Articles By David Fox

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The American Athletic Conference so far is performing like a league born from a diverse group of programs with different resources and expectations.

Not that we’d expect anything else, since this is a league smashed together among programs with different resources and expectations.

On one end, there’s Louisville, Connecticut and Memphis who are continuing on what all three programs did last season.

The defending national champion Cardinals get the benefit of the doubt given the returning cast, but they’ve played only one major opponent and lost to North Carolina. Now that Connecticut has a chance to play for the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies are relishing in the opportunity, despite obvious limitations. And Memphis has flipped the narrative after earning redemption from a blowout road loss to Oklahoma State with a win over the same Cowboys in Orlando.

On the other end is a team like SMU still striving to prove it belongs among the upper echelon of the league with Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati. To do that, SMU may have to prove what it’s not and that means separating itself from Rutgers, UCF, USF and Houston.

Early Season Report Card: American Athletic Conference

NCAA teams as of today: Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis

Bubble watch: Cincinnati, SMU

Best win: Memphis 73, Okla. State 68

Worst loss: FAU 75, UCF 64

Power rankings so far
1. Connecticut
2. Louisville
3. Memphis
4. Cincinnati
5. SMU
6. Temple
7. USF
8. UCF
9. Rutgers
10. Houston

Important non-conference games remaining
Cincinnati at Xavier (Dec. 14)
Florida at Memphis (Dec. 17)
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Dec. 17)
Stanford at Connecticut (Dec. 18)
Connecticut at Washington (Dec. 22)
Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
MVP so far: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
The AAC’s leading scorers Russ Smith and Sean Kilpatrick deserve mention, but Napier has been the clear do-it-all player for the Huskies. Drawing comparisons to Kemba Walker, Napier has been huge in the Huskies’ top wins with 26 points against Florida, 27 against Indiana, 20 against Boston College and 18 against Maryland. The only question is if he’ll need to keep up this torrid pace (15.3 points, seven rebounds and 5.9 assists per game) for UConn to remain an AAC contender. And then there was this shot.

Top freshman: Austin Nichols, Memphis
Nichols has stepped in to give Memphis the inside presence the Tigers need in their guard-heavy lineup. The 6-8, 212-pound forward has averaged 5.9 rebounds per game including a 19-point and eight-rebound performance against LSU in the Old Spice Classic.

Top newcomer: Chris Jones, Louisville
Taking over for Peyton Siva is no easy task, but Jones has assumed the point guard role successfully with the Cardinals. He’s second to Russ Smith in scoring (14.9 ppg) and has played relentless defense. One of the more interesting games of the season will be when the junior college transfer Jones returns to his hometown of Memphis to face the Tigers and to play in the AAC Tournament.

Surprise player: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
Justin Jackson had been a steady contributor on the defensive end as shot blocker, but he didn’t have a developed offensive game. That has changed in his senior season. Before this year, he’d never averaged more than 5.1 points per game in a season. He’s up to 10.6 points while averaging 3.3 blocks.

Early season flop: Louisville’s loss to North Carolina
Let’s forget that North Carolina has been wildly inconsistent this season and just count Louisville’s 93-84 loss to the Tar Heels as a loss to a solid team on a neutral court. Even then, how do you account for the dismal performance of Louisville’s supporting cast, a group that came up huge in the Cardinals’ title run last season. Montrezl Harrell was 2 of 5 (but with 10 rebounds). Luke Hancock was 1 of 8. Wayne Blackshear was invisible, missing his only shot in 17 minutes. Louisville still has a game at Kentucky on Dec. 28, but of the top 10 or so preseason teams, we know the least about Louisville. After North Carolina, Lousiville has faced only two other top-100 opponents on KenPom (Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette).

Lingering concerns: Connecticut’s inside presence
Napier, a 6-1 guard, leads UConn in rebounding at seven per game. The next best player, forward DeAndre Daniels, averages 4.7. The Huskies have managed to start 9-0 despite ranking 240th in defensive rebounding percentage and 182nd in offensive rebounding percentage. That can’t hold up over the course of the season.

Best NCAA resume: Connecticut
No one is comparing the 2013-14 Huskies to the 2010-11 team that won the title, but a hot start has been a big part of both. Defeating Florida on a buzzer beater at home is nice, defeating Indiana on a neutral court is just as good. Maryland and Boston College might not be NCAA teams, but the Huskies beat both on neutral courts as well.

Teaser:
American Athletic Conference: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/inside-wild-and-wacky-votes-coaches-and-harris-polls
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For the last time, the coaches’ poll and Harris poll will factor into the national championship.

The end of the BCS means the end of the coaches’ poll as a component of postseason selection and the end of the Harris Interactive top 25 altogether.

For that, college football fans should be relieved.

Whatever their intentions, both polls ended up with their share of voters who made bizarre choices for their rankings. A disregard to head-to-head records, conference favoritism and voters who may or may not have paid attention to the season infiltrated the final polls year after year.

Granted, a majority of the voters probably made an honest effort and could justify their ballots with well-thought out data and observations.

The others, though ... it's fun to point and laugh sometimes.

Here’s what we found when the ballots were released late Sunday.

Inside the coaches’ poll (link to every ballot)

• Eight coaches did not start their polls with Florida State, Auburn and Alabama in that order. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio voted his team second, ahead of Auburn and Alabama. Can you blame him? West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen also voted Michigan State second for reasons unknown.

• Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier voted Florida State and Auburn first and second but Michigan State third. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury voted FSU and Auburn and then Baylor, a team in the same league and led by another coach from Texas Tech stock. Washington State coach Mike Leach voted Stanford third

• Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, ever the pot-stirrer, voted Ohio State at No. 12, the Buckeyes' lowest ranking. Bielema did vote his former team Wisconsin at No. 21 despite Badgers’ fans ire at his departure. Bielema also gave Louisville its highest ranking at No. 6.

• Steve Spurrier for years gave Duke the No. 25 spot on his preseason ballot as a thank you to the Blue Devils for giving him his first head coaching job. USA Today eventually told him to knock it off to protect the integrity of the poll. Now given a chance to vote for Duke for real, Spurrier gave the Blue Devils their highest rank at No. 16.

• Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was not totally impressed with the SEC this season, ranking Missouri 14th and LSU 15th. Both were ranked behind the top three teams in the Big 12 (Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) and top two teams in the American (UCF and Louisville).

• Baylor coach Art Briles was quite the Big 12 homer, voting Baylor fourth, Oklahoma State sixth and Oklahoma seventh. That came at the expensive of No. 8 Michigan State and No. 11 Missouri.

• The coaches’ poll as a whole did not peg UCF ahead of Louisville until the final week of the season (UCF beat Louisville 38-35 on Oct 18). Arizona State coach Todd Graham didn’t get the memo, voting Louisville ninth and UCF 22nd. For the record, UCF coach George O’Leary and Louisville coach Charlie Strong both voted the Knights higher.

• Washington State coach Mike Leach was even less of a fan of the American Athletic Conference with UCF at No. 24 and Louisville at No. 25. Leach also gave Oregon its highest ranking at No. 6.

• Texas State coach Dennis Franchione had two MAC teams on his ballot, neither of which won the championship. Franchione voted Ball State 24th and Northern Illinois 25th.

• Other evidence of conference favoritism: Dantonio tacked Iowa and Minnesota at the end of his ballot, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher gave his last two votes to Miami and Virginia Tech, Marshall coach Doc Holliday made room for C-USA champion Rice at No. 24.

• Where coaches voted their own teams (final ranking in parentheses):
David Bailiff, Rice, NR (also receiving votes)
Art Briles, Baylor, No. 4 (No. 5)
Rod Carey, Northern Illinois, No. 13 (No. 23)
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
David Cutcliffe, Duke, No. 20 (No. 21)
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, No. 2 (No. 4)
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State, No. 18 (No. 20)
Jimbo Fisher, No. 1 (No. 1)
James Franklin, Vanderbilt, No. 23 (also receiving votes)
Al Golden, Miami, No. 24 (No. 25)
Todd Graham, Arizona State, No. 14 (No. 17)
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, No. 10 (No. 13)
Mark Helfrich, Oregon, No. 7 (No. 12)
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
Jerry Kill, Minnesota, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
Urban Meyer, Ohio State, No. 5 (No. 6)
Les Miles, LSU, No. 11 (No. 14)
George O’Leary, UCF, No. 12 (No. 15)
Mark Richt, Georgia, No. 20 (No. 24)
Nick Saban, Alabama, No. 3 (No. 3)
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, No. 7 (No. 8)
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, No. 9 (No. 10)
Charlie Strong, Louisville, No. 12 (No. 16)
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M, No. 20 (No. 21)
Dabo Swinney, Clemson, No. 9 (No. 11)
Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati, No. 25 (also receiving votes)

Inside the Harris poll (link to every ballot)

Related: Identifying every voter in the Harris poll


• Auburn received eight first-place votes, becoming the only other team besides Florida State to be ranked No. 1. Among those who voted Auburn first were Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

• Auburn, though, hasn’t convinced everyone in the Harris poll. Jack Ebling, a host for WVFB in Lansing, Mich., voted Alabama second, one spot ahead of Auburn, despite the Tigers’ victory on a last-second missed field goal returned for a touchdown.

• How much did Ohio State’s 34-24 loss in the Michigan State hurt the Buckeyes’ stock? Seven voters dropped Ohio State to No. 10 or lower after the Buckeyes were second in the poll before the championship game. A few of these must have taken into account the weakness of the Big Ten as five of the seven ranked Michigan State lower than the rest of the poll. Former Notre Dame player Derrick Mayes ranked Ohio State 13th and Michigan State 11th. Former Army player Bob Anderson ranked Ohio State 12th and Michigan State eighth.

• For four voters, it’s as if the Big Ten championship game never happened. The following voted Ohio State ahead of Michigan State:
Bob Grim, former Oregon State player: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State
Mike McGee, former Cincinnati and USC athletic director: No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State
Jordan Palmer, former UTEP quarterback: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan State
Riley Skinner, former Wake Forest quarterback: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State

• Speaking of blatant disregard for head-to-head results among teams with similar records, 19 voters kept Oklahoma State ahead of Oklahoma despite identical records and the Sooners’ 33-24 win in Stillwater. Former Texas player Denny Aldridge ranked the Cowboys a full eight spots ahead of Oklahoma (No. 8 and No. 16).

• At least former South Alabama athletic director Joe Gottfried paid attention to Bedlam: He ranked Oklahoma sixth ... and Baylor ninth. Baylor won the Big 12 in part by beating Oklahoma 41-12 on Nov. 7.

• Former UAB broadcaster Gary Sanders turned in one of the strangest ballots with Louisville as high as No. 7. But the most eye-catching ranking was UCLA at No. 12. He found room for Pac-12 South champion Arizona State at No. 25.

• Sanders was one of 36 voters to rank UCLA ahead of Arizona State. The Sun Devils beat the Bruins 38-35 in the Rose Bowl to clinch the Pac-12 South.

• One storyline of the season was Louisville remaining ahead of UCF despite the Knights’ 38-35 win on the road over the Cardinals. UCF’s win, plus an edge in the non-conference schedule that included a win at Penn State and three-point loss to South Carolina, didn’t swing the 39 voters who kept Louisville ranked ahead of UCF in the final poll. Five voters ranked Louisville at least seven spots higher than UCF: former West Virginia player John Mallory, former Cal player Craig Morton, former UAB broadcaster Gary Sanders, former Kentucky player Jeff Van Note and former Louisville player Dwayne Woodruff.

• Dwayne Woodruff’s No. 8 ranking of his alma mater Louisville aside, favoritism didn’t appear to be too rampant in the final Harris poll. One notable exception: Former Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson voted the Bulldogs 12th. Fresno State was ranked 20th in the final poll.

• Among the more, shall we say, interesting ballots:

Former Miami and Kentucky coach Fran Curci voted Baylor fourth, Louisville, eighth, Miami 17th, Rice 19th and Arizona State 24th ... while leaving Texas A&M and Georgia unranked.

Former Stanford quarterback Todd Husak ranked Oregon eighth, Arizona State 13th, UCLA 16th and Washington 25th.

Bob Marcum, former athletic director at Kansas, South Carolina and Marshall, voted Fresno State 13th, Northern Illinois 15th and Duke 16th ... all ahead of Clemson, Oregon, LSU and Arizona State.

Former Notre Dame player Derrick Mayes ranked Missouri fourth, South Carolina fifth, Clemson sixth, Oregon eighth, Michigan State 11th, Louisville 12th and Ohio State 13th.

Jim Walden, a former coach at Iowa State and Washington State, ranked both UCF (sixth) and Louisville (eighth) in the top 10 at the expense of South Carolina and Missouri. South Carolina defeated UCF 28-25 in Orlando.

Teaser:
Inside the wild and wacky votes in the coaches' and Harris polls
Post date: Monday, December 9, 2013 - 15:28
Path: /college-football/final-2013-bcs-rankings-and-analysis
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Despite fears to the contrary two weeks ago, the final BCS standings and selection for the major bowls featured little controversy or drama.

Ohio State lost in the Big Ten title game, clearing the path for Auburn to be the undisputed No. 2 team. Northern Illinois’ loss in the final week cleared the path for Oklahoma to be the final at-large pick, ironic given undefeated NIU pushed the Sooners out a year ago.

Perhaps the only questionable decision by the BCS game executives was the Sugar Bowl’s selection of Oklahoma to face Alabama rather than a higher-ranked Oregon team.

Maybe the matchup is less attractive for most viewers, but Oklahoma promises to bring more fans to a closer game site. The Sugar Bowl also will have an SEC-Big 12 matchup when the College Football Playoff begins next season. To the end, politics and tradition played a role in the selection of the top postseason games.

Here’s a look at the final pairings and the selection process in the final bowl lineup of the BCS era.

BCS Games

BCS Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn
Rose: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
Orange: No. 12 Clemson* vs. No. 7 Ohio State*
Sugar: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma*
Fiesta: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 UCF
*At-large selections

Other team eligible for at-large selections:
No. 10 Oregon
No. 14 Arizona State

Order of selection:
1. Florida State and Auburn were automatic bids placed in the championship game.
2. Michigan State and Stanford were automatic to the Rose, Baylor automatic to the Fiesta.
3. Orange selects Ohio State to replace ACC champion Florida State.
4. Sugar selects Alabama to replace SEC champion Auburn.
5. Orange selects Clemson as at-large.
6. Sugar selects Oklahoma as at-large.
7. Fiesta selects UCF as the final automatic bid.

Observations on the final standings (full standings as a .pdf)

• In the first BCS standings of the season after Week 9, Auburn was ranked No. 11, behind teams like Miami and Texas Tech. Auburn’s rise to the title game was the biggest of the BCS era, second only to LSU moving from No. 12 in the first rankings in 2003 to No. 2.

• Michigan State enjoyed a jump from No. 10 to No. 4 in the final rankings after defeating Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game. The Spartans were unranked in the first BCS standings in Week 8. Before Sunday, Michigan State had never been ranked higher than fifth in the BCS standings (Oct. 24, 2010).

• The SEC finished with four teams in the top 10 (No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Missouri, No. 9 South Carolina), a year after the SEC had six teams in the top 10 a year ago. Eight different teams account for those 10 spots in the top 10.

• The Harris poll and coaches’ poll were in lockstep on the top four (Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State). No top 25 team in either poll was separated by more than three spots.

• The computers continued to love No. 14 Arizona State compared to the human polls. The Sun Devils, who faced Wisconsin and Notre Dame in the non-conference schedule, ranked 11th in the computer average and in the top three in three of six computer rankings. The flip side was No. 6 Baylor, who ranked eighth or lower in four computer rankings and ninth in the computer average.

• The BCS standings ends where it started in a way with Florida State at No. 1. The Seminoles were No. 2 in the final BCS standings of the season when the rankings began in 1998. Tennessee, of course, was No. 1 that year and won the title, but the top 10 also included Kansas State, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Tulane.

All-Time BCS Rankings At a Glance

For better or worse, the BCS standings have been a way to measure success for prominent teams, here’s a look how teams have fared in the BCS standings since 1998:
 

Most weeks in top 25Most weeks at No. 1Most teams in top 25Most BCS Game Appearances
1. Texas, 1041. Oklahoma, 201. SEC, 5551. Ohio State, 10
2. Oklahoma, 1002. Alabama, 162. Big 12, 4992. Oklahoma, 9
3. Florida, 92T3. Ohio State, 153. Big Ten, 4333. Florida State, 8
4. LSU 89T3. USC, 154. Pac-12, 381T4. Florida, 7
5. Oregon, 855. LSU, 105. ACC, 374T4. USC, 7
6. Ohio State, 846. Florida State, 96. Big East/AAC, 186T6. Alabama, 6
7. Virginia Tech, 82T7. Florida, 77. Mountain West, 137T6. Virginia Tech, 6
8. Florida State, 80

T7. Miami, 7

8. WAC, 79 
9. Michigan, 77T9. Nebraska, 59. C-USA, 78 
10. USC, 73T9. Tennessee, 510. Independents, 51 
T11. Georgia, 72 11. MAC, 44 
T11. Wisconsin, 72   
13. Alabama, 66   
T14. Boise State, 64   
T14. Miami, 64   

 

Teaser:
Final 2013 BCS Rankings and Analysis
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 21:37
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Auburn Tigers, College Football, MAC, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburns-tre-mason-athlons-national-player-week
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By the time Missouri took a 17-14 lead in the second quarter, Saturday’s SEC Championship Game was already was one of the wildest title games in league history.

Then Tre Mason happened.

On Auburn’s next drive, Mason rushed for 49 yards on five carries and took the lead on a 7-yard touchdown run. He topped that with a 52-yard run on his next carry and another touchdown four attempts later.

With Bo Jackson on the sideline, Mason put up Bo Jackson-like numbers and a running performance never seen in the previous 21 SEC title games.

Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries to give Auburn a 59-42 win and a chance to play for the national championship. The record-setting performance earned Mason Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors and an outside shot to become a Heisman finalist.

“It was always a dream growing up, wanting to win the Heisman,” Mason said. “I’m sure that every kid that played football, that’s one of their dreams. It’s hard to describe, the feelings that I’m having right now.”

Athlon Sports Week 15 National Awards

National Player of the Week: Tre Mason, Auburn
Mason put on the best rushing performance in SEC history, setting records for carries (46), rushing yards (304), all-purpose yards (312) and touchdowns (four). Mason’s 304 rushing yards was tied for the fifth-highest total in 2013, and he did it against a Missouri defense that hadn’t allowed 200 rushing yards in a game all year.

National Defensive Player of the Week: Telvin Smith, Florida State
Even the ACC Championship Game became routine for Florida State. Telvin Smith led the defensive effort in a 38-7 win over Duke as the senior linebacker picked up eight tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss and an interception. His pick early in the second quarter set up a quick drive to give FSU a 24-0 lead.

National Freshman of the Week: Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green
Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson spread the ball around in knocking Northern Illinois out of BCS contention, completing five touchdown passes to five different receivers in the 47-27 win in the MAC Championship Game. Freshman Ronnie Moore was one of the beneficiaries, catching four passes for 165 and a touchdown. He had a 61-yard catch to set up a field goal in the first quarter and added 36-yard TD catch on the following drive.

National Coordinator of the Week: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
Ohio State got its rushing yards in the Big Ten Championship Game, but that was about it. Michigan State allowed a season-high 273 rushing yards, but the defense dominated just about every other facet of the 34-24 win over the Buckeyes to clinch the Big Ten title. Narduzzi’s defense held Ohio State to 8 of 23 passes for 101 yards and 1 of 12 on third and fourth downs. The Spartans tightened up even more in the fourth quarter, allowing Ohio State to amass only 25 yards on the final three possessions.

Teaser:
Auburn's Tre Mason is Athlon's National Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
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Say this for the BCS era: Many of the controversies that seem to be possibilities during the season play themselves out by the end of the season.

The final week of the season began with the possibility of either Auburn or Ohio State being left out of the national championship game. A month ago, we had four undefeated teams with national championship aspirations, plus two undefeated outsiders vying for one spot in the BCS.

Saturday ended with only Florida State without a blemish on the record.

An unstoppable offense in the SEC and an uncrackable defense in the Big Ten on championship Saturday wrapped up a final BCS season without controversy.

But it also hinted at what the playoff selection committee may have to decide. Florida State vs. Auburn will be the championship pick, but which teams would fill out a four-team bracket in the 2014 system?

Thankfully, that debate is a year away.

Three and Out: College Football Championship Week Recap

Three Things We Learned from Auburn 59, Missouri 42


Gus Malzahn is already one of the nation’s elite coaches. Regardless of the outcome in the Big Ten that put Auburn in the title game, Malzahn in two seasons has already put himself into the discussion of one of the nation’s elite coaches. It’s tough not to make a big deal of the one-year turnaround Malzahn has had at Auburn. The Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC and were outgained by more than 200 yards per game in league games. Auburn averaged 235 yards in SEC games last season, a mark the Tigers exceeded in the first half against Missouri. And this was not a Mizzou team accustomed to giving up chunks of points. Missouri had been allowing 3.6 yards per carry this season and hadn’t allowed 28 points in a game all season. Auburn won the most unlikely of SEC championships, but Malzahn has been a part of three conference champions in four seasons. With one season at Arkansas State and one at Auburn, Malzahn’s ability to sustain a program will be the only remaining question, but many of the players who picked up nearly 700 yards on Missouri were recruited to play for Malzahn as an offensive coordinator.

Tre Mason may find his way to New York. Jameis Winston has all but sealed the Heisman Trophy, but Mason is a perfect example of why the unofficial field shouldn’t be set in October. Not that Mason should beat out Winston, but the Auburn tailback was nowhere to be found in the conversation entering Saturday. He wasn’t even a finalist for the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back. Mason should be a contender for a host of postseason awards after rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri hadn’t even allowed 200 yards rushing to any team in a game this season. Over the course of the season, perhaps Mason and Nick Marshall are equally as responsible for the success of the Auburn offense. But Marshall’s SEC Championship Game breakout gave him an average of 156.9 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his last eight SEC games. While voters were reaching for Andre Williams and Ka’Deem Carey in recent weeks, maybe Mason was the running back they were seeking.

Special teams were Auburn’s secret weapon. This is still worth reiterating even after Chris Davis’ miracle missed field goal return to beat Alabama. No one would have confused the SEC Championship Game as one where field position was a key, but Auburn can do that, too. Auburn punter Steven Clark pinned Missouri inside its own 10-yard line three times, including twice in the second half. Chris Davis had 22-yard punt return, and Cody Parkey split his two field goal attempts outside of 50 yards. In a game where defensive stops were at a premium these little things made major difference.

Three Things We Learned From Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24

Michigan State’s defense comes up huge yet again. The unexpected is a major part of Mark Dantonio’s playbook with a handful of fake field goals and fake punts in his arsenal. In the fourth quarter against Ohio State, it was an onside kick. Michigan State failed to gain possession, but Dantonio can afford to take risks with this defense. The nation’s top defense proved it against Ohio State, especially in the second half. Thorpe Award finalist Darqueze Dennard shut down the passing game as Braxton Miller was 8 of 21 for 101 yards and a touchdown. After Ohio State blocked a punt, linebacker Denicos Allen stopped Miller on a run toward the sideline on fourth and 2 at the Spartans’ 39. The two-headed run game of Miller and Carlos Hyde had its moments, but Ohio State overall was 1 of 9 on third down.

Michigan State doesn't need to kick itself for Notre Dame loss. Auburn is the one-loss team heading to the national championship game rather than the team that actually knocked out Ohio State. The Big Ten schedule is a big reason for Michigan State missing a chance at the national championship game, but the Spartans’ 17-13 loss to an 8-4 Notre Dame is now the only blemish on the schedule. Michigan State was called for four critical pass interference calls in the game, but the Spartans also amassed only 135 passing yards and 119 rushing against the Irish on Sept. 21. Flash forward to Saturday, and Connor Cook completed 24 of 40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception against Ohio State. As much as Michigan State’s defense has been dominant all season, the Spartans’ offense has improved progressively during the season, helping Michigan State outscore nine Big Ten opponents by an average of 17.8 points per game. A year from now, Michigan State might be a good candidate for one of four playoff spots. Even in the current system, an undefeated Michigan State would have to answer for facing only one ranked team all year.

This isn’t a totally awful development for the Big Ten. The Big Ten lost a chance to play for the national title, and Michigan State may have gone to the Rose Bowl win or lose. In the end, though, this may end up being a net gain for the league. Ohio State likely would have gone to the BCS Championship Game as a major underdog to Florida State. Instead, the Buckeyes could face Clemson in the Orange Bowl while Michigan State faces Stanford in the Rose Bowl. No, it’s not the stage the Big Ten craves, but both teams will be evenly matched in their bowl games. And consider this: Before the season started, one narrative was that Ohio State and Michigan were poised to take a commanding lead in the league. The Wolverines’ struggles mean that won’t happen this year, but Michigan State isn’t going away.

Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

Blake Bell redeemed himself in a wacky season. The Belldozer may as well be the name of a roller coaster in Norman. That’s the kind of season Blake Bell had. The junior was the assumed heir to Landry Jones at quarterback until the final weeks of training camp when Trevor Knight was named the opening day starter. Knight’s injury issues put Bell back into the starting job when he led the Sooners to a win at Notre Dame before a concussion gave the job back to Knight. Bell had been struggling enough this season to be the third guy in against Oklahoma State. With Knight out in the second half, Bob Stoops went to sophomore Kendal Thompson rather than Bell. The quarterback who had been passed over, though, was brilliant on the final drive. In a game in which every quarterback struggled, Bell got made the final statement, completing 5 of 8 passes for 57 yards with a beautiful touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders to win the game. Even if he made a risky throw in the direction of Thorpe Award finalist Justin Gilbert, who dropped a potential interception, Bell can once against claim the role of fan favorite.

How did Oklahoma win this game again? Take a look at those quarterback numbers for Oklahoma. First, one of the guys who threw a touchdown pass is the holder. The other entered the game third string. Oklahoma needed three quarterbacks to beat Oklahoma State, and none of them looked that great until the final drive. With an ineffective offense, the Sooners were in a position of desperation when holder Grant Bothun completed a touchdown pass to kicker Michael Hunnicutt on a fake field goal in the third quarter. A play earlier, a potential touchdown catch was erased on when defensive back Daytawion Lowe knocked the ball out of the hands of Brannon Green in the end zone. Before the final drive, Oklahoma’s scoring included a punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal and two extended drives ending in field goals. The Sooners were a mere 2 of 15 on third down (but 3 of 3 on fourth) and were outgained on a per play basis 6.2 yards to 4.9. The Sooners got to their 10th win of the season in the way they got to a handful of their first nine: By winning ugly. Still, the Sooners won 10 games for the 12th time under Bob Stoops despite injuries in the front seven and to fullback Trey Millard and a rotating cast at quarterback.


Oklahoma State can’t get over Oklahoma.
How did Oklahoma win? Well, the Cowboys helped. The tone was set on the first play of the game when Desmond Roland’s 75-yard touchdown run was called back on a holding call on wide receiver Charlie Moore. Moore dropped two more passes, including a third down pass in OU territory in the fourth quarter. Moore wasn’t alone as a the goat, though. Even though the Cowboys could move the ball on the ground, Clint Chelf struggled with accuracy until Oklahoma State’s fourth-quarter go-ahead drive. The Cowboys also went for a touchdown on fourth down from the Oklahoma 2 in the first quarter. Oklahoma stuffed it for the Sooners’ first red zone stop since the second game of the season. This era remains the best in Oklahoma State history, but the Cowboys remain under the thumb of their in-state rival.

Moving the Chains

Baylor. Maybe Baylor never was as good as the team that started 9-0 and averaged 61 points per game into mid-November. That shouldn’t diminish the season. Baylor won an outright Big 12 and reached the Fiesta Bowl, a remarkable feat. This is a program that won more than four games only once from 1996 to 2009, a bottom feeder for most of the existence of the Big 12. Baylor didn’t heat up until the second half against Texas, thanks in part to the return of safety Ahmad Dixon, who was suspended for the first half. When Baylor returned to form, the Bears made easy work of the Texas defense for 523 yards and 27 second-half points. With Robert Griffin’s Heisman in 2011, a Big 12 title in 2013 and a new stadium in 2014, Baylor looks like a program with staying power ... especially if Art Briles hangs around.

Kevin Hogan, Stanford. The Cardinal quarterback is rarely the first person mentioned on the Stanford offense. That usually goes to the offensive line or running back Tyler Gaffney. Hogan, though, finished the season on a hot streak, going 12 of 18 for 277 yards with a touchdown against Arizona State. Hogan hadn’t completed 60 percent of his passes in three consecutive games games before completing 66.1 percent of his passes in the final three games.

David Bailiff, Rice. No one will mistake Rice for a Conference USA power, but with the way the league has thinned during conference expansion, maybe the Owls can be a consistent winner. Rice defeated Marshall 41-23 for the C-USA title, the first league title of any kind since Rice won the Southwest Conference in 1957. Bailiff rarely gets much national notoriety, but he’s led Rice to two 10-win seasons. The Owls are in bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1960-61.

False Starts

Texas. If this was indeed the final regular season game for Mack Brown at Texas, it wasn’t a great sendoff beyond the loss. Quarterback play was again the undoing for the Longhorns as Case McCoy was 12 of 34 for a mere 53 yards. McCoy escaped a rush for a highlight reel two-yard touchdown pass, but he also threw two interceptions against the Bears as Texas finished 3 of 17 on third down. No single game is the reason Brown may retire earlier that he’d like, but it’s hard not to look at this Baylor loss as emblematic of Texas’ recent years.

Arizona State. Most teams have difficulty cracking Stanford, but the Cardinal have been Arizona State’s nemesis this season. The Sun Devils fell behind 29-0 to Stanford in the first matchup. Home field advantage and a season’s worth of improvement was little help as the Sun Devils fell behind 28-7 in the first half in a 38-14 loss. The Sun Devils’ defense finally broke, allowing 517 yards and a season-high 8.3 yards per play.

Fresno State on fourth down. The Bulldogs won the Mountain West with a 24-17 win over Utah State, but they didn’t mind giving the Aggies chances. Fresno State 24-7 in the third quarter before surrendering 10 fourth-quarter points, but the Bulldogs twice failed to convert fourth down attempts. The last was an inexplicable fourth and 3 from inside the Utah State 30 when a field goal would have clinched the win. Fresno State needed an interception inside its own territory to end the Utah State threat.

Heisman Movers

Quick BCS projections
BCS Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn
Rose: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio State
Sugar: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta: UCF vs. Baylor

Quick Heisman projections
Jameis Winston, Florida State
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Tre Mason, Auburn
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Tre Mason, Auburn. It would take an uncommon effort to being on almost no ballots to ending up in the top 10 in the voting or perhaps a finalist. Rushing for 304 yards and four yards in the SEC Championship Game would qualify.

Jameis Winston, Florida State. Winston finished this week with his off-field issues resolved and an above-average performance in the ACC title game. Winston was 19 of 32 for 320 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against Duke. Despite a healthy 38-point lead, Jimbo Fisher kept his starters in the game into the fourth quarter.

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. Lynch was never going to overtake Winston for the lead, but he had done enough to look like a finalist. That looks less likely after championship week. Auburn’s Tre Mason and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller impressed in conference championship games as Northern Illinois lost 47-27 to Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Lynch was 21 of 40 for 219 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions and rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. In a field that has no certainties beyond Winston at No. 1, Lynch will probably land on plenty of ballots, but maybe not enough to get to New York.

Stat Watch

7-1. UCF’s record in games decided by a touchdown or less. The Knights wrapped up their season like they played most games this season, on the razor’s edge. UCF needed two third-quarter touchdowns to beat SMU 17-13 before crowd that would generously be described as sparse. UCF is heading to the Fiesta Bowl as the American Athletic Conference champions, but the season included one-score wins over Memphis (3-8), Temple (2-10), USF (2-9) and SMU (5-6).

5. Teams to be win Big 12 titles in five seasons. The Big 12 has lost a championship game and four teams in the last three years, but it’s gained a bit of unpredictability. Baylor became the fifth team to win a Big 12 title in the last three seasons, joining Kansas State and Oklahoma in 2012 (K-State earned the BCS bid), Oklahoma State in 2011, Oklahoma in 2010 and Texas in 2009.

15. SEC Championship Games outscored by Auburn alone. Auburn set a number of SEC Championship Game records, including rushing yards and total offense, but it’s tough not to be most impressed with the scoring record. Auburn’s 59 points alone outscored 15 of the 21 SEC title games before Saturday.

 

Teaser:
College Football Championship Recap: FSU-Auburn ready for title game
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 07:00
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Michigan State ensured the BCS will go out with a whimper.

The final season of a two-team competition for the national title will end again with a simple two-team decision. With Ohio State’s loss, there will be no debate between an undefeated team against a weaker schedule and a one-loss team against a stronger schedule.

That’s the headline as Ohio State is eliminated from the national championship race and along with Urban Meyer’s first loss as the coach for the Buckeyes.

Michigan State can’t be overlooked, though. The Spartans clinched their first outright conference title and Rose Bowl appearance since 1987.

The Spartans relied on a stifling defense in the second half against Ohio State, but an consistently improving offense has been the difference between a good Big Ten season and a conference title. And a contingent of new fans from Auburn.

Three Things We Learned From Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24

Michigan State’s defense comes up huge yet again. The unexpected is a major part of Mark Dantonio’s playbook with a handful of fake field goals and fake punts in his arsenal. In the fourth quarter against Ohio State, it was an onside kick. Michigan State failed to gain possession, but Dantonio can afford to take risks with this defense. The nation’s top defense proved it against Ohio State, especially in the second half. Thorpe Award finalist Darqueze Dennard shut down the passing game as Braxton Miller was 8 of 21 for 101 yards and a touchdown. After Ohio State blocked a punt, linebacker Denicos Allen stopped Miller on a run toward the sideline on fourth and 2 at the Spartans’ 39. The two-headed run game of Miller and Carlos Hyde had its moments, but Ohio State overall was 1 of 9 on third down.

Michigan State doesn't need to kick itself for Notre Dame loss. Auburn is the one-loss team heading to the national championship game rather than the team that actually knocked out Ohio State. The Big Ten schedule is a big reason for Michigan State missing a chance at the national championship game, but the Spartans’ 17-13 loss to an 8-4 Notre Dame is now the only blemish on the schedule. Michigan State was called for four critical pass interference calls in the game, but the Spartans also amassed only 135 passing yards and 119 rushing against the Irish on Sept. 21. Flash forward to Saturday, and Connor Cook completed 24 of 40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception against Ohio State. As much as Michigan State’s defense has been dominant all season, the Spartans’ offense has improved progressively during the season, helping Michigan State outscore nine Big Ten opponents by an average of 17.8 points per game. A year from now, Michigan State might be a good candidate for one of four playoff spots. Even in the current system, an undefeated Michigan State would have to answer for facing only one ranked team all year.

This isn’t a totally awful development for the Big Ten. The Big Ten lost a chance to play for the national title, and Michigan State may have gone to the Rose Bowl win or lose. In the end, though, this may end up being a net gain for the league. Ohio State likely would have gone to the BCS Championship Game as a major underdog to Florida State. Instead, the Buckeyes could face Clemson in the Orange Bowl while Michigan State faces Stanford in the Rose Bowl. No, it’s not the stage the Big Ten craves, but both teams will be evenly matched in their bowl games. And consider this: Before the season started, one narrative was that Ohio State and Michigan were poised to take a commanding lead in the league. The Wolverines’ struggles mean that won’t happen this year, but Michigan State isn’t going away.

Teaser:
Three Things We Learned from Michigan State's Big Ten title
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 00:59
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The SEC season could end no other way.

Starting with the second week of the season when Georgia beat South Carolina 41-30, the SEC hasn’t been the old defense-wins-championships league all year. It continued when Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron matched each other drive for drive in College Station. Auburn, as it did in 2010, has become the center of offenses running wild and teams producing crazy finishes in the SEC this season.

The Tigers wrapped up one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history with a wild 59-42 win over Missouri for the SEC championship, only a year after going winless in the league.

The Auburn run game has been a machine all year, but on Saturday it was unstoppable. With 59 points, Auburn alone outscored 15 SEC Championship Games. Combined, Auburn and Missouri scored 101 points, 26 more than the previous highest scoring SEC Championship Game in 1996.

Among records broken in Atlanta on Saturday:

Carries: Auburn’s Tre Mason, 46
Previous record: 31, Jamal Lewis, Tennessee (1997)

Rushing yards: Mason, 304
Previous record: 201, Justin Vincent, LSU (2003)

All-purpose yards: Mason, 312
Previous record: 227, Darvin Adams, Auburn (2010)

Touchdowns: Mason, 4
Previous record: Three, three different players

Scoring: Mason, 24
Previous record: 18, three different players

Longest field goal: Auburn’s Cody Parkey, 52 yards
Previous record: 51, three different players

Most rushes: Auburn, 74
Previous record: 53, Alabama (2009)

Rushing yards: Auburn, 545
Previous record: 350, Alabama (2012)

Rushing touchdowns: Auburn, 7
Previous record: Three, six different teams

Total offense: Auburn, 677
Previous record: 589, Auburn (2010)

Most points: Auburn, 59
Previous record: 56, Auburn (2010)

Most combined points: Auburn and Missouri, 101
Previous record: 75, Florida and Alabama (1996)

First downs rushing: 26, Auburn
Previous record: 18, Alabama (2012)

Total plays: 85, Auburn (tie)

Three Things We Learned from Auburn 59, Missouri 42

Gus Malzahn is already one of the nation’s elite coaches. No matter what happens with Ohio State and the BCS standings, Malzahn in two seasons has already put himself into the discussion of one of the nation’s elite coaches. It’s tough not to make a big deal of the one-year turnaround Malzahn has had at Auburn. The Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC and were outgained by more than 200 yards per game in league games. Auburn averaged 235 yards in SEC games last season, a mark the Tigers exceeded in the first half against Missouri. And this was not a Mizzou team accustomed to giving up chunks of points. Missouri had been allowing 3.6 yards per carry this season and hadn’t allowed 28 points in a game all season. Auburn won the most unlikely of SEC championships, but Malzahn has been a part of three conference champions in four seasons. With one season at Arkansas State and one at Auburn, Malzahn’s ability to sustain a program will be the only remaining question, but many of the players who picked up nearly 700 yards on Missouri were recruited to play for Malzahn as an offensive coordinator.

Tre Mason may find his way to New York. Jameis Winston has all but sealed the Heisman Trophy, but Mason is a perfect example of why the unofficial field shouldn’t be set in October. Not that Mason should beat out Winston, but the Auburn tailback was nowhere to be found in the conversation entering Saturday. He wasn’t even a finalist for the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back. Mason should be a contender for a host of postseason awards after rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri hadn’t even allowed 200 yards rushing to any team in a game this season. Over the course of the season, perhaps Mason and Nick Marshall are equally as responsible for the success of the Auburn offense. But Marshall’s SEC Championship Game breakout gave him an average of 156.9 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his last eight SEC games. While voters were reaching for Andre Williams and Ka’Deem Carey in recent weeks, maybe Mason was the running back they were seeking.

Special teams were Auburn’s secret weapon. This is still worth reiterating even after Chris Davis’ miracle missed field goal return to beat Alabama. No one would have confused the SEC Championship Game as one where field position was a key, but Auburn can do that, too. Auburn punter Steven Clark pinned Missouri inside its own 10-yard line three times, including twice in the second half. Chris Davis had 22-yard punt return, and Cody Parkey split his two field goal attempts outside of 50 yards. In a game where defensive stops were at a premium these little things made major difference.
 

Teaser:
Three Things We Learned from Auburn's SEC Championship
Post date: Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 21:29
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A typical season this was not for Oklahoma.

The Sooners started the year outside of the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since 2000. They fell out of Big 12 contention, in essence, when they lost to Texas for the first time in four years. Bob Stoops had a rare quarterback competition that lasted, due to injury, until the final weeks of the season.

By Dec. 7, Oklahoma had its two typical results: 10 wins and control of the Bedlam rivalry.

Oklahoma won 10 games for the 12th time in 14 seasons and defeated Oklahoma State for the 10th time in 11 years thanks to an improbable touchdown drive from quarterback Blake Bell on the road in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners don’t want to admit it, but they are spoilers for the Cowboys. Oklahoma’s Bedlam win knocked Oklahoma State out of the Fiesta Bowl and out of contention for an outright BCS title.

The Cowboys are enjoying their best era in program history, but they remain under the thumb of rival Oklahoma after a game-winning drive in the final 24 seconds (the final OU touchdown was a fumble recovery from desperation laterals).

Similar to John Cooper's Ohio State teams against Michigan and Mark Richt's early squads against Florida, Mike Gundy's teams are conference and national contenders, but rivalry games continue to vex them.

Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

Blake Bell redeemed himself in a wacky season. The Belldozer may as well be the name of a roller coaster in Norman. That’s the kind of season Blake Bell had. The junior was the assumed heir to Landry Jones at quarterback until the final weeks of training camp when Trevor Knight was named the opening day starter. Knight’s injury issues put Bell back into the starting job when he led the Sooners to a win at Notre Dame before a concussion gave the job back to Knight. Bell had been struggling enough this season to be the third guy in against Oklahoma State. With Knight out in the second half, Bob Stoops went to sophomore Kendal Thompson rather than Bell. The quarterback who had been passed over, though, was brilliant on the final drive. In a game in which every quarterback struggled, Bell got made the final statement, completing 5 of 8 passes for 57 yards with a beautiful touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders to win the game. Even if he made a risky throw in the direction of Thorpe Award finalist Justin Gilbert, who dropped a potential interception, Bell can once against claim the role of fan favorite.

How did Oklahoma win this game again? Take a look at those quarterback numbers for Oklahoma. First, one of the guys who threw a touchdown pass is the holder. The other entered the game third string. Oklahoma needed three quarterbacks to beat Oklahoma State, and none of them looked that great until the final drive. With an ineffective offense, the Sooners were in a position of desperation when holder Grant Bothun completed a touchdown pass to kicker Michael Hunnicutt on a fake field goal in the third quarter. A play earlier, a potential touchdown catch was erased on when defensive back Daytawion Lowe knocked the ball out of the hands of Brannon Green in the end zone. Before the final drive, Oklahoma’s scoring included a punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal and two extended drives ending in field goals. The Sooners were a mere 2 of 15 on third down (but 3 of 3 on fourth) and were outgained on a per play basis 6.2 yards to 4.9. The Sooners got to their 10th win of the season in the way they got to a handful of their first nine: By winning ugly. Still, the Sooners won 10 games for the 12th time under Bob Stoops despite injuries in the front seven and to fullback Trey Millard and a rotating cast at quarterback.


Oklahoma State can’t get over Oklahoma.
How did Oklahoma win? Well, the Cowboys helped. The tone was set on the first play of the game when Desmond Roland’s 75-yard touchdown run was called back on a holding call on wide receiver Charlie Moore. Moore dropped two more passes, including a third down pass in OU territory in the fourth quarter. Moore wasn’t alone as a the goat, though. Even though the Cowboys could move the ball on the ground, Clint Chelf struggled with accuracy until Oklahoma State’s fourth-quarter go-ahead drive. The Cowboys also went for a touchdown on fourth down from the Oklahoma 2 in the first quarter. Oklahoma stuffed it for the Sooners’ first red zone stop since the second game of the season. This era remains the best in Oklahoma State history, but the Cowboys remain under the thumb of their in-state rival.

Teaser:
Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma's Bedlam win
Post date: Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 16:59
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The award for the most bizarre start to the season undoubtedly goes to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels lost at home to a team Athlon picked second in its division in the Ohio Valley (Belmont) and a week later defeated our preseason No. 2 team (Louisville). That turned out to be a mirage as Carolina lost on the road to a team picked fifth in Conference USA (UAB). Or did it? Three days later, Carolina defeated the preseason No. 3 team (Michigan State) that had already defeated our preseason No. 1 (Kentucky).

Belmont and UAB are both top 100 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s team rankings, and North Carolina sits at No. 8. But the results hint at a team that can beat anyone and lose to anyone on any given night.

How might that shape up for North Carolina on Selection Sunday. Here’s the case for both sides.

The case for North Carolina as an NCAA Tournament team

There’s one word to describe North Carolina’s season to date — schizophrenic. How else do you describe a team that was good enough to beat Louisville on a neutral court and Michigan State in East Lansing yet lost at home to Belmont and to UAB on the road? Clearly this is a team with some issues — the Heels as currently constructed do not have enough outside shooting and they struggle mightily at the foul line — but it’s foolish to suggest this team won’t make the NCAA Tournament, even if guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald do not return.
 
First of all, North Carolina already has two elite wins on its resume. There likely won’t be another team in the nation that will have two wins as good as Louisville and Michigan State — both away from home — throughout the entire season. So if North Carolina finds itself on the bubble in March, these two wins should be more than enough to earn the Tar Heels a bid in the Field of 68.
 
That being said, it’s unlikely that North Carolina will be on the bubble. Any team that is good enough to beat Michigan State and Louisville is good enough to at least break even in the ACC. Even with two losses in their first seven games, the Tar Heels are still ranked No. 8 nationally by Kenpom.com, checking in with the 17th-most efficient offense and 12th-most efficient defense. Those numbers suggest this team should have no problem winning games in the tough ACC — and no problem receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

—Mitch Light

The case against North Carolina as an NCAA Tournament team

Wins against Louisville and Michigan State present a great resume for any team. I tend to agree that North Carolina will cobble something together in the ACC season to augment these two wins for an NCAA Tournament bid. But look beyond the names for those two big wins and remember that Carolina’s wins were as much of a product of Louisville and Michigan State playing poorly in the early part of the season. On Wednesday, Michigan State’s lineup was not in a good spot. Adreian Payne was in and out late with cramping (though he still finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Gary Harris and Keith Appling were hobbled through the course of the game and struggled down the stretch. And Carolina shot 54.2 percent against Louisville. The Cardinals aren’t going to give that up very often. Louisville and Michigan State might not have games that bad for the rest of the season.

North Carolina has plenty of major issues though. P.J. Hairston’s return seems unlikely, and his development helped turn the Tar Heels around a year ago. Marcus Paige can look like an All-America guard, but that doesn’t always happen. And when it does, he’s still the only major outside shooting threat for Carolina. James Michael McAdoo still hasn’t developed, and the big guys aren’t exactly Tyler Zeller or Tyler Hansbrough. Beyond that, this isn't a team that can afford another major absence from a key player.

The ACC’s going to be strong enough to where Carolina will struggle against Duke and Syracuse and deep enough where Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Virginia will cause problems. Given the way the Tar Heels were outworked against UAB and lost to Belmont, Roy Williams team can’t count on any ACC opponent as a sure thing. I worry about North Carolina like I worried about Virginia last season. The Cavaliers beat teams like Duke and NC State, but in the end they had too many bad losses to overcome to put them in the Tourney.

—David Fox

Teaser:
College Basketball: Will North Carolina reach the NCAA Tournament?
Post date: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 12:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
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The Heisman ceremony is a week away, and the winner may be all but determined.

Thursday's announcement that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will not be charged following an investigation related to an allegedy sexual battery ends a saga that clouded the second half his season.

Meanwhile, the field for other position awards is starting to narrow as the season-long voting for many of these awards has been whittled to finalists.


While we love prognosticating who will win college football’s most coveted individual trophy, we also love the glut of postseason awards that go to each position, each with a nod to the game’s history from Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker to Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe to Ray Guy and Lou Groza.



Everyone tracks the progress in the Heisman race, but Athlon Sports will try to keep an eye on who will take home college football’s positional awards.



Here’s our look at the “other” trophies through the 14th week of the season.

The majority of winners for college football’s position awards will be announced Dec. 12 on the College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

Maxwell (Player of the Year)
Our leader: Alabama’s AJ McCarron
Those looking at the loss column will unfairly diminish McCarron. His performance in the Iron Bowl was excellent with two scoring drives from his own 1, including a 99-yard touchdown pass. The Maxwell Award recipient tends to differ from the Heisman winner in recent seasons (exceptions: Cam Newton in 2010 and Tim Tebow in 2007), though both technically award the top player in the nation. Voters have tended to pick career achievers for this award.
Finalists: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Biggest snub: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch

Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Winston heads into the ACC Championship Game with the top credentials for the Davey O'Brien, the Heisman and a host of other preseason awards. The state attorney announced Thursday that Winston would not be charged with a crime after an investigation into an alleged sexual battery incident.
Finalists: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Biggest snub: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch

Doak Walker (Top running back)

Our leader: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey
Andre Williams left the loss to Syracuse with injury, but he had rushed for only 29 yards on nine carries. Carey’s team lost big to Arizona State, but he still rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
Finalists: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Boston College’s Andre Williams
Biggest snub: Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews

Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)

Our leader: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks
Mike Evans’ four catches for eight yards has tilted this back into the favor of Cooks, who had a combined 20 catches for 227 yards against Washington and Oregon.
Others: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins
Biggest snub: Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews

Mackey (Top tight end)

Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro

Amaro remains a snub for the award because he doesn’t always line up as a classic tight end in Texas Tech’s wide open offense. Amaro’s 98 receptions for 1,240 yards with six touchdowns is more than enough to merit attention at a position that’s diminished in prominence in recent years.
Finalists: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Biggest snub: Amaro

Outland (Top interior lineman)

Our leader: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald
The Outland has tended to favor offensive linemen with the exception of LSU’s Glenn Dorsey and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh. Donald is in that class. His 26.5 tackles for a loss is 4.5 more than anyone else in the country.
Finalists: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
Biggest snub: Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio

Nagurski (Defensive player of the year)

Our leader: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald

Finalists: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Michael Sam
Biggest snub: UCLA’s Anthony Barr

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)

Our leader: Donald

Finalists: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Michael Sam
Biggest snub: BYU’s Kyle Van Noy


Butkus (Top linebacker)

Our leader: UCLA’s Anthony Barr
Barr has finished the season in a flurry with seven tackles for a loss and four sacks in the final three games, including three TFLs and two sacks in a 35-14 win over USC.
Finalists: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov
Biggest snub: Wisconsin’s Chris Borland

Thorpe (Top defensive back)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard

Dennard played closer to the line against run-oriented Minnesota, picking up nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in the 14-3 win. Michigan State has five interceptions and has not allowed a passing touchdown in the last two games.
Finalists: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner
Biggest snub: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu



Lou Groza (Top kicker)

Our leader: Texas’ Anthony Fera
With two field goals against Texas Tech, Fera has made 15 kicks in a row and 19 of 20 this season.
Others: Florida State’s Robert Aguayo, Texas’ Anthony Fera, USF’s Marvin Kloss
Biggest snub: Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin



Ray Guy (Top punter)

Our leader: Memphis’ Tom Hornsey
Memphis is fourth in the nation in net punting, led by Hornsey’s 45.9 yards per kick. 

Finalists: Memphis’ Tom Hornsey, Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser, Purdue’s Cody Webster
Biggest snub: Alabama's Cody Mandell



Freshman of the year

Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston

An easy choice for Winston, who remains the frontrunner for the Heisman. Winston should make it back-to-back for redshirt freshmen for the award.
Others: Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, UCLA's Myles Jack

Coach of the year
Our leader: Duke’s David Cutcliffe

Auburn has had top recruiting talent, and Missouri has played in conference championship games before. As remarkable as those turnaround are, David Cutcliffe is the first 10-win coach in Duke history and still has an ACC Championship Game in his future.
Others: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel



Broyles Award (Top assistant)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi
The phone for the coordinator of the nation’s top defense is about to to start ringing. He’ll have his pick of head coaching jobs by the end of the season.
Others: Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys, Baylor’s Phillip Montgomery, Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama’s Kirby Smart, Oklahoma State’s Glenn Spencer
 

 

Teaser:
College Football Post-Week 14 Award Watch 2013
Post date: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-oklahoma-state-cowboys-game-preview-and-prediction
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Trying to bait Oklahoma into the spoiler role will get you nowhere.

Four Big 12 teams are in action this weekend, and only one of them isn’t in contention for a conference title league’s spot in the BCS. Instead, the Sooners are — in the short term — playing for bowl positioning.

Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard rolled his eyes at reporters who asked if the Sooners relished the spoiler role for Oklahoma State’s bid at an outright Big 12 title.

“The fact that you call us the spoiler against Oklahoma State, I’m not even going to answer that,” Ikard told reporters.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops called the spoiler role “the lowest form of motivation that a competitor can have.”

Fine. So here are a few other things at stake: Oklahoma is seeking its fourth consecutive 10-win season and 12th of the Bob Stoops era. Oklahoma State is seeking its second outright Big 12 championship in three seasons, something the Cowboys haven’t done in either the Big 12 or the Big Eight.

Bedlam has traditionally been one of the most lopsided rivalries in college football in OU’s favor, but it is in danger of tilting toward Oklahoma State in the short term. Oklahoma won eight in a row from 2003-10 and never lost from 1977-94 and 1946-64. The Pokes won the last meeting in Stillwater 44-10 and the last two meetings in Norman have gone the Sooners’ way but by less than seven points each time.

In other words, Oklahoma State has good reason to feel it’s on even footing with Oklahoma these days. The Sooners have another chance to prove otherwise Saturday.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Kickoff: Noon
TV: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma State by 9.5

Oklahoma’s key to victory: Tighten up in the red zone

The Sooners’ defense has been up and down for most of the season, in part due to injuries in the front seven and inexperience. One thing that’s been consistent is Oklahoma’s poor red zone defense. The Sooners are getting better at forcing field goals, but they haven’t recorded a red zone stop since the second game of the season against West Virginia. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in touchdown rate in the red zone, scoring six on 76.8 percent of trips inside the 20. A major part has been Clint Chelf’s mobility and Oklahoma State’s ability to keep him upright, despite a rotating cast on the offensive line.

Oklahoma State’s key to victory: Take the turnover edge to Trevor Knight

The secret to Oklahoma State’s success on defense in recent years, despite changes at defensive coordinator, has been the ability to force turnovers. The Cowboys again lead the Big 12 in takeaways with 29 in 11 games to go with a plus-16 turnover margin. The back end of the Cowboys’ defense is led by Thorpe Award finalist Justin Gilbert, who has six interceptions and two touchdowns this season. The Cowboys’ linebackers also excel in pass coverage. Oklahoma redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will be making his second consecutive start after a good showing against Kansas State. The Sooners would like to use Knight in the run game, and Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said he’s expecting the pistol formation and veer option plays at quarterback. But Knight may need to make some plays in the pass game on the road against an opportunistic defense for the Sooners to win.

Key player: Brennan Clay, Oklahoma

The Sooners played without running back Damian Williams against Kansas State and still rushed for 301 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries. Williams has since been dismissed, diminishing the Sooners’ running back depth. Now the clear-cut top option, Clay rushed for 200 yards against Kansas State and has been a reliable big-play threat. But he’s facing the top ranked run defense in the Big 12 that has allowed only eight rushing touchdowns all season. Oklahoma State recently held Baylor’s similarly depleted running back group to 94 yards on 36 carries.

Final analysis

Oklahoma State has become one of the most improved teams in the nation largely because of changes on offense. Clint Chelf quickly lost his starting quarterback job and reacquired it as the Cowboys began their hot streak. The Pokes also found a running back rotation that works with Desmond Roland leading the way. Oklahoma hopes it is undergoing a similar transformation with Knight, who like Chelf began the season at quarterback and lost the job. But this is also a matchup of the top two defenses, statistically, in the Big 12. Oklahoma leads the league in total D while Oklahoma State boasts the top run defense and top pass efficiency defense.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 27-17

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-freshman-power-rankings-dec-5
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The freshman power rankings are going to change from week to week. That seemed inevitable before the season started, and it’s been even more clear through a little more than a month.

Andrew Wiggins had his time in the spotlight. Jabari Parker had his. So did Julius Randle. Noah Vonleh turned the big four freshmen into a big five for a bit, and he may again.

This week, Arizona's Aaron Gordon takes the top spot. He’d been given second billing to start the season, despite standout performances against San Diego State and others. The reason was the early showcase for Duke, Kansas and Kentucky in the first days of the season.

But the Thanksgiving week gave Gordon a chance to face Duke and Parker. In proving Arizona’s resume as a top-five teams, Gordon takes the top spot this week.

The only question is if he can stay.

College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings: Dec. 6

1. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon will have an advantage Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh and to a lesser extent Jabari Parker won’t have this season: Playing with an ample supply of veterans. That helped Gordon in the last week or so, especially in the NIT Season Tipoff. In a 72-66 win over Duke, Gordon had 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a balanced effort from the Wildcats. He’s still averaging nearly a double-double at 13 points and 9.1 rebounds.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker is still averaging 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, including 19 points in a loss to Arizona and 15 in a win over Duke last week. His torrid pace efficiency-wise has slowed, as was bound to happen. Parker was 11 of 16 from 3-point range in the first three games (including 4 of 7 against Kansas). He’s 3 of 14 since. Duke is still running good deal of its offense through Parker as he shot 14 of 38 from the field against the Wildcats and Wolverines. Parker is second among freshmen and 47th overall in kenpom’s efficiency rating.

3. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle’s pace has slowed a bit since the first week of his career, but he’s still had a double-double in all but one game this season. Randle is averaging 18.1 points and 12.5 rebounds and is the the top freshman and 39th nationally in kenpom’s offensive efficiency rating.

4. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins struggled with illness in the Battle 4 Atlantis, contributing to Kansas’ loss to Villanova and close call with UTEP. Wiggins’ (short) career-low came with six points and seven rebounds against the Miners. With Florida and Colorado coming up, Wiggins will have plenty of opportunities to return to form on the mainland.

5. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Syracuse is looking the part of a national championship contender in the early going thanks in part to the play of its new backcourt. Stepping in for point guard Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis was one of the key cogs in a statement week for Syracuse. The Orange won the Maui Invitational (defeating Minnesota, Cal and Baylor) and defeated Indiana. Ennis averaged 17 points and 6.5 assists in four consecutive games against high-major competition.

6. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Put Harrison onto the free throw line at your own risk. The line doomed Kentucky against Michigan State, but Harrison went 9 of 11 against Eastern Michigan and 10 of 10 against Texas Arlington. The shot will come along, but he hit 7 of 9 against Providence while filling in at point guard for his brother, Andrew, who was on the bench with foul trouble.

7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh’s early results were slowed in the last two weeks as the Hoosiers’ competition improved. Vonleh played only 10 minutes with four fouls against Connecticut in the 59-58 loss in the Legends Classic. Vonleh acquitted himself with 17 points and six rebounds at Syracuse in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

8. Austin Nichols, Memphis
The Tigers are back to where they’d hope to be after winning the Old Spice Classic. Nichols averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds against Siena, LSU and Oklahoma State.

9. Zach LaVine, UCLA
The Bruins have yet to play a top team this season, but LaVine has been a stud sixth man, averaging 14.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists coming off the bench. His big moment could come this week against Missouri on the road.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid fouled out in the loss to Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but he finished 12 of 19 from the field with 17 rebounds in the tournament. He added seven blocks in a consolation game against UTEP.

Teaser:
College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings: Dec. 5
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 12:44
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-championship-week
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Championship week — finally, unfortunately — is here.

By now you’ve replayed the final play in the Iron Bowl over and over again. Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox quickly reflect on where it ranks among top plays or does it stand apart from all others.

Auburn’s win, of course, brings up another philosophical debate of who should play in a two-team national championship situation.

Gall wants to break precedent by favoring the one-loss team over an undefeated team with a weak schedule. Fox is sticking with undefeated teams for now, but would like to see the playoff committee take a broader look.

In a big news week in the Pac-12, USC takes center stage with a hire that divided the fanbase.

And then on to previews: Is Arizona State’s homefield advantage enough to overcome the earlier rout against Stanford? How underrated is the Michigan State offense? Does Duke have a chance? Who wins in Bedlam? And why Missouri can go toe-to-toe with Auburn?


The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Championship Week
Post date: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 18:45
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-acc-big-ten-challenge-preview
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Before the season started, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talked of the newly expanded ACC as perhaps the best conference in the history of the game.

To accomplish that, the ACC may have to overcome the Big Ten. The Big Ten was the nation’s top league through last year’s regular season, and last year’s tie in the conference challenge was the first time since 2008 the Big Ten didn’t win.

The ACC is formidable, indeed, with Duke and Syracuse leading the way. Michigan State joins the Blue Devils and Orange as national championship contenders.

But as Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh participate in their first ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the ACC’s middle teams are struggling. North Carolina has had two embarrassing losses. Potential NCAA runs for Boston College and Georgia Tech have yet to materialize. NC State and Miami are rebuilding.

Not that the Big Ten is the nation’s most perfect conference. Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana are still finding their way after elite seasons a year ago.

For teams in both leagues, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge will be a key springboard.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge: Ranking the Matchups

All times Eastern.

1. Michigan at Duke (Tuesday, 9:15 p.m., ESPN)
The best game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge features two teams still trying to get their bearings. Duke has lost its two marquee games this season to Arizona and Kansas on neutral courts and needed a free throw in the final seconds to beat Vermont by one point. This year’s Duke team has less experience than most, and the evidence has been clear early on. Sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon has struggled to start this year, and point guard Quinn Cook disappeared at times in two games in Madison Square Garden. Jabari Parker also failed to score 20 points for the first time this season against Arizona. He scored 19, thanks in part to an 0 for 5 performance from 3-point range. Michigan’s story has been more related injuries. Nik Stausktas’ status is unclear for Tuesday thanks to an ankle injury. Michigan’s leading scorer (20.3 ppg) missed a warmup game against Coppin State on Friday as Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have also been hobbled.

2. Indiana at Syracuse (Tuesday, 7:15 p.m., ESPN)
Now the ACC feels more like a reality for Syracuse with the Orange participating in one of the top matchups of the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Syracuse looks every bit the ACC title contender after winning the Maui Invitational with a 75-67 win over Baylor. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant were a combined 18 of 29 from the field for 43 points against the Bears. The duo could be quite the barometer for Hoosiers freshman Noah Vonleh, who is averaging 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds this season.

3. Notre Dame at Iowa (Tuesday, 9:15 p.m., ESPN2)
Iowa went to the Battle 4 Atlantis looking to prove it was more than the product of a weak early season schedule. The Hawkeyes may still have some work to do after defeating Xavier and UTEP and falling in overtime to Villanova. Notre Dame recovered from its home loss to Indiana State to pound three overmatched opponents. The key will be the play of two big guards, the 6-6 Roy Devyn Marble for Iowa and 6-5 Jerian Grant for Notre Dame.

4. North Carolina at Michigan State (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
North Carolina has been all over the place with a win over Louisville and losses to Belmont and UAB. Without P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels are low on game-breaking players. James Michael McAdoo is averaging just 13.8 points and six rebounds. Marcus Paige, Carolina’s only true outside shooting threat, is averaging 20.8 points per game, but he’s playing out of position. Michigan State is as deep and experience as any team in the country. Between this game and Kentucky on Dec. 14, this could be a long stretch for the Tar Heels.

5. Wisconsin at Virginia (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
Two teams from cut from the same cloth meet again with one loss between them (Virginia’s to VCU). Wisconsin, more or less, has been balanced among its five veterans in the starting five. Virginia has been stingy on defense to start the season, and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill has taken some of the scoring load off Joe Harris. Harris is averaging 12.4 points per game, four points fewer than last season, but he’s shooting a career high from the field (60.3 percent) and from 3-point range (55.2 percent).

6. Maryland at Ohio State (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Raise your hand if you thought Maryland would find a go-to scorer before Ohio State this season. Jake Layman, a 6-8 wing, has become the key guy for Maryland this season, averaging 16.4 points after averaging 5.5 a year ago. The Buckeyes have been more balanced, but neither LaQuinton Ross nor Lenzelle Smith Jr., has become the breakout scorer Ohio State has been seeking.

7. Illinois at Georgia Tech (Tuesday, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2)
Illinois is off to another hot start under John Groce even if it lacks the buzz of the Maui Invitational win a year ago. The key win for Illinois is a 61-59 victory over UNLV on the road. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice is quickly becoming one of the Big Ten’s top newcomers after scoring 25 points with 10 rebounds against the Runnin’ Rebels. Georgia Tech is also led by a transfer in Trae Golden, who was eligible immediately after leaving Tennessee, but the results haven’t been as good for the 5-3 Yellow Jackets.

8. Boston College at Purdue (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
Boston College rebounded from a disastrous 1-3 start to beat Washington in the 2K Sports Classic, but the Eagles aren’t anywhere near where the need to be. Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson need help. Purdue is 6-2 but had difficulties in the Old Spice Classic, losing in a rout to Oklahoma State, folding in the second half against Washington State and surviving a scare against Siena. Both teams need to turn a corner heading into conference play.

9. Florida State at Minnesota (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Boris Bojanovksy (Slovakia) and Michael Ojo (Nigeria) are on their way to becoming a solid frontcourt duo on a team that already includes Okaro White (Clearwater, Fla.). Minnesota continues to be led by the unrelated backcourt duo of Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, the latter is second on the team in rebounding (7 rpg)

10. Penn State at Pittsburgh (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Pittsburgh is 7-0 and has allowed only two opponents to score more than 60 (both scored 67), but the schedule is paper thin. The Panthers’ best win is over Stanford. Penn State won’t be much of a tougher test, but D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier are a high-scoring backcourt.

11. Northwestern at NC State (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU)
T.J. Warren is carrying the load for NC State right now, scoring 30 points in each of the last two games — on 41 shots. Northwestern is still adjusting to a new coach and new system during its 4-4 start.

12. Miami at Nebraska (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Don’t tune in expecting Miami’s team from last season. Almost the entire returning cast is gone, and it shows. Nebraska basketball is about what you’d expect, though at least the Cornhuskers beat Georgia.
 

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013 ACC-Big Ten Challenge Preview
Post date: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 12:19
Path: /college-football/amazing-big-12-college-football-stats-week-14
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Someone in the Big 12 scheduling office must have had an idea how the season would turn out.

The season is over for all but four Big 12 teams, but this week’s two games will feature three teams who still have a shot at the Fiesta Bowl. The fourth team, Oklahoma, is looking to win 10 games in a season for the fourth consecutive year.

Most of the other eight teams already wrapped up disappointing years. Kansas, Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia have all been out of bowl contention for weeks. And Texas Tech is limping into its postseason with five consecutive losses.

At least the Big 12 season promises to end on a high note with the a Big 12 championship still in play for Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas.

Key Numbers around the Big 12 for Week 14

37. Consecutive games Baylor had 400 yards in a game, a streak ended Saturday
Baylor defeated TCU 41-38 and remained in BCS contention, but the victory wasn’t easy for the Bears’ offense. Baylor amassed 370 yards, the first game since Nov. 20, 2010 against Oklahoma in which the Bears failed to gain 400 yards of offense. Quarterback Bryce Petty had his second lowest passing total of the season (206 yards) and lowest yards per pass (5.4). The touchdown record held by 2008 Oklahoma (96 TDs) is probably secure. Baylor has 73 offensive touchdowns with two games to go.

Plus-25. “Sack margin” for Texas in Big 12 play
Texas came back from no sacks a loss against Oklahoma State to nine in the win over Texas Tech. The Longhorns’ nine sacks was tied with four other teams for the most in a game this season, but the most interesting stat may have been one sack of Texas quarterback Case McCoy. Since Big 12 play began, Texas has picked up 33 sacks while allowing only eight, giving Texas a “sack margin” of plus-25 in conference games. No team in the Big 12 is better than plus-10 in that category (Oklahoma).

8. Most loses for TCU since 1997
With a 41-38 loss to Baylor, TCU wrapped up a 4-8 season. That’s the most losses for the Horned Frogs since 1997, a 1-10 season in Pat Sullivan’s last year. The following year, TCU hired Dennis Franchione. TCU’s 14 losses in two seasons in the Big 12 is one more than TCU had in seven seasons as a Mountain West member.

8. Most losses for West Virginia since 2001
TCU’s partner in expansion fared no better with a 52-44 loss to Iowa State in triple overtime. The back-to-back defeats to Iowa State and Kansas to finish the season gave West Virginia eight losses, the most since the Mountaineers went 3-8 in the first season under Rich Rodriguez.

15. Consecutive field goals made by Texas’ Anthony Fera
The Longhorns’ kicker extended his streak of made field goals to 15 with a 37-yarder and 49-yarder against Texas Tech. Fera has the fourth-longest streak of made field goals in the country after Boston College’s Nate Freese (23), Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez (18) and Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien (17).

294. Rushing yards allowed per game during Texas Tech’s final five games
The reasons Texas Tech’s 7-0 start collapsed into a five-game losing streak to finish the season are many. Near the top of the list will be the run defense. Texas ran for 281 yards on 61 carries against the Red Raiders as Texas Tech allowed 294 rushing yards per game during its five-game losing streak. The Red Raiders allowed 123.4 rushing yards per game during the undefeated start.

51. Run by punter Ryan Erxleben, longest run of the year for Texas Tech
Another sign of why Texas Tech’s season crashed to a 7-5 year, punter Ryan Erxleben took a fake punt against Texas to run for a 51-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was Texas Tech’s longest run of the season and the first of more than 40 yards.

0. Kansas State’s turnover margin to finish the regular season
Bill Snyder teams tend to excel in turnover margin. Every season since Snyder returned to the bench in 2007, the Wildcats have been on the plus side of that statistic, including plus-20 last season. In the 31-10 rout of Kansas, Kansas State was plus-four in turnover margin with six takeaways (four interceptions, two fumbles) and two turnovers (a fumble and an interception). That move Kansas State to even in the turnover margin with a bowl game to go. A Snyder-coached team hasn’t been on the negative side of the turnover margin since 2002, a team that still finished 11-2.

3. Big 12 road wins for Baylor
Baylor’s road woes are well-established. It wasn’t always easy, but Baylor set a mark with three Big 12 road wins for the first time in school history. Baylor defeated Kansas State, Kansas and TCU away from Waco.

223. Yards Kansas State allowed to Kansas
Many records in the Big 12 have been set against Kansas in the last few years, including one for Kansas State. The Wildcats held Kansas to 223 total yards, the lowest total for the Kansas State defense since holding Nebraska to 222 in 2004.

17. Largest fourth-quarter deficit overcome to win in Iowa State history
Iowa State has had a forgettable season, especially after the Cyclones lost 31-30 to Texas on Oct. 3. If there’s a silver lining, though, it’s the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Rohach. Iowa State trailed West Virginia 31-7 at one point and 31-14 going into the fourth quarter. Rohach led the comeback to give the Cyclones a 52-44 win in overtime for only the second fourth-quarter of 17 points or more in school history. Iowa State’s only other 17-point comeback came in a 39-38 win over Northern Iowa on Oct. 10, 1987.

Teaser:
Amazing Big 12 College Football Stats from Week 14
Post date: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-winners-and-losers-thanksgiving-week
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Between the empty arenas for made-for-TV tournaments and the diversions of football and food, fans can be forgiven for paying little attention to the basketball attention of the weekend.

The selection committee will be paying attention, though. Coaches, too, have an idea of which teams will be more dangerous than they thought and which players are breaking out.

The Thanksgiving tournaments are over and the conference challenges are already beginning, so now is a good time to take stock of a few things we learned in the last week.

From the national powers that are up (Arizona, Villanova) to the ones that are down (North Carolina, Kansas) to the mid-majors who impressed, here were the big winners from the Maui Invitational, Battle 4 Atlantis, Old Spice Classic and more.

Thanksgiving Week Winners

Arizona
The Wildcats established themselves as one of the front line teams this season with a 72-66 win over Duke in the NIT Season Tipoff thanks to more than just star freshman Aaron Gordon. Against Duke, every one of Arizona’s starters scored between 10 and 15 points, and the top two players off the bench scored seven points apiece. The Wildcats played a sound all-around game with veteran Nick Johnson leading the way with 16 points, Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell contributing eight assists to one turnover and a big frontcourt helping to limit Jabari Parker to 7 of 21 shooting.

Villanova
Maybe it’s time to rethink those Big East projections. Marquette is 5-3, Georgetown is 4-2 with one of those losses to Northeastern, and Creighton dropped two games in the Wooden Legacy. Meanwhile, Villanova had the most impressive win of the Thanksgiving weekend by defeating Kansas 63-59 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis and then handing Iowa its first loss of the season in the final. Ryan Arcidiacono was captain clutch for the Wildcats, hitting the game-winning 3-pointer against Kansas after missing his first five shots and then hitting 4 of 9 from long range against Iowa. Villanova held Kansas to 2 of 11 from 3-point range and 38 percent from the field and then turned around to beat Iowa 88-83 in an up-and-down game in overtime.

Josh Pastner, Memphis
Memphis found redemption in the Old Spice Classic, transforming from another team with more big-time players than big-time wins to a team with a chance to contend in the American. Most important, coach Josh Pastner can go into the conference season with his first win over a ranked team. Less than two weeks after an embarrassing 101-80 loss at Oklahoma State, the Tigers won a rematch with the Cowboys 73-68 on a neutral court in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It’s hard to find an area where Memphis didn’t have a major reversal in the second time around: After being a one-man wrecking crew in the first meeting, Marcus Smart wasn’t himself with 12 points and five turnovers. The Tigers' Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford combined for 27 points after scoring 13 in the first meeting. Memphis’ Michael Dixon went from 1 of 10 from the field to 5 of 8, and forward Shaq Goodwin had perhaps his best game of the year. The Oklahoma State game was a headline, but Memphis also picked up another nice win over LSU in the semifinal.

Ron Baker, Wichita State
So much for a Final Four hangover for Wichita State. The Shockers remain undefeated after picking up a pair of nice wins last week against Saint Louis on the road and against BYU. Baker, who missed parts of last season with a foot injury, did a bit of everything against Saint Louis with 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting with two 3-pointers, six rebounds, four steals and two assists in a 70-65 comeback win. Baker has topped 20 points in each of his last four games.

Atlantic 10
The departures of Xavier, Butler and Temple haven’t hurt the A-10 so far this season thanks to teams like UMass, Dayton and George Washington making major leaps. UMass is 6-0, adding a win over New Mexico in the Charleston Classic to wins over Boston College, LSU, Nebraska and Clemson. With four double-doubles this season, forward Cady Lalanne has been a revelation for the Minutemen. Dayton was one of the stories of the Maui Invitational with an 84-79 win over Gonzaga and a narrow loss to Baylor. The Flyers bounced back to drill Cal in a consolation game. And George Washington needed overtime to beat Miami, but Isaiah Armwood held Doug McDermott to seven points in a 60-53 win over Creighton in a consolation game.

Xavier Thames, San Diego State
Thames has proven himself the post-Jamaal Franklin leader for the Aztecs with a standout performance in the Wooden Legacy. Thames averaged 27.5 points against Marquette and Creighton, shooting 14 of 26 from the field, 9 of 11 from 3-point range and 18 of 21 from the free throw line. With struggles by UNLV and New Mexico early, San Diego State is looking like an early favorite in the Mountain West.

Thanksgiving Week Losers

North Carolina
So this is how it’s going to be for North Carolina this season? Lose to Belmont at home. Beat Louisville on neutral court. Lose to UAB on the road. In other words, watch out, Michigan State. Without P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels look like a team that’s going to limp its way into the NIT. North Carolina had many reasons to be embarrassed by losing to UAB: Former assistant Jerod Haase coaching the Blazers, a Charlotte native scoring 25 points, but more than anything, the Tar Heels should hide from 21 offensive rebounds from the Blazers.

Kansas
The loss to Villanova on a late 3-point shot might not be as troubling as a narrow 67-63 win over UTEP in the third-place game. Andrew Wiggins shot 36.7 percent from the field and averaged 11 points per game in the three games in Atlantis, bottoming out at six points against the Miners. Wiggins had the flu when he arrived, but now that he’s back in Lawrence, the nation’s top freshman will continue to be under the microscope.

The SEC
At least Tennessee was able to avenge its 67-63 loss to Xavier to start the season, but the Volunteers had to lose to UTEP in the first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis to get the opportunity. Alabama has had much worse non-conference losses in the past, but losing to mid-majors in November is a recipe for missing the NCAA Tournament. The Tide lost in triple overtime to Drexel, picked second in the Colonial, in the third-place game of the NIT. Alabama still has Wichita State, Xavier and UCLA in the non-conference. And LSU got Jarell Martin back but needed overtime to beat a Butler team that’s probably going to finish in the bottom third of the Big East.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State
The Jahii Carson vs. Doug McDermott matchup in the Wooden Legacy never really materialized as Carson shot 5 of 12 in the 88-60 loss to the Bluejays. The bottom fell out against Miami when Carson sustained an ankle injury and shot 2 of 14 as the Sun Devils lost to a Miami team that lost to St. Francis (N.Y.) and UCF.

Xavier
Xavier started last season 7-6 and missed the postseason. This team was supposed to be able to avoid such a start after the Musketeers made a late push in the A-10 season. Instead, the Musketeers lost all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis to Iowa, Tennessee and USC. Xavier shot 57.8 percent from the free throw line in the tournament.

Purdue
The Boilermakers are hoping to get into the NCAA Tournament mix, but the performance in the Old Spice Classic was not encouraging. Purdue trailed by as much as 24 in a loss to Oklahoma State — understandable since Memphis did the same earlier this season. But the worst came in a 69-54 loss to Washington State the next day. Purdue led by 10 at halftime but let Washington State score 52 in the second half.

Teaser:
College Basketball's Winners and Losers from Thanksgiving week
Post date: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/post-week-14-bcs-rankings-and-projections
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The revelry on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium hadn’t even ended before various scenarios putting the SEC into the national championship game started popping up.

What would Auburn have to do to leapfrog an undefeated Ohio State? Is Missouri realistic? And is Alabama out of it ... really?

For this week, BCS order remains with the two undefeated teams in the national championship slots. For Auburn to get into the title game over an undefeated Ohio State, the voters and BCS computers would have to do something they’ve never done by leaving out an undefeated major conference champion at the expense of a one-loss team.

Did we mention there are still conference championship games to play. An Ohio State or Florida State loss would render SEC arguments moot. So would an Auburn loss to Missouri.

And after what you’ve seen at Auburn the last two weeks, are you going to doubt the possibility of Duke upsetting the whole thing on the last day of the season?

Moving Up


No. 3 Auburn. As expected, Auburn moved to No. 3 in the BCS and narrowed the gap with Ohio State. The Tigers checked in with a BCS average of 0.9233 with Ohio State at 0.9503. The difference is a little bigger than the Sunday afternoon chatter indicated, but it’s not insurmountable for Auburn with a game remaining against No. 5 Missouri while Ohio State faces No. 10 Michigan State. The gap of 0.027 between Auburn and Ohio State, a margin that figures to get closer if both win, would be the closest between No. 2 and No. 3 since Florida edged out Texas by 0.0181 in 2008.

Moving Down

No. 2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost the most ground in the coaches’ and Harris polls as nearly all the first-place votes that went for Alabama last week went to Florida State. The Seminoles have 97 of 105 first-place votes in the Harris poll and 58 of 62 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll (though Ohio State gained four top votes from the coaches). Ohio State is 25 points ahead of Auburn in the coaches poll and 84 behind Florida State. The Buckeyes are 66 points ahead of Auburn in the Harris poll and 129 behind Florida State.

Quick BCS Projections

BCS Championship Game: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Rose: No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Michigan State*
Orange: No. 4 Alabama* vs. No. 13 Clemson*
Sugar: No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 16 UCF
Fiesta: No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois
*at-large selections

Key Games This Week

Auburn vs. Missouri (SEC Championship). Auburn is holding out hope to get into the BCS title game with a win in Atlanta regardless of what Ohio State does, but a loss by either of the top two teams likely vaults the SEC champion to the national title game.

Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Championship). A rout of Michigan State, especially after the close call with Michigan, would probably help Ohio State fans rest easy no matter what happens to Auburn. But in the event of a loss, the Spartans would also like to look respectable enough to remain in the top 14 to remain eligible for an at-large bid to the Rose Bowl against the winner of Stanford-Arizona State.

Texas at Baylor. Even though they looked nothing like it the last two weeks, the Bears have the ability to get into a BCS game. An Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma and a Baylor win will earn the Bears the automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl. And given losses by Clemson and Wisconsin, the at-large field has dwindled. A one-loss Baylor ranked in the top 10 may be the best of what’s available.

Other Observations

Alabama is out. The fantasy of Alabama getting back to the championship game with an Auburn loss in the SEC title game and an Ohio State loss in the Big Ten title game is probably finished. Alabama checked in at No. 4, but only 0.0111 points ahead of No. 5 Missouri in BCS average. A Missouri win over Auburn would almost certainly vault Mizzou ahead of the Crimson Tide. The only plausible scenario for the Tide in the title game would require losses by Florida State and Ohio State, setting up a matchup with Missouri or an Iron Bowl rematch.

The BCS at-large picture is a mess. Prepare to complain about teams outside of the top-10 earning BCS slots. Alabama is a virtual lock for the first BCS at-large spot (the Orange, if Florida State finishes No. 1), but after that, nothing is certain. The Rose may like to pair a Big Ten team with its Pac-12 champion if Ohio State goes to the title game, but the only candidate is No. 10 Michigan State, thanks to Wisconsin's loss to Penn State. No. 13 Clemson should remain eligible for the BCS and would be more attractive that a second team from the Big 12. At No. 12, Oregon also would be a strong BCS contender, but the Ducks won’t go to the Rose Bowl to face the Pac-12 champion.

Northern Illinois is creeping closer to an automatic bid. Fresno State’s loss to San Jose State means Northern Illinois is the only team from a non-automatic qualifying conference in the mix for a BCS bid. The Huskies moved up to No. 14, but they’re behind idle Oregon and Clemson. It would take quite a bit of a shakeup for NIU, who faces Bowling Green in the MAC title game, to get into the top 12 for an automatic bid. However, Northern Illinois remains two spots ahead of No. 16 UCF, the projected champion of the American Athletic Conference. UCF finishes with 5-6 SMU.

Notes on BCS selection

• Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The American’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.



• Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.



• A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.



• To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.



• Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Orange Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Fiesta.

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Before Chris Davis could turn in the play of the year for Auburn as time expired against Alabama, Nick Marshall had his own miraculous scoring play.

Auburn appeared to be on the way to a major blunder as the Tigers called six consecutive run plays an no timeouts on their final offensive possession. Gus Malzahn called an option on the seventh play of the possession when Marshall rolled out to his left. Inches from the line of scrimmage, Marshall flipped the ball to a wide open Sammie Coates for a 39-yard touchdown pass.

“I know it was under a minute and we had a read option right there,” Malzahn said. “It was one of those things like 'do we throw the football,' but I felt like we were getting a rhythm and a cheap one from their corner. He kind of came off and Nick looked back and said 'Let's run the same play.' He knew what we were thinking and made a great throw."

Marshall finished with fewer than 200 yards of total offense, but he was the key player in Auburn’s offense in the 34-28 win over the Tide. Marshall finished with three total touchdowns to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

Athlon Sports Week 14 National Awards

National Offensive Player of the Week: Nick Marshall, Auburn

His stats weren’t overly gaudy, but Marshall ran Gus Malzahn’s offense to near perfection in Auburn’s thrilling 34–28 win over No. 1 Alabama. The junior quarterback completed 11-of-16 passes for 97 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and added 99 yards and one TD on the ground on 17 attempts. Auburn tied the game at 28–28 with 32 seconds remaining when Marshall found Sammie Coates for a 39-yard score on a brilliantly executed option pass. Marshall has completed just under 60 percent of his passes this season with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Defensive Player of the Week: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Quarles, a junior defensive tackle, was a key cog in a South Carolina defense that limited Clemson to 17 points and 352 yards of offense in the Gamecocks’ 31–17 win in Columbia. Quarles had six tackles, including two sacks — one for minus-six yards midway through the second quarter and one for minus-19 yards just before halftime that forced Clemson to settle for a field goal. Quarles, who leads the team with 13.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss, is expected to declare for the NFL Draft after the season.

Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Penn State's true freshman phenom played the best game of his young career in the season finale on the road against a ranked Wisconsin team. Hackenberg was brilliant in Madison, completing 21-of-30 passes for 339 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes against a defense that was giving up less than 14 points per game in 2013. He finished the season with 2,955 yards, 24 total touchdowns and, most importantly, a second straight winning record for Bill O'Brien and Penn State. Hackenberg is as big time a quarterback prospect as the Big Ten has seen in decades and his legend should only grow during the offeason due to this performance.

Coordinator of the Week: Noel Mazzone, UCLA
UCLA walked into the Coliseum and scored 35 points and gained 396 yards with relative ease against the top total defense in the Pac-12. Brett Hundley played flawlessly while leading Mazzone's offense up and down the field without turning the ball over. Only Arizona State, Stanford and Cal have rushed for more yards on the Trojans than UCLA's 188 and only the Sun Devils (62) scored more points on USC than the Bruins' 35.

Athlon Sports Week 14 Conference Awards


ACC
Offense: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Defense: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Freshman: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Coordinator: George McDonald, Syracuse

Big 12
Offense: John Hubert, Kansas State
Defense: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Freshman: Grant Rohach, Iowa State
Coordinator: Greg Robinson, Texas

Big Ten
Offense: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Defense: James Morris, Iowa
Freshman: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Coordinator: Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Pac-12
Offense: Brett Hundley, UCLA
Defense: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
Freshman: Myles Jack, UCLA
Coordinator: Noel Mazzone, UCLA

SEC
Offense: Nick Marshall, Auburn
Defense: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Freshman: Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Coordinator: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

 

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Unlike other leagues, the Big 12 had few fireworks and few surprises in its second to last week of the season.

The three teams still in contention for the Fiesta Bowl remain so, even if Baylor needed four takeaways to overcome a struggling offense to beat TCU. Texas easily dispatched Texas Tech on Thanksgiving as the Red Raiders lost their fifth consecutive game after a 7-0 start.

Only the Big 12’s four ranked teams will be in action next week as teams like Kansas, TCU and West Virginia wrapped up painful seasons with losses.

Big 12 Week 14 Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: John Hubert, Kansas State
The Wildcats’ tailback rushed for 220 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in Kansas State’s 31-10 win over Kansas. Hubert, who has had an inconsistent season, finished the year as Kansas State’s first 200-yard rusher since Daniel Thomas rushed for 269 yards against North Texas in 2010. Kansas State defeated Kansas for the fifth consecutive season and scored at least 31 points for the sixth game in a row.

Defensive Player of the Week: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
The Longhorns rebounded from the loss to Oklahoma State thanks to a return to the furious pass rush that put Texas into Big 12 contention in the first place. Jeffcoat recorded three of Texas’ season-high nine sacks in the 41-16 win over Texas Tech. Jeffcoat finished with seven total tackles.

Freshman of the Week: Grant Rohach, Iowa State
Iowa State’s quarterback situation may be in good hands for 2014 after a nice finish by Rohach. The redshirt freshman completed 25 of 39 passes for 331 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in the 52-44 triple overtime win over West Virginia. His 54-yard rushing touchdown was the longest run of the season for the Cyclones, and his 300-yard passing games in wins over Kansas and West Virginia are the first back-to-back 300-yard games for Iowa State since 2008.

Team of the Week: Texas
Texas still needs to root for Oklahoma to defeat Oklahoma State next week for the Longhorns to win the Big 12 title, but Texas looked more than ready to do its part next by defeating Baylor. Texas made easy work of Texas Tech in a 41-16 win on Thanksgiving while Baylor had its worst offensive day of the season in a 41-38 win over TCU.

Coordinator of the Week: Greg Robinson, Texas
Texas Tech’s five consecutive losses shouldn’t diminish what the Texas defense did to the Red Raiders — especially given Baylor’s listless performance against a worse TCU team. After failing to sack Clint Chelf in the loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, Texas responded with a season-high nine sacks against Texas Tech and a season-high 14 tackles for a loss. Texas limited Texas Tech to 396 yards, its second lowest total of the season.

Big 12 Post Week-14 Power Rankings
 

RankTeamLWRecordResultThis Week 
1110-1, 7-1OffOklahoma 
238-3, 7-1W, Texas Tech 41-16at Baylor 
3210-1, 7-1W, at TCU 41-38Texas 
448-2, 6-2Offat Oklahoma State 
557-5, 5-4W, at Kansas 31-10Season complete 
667-5, 4-5L, at Texas 41-16Season complete 
774-8, 2-7L, Baylor 41-38Season complete 
893-9, 2-7W, at West Virginia 52-44 (3OT)Season complete 
994-8, 2-7L, Iowa State 52-44 (3OT)Season complete 
10103-9, 1-8L, Kansas State 31-10Season complete 

 

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Nick Marshall’s deflected touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis to beat Georgia stood as perhaps the best play in Auburn history. One of the biggest plays in SEC lore.

Not anymore.

When fans tell the story of the 2013 Auburn season, Marshall to Louis (via the hands of a Georgia player) will be No. 2.

Chris Davis set off mayhem at Jordan-Hare Stadium by returning Alabama’s failed last-second 57-yard field goal attempt from the back of Auburn end zone to Alabama’s end zone for a 34-28 win to topple the No. 1 Crimson Tide.

Auburn clinches a spot in the SEC Championship Game, but that’s secondary. Auburn has clinched a spot among one of the most miraculous teams in college football history.

Between Marshall’s miracle pass to beat Georgia and Davis’ runback to beat Alabama, Auburn has produced the equivalent of Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary and the Bluegrass Miracle in a span of three weeks.

The win likely costs Alabama a bid at a third consecutive national championship while giving Auburn an outside shot at claiming its own bid to extend the SEC title streak to eight.

But all of that is conjecture at this point. Auburn’s 2013 season place as the most charmed years in college football history isn’t in doubt.



Three and Out: College Football Week 14 Recap

Three Things We Learned From Auburn 34, Alabama 28

Auburn will make a compelling case for the BCS Championship Game. Ohio State and Florida State remain undefeated, but look for the conversation to begin about Auburn leap-frogging one of them in the event of an SEC championship (Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is already lobbying). Precedent says that talk is hokum. No one-loss team has ever jumped an undefeated major conference team for a title spot in BCS history. Then again, two teams from the same conference facing each other in a rematch for the title would have been ludicrious before 2011. Auburn has the lone loss of the three teams (35-21 at LSU). But Auburn also entered the week with the toughest schedule of any of those three. After defeating Alabama, the Tigers have the 26th-ranked schedule and a 3-1 record against the top 30, according to the Sagarin ratings. Ohio State’s schedule is ranked 61st; Florida State’s is 66th. But Auburn entered the week trailing the top three in the BCS by nearly a tenth of a point, a significant amount with two weeks left in the season.

 AuburnFlorida StateOhio State
Wins over teams with winning recordsAlabama, Arkansas State, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&MBoston College, Clemson, Maryland, MiamiBuffalo, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, San Diego State, Wisconsin
Wins over current BCS top 25Alabama, Texas A&MClemsonWisconsin
Final gameMissouriDukeMichigan State

Alabama, for the first time in a long time, was mistake-prone. From beginning to end, special teams were an issue for the Crimson Tide, down to the game-winning runback. Alabama punter Cody Mandell dropped a punt in the first quarter, and Cade Foster stutter-stepped on his first of three missed field goals. Nick Saban’s lack of confidence in special teams spilled into the fourth quarter when he elected to run his offense on fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 13 (T.J. Yeldon was stuffed for no gain). Alabama forced a three and out and got the ball at the Auburn 27 but again came up short when Foster’s field goal was blocked. On the final play of the game, rather than taking a knee for overtime, Alabama sent out a freshman kicker with one career kick for a 57-yard attempt.

Auburn is a miracle team. Auburn isn’t in the SEC Championship Game simply because it’s lucky. Auburn proved to be Alabama's equal Saturday. Though the Crimson Tide outgained Auburn by 102 yards and more than two yards per play, Auburn held Alabama to 4 of 13 on third down and had the special teams edge long before the final touchdown. The Tigers are a definite top five or better team, but they’ve had their good fortune beyond the miracle plays to beat Georgia and Alabama. Auburn has taken advantage of just about every play on the razor’s edge in the final month of the season. Against Alabama, Nick Marshall completed his final touchdown pass just a toe short of the line of scrimmage. Marshall ran to his left on an option play, switched the football from one hand to the other and was just short of the line when he found Sammy Coates open for the game-tying 39-yard touchdown. And on the final drive, officials put one second back on the clock when T.J. Yeldon ran out of bounds. Of course, Auburn fans would be cursing officials if Adam Griffith converts the 57-yard field goal, but the endgame was Davis’ miracle touchdown.

Three Things We Learned From Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

Ohio State’s backfield is something special. This isn’t a new revelation, but it took nearly the entire season for a high-profile performance like this out of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde as a tandem. Blame the Big Ten schedule. Blame the early season injury (Miller) and suspension (Hyde). The duo gashed Michigan’s defense up the middle all day with Hyde rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and Miller rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Michigan kept coming back against the Ohio State defense, but anytime the Buckeyes needed to move the ball, Hyde and Miller delivered. After a slow start, Miller still finished 6 of 15 passing for 133 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions. Given the way the Heisman race has self-destructed in recent weeks, one has to wonder how Miller or Hyde would have fared if both played all season. The duo that averaged 379 rushing yards and 8.8 yards per carry against Michigan will face a Michigan State defense that’s allowed 100 rushing yards in a game only twice this season.

Ohio State’s defense came up when it mattered ... and that’s about it. When the Buckeyes make a case for the BCS Championship Game, they won’t point to Saturday’s defense. Ohio State entered the game ranked fourth in a lackluster Big Ten in total defense before allowing 603 yards to Michigan. Devin Gardner and his supporting cast have shown this potential, but what makes for exciting rivalry week football didn’t make for a resounding statement for the Buckeyes. Ohio State opened a 35-21 lead entering the fourth quarter before three Michigan scoring drives in the fourth quarter set up the potential go-ahead two-point attempt. Stops where hard to find as Ohio State allowed Michigan to score on touchdown drives of 99, 83 and 84 yards.

Michigan finally took some chances ... and failed. The Wolverines have not been the most risky team in the Big Ten this season, but that changed against Ohio State. The most prominent example was the decision to go for a two-point conversion to take a lead in the final 32 seconds rather than going for a game-tying extra point. Brady Hoke and Al Borges called for a pass play to Devin Gardner’s right with three receivers stacked in the formation. Top receivers Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon were covered when Gardner went for Drew Dileo. The window was tight, and freshman Tyvis Powell jumped in front of Dileo for the interception. Earlier in the game, Hoke also elected to go with his offense on a fourth-and-2 from the Ohio State 14. The conversion failed, and Ohio State scored on the ensuing drive. Michigan is only two weeks removed from kicking two sub-30-yard field goals in regulation against Northwestern, so it will be interesting to see what happens next time Hoke is in risky or conservative play call situation.

Moving the Chains

Missouri’s defense. The Tigers continued to erase any doubt about being one of the SEC’s best defenses, clinching a bid to face Auburn’s dominant run game in the SEC title game. Missouri defeated Texas A&M 28-21 to clinch the East, largely because the Tigers flummoxed Johnny Manziel for his second consecutive week. In some ways, Missouri topped even what LSU did last week against the reigning Heisman winner. Manziel was 24 of 35 for 195 yards with a touchdown and rushed for only 21 yards on 11 carries. His 216 yards of total offense was his fewest since 113 against Rice in a suspension-shortened game and a career-low in a game in which he was eligible for all four quarters.

Pac-12 run games. To start the weekend, all that really appeared to be in question in the Pac-12 this week was the site of the Pac-12 title game — Arizona State ended up clinching it. The teams that won this week, not shockingly, put up impressive numbers in the run game, in some cases from unsuspected sources. Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney (season-high 189 yards against Notre Dame) and Washington’s Bishop Sankey (200 yards against Washington State) grinded their way to wins. Oregon’s Thomas Tyner broke out for 140 yards against Oregon State. UCLA cobbled together 188 yards led by Brett Hundley and two touchdowns from defensive players. And Arizona State’s D.J. Foster filled in for an injured Marion Grice to rush for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 58-21 win over Arizona to clinch home field advantage in the Pac-12 title game against Stanford.

Duke’s close game prowess. Duke basketball is the villain, but Duke football is the lovable underdog after sealing a 10-win season and a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a 27-25 win over North Carolina. The Blue Devils kicked a 27-yard field goal in the final 3:05 to pick up yet another close win this season. Duke is 4-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown this year, including three close wins on the road (Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina).

False Starts

Clemson. The Tigers’ season started with such promise with a win over a healthy Georgia team in the first week of the season, but Clemson’s 10-2 season came up short in a number of departments: An uncompetitive loss at home to Florida State, no ACC title and now a fifth consecutive loss to South Carolina that ended any hope of a BCS game. Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions, the first into the end zone on Clemson’s first possession (converted for a long South Carolina TD drive) and then fumbled at the South Carolina 33 in the fourth quarter (setting up the Gamecocks’ drive that sealed the game). Clemson has a bowl game to avoid a Pyrrhic victory of a season.

Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers had allowed more than nine points in a Big Ten game only once since the loss to Ohio State on Sept. 28. Penn State topped that in the first half of a 31-24 win. Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg further solidified his spot as a rising star by completing 21 of 30 passes with 339 yards and four touchdowns to knock the Badgers out of the BCS at-large mix. Wisconsin had a chance to win in the final possession of the game before Joel Stave threw his third interception of the game.

Baylor’s offense. Hangover from the Oklahoma State loss or not, Baylor looked nothing like a team looking to preserve its hopes of a Big 12 title, BCS game and top 10 finish in a 41-38 win over TCU. Despite the return of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, Baylor amassed a season-low 370 yards and allowed TCU to stay in the game thanks to 15 penalties for 140 yards. Bryce Petty had one of his worst games of the season with a season-low 5.4 yards per attempt and only his second pick of the season. Baylor’s defense helped bail out the Bears with four interceptions. In addition, TCU coach Gary Patterson was irked with Baylor after safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for a targeting penalty against quarterback Trevone Boykin. Patterson said his assistants saw Dixon laughing on the sideline, and a Baylor assistant yelled at the TCU sideline after the hit.

Heisman Movers

AJ McCarron, Alabama. What will voters make of McCarron in Alabama’s loss? Clearly, his performance is the second storyline at best. But McCarron still delivered two memorable moments by leading two scoring drives starting with deep pass plays out of his own end zone, the final one a 99-yard pass to Amari Cooper to take a lead in the fourth quarter. McCarron finished 17 of 29 for 277 yards with three touchdowns, often fielding low snaps from a new center. A win may have been the only thing to allow McCarron to gain ground on Jameis Winston.

Andre Williams, Boston College. Last week’s Heisman darling won’t be in much of the conversation this week. The nation’s top rusher left the game with an injury in the third quarter of a 34-31 loss to Syracuse. Even before he left the game, Williams wasn’t much of a factor with 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. Thanks to Fresno State’s wild loss to San Jose State, Northern Illinois is only non-automatic qualifying team in the mix for a BCS bid. Lynch will get consideration after rushing for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Western Michigan, never mind that he went 5 of 17 for 39 yards passing against a 1-11 team.

Stat Watch

5-3. The SEC’s record against the ACC. The ACC split its first four games against the SEC this season, and the final week of the regular season appeared to give the ACC its best chance for a winning record against its rival league in more than a decade with a top 10 Clemson team facing South Carolina, Florida State against the worst Florida team since 1979 and Georgia Tech facing Georgia without Aaron Murray. The SEC, though, went 3-1 on the last day of the season, giving it a chance for its its sixth consecutive winning season and 11th consecutive non-losing season against the ACC, depending on the bowl games.

SEC WinsACC Wins
South Carolina 27, North Carolina 10
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10
Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (OT)
Vanderbilt 23, Wake Forest 21
South Carolina 31, Clemson 17
Clemson 38, Georgia 25
Miami 21, Florida 16
Florida State 37, Florida 7

31.3. Florida State’s average margin of victory vs. Florida, Miami and Clemson. Florida State defeated Florida 37-7 in a result that wasn’t unexpected against the overmatched Gators. Still, this wraps up a banner season for the Seminoles against their top rivals. All three wins, all decided by at least 27 points, were among the top four most lopsided Florida State wins in each series.

3-0. South Carolina’s record against the last three SEC East champions. That’s not a number that will infuriate South Carolina fans, right? South Carolina defeated Georgia in back-to-back seasons in 2011-12 even though the Bulldogs won the SEC East. South Carolina followed that by defeating Missouri 27-24 in overtime as the Tigers won the East. The Gamecocks’ loss to 5-7 Tennessee this season, though, may be the most embarrassing of the defeats that knocked Carolina out of SEC contention.

Buried on the Depth Chart

2014 Heisman Watch
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Nick Marshall, Auburn
Thomas Tyner, Oregon

Bowl Eligible
Mississippi State
San Jose State
ULM

BCS Stock Up
Oregon
Michigan State
Northern Illinois

BCS Stock Down
Clemson
Fresno State
Wisconsin

Could Use a Few Bowl Practices
NC State
Virginia
West Virginia

Conference Championship Games
ACC: Duke vs. Florida State
Big Ten: Michigan St. vs. Ohio St.
C-USA: Marshall vs. Rice
MAC: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
MW: Fresno State vs. Utah State
Pac-12: Stanford at Arizona State
SEC: Auburn vs. Missouri

Best of the Rest Next Week
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Texas at Baylor
Louisville at Cincinnati
Southern Miss avoids history. As Duke won 10 games this season, a dubious Duke record remains unbroken. Southern Miss defeated UAB 62-27 to end its 23-game losing streak. The win ensures 2000-01 Duke remains the only team to go winless in back-to-back seasons in the last 30 years.

FAU under Brian Wright. FAU had one of the more embarrassing storylines this season when coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned due to use of illegal drugs (or failure to report drug use). The Owls, though, rebounded under interim coach Brian Wright to win the final four games of the season, capped with a 21-6 victory over FIU. FAU is bowl eligible at 6-6.

Hawaii dodges winless season. Long after most viewers went to bed, Hawaii found an opponent it could beat after a pair of close calls in the last two weeks. The Warriors defeated Army 49-42, leaving Miami (Ohio) and Georgia State as the only winless teams for 2013.

Good Signs for 2014

Anthony Jennings, LSU. The Tigers have had to wait a few years for above average quarterback play before Zach Mettenberger became one of the most improved passers this season. The Tigers may not need to wait that long if Friday was any indication for freshman Anthony Jennings. The rookie replaced an injured Mettenberger to lead an improbable 99-yard drive to beat Arkansas 31-27. Jennings completed 4 of 6 passes for 76 yards, including 49-yard game winning score, on the final drive.

Thomas Tyner, Oregon. The Ducks' heralded freshman had been a key cog in Oregon’s backfield all season, but he flashed what he could do as a primary back against Oregon State. Tyner rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the 36-35 win over Oregon State on Friday. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas draft eligible.

Huston Mason, Georgia. Watching someone play quarterback for Georgia other than Murray was a strange sight. Once Mason presided over a second-half comeback, all seemed to be normal. Having Todd Gurley, of course, helped. Mason, though, completed 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as Georgia erased a 20-point deficit for a 41-34 win in double overtime. Mason, a junior, may be a one-year starting quarterback, but at least Georgia fans know what they’ve got.

Key Hot Seat Numbers

$7.5 million. Nebraska began Saturday with its athletic director offering support for Bo Pelini after a Friday that left Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writing the coach “set himself on fire” with his conduct during and after the game. The column was scathing, but Pelini didn’t help his case by saying “if they want to fire me, go ahead.” While athletic director Shawn Eichorst again backed Pelini, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman offered no comment to the Lincoln (Neb.) Star-Journal. At play may be a $7.5 million buyout for the embattled coach.

8. Consecutive games since Florida put up 400 yards of offense. Florida put up 193 yards of offense and seven points against Florida State as the Gators’ offense continued to show little life, especially after running/receiving threat Trey Burton was lost for the remainder of the game with an injury. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley again endorsed coach Will Muschamp for 2014, but changes on the offensive staff are a foregone conclusion. Like Pelini, Muschamp also has a significant buyout at $2 million each season through 2017, according to The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The key for Muschamp will be finding an offensive coordinator willing to take a job under a head coach who will be under intense scrutiny.

1-5. Rutgers’ record since Oct. 10. Two seasons under Kyle Flood and two midseason collapses for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lost 28-17 to Connecticut, a team that entered the game with one win this season. UConn further took advantage of a bad Rutgers pass defense by completing 25 of 33 passes for 312 yards with three touchdowns. Rutgers has gone 1-5 in its last six games, meaning the Knights need a win over USF to be bowl eligible. In Flood’s first season, Rutgers limped to a 2-4 finish after a 7-0 start.

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Nick Marshall’s deflected touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis to beat Georgia stood as perhaps the best play in Auburn history. One of the biggest plays in SEC lore.

Not anymore.

When fans tell the story of the 2013 Auburn season, Marshall to Louis (via the hands of a Georgia player) will be No. 2.

Chris Davis set off mayhem at Jordan-Hare Stadium by returning Alabama’s failed last-second 57-yard field goal attempt from the back of Auburn end zone to Alabama’s end zone for a 34-28 win to topple the No. 1 Crimson Tide.

Auburn clinches a spot in the SEC Championship Game, but that’s secondary. Auburn has clinched a spot among one of the most miraculous teams in college football history.

Between Marshall’s miracle pass to beat Georgia and Davis’ runback to beat Alabama, Auburn has produced the equivalent of Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary and the Bluegrass Miracle in a span of three weeks.

The win may cost Alabama a bid at a third consecutive national championship while giving Auburn an outside shot at claiming its own bid to extend the SEC title streak to eight.

But all of that is conjecture at this point. Auburn’s 2013 season place as the most charmed years in college football history isn’t in doubt.



Three Things We Learned From Auburn 34, Alabama 28

Auburn will make a compelling case for the BCS Championship Game. Ohio State and Florida State remain undefeated, but look for the conversation to begin about Auburn leap-frogging one of them in the event of an SEC championship (Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is already lobbying). Precedent says that talk is hokum. No one-loss team has ever jumped an undefeated major conference team for a title spot in BCS history. Then again, two teams from the same conference facing each other in a rematch for the title would have been ludicrious before 2011. Auburn has the lone loss of the three teams (35-21 at LSU). But Auburn also entered the week with the toughest schedule of any of those three teams. The Tigers began the week with the 38th-ranked schedule and a 4-1 record against the top 30, according to the Sagarin ratings. Ohio State’s schedule was ranked 67th; Florida State’s was ranked 76th. The rankings following Auburn's win over No. 1 Alabama combined with Florida State's and Ohio State's best wins (Wisconsin and Clemson) slipping in stature will be worth watching. But Auburn still trailed the top three in the BCS by nearly a tenth of a point, a significant amount with two weeks left in the season.

 AuburnFlorida StateOhio State
Wins over teams with winning recordsAlabama, Arkansas State, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&MBoston College, Clemson, Maryland, MiamiBuffalo, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, San Diego State, Wisconsin
Wins over current BCS top 25Alabama, Texas A&MClemsonWisconsin
Final gameMissouriDukeMichigan State

Alabama, for the first time in a long time, was mistake-prone. From beginning to end, special teams were an issue for the Crimson Tide, down to the game-winning runback. Alabama punter Cody Mandell dropped a punt in the first quarter, and Cade Foster stutter-stepped on his first of three missed field goals. Nick Saban’s lack of confidence in special teams spilled into the fourth quarter when he elected to run his offense on fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 13 (T.J. Yeldon was stuffed for no gain). Alabama forced a three and out and got the ball at the Auburn 27 but again came up short when Foster’s field goal was blocked. On the final play of the game, rather than taking a for overtime, Alabama sent out a freshman kicker with one career kick for a 57-yard attempt.

Auburn is a miracle team. Auburn isn’t in the SEC Championship Game simply because it’s lucky. The Tigers are a definite top five or better team, but they’ve had their good fortune beyond the miracle plays to beat Georgia and Alabama. Auburn has taken advantage of just about every play on the razor’s edge in the final month of the season. Against Alabama, Nick Marshall completed his final touchdown pass just a toe short of the line of scrimmage. Marshall ran to his left on an option play, switched the football from one hand to another and was just short of the line when he found Sammy Coates open for the game-tying 39-yard touchdown. And on the final drive, officials put one second back on the clock when T.J. Yeldon ran out of bounds. Of course, Auburn fans would be cursing officials if Adam Griffith converts the 57-yard field goal, but the endgame was Davis’ miracle touchdown.

Teaser:
Three Things We Learned from Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Post date: Saturday, November 30, 2013 - 21:00
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Ohio State still has a chance for a spot in the national championship game, even if Michigan did everything it could (in regulation) to end those hopes.

A game that began with a bit of nastiness — a fracas early in the second quarter that resulted in three ejections and two obscene gestures for the Ann Arbor crowd — ended in fireworks.

After battling back from a 14-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, Michigan elected to go for a two-point conversion after the final touchdown. Rather than playing for overtime, Michigan rode the momentum of a back-and-forth game with its rival to go for the win.

The result was an Ohio State interception to keep the Buckeyes unbeaten and in championship game contention. The 42-41 Ohio State win was the second one-point win in the history of the rivalry and the first since Michigan won 17-16 in 1926. The rivalry has ended in a tie four times.

With Florida State throttling Florida 37-7 in Gainesville, Ohio State likely remains a spot behind the Seminoles in the BCS standings. All eyes in Columbus, though, will remain on Alabama and Auburn today before the Buckeyes prepare for Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Three Things We Learned From Ohio State 42, Michigan 41

Ohio State’s backfield is something special. This isn’t a new revelation, but it took nearly the entire season for a high-profile performance like this out of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde as a tandem. Blame the Big Ten schedule. Blame the early season injury (Miller) and suspension (Hyde). The duo gashed Michigan’s defense up the middle all day with Hyde rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and Miller rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Michigan kept coming back against the Ohio State defense, but anytime the Buckeyes needed to move the ball, Hyde and Miller delivered. After a slow start, Miller still finished 6 of 15 passing for 133 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions. Given the way the Heisman race has self-destructed in recent weeks, one has to wonder how Miller or Hyde would have fared if both played all season. The duo that averaged 379 rushing yards and 8.8 yards per carry will face a Michigan State defense that’s allowed 100 rushing yards in a game only two times this season.

Ohio State’s defense came up when it mattered ... and that’s about it. When the Buckeyes make a case for the BCS Championship Game, they won’t point to Saturday’s defense. Ohio State entered the game ranked fourth in a lackluster Big Ten in total defense before allowing 603 yards to Michigan. Devin Gardner and his supporting cast have shown this potential, but what makes for exciting rivalry week football didn’t make for a resounding statement for the Buckeyes. Ohio State opened a 35-21 lead entering the fourth quarter before three Michigan scoring drives in the fourth quarter set up the potential go-ahead two-point attempt. Stops where hard to find as Ohio State allowed Michigan to score on touchdown drives of 99, 83 and 84 yards.

Michigan finally took some chances ... and failed. The Wolverines have not been the most risky team in the Big Ten this season, but that changed against Ohio State. The most prominent example was the decision to go for a two-point conversion to take a lead in the final 32 seconds rather than going for a game-tying extra point. Brady Hoke and Al Borges called for a pass play to Devin Gardner’s right with three receivers stacked in the formation. Top receivers Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon were covered when Gardner went for Drew Dileo. The window was tight, and freshman Tyvis Powell jumped in front of Dileo for the interception. Earlier in the game, Hoke also elected to go with his offense on a fourth-and-2 from the Ohio State 14. The conversion failed, and Ohio State scored on the ensuing drive. Michigan is only two weeks removed from kicking two sub-30-yard field goals in regulation against Northwestern, so it will be interesting to see what happens next time Hoke is in risky or conservative play call situation.

Teaser:
Three Things We Learned From Ohio State 42, Michigan 41
Post date: Saturday, November 30, 2013 - 17:04
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The Heisman ceremony is two weeks away, and the field is in disarray.

Meanwhile, the field for other position awards is starting to narrow as the season-long voting for many of these awards has been whittled to finalists.


While we love prognosticating who will win college football’s most coveted individual trophy, we also love the glut of postseason awards that go to each position, each with a nod to the game’s history from Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker to Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe to Ray Guy and Lou Groza.



Everyone tracks the progress in the Heisman race, but Athlon Sports will try to keep an eye on who will take home college football’s positional awards.



Here’s our look at the “other” trophies through the 13th week of the season.

The majority of winners for college football’s position awards will be announced Dec. 12 on the College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

Maxwell (Player of the Year)
Our leader: Alabama’s AJ McCarron
The Maxwell Award recipient tends to differ from the Heisman winner in recent seasons (exceptions: Cam Newton in 2010 and Tim Tebow in 2007), though both technically award the top player in the nation. Voters have tended to pick career achievers for this award, so McCarron may be the favorite.
Finalists:Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Biggest snub: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey

Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Losses last week by Baylor, Texas A&M and Oregon helped separate Winston from the pack in on-field achievements. Winston now leads the nation in pass efficiency and remains second in yards per attempt. His 32 touchdowns is tied for third nationally.
Finalists:Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s Jameis Winston
Biggest snub: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd

Doak Walker (Top running back)

Our leader: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey
Both Carey and Andre Williams are deserving, but Carey’s consistency gets the nod. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in each game he’s played this season, including 206 and four touchdowns against Oregon last week.
Finalists: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Boston College’s Andre Williams
Biggest snub: Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews

Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)

Our leader: Texas A&M’s Mike Evans
Ask the Iron Bowl participants for their vote: Evans had 279 yards and a touchdown against Alabama and 287 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn.
Others: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins
Biggest snub: Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews

Mackey (Top tight end)

Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro

Amaro remains a snub for the award presumably because he doesn’t always line up as a classic tight end in Texas Tech’s wide open offense. Still, 92 receptions for 1,157 yards with six touchdowns is more than enough to merit attention at a position that’s diminished in prominence in recent years.
Finalists: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Biggest snub: Amaro

Outland (Top interior lineman)

Our leader: Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
The Outland has tended to to award offensive linemen. In the last 10 years, LSU’s Glenn Dorsey and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh are the only defensive players to win the award. Aaron Donald is making a late push, but Cyril Richardson would be our pick if Baylor can rebound from the rout to Oklahoma State to beat TCU and Texas.
Finalists: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
Biggest snub: Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio

Nagurski (Defensive player of the year)

Our leader: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley

Another award where Aaron Donald has (finally) gained national attention in recent weeks. Still, the SEC players here — C.J. Mosley and Michael Sam — have opportunities for signature games. Mosley vs. the Auburn run game could clinch it for the Alabama linebacker.
Finalists: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Michael Sam
Biggest snub: UCLA’s Anthony Barr

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)

Our leader: Mosley

Finalists: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Michael Sam
Biggest snub: BYU’s Kyle Van Noy


Butkus (Top linebacker)

Our leader: Mosley
Finalists: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov
Biggest snub: Wisconsin’s Chris Borland

Thorpe (Top defensive back)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard

Dennard had nine tackles and an interception in the rout of Northwestern last week. Braxton Miller will be wise to avoid him in the Big Ten title game.
Finalists: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner
Biggest snub: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu



Lou Groza (Top kicker)

Our leader: Texas’ Anthony Fera
Fera, the Penn State transfer, is 17 of 18 this season, including 4 of 5 from at least 40 yards out.
Others: Florida State’s Robert Aguayo, Texas’ Anthony Fera, USF’s Marvin Kloss
Biggest snub: Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin



Ray Guy (Top punter)

Our leader: Memphis’ Tom Hornsey
Memphis is second in the nation in net punting, led by Hornsey’s 45.5 yards per kick. 

Finalists: Memphis’ Tom Hornsey, Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser, Purdue’s Cody Webster
Biggest snub: Alabama's Cody Mandell



Freshman of the year

Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston

An easy choice for Winston, who remains the frontrunner for the Heisman.
Others: Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, UCLA's Myles Jack

Coach of the year
Our leader: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn

The Tigers have gone from three wins to No. 4 in the BCS with a chance to reach the BCS Championship Game. No matter the outcome of this season, Malzahn has orchestrated one of the best single-season turnarounds in college football history.

Others: Baylor’s Art Briles, Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel



Broyles Award (Top assistant)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi
The phone for the coordinator of the nation’s top defense is about to to start ringing. He’ll have his pick of head coaching jobs by the end of the season.
Others: LSU’s Cam Cameron, Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama’s Kirby Smart, Oklahoma State’s Glenn Spencer
 

 

Teaser:
College Football Post-Week 13 Award Watch 2013
Post date: Friday, November 29, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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The Maui Invitational wraps up Wednesday evening, but the rest of Thanksgiving weekend will provide plenty of opportunities to gorge on basketball through Sunday.

The Battle 4 Atlantis again brings us the top tournament with Kansas leading the way in a compelling field. But the best game should be in Madison Square Garden. If Arizona and Duke can handle business against Drexel and Alabama, the NIT Season Tipoff will provide a top-10 matchup, headlined by two of the nation’s top freshmen.

While marquee matchups are one storyline, other teams are trying to find their way before the first month of the season ends. Teams like Memphis, LSU, Marquette and more are searching for identities and this weekend will provide key opportunities.

Thanksgiving Weekend College Basketball Viewers’ Guide

Best Tournament: Battle 4 Atlantis (Thursday though Sunday)
Full preview on Kansas, Iowa, Villanova and Xavier

Best Pre-Thanksgiving Game: Syracuse vs. Baylor
Maui Invitational final
Wednesday, 5 p.m., ESPN

Expect a big-time matchup on the glass. Syracuse, as usual, has plenty of long, athletic forwards. C.J. Fair has played all but two minutes in Maui with a combined 30 points and 17 rebounds. The 6-8, 210-pound Jerami Grant came off the bench for 19 points and eight rebounds against Cal, delivering the highlight with a thundering put-back dunk. Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin controlled the boards Tuesday as the Bears came back to beat Dayton in the semifinal. For the long term prospects of both teams, keep an eye on newcomers at point guard with freshman Tyler Ennis for Syracuse (28 points, four assists vs. Cal) and junior college transfer Kenny Chery for Baylor (13 points, four assists vs. Dayton).

Best Player Matchup: Arizona’s Aaron Gordon vs. Duke’s Jabari Parker
NIT Tipoff championship
Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN

For the sake of a good matchup, let’s hope the semifinals (Arizona against Drexel and Duke against Alabama) are mere formalities. The two star freshmen could put on a show as both can contribute just about anywhere on the court. Parker has been sensational so far, shooting 60.9 percent from 3-point range on nearly four shots per game and contributing 8.8 rebounds. Gordon will play a little closer to the basket, but he’s nonetheless in the freshman of the year conversation.

Can’t Miss Pairing: Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Arizona State’s Jahii Carson
Wooden Legacy first round
Thursday, 11 a.m., ESPN2

The best matchup in the Wooden Legacy may be the first round pairing of Creighton and Arizona State — the other side of the bracket includes disappointing Miami and Marquette. This first round game will feature two of the nation’s most prolific scorers, and both are averaging career highs at this early stage of the season. Carson, the speedy point guard, is a little more than a week removed from scoring 43 on the road against UNLV. McDermott picked up where he left off last season, averaging 27.8 points per game.

Team Looking for a Reboot: LSU
The Tigers opened the season with 92-90 loss to UMass, but freshman Jarell Martin exited the game after less than a minute after landing awkwardly on his ankle. Martin, the No. 12 prospect in the class of 2013 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, returned Friday to play 16 minutes against Southeastern Louisiana. With veterans Johnny O’Bryant III and Anthony Hickey plus the freshmen Jordan Mickey and Martin, LSU should be one of the top teams in the SEC. The Old Spice Classic could give the Tigers a chance to make a statement with Oklahoma State, Memphis and Purdue in the field.

Team Looking for Redemption: Memphis
The Tigers have the veterans and the ability to contend in the American Athletic Conference, but they embarrassed themselves in a 101-80 loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 19. Lose in Stillwater? Help Marcus Smart put on a show? Maybe not a big deal, but the Tigers were down by 34 with 6:50 to go. Memphis could draw a potential rematch with Oklahoma State in the final of the Old Spice CLassic (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2), but Memphis would need to defeat either LSU or St. Joe’s to get there.

Team in Desperation Mode: Marquette
Marquette has proven it’s not as bad as the team that scored 35 and shot 18.3 percent from the floor on Ohio State earlier this season. But the Golden Eagles also lost to Arizona State 79-77 in Tempe on Monday. The Sun Devils shot 53.7 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3. Marquette needs to put together some complete games in the Wooden Legacy. The bracket should be favorable for Marquette to reach a final, likely against Creighton, San Diego State or a rematch with Arizona State.

League on the Spot: Big East
Georgetown already lost to Northeastern in the Puerto Rico Challenge, though the Hoyas rebounded to defeat Kansas State at VCU before returning to the mainland. Providence nearly overcame a 19-point deficit before losing 56-52 to Maryland in the Paradise Jam final. Plenty of teams from the reconfigured Big East will be involved in big-time Thanksgiving matchups with Villanova and Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Marquette and Creighton in the Old Spice Classic and Butler in the Old Spice Classic. This will be a good weekend for the league to build its identity or slip behind.

Mid-Majors To Watch: Harvard and Indiana State
Great Alaska Shootout final
Saturday, 8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

The Great Alaska Shootout doesn’t have a strong field — TCU is the lone representative from a power conference. If Harvard and Indiana State can reach the final (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network), it should be a quality matchup between teams that have already made noise this season. Harvard may be the best team to come out of the Ivy League since Cornell reached the Sweet 16 in 2010. Led by Jake Odum, Indiana State should contend in the Missouri Valley.

Best Stray Games

Florida State at Florida (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2)
The Gators are starting to get a full roster back together with injuries and suspensions limited Florida early in the season. Billy Donovan reinstated point guard Scottie Wilbekin on Monday, following Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith, who was reinstated four games ago. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill, though, remains out with an ankle injury

VCU at Belmont (Sunday, 5 p.m., CSS)
Without Ian Clark, Belmont was not expected to have one of its better teams this season, but the Bruins upset a shorthanded North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Nov. 17 for the marquee win in program history. VCU’s season has been a mixed bag with a win at Virginia and a blowout loss to Florida State.

Wichita State at Saint Louis (Sunday, 1 p.m, CBS Sports Network)
Wichita State has some staying power as the Shockers beat up BYU in a 75-62 win to win the CBE Classic on Tuesday. Ron Baker, who missed most of last year’s regular season with injury, has topped 20 points in three consecutive games. Defending Atlantic 10 champion Saint Louis was sloppy against Wisconsin on Tuesday, losing 63-57.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Thanksgiving Weekend Viewers Guide
Post date: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, News
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Rivalry week has lost its juice in the Big 12.

Thanks to conference realignment, Texas won’t face Texas A&M during the Thanksgiving holiday. No Missouri-Kansas, either. And thanks to no conference championship game, the Bedlam Game will wait until next week.

The key storyline, though, may still be an emotional one. Baylor and Texas can both win the Big 12, but both programs are coming off losses to Oklahoma State.

Texas will look to solve the Texas Tech passing game in a matchup that replaces the traditional Longhorns-Aggies game. Meanwhile, Baylor will try to solve its road woes with a trip to TCU.

Week 14 Previews and Predictions: ACCBig Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


Big 12 Week 14 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, All games Saturday unless noted.

1. Texas Tech at Texas (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Mack Brown will find out how much wind is still in the sails for his team this week. Oklahoma State sapped the momentum of a 6-0 start in conference play, particularly on defense. Texas can still win the Big 12’s BCS bid by defeating Texas Tech and Baylor plus an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma. Texas Tech knows a thing or two about how quickly a season can be derailed. The Red Raiders have lost four in a row since their 7-0 start. Texas Tech has been progressively worse against the run in each of the last four games, allowing 297.6 rushing yards and 5.7 yards per carry in the four losses. The Red Raiders head into another game where the quarterback hasn’t been settled. Baker Mayfield threw all but two of Texas Tech’s pass attempts in the loss to Baylor. Former starter Davis Webb hasn’t played since Mayfield replaced him against Kansas State.

2. Baylor at TCU (3:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Despite a loss to Oklahoma State, Baylor still has a handful of goals in its reach, including Big 12 championship with a Cowboys’ loss or a BCS at-large berth if the Bears win out. Baylor, though, still needs to overcome its road woes and its ongoing injury issues. Art Briles is optimistic either Lache Seastrunk or Glasco Martin could return this week, but Baylor will still be without middle linebacker Bryce Hager. The absence shook up the defensive alignment last week with safety Ahmad Dixon playing outside linebacker. Dixon should return to his safety position against TCU. Baylor won’t find any sympathy from TCU, who has seen player injuries, departures and suspensions derail the Horned Frogs in two seasons in the Big 12. The latest was the apparent departure of running back Waymon James, who had been suspended for the last two games, this week.

3. Kansas State at Kansas (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Kansas State has won the last four meetings by an average margin of 34.5 points per game. More of the same may be on the way even after Kansas State lost to Oklahoma last week. Meanwhile, Kansas followed its first Big 12 win in three years with a 34 blowout loss to Iowa State. Be prepared for a game with four quarterbacks as Kansas State rotates Jake Waters and Daniel Sims on will (and it works) while Kansas has started both Jake Heaps and freshman Montell Cozart (it hasn’t worked).

4. Iowa State at West Virginia (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
“Iowa State is the best 2-9 team in the country,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said this week. And at 4-7, he’s coaching the team with the better record. Both teams are looking to wrap up disappointing seasons, but for the sake of his job security, Holgorsen may not be able to afford to lose to Kansas and Iowa State to finish the season.

Big 12 Week 14 Pivotal Players

Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, Texas
Texas Tech won’t surprise anyone by relying on the passing game. Texas will need an improved performance by its pass rush to slow down the Red Raiders. The Longhorns didn’t have a sack in the loss to Oklahoma State after recording 24 in the previous six games. Texas Tech ranks 23rd in the nation on taking sacks on four percent of pass plays.

Case McCoy, Texas
An off game by McCoy finally arrived the last time out against Oklahoma State. McCoy threw three interceptions and had his lowest efficiency rating of the season in the 38-13 defeat. Texas Tech’s defense is vulnerable with two true freshmen starting in the secondary, but Longhorns coach Mack Brown said he’d like to see McCoy make more plays by scrambling as he did earlier this season.

Texas Tech’s run defense
The Red Raiders run defense has allowed progressively higher rushing totals in each of the last seven games, from 53 yards against Kansas to 340 against Baylor on Nov. 16. Texas’ run defense is down a man without Johnathan Gray, but Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron have been able to shoulder the load as a duo.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
This is a little hard to believe: TCU beat Baylor 49-21 in Waco last season. A major reason was the play of Boykin, then the quarterback for the Frogs. Boykin completed 22 of 30 passes for 261 yards with four touchdowns against the Bears. Since quarterback Casey Pachall returned, Boykin has been a multi-faceted threat for the offense. He’s attempted one pass in the last three games, but that attempt was a touchdown against Kansas State.

Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett may not be pivotal to a Kansas State win over the Jayhawks, but he may be fun to watch. Lockett has caught 20 passes for 401 yards with four touchdowns in the last two weeks while averaging 32.7 yards per kickoff return. Poor Kansas may be in trouble.

Big 12 Week 14 Picks

 

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Texas Tech (+4.5) at TexasTexas 35-21Texas 34-31Texas 34-30Texas 37-21
Kansas St. (-16.5) at KansasKSU 42-14KSU 42-17KSU 38-17KSU 41-10
Baylor (-13) at TCUBaylor 35-10Baylor 37-20Baylor 41-20Baylor 49-28
Iowa St. (+9) at West Va.WVU 21-17WVU 27-20WVU 34-24WVU 28-20
Last Week0-31-21-21-2
This Season54-1457-1155-1355-13


 

Teaser:
Big 12 Week 14 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 07:15

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