Articles By Athlon Sports
Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
Max Bullough, LB vs. Ameer Abdullah, RB (Michigan State at Nebraska)
Sparty gets after the quarterback and will shut down the running game, so it falls to the Nebraska front line to protect an inexperienced quarterback and generate running lanes for Ameer Abdullah. The Big Ten’s leading rusher has come up big in huge spots over the last two weeks for the Huskers and this will be his toughest test to date in 2013. Bullough leads a Michigan State defense that gives up 43.4 yards rushing, 210.2 yards of total offense and 11.6 points per game.
Trent Murphy, LB vs. Chad Wheeler, OT (Stanford at USC)
The Trojans haven’t been able to protect the quarterback this year, ranking 83rd nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.3 spg). Wheeler is a 6-foot-7, 280-pound redshirt freshman who will be charged with protecting Cody Kessler’s blindside against the Stanford rush. Murphy leads a loaded Cardinal front seven that is surging right now, ranking fourth nationally in sacks per game (3.3 spg). Stanford has allowed just 153 combined rushing yards to UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon the last three weeks, so the Trojans' offensive line will have to play its best game of the season to 1) protect the quarterback and 2) run the football effectively.
Todd Gurley, RB vs. Cassanova McKinzy, LB (Georgia at Auburn)
We’re not breaking news here, but Gurley — when healthy — is one of the elite offensive players in college football. He missed three games with a ankle injury; Georgia lost two and won the other in overtime. He returned two weeks ago against Florida and keyed the Bulldogs’ win, rushing for 100 yards on 17 carries and catching three passes for 87 yards and a score. It’s pretty simple: Georgia is much more explosive when Gurley is in the lineup. McKinzy is the Tigers' leading tackler and has 17 total stops in his last two games. He and the rest of his young front seven will have their hands full with Gurley.
Desmond Roland, RB vs. Steve Edmond, LB (Oklahoma St at Texas)
The Pokes' tailback has started to take over in the running game for Oklahoma State. He has carried 73 times for 359 yards and eight touchdowns over his last three. Edmond is the physical leader and top tackler for the Longhorns' defense. He posted 12 tackles last week in the overtime win over West Virginia as well as the game-clinching interception. Both play with a hard-nosed attitude and they should meet head-to-head in the hole many times this weekend. With injuries along the front for Texas, Edmond becomes even more important this weekend with a shot at the Big 12 title on the line.
Shaq Thompson, LB vs. Brett Hundley, QB (Washington at UCLA)
Thompson, Princeton Fuimaono and John Timu are the top three tacklers for the Huskies this season. They have faced Marcus Mariota, Taylor Kelly, Nathan Scheelhaase, B.J. Denker and Kevin Hogan and UCLA’s Brett Hundley is as good as any of them. Hundley has scored seven total touchdowns over the last two games and reading run-pass quickly and effectively will be huge for U of W this weekend against a team lacking in skill position talent.
Stephen Morris, QB vs. Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
With running back Duke Johnson sidelined, Miami struggled to run the ball in last week’s loss to Virginia Tech. Without their top rusher for the rest of the year, the Hurricanes could ask more of Morris. The senior averaged 20.3 yards per completion against the Hokies last week and threw for 324 yards and two scores. Cockrell is one of the ACC’s top cornerbacks, recording 33 stops and two interceptions in 2013. Expect Cockrell to be matched up against wide receiver Allen Hurns or Stacy Coley most of the game, and it’s up to the Blue Devils' senior leader to keep those two receivers in check, as well as force Morris into a few bad throws.
Georgia Linebackers vs. Nick Marshall, QB (Georgia at Auburn)
It’s not often that a player has the opportunity to play against his former school. It’s even more rare — if it’s ever happened at all —when that player is a quarterback after playing a different position at his previous school. Well, that’s Marshall’s story. The former defensive back at Georgia is now running the show for Auburn, the most improved team in the nation. He is coming off of a brilliant performance at Tennessee, when he rushed for 214 yards and two scores on only 14 carries. Marshall hasn’t been asked to throw the ball a ton, but he did throw for 339 yards against Mississippi State and 200-plus against LSU and Texas A&M. Georgia coach Mark Richt compared Auburn’s rushing attack to Georgia Tech’s triple-option. The alignment isn’t the same, but the plan of attack is similar — the offense is “accounting for just about every single guy on your team,” Richt said, because the quarterback has the ability to run the ball. When Marshall initiates the action, a defender has to account for him and another defender has to account for the running back. What does this have to do with Georgia’s linebackers? A lot. This group will have to play with discipline and be able to tackle in space.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 13.
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Let’s face it, very little has gone right for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. After going 8-8 last season, Mike Tomlin’s team is 3-6 and in last place in the AFC North. The Steelers dropped their first four games to start the season, and two weeks ago set franchise records for most points (55) and yards (610) allowed in a single game.
Injuries have certainly played a role in this season’s struggles, but overall the Steelers are a veteran team whose roster is really starting to show its age, especially on defense, and is in dire need of an infusion of young talent. But should this youth movement also include a change at quarterback?
A report surfaced Sunday that Ben Roethlisberger is “incredibly frustrated” with the current state of the Steelers and would request to be traded during the offseason. While Roethlisberger and everyone else associated with the team has denied the report, it still begs the question — should Pittsburgh trade Big Ben? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross play armchair GM for the Steelers.
The list of reasons why it might be time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to part ways with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting longer every weekend. The Steelers won on Sunday for the just the third time all season, but Steeler Nation's jubilation was muted by swirling reports that Big Ben wants out of Pittsburgh. And the Steelers should give him what he wants.
Big Ben is due $12.2 million in 2014, however, his salary cap hit is much bigger at $17.9 million. In fact, the Steelers will lose over $35 million on the salary cap over the next two seasons if they keep Roethlisberger. So a restructuring would almost be mandatory unless the Steelers wanted to trade or cut him. Either way, are the Steelers willing to sign Big Ben to a long-term deal at this stage of his career? He will be a very old 32 years of age at the start of next season, considering how many hits he has taken over the years, and restructuring his deal would almost certainly cripple any chance Pittsburgh has of rebuilding quickly. Frankly, there are a dozen teams that would be interested in trading for a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback. In particular, his former best buddy and coach Bruce Arians in Arizona comes to mind as an attractive trade partner. What would Big Ben be worth? A first-round pick? Two seconds? He still holds plenty of value — but not for much longer.
Lastly, the 2014 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks might be the best in history. Upwards of a dozen signal-callers could grade out as a first-rounder. Meaning, Pittsburgh could get one or two quality, young quarterbacks in the second and third rounds of the May draft because the depth of the position is so impressive. Especially, with some extra picks.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Pittsburgh isn’t very good this year and the team isn’t getting any younger either, especially on defense. No one can blame Ben Roethlisberger for being frustrated with the direction the franchise is headed, but he also vehemently denied the report that he will seek a trade when this season is over. And if I were the Steelers, I wouldn’t look to trade my franchise quarterback, unless there’s some team out there that is willing to pay a very hefty price.
Speaking of price, Roethlisbeger has two years left on his contract, which admittedly isn’t very cap-friendly. However, a restructuring or some sort of extension would more than likely help soften the blow and allow the team the ability to restock the roster in the process. Roethlisberger may seem “old,” but he’s just 31 and has proven that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He has 90 career regular-season victories in 10 seasons, another 10 in the playoffs and, most importantly, has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowl titles.
Big Ben is as tough as they come and should be commended for being able to succeed despite the absolute beating he has taken. Since coming into the league in 2004, Roethlisberger has been sacked 379 times in 136 career games. That’s nearly three sacks per game! In the last five seasons alone, he has gone down 187 times, the most of any quarterback, despite tying for ninth in starts (64) in that span.
Yes, the Steelers’ offense has been stuck in neutral the last few seasons, but that’s due more to injuries that have devastated an offensive line that wasn’t very deep to begin with and a ground game that has been ineffective at best. And while the upcoming class of quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft is reportedly one of the deepest in the history of the game, there’s no guarantee one of these so-called first-round talents will pan out. Go back through the drafts since 2004 and I am pretty sure you will find many more busts than Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, which is what the Steelers already have.
So while it looks like Pittsburgh’s reign in the AFC North has come to an end for the time being, that doesn’t mean it’s time to blow it all up and start over from scratch. The defense certainly needs an infusion of young talent, but don’t forget about improving the offensive line and finding a way to run the ball successfully again either. Those last two areas certainly aren’t the quarterback’s fault. So instead of trading Big Ben, how about getting rid of offensive coordinator Todd Haley instead? I’m pretty sure I know which one Steeler Nation wants to keep.
— Mark Ross
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs to the scandalous Miami Dolphins.
1. Chiefs (9-0) Dwayne Bowe arrested during team’s bye week.
2. Broncos (8-1) Peyton Manning (right ankle) “definitely will play.”
3. Seahawks (9-1) Win rematch of NFC Divisional Round at Falcons.
4. Saints (7-2) Drew Brees backs fellow 6-footer Johnny Football.
5. Patriots (7-2) Rob Gronkowski Football 101 turns to dance party.
6. Colts (6-3) Lose four turnovers in blowout loss against Rams.
7. Lions (6-3) Leading black-and-blue NFC North division.
8. Panthers (6-3) Win defensive battle on the road at San Francisco.
9. 49ers (6-3) Colin Kaepernick struggles with 95 total yards.
10. Bengals (6-4) A.J. Green tip-drill Hail Mary TD not enough to win.
11. Bears (5-4) Charles Tillman placed on IR with triceps injury.
12. Packers (5-4) Seneca Wallace replaced by Scott Tolzien in defeat.
13. Jets (5-4) Santonio Holmes expected to return after bye week.
14. Cowboys (5-5) Allow 40 first downs, 625 total yards in ugly loss.
15. Eagles (5-5) Legend of Nick Foles grows with 16 TDs, zero INTs.
16. Cardinals (5-4) Score defensive TD on first play, never look back.
17. Rams (4-6) Tavon Austin breaks out with three-TD effort in win.
18. Chargers (4-5) King Dunlap suffers third concussion of year in loss.
19. Browns (4-5) Use bye to prepare for Buckeye Bowl vs. Cincinnati.
20. Ravens (4-5) End three-game losing streak with overtime win.
21. Titans (4-5) Jake Locker lost for season with Lisfranc foot injury.
22. Redskins (3-6) Man convicted of murder in 2007 Sean Taylor killing.
23. Giants (3-6) Big Blue Wrecking Crew 3–0 after ugly 0–6 start.
24. Steelers (3-6) Ben Roethlisberger insists he is long-term Steeler.
25. Raiders (3-6) Terrelle Pryor’s left knee injury a growing concern.
26. Bills (3-7) EJ Manuel struggles in return against Pittsburgh.
27. Falcons (2-7) Two defeats away from first losing year since 2007.
28. Vikings (2-7) Christian Ponder dislocates non-throwing shoulder.
29. Texans (2-7) Ed Reed released after saying team “outcoached.”
30. Jaguars (1-8) Snap 12-game losing streak against rival Titans.
31. Buccaneers (1-8) Darrelle Revis INT seals first win of year vs. Fins.
32. Dolphins (4-5) Losers in five of last six games following 3–0 start.
The Miami Dolphins off-the-field problems — or more accurately, their inside-the-locker-room issues — spilled onto the field during a miserable 22–19 loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The pinnacle of the Bucs’ season thus far coincided with what the Fins hope is rock bottom for the once-proud franchise.
Miami struggled to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill or scrape together any semblance of a running game after right tackle Jonathan Martin left the team due to alleged “bullying” by right guard Richie Incognito, who was suspended in the wake of the accusations as well as the revelation of a profanity-laced, racially charged voicemail from Incognito to Martin. The Dolphins managed just two yards on 14 rushes for a comical 5.14 inches per carry against Tampa Bay.
What isn’t a laughing matter is the ongoing investigation regarding the so-called “hazing” of Martin by the Dolphins’ O-line and Incognito, in particular. Martin left the team last month due to “harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing,” Martin’s lawyer said.
“What’s gone on, it’s really something that couldn’t have been a worse nightmare,” said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose scheduled Wednesday meeting with Martin was postponed at the request of the NFL league office. “The most important thing is that we care about Jonathan Martin.”
Incognito, who has a longstanding reputation as a dirty player, did an interview with Jay Glazer on NFL FOX Sunday, discussing the now infamous vulgar voicemail as well as his relationship with Martin, a second-year lineman out of Stanford.
“When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s, it’s not right,” said Incognito.
“When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised. But people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another.”
Meanwhile, Martin has remained out of the spotlight after spending time in a South Florida hospital for emotional distress. The Dolphins and NFL continue to investigate what transpired in Miami.
“We want to get to the bottom of it,” Ross told reporters Monday. “We want to hear what the real facts are. There’s been so much said and done to date that I don’t think anybody really knows what has happened.”
What is known is that Miami has lost five of its last six games, including an ugly loss to Tampa Bay.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
“Beast Mode” was in full effect during a 33–10 victory at Atlanta. Lynch bulldozed the Falcons with 24 carries for 145 yards and one TD, three catches for 16 yards and a crucial pass back to quarterback Russell Wilson on a flea-flicker gadget play that resulted in a 43-yard TD pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse. After the game, Hawks coach Pete Carroll joked that Lynch’s wounded duck pass back to Wilson was “about a C-minus” grade and that the “style points were poor.” Luckily, Lynch is an “A-plus” as a runner, as the league’s second-leading rusher behind Philly’s LeSean McCoy.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
The former Heisman Trophy and BCS national title-winning running back out of Alabama broke out with his first 100-yard rushing effort during a 49–17 blowout win over the Cowboys. The son and namesake of the Super Bowl champion New York Giant, Ingram was a first-round pick in 2011 but had failed to break the century mark on the ground until his 30th NFL game. Ingram had 14 carries for 145 yards (10.4 ypc) and his first TD of the season. The breakout accounts for 11.4 percent of Ingram’s 1,271 career rushing yards, while the score was Ingram’s 11th career TD.
Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
St. Louis’ “Greatest Show on Turf” may be making a revival in the form of the dynamic Austin, the Rams’ triple-threat receiver-runner-returner. The 5'8", 176-pound rookie out of West Virginia was a highlight-reel play waiting to happen during a 38–8 win at Indianapolis. Austin had two catches for 138 yards (69 ypc) and two trips to the end zone, along with an electric 98-yard punt return for a score. On the return TD, Austin scooped the ball off the bounce in the dreaded “coffin corner,” made a few joystick video game moves and showed off his 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash to tightrope down the sideline for a coast-to-coast TD.
Will Blackmon, CB, Jaguars
Other defenders had bigger complete games, but Blackmon had arguably the biggest single play of Week 10. The winless Jaguars pulled off a 29–27 upset victory over the AFC South rival Titans to snap a 12-game losing streak. Coincidentally, Jacksonville’s last win came against Tennessee in Week 12 last season. Blackmon sealed the desperation win with a perfectly executed blitz from his slot nickleback position, forcing a fumble of Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, gaining possession of the loose ball and strutting 20 yards to the house.
Anyone can have bad results at a lackluster college football program. Even Bear Bryant or Nick Saban might have trouble staying above water at a program in a bad recruiting era, little tradition and scant resources.
However, it takes a unique situation for someone to struggle at a place sitting in good recruiting territory, with a championship tradition and ample backing from fans and administration.
Granted, the pressures of coaching at top programs aren’t for everyone. The pressure to win every game — and answering to media and fans when it doesn’t happen — isn’t realistic.
These are the coaches who struggled to great proportions despite the advantages that come at top programs. These are the coaches who missed bowl games where it should be really, really tough to miss bowl games. We are considering great programs to be among the leaders in win percentage during since the Associated Press poll began in 1936.
One thing to note: We are only listing coaches who were hired after a program reached national prominence. Thus, pre-Nick Saban coaches at LSU or pre-Howard Schnellenberger coaches at Miami, for example, were not considered.
College Football’s 20 Worst Coaches at Great Programs
1. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Record: 15-21 (.417) from 2010-12
A Nick Saban disciple and the son of one of the SEC’s greatest coaches, what could go wrong? Pretty much everything. Dooley inherited a program damaged by Lane Kiffin’s lone season, but Dooley set the Volunteers further back by going winless against ranked teams, winless against SEC teams in October and 2-14 in the SEC his last two seasons. Quotable, yes. Great hair, yes. Good coach, not really.
2. Joe Kuharich, Notre Dame
Record: 17-23 (.425) from 1959-62
Gerry Faust, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis are remembered with more vitriol than Kuharich, but that’s a product of recent memory. Kuharich took over six seasons after Frank Leahy’s tenure and never had a winning season in four years at Notre Dame despite having talented teams at the height of Notre Dame’s popularity.
3. Gerry Faust, Notre Dame
Record: 30-26-1 (.535) from 1981-85
Imagine any major program hiring a high school coach these days. That’s what Notre Dame did when it replaced Dan Devine with Faust, coach at powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller. The gamble was predictably a failure, but at least Notre Dame could keep the high ground by giving Faust a full five seasons. Subsequent coaches wouldn’t be able to say the same.
4. John Blake, Oklahoma
Record: 12-22 (.353) from 1996-98
An assistant for Barry Switzer and former Sooners player, Blake knew better than to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor Howard Schnellenberger, but that didn’t help him win games. Blake had never been even a coordinator, and it showed as the Sooners went 8-16 in the Big 12. At least his recruits were the centerpieces for OU’s 2000 national championship team.
5. Howard Schnellenberger, Oklahoma
Record: 5-5-1 (.500) in 1995
Schnellenberger had one of the most puzzling tenures in college sports in his lone season at Oklahoma. He built Miami into a national power in the 1980s and brought Louisville to relevance, but Oklahoma fans were turned off by Schnellenberger’s dismissiveness of Sooners history. Especially after Oklahoma finished 1995 with three straight blowout losses.
6. John Mackovic, Texas
Record: 41-28-2 (.592) from 1992-97
Mackovic started to rebuild Texas after the McWilliams era with three consecutive bowl games and a Big 12 title game appearance between 1994-96. But his fate was sealed on Sept. 12, 1997 with a 66-3 loss to UCLA at home that became known as “Rout 66.” Mackovic went 4-7 his final season despite having Ricky Williams in his backfield.
7. Mike DuBose, Alabama
Record: 24-23 (.511) from 1997-2000
DuBose followed national championship coach Gene Stallings to go 4-7 in his first season thanks in part to NCAA sanctions. Though DuBose led the Tide to a 10-3 season and top 10 finish in 1999, he went 3-8 the following year and was the coach during major NCAA recruiting violations.
8. Mike Shula, Alabama
Record: 26-23 (.531) from 2003-06
Perhaps Shula was doomed from the beginning. Alabama fans were wounded by the sudden departure of Dennis Franchione to Texas A&M just as NCAA sanctions were levied. Shula wasn’t even on the radar until Washington State coach Mike Price was fired amid scandal before his first game. Shula went to the Cotton Bowl in 2005 but otherwise became the first Alabama coach since the pre-Bear Bryant days to have three non-winning seasons.
9. David McWilliams, Texas
Record: 31-26 (.544) from 1987-91
Aside from a 10-2 season and Southwest Conference championship in 1990, McWilliams had a lackluster tenure at Texas on the heels of the Darrell Royal and Fred Akers days. McWilliams’ time at Texas was doomed when the Longhorns went 5-6 after reaching the Cotton Bowl a year earlier.
10. Ray Goff, Georgia
Record: 46-34-1 (.574) from 1989-95
Goff had the unenviable task of taking over for the best coach in Georgia history. He had two losing seasons and two 6-6 seasons in six years, but his greatest sin was ushering in an era of futility against Florida. Goff lost his final six meetings against the Gators, the start of a 1-13 stretch in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
11. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
Record: 15-22 (.405) from 2008-10
Michigan swung for the fences when it tried to shake up its square-jawed image by hiring spread-offense acolyte Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. The experiment was a failure as the offense was dismal in a 3-9 season in Rodriguez’s first year, the worst for Michigan in 46 years. Michigan improved in his final two years, but Rodriguez became the first coach to leave Michigan with a losing record.
12. Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame
Record: 21-15 (.583) from 2002-04
Willingham was Notre Dame’s second choice after George O’Leary resigned after it was discovered his resume contained false information. It seemed for a time to be a good break for Notre Dame when Willingham’s first team started 8-0. The Irish went 13-15 thereafter. Willingham became the first Notre Dame coach fired after only three seasons.
13. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
Record: 35-27 (.565) from 2005-09
Notre Dame was outclassed in two BCS games in Weis’ first two seasons, but at least the Irish were back in the national consciousness. Weis looked like an offensive genius by leading Brady Quinn to several Notre Dame passing records and the Heisman presentation, but the bottom fell out in 2007 with a 3-9 record and the Irish’s first loss to Navy since 1963.
14. Paul Hackett, USC
Record: 19-18 (.514) from 1998-2000
The journeyman coach put up journeyman results in his three seasons at USC, going 5-11 in the Pac-10 in his final two years. In his three-year tenure, Hackett became the first USC coach in 41 years to never go to the Rose Bowl.
15. Bill Callahan, Nebraska
Record: 27-22 (.551) from 2004-07
Frank Solich’s 58 wins in six season was not enough to keep him employed at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers tried to move away from their traditional option by bringing in Callahan from the NFL ranks, but a 5-6 season in 2004 ended Nebraska’s streak of 35 consecutive bowl games. The pro-style offense eventually caught on, but big wins never did as Nebraska bookended his tenure with a 5-7 season in 2007.
16. Randy Shannon, Miami
Record: 28-22 (.560) from 2007-10
The decorated defensive coordinator never could match Miami’s level of success the Hurricanes had while Shannon was an assistant or a player. The Hurricanes’ decline that began under Larry Coker was hastened under Shannon. The Canes went 5-7 in his first season, including a 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the storied Orange Bowl.
17. Ron Zook, Florida
Record: 23-14 (.621) from 2002-04
Zook inherited the Heisman runner-up (Rex Grossman) when Steve Spurrier left and never more than eight games as the Gators coach. The tenure included two losses to Ole Miss (albeit led by Eli Manning), a loss to Mississippi State and three unranked finishes. The Zooker could recruit, though.
18. Will Muschamp, Florida
Record: 22-13 (.629) from 2011-present
An 11-2 season in 2012 and an injury-riddled 2013 may keep Muschamp at Florida for a fourth season despite a similar record to Zook. But the Gators are facing their first losing season since 1979 after the first loss to Vanderbilt in Gainesville since 1945.
19. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record: 28-15 (.651) from 2010-13
USC went 10-2 with a win over Oregon despite a bowl ban in 2011, raising the stakes for 2012. The Trojans, though, went from preseason No. 1 to 7-6 with a loss in the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech. A listless performance on offense in 2013 prompted his abrupt ouster less than 12 hours after a loss to Arizona State. A hot start under interim coach Ed Orgeron has become a further indictment on Kiffin’s tenure.
20. Gary Crowton (26-23 at BYU), Dan Hawkins (19-39 at Colorado) and Keith Gilberston (7-16 at Washington)
We can debate if BYU, Colorado and Washington are “great” programs, but all had won national championships and were viable winners when the three coaches above took over. BYU and Washington have recovered to a degree, but both programs are long ways off from winning national championships again.
With the clock winding down in the Bengals-Ravens game on Sunday, Andy Dalton threw up a prayer of a pass to the end zone. After the ball was batted around a bit, it fell into the hands of A.J. Green, sending the game into overtime. It was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately for Cincy, they still lost in OT 17-20.
To celebrate Movember Topps has put out a great Moustache infographic, combining some cool stache history and a few of their finest baseball cards. The card company is even selling moustache posters.
Let this be a lesson to you, kids. Never drop acid and go to a football game. Things can get weird really fast.
Transamerica is a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award is presented each year by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Education Foundation to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments. Candidates must be a graduating senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class. As a leading financial services company, Transamerica takes pride in being there for those moments when our customers say, “It’s real now.” Moments like the birth of a new baby, the opening of a new business, college acceptance, retirement, and other key milestones. By showing our support for the young men on the Top 30 watch list, we look forward to seeing them thrill fans around the country and experience moments during the season and beyond when they say, “It’s real now.”
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama
No candidate for the Golden Arm Award may have won a bigger game this week than Alabama’s AJ McCarron. The two-time BCS champion quarterback was once again calm and steady in the biggest game to date this season and helped Alabama power their way past LSU in Tuscaloosa to stay on top of the SEC West and the polls. McCarron completed 14 of 20 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns and did not throw an interception against the Tigers in a 38-17 victory.
2. Derek Carr, Fresno State
Fresno State was met with a challenge early on at Wyoming, but Derek Carr and the Bulldogs rose to the challenge. Carr completed 33 of 46 pass attempts for 360 yards and four touchdowns, including two in the second half as Fresno State scored 48 unanswered points after a 10-0 deficit in the second quarter. Carr helped keep the BCS dream alive for Fresno State, improving the season record to 9-0 with just two games to play before a Mountain West Conference championship game, which Fresno State is on pace to host.
3. Keith Price, Washington
Washington’s Keith Price had a big day in the stat sheet as the Huskies blew by Colorado in the Pac-12. Price completed 22 of 29 pass attempts for 312 yards and two touchdowns and he also rushed for two more touchdowns in the most productive day among the Golden Arm Award candidates.
4. Keith Wenning, Ball State
Keith Wenning got an early jump on the action with a weeknight game. No matter the day of the week, Wenning comes to play. Against Central Michigan, Wenning once again went to work by completing 20 of 29 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns as Ball State picked up a 44-24 victory. Next up for Wenning and Ball State is a huge division match-up with fellow Golden Arm Award candidate Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois.
5. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Georgia’s Aaron Murray once again rewrote the record books with his performance against Appalachian State. Murray tied and then moved past former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career record with his 114th and 115th career touchdown passes. In addition to setting the new SEC career record, Murray also passed for 281 yards as Georgia pulled away from Appalachian State.
Sponsored by Transamerica.
Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
Marcus Mariota, QB vs. Shayne Skov, LB (Oregon at Stanford, Thurs.)
There is no doubt the best player in the nation will be on full display against Stanford. Mariota’s Heisman hopes and BCS national title hopes hang in the balance as he seeks revenge for the only loss in his career. His offense was held to regular-season lows in yards (405) and points (14) in the 2012 home loss while he was held to a career-low one total touchdown. He must be better than 21-of-37 passing (207 yards, TD, INT) to win on The Farm. Charged with stopping the Ducks' complex and diverse offense is the leader of the Cardinal defense. The team’s leading tackler (7.8 per game) posted 10 tackles and 1.0 TFL in the upset win in Eugene last year but Skov means so much more to this team than just stats. His recognition skills will be tested the most by the zone-read-pass-run option Mariota brings to the table. One bad read and Oregon will make you pay in a big way. The pressure is on the Cardinal linebackers and Skov in particular this week.
Avery Patterson, CB vs. Ty Montgomery, WR (Oregon at Stanford, Thurs.)
Offensively, David Shaw wants to run the football and keep Oregon’s offense off the field. Everyone including Mark Helfrich knows this. Fans can bet that Nick Aliotti will scheme to stop Tyler Gaffney and the Cardinal O-line, forcing Kevin Hogan to make plays down the field. It falls to star wideout and big-play specialist Montgomery to stretch the defense. He has posted at least one catch of 30 yards in six of eight games and has two kickoff return touchdowns of at least 99 yards.
LSU's "other" WR vs. Alabama’s “other” CB (LSU at Alabama)
Senior Deion Belue is an established veteran at one cornerback spot in the Alabama secondary. The other starter will be either sophomore Bradley Sylve or true freshman Eddie Jackson. These young corners will be facing an LSU offense that features two elite wide receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. There will be times when Sylve and/or Jackson will be matched up with an All-America-caliber receiver — no matter which wide receiver Belue is charged with checking.
Anthony Johnson, DT vs. Ryan Kelly, C (LSU at Alabama)
LSU’s great players will have to play great on Saturday night. Johnson is the best player on a defense that has given up 400-plus yards in four of its last five SEC games. The Tigers need their big man to be disruptive on the interior of the defensive line. Kelly has missed time this season due to injury but is back in the lineup. He has never taken a snap against LSU in his career, so how he performs early against Johnson will be key for Alabama.
Frank Shannon, LB vs. Lache Seastrunk, RB (Oklahoma at Baylor, Thurs.)
Kansas State held Seastrunk to 59 rushing yards and 4.9 yards per carry, both season lows. Not coincidentally, Baylor was held to nearly 20 points off its scoring average for the year. Oklahoma’s run defense has been gouged at times this season, most notably against Texas. Seastrunk isn’t Baylor’s only weapon in the Bears’ prolific offense, but he does set the tone. Shannon has been banged up the last few weeks but the Sooners' leading tackler is back to full strength to face the explosive running back. This is a critical matchup for Oklahoma as only Kansas State has slowed the Bears' running game — and it nearly led to an upset.
Aaron Colvin, CB vs. Tevin Reese, WR (Oklahoma at Baylor, Thurs.)
Even if Oklahoma contains running back Lache Seastrunk, Baylor can still sneak its speedy receivers behind opposing defensive backs. Reese and Antwan Goodley both average better than 23 yards per catch with eight touchdowns apiece. Colvin is the savvy veteran while redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez has been a revelation this season as an intimidating hitter in the secondary.
Kyle Fuller, CB vs. Stephen Morris, QB (Virginia Tech at Miami)
With running back Duke Johnson sidelined for the rest of the year due to an ankle injury, the Hurricanes will probably ask Morris to shoulder more of the offensive workload. The senior completed 16 of 28 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State last week but also threw two interceptions. After struggling with an ankle injury earlier in the year, Morris looked closer to 100 percent in last week’s game. However, Morris has another tough assignment ahead this week, as Virginia Tech’s secondary ranks as one of the best in the nation. The Hokies are led by seniors Fuller and Antone Exum at cornerback, but freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller have combined for nine picks this year. With wide receiver Phillip Dorsett sidelined, Morris and Allen Hurns should be the go-to combination against Virginia Tech’s suffocating secondary.
Taysom Hill, QB vs. Chris Borland, LB (BYU at Wisconsin)
Marcus Trotter played very well in place of Borland last weekend in Iowa City, but there is no replacement for one of the best players in school history. And with an explosive, dual-threat quarterback coming to town, Badgers fans better hope Borland’s hamstring is fully healthy. BYU’s Taysom Hill is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, has 953 yards of total offense in his last two games and is coming off a bye week. This will be a difficult challenge for the stingy Badgers defense.
Officiating in any sport is a difficult assignment. Mistakes are going to be made each week, but some errors are bigger than others.
There have been numerous bad calls in sports history, but we rounded up 16 of the worst in recent memory, including Tuesday night’s “safety” recorded by Buffalo against Ohio.
Worst Officiating Moments in Sports History
2013: Buffalo Awarded Safety on Intentional Grounding
Midweek MAC games are one of the more entertaining parts of college football’s November schedule. However, the Buffalo-Ohio game from Tuesday night won’t be remembered for a quality game between two potential bowl teams. Instead, awful officiating will overshadow Buffalo’s 30-3 win.
Early in the second half, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton was pressured out of the pocket and threw a pass to avoid a sack, which resulted in an intentional grounding call. However, the referees ruled Tettleton was in the endzone, and Buffalo was awarded a safety.
But there’s only one problem: Tettleton wasn’t in the endzone – he was on the four-yard line.
2012: Green Bay vs. Seattle: Golden Tate’s Hail Mary "Catch"
Replacement officials made plenty of glaring errors through the first three weeks of the 2012 NFL season but none bigger than the one that occurred between the Seattle-Green Bay matchup on Monday night. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with seconds remaining, quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a pass to the corner of the endzone, which appeared to be intercepted by Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings. However, the officials ruled Seattle receiver Golden Tate wrestled away control and award the catch to the Seahawks. Making matters worse for Green Bay, Tate clearly pushed off on a defensive back, which allowed him to get into position for the catch.
Tuck Rule – Oakland vs. New England in 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs
It’s not unusual for the rules to be changed, tweaked or adjusted from season to season, depending upon the circumstances. For the most part, the changes go largely unnoticed unless something happens to bring them into the spotlight. That was certainly the case in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs as the entire world was introduced to what would become known simply as the “Tuck Rule.” Playing in a driving snowstorm at home, New England trailed Oakland 13-10 in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes remaining. Still out of field goal range, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and dropped the football after being hit. The Raiders recovered and seemingly put an end to the Patriots’ hopes. However, upon further review, referee Walt Coleman reversed the call on the field of a fumble, according to the “Tuck Rule,” which was introduced in 1999. Coleman explained on national TV that Brady had started to throw a forward pass and then lost possession of the ball as he was trying to bring it back, tuck it, into his body. The overturned call made it an incomplete pass and Brady was able to put Adam Vinatieri into position to make a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 27 seconds left on the clock. The Patriots would go on to win in overtime and eventually capture the first of their three Super Bowl titles during the 2000s.
1972 Russia vs. United States Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game
The United States Olympic basketball team entered the 1972 Games in Munich having never suffered a loss in the history of the Games, and it looked as if their streak would continue with a 50-49 win over the Soviets in the gold medal game. The officials had other ideas. In perhaps the most controversial sports ending ever, the Soviets got three attempts to score. After two questionable clock resettings, a length-of the floor pass was thrown to Alexander Belov, who made a layup at the buzzer for what remains in the record books a 51-50 win — even if the members of the U.S. team refuse to acknowledge it.
1999 Pittsburgh vs. Detroit: Thanksgiving Day Coin Toss
Normally, the refs’ eyesight is called into question, but on Thanksgiving Day 1999, an official’s hearing was the issue. As the Steelers-Lions game headed into overtime, Luckett conducted the coin toss. Steelers captain Jerome Bettis called “tails,” but somehow Luckett heard “heads,” awarding possession to the Lions, who took advantage and won the game. The blunder caused the league to change its coin toss procedure — too little, too late for the Steelers.
Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga’s Near-Perfect Game
Detroit starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game on June 2, 2010 in Comerica Park against Cleveland when the Indians Jason Donald stepped up to the plate. Donald hit an easy grounder to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera who flipped the ball to Galaragga covering first, only to watch helplessly as first base umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled Donald safe. Galaragga would retire the next batter for the one-hit shutout, but in the minds of the Tigers team and fans in attendance, the damage had already been done. After the game, Joyce willingly and profusely admitted his mistake and took it upon himself to personally apologize to Galaragga. Both men deserve credit for how each of them handled the situation, as they will be forever linked because of it.
Jerry Meals’ Bad Call at Home Ends 19-inning marathon between Braves and Pirates
No one wants to see any baseball game end on a bad call at home, let alone one that lasted 19 innings, but that’s what happened in Atlanta on July 26, 2011. Actually, the game didn’t officially end until July 27 as the Braves and Pirates started on Tuesday night and played into the early hours of Wednesday morning to settle this one. And in the end, the only reason it ended in the bottom of the 19th was because home plate umpire Jerry Meals egregiously called Julio Lugo safe at home although Pirates catcher Michael McKenry clearly applied the tag before Lugo’s foot crossed the plate. What exactly Meals saw only he can answer, but all you need to do is listen to the contrasting calls by the teams’ respective broadcasts and realize that there’s little doubt he missed this one.
The Fifth Down Game – 1990 – Colorado at Missouri
The Buffaloes claimed a share of the 1990 national championship with Georgia Tech, but the season was overshadowed by a controversial finish against Missouri. Colorado was awarded a fifth down late in the game, which allowed it to score the game-winning touchdown. Quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball on first down, while running back Eric Bieniemy was stopped at the one-yard line on second down. On third down, Bieniemy was stopped at the goal-line, which forced Johnson to spike the ball on “fourth down”. However, Johnson’s spike on first down apparently went unnoticed, as the Buffaloes scored on a touchdown run on "fifth down" to seal the victory. The Buffaloes went on to finish the year with an 11-1 record and a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.
Mike Renfro Ruled out of Bounds in 1979 AFC Championship Game
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the NFL’s team of the 1970s winning four Super Bowls in a span of six seasons (1974-79). The team they defeated to get to the last two during this run was the Houston Oilers. While the Oilers put up little resistance in the 1978 AFC Championship Game, losing 34-5, it’s the one that took place the following season that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Oilers fans. Leading 17-10 in the third quarter, Houston wide receiver Mike Renfro appeared to put the Oilers in a position to tie the game, when he made an incredible catch in the back corner of the end zone. Television replays confirmed the catch, but the officials, who did not have the benefit of instant replay back then, ruled it an incompletion. The Oilers had to settle for a field goal and the Steelers would go on to a 27-13 victory.
Kent Hrbek’s “Hard Tag” on Ron Gant in 1991 World Series
Who says baseball is not a contact sport? In Game 2 of the 1991 World Series Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek and Atlanta outfielder Ron Gant were involved in a play that not only would have made a wreslter proud, but turned out to a be a pivotal play when all was said and done. Trailing by one run in the top of the third, Gant singled to left off of Twins starter Kevin Tapani to seemingly put runners on first and third with two outs and David Justice on deck. The throw from the outfield rolled away from the fielder briefly, however, resulting in Gant taking a fairly wide turn around first. After retrieving the ball, Tapani threw to Hrbek at first in hopes of catching Gant off base. Even though Gant made it safely back to the bag before Hrbek could apply the tag; the burly first baseman lifted Gant off of the first all the while keeping his glove on Gant. Umpire Drew Coble called Gant out, ending the Braves’ threat, and the Twins would go on to win Game 2 by one run, 3-2, and the World Series in seven. Tapani made the out possible by throwing back to first, with Hrbek receiving two points for a textbook takedown.
1998 – Seahawks vs. Jets – Vinny Testaverde’s "touchdown"
Although the Seahawks benefitted from a blown call on Monday night, they were the victim of poor officiating in 1998. In an early December matchup in New York, Seattle lost 32-31 on a phantom touchdown run by Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde. With no instant reply, the Seahawks were unable to challenge the call, even though it was clear Testaverde never crossed the goal-line.
1986 World Cup: Argentina vs. England
The 1986 World Cup Finals between Argentina and England was one of the most incredible soccer matches in the history of the sport, due in no small part to Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. Maradona punched the ball with his left hand past the English keeper and into the goal during Argentina’s 2-1 win, and referee Ali Bin Nasser failed to see the infraction. Afterward, Maradona famously commented that his goal came “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” and the phrase entered the sports lexicon.
Cardinals-Royals: 1985 World Series
The Cardinals were three outs away from winning the 1985 World Series, when umpire Don Denkinger infamously intervened. The Cardinals led the Royals three games to two and took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning of Game 6. The inning's leadoff batter, Jorge Orta, sent a chopper to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed the ball to pitcher Todd Worrell at first base, clearly beating Orta by a half-step. Clearly, that is, to everyone but Denkinger, who called Orta safe, leading to a two-run rally. The Royals went on to win Game 7 over the deflated Cards 11-0.
2006 Oregon vs. Oklahoma: Onside Kick Error
The Sooners suffered a huge blow to their national title hopes in 2006, as bad officiating cost Oklahoma a win in Eugene. The Sooners led 33-20 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Oregon scored on a 16-yard touchdown run by Dennis Dixon with just over a minute to go. The Ducks recovered the onside kick, but replay clearly showed the kick hit one of their players before going 10 yards. Although instant replay was used, Oregon kept the ball, and Dennis Dixon hit Brian Paysinger for a 23-yard touchdown pass to win the game. The officials from the Oklahoma-Oregon matchup were suspended one game due to the missed calls late in the fourth quarter.
1979 Rose Bowl – USC vs. Michigan: Charles White’s "touchdown"
The 1979 Rose Bowl matchup was a much-anticipated game between two top-five teams. USC entered the 1979 Rose Bowl at 11-1, while Michigan was 10-1. In the second quarter, Charles White appeared to score, which would give USC a 14-3 lead. However, a closer look revealed White fumbled before he reached the endzone and was incorrectly ruled a touchdown by the officiating crew. Considering the final score was 17-10, the “touchdown” proved to be the difference and propelled USC to a finish of No. 1 in the UPI poll.
Dallas vs. Buffalo Stanley Cup: Goal or No Goal?
Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars scored the Stanley Cup series-clinching goal in triple overtime of game six against the Buffalo Sabres. Too bad it was apparently illegal, even if the officials allowed it to stand. When Hull scored, his foot was in the crease, but the puck was not — a no-no, even though the NHL tried a semantics tap-dance around the issue by claiming they had issued a memo allowing goals when the scorer had control of the puck prior to his skate entering the crease. The Sabres' reply? "No goal," which became the franchise rallying cry.
2005 – Florida vs. Vanderbilt – Earl Bennett’s “celebration penalty”
Winning at Florida is never easy for any team in the SEC, but Vanderbilt’s last win in Gainesville occurred in 1945. The Commodores were on the verge of an upset victory in 2005, as Jay Cutler hit receiver Earl Bennett on a six-yard touchdown pass with less than one minute to go to bring Vanderbilt within one point. The Commodores were prepared to go for two, however, the officials flagged Bennett for excessive celebration, which forced the Commodores to kick the extra point and play for overtime. Bennett’s penalty is one of the most egregious celebration flags in recent memory and prevented Vanderbilt from a two-point conversion that could have won and allowed the Commodores to get bowl eligible.
Chuck Knoblauch’s Phantom Tag in 1999 ALCS
The Red Sox were trailing the Yankees by one when they batted in the bottom of the eighth in Game 4 of the 1999 ALCS. With one out, Jose Offerman singled off of Andy Pettitte to seemingly start a rally. It was quickly snuffed out, however, when John Valentin grounded into an inning-ending double play, one that was made possible by Knoblauch’s now-infamous “Phantom Tag” of Offerman at second, with an assist from second base umpire Tim Tschida. The Yankees would go on to score six more runs in the top of the ninth to put the game away and then put the Red Sox away in with a series-clinching win the next night in Fenway Park. The hated Yankees would break the hearts or Red Sox nation yet again in the 2003 ALCS, this time in seven games, before exacting some revenge the next year in a season that would finally put an end to the “Curse of the Bambino” after 86 years.
This Q&A and more on Louisville 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.
Smith was second in the Big East at 18.7 points per game and fourth with 2.1 steals per game. The shooting guard improved dramatically offensively, shooting 41.4 percent from the field, up from 35.6 percent a year earlier. Meanwhile, he drew the most difficult defensive assignments. He struggled in the national title game against Michigan and elected to return to Louisville after feedback from the NBA projected him as a second-round draft pick.
In a one-on-one interview with Athlon Sports, Smith reflects on the end of last season, his relationship with Pitino and what’s in store for the Cardinals in 2013-14.
Smith’s Louisville team checked in at No. 2 in our countdown.
You spent part of your offseason in Estonia as a member of the East Coast All-Stars in a tournament called the Four Nations Cup. What was that experience like?
It was an experience I felt like I needed, get some chances to play on an international level with more space on the court. I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was very comfortable. The lane was bigger but they also play three seconds, so it was really different.
A lot of times these international all-star team trips have a big-name coach and All-America-type players. You guys had a Division III coach in Guy Rancourt from Lycoming College and Williamsport, Pa., and you were the only real household name on your team. How was this experience than the typical all-star trip for someone in your position?
Unfortunately I didn’t get invited to any of those other world games stuff, but what’s important is that I had an opportunity to play against international competition and get better. I got put in contact with the person running it, and I wanted to participate. It had nothing to do with the players on the team or who the coach was going to be. Any experience I could get with international professional basketball, I knew it was going to help me. I think I performed pretty good out there.
While you were gone, your teammates took the trip to the White House and got their championship rings. Did you know that was going to happen, that you wouldn’t be able to go?
Yeah. It’s obviously nothing against any of the people who participated in the White House event, but I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to get better and compete playing basketball. I think I got a lot better from it.
Last season your efficiency numbers really improved even though you were taking more shots. To what do you credit that improvement?
I feel like it was Coach (Pitino). He had a lot of confidence in me to perform at the highest level I can. He gives me, I don’t want to say the green light, but he puts confidence in me that I’m able to make mistakes and make some shots. I hit the gym a lot with my best friend, my boy, Michael Baffour (a walk-on for Louisville’s 2012-13 team). We got a lot of work in through the whole season, just staying with it, and during the season staying in, not going out much during the year and keeping low profile socially.
You mentioned the confidence Coach Pitino had in you. Sometimes a coach will back off a player who makes mistakes or plays out of control sometimes. How much has his confidence in you helped your development?
I remember a point of the season where there was a three-game stretch where I was 9 for 40 or something like that. Coach kept sticking with me, saying it’s going to go down and to keep shooting. He saw my confidence was low. It means a lot for a guy like him to tell me to keep playing. There was a time in the season where I was hitting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line, but I hit a slump and it shot everything back down. Coach was there when I needed him to be.
You and Coach Pitino have a unique player-coach relationship. There’s a lot of banter back and forth. He named one of his horses after you, Russdiculous. How would you describe your relationship with him?
I would describe it as a friend-to-friend relationship. We’re great friends. As friends, you’re honest with each other, you tell each other what you feel like you need. You don’t leave anything out, any variables. Coach does that with me as a friend who needs some coaching and guidance. He does a great job coaching me. As a player, he teaches me to do everything I can do with my abilities. I feel like every time we step out on the court together, I feel like we have the same goal and the goal is to win the game.
What is your biggest goal for personal improvement for this upcoming season?
The biggest goal for me is to not try to do too much. Sometimes I feel like I have to make a play every time I have the ball, and that’s when I force stuff. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s like a magic trick. The important thing to realize is that I don’t have to make a play every play and sometimes I can take it easy and take the foot off the gas and let it all come to me now. I forced a lot of action last year, and now I can let it come to me. I think that’s going to be a big step for me. That’s going to be the hardest part because I don’t like taking the foot off the gas.
Chris Jones looks like he’ll play a lot of point guard for you this season. How well do you know him and how is that chemistry coming together?
I got a chance to get to know him for the month I was here (after the end of last season), and I feel like the chemistry is what’s going to keep the team moving. If you have bad chemistry in your backcourt, your team isn’t going to go very far. Regardless of anything that happens, we’re going to always put it together. We may go through some adversity, but we’re going to have to come together as one and put things behind us. But I think me and him are doing a real good job of coming together and wanting to play competitive basketball.
You struggled a bit in the Final Four (9-of-33 from the field), but you guys won the title. How much does your personal performance gnaw at you or does the championship erase any bad feelings?
The championship always helps, but you always want to perform at the best of your ability. I had a great first five game stretch. The sixth game I couldn’t get it done (3-of-16). As a scorer, you always hear of folktales of another guy stepping up when things are going bad. That’s why I was so happy for Luke (Hancock, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player) and Chane (Behanan). They filled the scoring column when it counted, and they stepped up when we needed them to. That’s why I’m grateful to have these guys. When things are going bad, somebody’s going to step up. When Wayne (Blackshear)’s not having his night, Kevin (Ware)’s going to step up. When I’m not having my night, Montrezl (Harrell) will step up. That’s the glorious part of playing with guys like this.
At one point, it looked like you were going to go to the NBA Draft after last season. You and your father had said so to the media. Was your mind 100 percent made up?
It was never really made up. I didn’t know. Normally you watch the NCAA Tournament or watch the season, and most of the outside guys or guys on the street would or people would say he’d go first round — he had a great year, team won the championship, leading scorer, in the NCAA Tournament scored over 20 five or six times. You would think he’d probably leave, but that wasn’t the case. I had to sit down and look at all the variables. It was almost frustrating to me because I didn’t understand why, Coach didn’t understand why. As a friend, Coach helped me with an executive decision and that was the decision to come back. It didn’t make sense to leave early if they were going to take me early second round. I can come back next year and get better and get an education and hopefully play my way into a first-round pick or go in the same second round where I was going to go last year. Or if not, at least I’ll have my education and I’ll make my way as a man.
Does it help or does it bother you that part of this upcoming season is that everyone is going to be watching Kentucky, too? Even in your own state, the spotlight is going to be spread pretty evenly.
I have nothing toward that school. I like that school and what they do up the road and their players and stuff. That’s the way it is. I’m from New York and my second home is Louisville, Kentucky. The last two years, the championship was in the state. Hopefully we can keep it in the state. The last thing I’m worrying about is what’s going on up the road. We have things to worry about here.
What’s your favorite place to play other than your gym?
Since the numbers don’t lie, I’d say Rupp Arena. But for the Big East, the places I actually liked were Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia. Those were like zoos in there.
Other than Coach Pitino, who would be a coach you’d want to play for?
If I could play for Coach Curran one more time, I’d do that. (Smith’s high school coach, Jack Curran of Archbishop Molloy in Queens, N.Y., died in March 2013. Curran won 972 basketball games and 1,708 baseball games since beginning his career in 1958.)
Who is the toughest player you’ve guarded?
It might have been the guy from Providence, Bryce Cotton. Chasing him on screens was very frustrating. Providence has about 30 sets and they came down in a different set each time. I had to chase him through a maze of screens as well as press and play offense. Those may have been the most frustrating games of my life.
Who is the toughest player who has guarded you?
I’d probably give it to the St. John’s boys. The guy (Sir’Dominic) Pointer, he’s a really good defender. And the guys from Memphis, they play hard out there — (Geron) Johnson, (Chris) Crawford and (Joe) Jackson.
This preview and more on Kentucky and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 1 Kentucky Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-12 (12-6 SEC)
Postseason: NIT first round
Coach: John Calipari (123-26 at Kentucky)
SEC projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA runner up
“When we won the national title, we did that tour” around the state with the trophy two years ago, Calipari said, “and after that it was over. Rear-view mirror was taken out. Moving forward. I would tell you the same with this season. There were things that I wish had been different, (but) part of last season was the beginning of success for the coming year.”
The veterans, sophomore forward Alex Poythress and center Willie Cauley-Stein, who passed up first-round NBA money to return to UK, learned some valuable lessons about leaning on hype over hard work. Calipari hopes they’ll be a steadying influence on his latest bumper crop of incoming freshmen.
It was a particularly healthy harvest, eight scholarship newcomers, an unprecedented six of them McDonald’s All-Americans. On paper, it is the best of Calipari’s five straight national-best recruiting classes. In theory, it is the greatest haul of all-time.
This is as impressive a collection of talent as you’ll see: seven players who were rated 4-star recruits or higher, five McDonald’s All-Americans. Just in the frontcourt.
Poythress is a freak athlete, an inside-outside threat who Calipari said learned last season “where he’s going to have to take everything to be the player that he wants to be.” Cauley-Stein is a legit 7-footer with skills, an effective shot-blocker and eager rebounder.
They’re joined by four incoming burger boys — James Young, a 6-7 sharpshooter; Julius Randle, a 6-9 power forward (emphasis on power); Marcus Lee, a 6-9 shot-blocking prodigy; and 6-11 Dakari Johnson, who will be one of the few true centers in the SEC.
Randle has already drawn rave reviews this summer from Calipari and several former Cats who are now in the NBA who played against the 5-star freshman in pickup games. Some think he’ll challenge Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins for the top spot in next summer’s draft.
“He’s a beast,” Calipari says. “He’s an alpha beast who will drive the team. Has a little bit of Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) in him."
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
The Ryan Harrow experiment failed miserably last season, and Calipari failed to have a one-and-done, first-round NBA Draft pick at point guard for the first time in six years. Harrow, who transferred to Georgia State after the season, couldn’t handle the pressure at UK.
“With what I just went through, I wanted a tough point guard,” Calipari says.
Enter freshman Andrew Harrison, who is (you guessed it) another McDonald’s All-American, rated the top point guard prospect in the Class of 2013. He’s joined by twin Aaron, the nation’s top-rated shooting guard.
The latter is an adept scorer, but at 6-5, 210 pounds, also “should be and will be and is expected to be and will be demanded to be a lock-down defender,” Calipari says. As for Andrew: “My hope is by the end of the year, he’s just like some of the other point guards we’ve had. You look at him and say, ‘Hey, he can do things that other point guards can’t do at his size.’”
The Harrisons will get help from senior Jarrod Polson, a former walk-on who earned a significant role last season, and fellow freshman Dominique Hawkins, a bulldog who willed his team to the state championship en route to winning Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball.
Nine newcomers join the roster, including a record six McDonald’s All-Americans — guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, forwards James Young, Marcus Lee and Julius Randle, and center Dakari Johnson. Guard Dominique Hawkins and forward Derek Willis were finalists for Mr. Basketball in Kentucky. Preferred walk-on E.J. Floreal is the son of UK’s track coach and a freaky leaper who had Division I offers.
Factoid: 15. John Calipari has lost a total of 15 conference games in his last eight seasons as a head coach. Six of those losses came last season.
Last season’s roster had elite talent, but not enough of it. The roster was so thin, practices suffered and Calipari couldn’t afford to bench slackers.
“Two years ago, we did not have one bad practice. Not one. Last year, we had about five good practices,” he says. This year: “The bench will be my friend.”
If competition fuels a team that is, on paper, among the most talented the sport has ever seen, who knows what might happen? Calipari isn’t shying away from 40–0 talk.
“We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game,” he says.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
4. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Louisville and the AAC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 2 Louisville Facts & Figures
Last season: 35-5 (14-4 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA champion
Coach: Rick Pitino (310-111 at Louisville)
American projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA runner up
No wonder then that the expectations are back at the University of Louisville. Most teams that win the national championship start leaking players to the NBA before they schedule their victory parade — the way Kentucky did in 2012. Not so at Louisville.
“It’s kind of unusual to see back-to-back championships won in any state; it doesn’t happen throughout history very often,” Pitino says. “We’re looking for one of us to try and make it three in a row. We’ll be more excited if it’s Louisville rather than Kentucky, but we’ll see how it plays out.”
Related: Q&A with Louisville's Russ Smith
The biggest question for Louisville is the status of Chane Behanan. The starting power forward played his best basketball in the Final Four, scoring 15 points with 12 rebounds in the title game against Michigan. Behanan was suspended indefinitely in mid-October, and Pitino all but closed the door on his season. However, last week, Pitino said he was pleased with Behanan’s progress.
Can a team contend for a national title with a 6-8 center? Pitino believes that it’s possible. That’s one reason why Montrezl Harrell is expected to move from forward to center after having a solid summer leading the USA Basketball U19 team to a gold medal in Prague. The other reason is that center Gorgui Dieng was a first-round pick in the NBA Draft.
If Harrell can’t handle the move, Pitino has two other options. Stephan Van Treese has added 15 pounds of upper-body weight and has four years of experience in the Pitino system. Mangok Mathiang was not eligible last season but is a lean, dynamic shot-blocker who needs offensive polish.
In December, Louisville fans groaned every time Hancock missed a shot. He did not listen. He kept shooting. People stopped groaning and started wondering if there was a better shooter in college basketball. There wasn’t, at least down the stretch. Hancock made 15-of-26 3-pointers during the Cardinals’ last eight games.
Now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Wayne Blackshear is the veteran Louisville player most likely to show the most improvement because he can shoot.
2013-14 Conference Previews
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Pitino loved Peyton Siva as much as any player he has coached at Louisville. Loved his leadership, grit and lack of ego. Siva is gone, but Pitino believes that the Cardinals’ guard play could be even better this season.
Smith is the primary reason. At least one statistical analytics formula ranked Smith as the best college player last winter, because he reduced his turnovers while increasing his assists and shooting percentage. Smith averaged 18.7 points per game and is the perfect option to create something out of nothing at the end of the shot clock. Smith strongly considered skipping his senior season for the NBA but decided to return and work on becoming a more complete player.
Not that Smith has to play point guard. Pitino signed Chris Jones, a junior college All-America from Northwest Florida State College. Jones committed to Tennessee in high school.
“This is a very, very strong backcourt,” Pitino says. “Our practices are going to be outstanding. They both bring their own brand of toughness — New York toughness for Russ and Memphis toughness for Chris.”
The scramble for playing time will be intense. Newcomers Terry Rozier and Anton Gill arrive with the advantage that they played together last season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. The unknown is Kevin Ware, who suffered the horrific compound fracture to his right leg in Louisville’s Midwest Regional win over Duke. All the medical reports on Ware have been good, and he should be cleared to play by October.
Chris Jones is an unrelenting defender whom Rick Pitino asked to dial it down during summer workouts. Anton Gill arrives with a solid 3-point shooting stroke. Terry Rozier is considered a more fearsome scorer because he is relentless attacking the rim. Akoy Agau needs to reshape his body and is probably a year way. Mangok Mathiang is raw offensively but demonstrated superb shot-blocking skills in practice while sitting out last season.
Factoid: 27. Louisville forced a turnover on 27 percent of its opponents’ possessions last year. Only VCU (28.5 percent) was better.
The repeat thing is not easy. Ask Kentucky. Or Connecticut. Or North Carolina. Florida and Duke are the only teams that have succeeded since 1973. But like those Gators and Blue Devils teams, Louisville has many of its most important players back. Smith is a prime National Player of the Year candidate. Hancock is a mature fifth-year guy who understands winning. Behanan and Blackshear were McDonald’s All-Americans who must convince skeptics they belong in the NBA. Chemistry will be critical. Siva and Dieng made certain the 2013 champs were ego-free. The newcomers will have to embrace that philosophy.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
4. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
This preview and more on Duke and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 3 Duke Facts & Figures
Last season: 30-6 (14-4 ACC)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (884-238 at Duke)
ACC projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Final Four
“Our team is going to be built around versatility — guys in multiple positions, probably more pressing and up and down,” Krzyzewski says. “Not that we haven’t gone up and down, but we haven’t created action with our defense. Although we were a very good defensive team (last season), we will try to create action defensively (this season).”
Don’t expect Krzyzewski to talk about small forwards, power forwards and centers — or their accompanying numbers (3, 4, 5).
“It’s just going to be the next player,” Krzyzewski said. “Versatility will be the key phrase.”
Last year, Duke’s front line featured a true center (Mason Plumlee) and a stretch-4 (Ryan Kelly). This year, the key pieces will be a pair of 6-8 small forwards — Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker — who will be asked to do a little bit of everything.
Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, averaged 10.3 points two years ago for the Bulldogs. The former 5-star recruit was one of 16 finalists for Team USA over the summer, but an Achilles injury prevented him from making the trip to Russia for the World University Games.
Parker arrives in Durham as one of the most celebrated recruits in the nation. The Chicago native is a matchup nightmare due to his versatility, and he is known for his unselfish play and high basketball IQ. At 235 pounds, Parker is about 20 pounds heavier than Hood, but that doesn’t mean he will be playing the role of a traditional power forward. Parker and Hood will be used as interchangeable parts.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Hood says. “We are going to have mismatch problems all over the court. We are going to pressure the ball more. We have a lot more weapons.”
Sophomore Amile Jefferson spent the offseason adding bulk to his 6-9 frame. His 7-1 wingspan is a weapon he uses to get in the passing lanes and rebound outside of his area.
Josh Hairston, a rugged 6-8 forward, is a savvy senior who averaged a career-high 12.7 minutes per game last season. A pair of redshirt sophomores — athletic 6-9 Alex Murphy and 7-foot center Marshall Plumlee – will be counted on for quality minutes off the bench.
Freshman small forward Semi Ojeleye is a solid rebounder who can shoot the ball from 3-point range.
2013-14 Conference Previews
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Duke is blessed with a group of experienced ball-handlers to run its up-tempo attack.
Quinn Cook thrived in his first season as the starting point guard, averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 assists per game. Cook improved his 3-point shooting from 25.0 percent as a freshman to 39.3 as a sophomore. He scored 15 points or more 12 times last season but struggled offensively down the stretch, averaging 6.4 points and shooting 26.2 percent from the field over the final five games.
Rasheed Sulaimon was an instant contributor as a freshman, thanks to his ability to get to the basket and shoot from long range. He averaged 11.6 points, a number that could increase significantly as a sophomore.
Tyler Thornton, a hard-nose defender, is considered the team’s vocal leader. He’s shown the ability to hit an open jumper and can be trusted to run the point as well. Andre Dawkins, a key reserve on Duke’s 2010 national championship team, sat out last season as a redshirt. He is a career 40.1 percent 3-point shooter. Freshman Matt Jones might have a tough time finding significant playing time.
The focus will be on 6-8 forward Jabari Parker, whose athleticism and scoring ability already have him projected as a top-five pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. The other freshmen, 6-7 forward Semi Ojeleye and 6-4 guard Matt Jones, also bring athleticism but will have to prove they can score at this level. Forward Rodney Hood, who sat out last year after transferring from Mississippi State, will start from Day 1 and be a significant contributor. Senior guard Andre Dawkins, known for his perimeter scoring, is back after sitting out last season.
Factoid: 30. Duke has won at least 30 games in 10 of the last 16 seasons. The Blue Devils won 30 or more “only” three times in Mike Krzyzewski’s first 17 seasons.
On paper, Duke has only one weakness — a lack of a true post presence. Krzyzewski plans to mask that deficiency by playing a more up-tempo game that will start with pressure defense. The roster, deep and athletic, is built to run.
The Blue Devils are the class of a new-look ACC that now includes Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. If Sulaimon, as expected, takes the next step and Parker and Hood play up to their potential in the frontcourt, Duke will be in the mix for the fifth national title of the Krzyzewski era.
This preview and more on Michigan State and the Big Ten are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 4 Michigan State Facts & Figures
Last season: 27-9 (13-5 Big Ten)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Coach: Tom Izzo (439-178 at Michigan State)
Big Ten projection: First
Postseason projection: NCAA Final Four
“Some years you are maybe not quite as good as the top-10, 12 or 15 that we have been, but the program gets rated that high on perception,” Izzo says. “This year I think the team gets rated on its own merit, and it deserves to be up there. I expect us to be good most years, and this year we have a chance to be real good.”
The Spartans are nicely outfitted to add to Izzo’s collection of banners in the Breslin Center rafters, which includes seven Big Ten titles and six Final Fours.
“We have some depth. We have some shooters. We have some athletes. We have some size, and we have guys who have been there, done that, and played in big games, and that’s critical,” Izzo says. “We have a good team, and whether it will be a great team will depend on injuries and leadership. But with Adreian Payne and Gary Harris coming back, we have put ourselves in a chance to do big things.”
Izzo seems a little more confident than usual. The Big Ten and nation would be wise to take notice.
Payne turned down possible first-round NBA Draft status to return for his senior year and chase championships. He has blossomed into a fine long-range shooter as a pick-and-pop power forward (38 percent from deep) and an explosive finisher. He is the Big Ten’s leading returning rebounder.
Sophomore Matt Costello is ready to prove he can hang as a role-playing Big Ten center. He waited his turn behind Payne and Derrick Nix and will now bring his solid low-post package, good athleticism and a functional frame to the lane. Big junior Alex Gauna offers size and a nice, confident shot release. Freshman Gavin Schilling impressed teammates with his rebounding during the summer.
2013-14 Conference Previews
ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
Harris was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2013 but will be a bigger, better all-around player this season. Widely regarded as a probable NBA Lottery pick whenever he opts to turn pro, Harris will be stronger to the hole as a sophomore, having added a noticeable layer of muscle to what was already a mature physique.
Harris was slowed by shoulder issues for the last half of his freshman year but still shot a sparkling 41 percent from long range. The shoulder problems limited him on the glass and on the break. Now, Izzo is expecting Harris to become one of the best rebounding guards he has ever coached, and one of his better defenders.
Senior point guard Keith Appling led Michigan State in scoring a year ago and now needs to be the leader in the locker room. His decision-making improved as a junior. If he can dial in his sporadic perimeter shooting, he might provide the final element needed to make the Spartans a threat to win Izzo’s second national title..
Izzo wants Branden Dawson at the 3 this year. The thick, athletic junior is back to full horsepower for the first time in 18 months, following recovery from a freshman knee injury. Dawson is not much of a shooter, but he can play small forward with physicality.
Valuable sophomore Denzel Valentine is a good rebounder and tremendous passer with nice size at the wing. Fully healthy for the first time as a collegian, quick Travis Trice offers quality shooting range and true combo guard skills off the bench. Junior Russell Byrd hasn’t lived up to his promise as a wing sniper.
After losing to Duke in the Jabari Parker chase, the Spartans signed rugged 6-9 power forward Gavin Schilling and 6-4 wing Alvin Ellis. Ellis, a former Minnesota verbal, may need a redshirt year to gain strength. Skill-wise, he is comparable to outgoing Spartan transfer Brandan Kearney. Schilling is young for his class, improving steadily and could earn a role off the bench.
Factoid: 0. No player who has signed with Tom Izzo as a four-year recruit and finished his senior season at Michigan State has missed out on the Final Four.
With NBA talent inside and out, a senior point guard, excellent shooting at the 2 and the 4, and solid skill and size off the bench, Michigan State heads into the season nicely equipped. The Spartans should be better and much healthier than last year’s team, which finished a game out of first place in the Big Ten and advanced to its second straight Sweet 16. Meanwhile, you know the Spartans will defend and rebound.
“We had our best summer ever, by far, in terms of getting guys healthy and staying healthy,” Izzo says. “Guys are driven to make amends.”
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
4. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State
A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 10, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.
Redskins (3-5) at Vikings (1-7)
Washington is 1–3 on the road this season. But the losses have come at Green Bay (38–20), at Dallas (31–16) and at Denver (45–21). Redskins by 1
Eagles (4-5) at Packers (5-3)
Philly’s Nick Foles just threw seven TDs; Green Bay’s Seneca Wallace has six career wins. Packers by 3
Jaguars (0-8) at Titans (4-4)
Third-year Tennessee coach Mike Munchak has two black-eye losses — to then-winless Indy in Week 15 of 2011 and to then-one-win J-Ville in Week 12 last season. Titans by 12
Bills (3-6) at Steelers (2-6)
Blitz-burgh’s defense has allowed 34-plus points in three games for the first time since 1989. Steelers by 3
Raiders (3-5) at Giants (2-6)
Terrelle Pryor (knee), Darren McFadden (hamstring) limp from Black Hole to play Big Blue. Giants by 5
Rams (3-6) at Colts (6-2)
Andrew Luck carries a 10–2 record at home in Lucas Oil Stadium against a Rams team that is 4–7–1 on the road under coach Jeff Fisher. Colts by 8
Seahawks (8-1) at Falcons (2-6)
This is a rematch of a 30–28 Atlanta win over Seattle in last year’s NFC Divisional Playoffs. Seahawks by 8
Bengals (6-3) at Ravens (3-5)
Andy Dalton is 1–3 against Baltimore, with his only win coming in a meaningless Week 17 game last season, after the Ravens had already clinched the AFC North division crown. Bengals by 2
Lions (5-3) at Bears (5-3)
Detroit knocked off Chicago, 40–32, in Week 4. The Lions scored 27 second-quarter points — including three TDs in under four minutes — in their first win over the Bears since Oct. 2011. Lions by 4
Panthers (5-3) at 49ers (6-2)
This dual-threat showdown of Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick just might be the most athletic QB matchup in NFL history. There should be a dunk contest as a tiebreaker, not overtime. 49ers by 4
Texans (2-6) at Cardinals (4-4)
After two tough losses at K.C. and to Indy, the legend of Case Keenum continues to grow. Cardinals by 2
Broncos (7-1) at Chargers (4-4)
Peyton Manning had no trouble with the Bolts last season, tossing six TDs and two INTs over the course of two victories. Historically, Manning has had his issues with San Diego — throwing a career-worst six INTs in a 2007 loss and going 0–2 against the Chargers in the playoffs. Broncos by 7
Cowboys (5-4) at Saints (6-2)
Sean Payton was Tony Romo’s QB coach from 2003-05. Will student become teacher in NOLA? Saints by 6
Dolphins (4-4) at Buccaneers (0-8)
There is a dark cloud over the Sunshine State’s NFL franchises. The trio — Fins, Bucs and Jags — are a combined 4–20, with two winless squads and an ongoing bullying investigation. Dolphins by 4
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Just when it seemed as if Tom Terrific had hit rock bottom — with Halloween photos of him dressed as the Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion circulating the internet — Brady rediscovered the heart he’s had all along. The three-time Super Bowl champion completed 23-of-33 passes (69.7 percent) for 432 yards, four TDs and zero INTs for a 151.8 passer rating during a 55–31 statement victory over the Steelers. New England’s 55 points were the most scored by a team this season as well as the most ever scored against Pittsburgh’s defense.
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
Philadelphia’s second-year phenom joined gridiron immortals Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle, Joe Kapp and Peyton Manning, as only the seventh player in league history to throw seven TD passes in a single game. Foles completed 22-of-28 passes (78.6 percent) for 406 yards, seven scoring strikes and zero picks for a 158.3 passer rating during a 49–20 win at Oakland. Wide receivers Riley Cooper (three TDs) and DeSean Jackson, tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, and running back LeSean McCoy all found paydirt in the record-tying blowout victory. Foles, who was a third-round pick out of Arizona, has now thrown for 1,028 yards, 13 TDs and zero INTs for a 127.4 passer rating in limited action.
Dustin Colquitt, P, Chiefs
With Kansas City’s offense struggling to gain just 210 total yards, the Chiefs’ defense and special teams stepped up to help K.C. improve to an unbeaten 9–0 following a 23–13 win on the road at Buffalo. Colquitt kept field position in Kansas City’s favor, with six punts for 317 yards, including a 59-yard boot and four punts downed inside the 20-yard-line. Colquitt’s contribution was less obvious than the Chiefs D, which scored on a 100-yard pick-six by corner Sean Smith and an 11-yard fumble recovery by linebacker Tamba Hali.
Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins
Days before Miami was rocked with verbal abuse allegations made by Jonathan Martin against fellow O-lineman Richie Incognito, the Dolphins’ D-lineman was physically abusing the Bengals during a 22–20 thrilling Thursday night overtime victory. Wake notched a season-high three sacks for 23 lost yards, along with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Wake’s final sack of Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton sealed the Miami win with a safety with just 6:38 remaining in overtime. The walk-off sack was just the third overtime-ending safety in NFL history.