all-time, Manning must deliver in the postseason. He is 9-11 all-time in the playoffs, has won only one Super Bowl and lost another. So for Manning’s 2013 to become the best start-to-finish NFL campaign — which are ranked below — he must finish the season with a second Lombardi Trophy.

1. Steve Young, San Francisco, 1994
There hasn't been a more complete NFL season than the year Young and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan put together in 1994. The 49ers finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 13-3 while Young set an NFL single-season record for efficiency with a 112.8 QB rating, breaking the previous record set by former mentor Joe Montana. He also came 0.3 percentage points from breaking Ken Anderson's NFL mark for completion percent at 70.6 percent (Young's 70.3 percent still sits at No. 4 all-time). He started all 16 games, finished with 3,969 yards and an NFL-best 35 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. Additionally, Young led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven as he compiled 293 yards on 58 carries. For all of this he earned the NFL MVP, but what made the '94 campaign special is what took place following the regular season. The Niners steam-rolled the Bears, Cowboys and Chargers en route to Young's first Super Bowl — a win commemorated by a record six touchdown passes, 325 yards passing, the MVP trophy and Gary Plummer's famous monkey exorcism. Oh, and No. 8 was the game's leading rusher as well. Young posted 623 yards passing, 128 yards rushing, 11 total touchdowns and nary an interception in San Francisco's three playoff games. It was the finest season a quarterback has ever seen.

2. Kurt Warner, St. Louis, 1999
Part of what makes Warner's '99 campaign so memorable is how the Northern Iowa signal-caller ended up a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP. The undrafted rookie finally broke into the league four years after graduating from UNI and led the inept Rams to the best record in the NFC (13-3) as a first-year starter. The 28-year-old led the NFL in touchdown passes (41), completion rate (65.1 percent), yards per attempt (8.7) and QB rating (109.2) while finishing with a franchise-record 4,353 yards passing. He then proceeded to complete over 81 percent of his passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns in his first career playoff start — a 49-37 win over Minnesota. By the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner had thrown for 414 yards and two touchdowns to earn his second MVP trophy of the season. The huge numbers, the sheer improbability and ultimate victory combined to produce what was nearly the greatest season in history.

3. Tom Brady, New England, 2007
Today's sports culture values championships and quarterbacks rarely disagree. So had Brady finished his magical romp through the NFL in 2007, he would be sitting at No. 1 on this list. He is only one of two QBs to ever finish a season 16-0 and eventually worked the record to 18-0 before the show-stopping loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII . Brady threw for a franchise-record 4,806 yards, good for third all-time in NFL history at the time. His QB rating of 117.2 was second all-time in NFL history and he became the first and only player to ever throw 50 touchdown passes in one season. He threw only eight interceptions and led the league in 11 passing categories. In the postseason, Brady and the Pats were dominant against Miami in the Divisional Round, but the Michigan grad struggled in the final two games of the year. He threw three interceptions and had his second-worst yardage day of the year (209 yards) in the AFC title game win over San Diego. He capped his MVP season with an underwhelming performance against the extraordinary Giants defensive line, costing him his fourth Super Bowl ring and the unbeaten immortality of 19-0.

4. Dan Marino, Miami, 1984
Marino was well ahead of his time back in only his second year in the league. He set an NFL record for passing yards (5,084) that would stand for nearly 30 years and an NFL record for touchdowns (48) that would stand for 20 years. He led the Dolphins to the best record in the AFC at 14-2, claimed the MVP trophy and returned Miami to the Super Bowl where they fell just short of defeating the 18-1 Joe Montana-led 49ers. The Pitt Panther threw for 1,001 yards and eight scores in three postseason games. The 23-year-old with a lightning quick release led the NFL in completions, attempts, QB rating and yards per attempt in a season that totally changed the way the game of football was played. He paved the way for what we see today on Sunday and came up 22 points short of a championship.

5. Joe Montana, San Francisco, 1989
The Golden Domer wasn't ever the most talented or fastest or strongest quarterback on the field, but his 13 regular-season games — and subsequent playoff run — during the 1989 season were as brilliant as most's 16-game seasons. Montana completed 70.2 percent of his passes, led the NFL at 270.8 yards per game and finished with a then-NFL record 112.4 QB rating. His completion rate was second all-time to only Ken Anderson and is still one of only five seasons better than 70 percent in history. The 49ers finished 11-2 in his 13 starts and 14-2 overall and Montana was the MVP of the league. Montana threw for 3,521 yards, 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also added 227 yards rushing and three more scores on the ground. However, what made No. 16's '89 campaign one of the greatest in history was his thorough destruction of the NFC and Denver Broncos in the postseason. He completed 65 of his 83 passes (78.3 percent) for 800 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero picks, finishing his historic season with arguably the most dominant Super Bowl performance to date by crushing John Elway and company 55-10. Three more games puts Montana over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and moves him ahead of Marino and Brady on this list.

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2009
One could argue Brees' 2011 season was better, but I am guessing if you ask him which year was better, he would take '09 everyday and twice on Sunday. He led the NFL in completion rate (70.6 percent), breaking the aforementioned Anderson's NFL single-season record. He also topped the charts in touchdown passes (34) and QB rating (109.6) en route to a 13-3 final regular season record. He finished with 4,388 yards and only 11 interceptions. He then capped New Orleans' magical resurrection with 732 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins. His performance in the Super Bowl XLIV win over the Colts and Peyton Manning gave the Saints franchise their first championship. Brees completed 82.1 percent of his passes and claimed the game's MVP honors.

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2011
It is hard to argue that from a statistical perspective, no quarterback has ever had a better regular season than Brees in 2011. He set NFL records for completions (468), passing yards (5,476) and completion rate (71.2 percent) while leading the Saints to a 13-3 record. He then proceeded to throw for 928 yards and seven touchdowns in two playoff games. His defense let him down in the postseason and he contributed two of the team's costly five turnovers in the divisional round loss to the 49ers.

8. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2006
Much like Brees, Manning has had many elite seasons, but two stand above the rest. One in which he broke an NFL record and played at unprecedented levels (see 2004 below) and the other ended with a Super Bowl championship. Much like Brees, the ring gives Manning's '06 campaign the slight edge. He threw for 4,397 yards on 65.0 percent passing and a league-leading 31 touchdown passes. It was also the only year in which No. 18 threw fewer than 10 interceptions (9). His 101.0 QB rating also led the NFL that season and he added four rushing scores for good measure. Manning led his Colts to four postseason wins that year (16-4 overall) and the 29-17 Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago in which he claimed the game's MVP trophy.

9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 2011
In a season in which three passers topped 5,000 yards and numerous NFL records were broken, Rodgers' season can get lost in the shuffle. Yet, the Packers' passer set every major franchise passing record and led a team that finished 15-1 in the regular season. The year ended with a whimper with Rodgers sitting out the season finale and then losing to the Giants in the team's only playoff game. But his 4,643 yards, 10.5 yards per attempt and absurd 45:6 TD:INT ratio gave No. 12 the most efficient season in NFL history (122.5 QB rating) — and it earned him the league's MVP trophy. Had he posted Matt Flynn's (480 yards passing, 6 TDs) numbers in the final week of the regular season, he would have hit 50 TDs and topped 5,000 yards. That said, Packers fans will always look at '11 with "what-if" memories.

10. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2004
Many believe this season was Manning's best. Statistically speaking it was as he finished the regular season with an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes and 121.1 QB rating to go with 4,557 yards and a 67.6 percent completion rate. The league's MVP was 12-4 and on a path to his first Super Bowl title until New England completely dominated the AFC Championship Game 20-3. Manning ended a remarkable season one game shy of his goal, as he managed only 238 yards passing, no touchdowns and one interception in the disheartening loss to the Patriots.

Others to consider:

Dan Fouts, San Diego, 1981 (10-6, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,802 yds (NFL record), 33 TD, 17 INT, 90.6 QB rating

Warren Moon, Houston, 1990 (8-7, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,689 yds, 33 TD, 13 INT, 96.8 QB rating, 215 rush yds, 2 TD

Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990 (10-6, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,466 yds, 30 TD, 13 INT, 91.6 QB rating, 118 att., 942 yds, 5 TD

Brett Favre, Green Bay, 1996 (13-3, Postseason: 3-0) MVP, Super Bowl
Stats: 3,899 yds, 39 TD, 13 INT, 95.8 QB rating, 136 rush yds, 2 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2004 (11-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 2,313 yds, 14 TD, 12 INT, 78.1 QB rating, 120 att., 902 yds, 3 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2006 (7-9, Postseason: None)
Stats: 2,474 yds, 20 TD, 13 INT, 75.7 QB rating, 123 att., 1,039 yds, 2 TD

Brett Favre, Minnesota, 2009 (12-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,202 yds, 33 TD, 7 INT, 107.2 QB rating

Michael Vick, Philadelphia, 2010 (8-3, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,018 yds, 21 TD, 6 INT, 100.2 QB rating, 100 att., 675 yds, 9 TD

Eli Manning, NY Giants, 2011 (9-7, Postseason: 4-0) Super Bowl
Stats: 4,933 yds, 29 TD, 16 INT, 92.9 QB rating

Tom Brady, New England, 2011 (13-3, Postseason: 2-1)
Stats: 5,235 yds, 39 TD, 12 INT, 105.6 QB rating, 109 rush yds, 3 TD

Cam Newton, Carolina, 2011 (6-10, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,051 yds, 21 TD, 17 INT, 84.5 QB rating, 126 att., 706 yds, 14 TD

Post date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-virginia-preview

This preview and more on Virginia and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Virginia Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 ACC)
Postseason: NIT quarterfinals
Coach: Tony Bennett (76-53 at Virginia)
ACC projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team.


With size, depth and athleticism to spare, Virginia could have one of the ACC’s best frontcourts.

Mike Tobey is the hub. The 6-11 sophomore spent part of the summer playing for the U.S. team at the U19 World Championship. Though he didn’t play a ton on a loaded squad, the experience was invaluable, he says. “Definitely, the experience helped me see more potential and see what I can do down the road,” he says.

Tobey flashed that potential last year, giving Virginia a true back-to-the basket presence. His development was slowed by a bout of mononucleosis that caused him to miss five games. But with added strength and stamina, Tobey could blossom.

Forward Akil Mitchell certainly blossomed last year, finishing with more double-doubles (12) than All-ACC pick Mike Scott did the previous year. The 6-8 Mitchell and the springy, 6-8 Darion Atkins give Virginia two of the ACC’s better frontcourt defenders.

Gill, who started 26 games at South Carolina as a freshman two years ago, is a former high school teammate of Mitchell. He’ll push Atkins for playing time.  

The addition of Gill should allow Evan Nolte, who hit the freshman wall after being forced to bang inside more than he was ready for, to move to a more natural spot on the wing. He hit 39 percent of his 3-point attempts last year.


Did we mention size and depth? That’s the story in the backcourt as well.

Amid all the roster churn of the last four years, senior Joe Harris has been a constant, an impact player from Day 1 who became an All-ACC selection last year. The sweet-shooting Harris was on a tear through the season’s first 28 games but wore down over the final seven. Playing more than 32 minutes per game and drawing so much defensive attention took a toll.

He’ll have more help this year. The versatile Brodgon, who played both guard positions before breaking his foot in February 2012, returns after missing all of last season. He’s likely to get first crack at the point guard position, where he’s got an edge in experience over incoming freshmen Devon Hall and London Perrantes.

The ultra-athletic and energetic Justin Anderson, spectacular at times as a freshman last year, could be poised for a breakout year.


In a departure from the usual, someone transferred in for a change. Anthony Gill was reportedly a load to handle in practice last year and will help right away. Devon Hall is a rangy, pass-first point who made some national top-100 recruit lists. London Perrantes, who also got some top-100 mentions, comes all the way from Los Angeles, where he had Pac-12 offers galore.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Virginia prefers a chilly pace, with scores in 50s whenever possible. The Cavs allowed just 55.6 points per game, fifth in the nation.

Maybe slow and steady does win the race. Bennett’s patient, deliberate approach — on and off the court — is gathering steam.

Bennett has recruited well, and although Virginia’s attrition rate has been high, the players who have bought in have developed, and the program has established an identity and style of play.

The influx of new members has made the ACC tougher than ever. Virginia is doing what it can to keep pace.

Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team. - See more at:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Virginia Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 23:24
All taxonomy terms: Eli Manning, New York Giants, NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-6

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 6, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.

Giants (0-5) at Bears (3-2)
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew and Monsters of the Midway defenses need to look alive against Eli Manning (12 INTs, two lost fumbles) and Jay Cutler (six INTs, three lost fumbles) on Thursday. Bears by 7

Packers (2-2) at Ravens (3-2)
Baltimore lost its beloved pregame-dancing linebacker who wore No. 52. Now Green Bay has to cope with the loss of its own post-sack-dancing No. 52, Clay Matthews (broken thumb). Packers by 4

Bengals (3-2) at Bills (2-3)
Thad Lewis, the most statistically accomplished QB in Duke football history, will make a quantum leap from the practice squad to NFL starter. Bengals by 6

Lions (3-2) at Browns (3-2)
Cleveland is 3–0 since the return of wideout Josh Gordon, who is now the center of swirling trade rumors with the receiver-starved 49ers. Lions by 5

Steelers (0-4) at Jets (3-2)
Uber-confident Ryan Clark will be quick to point out to his Blitz-burgh teammates that the Steelers are playing at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII. Steelers by 2

Rams (2-3) at Texans (2-3)
Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in a record four straight games. St. Louis’ Janoris Jenkins had three pick-sixes last year and Matt Giordano had an 82-yard pick-six just last week. Texans by 5

Panthers (1-3) at Vikings (1-3)
Carolina outscoring opponents 45–12 at home, but outscored 46–29 on the road this season. Vikings by 2

Raiders (2-3) at Chiefs (5-0)
Oakland swept K.C. last year, winning 26–16 at Arrowhead and 15–0 at the Black Hole. Chiefs by 8

Eagles (2-3) at Buccaneers (0-4)
Chip Kelly and Greg Schiano will give it the old college try once more unto the breach, er, Bay. Eagles by 3

Jaguars (0-5) at Broncos (5-0)
The worst vs. first matchup could feature the Broncos’ second-string in the second half. Broncos by 27

Titans (3-2) at Seahawks (4-1)
Former UW star Jake Locker will be on crutches for his Seattle homecoming. But the Hawks will likely be in “Beast Mode” after two road games. Seahawks by 11

Saints (5-0) at Patriots (4-1)
Last week, Tom Brady failed to throw a TD pass for the first time since Jan. 3, 2010. Patriots by 1

Cardinals (3-2) at 49ers (3-2)
Jim Harbaugh has a 3–1 record against Zona, with a 21–19 loss in 2011 and three victories by a combined score of 74–23. 49ers by 10

Redskins (1-3) at Cowboys (2-3)
Last season, RG3 went 2–0 against Dallas — passing for 404 yards, four TDs and one INT, while scrambling for 92 yards and another TD. Cowboys by 3

Colts (4-1) at Chargers (2-3)
Stanford alum Andrew Luck aims for the season sweep of California clubs, having already defeated Oakland, San Francisco and avocado. Colts by 4

Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 21:00
All taxonomy terms: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/worst-vs-first-jacksonville-28-point-underdogs-denver

The clawless 0–5 Jacksonville Jaguars take on the stampeding 5–0 Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday in what Vegas oddsmakers think is the most lopsided matchup in recorded history. The winless Jaguars opened as a 28-point — or four touchdown — underdog against the undefeated Broncos. That number is the largest since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 and ties the unofficial record, which (citing The Gold Sheet) reports to be when the expansion Atlanta Falcons were 28-point underdogs against the Baltimore Colts in 1966.

Although the gambling line is set to entice bettors and is not necessarily a prediction of the outcome, it is an easy indicator of public opinion based on past on-field performance. And the numbers don’t lie. As the Broncos official Twitter feed (@DenverBroncos) pointed out, “The #Broncos’ 51 points in yesterday’s win are as many points as the Jaguars have scored all season.” And it’s true. Denver’s 51 points in its thrilling win at Dallas is the same total Jacksonville has tallied over five games.

The Broncos have looked like Super Bowl favorites en route to wins over the Ravens (49–27), Giants (41–23), Raiders (37–21), Eagles (52–20) and Cowboys (51–48). Meanwhile, the Jags appear to be aiming for the No. 1 overall pick after losses to the Chiefs (28–2), Raiders (19–9), Seahawks (45–17), Colts (37–3) and Rams (34–20).

A tale of the tape is even uglier, as Denver dominates Jacksonville:

Points per game:
46.0 – Denver Broncos
10.2 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Yards per game:
489.9 – Denver Broncos
251.8 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Total Touchdowns:
29 – Denver Broncos
 5 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Turnover Ratio:
+1 – Denver Broncos
–7 – Jacksonville Jaguars

It starts at the top, where Denver boasts Peyton Manning at quarterback and Jacksonville drags out Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, while a percentage of the fanbase pines for local legend Tim Tebow.

Manning is off to an MVP start, passing for 1,884 yards, 20 TDs and one INT for a 136.4 passer rating. Gabbert, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and Henne have combined to pass for 1,082 yards, three TDs and nine INTs. In a surreal setting, Henne will start in place of the injured Gabbert, who has led only one TD drive this year.

Expectations couldn’t be lower. Just keep it within four TDs, Jags.

Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 20:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-5

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the undefeated Denver Broncos to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. Broncos (5-0) Peyton Manning’s statistics even bigger in Big D.

2. Saints (5-0) Drew Brees gets first win at Soldier Field in fourth try.

3. Chiefs (5-0) K.C. off to best start since 9–0 record in 2003.

4. Colts (4-1) Andrew Luck leads ninth fourth-quarter comeback.

5. Seahawks (4-1) Squander early 12–0 lead in loss at Indianapolis.

6. 49ers (3-2) Injury-riddled Niners solid gold in win over Texans.

7. Packers (2-2) Winners of 23 straight over Lions in Wisconsin.

8. Bengals (3-2) Hold Patriots without TD for first time since 2009.

9. Patriots (4-1) Tom Brady’s TD pass streak ends at 52 straight.

10. Ravens (3-2) Pass rush brings talents and heat to South Beach.

11. Lions (3-2) Calvin Johnson (knee) sits out loss at Green Bay.

12. Bears (3-2) Alshon Jeffery sets team receiving mark (218 yards).

13. Cowboys (2-3) Not the “same old Tony Romo,” but same outcome.

14. Texans (2-3) Gary Kubiak gives Matt Schaub vote of confidence.

15. Dolphins (3-2) Suffer second straight loss after promising 3–0 start.

16. Eagles (2-3) Nick Foles throws two TDs subbing for Mike Vick.

17. Titans (3-2) Five straight three-and-outs to open loss vs. Chiefs.

18. Jets (3-2) Geno Smith throws three TDs in upset over Atlanta.

19. Falcons (1-4) Back-to-back home losses for first time since 2009.

20. Redskins (1-3) RG3 hopes to bounce back strong after bye week.

21. Rams (2-3) End three-game losing streak with win over Jags.

22. Cardinals (3-2) Record seven sacks, first safety in nine seasons.

23. Browns (3-2) Brandon Weeden leads win after Brian Hoyer injury.

24. Raiders (2-3) Charles Woodson ties record with 13th defensive TD.

25. Chargers (2-3) Post past-prime-time loss at Oakland’s Black Hole.

26. Bills (2-3) EJ Manuel out 4-to-6 weeks, Thad Lewis to start.

27. Panthers (1-3) Ugly effort included nine penalties for 79 lost yards.

28. Vikings (1-3) Add Josh Freeman to Ponder, Cassel QB carrousel.

29. Steelers (0-4) Ryan Clark boasts team not “out of” playoff hunt.

30. Giants (0-5) Big Blue feeling blue, 0–5 for first time since 1987.

31. Buccaneers (0-4) Warren Sapp critical of embattled Greg Schiano.

32. Jaguars (0-5) Justin Blackmon shines in debut after suspension.

Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 20:00
All taxonomy terms: Baltimore Ravens, prime time, Terrell Suggs, NFL
Path: /nfl/prime-time-players-week-5

Terrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
“T-Sizzle” was on fire in Baltimore’s 26–23 win on the road at Miami. The self-proclaimed alum of “Ball So Hard University” recorded half of the Ravens’ six sacks, with all three of Suggs’ QB takedowns coming in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. “My wife told me to ‘bring momma three sacks,’” Suggs said after the game. “I said, ‘All right, momma said she wanted three, so go get it.’” The Ravens have a 14–1 record when the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year posts a multi-sack game.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
Chip Kelly’s high-flying offense was back in business during a 36–21 win over the NFC East rival Giants. Although Philly failed to maximize its opportunities — kicking five field goals of 41 yards or less — Jackson was a big play waiting to happen. The electric wideout had seven catches for 132 yards (18.9 ypc) and a game-sealing TD grab, which was followed by a trolling mockery of the signature salsa dance made famous by New York’s Victor Cruz.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
Reportedly motivated by trash talk from the Seahawks secondary, Hilton had the last laugh in a 34–28 win over Seattle. Andrew Luck’s other go-to guy — opposite Reggie Wayne — had five catches for 140 yards (28.0 ypc) and a pair of TDs, including a 73-yard scoring strike that marked the longest TD in the careers of both Luck and Hilton. The play proved to be the turning point in the game, as Indy had 13 yards on 12 plays prior to the game-breaking bomb.

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Sure, the four-time MVP completed 33-of-42 passes (78.6 percent) for 414 yards, four TDs and one INT for a 129.6 passer rating in a 51–48 win on the road at Cowboys Stadium. But the 16th-year veteran has been doing that just about every week. It was Manning’s naked bootleg TD run — his first rushing TD since 2008 — that stole the show. “You want to do it about every five years or so,” joked Manning.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
This space is usually reserved for winners, but Romo’s historic losing effort deserves mention. In a 51–48 disappointing defeat to Denver, Romo became just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to pass for 500 yards and five TDs in a single game. Romo completed 25-of-36 passes for 506 yards, five TDs and one INT, going toe-to-toe with Manning in a shootout for the ages. Dallas and Denver combined for the second-highest scoring game in regulation (99) since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/amazing-pac-12-college-football-stats-week-6

True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in week 6.

4,011: Mannion, Halliday’s 4,011 passing yards meet Saturday in Pullman

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, the nation’s leading passer at 2,018 yards, travels to take on the nation’s third-best passer in Washington State’s Connor Halliday (1,993) Saturday night. The two have combined to complete 66.1 percent of their passes (349-of-528) for 34 touchdowns. Halliday is coming off the nation’s best yardage performance of the season — 521 yards (on 41-of-67 passing) last week against Cal. He and Bears QB Jared Goff combined for a Pac-12 record 1,010 passing yards. And it might not just be a free-for-all Saturday as the Cougars and Beavers are tops in the Pac-12 in collecting interceptions — Washington State has nine, Oregon State eight.

3 for 300: Kelly, Mannion two of three FBS QBs to throw for 300-plus in every start this season
Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion make up two of the three FBS quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards in each of their starts this season. The Pac-12 duo has done so in the first five games. Ball State’s Keith Wenning is the other, having done so over the first six games. And there is no reason to think either Pac-12 QB won’t make it 6-for-6 to start the season. Kelly and the Sun Devils’ ninth-ranked passing offense (359.4 YPG) plays host to Colorado and its 121st-ranked pass defense (326.8 YPG). Mannion’s second-ranked passing offense (420.6 YPG) might have a bit tougher task against Washington State’s 54th-ranked passing defense (219.3 YPG), but the Cougars did just surrender 504 yards to Cal QB Jared Goff.

6 for 0: Washington’s six turnovers have not cost the Huskies
Washington has only coughed the ball up six times this season, but none of them have been converted into scores. Meanwhile, the Husky defense has turned six of the eight turnovers they have forced into points. UW will need to be productive with whatever it can get this week when Oregon comes to Seattle. The Ducks are third in the nation in turnover margin (1.6) — 13 gained to five lost — to go along with the nation’s best scoring offense (59.2 PPG) and second-best scoring defense (11.8 PPG).

0: Stanford has not allowed a first-quarter touchdown this season
Stanford travels to Salt Lake City for just the third-time in program history (1902 and 1995) looking for its third win there and looking to keep alive its streak of not allowing a first-quarter touchdown this season. The Cardinal has surrendered 12 points in the opening 15 minutes off of four field goals. Utah has outscored its opponents 45-20 in the first quarter this season. The two teams rank right next to each other in PPG in the nation at 24th and 25th with the Cardinal scoring 39.2 and the Utes 39.0. Utah did score a first-quarter TD in the last meeting in Salt Lake City in 1995.

9: Arizona, USC on opposite end of turnovers at nine gained, nine lost
When Arizona and USC meet in Los Angeles Thursday it will be two teams that are far apart in the turnover department. The Wildcats have gained nine turnovers and are plus-5 in turnover margin; the Trojans have lost nine turnovers and are minus-2 in turnover margin. Arizona has won 16 straight games when it wins the turnover battle. Its last loss when winning such a battle was against USC in 2008.

5: USC is facing Arizona, Arizona State in back-to-back games for the fifth time
When the Trojans take on the Wildcats Saturday it will be the fifth time USC has played Arizona and Arizona State in consecutive games. It also occurred in 1980, 2005, 2010 and 2011. The Trojans won the first six meetings before falling at ASU in 2011 (43-22). They came back to defeat Arizona 48-41 in Los Angeles the following week. Arizona arrives in LA to meet a USC squad, which is once again coming off a road loss at Arizona State (62-41).

65-0: UCLA at its best in the third quarter, outscoring opponents 65-0
The Bruins are 4-0 for the first time since 2005 thanks in part to the third quarter. UCLA has outscored its opponents 65-0 in the third — serving as its most productive offensive quarter and obviously its most stout defensive quarter. This week, the Bruins welcome a Cal team that has had most of its scoring output in the third quarter (45), but has also given up 66 points in the 15-minute frame.

202: Oregon’s Mariota sets new mark for consecutive passes without an interception
Marcus Mariota pushed his streak to 202 straight pass attempts without an interception with his 27 throws in the 57-16 win over Colorado. The 202 breaks the old mark of 178 set by Kellen Clemens in 2004. Mariota has now thrown for at least one touchdown in all 18 career games he has played. Mariota also accounted for a school-record 42 points in the Colorado victory, with five TD throws and two rushing scores.

24: Utah’s 24-year-old, redshirt freshman kicker is perfect
Andy Phillips, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team, is a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals and 24-of-24 on PATs for the Utes through five games. The 24-year-old, who had never played football at any level and only played soccer as a high school freshman, is tied for first in the nation in field goal percentage, and his nine field goals is the most of any kicker in the nation without miss.

755: The 755 yards Colorado allowed to Oregon last week is not a school record — by 120 yards
When the No. 2 Ducks hung 57 points and 755 yards of total offense on host Colorado last week it was not a school record for either team — gained or allowed. The yardage was 17 off of Oregon’s school-record 772 it set in this year’s season opener against Nicholls State. You have to go a little farther back to find yardage like that against the Buffs. The 755 are the most allowed since Oklahoma racked up 875 yards (758 on the ground) in an 82-42 victory on Oct. 4, 1980.

Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-pittsburgh-preview

This preview and more on Pittsburgh and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Pittsburgh Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-9 (12-6 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Jamie Dixon (262-86 at Pittsburgh)
ACC projection: Seventh
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64

Hard to figure out what the letters A-C-C stand for around Pittsburgh these days. Is it Atlantic Coast Conference — the Panthers’ new league? Or Abrupt Continuous Changes — the Panthers’ offseason plight?

Pittsburgh transitions from the Big East to the ACC with more moving parts than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Coach Jamie Dixon lost two players to graduation, two to transfers (two others departed last season) and one to the NBA. Add a firing and hiring on the coaching staff and you have a team that will face challenges in trying to improve on a 24–9 record that included a one-and-done experience in the NCAA Tournament.

The biggest void is the somewhat surprising loss of richly talented 7-foot center Steven Adams, a blossoming star who bolted to the NBA after his freshman year.

Dixon, who’s never met a challenge he doesn’t like, must rely on a coaching resume that’s enabled him to get to nine NCAA Tournaments in 10 years, in addition to posting the best all-time winning percentage (.669) in Big East games.


For the second consecutive season, Pittsburgh will look for immediate help from a freshman in the interior. Highly regarded Mike Young will fill that role at power forward. A strong and relentless force with a nice scoring touch, Young must help offset the loss of Adams. His ability to step outside and score could add needed offensive punch.

Young will benefit by playing alongside experienced senior starters in forward Lamar Patterson and center Talib Zanna, the team’s top returning scorers. Patterson is the most versatile of the Panthers with his ability to play inside or on the perimeter at shooting guard. He fits the mold of the prototypical Pittsburgh player — tenacious on defense and on the boards with offensive versatility. Zanna, who moves to center from forward, must develop consistency to complement his impressive athleticism. He had great moments last season, but too often faded in the background.

A trio of intriguing newcomers will push for playing time immediately, including versatile 6-7 freshman Jamel Artis, 6-10 junior college transfer Joseph Uchebo and 6-9 Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall. Uchebo could be a factor at center as the season progresses.


Make no mistake, Pittsburgh is point guard James Robinson’s team. Only a sophomore, he spent much of last season deferring to graduate Tray Woodall, yet still led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio. Robinson is smooth, self-assured and cerebral. His ability to set the tempo will be a necessity as Dixon plans to employ more of a run-and-gun style to tap into an athletic roster.

Robinson’s backcourt mate will be drawn from a committee of players, including junior Cameron Wright and sophomore Durand Johnson. Freshmen Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk and Detrick Mostella could also be in the mix. Johnson is the most intriguing of the bunch after leading Pittsburgh in 3-point shooting last season at 38 percent. He periodically provided a spark off the bench and showed unlimited range. The uber-quick Wright lacks Johnson’s scoring touch, but provides shut-down defense and relentless rebounding skills. Mostella, a late commitment who chose Pittsburgh over Georgetown, Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma State, provides explosiveness (he’s a slam-dunk champ) with 3-point range. He could turn out to be a major recruiting.


The Pittsburgh roster will be dotted with seven new players, including redshirt freshman Chris Jones. Forward Michael Young should make the greatest impact as he moves into a starter’s role at power forward. Transfer Joseph Uchebo will provide needed size to the interior, while late commit Detrick Mostella, a natural scorer who originally planned to attend Oklahoma State, could take over at shooting guard. Mostella very well could end up being the gem of this voluminous incoming class.

Final Analysis

Factoid: Pittsburgh is one of only seven schools to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the past 12 seasons. The others are Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Texas and Wisconsin.
On paper, Pittsburgh appears to be no better than a middle-of-the-pack ACC team. Good thing Dixon puts little stock in such things. Despite rarely having all-world talent, the veteran coach annually has the Panthers competing for conference titles and high seeds in the NCAA Tournament, including top seeds in 2009 and ‘11.

This team, one Dixon likes a great deal, could follow suit. His formula for success is simple: Intense defense, aggressive rebounding and winning by attrition. Fresh off of signing a 10-year contract extension, Dixon will add a new wrinkle with the up-tempo style. This will appease a segment of Pittsburgh fans who believe Dixon’s perceived conservative approach inhibits players from flourishing offensively and fails to lure high-end recruits. His teams haven’t made it past the NCAA’s opening weekend since 2009.

Don’t expect this Pittsburgh squad to make a run to the Final Four, but a competitive season in the ACC and a 12th NCAA tourney berth in 13 years is realistic.

College Basketball: 2013-14 Pittsburgh Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 07:57
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-acc-preview

The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish

G Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
G Joe Harris, Virginia
G Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
F C.J. Fair, Syracuse
F James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina

G Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
F Rodney Hood, Duke
F Jabari Parker, Duke
F T.J. Warren, NC State
F Okaro White, Florida State

G Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
G/F Dez Wells, Maryland
F Ryan Anderson, Boston College  
F Travis McKie, Wake Forest
F Akil Mitchell, Virginia

1. DUKE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Final Four

Even with loss of his top three scorers, Coach K has enough firepower for another big year.

2. NORTH CAROLINA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Sweet 16
Off-the-court issues create plenty of uncertainty, but the talent for another deep NCAA Tournament run is in place.

3. SYRACUSE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Sweet 16
Forward C.J. Fair has star potential, but the loss of three double-digit scorers creates big voids, especially in the backcourt.

4. NOTRE DAME (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
Assist machines Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins give the Irish the best backcourt in the ACC.

5. VIRGINIA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32

Seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell may be the best inside-outside duo in the conference.

6. FLORIDA STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
Giving several young players playing time last year will now pay off and help offset losing clutch shooter Michael Snaer.

7. PITTSBURGH (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
With the return of three starters, Jamie Dixon has the nucleus needed to generate yet another NCAA run.

Postseason projection:
Losing lottery pick Alex Len won't stop the Terps from being a factor in their last year in the ACC.

Postseason projection:
The Hurricanes must replace their top six scorers and nearly 90 percent of their offense.

Postseason projection:
Every starter returns, and no team in the conference has a better group of outside shooters.

Postseason projection:
Landing a postseason bid is a realistic goal in Year 3 of the Brian Gregory era.

Postseason projection:
Promising sophomore T.J. Warren returns, but that's where the good news ends.

Despite an 11–39 record in league play over the last three seasons, the Deacs brought coach Jeff Bzdelik back.

14. CLEMSON (bonus team preview)
The Tigers desperately need a good start after losing 10 of their last 11 games in 2012-13.

With Erick Green (and his 25 points per game) gone, just staying competitive will be a struggle.

All ACC team previews are available in full in the 2013-14 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual, available online or on newsstands.


Player of the Year: Joe Harris, Virginia
Harris topped our list of the nation’s top shooters after averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 46.9 percent from the field.

Best Defensive Player: Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech
Interior defender needs to polish his offensive game, but the senior has averaged better than two blocks per game for his entire career.

Most Underrated Player: Dez Wells, Maryland
Xavier transfer made good on his move to a new league by averaging 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists. The do-everything player hope to lead the Terps to the Tourney.

Newcomer of the Year: Jabari Parker, Duke (full list of the ACC’s key new faces)
The key word for Parker is versatility with his ability to score and defend all over the floor. He and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood will be matchup nightmares.

Top coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke (full ACC coach rankings)

Coach on the hot seat: Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest (full hot seat list)


The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at:
The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at:
The ACC hasn’t been able to brag No. 1 conference status for a while. Last season it was the Big Ten. Before that, the Big East had its run.

Perhaps expansion diluted the ACC product a bit in past years. Until last season, Miami didn’t offer much. Boston College’s best days were largely in the Big East. And Virginia Tech can only dream of the days it was the first team in the NIT.

Finally, expansion will boost the ACC’s basketball product. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league this season all after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season. The Orange reached the Final Four. If not this season, the ACC will be the top basketball league in 2014-15 when Louisville replaces Maryland.

For this season, though, the ACC will have plenty of intriguing storylines, not least of which Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim battling for the league crown. Duke is the favorite with freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood joining a stout returning cast in Durham.

ACC Predicted Order of Finish - See more at:
College Basketball: 2013-14 ACC Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 07:12
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-clemson-preview

This preview and more on Clemson and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Clemson Facts & Figures
Last season: 13-18 overall (5-13 ACC)
Coach: Brad Brownell (51-45 at Clemson)
ACC projection: 14th
Postseason projection: None
The task facing Clemson coach Brad Brownell and his staff this winter is, shall we say, unenviable. In Brownell’s fourth season, he’ll try reversing a slide which has seen the Tigers regress from 22–12 and an NCAA Tournament victory in 2010-11 to 16–15 in ‘11-12 to 13–18 (and 11th in the ACC) last season after losing 10 of their final 11 games.

The additions of former Big East powers Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame to an already-formidable ACC make that challenge even tougher — and Clemson must play all three on the road. Oh, and did we mention that Clemson will have no seniors on its roster?

Welcome to the new and improved ACC, Tigers.

Never discount Brownell’s ability to squeeze as much as possible from his teams, but improving on 2012-13’s mark and getting back to .500 will be a difficult challenge. Clemson lost two of its top three scorers from last season and will return only one player who averaged more than 7.9 points per game — junior wing K.J. McDaniels, who averaged 10.9 per game.

Brownell was allowed some extra time to mold his team: The Tigers took a 10-day visit to Italy in August, which included four games against Italian teams as well as 10 pre-trip practices.

But for real improvement, Clemson must polish its skills, toughness and perhaps, most important, its leadership.

“I think leadership has to come from the players, and I don’t think it did this year,” Brownell said after last season. “I think that was part of our problem. When you see a team do what we did, there’s an indication of no clear direction. When a team is coach-directed, it’s never as good as it is when a team is player-directed.”


Say this for the Tigers’ frontcourt: It does not lack for opportunity.

With the graduation of Devin Booker (third-team All-ACC pick last season) and Milton Jennings (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and the transfer of Bernard Sullivan (1.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg) to Charlotte, Clemson returns a combined of 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game from post players Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith, both of whom appeared raw in limited action as freshmen.

Small forward Jaron Blossomgame is one of the most high-regarded players on the roster, but he was forced to redshirt last season following a slow recovery from a compound leg fracture suffered in May 2012. He underwent a second procedure on the leg in June but was expected to be ready for the beginning of preseason workouts in October.

Brownell bolstered the roster with a pair of spring signees in 6-10 junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and 6-10 Senegal prospect Sidy Djitte.

Djambo and Nnoko figure to have the inside track toward starting roles.


There are certainly reasons to be excited about the Tigers’ backcourt despite some youth and lingering injuries. McDaniels emerged as an athletic playmaker capable of highlight-reel dunks, but Brownell wants him to improve his outside shooting to diversify his offensive repertoire.

Jordan Roper became a solid member of the rotation as a freshman, shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range while averaging 7.9 points per game. He, too, must take another step forward in his development.

Junior Rod Hall is a steady, if unspectacular point guard who plays solid defense; he averaged 5.7 points and 3.5 assists as a sophomore and, along with McDaniels, will serve as a team leader. Adonis Filer hopes to build on an up-and-down freshman campaign that was highlighted by his 21-point outburst against The Citadel. Sophomore Devin Coleman — who redshirted last winter after rupturing his Achilles tendon — and freshman Patrick Rooks will provide some solid shooting whenever needed.


Patrick Rooks, a 6-3 shooting guard, is expected to bring immediate shooting ability, while fellow 3-star swingman Austin Ajukwa is a more versatile player who could fit as a 2 guard or small forward. Ibrahim Djambo, a 6-10 junior college transfer, should see immediate playing time in the post. Another spring signee, 6-10 big man Sidy Djitte, chose Clemson over Cincinnati and Memphis.

Final analysis
Factoid: 5. Clemson took a total of five charges in 31 games last season. It says a lot about the Tigers’ overall toughness, something that must change to compete in the improved ACC.

Poor recruiting by Oliver Purnell in his final months at Clemson — as well as a roster exodus following the transition from Purnell’s up-tempo style to Brownell’s motion offense — has left the Tigers in a difficult spot in the ever-improving ACC.

Four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances are starting to look like a distant memory, and unless you’re Kentucky, winning with no seniors on the roster is not a recipe for success.

Brownell is an excellent coach, but this looks like a season to build, take some lumps and learn. A .500 record would be an excellent accomplishment.

College Basketball: 2013-14 Clemson Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 07:07
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-florida-state-preview

This preview and more on Florida State and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Florida State Facts & Figures
Last season: 18-16 (9-9 ACC)
Postseason: NIT first round
Coach: Leonard Hamilton (219-143 at Florida State)
ACC projection: Sixth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Even after a down year, it seems Leonard Hamilton can do no wrong. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons, Florida State responded by giving its coach a hefty raise in July that pushes his annual salary past the $2 million mark and an extension through 2017.

There’s plenty of reason for all that faith — and for renewed expectations. Nine scholarship players return, seven of whom saw their first action in the ACC last season. That group also includes senior Okaro White, one of the top small forwards in the ACC.

Hamilton is counting on all that possible depth to make up for the loss of the only starter, guard Michael Snaer, a terrific defender with a remarkable knack for hitting big shots.

“I thought the learning experiences our players went through were valuable,” says Hamilton, who enters his 12th season in Tallahassee, making him the second-longest tenured coach in the ACC behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. “I can see the scenario setting up, and we’re preparing ourselves to keep our program moving in the direction we’ve been moving the last number of years.”


For the first time in his career, White will likely be the primary option on offense. But, it’s the veteran’s ability to help in virtually every area that makes him so valuable to this team. A good outside shooter who gets to the free throw line frequently, White is also the Noles’ best rebounder, and he can guard multiple positions.

“I don’t believe you can replace any one player, but with the players we have we are going to be a well-rounded team,” White says. “I still think it’s about defense for us though. It always is.”

What kind of production the Noles will get from their big men remains uncertain. The roster boasts three raw 7-footers — senior Kiel Turpin (7-0) and sophomores Boris Bojanovsky (7-3), who added a much-needed 15 pounds this offseason, and Michael Ojo (7-1) — along with 6-9 power forward Robert Gilchrist, a junior college transfer who has played sparingly.

“Boris is holding his ground better and Michael has really made big improvements too,” White says. “All our big guys are going to contribute this year. It’s early, but I really believe we will be better offensively.”


The emergence of sophomore Devon Bookert last season finally gives the program a true point guard — a rarity in the Hamilton era — to build around. An Alaska native, Bookert adds a new dimension with his decision-making and pass-first mentality. Bookert can’t be left open, either. He knocked down an impressive 53 percent of his 3-point attempts (32-of-61) last season.

“Devon was a steal for us,” White says. “You don’t see too many true point guards these days. He’s very smart with the ball. With all the playing time he got last year he’s coming into this season with a lot more confidence.”

On the wing, streak-shooting senior Ian Miller might be the key to replacing Snaer’s offense. Hampered by a foot injury last season, Miller is capable of being a major scoring threat. Sophomores Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon, who can also play point, will add to the rotation again.


Florida State was dealt a major blow when prized recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes was declared academically ineligible. He was expected to be an immediate contributor. Big man Jarquez Smith is a raw prospect with good size. Wing Brandon Allen is a wild card, having spent the last three years playing minor league baseball.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Departed senior Michael Snaer made six buzzer-beating, game-winning shots during his career, which is recognized as a NCAA record.

Playing so many young players last season should now pay off. This will be a deep team with lots of improved individuals and plenty of size. White gives the Noles a solid piece to lean on. Bookert will make the offense run smoother. A preseason trip to Greece — where they played against the Greek national team — built more chemistry, too.

Getting more offensive production out of their big men is a big question mark. So is replacing Snaer, whose leadership may be missed the most.

More than anything, getting back to the NCAA Tournament depends on the defense. Hamilton has built this program around stingy, physical defense, and that was missing last season. If the Noles prove to be one of the nation’s toughest teams to score on once again, they’ll grind out an NCAA bid. If not, they’ll have to settle for the NIT again.

College Basketball: 2013-14 Florida State Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-lb-corey-nelson-out-season-torn-pectoral-muscle

Sooners defensive co-captain Corey Nelson will miss the remainder of the 2013 season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. Nelson sustained the injury in the third quarter during the Sooners 20-17 home win over TCU.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 14:03
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-lb-jarrett-grace-out-season-broken-leg

Amidst the jubilation of a big win over Arizona State, the Notre Dame defense suffered a major loss as linebacker Jarrett Grace was lost for the season with a broken tibia. The seriousness of Grace's injury was immediately evident as he remained on the field for a few minutes until his leg was stabilized and was later taken away on a cart. 

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 14:03
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/2013-legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-6

After squeaking out victories against ranked opponents Saturday night, Stanford and Ohio State swapped spots in the top 5 of the Legends Poll.

Stanford moved up to No. 4 following its 31-28 win over Washington, which dropped the Huskies three spots to No. 19. Ohio State remained unbeaten but fell to No. 5 after rallying for a win at Northwestern. The loss dropped Northwestern three spots as well to No. 18.

For the fourth straight week, Alabama, Oregon and Clemson were the top 3 teams in the Legends Poll.

Florida State moved up to No. 6 after a 63-0 beat down over Maryland. The Seminoles moved one spot ahead of No. 7 Georgia, which struggled to an overtime win over Tennessee.

No. 23 Notre Dame and No. 25 Missouri moved into the rankings this week. Arizona State and Northern Illinois dropped out.

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll
1AlabamaAlabama (14)5-03981
2OregonOregon (2)5-03862
5Ohio StateOhio State6-03364
6Florida StateFlorida State5-03287
8Texas A&MTexas A&M4-12769
13Miami (FL)Miami (FL)5-021413
15South CarolinaSouth Carolina4-117814
20Texas TechTexas Tech5-08421
21Fresno StateFresno State5-06922
22Oklahoma StateOklahoma State4-16520
23Notre DameNotre Dame4-240-

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward.  You can see the entire Poll at


Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-6-power-rankings-2013

Michigan State posted one of the most complete outings of the Big Ten season thus far in a critical road division win over Iowa. Indiana exercised some demons with the first win in school history over Penn State. Without Taylor Martinez, Nebraska handled its business at home against overmatched Illinois team. And Michigan kept control of the Little Brown Jug.

But Ohio State made the biggest statement of the weekend by clearly yet another big hurdle. The Buckeyes turned to the power running game to make a big statement against a very good Northwestern team in a hostile environment in Evanston.

More Post-Week 6 Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power Rankings:

1.(1)Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): Braxton Miller didn't play his best game, but the Buckeyes still managed to win on the road against Northwestern. After three turnovers, Urban Meyer took the ball out of his star quarterback's hands and instead gave it to burly running back Carlos Hyde. The tailback carried his team to victory with three second half touchdowns and physical play all evening long. This Week: Bye 
(3)Michigan (5-0, 1-0): Brady Hoke needed a performance like this. The Wolverines played a squeaky clean games against Minnesota by converting on all but three third downs (10 of 13), not turning the ball over and registering just two penalties. Devin Gardner played efficient football, and the running game did just enough to let the defense win the game. This was an impressive showing for the Maize and Blue in the Big Ten opener before heading to Happy Valley in Week 7. This Week: at Penn State 
(4)Nebraska (4-1, 1-0): The Cornhuskers played their best defensive game of the year. The Blackshirts held an Illini offense averaging 40 points 478 to just 19 points and 372 yards on Saturday. And the offense clicked on all cylinders despite not having Taylor Martinez under center. Tommy Armstrong did his job by getting the ball to his backfield. Ameer Abdullah (225 yards, 2 TD) spearheaded a rushing attack that posted 335 yards on the ground. This Week: at Purdue 
(2)Northwestern (4-1, 0-1): The loss to Ohio State was one of the most entertaining games of the season, but Wildcats fans likely don't care about style points too much. The Cats had a chance to pull a marquee upset and take control of the conference but couldn't match the physicality at the point of attack in the second half. The Legends Division is completely wide open and a rematch in the Big Ten title game isn't out of the question. But the Cats continue to struggle to beat more talented teams in the league, and things don't get any easier in Week 7.  This Week: at Wisconsin 
(5)Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1): After the tough road loss to Ohio State, the Badgers will have two weeks to prepare for the dynamic and versatile Northwestern attack that came up just short against Ohio State. This Week: Northwestern 
(7)Michigan State (4-1, 1-0): The Big Ten season couldn't have started any better for the Spartans. A key divisional road win over Iowa was the most complete team effort Michigan State has had all season. Connor Cook threw for a career-best 277 yards, the defense pitched a second-half shutout and special teams were a huge factor as the Spartans connected on all four field goals and converted a big fake punt in the second half. It was blue collar, physical and not always exciting, but that is the way Mark Dantonio likes it. This Week: Indiana 
(6)Penn State (3-2, 0-1): Christian Hackenberg threw the ball 55 times for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but maybe that was the problem. The Penn State offense couldn't find any balance in the loss to Indiana, rushing for just 70 yards on 38 carries at a 1.8 yards per carry. On the flip side, the Lions defense played well for three quarters before cracking in the final frame and allowing nearly 500 yards of offense to the Hoosiers. Penn State gets Michigan and Ohio State in its next two. This Week: Michigan 
(8)Iowa (4-2, 1-1): The Hawkeyes head into the off weekend with a bad taste in their mouths. After leading 14-10 at halftime against the Spartans, Iowa was dominated in all three phases of the game in the final 30 minutes. Kirk Ferentz squad entered the game fourth nationally in time of possession (35:50 per game) but managed to hold the ball for 22:47 against Michigan State. Ferentz better not let the off weekend go to waste since the Hawks next three opponents are Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. This Week: Bye 
(11)Indiana (3-2, 1-0): The Hoosiers had a slim 21-17 lead at the end of three quarters against Penn State but an offensive explosion to start the fourth quarter gave Kevin Wilson a signature home win — Indiana's first victory over Penn State. Nate Sudfeld threw for 321 yards and two scores on the game while Tre Roberson scored twice on the ground during the 23-point fourth quarter. This was a huge division win at home against a more talented team and it keeps IU's bowl hopes alive. This Week: at Michigan State 
(9)Minnesota (4-2, 0-2): The Gophers were without coach Jerry Kill after another seizure forced him to stay home for the road trip to Ann Arbor. Without their leader, Minnesota looked lost against Michigan, losing the Little Brown Jug in uncompetitive fashion. Mitch Leidner got the start at quarterback but led his offense to just 281 total yards and 13 points in the blowout loss. This Week: Bye 
(10)Illinois (3-2, 0-1): Tim Beckman began Big Ten play with a big thud this weekend. Nathan Scheelhaase entered the weekend as one of the most productive and improved quarterbacks in the nation. He looked a lot more like the player who struggled the last two seasons, completing 13 of 26 passes for 135 yards, no scores and one interception. Following the off week, the Illini faces Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. This Week: Bye 
(12)Purdue (1-4, 0-1): After a horrible first month of the season, Purdue spent two weeks preparing for October — which begins with a visit from the Cornhuskers. And there is a good chance that Taylor Martinez will return to the lineup. Best of luck, Boilers. This Week: Nebraska 

Big Ten Week 6 Awards and Superlatives:


Offensive Player of the Week: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State  

The 235-pound running back from Florida was simply too much for Northwestern to handle. On a night when Braxton Miller didn't play his best, Hyde stepped up and salvaged the Buckeyes national championship hopes. He entered the night with just 22 rushing attempts and 126 yards on the season but finished with 26 carries, 168 yards and three crucial second-half touchdowns. The worn-down Wildcats had no answer for Hyde's physicality in the second half. The Ohio State tailback also caught four passes for 38 yards.

Defensive Player of the Week: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Michigan State cornerback was preseason first-team All-Big Ten pick by Athlon Sports and he showed why Saturday. In a key division road win, Dennard led the team with eight tackles and added two interceptions as the Spartans shut out of the Hawkeyes in the second half. This unit held Mark Weisman to just nine yards and is still leading the nation in total defense (203.8 ypg).

Team of the Week: Ohio State

Both Michigan State and Indiana had critical — and historic in the Hoosiers case — wins in Week 6 over Iowa and Penn State respectively. But the Buckeyes were once again the class of the Big Ten conference after defeating Northwestern 40-30 on the road. With a power rushing attack, a dynamic quarterback, elite-level coach and, now, two huge wins over ranked conference opponents, there is little doubt who the best team in the league is after six weeks of play.

Coordinator of the Week: John Papuchis, Nebraska

Illinois entered the game against Nebraska averaging nearly 500 yards of offense and more than 40 points per game. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was averaging 307.5 yards per game with 12 touchdowns in four games. Nebraska's defense, though, played its best game of the year, holding the Illini to 372 yards, 19 total points, 4-of-15 on third downs, registering three sacks and forcing two turnovers. Without Taylor Martinez, the Huskers' defense came up big once again.

Freshman of the Week: Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB, Nebraska

In the absence of Taylor Martinez, Armstrong (and fellow reserve signal caller Ron Kellogg III) has been charged with running the Huskers offense. Armstrong played excellent football against the Illini, completing 8 of 13 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the impressive win. He also ran the ball nine times for 18 yards on the ground and didn't throw an interception for a second straight game. With a road trip to Purdue up next before another week off, don't be surprised if Bo Pelini goes to his freshman again in an effort to get Martinez fully healthy.

Fifth Down

• Penn State's Christian Hackenberg broke his own school freshman passing record with 340 yards against Indiana.

• Allen Robinson had 12 receptions for 173 yards and two TDs against Indiana. He moved into seventh place all-time in school history with 118 career receptions and fifth all-time with 16 career TD receptions.

• Iowa was leading the Big Ten and was fourth nationally in time of possession entering Week 6 (35:50). The Hawkeyes held the ball for 22:47 in the loss to Michigan State.

• Nebraska is now leading the nation all by itself with just two sacks allowed in 2013.

• Indiana is now 1-16 all-time against Penn State after the win over the Nittany Lions this weekend.

• Ohio State still owns the nation's longest winning streak at 18 and Michigan owns the longest home winning streak with 18. These two will play in Ann Arbor on the final weekend of the regular season.

• After going 10 of 13 on third downs against Minnesota, the Wolverines are leading the Big Ten in third-down conversions at 53.7 percent (36 of 67) which is good for 11th nationally.

• Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran for a personal-best 225 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois.

• Despite two different outcomes, Iowa and Michigan are still the nation's only teams that have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.

• Michigan State's Connor Cook set a career high with 277 yards passing. He also had two long scoring strikes in the win over Iowa.

• Saturday was the first game of the season that Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste didn't have an interception in 2013.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/big-12-post-week-6-power-rankings-node

The game that is usually the standard bearer in the Big 12 is almost an afterthought.

The Red River Rivalry will be played this week, but the main story in the Big 12 so far is Baylor’s record-setting pace on offense. That's a worhty storyline, but Oklahoma-Texas will still be a major game in the Big 12 race.

The records indicate Oklahoma and Texas can’t afford to overlook this rivalry game — both teams are 2-0 in the Big 12 — but the Sooners’ primary foe in the  Big 12 race may not be the team in Austin. And Texas, by luck and skill, still has its goal of winning the conference in its sights after squeaking by Iowa State on Thursday.

More Post-Week 6 Power Rankings: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Post-Week 6 Power Rankings

1.1Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0): Why do the Sooners take the top spot over Baylor? Oklahoma has a more complete resume with two conference wins over West Virginia and TCU. The road win over Notre Dame also looks a lot better after the Irish beat Arizona State last week. The Sooners’ defense was stifling despite the absence of starting defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, holding TCU to 44 rushing yards. The Sooners have the league’s best D despite only one player (linebacker Frank Shannon) in the Big 12’s top 25 in tackles or tackles for a loss. This week: Texas (Dallas)
2.2Baylor (4-0, 1-0): The offense is dominant. No question about that. But the Baylor’s defense isn’t so shabby, either, even after a game in which it allowed 42 points to West Virginia. Baylor ranks eighth nationally in fewest yards per play (4.2 yards allowed) and fourth in yards allowed per carry (2.4). Now, we’ll find what Baylor can do on the road: The Bears are 1-7 on the road in the Big 12 the last two seasons, the lone win by one point at Kansas two years ago. This week: at Kansas State
3.4Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0): The Red Raiders fell behind 10-0 to Kansas, but ended up cruising to a 54-16 win to remain undefeated. They’ll have their questions this week, though, as quarterback Baker Mayfield left with a knee injury. Davis Webb replaced him in the third quarter, and Michael Brewer got his first game action of the year. Whoever starts this week for the Red Raiders will have a the standout duo of tight end Jace Amaro and wide receiver Eric Ward. Ward caught seven passes against KU, as many as his previous three games combined. This week: Iowa State
4.3Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1): The Cowboys have some major concerns on offense even after a win. For the second consecutive week, J.W. Walsh struggled to keep the offense moving, and Mike Gundy showed little indication he’d go back to Game 1 starter Clint Chelf. In the first three games of the season, Oklahoma State converted all nine of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Against West Virginia and Kansas State, the Cowboys have converted only three of nine red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This week: Off
5.6Texas (3-2, 2-0): The Longhorns seem to be determined to go as far as Case McCoy will take them. Against Oklahoma, David Ash will miss his third consecutive start with a head injury. McCoy passed 45 times in the win over Iowa State while Texas tailbacks carried only 23 times. Johnathan Gray, who had a breakout game against Kansas State two weeks ago, ran the ball 16 times for 89 yards. This week: Oklahoma (Dallas)
6.8Kansas State (2-3, 0-2): The Wildcats started a new quarterback but stuck with a rotation at the position. Daniel Sams got his longest look of the season, particularly as a passer, in the 33-29 loss to Oklahoma State. Sams moved the offense, completing 15 of 21 passes for 181 yards and rushing for 118 yards on 27 carries. But he also threw three interceptions. Not helping matters was an injury to wide receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett. This week: Baylor
7.7West Virginia (3-3, 1-2): If West Virginia patted itself on the back after a strong defensive performance in the win over Oklahoma State, it probably stopped sometime during the first quarter against Baylor. The Mountaineers gave up the second-most points in school history in the 73-42 loss to the Bears. The defense may prove to be somewhere between the Oklahoma State and Baylor results, but the ongoing issue remains at quarterback. Clint Trickett struggled with signals from the bench, finishing 9 of 28 for 161 yards. This week: Off
8.5TCU (2-3, 0-2): The second-half explosion two weeks ago against SMU looks more and more like an aberration. TCU’s offense is a mess. The Horned Frogs’ slow starts continued in spectacular fashion as TCU didn’t pick up a first down until the second possession of the third quarter. TCU is averaging 4.2 points in the first half against FBS opponents this season. This week: Kansas
9.9Iowa State (1-3, 0-1): Paul Rhoads’ teams usually play with an edge, and they’ll need it to recover from a disappointing loss to Texas on Thursday. Texas’ non-fumbles on the goal line got most of the attention, but Iowa State also was called for a pass interference on the final drive to set up the Longhorns in a good spot. Despite the poor record, Iowa State still does plenty of good things: The Cyclones are plus-3 in turnover margin and 13 of 13 in the red zone. This week: at Texas Tech
10.10Kansas (2-2, 0-1): Just about everything went right for Kansas in the first quarter against Texas Tech before everything went wrong. Jake Heaps led two scoring drives, and the Jayhawks seemed poised for the first Big 12 win in more than two years. After giving up 10 points, the wheels fell off on an ill-advised fake punt on fourth and 13 from KU’s on 16-yard line. Lucky for Kansas, this week’s opponent isn’t nearly as explosive offensively. This week: at TCU

Big 12 Week 5 Recap and Awards

Offensive player of the week: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Last season’s Baylor-West Virginia game featured 1,507 total yards and 133 points. By halftime, there was a sense Baylor could approach those totals alone if it really wanted to. Quarterback Bryce Petty continued to lead an unstoppable Baylor offense with a Big 12-record 864 yards its conference opener against West Virginia. Petty completed 17 of 25 passes for 347 yards with three total touchdowns and an interception in the 73-42 win over the Mountaineers. Nearly all of the damage occurred in a 56-point first half as Petty threw only two passes after halftime.

Defensive player of the week: Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State
Defense may need to carry Oklahoma State for the time being, and linebacker Shaun Lewis proved to be up to the task in a 33-29 win over Kansas State. Lewis finished with eight tackles, a tackle for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the win, but his biggest play was an interception late in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys led by 1 at the time, but Lewis’ pick and 24-yard return set up a field goal to force K-State to go for the touchdown on the final drive.

Freshman of the week: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State
A week after special teams were a major liability in the loss to West Virginia, Oklahoma State relied on special teams to defeat Kansas State 33-29. As the Oklahoma State offense stalled in the red zone, freshman kicker Ben Grogan converted four of his five attempts, the lone miss a blocked 43-yard attempt. Grogan made field goals of 30, 34, 23 and 28 yards.

Team of the week: Baylor
Baylor’s schedule is backloaded with the toughest Big 12 competition waiting until November. But after the 73-42 rout of West Virginia, the question is who is going to stop the Bears? Baylor’s scoring output against West Virginia alone was more than Connecticut, Georgia State and Southern Miss have scored all year. The 56 points in the first half alone were more than FIU, Miami (Ohio) and UMass have scored this season. And remember, this was against a West Virginia defense that is vastly improved over the one from a year ago.

Coordinator of the week: Mike Stoops, Oklahoma
The question of who could stop Baylor falls on the shoulders of Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. The Sooners have the Big 12’s top defense and proved it again in a 20-17 win over TCU. The Horned Frogs gained only 16 yards in the first half, failing to gain a first down until their second possession of the third quarter. TCU finished with 44 rushing yards as Stoops’ defense picked up four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

Fifth Down

• With 172 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk has topped 100 yards in eight consecutive games.

• Baylor has the top three games in total yardage this season with 864 against West Virginia and 781 each against ULM and Buffalo. Each was a school record.

• Kansas State became the fifth Big 12 team to start a different quarterback since the opener. Daniel Sams started against Oklahoma State, replacing Jake Waters. Sams had been a running specialist, but he completed 15 of 21 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Sams, though, struggled with the deep ball, throwing three interceptions.

• Michael Brewer, who was the projected starting quarterback for Texas Tech this season, made his first appearance of the season in the final minutes of the rout of Kansas. Brewer never threw a pass but appeared in the final three possessions after missing the first four games with a back injury.

• Texas Tech starting quarterback Baker Mayfield left with an injury in the third quarter after passing for 368 yards. The extent of his injury was not known after the game.

• By now, you’ve probably seen Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads’ impassioned postgame press conference after questionable officiating went in Texas’ favor in the Cyclones’ loss Thursday. In case you’ve haven’t seen it...

• One place where Rhoads has a legitimate beef is penalties: Iowa State’s 10 penalties against Texas doubled the Cyclones’ output this season. Rhoads received a reprimand from the Big 12, but not a fine, for his critical comments.

• Texas wide receiver Mike Davis received a reprimand from the Big 12, but not a suspension, after he lunged at the legs of a defenseless Iowa State player after the whistle in Thursday’s game. He was assessed a 15-yard personal foul on the field.

• Regardless of the outcome Thursday, Iowa State found it has a focal point for its offense in running back Aaron Wimberly, who rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Wimberly has rushed for 254 yards in his last two games. Quarterback Sam Richardson also had the best game of his career with 345 yards of total offense (262 passing, 83 rushing).


Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/sec-post-week-6-power-rankings-2013

Missouri and Tennessee both jumped two spots in the weekly power poll — Missouri after its dominating win at Vanderbilt and Tennessee after taking Georgia to overtime at Neyland Stadium. There was no movement in the top six.   

More Post-Week 6 Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12  

SEC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings

11Alabama (5-0, 2-0): In the biggest mismatch of the day, Alabama cruised to a 45-3 win over Georgia State, considered by most to be the worst team in the FBS ranks. The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 38-0 lead in the second quarter and shifted into cruise control in the second half. Georgia State’s longest drive of the first half went for 17 yards. Next Week: at Kentucky
22Georgia (4-1, 3-0): It was tougher than expected, but Georgia remained unbeaten in the SEC with a 34-31 win in overtime at Tennessee. The Bulldogs fell behind 31-24 with 1:54 in the fourth quarter, but Aaron Murray led the Dawgs on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that tied the game with five seconds remaining. Georgia did not commit a turnover but had a punt blocked that was returned for a touchdown. With Todd Gurley out and Keith Marshall sidelined in the first quarter, true freshman J.J. Green handled the rushing load for Georgia and responded with 129 yards on 17 carries. Next Week: Missouri 
33LSU (5-1, 2-1): LSU broke open a tight game with 28 straight points in the fourth quarter to beat Mississippi State 59-26 in Starkville. The Tigers were once again dominant on offense, averaging 8.3 yards per play en route to 563 total yards. Zach Mettenberger threw for 340 yards, and Jeremy Hill rushed for 157 (on a 9.8-yard average) to lead the balanced attack. The Tigers continued to get great play from their wide receivers, with Odell Beckham catching nine passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns and Jarvis Landry adding eight catches for 96 yards. Next Week: Florida
44Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1): The Aggies had the week off following a 45-33 win at Arkansas. Texas A&M has scored 42 points or more in all five games this season. Next Week: at Ole Miss
55South Carolina (4-1, 1-1): For the second time this season, South Caroline jumped out to a huge lead at home against an overmatched SEC East opponent only to have to sweat things out in the fourth quarter. Last month, the Gamecocks led Vanderbilt 28-0 in the second quarter but had the margin trimmed to 35-25 midway through the fourth. On Saturday, a 27-7 lead over Kentucky was cut to 35-28 with five minutes remaining. Once again, South Carolina held on for the win, but Steve Spurrier has not been pleased with his team’s play for most of the season. Connor Shaw, who injured his shoulder in the win at UCF last week, went most of the way for the Gamecocks, completing 17-of-20 passes for 262 yards and one touchdown. Next Week: at Arkansas
66Florida (4-1, 3-0): With its ground game struggling, Florida leaned on junior quarterback Tyler Murphy to make plays. And that he did, throwing for 240 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Florida to a 30-10 win over Arkansas in his second career start. The Gators were held to 2.8 yards on 41 rushing attempts, with Matt Jones managing only 50 on 17 carries and Mack Brown 39 on 11. The Gators did a good job slowing down Arkansas’ ground game, holding Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to a combined 86 yards on 21 carries. Next Week: at LSU
79Missouri (5-0, 1-0): Missouri was very impressive in its SEC opener, cruising to a surprisingly easy 51-28 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. James Franklin was terrific at quarterback, throwing for 278 yards and four touchdowns to lead an offense that rolled up 523 yards and only punted once. Mizzou set the tone early, marching 75 yards on five plays on the opening drive of the game. The Tigers led 20-0 before Vanderbilt picked up its first first down of the game. Mizzou ranks second in the SEC in total offense with 543.8 yards per game and fourth in yards per play with 7.06. Next Week: at Georgia
88Auburn (4-1, 2-1): Auburn can make a case that it’s the most improved team in the nation. The Tigers, who went 0-8 in the SEC in 2012, are now 2-1 in the league and 4-1 overall after beating Ole Miss 30-22 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Nick Marshall didn’t get much done in the passing game, but the junior quarterback rushed for 140 yards and two scores on 14 carries. The Auburn defense gave up 464 yards of offense but limited the high-powered Ole Miss attack to two touchdowns. Next Week: Western Carolina
97Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2): The Rebels have been humbled the past two weeks, losing 25-0 at Alabama and 30-22 at Auburn. The offense, so efficient in the first three weeks of the season, has scored only two touchdowns in the last eight quarters. Bo Wallace put up decent numbers (336 yards and two touchdowns), but he threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 78 yards for a TD by Robenson Therezie in the first quarter. Wallace, who led the nation with 17 interceptions last year, had not thrown a pick in the first four games. Next Week: Texas A&M
1012Tennessee (3-3, 0-2): It was in a losing effort, but the Volunteers played their finest game of the season on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee fell behind Georgia by scores of 10-0 and 17-3 in the first half but battled back and took a lead late in the fourth quarter. The Vols eventually lost the game in overtime, but they made a strong statement that the program is making big gains under Butch Jones. Embattled quarterback Justin Worley played well, throwing for 215 yards and one touchdown, and running back Rajion Neal rushed for 148 yards and two scores on 28 carries. Next Week: Bye
1113Arkansas (3-3, 0-2): As expected, yards were tough to come by for Arkansas on its trip to Gainesville. The Razorbacks managed only 275 total yards and were held without a touchdown for the final three quarters in a 30-10 loss to Florida. Brandon Allen once again struggled at quarterback, completing only 17-of-41 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both averaged at least 4.0 yards per rush, but they only had a combined 21 attempts. Next Week: South Carolina
1210Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3): Vanderbilt’s struggles in SEC play continued. The Commodores dropped to 0-3 in the league with a 51-28 loss at home to Missouri. After falling behind 20-0 at the end of the first quarter and 30-7 at the half, Vanderbilt cut the margin to two scores (16 points) three times in the final two quarters but were never able to get a stop on defense. The Commodores gave up 523 total yards and are allowing an average of 530.3 yards in their three SEC games. With his team trailing all night, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for a career-high 338 yards on a career-high 41 attempts. Next Week: Bye  
1313Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2): The Bulldogs flirted with the upset but wilted in the fourth quarter of a 59-26 loss to LSU in Starkville. Tyler Russell was cleared to play, but Mississippi State went with Dak Prescott at quarterback once again. The junior dual-threat completed only 9-of-20 attempts for 106 yards, but he led the team in rushing with 103 yards on 12 carries. Russell played for the first time since the opener, completing 7-of-11 for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The MSU offense averaged 7.0 yards per play (including 6.0 per rushing attempt), but the Bulldogs’ defense had no answers for LSU’s balanced attack. Next Week: Bowling Green
1414Kentucky (1-4, 0-2): Kentucky twice cut a 20-point second-half deficit to one score in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats were unable get any closer and lost 35-28 at South Carolina. Jalen Whitlow played the entire game at quarterback, throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns and leading the team with 69 yards rushing and one score. The Cats have not won an SEC road game since beating Georgia 34-27 in November 2009. Next Week: Alabama 

Week 6 Recap and Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Mettenberger’s sensational senior season continues. The Tigers’ strong-armed quarterback completed 25-of-29 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns — both to Odell Beckham — in LSU’s 59-26 win at Mississippi State. For the season, Mettenberger is completing 68.2 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. In the last two weeks, he has thrown for 712 yards.

Defensive Player of the Week: Carl Lawson, Auburn
One of the top recruits in the Class of 2013, Lawson enjoyed the finest game of his young career in Auburn’s 30-22 win over Ole Miss. The defensive end from Georgia recorded six tackles (including two sacks) to key an Auburn defense that limited Ole Miss to only two touchdowns.  

Team of the Week: Missouri
After rolling through its non-conference schedule with relative ease, Missouri made a statement in its SEC opener, drilling Vanderbilt 51-28 in Nashville. Led by senior quarterback James Franklin, the Tigers jumped out to leads of 20-0 and 30-7 in the first half and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Mizzou, which went 2-6 in its SEC debut in 2012, currently ranks seventh in the nation in total offense (543.8 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (46.6 ppg). Franklin is completing 67.9 percent of his passes and has 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Coordinator of the Week: Cam Cameron, LSU
He has outstanding personnel at his disposal, but Cameron has made a huge impact in his first season at LSU. On Saturday, the Tigers rolled up 563 yards of offense on an impressive 8.3 per-play average. LSU had 340 yards passing and 223 on the ground, and converted 6-of-11 on third down and 2-of-2 on fourth down.

Freshman of the Week: J.J. Green, Georgia   
Green, a true freshman tailback who had a total of five carries in the first four games, was forced into action due to injuries to Todd Gurley (last week) and Keith Marshall (in the first quarter). He responded with 129 yards on 17 carries in the Bulldogs’ 34-31 overtime win at Tennessee. Green’s biggest run of the day came on Georgia’s final possession in regulation, when he picked up 17 yards on a 3rd-and-1 at the Dawgs’ 34-yard line.

5th Down

• Tennessee tailback Rajion Neal rushed for 148 yards on 28 carries against Georgia and has 317 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games. Neal’s previous two-game high was 255 yards, last season against Akron (151) and Georgia (104).

• Kentucky’s 28 points at South Carolina were the most for the Wildcats in an SEC road game since a 42-35 loss at Ole Miss in October 2010. On Saturday, UK scored three of its four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.  

• Ole Miss scored a total of 15 touchdowns in its wins over Vanderbilt, SE Missouri State and Texas but has managed only two touchdowns in losses to Alabama and Auburn.

• Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw for a season-low 93 yards but did plenty of damage with his legs. The former junior college transfer rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries to lead a ground attack that picked up 282 rushing yards.

• Jordan Matthews became Vanderbilt’s all-time leading receiver in the Commodores’ loss to Missouri. The senior now has 2,996 yards receiving and will soon become the fourth player in SEC history to top the 3,000-yard mark.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/colorado-wr-paul-richardson-makes-awesome-one-handed-catch-against-oregon

Check out this awesome one-handed catch by Colorado receiver Paul Richardson against Oregon. (You will need to fast forward to the 40-second mark).

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/georgia-wr-chris-conley-makes-one-handed-td-catch-against-tennessee

Week 6 provided college football fans with some of the best catches of the season.

Georgia’s Chris Conley made this nifty one-handed grab in the first half against Tennessee, which gave the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-enters-its-deadball-era

Before Miami began its surprising run to the 2012-13 ACC regular-season title, coach Jim Larranaga viewed Shane Larkin as a defensive specialist. The speedy sophomore was part of the “Blitz Brothers,” a group of harassing perimeter disrupters charged with creating energy and easy buckets.

This story appears in the 2013-14 Athlon Sports College basketball annual. This year’s edition previews every team in the country and includes everything you need to now to prepare for the upcoming season. The annual is available online and on newsstands near you.

That was a good thing, because as a freshman the year before, Larkin had trouble scoring on anything but the simple shots. His field goal percentage was a spindly 36 percent, and he converted just 32.3 percent of his 3-pointers. Larkin could create havoc on defense, but he was a liability when he put the ball in the air.

Last summer, Larkin went to work, and by the end of the ’12-13 campaign, he was a first-round draft choice known as much for his offense as his play at the other end. He scored 14.5 points per game, nearly double his previous season’s output, shot 47.9 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from behind the arc.

“Shane spent last summer working on his mid-range game and floaters,” Larranaga says. “His jump shot improved dramatically, and he became a much better offensive player.”

It’s hard to blame Larkin for entering Miami as an incomplete player when the ball was in his hands. Only rarely are freshmen ready to score big when they arrive on campus. They’re young. They’re raw. But these days, there’s something else at work.

They haven’t really worked on their offensive games.

“Kids don’t develop skills in summer (while in high school),” Larranaga says. “They play a lot of games, but they don’t work on their shooting.

“The amount of time it takes for a player to become a good shooter is hours and hours every single day. Kids aren’t doing that anymore.”

Larranaga isn’t alone in his assessment of the state of shooting among college players. Coaches all over agree that skill development suffers as the AAU wave washes across the teenage basketball community. Its impact — along with a collection of other factors — has led to a historic drop in offensive effectiveness throughout the college game.

Last season, teams averaged a meager 67.5 points per game, the lowest since 1951-52. Three-point shooters succeeded at a 34.05 percent clip, the worst since the shot was introduced in 1986-87. Assists (12.82 per game) reached a 20-year low. And fans were subjected to some games that made them run, screaming, to the box office for refunds. The halftime score of the Miami-Maryland game was 19–14. Arkansas and Vanderbilt were in a 21–11 tussle at intermission of their game. And how about this final score: Georgetown 37, Tennessee 36.

Last season, teams averaged a meager 67.5 points per game, the lowest since 1951-52. Three-point shooters succeeded at a 34.05 percent clip, the worst since the shot was introduced in 1986-87. Assists (12.82 per game) reached a 20-year low.

“The skill level of players is really low,” Villanova coach Jay Wright says. “You have to work on (ball-handling) skills, footwork and shooting technique before you can teach a player your system. No system is effective without fundamentals.”

The skills are lacking. But there are other factors, beginning with how physical defenders — particularly those on the perimeter — are allowed to be. Last season, only 17.68 fouls/team were called, an all-time low. And the 19.76 free throws/team/game were the lowest number since 1975-76. Defenses are more sophisticated. Scouting has advanced to the point where coaches can break down rivals almost to the individual dribble. The glut of transfers kills program continuity, and the continued departure of top players after one season drains the game of some of its more accomplished offensive players. Players are bigger and more athletic and therefore more capable of defending larger swaths of the court.

Add it up, and you have a problem that can’t be solved by merely sticking kids in the gym and asking them to launch 500 jumpers a day, although it would be nice to give that a try, too. If college basketball is to escape its current state of drudgery, there must be a commitment on many levels to change. A model exists in the NBA. In 1998-99, teams averaged a puny 91.6 points per game, as rules allowed defenders to bludgeon rivals as they negotiated hoopward. After that season, the league called for an end to contact against ball-handlers on the perimeter and eliminated the process of “re-routing” of players with the ball. In other words, pushing a ball-handler away from the basket ended. Two years later, the defensive three-second violation debuted. And referees were directed to call the fouls. As a result, movement returned to the game, and scoring went up.

In '99-00, teams averaged 97.5 points. Last year, the average was 98.1 on 45.3 percent shooting. Though down from the 100.4/46.1 percent high-water mark in 2009-10, it is a marked improvement on the league’s dead-ball era. If the college game is to climb out of the mire and flow freely, it must address a variety of concerns. Rules can help. The rest is up to players and coaches.

“To win a championship, you have to play good offense,” Missouri coach Frank Haith says. “Louisville needed that against Michigan and Wichita State, because those teams were capable of scoring a lot of points.

“Louisville is a multiple defense team. Very few teams press, then play zone and then morph into a matchup zone. But at the end of the day, their offense got them through. You still have to have the ability to score.”


Like most coaches, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo tries to teach his players the right way to do things on the court. He preaches smart, team-oriented basketball that strives to have the unit working together toward a common goal. But despite his urging, pleading, and yes, yelling, Izzo is often helpless against a power more alluring than hardwood purity.


“We live in such a selfish society,” he says. “Everybody is looking out for their own interests and aren’t making people better.”

Izzo is not making a grand statement about the state of American culture, although he does raise an interesting point about our unwillingness to help others. In this case, he’s referring to how self-interest hurts a basketball team’s ability to score. We hear all the time about how point guards can “set up” teammates, but Izzo questions whether that is the primary motivation of those who play the game or merely a last resort.

“Guards aren’t giving the ball to the guy when he has a chance to score,” Izzo says. “They try to ‘get mine, get mine, get mine’ and when they can’t, they give it up to someone who isn’t as open as he was earlier.”

That leads to poorer attempts and fewer points. And it is exactly what defenses want to see. Instead of working for the right shot, players who handle the ball are hoping to create something for themselves first. When that doesn’t happen, they pass — sometimes reluctantly, as the shot clock slithers toward zero — into the midst of a defense that is happy to strangle the desperate attempt.

“I think decision-making has a lot to do with it,” Izzo says. “Players are completing passes, but they’re not putting guys in shooting position. It’s like throwing a bomb in football. Do you hit the receiver in stride, or is the pass underthrown, and the receiver has to stop, catch it and get tackled?”

When that happens, the advantage goes to defenses that are already enjoying more robust success, thanks to a variety of circumstances. One is the type of player being recruited by top teams. Longer, quicker athletes are being found on the outskirts of defensive sets, and what used to be open shots are now contested. “In the past, defenders couldn’t help in the paint and then get out on the shooter,” Wright says. “Guys can do that now.”

It wasn’t that long ago that if a player drove the lane, and a defender stepped up to impede his path, the ball-handler would dish a bounce pass to a cutter along the baseline for an easy bucket. Now, according to Wright, “the big man can stop the penetration and get back to block the layup.”

Teams are more adroit at stopping the 3-pointer, too. That explains the continued drop in the success rate. It helps that defenders are allowed to body ball-handlers and cutters along the perimeter — “It’s hard to score when you’re getting knocked around,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says — and that the priority for teams is to stop the long ball, not the mid-range jump shot. Wright says that players on the weak side used to provide help when drivers beat their men. That isn’t so prevalent anymore. “They fake help and stay with the shooter,” he says. “That layup isn’t worth as much as a 3-pointer.”

In order to play the kind of defense that recovers quickly on the interior and can move out to the perimeter to thwart 3-point attempts, teams are recruiting long-armed athletes and hoping they can turn them into productive offensive players. Often, those players can drive to the basket, but when the avenues are cut off, they have no countermoves.

“There used to be a lot of stories about people shooting in the summer, but guys are now more interested in getting to the basket and dunking,” Boeheim says. “We work on shooting more than ever before. We recruit guys who are great athletes, but they can’t shoot.”

If coaches know that their own players can’t shoot well, it’s reasonable for them to believe that opponents’ eyes aren’t so sharp, either. So, they create schemes that focus on thwarting rivals, rather than opening the game up. If teams practice defense first and prefer players with skills that benefit that philosophy, they aren’t to be all that effective at the other end. “I think it’s always been true that you can stay with anybody if you defend well,” Boeheim says. He uses last year’s Marquette team, which was excellent defensively (40.4 opposing field goal percentage) but somewhat challenged at the other end (29.6 percent 3-point) as an example of how defense can carry the day. Marquette tied for first in the Big East and reached the Elite Eight. Of course, Boeheim’s one to talk. His Orange have been strangling rivals with their zone for years. Last year’s Final Four run was fueled by a nasty D that surrendered only 58.7 points per game and allowed rivals to make a mere 36.9 percent of their shots.

Watching the Orange and Louisville reach the Final Four with their zones could well lead to a rush to that style of play. It’s hard to replicate the types of athletes those teams have, but their strategies are transferable. The Cardinals’ multiple defenses (press for 10 seconds, pure zone for 15 seconds, matchup for 10) are pretty advanced, but expect more teams to embrace the zone ideal.

That is if they’re able to keep their players on campus long enough to teach it. Every year, there is a large contingent (about 450 in 2013) of players who transfer in search of more playing time, greater compatibility with coaches and a variety of other reasons. Haith believes that hurts teams’ abilities to create productive offensive cultures.

“Kids are coming in with lesser skills and also aren’t sticking around to develop them,” he says. “It’s a microwave society. Everybody wants it quick and fast, and the patience isn’t there. You see very few veteran teams. Guys don’t stick around and go through things.”

Solving the problem won’t be easy, but there are some steps that could help. Emulating the NBA’s move to clean up contact along the perimeter would be a good idea. “Because of the physical play on the perimeter, pushing guys out, and bumping cutters across the lane, the flow of the game has been disrupted,” Haith says. Coaches aren’t worried about the rough stuff inside. “Inside guys are used to being physical,” Boeheim says. They want freer movement away from the hoop. If refs were to call fouls on defenders who bump and disrupt, offenses would have more room to operate.

Players have a responsibility, too. Their desire to drive to the basket and finish spectacularly has robbed them of the skills needed to be complete offensive players. That doesn’t just mean the jump shot. Larranaga says he and his staff teach how to come off a down screen, how to make a “V” cut and how to take a dribble to get past a defender and then hit a floater. What were once basics are now advanced basketball theory.

One thing that won’t change is the emphasis coaches put on defense, or the information available to coaches preparing for games. “Scouting is so much better now,” Izzo says. That means no matter how much is done to help create more room and a steadier stream of offensive movement, the players had better be in the gym, too, working on their skills.

If not, fans had better get ready for more games in the 30s.

-By Athlon Sports contributor Michael Bradley.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Don Treadwell
Path: /college-football/miami-ohio-fires-coach-don-treadwell

Miami (Ohio) became the third program to fire its coach this season, as the school parted with Don Treadwell on Sunday.

Treadwell is an alum of the school and was one of the nation’s top assistants when he was hired to take over in Oxford.

However, Miami (Ohio) went just 8-20 in Treadwell’s first two seasons and was off to an 0-5 start this year.

This is solid job in the MAC with plenty of past success, so it will be interesting to see what coaches emerge as candidates.

Post date: Monday, October 7, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/absolute-strangest-non-game-related-sports-injuries

The number of sports injuries that have occurred on the field this year have been staggering. But fans are used to it and consider it part of the game. However, the injuries that still get fans upset are the ones that occur when players hurt themselves doing random, seemingly mundane things. Here’s a list of our favorite ways players have been injured. Most are true, but a few seem a bit suspect. We’ll let you decide.


Wild animal attacks. While Nolan Ryan was playing for the Astros in 1985, a coyote bit him on the hand and forced him to miss a start; no word on whether any Acme products were involved. Former Norwegian soccer star Svein Grondalen was absent from an international match in the late-1970s because an angry moose ran into him while he was jogging. We suspect the moose was a fan of Brazil and vuvuzelas.


Eating. The Homer Simpson Award for injuries sustained while eating donuts goes to former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who chipped a tooth on a frozen donut in 1990 (dude, that's what microwaves are for). He had to have a root canal and ended up on the DL. Montreal Expo infielder Bret Barberie got chili pepper juice in his eye and missed a game. Hockey player Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings takes the (pan)cake, though, wrenching his back last year while leaning over to eat a stack of flapjacks. His back spasm caused him to miss one game. 


Sneezing. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got back spasms from sneezing in 2004 and was never the same player again (he even turned white after he retired). Pitcher Mat Latos tried to learn from Sosa's example on the dangers of the sneeze, attempting to suppress the one he felt coming in July 2010. Latos strained muscles in his left side and wound up on the DL anyway.


Vomiting. Most of us feel better after we throw up, but not baseball’s Kevin Mitchell (yes, the same Mitchell from the earlier item) and Josh Outman. Both strained rib muscles while puking and had to be placed on the DL. Mitchell’s injury occurred in 1992, while Outman’s happened in April 2012.  


Playing video games. NBA star Lionel Simmons missed several games of the 1991 season from tendonitis suffered while playing his Nintendo GameBoy. Detroit pitcher Joel Zumaya may have been a Guitar Hero, which cost him a chance to be a baseball hero in the 2006 ALCS. He missed three games due to injuries to his elbow and forearm due to aggressive strumming on his PlayStation 2. Apparently he was attempting to play Buckethead on advanced. 


Chopping wood – in the locker room. When the Jacksonville Jaguars started 0-3 in 2003, coach Jack Del Rio put an axe and a stump of wood in the locker room and implored his team to “keep chopping wood.” It turns out that his players were still better at football than lumberjacking. Punter Chris Hanson took aim at the stump, but whacked his non-kicking foot instead and missed the rest of the season. Del Rio finally got the axe himself, a few years too late for Hanson. 


Participating in the coin toss. Call this one the Anton Chigurh Award for career-ending coin toss. Offensive tackle Turk Edwards’ career was good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but it might have been better if he hadn’t been the Washington Redskins’ captain in 1940. Edwards called the coin toss and shook hands with Giants’ captain Mel Hein, but when he turned toward the sideline, his cleat caught in the turf and his knee buckled. He never played again. 


Yelling at teammates. Words hurt, especially when you scream them with such force that you dislocate your jaw, as Manchester United goalie Alex Stepney did in 1975. If you're a python swallowing a deer, a dislocated jaw is an advantage. Otherwise, not so much.


Sleeping. All sorts of potential dangers await the slumbering athlete. Former baseball player Glenallen Hill, an arachnophobe, had a nightmare in 1990 involving spiders and consequently tumbled down the stars and slammed into a glass table. He sustained multiple cuts and required a stay on the disabled list. Thank God he steered clear of the bed pillows, or it might have been worse: former MLB pitcher Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a loose feather in 2005, and Detroit catcher Brandon Inge went on the DL a few years later (2008) when he pulled an oblique while adjusting a pillow. Former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain once awoke from his slumber with two dislocated toes in 1967. Then, there’s "sleeping." Milan AC midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng earlier this year had a muscular lesion on his left thigh. His model girlfriend attributed it to “too much sex.” 


Ironing shirts.  This possible injury is shrouded in mystery. As legend has it, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned himself back in 1990 while ironing his shirt. But that’s not the weird part. The story goes that Smoltz was wearing the shirt when he decided to iron it and not surprisingly burnt himself. Smoltz, of course, denies that it ever happened. And he’s probably telling the truth. Probably. 


Phone book attack. In 1994, 28-year-old knuckleballer Steve Sparks missed out on a chance to make his first big-league roster when he dislocated his left (non-throwing) shoulder during spring training in Chandler, Ariz., with the Milwaukee Brewers. He tried to rip a phone book while imitating a group of motivational speakers named "Radical Reality" who had visited the team.


by Chris Lee (@chrislee70), publisher of

Post date: Sunday, October 6, 2013 - 16:23