Articles By Athlon Sports
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the soaring one-loss Seattle Seahawks to the bottom of the AFC South cellar, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.
1. Seahawks (10-1) Ready to host Saints in Monday night showdown.
2. Patriots (8-3) Tom Brady improves to 10–4 vs. Peyton Manning.
3. Broncos (9-2) Outscored 31–7 after halftime in loss at Patriots.
4. Saints (9-2) Jimmy Graham scores with goal post-bending dunk.
5. Chiefs (9-2) Suffer tough back-to-back losses after 9–0 start.
6. Panthers (8-3) Riding seven-game winning streak after win at Fins.
7. Cardinals (7-4) Larry Fitzgerald youngest to 11,000 receiving yards.
8. Colts (7-4) Outscored 93–12 in first half of last four contests.
9. 49ers (7-4) Michael Crabtree activated from PUP list, set to play.
10. Bengals (7-4) Chad Johnson steals bye headlines, wants to return.
11. Lions (6-5) Matthew Stafford throws four INTs in loss to Bucs.
12. Bears (6-5) Jay Cutler would “like to stay” in Chicago in 2014.
13. Cowboys (6-5) Tied with Eagles for first place in NFC East division.
14. Eagles (6-5) Chip Kelly officially names Nick Foles starting QB.
15. Packers (5-5-1) Endure first tie since 49ers-Rams on Nov. 11, 2012.
16. Titans (5-6) Currently lead six-way tie for sixth AFC playoff spot.
17. Steelers (5-6) Ben Roethlisberger improves to 16–1 vs. Cleveland.
18. Ravens (5-6) Justin Tucker boots four field goals in win over Jets.
19. Chargers (5-6) Beat Kansas City in game with eight lead changes.
20. Rams (5-6) Tavon Austin 65-yard TD run sparks win over Bears.
21. Jets (5-6) Ed Reed torched on deep ball against former team.
22. Dolphins (5-6) Ryan Tannehill-to-Mike Wallace nearly skins Cats.
23. Giants (4-7) Four-game winning streak snapped, swept by Boys.
24. Raiders (4-7) Sebastian Janikowski misses two field goals in loss.
25. Bills (4-7) Will Jon Bon Jovi buy franchise, move it to Toronto?
26. Browns (4-7) Jason Campbell knocked out of loss to Pittsburgh.
27. Redskins (3-8) RG2 in locker room to see RG3 after defeat on MNF.
28. Buccaneers (3-8) Earn third consecutive victory with win in Motown.
29. Vikings (2-8-1) Adrian Peterson carries Vikes to tie at Lambeau.
30. Falcons (2-9) Lose fifth straight, lock up first losing year since ’08.
31. Jaguars (2-9) Run past Houston for second win in three weeks.
32. Texans (2-9) Honorary captain Mary Lou Retton not solid gold.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Tom Terrific was at it again, improving his career record against Peyton Manning to 10–4. After falling behind 24–0, the Patriots marched back for an epic 34–31 come-from-behind win in overtime. New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half and took a 31–24 lead early in the fourth quarter before Manning found Demaryius Thomas to force overtime, where the Pats were able to hold on to victory after a botched Broncos punt return. As predictable as visible breath in the cold night air, Brady led the charge — completing 34-of-50 passes for 344 yards, three TDs and zero INTs in victory.
Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers
The Samson-maned safety was once again the power source of the Blitz-burgh defense during a 27–11 win on the road against AFC North division rival Cleveland. In a vintage Polamalu play, the cerebral defender bowled through the Browns’ O-line, wrapped up running back Chris Ogbonnaya, stripped the ball loose and recovered the key fumble — which set up a late first-half field goal to give Pittsburgh a 13–3 lead it never relinquished.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
In a losing effort, Gordon posted one of the most prolific single-game receiving lines of the season — with an eye-popping 14 catches for 237 yards (16.9 ypc) and one trip to the end zone. The 14 receptions tied a Cleveland team record, while the 237 receiving yards set a new franchise mark. After rumblings and rumors near the trade deadline, the Browns have to be happy to have held on to their wideout who seems able to hold on to anything thrown his way this season.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
Sure, the Sunday night prime-time main event was billed as Manning-Brady Bowl XIV. But it was Moreno who had the statistical explosion during the heartbreaking 34–31 overtime loss on the road in Foxborough. Moreno was the Broncos’ workhorse, with 37 carries for a career-high 224 yards (6.1 ypc) and one TD on the ground. More impressive, Moreno’s longest run was only 18 yards, highlighting his consistency between the tackles. Unfortunately, the fifth-year back did exit with an ankle injury.
Baylor became the latest team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten, opening the door for once-beaten Auburn to move into the top 5.
Fourth-ranked Auburn is set to host No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl next weekend in a titanic clash of top 5 teams.
Florida State remained the No. 2 team in the rankings, receiving one first place vote. The other 15 votes went to top-ranked Alabama.
No. 3 Ohio State remained unbeaten this weekend, and No. 5 Clemson moved back into the top 5.
No. 11 Baylor dropped seven spots after their lopsided loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State, and No. 13 Oregon dropped eight spots after falling to unranked Arizona.
Michigan State moved into the top 10 for the first time this year after clinching a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
No. 25 Georgia was the only newcomer to the rankings this week, replacing Minnesota.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
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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 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. Derek Carr, Fresno State
No Golden Arm Award finalist had the kind of day Fresno State’s Derek Carr had. Carr completed 27 of 37 attempts for 527 yards and a career-high and school-record seven touchdowns as the Bulldogs blasted New Mexico, 69-28. Carr averaged 14.2 yards per attempt against the Lobos and he spread the ball around well with none of his receivers putting together a 100-yard game despite piling up the second most yards in a game in his career. This was the second time Carr had 500 passing yards in a game as well. With Carr at the helm, Fresno State continues to sit in a good position for a potential BCS bowl invite.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
On senior day at Clemson, Tajh Boyd went out with a bang. In a 52-6 victory over Citadel, Boyd completed 21 of 28 pass attempts for five touchdowns and 288 yards. Boyd wrapped up a fine collegiate career in front of the Tiger fans and helped keep Clemson in position for a potential BCS at-large invite. The five touchdowns matched a career high and this was the fourth game in a row Boyd passed for at least 280 yards.
3. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
While most of the Golden Arm Award finalists do most of their damage through the air, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch tends to do most of his best work on the ground. This week Lynch rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 202 yards as the Huskies wrapped up the MAC West title with a win at Toledo. Lynch has now accounted for 38 total touchdowns and continues to keep Northern Illinois in the BCS conversation.
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Georgia’s Aaron Murray played his final game in Athens, but a knee injury has some hoping Murray has not played his final game in a Georgia uniform. Before Murray needed to leave Georgia’s 59-17 victory over Kentucky, he put together an admirable performance. Murray completed 18 of 23 attempts for 183 yards and four touchdowns, all from inside the red zone in the first half to help build a big lead early on.
5. AJ McCarron, Alabama
The Crimson Tide quarterback had a pretty easy afternoon at home against Chattanooga. McCarron completed 13 of his 16 pass attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns before getting an early rest with Alabama cruising to a win against the FCS opponent. McCarron will look to send Alabama back to the SEC Championship Game next week by picking up a tough road win at Auburn. If McCarron can put together a standout performance against the Tigers, McCarron could emerge as the top candidate for the Golden Arm Award, if not other accolades.
Sponsored by Transamerica.
Every rivalry has its heroes and villains, but some villains transcend the mano-a-mano nature of rivalry week.
The best villains can irk fans from the SEC to the Big Ten to the Pac-12. Miami during its heyday managed to infuriate everyone. Steve Spurrier didn’t have to beat your team by five touchdowns and brag about it later to rub people the wrong way. And thanks to coaching moves, Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer have managed to annoy fans East and West, North and South.
As a sport, college football has its share of bad apples through the years, but part of being a college football villain is rarely doing anything actually wrong in a legal sense.
College football villainy is more based on style, on and off the field. And let’s face it. College football villains are targeted, above all, because they’re good.
Villains make sports fun. For some — mainly their schools’ fanbase — villains even likable.
College Football's Top 15 Villains
1. 1980s Miami
More than 20 years after the 1991 national championship, the University of Miami has tried to distance itself from its image under coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Back then, however, Miami cultivated a take-no-prisoners attitude, complete with lopsided final scores and personal foul penalties. Miami, which arrived at the Fiesta Bowl in 1986 wearing combat fatigues, set up a counter-narrative to the Penn State and Notre Dame powers of the day — all while winning four national championships in eight seasons.
2. Brian Bosworth
The headbands, the blonde mohawks, infuriating opponents and the nickname: The Boz became the focal point of Oklahoma’s renegade team in the 1980s under Barry Switzer. He was a villain even to the NCAA, which he coined the “National Communists Against Athletes.” The act eventually wore out its welcome when Bosworth tested positive for steroids before the 1987 Orange Bowl ... after twice winning the Butkus Award.
3. Barry Switzer
Switzer left Oklahoma as the school’s all-time wins leader, but his tenured ended in controversy. The FBI charged Oklahoma’s starting quarterback with selling cocaine, the NCAA levied sanctions as players received cash and cars, and police charged three Oklahoma players for sexual assault. Even before all that, Switzer had been under fire for years for being unrepentant for his lack of boundaries within the program.
4. Craig James
Before meddling in Texas Tech’s coaching situation, James was a college football villain thanks to being an ESPN blowhard. Then, he led the charge in building a case for Texas Tech to jettison coach Mike Leach. Not coincidentally, James’ son, Adam, had trouble gaining playing time on Leach’s team. James waited until his failed bid for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Texas to admit he took illegal benefits while at SMU.
5. Steve Spurrier
The South Carolina version of Steve Spurrier is just as good a coach as the one at Florida, but he’s become more of a revered national treasure in his latest act in college football. But at Florida in the 1990s, Spurrier shook up the SEC with a high-flying passing game that wasn’t afraid to run up scores and brag about it later. “Free Shoes University” and “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T” only touches the surface of Spurrier gems.
6. Johnny Manziel
It’s actually been a quiet season for Johnny Manziel villain-wise, at least since the brief offseason autograph scandal and taunting Rice players with autograph-signing gestures in his first game of the season. The money gestures and dodging serious NCAA action aren’t anything new, but the first freshman Heisman winner also put himself further into the spotlight by living the good life during the offseason and posting it on Twitter.
7. Urban Meyer
There’s certainly a bit of schadenfraude among fans watching Urban Meyer plead Ohio State’s case for a spot in the BCS championship picture. Bragging to boosters about taking the “top one percent of one percent” and then watching a portion of that one percent run into legal troubles at Florida made Meyer less and less likable. But Meyer is most villainous on the recruiting trail. Whether a recruit is committed matters little to Meyer until Signing Day.
8. Tim Tebow
Perhaps this selection should read “media coverage of Tim Tebow” more than Tebow himself. From Thom Brenneman’s proclamation that “If you're fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes with Tim Tebow, your life is better for it” to “The Promise” to Clay Travis asking Tebow at SEC Media Day if the quarterback was, indeed, a virgin, the fawning and hyperbole led to Tebow exhaustion. It only got worse during his short-lived NFL career.
9. Nick Saban
He’s not tall, he’s a control freak, he’s perpetually annoyed. And he’s leading the football dynasty of the time. His biggest offense, other than winning a ton of games, is saying this — "I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach” — weeks before becoming the Alabama coach.
10. Jackie Sherrill
Sherrill often ran afoul of the NCAA, but one of his biggest crimes was leaving Pittsburgh in 1982 to coach at Texas A&M for a sum of money that made higher education advocates shake their heads in disgust. He was paid $287,000. Sherrill also had a bull castrated on the practice field to motivate his Mississippi State team in 1992.
11. Lane Kiffin
When things were going well for Kiffin — which wasn’t all that often — he was described as having an edge or a swagger. When things didn’t go well, he was petulant. Kiffin racked up NCAA secondary violations at Tennessee, accused Urban Meyer of recruiting improprieties as a laugh line for boosters and then bolted after one season for USC. He appeared to have reformed his image after a 10-2 season in 2011 before imploding in a season and a half. From the Raiders to Tennessee to USC, Kiffin not only infuriated opponents, but also alienated his own team's fanbase.
12. Tony Mandarich
The rumors of Mandarich’s performance-enhancing drug use at Michigan State weren’t tough to track down, but he was still the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1989. He denied it and never tested positive while in college, a career in which he once punched an Ohio State lineman during the coin toss. Long after Mandarich became one of the Draft’s biggest busts, Mandarich admitted steroid use.
13. John Jenkins
Jenkins was the offensive coordinator under Jack Pardee at Houston as the Cougars became an offensive powerhouse running the run-and-shoot. Jenkins, who was eventually elevated to head coach, made sure everyone knew about the offense by running up scores into the 60s, 70s and 80s and ensuring quarterbacks like David Klingler would passing records.
14. Phillip Fulmer
Fulmer once conducted his SEC media day interviews in front of hundreds of reporters ... via a speakerphone. The Tennessee coach avoided entering Alabama state lines for fear of being subpoenaed in a libel suit against the NCAA by Alabama assistants. Fulmer, who had turned in the Tide to the NCAA for recruiting violations, was served a subpoena four years later in a different case involving an Alabama booster.
15. Cam Newton
The SEC, the slimy side of recruiting, a one-day NCAA suspension and Cammy Cam Juice combined to make Newton a lightning rod through the 2010 season.
Much like tattoos or passwords, jersey numbers can be a highly personal affair for their owners. The significance behind a jersey number can sometimes offer a little glimpse into an athlete’s psyche, his past, or his hopes for the future. Other times, the number reflects a team’s plans for the player wearing it. Here’s a sampling from the surprisingly rich world of jersey numbers.
18—Archie Manning wore No. 18 during his college days at Ole Miss, where he scrambled his way into the hearts of Dixie and married the Homecoming Queen, Olivia. After Archie left Oxford, the campus posted speed limits of 18 MPH in his honor. Archie’s middle son, Peyton, wears No. 18 in the NFL — not only in homage to his father, but also as a tribute to Cooper, the oldest of the three Manning boys. Cooper wore No. 18 in high school but was forced to give up football when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis as a true freshman at Ole Miss.
33—Former major league outfielder Larry Walker wasn’t the greatest 33 ever — good morning, Kareem and Larry — but Walker was, without a doubt, the most superstitious athlete ever to wear the number. Walker had a thing about 3s. To wit: He routinely set his alarm for 8:03 in the morning. His parking stall in the players’ lot was 3. He routinely would take three practice swings and dig his foot into the ground three times in the on-deck circle, then take three check swings before heading to the plate. Walker wore 33 in an attempt to derive twice as much luck out of his favorite number. He also got married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 p.m.
Said Walker, when asked back in the day about his thing for threes: “I’d wear 333 if they’d let me.”
12—Nine consecutive Super Bowls (VI through XIV) were won by quarterbacks wearing No. 12.
44—Syracuse football jersey number worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, among others. The university zip code was changed from 13210 to 13244 in honor of the number, which was retired on Nov. 12, 2005.
72—Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk wore 27 during his days with the Red Sox. After joining the White Sox, he wanted to put his days at Fenway Park behind him, so he switched to 72. The number, he said, represented a turnaround in his career.
76—What, you thought 76 was a football number? Think again. Shawn Bradley was 7-foot-6 and was drafted by the 76ers. Any guesses as to which number he was issued?
72—For whatever reason, 72 inspires nicknames. It was worn by Carlton “Pudge” Fisk, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and John “Tooz” Matuszak.
38—Ole Miss football jersey given annually to the player who receives the Chucky Mullins Memorial Courage Award, named after the former player who was paralyzed during the Rebels’ Homecoming game in 1989.
68—Future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr wears 68 to commemorate the Soviet invasion of his native Czechoslovakia in 1968.
088586—Rockies manager Walt Weiss wears 22 in honor of boyhood hero Mercury Morris, who, incidentally, wore No. 088586 during his stretch in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.
Notable Retired Numbers
40—Fallen soldier and former safety Pat Tillman’s number, which was retired by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
12—The Seattle Seahawks have retired the number of the “12th Man” — their fans.
42—Jackie Robinson’s number, which was retired across MLB in 1997. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear No. 42.
48—Former President Gerald Ford had his No. 48 retired by the University of Michigan.
99—Wayne Gretzky’s number, which was retired across the NHL, fittingly, in 1999.
Recently karate action star Jean-Claude Van Damme took his amazing flexibility to new heights, performing an epic slit between two Volvo trucks (watch at bottom). The video went viral and now the parodies have begun. Here are our two favorites, so far.
Saints (8-2) at Falcons (2-8)
Matt Ryan’s nickname, “Matty Ice,” is intended to be a reference to his cool under pressure. But lately, Atlanta’s quarterback has been ice cold, throwing eight INTs — including two pick-sixes — over the past four games, all losses. Saints by 11
Buccaneers (2-8) at Lions (6-4)
The best receiver on the planet (Calvin Johnson) goes toe-to-toe with the artist formerly known as the greatest cover corner (Darrelle Revis). Lions by 6
Vikings (2-8) at Packers (5-5)
Adrian Peterson limps into Lambeau Field on the heels of a 13-carry, 60-yard, one-TD effort in a 44–31 loss to the Packers in Week 8 this year. Packers by 2
Jaguars (1-9) at Texans (2-8)
This race to the bottom of the AFC South is also a race to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Texans by 5
Chargers (4-6) at Chiefs (9-1)
Kansas City will need to avoid an AFC West hangover following an over-hyped first loss of the season against Denver on Sunday night. Chiefs by 7
Panthers (7-3) at Dolphins (5-5)
Cam Newton is taking his talents and Carolina’s six-game winning streak to South Beach. Panthers by 4
Bears (6-4) at Rams (4-6)
Jay Cutler (high ankle sprain) has already been ruled out. But Josh McCown (2–0 as a starter) has been as good or better than Cutler of late. Rams by 1
Jets (5-5) at Ravens (4-6)
The J-E-T-S are the first team to alternate wins and losses every week for the first 10 games of a season. Based on that alone, the Jets will win. Ravens by 4
Steelers (4-6) at Browns (4-6)
Big Ben has a 16–1 record against Cleveland. But the Browns did beat the Charlie Batch-led Steelers, 20–14, last season. Is Batch playing this week? Steelers by 2
Titans (4-6) at Raiders (4-6)
Ryan Fitzpatrick will take on Matt McGloin in a matchup of quarterbacks that fans in the Black Hole couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Titans by 1
Colts (7-3) at Cardinals (6-4)
Indianapolis is 4–1 on the road this season, with two blowout wins and a pair of FG margins. Cardinals by 1
Cowboys (5-5) at Giants (4-6)
Dallas came out of the gates with a 36–31 win over its NFC East rivals in Week 1 this season. Prior to that, however, the Boys had gone 1–3 over the past two years against the G-Men — with the victory coming without Tony Romo. Cowboys by 2
Broncos (9-1) at Patriots (7-3)
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. It really will be “Football Night in America” on Sunday night. Broncos by 4
49ers (6-4) at Redskins (3-7)
Don’t believe the hype. Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have combined for 28 total TDs and 25 turnovers. What happened, guys? 49ers by 7
Last week: 10–5 // Season: 102–60
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history. It’s as simple as that. There has never been a matchup of signal-callers as historically significant and charismatic as Manning and Brady.
Manning has a record four MVPs and a Super Bowl XLI MVP as well as a loss in Super Bowl XLIV. Brady has two MVPs, three Super Bowl wins (XXXIV, XXXVIII and XXXIX), two Super Bowl MVPs and a pair of Super Sunday losses on his shimmering resume.
But the status of the two goes well beyond the football field. The paths to the pinnacle have been fascinating for both Manning and Brady.
Manning is a blue blood born into NFL royalty who was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy at Tennessee, went No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft and was immediately inserted as the franchise quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.
Brady split time with two-sport star Drew Henson at Michigan, fell to the No. 199 overall pick of the 2000 draft and sat anonymously behind Drew Bledsoe before taking over under center for the New England Patriots.
Despite taking decidedly different routes, both Manning and Brady have risen to the top and remain the gold standard for quarterback play in the modern NFL. Part of that job description includes thriving in the spotlight on and off the field. Both men are extremely capable of that tough task, as well.
Manning dominates commercial breaks in ads for DirecTV and Papa John’s, while Brady and ubermodel wife Gisele Bundchen routinely own the gossip column, not to mention a serious percentage of print ads.
But the appeal of both stems from their play between the lines. And the consensus top two signal-callers of their respective generation will share the field — or at least grace the same blades of grass on alternating possessions — in prime time for what NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football television executives are billing as “Manning-Brady Bowl XIV,” when the 9–1 Denver Broncos visit the 7–3 New England Patriots.
Currently, Brady holds a 9–4 edge over Manning. But this season, Manning’s Broncos have been superior — at least statistically — to Brady’s Patriots. Denver has scored 51 touchdowns to New England’s 26. The Broncos’ average a league-leading 39.8 points per game compared to the Patriots’ respectable 25.4 points per game. Most impressive, Denver is carrying a plus-143 point differential while New England boasts a net plus-55.
Manning-Brady Bowl XIV should be another good one. But the 37-year-old Manning and 36-year-old Brady can’t go on like this forever. Enjoy the rivalry while it lasts.
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the Mile High and mighty Denver Broncos to the rock bottom Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Broncos (9-1) Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn on sideline Sunday night.
2. Seahawks (10-1) Earn franchise-record 13th straight win at Seattle.
3. Chiefs (9-1) Lose battle of best in the AFC West against Denver.
4. Saints (8-2) Garrett Hartley hits game-winner as time expires.
5. Colts (7-3) Erik Walden suspended one game for head butt.
6. Panthers (7-3) Steve Smith tells Aqib Talib to “ice up, son” after win.
7. Patriots (7-3) No call? Tom Brady says he could throw better ball.
8. Bengals (7-4) Score franchise-record 31 second-quarter points.
9. 49ers (6-4) Ahmad Brooks penalty nullifies Drew Brees fumble.
10. Lions (6-4) Winless in Pittsburgh for 58 years and counting.
11. Bears (6-4) Outlast weather delay, overtime to beat Baltimore.
12. Eagles (6-5) Earn first win at Lincoln Financial Field in 413 days.
13. Cardinals (6-4) Carson Palmer throws zero INTs for first time in ’13.
14. Packers (5-5) Three-game losing streak team’s longest since ’08.
15. Cowboys (5-5) JPP says Giants will “put it on” Cowboys on Sunday.
16. Jets (5-5) Geno Smith pulled after three quarters, four turnovers.
17. Giants (4-6) Jason Pierre-Paul predicts his own pick-six in win.
18. Dolphins (5-5) Jim Turner the new face of Jonathan Martin case.
19. Steelers (4-6) Big Ben throws four TDs in win against Detroit.
20. Ravens (4-6) Unlike Super Bowl, lengthy delay ends in defeat.
21. Titans (4-6) Collapse vs. Colts follows meltdown vs. Jaguars.
22. Raiders (4-6) Matthew McGloin throws three TDs, wins debut.
23. Chargers (4-6) Commit 10 penalties in third consecutive defeat.
24. Rams (4-6) Use bye week to prep for banged-up visiting Bears.
25. Browns (4-6) Suffer most lopsided loss to Bengals since 2006.
26. Bills (4-7) EJ Manuel wins rookie QB rematch with Geno Smith.
27. Redskins (3-7) Back foot INT by RG3 ends late rally against Eagles.
28. Vikings (2-8) Percy Harvin return haunts old Vikings teammates.
29. Buccaneers (2-8) Bobby Rainey: From Browns backup to Bucs star.
30. Falcons (2-8) Have lost four consecutive by margin of 135–61.
31. Texans (2-8) Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub upset following loss.
32. Jaguars (1-9) Score first TD at home on Danny Noble’s first catch.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Controversial no-call ending aside, Newton shined bright under the lights on Monday night during a 24–20 win over the Patriots. The face of the Panthers franchise completed 19-of-28 passes for 209 yards, three TDs and zero INTs while scrambling seven times for a season-high 62 rushing yards. After a 1–3 start to the season, Carolina has reeled off six consecutive wins. During that stretch, Newton has accounted for 13 total TDs and three turnovers, compared to seven total TDs and six turnovers over the first four weeks of the season.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense carried the G-Men to their fourth straight victory — after a miserable 0–6 start to the season — with a 27–13 win over the Packers. JPP sealed the deal with an acrobatic, leaping interception of Green Bay backup Scott Tolzien early in the fourth quarter. Pierre-Paul’s 24-yard pick-six gave the Giants a 14-point lead they would not relinquish. New York’s defense has given up just two offensive TDs while scoring two return TDs of its own during the current four-game winning streak.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers
Tampa Bay turned to a new workhorse during a 41–28 win over the Falcons. Rainey carried the load with 30 carries for 163 yards and two trips to the end zone on the ground to go along with a third TD through the air. The three-TD effort comes just one week after the 5'8", 212-pound running back out of Western Kentucky scored the first TD of his NFL career during a Monday night win over the Dolphins. The Bucs have now won two straight games after an ugly 0–8 start to the season.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald is usually the first in flight when it comes to the Cardinals’ passing game. But it was Floyd who dictated pecking order during a breakout performance in a 27–14 win at Jacksonville. The second-year pass-catcher out of Notre Dame hauled in six receptions for a career-high 193 yards — on a whopping 32.2 yards per catch — and one TD in victory. Through 10 games this season, Floyd has already exceeded his rookie-year yardage (657 to 562) and TD (3 to 2) totals.
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* 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 www.legendschannel.com.
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. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Jordan Lynch once again came through in a big way to keep Northern Illinois in the hunt for a BCS bowl spot. Lynch completed 26 of 32 pass attempts for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he also rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns to help Northern Illinois on their way to a 48-27 win against Ball State. Lynch’s 36-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter broke a 27-27 tie and minutes later he took off for a 16-yard touchdown run. The win also pushed Northern Illinois in front of Ball State in the MAC West division championship hunt. No quarterback in the nation is putting up the kind of numbers Lynch is down the stretch.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Keeping Clemson in the BCS at-large conversation, Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd did a little bit of everything in a Thursday night victory over Georgia Tech. Boyd completed 20 of 26 pass attempts for 340 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, Boyd was also second on the team in rushing with 43 yards and a touchdown. Boyd had touchdown passes of 41 yards and 76 yards in the second quarter as Clemson started to open things up and he had a hand in two more touchdowns in the third quarter to really put the game away early on.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Although Georgia came up short against Auburn thanks to a lucky bounce off a deflected pass, Aaron Murray did everything he could to give his team a chance to pull out the win. Trailing 37-17 in the fourth quarter, Murray led three separate touchdown drives to give Georgia a surprising lead. Murray threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more, including a run up the middle on a fourth down to give the Bulldogs what would turn out to be a short-lived lead.
4. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
It was a rough game for Connor Shaw and South Carolina, but when his team needed him Shaw came through with the plays to overcome a stingy Florida defense. Shaw completed just 14 of 28 pass attempts for 213 yards and a touchdown, but his lone touchdown play came in the fourth quarter to give his team the only lead they would need on the night.
5. Keith Wenning, Ball State
Another quarterback who came up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning still had one of the top performances of the week by a Golden Arm Award finalist. Going head-to-head against Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois, Wenning was impressive. Ball State’s top offensive player completed 35 of 49 pass attempts for 324 yards and a touchdown and he even rushed for one as well. One costly mistake may not have had much of an impact on the end result, but Wenning will keep Ball State in good bowl position in the MAC’s postseason line-up.
Sponsored by Transamerica.
A play that will go down in SEC lore as one of the greatest in college football history. Down by one point and facing a fourth and 18, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall heaved a desperation pass that was deflected by two Georgia defenders into the arms of Tigers receiver Ricardo Lewis for a 73-yard touchdown pass to give Auburn a 43-38 win. The Tigers gave up 21 straight points in the fourth quarter, capped by an Aaron Murray touchdown run that was allowed to stand after video review.
Thanks to Marshall’s Miracle, Auburn will go into the Iron Bowl against Alabama in two weeks with the SEC West on the line. Here’s the play...
And here’s the reaction of the Georgia sideline, courtesy of @BrianMFloyd...
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-8 this season, tied with Tampa Bay for the worst record in the NFL. The only thing Jaguars fans really have to look forward to at this point is next season, and whatever the future holds for this struggling franchise, one important decision will have to be made.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be a free agent after this season. A second-round pick (60th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft, Jones-Drew has 7,700 rushing yards in eight seasons. The league's leading rusher in 2011 with 1,606 yards, injuries limited MJD to just six games last season and he has struggled with his production so far (432 yards in nine games) this season. That said, he will won't turn 29 until next March and figures to draw plenty of interest from other teams looking to add a three-time Pro Bowler to their roster. Should Jacksonville make Jones-Drew an offer he can't refuse to keep him in a Jaguars uniform long term or should the team bid the franchise's all-time No. 2 rusher a fond farewell? Athlon editors Mark Ross and Nathan Rush offer their thoughts on the future of the diminutive running back.
Lest we forget, it wasn't too long ago that Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the NFL's most productive running backs. In 2011, the bowling ball known as MJD led the entire league in rushing with 1,606 yards. A serious foot injury derailed him the following season, and it's not out of the question to say it's still bothering him. However, the real issue for Jacksonville's running game is its offensive line. According to ProFootballFocus.com the Jaguars' O-line is the worst in the NFL when it comes to run blocking. Certainly losing left tackle Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick of April's draft, to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 doesn't help, but it also sheds some light on what the Jags' main problem is — an overall lack of talent throughout the roster. Jones-Drew is a proven All-Pro-caliber running back who is still less than 30 years old and, in my opinion, has plenty of tread (career average of 214 carries per season) left on his tires. He certainly won't be cheap to re-sign, but money shouldn't be an issue in this instance, especially for billionaire owner Shahid Khan. Besides, who else can you expect the fans to come out and watch. Blaine Gabbert?
— Mark Ross
Re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew? The Jags should've traded him last year or two years ago when he still had some gas in the tank. Mojo's only wasting away in J-Ville. His value to the Jaguars is maximized as a trade asset and minimized as a player for such a pitiful team. Unfortunately, the running back trade market is nonexistent for anyone not named Trent Richardson. MJD has a lengthy injury history and plenty of wear on his tires. His best days were as Fred Taylor's tag team duo partner back when Jack Del Rio was coaching and Jacksonville was a playoff contender. Those days are long gone and Jones-Drew should be too. There's absolutely no reason for the Jags to re-sign their highest profile player.
— Nathan Rush
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.
• Instagram is ripe with celebrities. Really, really hot celebrities. Guyism has rounded up the 101 sexiest for us. Thank you.
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.